I don't follow everything. Even if it were physically possible to keep tabs on every single wrestling show on the planet, I don't have the time, the patience, or the finances to do so. Hell, I can barely manage to keep up with one company, these days, let alone 7 million. So, while I do at least attempt to keep tabs on what all's going on in the Great Wide World of Wrestling, there's bound to be a promotion that slips through the cracks.
Beyond Wrestling, for the most part, would be one such promotion.
For those unaware of what
Beyond Wrestling even is, it’s a promotion that predominantly produces its shows in empty arenas, with fellow workers watching at ringside. They do, on occasion, produce live events for the public, complete with paying fans and whatnot, but, for the most part, they just do these empty arena shows and video tape them for release on DVD.
Here's an example of their product in practice - The Super Smash Brothers vs. Team TREMENDOUS
You may be wondering why I would even bring up a company I willingly admit, I don't follow. After all, if I clearly know very little about the promotion, other than its apparent business model, why even mention it? Well, it's because
Beyond Wrestling, in about a month's time, will now officially own a company I do follow, rather closely -
People, in general, are not good with change. As creatures of habit, we're resistant towards anything that alters those habits, as our daily routines and common reactions can often become akin to a religion in their own right. Change brings about conflict in our lives, conflict we'd much rather avoid, no matter how small or insignificant. Change is also inevitable. Change is how we, as people, grow, both physically and psychologically. Without change, we never have a chance to become the people we want to be, or even the people we ought to be.
Of course, in wrestling, changes are miniscule, at best. In a business that lives and dies off of how willing a populous is to spend money in order to watch your spectacle, you find that change is incredibly difficult, often met with an almost supernatural resistance. When a star or an idea is hot, promoters tend to run it until it drops dead, then run it even longer until every possible cent you can squeeze out of it is gone. A go-to reference for this concept is the continued use of Evil Authority Figures, almost 15 years after the idea had first been successful. While the evil Mr. McMahon is credited as one of the more important factors in the WWE's dominance of Mainstream Media in the early 2000s, the idea of the megalomaniacal, selfish, manipulative, power-mad dictator running a weekly wrestling show has now become a painful self-parody, dragging a wrestling show into a grueling, repetitive cycle of boring, predictable outcomes we have all seen countless times. Yet, an entire generation of wrestling fans and promoters know of no other way to drive storylines on television week to week. "How else are we going to get John Cena and the Big Show to fight?" I don't know, how can you get two ego-driven professional athletes to want to fight each other? Doesn't seem that hard, really...
Unfortunately, like in life, change in wrestling is inevitable. Most of these changes are small. A low-card guy who barely got over in WWE now finds himself having to reinvent himself on the Indy Circuit in order to get booked. Or worse - get a real job like the rest of us! Evil Authority Figure X is replaced with Evil Authority Figure Y. The World Title goes from Sheamus to some other guy because... oh, who cares! The show's still about Cena, right? But, from time to time, changes can be big, even earth-shattering, like that time Impact Wrestling went from starting at 9 PM on Thursdays to 8 PM on Thursdays.
Please note, that last sentence was meant to be sarcastic.
But, from time to time, there really are big changes in wrestling, most of which surround changes in management or ownership. A year ago, Ring of Honor was sold to the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, with a promise of a new TV deal, national syndication, and greater financial security for the company. With Davey Richards at the helm as the new ROH Champion, Jim Cornette and Delirious in charge of the creative aspects, and Sinclair's people producing the TV show, the ROH fanbase was told that changes to the product would be minimal, focusing on the in-ring talent and storytelling they had grown used to back when ROH was still a straight-to-DVD product. Then, the TV show debuted, and like the HD Net show before it, failed to capture even the smallest part of the magic of the live ROH experience. The website changed, as well, as Sinclair was now offering a subscription service to its most hardcore fans, offering them perks like early ticket sales, members' only discounts, and access to the back catalog via a Video On Demand service. The Message Board, which allowed fans to discuss the product with fellow fans as well as ROH management? Gone. Then came the near-weekly ROH "Greatest Hits" releases. Meanwhile, the current product centered around an endless feud between Richards and Eddie Edwards that seemingly went nowhere, the cannibalization of ROH's Tag Team Division, the loss of more top names such as Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli and Colt Cabana, and a backlash against Richards that got so bad, ROH was practically forced to speed up his eventual loss to Kevin Steen, who is now more beloved than ever, despite being the supposed Antichrist of Wrestling. And let's not even begin to get into the debacle that has been ROH's iPPV situation, as of late, all of which can be directly attributed to Sinclair's management of the company to date.
In other words, Sinclair, for better or worse, changed Ring of Honor, and not everyone has been on board with the changes. Personally, I simply lost interest in the product after Colt and the Kings of Wrestling left. I don't hate the current ROH product, but I don't really follow it, anymore, either. Not to say ROH is a bad product, these day, but after seeing some of the major issues ROH has been having with their iPPVs, as well as how bad the Davey Richards backlash actually got with fans online, I can't say it’s a great product, either. Change can be both good and bad. Unfortunately, whatever good SBG may have brought to ROH as far as greater financial stability or the possible income based off the "Greatest Hits" DVD sets (which, despite my misgivings about the amount of effort put in on their part to provide new content or make the sets more user-friendly for new fans, are still rather popular) is overshadowed by the more negative elements of the company the fans actually see - the current product, and their continued problems with iPPV.
This, of course, brings us back to
Beyond Wrestling and WSU. Obviously, I'm skeptical, as I believe most fans would be at this stage. At the same time, Sean McCaffery, the soon-to-be former owner of WSU, obviously cares about the company he built, and isn't just going to hand the reigns off to some jabroni who has no idea what they're doing. Most of the staff of WSU is going to remain, including Jon Harder, play by play commentator and apparently now the new booker for WSU, which also bodes well for the future of WSU going forward. Unfortunately, rumors abound in these situations, including one where
Beyond Wrestling was considering moving WSU to Massachusetts and working with Sheldon Goldberg, former promoter of World Women's Wrestling, an all women's company that tanked rather quickly. Fortunately, this rumor was quickly dispelled by Sean McCaffery himself via the WSU twitter, assuring fans that Jon Harder had told him this was not the case.
What remains to be seen, however, is just what
Beyond Wrestling will do once they take over the reigns of WSU in July. They're already promising a high-quality video production, which, based on the
Beyond Wrestling videos I've seen on their YouTube account, hasn't always been great, but the more recent uploads do show signs of improvement. Given the current level of WSU's production value, any improvement in that department would be a plus, and if the newer matches
Beyond Wrestling has posted online are any indication, we'll hopefully see that improvement in WSU. They are also promising a new Video-On-Demand service, of sorts, allowing you to download shows online, likely through Smart Mark Video, whose service I have no real complaints about. Smart Mark Video is responsible for CHIKARA, Anarchy Championship Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling Ohio DVD releases and VOD downloads, as well as
Beyond Wrestling, and, for the most part, they're a pretty good service, on par with Ring of Honor's as far as online shopping is concerned. Whether or not this VOD service is going to replace the current business model concerning iPPV, or if this is WSU bowing out of that market entirely, remains to be seen.
Beyond Wrestling is also talking about expanding WSU into more markets and running more shows, which, if successful, would easily make the argument for WSU as the dominant Women's Company in the US a much stronger one. After all, SHIMMER runs two weekends a year, strictly for DVD, while its sister company, the debuting SHINE promotion, which will begin running iPPVs via WWNLive.com in July, isn't likely to run anything close to WSU's near-monthly schedule as it is, let alone if WSU successfully expands under
Beyond Wrestling's watch.
As far as WSU goes, hopes are high, but competition is also steep. The Women's Wrestling Market still remains merely a fraction of the overall wrestling market, and with SHIMMER having the greatest brand recognition and reputation among the fanbase, SHINE being a direct spin-off of SHIMMER, and NCW: Femme Fatales being a strong #3 in the market, WSU will still need to fight for its spot by providing the clear alternative to the more clean-cut, family-friendly SHIMMER. So long as WSU can maintain its edge, continue to deliver with their Main Events, and build a stronger midcard to help support the rest of the show, WSU can easily become the company it always said it was - the top Women's Promotion in the United States, today. That is, of course, so long as
Beyond Wrestling doesn't screw that up, in the process.
And now, because this is me, and I can usually find at least one song that has some relevance, however little, to the subject at hand, I leave you this week with this, from a Canadian band called Stars. Because, really, none of us are ever truly good with change...