Main-stream Pro Wrestling Vs. Local Independent Pro Wrestling

Professional wrestling is the perfect combination of athletics and drama. The battle of good versus evil can be played out on television or live in a local gymnasium. Most people think of professional wrestling as the product that they see on television. World Wrestling Entertainment, better known as WWE, is the biggest of these promotions. Total Non-Stop Action, known as TNA, and Ring of Honor, known as ROH, are two recognizable organizations as well. What most people don’t realize is that there are hundreds and thousands of independent promotions around the United States, and other countries, that provide the same level of entertainment but without all of the flash that people have come to expect at these events. Some people call these promotions the “minor leagues” of professional wrestling because it is where most young wrestlers start their career. Local independent wrestling must compete with the larger television product of WWE and TNA but in many aspects it is just as good.

A professional wrestling ring set up for an independent pro wrestling event in North Carolina.
A professional wrestling ring set up for an independent pro wrestling event in North Carolina. | Source

Flashy, television wrestling and independent wrestling are both the same product when broken down to the main components. Both products take place inside a professional wrestling ring with ring ropes and a canvas covering. The purpose of a match is to subdue your opponent using moves, holds, and countering your opponent’s moves to score a victory by pinning your opponent’s shoulders to the mat for a count of 3 or making them submit with a submission hold. There are many different types of matches that can be seen at both types of shows. Singles matches, tag-team matches, and women’s matches are all normal matches that can be seen on television and at the local community center. A champion is usually crowned at each promotion as an indicator of who the best in the company is. Every wrestler on the roster strives to attain this championship as a sign that they are the best at what they do. Some wrestlers will boast about championships they have won at other companies to show their talent and ability has merit. Just as a minor league baseball game has the same rules as their major league counter-part, professional wrestling is no different.

When fans of professional wrestling go to an event, they are looking to be entertained. Fans want to boo the bad guys and cheer on the good guys. Fans want to see acrobatics and stunts that cannot be seen anywhere else. Professional wrestling provides that entertainment. Promotions that run a weekly series can extend storylines and feuds between wrestlers. Smaller promotions will hold interview sessions with wrestlers so that fans can understand why they are competing and why they don’t get along with certain wrestlers. Fans have the ability to follow the story of their favorite wrestler and keep up to date with their championship progress. Some describe this following as the same passion that someone has for their favorite NASCAR driver or professional football team. The entertainment value of professional wrestling is that it is continuous. Wrestling doesn’t have reruns or an off-season but it can be recorded and watched as many times as desired.

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The purpose of professional wrestling, as with any business, is to make money. The promotions that provide the television product charge a lot more for admission to their shows but both products provide an income for the ones running the event. Professional wrestling started as a carnival side attraction to make extra money. This practice has continued on throughout the years. Merchandise, concessions, admission, and more all contribute to this main purpose. Sponsorships and advertising revenues help tremendously for multiple parties. Vendors and advertisers get a strong demographic prediction for these wrestling events so that they can spend their money wisely. The wrestling promotions providing this ad space are able to increase their budget to provide better product quality or provide an early start for the next show.

The major difference between the bigger promotions and the local independents is the quality of their production. The television products involve multiple camera angles with high definition camera equipment, pyrotechnics and fireworks, and entrance movies and custom entrance music. This is largely done because these promotions have a much larger budget to work with. The local independent product rarely has this type of budget. If an independent show is being filmed, it will more than likely consist of a single camera angle, no pyrotechnics, and popular music tracks that the wrestlers have picked out to make their entrance to. Television tapings usually draw a larger crowd that requires a basketball arena or other type of event space that holds 15,000-20,000 people. Independent wrestling shows are usually located in local community centers, National Guard Armories, or neighborhood recreation centers that may only hold 400-500 attendants.

Pro wrestling on television is very competitive. For this reason, the major promotions try to hire and employ only the best of the best. It is rare to see a wrestler on television compete in a match with less than a year or two of experience. Independent wrestling is where most professional wrestlers start and end their careers. This is why most consider independent wrestling the “minor leagues”. Young talent needs a place to train, gain experience, and gain exposure. Older talent that is no longer deemed “television worthy” can still make a living working for these smaller promotions and use their name recognition to draw a crowd to these shows. This is where independent wrestling shows shine. A cost of $10 will allow a wrestling fan to see a show, watch new and upcoming stars compete, and also catch some of their favorite wrestlers in a more intimate capacity. Kevin Sullivan once said; “Independent professional wrestling is the best place to see the superstars of tomorrow and the superstars of yesterday…... in the same room.”

Shane Douglas and Raven sign autographs at an independent pro wrestling fundraiser event.
Shane Douglas and Raven sign autographs at an independent pro wrestling fundraiser event. | Source

Promotions that have the best talent available tend to have a more polished look than local independent events. When two top tier professionals compete in a match, there is rarely a mess up or miscommunication. These shows are sometimes seen as flawless in their execution. This is not so for the independent shows. New performers are prone to mistakes but that is where the experience teaches them what not to do in certain situations. This experience is hidden in television because they are trying to offer a more solid product and there is no room for error. Television wrestling stars are very polished in their look, how they enter the arena, and how they perform in the ring. Independent level talents are usually still trying to find themselves and what works best for them. Experimentation with new moves and submissions is common in independent wrestling. Independent professional wrestling could be described as the dress rehearsal for a performance of a play and the television shows are the opening night’s performance.

A promotional poster for an independent professional wrestling event in North Carolina.
A promotional poster for an independent professional wrestling event in North Carolina. | Source

At the core, if professional wrestling is in an arena or in a National Guard Armory, it is the same product. Watching pro wrestling events on television or watching them live, they are entertaining for the fans. The promotions make their money; the wrestlers compete and perform for crowds. Stars rise and fall. While a local independent wrestling promotion is not going to compete with WWE or TNA, it does have a place in professional wrestling. These independent shows may be considered a little rougher around the edges than their television counter-parts but they are just as entertaining for the fans.

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