Wrestling operations are all suspended indefinitely because of the coronavirus. What’s the way forward?
Grapple MAX Game Changers: Pro Wrestling Leaders’ Digital Summit took place on Friday night. This post summarises the ideas exchanged. Read about the event here.
Shaukat, founder of Malaysia Pro Wrestling (MyPW), was straightforward when the summit opened. The situation is dire in MyPW, and his company has taken a huge hit from lockdown fallout.
But far from tapping out, the overall takeaway from the 7-nation conference is that this crisis creates a need for new evolution strategies, to stay a step ahead of the impact of COVID-19.
And as the medium that the digital summit was hosted on would suggest, online is the way to go. For those of you who missed the livestream, visit here to watch.
“Filipinos rank among the top 5 nationalities in the world in terms of digital content consumption, and now that everyone’s stuck at home, all the more there’s an even greater demand for digital content. We’re releasing Homecoming, on May 31, to the world.”Red Ollero, President of Philippine Wrestling Revolution
Which is a great tactic, since PWR has archived hundreds of hours of footage since 2015. It’s time to package it up and release it to the fans.
Ho Ho Lun, founder of Hong Kong Wrestling Federation, points out that wrestling promoters need to re-evaluate their business models – particularly the companies that depend heavily on foreign wrestlers.
It is a highly valid concern. The drastic decrease in air travel has threatened many airlines with bankruptcy, and Qantas even suggests airfare could jump ninefold if social distancing becomes a new normal, which is very likely as the coronavirus mutates. These cost pressures make it impractical to book travelling guests on a card in future.
“We rely a lot on international wrestlers for our shows. But now international flights are all stopped, there’s no news on when international travel will return to normal, so I’m not confident to run any shows.”Ho Ho Lun, WWE alumni and Founder of Hong Kong Wrestling Federation
And that forces promotions to look inwards. It forces coaches to remove the crutch of flown-in talent, whom they might have previously booked to shore up a small roster.
Now the experienced guys and the rookies from the same country have to improve together. The emphasis is on grooming local talent into decent performers, as observed by Sid Nguyen from Vietnam.
“It is crucial that we focus on local talent. Air ticket prices are through the roof. So you have to look next to you to see who you’re gonna face.”Sid Nguyen, Founder of Saigon Pro Wrestling Club
The promoters also discussed the need to stay relevant through online channels. Even if there isn’t direct monetisation from these efforts, it is still important to produce unique brand content that fans can consume. For example P-Nutz, TOP Dojo’s founder, engages meaningfully with fans through his wrestling themed artwork.
The following is a summary of the content ideas the Game Changers have been creating to stay current:
Even for us at Grapple MAX, the new strain of the coronavirus gave us the chance to book a stacked lineup to appear on the same show, without the logistical and financial nightmares of a live, in-person event. Made possible only because of Zoom, which has quickly earned a reputation as the social media platform of the pandemic. (We even got a paid subscription to Zoom so we won’t get cut off at the 40-min mark.)
Not everything in this period has been bleak. Vins, the founder of Wrestle Square who has made optimism and big dreams his personal brand, can’t wait to bounce back. India is finally easing their lockdown from 31 May, after 3 extensions. He shrugs this adversity off as part of the process of acquiring success.
“If you’re chasing your dreams, if you’re chasing your goals, this is a challenge you have to accept. It’s a part of the journey. I’m sure from the 1st of June I’ll be starting up our wrestling school again, taking safety precautions.”Vins, Founder of Wrestle Square
And as for Shaukat? The summit, which has been viewed almost 3,000 times so far, was the perfect stage for him to share some incredible news. He has been given a shot at wrestling in the US, and as soon as travel restrictions are lifted, he will be making his way to Reality of Wrestling in Texas, a promotion owned by Booker T. Now can you dig that?
The moral of the story is that you’re only as dead as you choose to be.
There wasn’t one shred of negative sentiment throughout the discussion. It was all about being creative and trying new approaches. One philosophy shared by Red in this power panel – like a lottery, the more entries you send in, the higher your chances of winning.
So don’t quit, and keep the sincere attempts to create value coming. Because when something finally sticks, you’ve earned your new lease of life. We’re all racing to avoid being swallowed up by the damage caused to the economy by COVID-19.
It was quite an inspiring pilot episode, and we’re strongly considering doing a sequel. Now accepting suggestions for speakers. Talk to us!