As the previous installation of this column will tell you, this is, in fact, the October 2005 edition of “TBL at Ten,” my personal retrospective of how this site was formed, why some decisions were made, how the site grew, etc. Due to the reasons explained in the previous column, this “October Column” is a bit late. My apologies to the faithful among you who are waiting to read my every word on the history of The Balrog’s Lair!
As promised, we’ll cover some fun facts about the lair’s history this time around. First, we’ll look at the creation of The TBL Newsletter. Second, we’ll look at some of the more popular internet writers who have graced the web pages of TBL. Following that, we’ll talk as briefly as possible about how the opinions area brought TBL and myself a bit more credibility in a growing online wrestling world. That conversation will be followed by a bunch of huge hints on where one of my first “inside” contacts came from in the wrestling industry (I won’t tell you his name…oops, there’s a hint right there!). Finally, I want to look at the situation regarding how TBL began to generate revenue and how, at some point in our more recent years, that revenue has become a necessity to pay for the expenses that accrue from owning a domain name with hosting services. On second thought, I might move that conversation to the next article…
So, first things first – The TBL Newsletter! At it’s height, our newsletter was among the most widely read on the internet wrestling scene. Like most other sites, I jumped into the newsletter game after establishing a bit of an online presence. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I think the first newsletter went out some time in 1998. Take a gander at that when you get a chance – it was amateur at best!
The newsletter evolved from a few hundred subscriptions eventually growing to some 2500+ subscriptions. This was a pretty sweet deal because if we were ever having a shitty week or time period with hits, all it took was one newsletter going out and the hits would pick back up in no time. The newsletter was so popular that at one point, I actually had some guy contact me and ask if I could forward him all of my copies of the newsletter because he liked it so much he wanted to start collecting it! I don’t know, dude, but that was a pretty weird compliment I guess.
Things were peachy with the newsletter until the time constraints I talked about in the previous column began to arise, effectively stealing my time from the newsletter. I did manage to offset that, though, by hiring some folks to run my newsletter for me. One guy by the name of JW Storm comes to mind, but I honestly can’t remember if he ever had control of the newsletter itself. Eventually, the newsletter became part of the webmaster’s duties, but more on that in a minute.
However, things didn’t stay great with the newsletter for a prolonged period of time. When the old company that we used to use for our newsletter decided to dump all of their old information (randomly, I might add), the newsletter was effectively shut down (no subscription list = no one to send a newsletter to). It was a vicious blow because this massive information loss took place right around when everyone bought a “insertgenericwrestlingphrasehere.com” and they began to grow in popularity over the free sites. Also, this sucked because I claim the newsletter was at around 2500+ subscribers, but the truth is that we were on the verge of merging with a newsletter called “The Razor’s Edge Newsletter” which would have given us an additional 3500 e-mails. But there is a business end to this, too. Our side of the negotiations went from being able to offer 2500 e-mails to being able to offer 0. Needless to say, that deal fell apart…quick.
Today, The TBL Newsletter is pretty much a thing of the past. In it’s place, TBL’s Webmaster Eddie has teamed up with Dr. Trevor Hunnicutt to produce the “Inside the Ring” newsletter. Inside the Ring has been published on a fairly consistent basis over the last year and is about as close to a pure “newsletter” as you’ll see these days. By that I mean that most wrestling sites today use their newsletter as a marketing tool to get you to come to their sites (just like we did a while back). Eddie and Trevor bring you real news, opinions, and features. Side note, you should sign up in case you haven’t already!
Phew! Never knew that each facet of TBL had such a history to it, huh? Well, our Opinions area has a bit of history to it – not the least of which are some of the famous (or at least semi-famous) names that have been published here.
I won’t get into talking about the current writers on the site, each of which has a special niche and was hired for a specific reason. But before I just blow them all off, I would like to point out that Dr. Trevor Hunnicutt’s “FigureFour LegLock” is among the best written columns on the internet wrestling scene today. I also want to point out that right now at TBL, we have three TBL Webmasters all writing columns (Eddie, Martin Hawrysko, and myself) as well as one of TBL’s original writers, Ringmaster T. As far as the oldest column on the site, I think that honor goes to Michael Gelfand with his “Loyalty” column (which you may remember from the very first TBL Newsletter).
Michael is actually a good place to start this dicussion, since many of his columns were spread throughout the internet in the mid-to-late 1990’s. He was a phenomenal writer with great appeal and even better talent. My only lament about him is that I didn’t save more of his work! Other semi-famous writers that worked here include the infamous Wrestlebabe (who I spoke about in an early “TBL at Ten” column) and a guy by the name of Freakboy (I think that was it). These two went on to write for Al Isaac’s Scoops Wrestling Newsletter which had well over 10,000 subscribers.
The most notable internet wrestling writer to pen a column at TBL is Eric Benner. His “Ramblings of a MontreaLunatic” was a gigantic hit online and helped to get him hired at WOW Magazine (which is no longer in print). Eric went on to work with SLAM! Wrestling out of Canada (major newspaper/internet site for Canadian wrestling fans). The latest that I’ve gathered on Eric is that he’s working for a publication called Quorum Review, dealing with politics in Canada. See that, folks? Working at TBL gives you a step up!
Now, with such a ridiculously talented pool of writers, you know that I had to use this to my advantage. I pressed as hard as I could to get my writers on every newsboard, column board, or message board (no forums back then, folks) that I could. I was successful in some respect in that I was asked to create the entire online Opinions Area for a major wrestling site. I won’t tell you which site it is – partly because the site has gone to hell and partly because I don’t like the people who own in – but the opinions area at TBL was a great asset to not just our standing as a wrestling website, but also towards my standing as an internet wrestling entrepreneur. Go me.
As for my first “inside” source – a lot of people have asked me about that over the years. Well, I’ll tell you up front that it’s not Tito Santana, even though he was a teacher at my high school and a football coach for our football team. Hey, just because I used to eat ice cream in the shop right next to his hair salon doesn’t mean that he would tell some kid a bunch of wrestling secrets! The person that gave me most of my inside tips worked for WCW. As a matter of fact, this person was the sole webmaster of nwowrestling.com
This person currently does work on speed racing and has even been on an HBO special about…penises. Weird, huh?
I’d also like to say that this person has been a great friend over the years and though we don’t get to talk as much as back when he was working for WCW, I know that he’ll be successful in whichever path he chooses. That guy was a true buddy.
Well, you’ve suffered this far through my babbling, so I’ll go ahead and spare you the money talk until the November edition of “TBL at Ten” is published. I hope that you folks are enjoying this series and I hope that you’ll continue to send me feedback asking for me to talk about certain topics. I have no problem putting it all out there – hey, what the hell, right?
Thanks again for reading and be sure to check out all that TBL has got to offer!