Hello and welcome once again to The Trademark Rants. For those of you who just happened to have a spare $50 and time to waste, chances are that you used said money and time on the new SmackDown vs. RAW 2006 game. I know I certainly did, which is why I didn’t write a column last week. That, and there was the whole Thanksgiving thing, which certainly didn’t help much. You’d think that giving yourself a week off would make writing the following week’s column easy, but the truth is, it doesn’t. In fact, I’m often left scraping for ideas on how to fill three pages because I can only explain what annoys me so much about the current direction of wrestling until it becomes frustrating to even talk about anymore.
So, I could go ahead and discuss, in small detail, the current goings on with my latest project, Ultimate Shock & Awe Wrestling. Yes kids, this is not a joke or a hoax, it’s actually going to happen. In fact, it’s happening right now. A couple months ago, my friend Terry (an independent wrestler whom I mention in this column nearly every week) apparently won a hell of a lot of money playing poker. Supposedly, Terry was in Las Vegas earlier this year and was a part of the World Series of Poker or something like that. I don’t really remember what it was, but I know it was a pretty big tournament with some of the biggest names in Poker. Terry, of course, didn’t get very far, but the fact that he was even there was pretty F’n cool if you ask me. Anyway, Terry came into a lot of money, and, somehow, got in contact with a guy named Scotty Mills, who just happened to own a wrestling ring. Terry ended up buying the ring, as well as the rights and documentation of Canton Extreme Wrestling (which means that we’re already certified to hold wrestling shows in the State of Ohio through 2007) and from there, began putting this whole thing together. Since then, CEW has been re-named Ultimate Shock & Awe Wrestling, and since about the end of October, Terry and I have been doing everything we can to get this ball rolling.
For about as long as Terry and I had known each other, we wanted to get into the wrestling business. Now, in the beginning, we wanted to be wrestlers and make it all the way to the WWE. Remember, this was during the hot point of WWF circa 1999-2000, when Austin and the Rock ruled the entire wrestling world with iron fists and huge box office draws. This is when Terry and I would try to get together almost every Monday and make fun of Nitro for an hour and totally mark out for the WWF once RAW finally came on. This was also the high point of our backyard wrestling experience. Now, I know some people will get all uppity about this, but yes, I am a former Backyard Wrestler, but no, I never took any wild and crazy bumps though thumbtacks or light tubes or anything you see on the Backyard Wrestling tapes. All Terry and I ever did was trade holds for a while, then occasionally have the very awkward-looking brawl that would make a “White Trash” Johnny Webb match look like a Hart/Michaels classic by comparison. Terry and I used to make tapes of our “shows” where we played virtually every character, from the commentary team to the main eventers to the never-ending shooting star of a joke that was the Modern Age Inlaws. And this is when I got my first taste of booking. I just remember taking a few hours just putting together the different angles and writing promos. One time in particular, I gathered up a bunch of my wrestling magazines, then cut a promo complaining about how Terry and I weren’t featured in any of them, which is, to this day, probably one of the best segments I ever wrote (both in my backyard days, as well as later on, once I began booking for Indy Promotions) in my personal opinion.
Anyway, to make a long story a little shorter, circa 2001, Terry and I had pretty much shifted focus from wanting to be in the WWE to wanting to run our own promotion. At that point, Terry had actually began training to become a wrestler, while I was pretty much convinced that I never wanted to wrestle professionally, choosing rather to work in the creative realm of wrestling, producing television and helping to create characters the way I always assumed the WWE did (drawing elements from a wrestler’s personality then finding a way to best present those qualities to a television audience), while entertaining the idea of possibly being a manager or some other sort of “on-air” personality if the opportunity arose. For me, going to the WWE will always represent a loss of creative control and honestly, I would rather go toe-to-toe with the McMahons than work for them. For some reason, that sort of competition excites me a lot more than merely being able to say that, “yeah, that really cool angle that lead to an awesome match at WrestleMania that all the fans talk about now, I helped Stephanie book that”. Terry… I’m not sure why his focused changed, or if it really ever did. To this day, I can’t tell you if he still really wants to go to WWE or not. I know that, realistically, he doesn’t see it happening, mostly because of his back (which hasn’t been 100% since he was hit by a drunk driver in 2003) and the importance he places on his relationship with his wife, Jessie, both of which pretty much puts full-time wrestling on the back-burner. But I can’t tell you if he would want to be a WWE Superstar or not. I think he would, if the cards were dealt right, but he loves his wife and his family too much to put that kind of strain on them by touring full-time with the kind of schedule WWE runs. So, in short, our goals changed as we both realized what was really important to us.
Since Terry and I got involved with wrestling, first in Tri-City Wrestling, then, for him, AAW (which was still TCW under new management), CAPW, and TCWA, as well as my stint as RCW Commissioner, we had discussed, in minor detail, what we could do with our own promotion. We almost had an opportunity back in 2003 to start up a promotion backed by Akron Area Wrestling. The AAW was considering starting an expansion promotion out of Youngstown and they supposedly wanted me to run it, based on my run in TCW. Unfortunately, that fell through, as AAW faced several lawsuits and other financial troubles. But I’ve had a working plan for the first six months already written up, with character ideas, angles ready-to-go, and even the titles we were going to have. Given, a lot of that would have likely changed with a fully realized roster, but it’s supposed to. That’s why it’s called a “working plan”. It’s simply enough of a plan to get you to start working, and then you can change it as the need arises. So, needless to say, I kinda already have a working plan for USAW, albeit not as long ahead or as detailed as the one I made a few years ago. I have plans for what I’d like to do at the One Year Anniversary show, but that also depends on what kind of money we’ll have to work with, and just what all we can get away with. But if you asked me what my six month plans are, I’m not sure. I’m really only think about three months in right now, and even then, it’s not terribly detailed, as I am now only considering the talent we already have.
Right now, we have 5 wrestlers involved, as well as two “on-air” personalities, and one technical guy. Terry, obviously, is wrestling, as well as the man Terry bought the ring from, Scotty Mills. We also have a big man named Thomas, then we also have Darren and Eddie (all of whom has a ring name still in the works) who are all officially slated to be a part of USAW. We also have Scotty’s girlfriend, who I don’t know much about yet, who’s going to be a valet. Then, there’s me, Mike Johns: Creative Genius. I’m definitely going to be an “on-air” presence, although there is some question as to exactly what role I’ll be playing. And, then there’s Chris, whom I mention in this column almost as much as I mention Terry. Chris’ role is yet to be fully defined, but he’s already volunteered to help us with DVDs once we get that far, and I think he’s going to be building the USAW website, too. Oh, and yes, we do expect to be able to produce DVDs at some point. When? Don’t know. Hopefully sooner rather than later. If anything, I just want proof that USAW existed.
Over this past weekend, Terry informed me that we have finally secured a building, and that we can take it over as soon as February 2006, which means that USAW will have its own arena/training center. The up side to all of this is that we can (hopefully) hold shows whenever we damn well please and we don’t have to necessarily go three months without holding a show simply because we can’t find a building to hold it in, like a lot of other local promotions in the area. That, and we can also get into the business of training wrestlers. As for details on just what all that will entail, those will have to wait. Training and all that is definitely Terry’s department. While I do know how to take bumps and do other things in the ring (thanks to training I received in 2004, in an attempt to revitalize my career and actually become a wrestler), I’m hardly experienced with it. I’d rather leave training to someone who has a lot more experience and a better knowledge of the ring than I do.
The tough thing now is insurance. Since we’re going to have a home arena, we have to insure the thing. And this is by far and large the downside to having a home arena. While having a home is nice on many, many levels, it also incurs a large number of expenses, such as electricity, heat, and, of course, insurance. And now you can see why a lot of small promotions don’t have home arenas. It’s cheaper. It also means that you may have to go three to six months without holding a show because of scheduling conflicts and building problems, but it is cheaper…
Right now, we’re looking at holding our first show no later than Summer of 2006, although, in my mind, we could be holding one as early as April. Personally, I want to shoot for April. The sooner we can get our product out there, the better. At the same time, I don’t want to hold a show until our talent is ready for one. There’s no use rushing a product into the market if it isn’t top notch. The words I use are “TV Ready”. Since my style of booking requires me to think of writing a wrestling show as if it were going to be on TV, I tend to use a lot of TV-oriented language to describe things. As you may have noticed earlier, I referred to myself and Scotty’s girlfriend as “on-air” talent, rather than managers or valets. That’s because that’s how I think of us. That’s how I think of Maria, or Eric Bischoff, or Scott D’Amore, or Traci, or anyone in these sort of supporting roles who aren’t necessarily wrestlers. Because I write wrestling shows as if they are going to be on TV, I tend to think of everything in that context. And that is also how I think of talent being “ready”. See, to me, there’s a difference between being ready to work a match and being ready to play a character on TV. I don’t just want the talent to be ready to work matches; I want the talent to be ready to put on actual shows. Not just the old-school, one hour stars squashing bums in between lamer promos that are supposedly meant to hype matches between stars that no one gives a damn about because your show is so damn boring that no one is going to care about your so-called stars anyway! I mean a RAW-Caliber show. Wait… a RAW in 1999-Caliber show. A show you’re actually going to want to watch. So, when I say “TV Ready”, it means that someone is not only ready to have good matches in front of live crowds, but they are also ready to play a character convincingly and put on a show that you’re going to remember long after the match is over.
The Ultimate Goal of Ultimate Shock & Awe Wrestling is say that you can indeed have it all. You can have a strong show full of knock-down, drag-out wrestling matches that will make even the most bitter smark happy, while also having characters you’re going to care about playing out stories that you’re going to want to see. A few years ago, this was exactly what the WWE was doing, and for whatever reason, something went wrong. The character development went awry, the storytelling went down the tubes and the matches… well, I may get a lot of flak for this, but the matches have gotten predictable, repetitive, and boring. And that’s not really the wrestlers’ fault. That’s on the writers and the road agents who put the matches together and over-structure them until the last inkling of originality or spontaneity have been sucked out of it. So, that’s it. That’s the grand master plan. And the thing is, it seems so simple, yet, when done properly, people think its revolutionary. TNA, for whatever reason, thinks they can be the #2 Company in Wrestling by giving fans half of this formula, while the WWE believes they can maintain their role as #1 by giving fans only the other half. Now, I’m not saying we’re going to be at the level of TNA or WWE because we’re certainly not. All I’m concerned about right now is simply getting our product in the market. But, I will say that TNA and WWE are both missing half of the formula that, not so long ago, made wrestling the hot water-cooler topic on Tuesday mornings, and really, this isn’t a new or revolutionary idea. It’s actually the easiest thing in the world, if you know how to do it.
Ultimate Shock & Awe Wrestling, Coming in 2006. Are you ready to embrace the future?
If you’d like to send me an e-mail, or just complain about my shameless self-promotion, the address is TheMaverickMJ@yahoo.com. While you’re at it, head over to my page at www.MySpace.com/MikeJohnsUSAW to get all the latest news on Northeast Ohio’s Newest Wrestling Promotion – ULTIMATE SHOCK & AWE WRESTLING!!!! Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you again next week with another addition of The Trademark Rants!