Welcome to the latest edition of Four on Four. This week, we have a really cool theme. We’ll be talking with four NON-Wrestlers with important roles in the wrestling business. Promoters, bookers, ring announcers, commentators, DVD producers. We have a great panel so let’s meet them!
Gabe Sapolsky: Booker of Dragon Gate USA and Evolve. Non-wrestler in wrestling since the ECW days.
Follow him on Twitter (@BookItGabe) and check out Evolve 23 and Evolve 24 in the NYC area and on WWN Live iPPV this weekend.
Denver Colorado: The man, not the place! Promoter/booker of Beyond Wrestling. Non wrestler of many trades in wrestling.
Follow Beyond Wrestling on Twitter: @BeyondWrestling and Facebook. Check out Beyond Wrestling! It’s really cool.
Joe Dombrowski: Producer & Host of The Montreal Theory and PRIME Wrestling TV. Occasional ROH commentator.
Follow him on Twitter: @joe_dombrowski and check out The Montreal Theory. Here’s a GREAT clip of Joe getting (our fav wrestler) Paul London’s Montreal Theory.
1. What is the toughest part of being a non-wrestler in the pro wrestling business?
Excellent question. The toughest part is definitely asking people to do things I haven’t done and can’t do myself, which is wrestle. It does make it difficult to ask people to do certain things when I’m not trained and do not have first hand knowledge of the technical aspects of it. This is something I do have to handle in a certain way over the years as a result.
To me the toughest or most challenging part of being a non wrestler is often being around the fraternity of wrestlers but not really ever being considered one of the “boys”. The atmospheres of MOST locker rooms I’ve ever been in has always been like a big family gathering.
Based on my time with a lot of groups (CZW,MCW,NYWC) I’ve made some closer friends. Independent of those few genuine friends I’ve made over the years there exist a kinship that you can only really be apart of or truly understand if you’re a wrestler. I’m a member of a few high performing teams but I am fully aware that my category is “other” and sometimes that kind of feel on the outside even though you’re just as much apart of the show as the wrestlers. True no one pays to see a ring announcer but we ARE a part of that overall polish of the product that in fact makes us ALL look like a trillion jagillion bucks when done right.
I’m challenged sometimes by the hard fact that rosters, although collectively contributing equally (we’re supposed to anyway) can be like a family but because of the training the wrestlers have gone through, sometimes together, they understand a bond and have a deeper connection than you’ll ever know. Its been a little alienating at times.
The toughest part of being a non-wrestler, for me at least, is not having that in-ring experience to rely on. There are certain ideas that I cannot execute as I had envisioned because I don’t understand the intricacies of every physical mechanic of a match the same way a trained professional wrestler does. There are certainly others that struggle with the way they are perceived by their peers because they’ve never stepped foot in a ring but I have always gone out of my way to remain “one of the boys.”
There are plenty of negative connotations associated with being a promoter so I’ve tried my hardest not to propagate those stereotypes. I view myself as the coach of a team. Just because I haven’t played the game doesn’t mean I don’t understand it. It’s probably also worth noting that if you’re not a wrestler you absolutely must know how to fulfill any non-wrestling role there is (promoter, booker, commentator, interviewer, manager, ring announcer, cameraman, sound guy, runner, etc.) in order to be successful.
The most difficult thing about being a non-wrestler is the plethora of promoters and people in positions of power who do not understand the importance of a talented, experienced non-wrestler staff. There are a lot of inexperienced promoters, novices, and to be perfectly honest people who just should not be in the wrestling business making decisions in wrestling companies. They sometimes don’t understand that a great referee, ring announcer, commentator, booker, etc can be the difference between whether a match comes across as good or bad, or whether or not the promotion in general comes across as a first-class operation.
That’s where you get the places that, unfortunately, you’ll see referees with no training, or guys hired to announce because they’re friends with the promoter and really funny at parties, or promoters who want to “pick the matches” who have no clue about building a character or telling a story. It’s very frustrating when people assume that just because you’re not a wrestler, anybody can do your job.
2. What do you consider the most important facet of your role in wrestling?
This is hard to answer in a paragraph but I would say you have to take very seriously the fact that what you ask people do to can shape their career and even their lives. Now, that might sound much more God-like than I intended but it was actually something taught to me by Mick Foley. You have a hand in your roster’s careers and that needs to be taken very seriously.
The ticket prices. The next show. Who this guy is. Where she “hails” from. Our sponsors. The referees. Etc etc.
I have to use my limited celebrity, and more importantly, the platforms that I’ve cultivated to help push pro wrestling – specifically the genre of independent wrestling – forward. That includes identifying underutilized wrestlers and giving them the tools they need improve their in-ring skill set, increase their network within the industry, and build up their fan bases.
I also need to come up with and implement new tactics to promote and present independent wrestling. Some of these strategies have been lifted by larger organizations which I find flattering. Obviously my top priority is pushing the brands I am affiliated with but I want to create positive change throughout wrestling.
The most important facet of my role in wrestling is to make the in-ring talent look as good as possible. If I’m calling a match or remarking on a promo segment or talking about an upcoming character or show, I want the perception of whatever it is I’m talking about to be bigger and greater after I’m done talking. Whether it’s being able to figure out the story of a particular match, the state of mind of a character, the goals they’re looking to accomplish, I have to be the voice of whatever it is they’re doing physically.
If I’m a booker, I want to put interesting matches together that will enhance the people in the ring, both through story and through guys that have good chemistry and intrigue the audience. That’s another problem in wrestling – a lot of bookers book to entertain themselves, and a lot of announcers think they’re more entertaining than the product in the ring so they spend all night making inside jokes and off-handed comments. I’m there to add to the show, not take away from it. If I do my job right, everybody looks good.
3. What is the most rewarding match you have been a part of?
Well it’s awkward for me to say I’ve been “part of a match” because once the bell rings, it’s all about the talent in the ring. It’s like a manager in baseball. He doesn’t swing the bat in the batter’s box.
If I had to give some kind of an answer, I’d say right now Johnny Gargano vs. Shingo from Open The Ultimate Gate this year comes to mind but again all the credit goes to Gargano and Shingo.
Probably Charade vs The Black Baron from Beyond Wrestling’s Armory Amorè in East Greenwich RI. First of all…I wasn’t even supposed to be there. Like I had not intention to go to that show at all. That is until another brother of mine AR Fox told me I should come check it out since I was in the area already.
Of course Charade almost murdered himself in the ring at the end of it but before that part I thought it was an awesome match. I was commentating and recording after announcing it for no other reason then for us to all enjoy and share after we had left the venue.
Little did I know that two things would come from my deciding to do some guerrilla filming that day. 1. I would gain a real brother out of the aftermath and 2. The footage would go on to be so cringe worthy that it would get the kind of attention its gained!
It’s rewarding because as bad as that whole thing was…no one died and we (Charade and I) got some KILLER exposure on shows like Tosh.0 and TrueTV. We got some moolah too but not nearly what Im sure will eventually be made off both our hides before our careers are over. Respectively!
Off the top of my head I’d have to say the tag team gauntlet on Night 3 of the 2012 King Of Trios. As a commentator, my number one goal is to enhance the action that the viewers are watching. By no means was the bout a great match in a technical sense but along with Dasher Hatfield, we did everything in our power to make teams involved seem larger than life.
I thought we told a compelling story and restored the credibility of the stars of the 80s. I was humbled by the feedback I got from the person that is probably the closest thing that I have to a mentor in wrestling.
The most rewarding thing is always to create emotion and get people talking. I was able to get a LOT of people talking when I released my “Montreal Theory” DVD earlier this year (*cheap plug* www.MontrealTheory.com). I love making people feel something. As an announcer, sometimes you get the right two people in the ring with a hot crowd and you’re on your A-game, you can just feel you’re all unknowingly magically working together to create this special moment.
Shiima Xion (Zema Ion) vs. Jimmy DeMarco from IWC in 2009 comes to mind, as well as a number of the matches I called in Ring of Honor. As a booker, it usually happens at the annual Wrestlelution supercards, which is always the climax to a year’s worth of feuds and stories. One specific moment that always comes to mind is the climax to the Johnny Gargano vs. “Handicapped Hero” Gregory Iron rivalry on the first Wrestlelution in 2008. Greg started that feud as a complete unknown but by the end there were 1,000 people on their feet chanting his name.
4. If you were a wrestler, which active wrestler would be your tag partner?
I would have to say Colt Cabana cause that would be the most fun!
I’d team with any of the members of BLKOUT. Ruckus, JEEZ, Robbie Merino, Joker or Eddie Kingston…if I gotta pick one and one only though, I’d team with The Human Tornado!
Tricky Dicky, Dirty Daddy, the Original Death Machine, Chris Dickinson. That’s my ride or die homie. I don’t think you have Beyond Wrestling without Dickster and I’m not sure if you have me without Beyond Wrestling. I hope some day I can manage him.
For the performance… Tracy Smothers, hands down. Never have I met a more entertaining person in and out of the ring, and is someone that should be thought of among the most respected in our business. Plus, I know he’d be able to hide my extreme athletic limitations with his amazing mic work and old school mentality.
For the travel part… Paul London. I don’t know if there’s anyone I hit it off with immediately as well as Paul, and I know there would never be a boring minute on the road with him.
4 on 4 will be back next week with WRESTLERS. A Superkick party comes to Wrestling On Earth. See you then!