Everyone loves wrestling, right? No? Okay, this may get a little dry. Wrestling is great, but it gets a bad rep due to it being ‘fake’. I totally understand if you’ve never seen a wrestling match, and all you know it isn’t, technically, a sport. However, people who have watched it and still don’t see any athleticism just boggles my mind and I—
Sorry, I got side tracked straight away there, I just really like wrestling. One thing I hate though, is the secrecy; that’s pretty vague, and instantly conjures images of clandestine organisations and conspiracies.
The secrecy I’m referring to is monetary, specifically with WWE. There are minimal reports on how much piecing together one of their weekly shows or their PPVs cost, no details on how much they earn from these shows are ever made public, neither are their merchandise sales or anything at all. Finding out how much a wrestler makes is even harder. The only monthly or yearly earnings that have ever leaked are usually to do with legal actions, like when Randy Orton’s divorce went through, his monthly salary became public domain – of course, even that turned out to be false, with sources saying while he made ‘$300,000 per month’, that was in no way a reflection of his annual salary.
Of course, WWE isn’t the only wrestling promotion, you have huge promotions the world over – TNA, ROH, NJPW, ICW and Ring Ka King, just to name a few. As well as those promotions, you have indie wrestling, which is becoming a much more prevalent thing for fans, as they offer a much more niche product. British wrestling is even making a strong comeback, thanks to Scotland’s own Insane Championship Wrestling (or ICW as mentioned earlier), causing a ripple of new and old wrestling fans to consider indie promotions throughout the UK – this is even attracting the attention of some surprising potential investors, with Simon Cowell reported to be interested in bringing wrestling back to British TV.
So, because I’m a good guy, and you’re all the curious sort. I thought I’d investigate how much it would cost to throw together one of these events – big and small ones – just in case you were considering in getting into promoting, or maybe you would just like to be able to appreciate the effort that goes into making one of these shows happen. So first things first:
So what do you need to pull off a good wrestling shows, big or small? Well a ring might be a ‘so obvious it’s stupid to mention’ kind of answer, but there’s considerations. Depending on your budget and several other factors, there are different sizes and styles. Sellers are certainly not easy to come by in the UK, but from what I’ve found you could be starting at £4,000 for a small, standard ring. Prices increase as you request custom designs, larger sizes or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can order a six-sided ring (order now and get free mic flags and ring bell, bargain!). Of course, if you’re just starting out you could just hire the ring to begin with, or maybe even buy a second hand ring, if money is tight for the project.
Now, you want your audience to be able to see what’s going on, so you’re going to need lights. Don’t bring the lights from the living room, hoping they’ll cover it. Stage Electrics do stage lighting, as well as audio/visual stuff and all the cabling and extras you’ll need to get yourself visible and audible. Once again, hiring is an option too, but if you’re determined to buy then one light can cost you around £1,500 each, depending on your needs, and how extravagant you’re feeling. Considering you’ll need a good few of these to put on your show, you could be looking at up to £9,000-£10,000 just to get yourself enough to put your show on. Cabling, tables, chairs and a multitude of other essentials to crack on with your first show will set you back around £2,000-£4,000 as well, depending on where you get them. Plus, if you buy all this stuff, you’ll need to organise storage for them all. The plus side is, if you buy it all, you could always hire it out to others will you weren’t using it. Get a bit of extra return on that huge investment. There’s definitely a market for hiring out your ring.
You could just have your match in the back garden, but 1) it won’t be screaming ‘professional show’ 2) is your garden even that big? Unless your garden is Hyde Park or somewhere with equally large and usable space, you’re probably going to want to get yourself a venue. The good thing is your choice of venue might limit your costs elsewhere. A sizable night club can fit your ring and may already have stage lighting in place to save you needing to supply your own – as well as that, they will have their own audio equipment, and possibly their own visual gear, some clubs may not be willing to hand over the use of their equipment though, so don’t just assume that. For reference, Glasgow’s ICW regularly use nightclubs, and they’ve been highly rated and recommended for a few years now.
A nightclub’s biggest downfall? Money. Any night they have to close from their regular business, is a lot of money they could be due to lose – especially if it’s during the weekend – hiring a nightclub for the night will depend on your city and the night club itself, so could range from anywhere to £800-£15,000. So you’ll definitely have to factor the cost of hiring the place out, which means you’ll probably try and need to at least break even with your ticket prices. However, for your first show, if the tickets are too pricey, no one will come along.
Then you have community centres; also often come with large lighting already so it cuts down on that, but could possibly have seating available as well, since they may use it for their own event as well – again, don’t make the assumption that they’ll let you use it, make sure you get permission beforehand if you’re going to need it. Community centres of course are cheaper to hire out, some may even let you use it for free. There also isn’t an age restriction, so it opens up your market more – assuming your show is suitable for all audiences.
You’ve got your venue, you’ve bought or hired your equipment, but an empty ring doesn’t sell tickets (or does it? No one’s tried it). Talent can be one of the trickiest elements of piecing together your show; especially your first one. You may not have had an opportunity to view their ability in ring, live, in front of a paying crowd. People’s abilities can dissolve when the pressure to perform kicks in.
You have to be very careful with your selection to make sure that they can perform, but you also want to balance it out. A well-known, good performer will bring with them cost; they may demand a certain amount of pay and money for travel/accommodation. However, they will bring in a big draw for your crowd as they’ll have a reputation travelling with them. Try and find good, hard workers who are willing to perform just for experience, that way you both benefit. You’ll also want to make sure that your talent aren’t all exclusively in-ring talent; charisma and promo skills can make or break a show. Depending on which route you go – rookies who’ll work for free, Indy veterans or a mixture – and how many matches you plan to put on, you could be looking at anywhere between £0-£2,500 for your talent (that’s just one night, remember).
In total, for you to buy everything in, your first event could cost you in the reaches of £8,000-£20,000 – excluding variables that are unpredictable, and more down to an individual basis – You see why I suggested renting now, right? Renting prices can vary on who you’re renting from. Some companies may have cheaper rates, but they may also be located further away so delivery charges may incur and could leave you worse off than the initial, pricier option.
- Maybe set up your first few events as charity ones. A good chance to build up a reputation for yourself and your promotion, hopefully a bit of free press in a local newspaper and, if you’re lucky, you may be able to convince companies to lease you things for free or at discounted rates, which will really help you get started.
- Cross promotion – work with other established promotions. Get some of their talent in your show, in return send some of yours to theirs. Both promotions will gain something from the exposure and experience, all for maybe the price of putting their talent up in a hotel, or have them sleep on your couch for extra savings!
- Make it a spectacle; book a local band, or get a local comedian or personality to appear. Don’t let it just be wrestling, break up your show with intermissions. 1) it allows time to digest the last match, it gives people a toilet/smoke/bar break, so they aren’t missing the bits you want them to be watching 3) having promo segments during your show may interest people in coming back to see how it unfolds.
- The card is always subject to change – wrestling is such a fast-paced and dangerous environment. You must always be prepared for a match not being able to go ahead (even if it is your main event), so always have a back-up plan. It helps if your talent are good at working on their feet and changing up at a moment’s notice, to react to any immediate changes and not lose your audience to unfortunate circumstances.
Courtesy of Morguefile, ICW and WWE archives.