Continuing my exploration of independent wrestling in the United States, I was recently exposed to a company called New England Championship Wrestling, or NECW, which offers a unique alternative to many other indy promotions Iâ€™ve discussed here (including Ring of Honor, Full Impact Pro, CHIKARA, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and GEAR) a free, weekly Internet broadcast.
TODAYâ€™S ISSUE: NECW TV.
Ever since I quit watching WWE and TNA in favor of the indies, I often find myself typing words like, â€œif youâ€™re looking for an alternative to sportz entertainment, buy this DVD and get your hands on some quality pro wrestlingâ€¦â€ but I think a big turn-off for many casual viewers is that word â€œbuyâ€. Thereâ€™s a lot of free wrestling on television every week, and fans who yearn for something different than what WWE and TNA offer might not want to spend lots of money experimenting with different indy feds when DVDs cost anywhere from $15-$20 (unless you find an amazing sale). And thatâ€™s just to try something youâ€™ve never watched before; what if you donâ€™t enjoy it? Then youâ€™re stuck with a shiny, $20 Frisbee that youâ€™ll never use again. So if itâ€™s only a matter of money thatâ€™s preventing you from exploring new waters, check out the weekly episodes of NEWC TV.
NEWC TV is an old-school show with clearly developed faces and heels battling before small crowds in comparatively lengthy matches. What first caught my attention about the company was a terrific feud over the Unified Television Champion between the arrogant heel champ, â€œHandsomeâ€ Johnny (always accompanied by his sexy valet Sami Lane) and the former champion, “The Real Deal” Brandon Locke. Locke has battled Johnny to a time limit draw in numerous title matches, and when he finally got a no-time limit shot they brawled to a double count-out. In the best traditions of pro wrestling, this paint-by-numbers storyline will simply have to end with Locke reclaiming the title from the Handsome One at some point down the road. The chemistry between the two grapplers works, and itâ€™s a recognizable, comfortable storyline for an old-school fan to sink his teeth into.
Their broadcasts are always less than an hour (sometimes far less) and at the top of the NECW TV home page, where several weeks worth of shows are always available, you can subscribe for automatic e-mails containing a link to each weekâ€™s show. This makes for easy consumption, as you choose when you want to watch, and you donâ€™t have to devote two full hours like you do with the major companiesâ€™ weekly shows, unless you want to enjoy several shows in one sitting. Thereâ€™s no bad time to jump in, as the commentator does a good job of bringing newcomers up to speed during the matches. NECW TV brings back a simple, classic format and long-time fans of pro wrestling (not sportz entertainment) will welcome it like a soft, old sweatshirt after a long day at the office.
The current incarnation of New England Championship Wrestling and their championship titles represents the unification of the original NECW, former rival promotion PWF, and the Mayhem Heavyweight Championship. Some notable indy names on the current roster include Eddie Edwards, Nikki Roxx (TNAâ€™s Roxxi Leveaux), and Sara Del Rey, but youâ€™ll likely be hearing about most the wrestlers for the first time. Some big players in the current NECW scene include Undisputed Triple Crown Champion â€œThe Mohawked Enforcerâ€ Max Bauer, the â€œGolden Greekâ€ Alex Arion, Tag Team Champions Dan Freitas and Brian Nunes (collectively known as â€œPRIDEâ€), â€œSuperstarâ€ Ryan Matthews, the â€œPrince of Pinkâ€ Brenden Michael Thomas or BMT, and â€œThe Talentâ€ T.J. Richter. These characters are all extremely focused, so even upon first viewing itâ€™s easy to recognize their gimmick, getting you right into the swing of things without missing a beat.
I had an opportunity to conduct an e-mail interview with the founder of the company, Mr. Sheldon Goldberg:
– Are you the sole owner and founder of the company?
I am the founder, but no longer the sole owner. About three years ago, I merged with one of my closest competitors, a company called PWF. The combined company operates under the original name of New England Championship Wrestling. We’ve been in business since 2000.
– What was your original vision and goal for NECW, and have you achieved it? What future plans do you have for your company?
The original goal, and it still is the goal, is to create the modern day version of the old time wrestling “territory.” In other words, running a storyline based company on a regular schedule of live events, backed by local TV. While we’re not 100% there yet, we are closing in on it. We do run regularly. We have the Internet TV show, which is something we pioneered. We’re a well run, well marketed company. We’ve done a lot of innovative things in the 8 and a half years we’ve been running.
Our biggest goal for the future is to transition ourselves into doing broadcast TV. We’ve done close to 150 episodes of TV on the net, so we have the experience and ability to do it. Getting a deal that makes economic sense is drawing near for us.
– How many shows do you run a month, and where? Is the web show always filmed in Quincy, MA? Do you produce local TV separate from the web shows?
We currently run one to two shows a month, though we have run more in the past. The web show is not always filmed in Quincy, though many times it is. As I said before, local TV is a goal for us and we’re closing in on it.
– Why do your web shows normally contain only one wrestling match each week? I often find myself ready for a bit more action when the in-ring content ends…
The web shows actually vary in length from week to week. One week it might be one match, some weeks it’s two. Sometimes more. It depends on how often we are running at that particular time and how much we want to push on that platform. The beauty of NECW TV, which we could not do on broadcast TV, is vary the amount of content to suit our needs. This week’s TV is 28 minutes. Last week’s was 34. We can make it as long or short as we like. On broadcast, we wouldn’t have that luxury.
The other point that’s important is that watching wrestling on the web is a different experience than watching in your living room in front of your TV set. NECW TV is a long form show, but it’s not a substitute for conventional TV or watching one of our DVDs.
– Do you feature (or attempt to feature) mostly northeast-based talent?
Yes. NECW was designed to be a showcase for local talent. There is a long history of wrestling schools here and a lot of talent in the area. Having a platform to get the best use out of that talent is what our company is all about. We have had talent from outside the area, and in fact, have hosted many stars who have gone on to greater fame. We were the first company to book Doug Williams in the United States. We did the same for Sumie Sakai. Fergal Devitt, who wrestles as Prince Devitt in New Japan, spent 3 months here with us before going to the Inoki Dojo in L.A. and eventually getting signed to New Japan.
– What experience in the business did you have before launching NECW?
I worked with a local promoter named Tony Rumble, who used to be on the old ICW Savoldi TV shows. He had a local company here originally called the Century Wrestling Alliance, later NWA New England. He died suddenly in November 1999 and I started NECW about six months later.
I also worked for the late Hiro Matsuda on a project he had called Ring Warriors, which was a revoicing and redistribution of New Japan’s TV shows.
I used to be on the Board of Directors of the Cauliflower Alley Club as well. Before I got so involved in wrestling, I wrote and produced plays and did publicity for Broadway shows and shows on tour.
– Is there a booking committee? If not, are you the lone booker?
I have never been the booker of NECW. One of my partners, Matt Storm is the booker. We do have a committee, but it’s more so we are all on the same page with the creative, it’s production and it’s execution.
– I found it easy to get caught up in the feud over the TV title between Handsome Johnny and Brandon Locke. Do you often book long-term storylines such as this one?
That’s pretty much all we do. We present wrestling with a very old school philosophy.
– Do any of the larger promotions ever come calling, interested in your talent?
NECW has had so many people come through it that have gone on to bigger things, it’s pretty amazing. Antonio Thomas went on to WWE as one half of The Heart Throbs. He just spent two tours with All Japan. Big Rick Fuller has been teaming with the former A Train, known there as Giant Bernard, as one of the top tag teams in New Japan Pro Wrestling. “Die Hard” Eddie Edwards is a regular for Pro Wrestling NOAH and has been seen in Ring of Honor and in the UK and Europe recently. The Internet show goes worldwide and it gets anywhere between 23,000 and 30,000 views a week, so it’s widely viewed.
– Does NECW break even, make a profit, or cost you money?
It makes a negligible profit at best and a negligible loss at worst. Once the company is on TV, our level of local exposure will increase and allow us to create more revenue from live shows and other sources. We’ve been here for 8 1/2 years with no end in sight and there’s a lot of bigger operations that can’t say that, so it’s all good.
My thanks to Mr. Goldberg for participating.
On Saturday, 13 December NECW produced a benefit show with all proceeds going to the USMCâ€™s famous Toys for Tots program known as â€œThe Power Of Loveâ€, and you have to respect any organization who donates a nightâ€™s pay to needy children for the holidays. Not to mention that once you get to know the roster youâ€™ll realize this was a pretty fantastic card, too. Gotta love that.
There is no reason a curious fan wonâ€™t watch a free web show just to get a taste of something different, and you never know, you might discover the indies are a satisfying alternative to the glitz and glamour of the big 2. Even if you donâ€™t, you havenâ€™t lost anything but 30-60 minutes of your time and itâ€™s worth the risk to give NECW TV a shot. I watch them every week, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next. I encourage you to go ahead and try something different, something old school; try New England Championship Wrestling.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. â€“ â€œThe first principle of success is desire–knowing what you want. Desire is the planting of your seed.â€ – Robert Collier
Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this weekâ€¦
Norine â€œthe Indy Machineâ€ Stice makes me curious about watching â€œThe Anarchistâ€ Arik Cannon thanks to her DVD review of Total Anarchy, volume 3.
David Ditch talks Kenta Kobashi in this edition of Puroreso Pulse.
Phil Clark provides more puro goodness with a look at Pro Wrestling NOAH in the latest Reality of Wrestling.
John â€œthe Wiz-Kidâ€ Wiswell analyzes just what a wrestler would have to do to dethrone Ring of Honor World Champion Nigel McGuinness in this weekâ€™s Cult of ROH.
Speaking of ROH, hereâ€™s some news on their sister promotion, Full Impact Pro.
Mark Allen compares his pro wrestling Christmas wish list from last year with what he still wants to see from the business in his Historically Speaking.
I guess Joey Styles really IS hardcore!
Finally this week, IWC icon Scott Keith takes a look back at a 20-year old WWF show from the Spectrum in his latest Smark 24/7 Rant.