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How come there's never been a big promotion in California?


JerryvonKramer
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Hi guys, I'm on a business trip in NYC. I actually just asked a New York cop in Times Square if he knew where WWF New York was. I looked it up just now and saw that it shut in 2003, damn!

 

Anyway, I've always been interested in the relationship between the WWF's success and its New York location. I'm convinced that if Vince had been based in Texas, or the Carolinas, or in Oklaholma, he wouldn't have been able to end the territory system in the way he did. Of course, he had talent as promotor, but how much of the initial leverage of the WWF's strength as "the top territory" even back in the 70s come from the fact that New York and the Tri-State area is the most densely populated area in the United States?

 

Then I started wondering ... what about California? That's the only other place in the US you'll find that number of people.

 

How come there's never been a big promotion there? Are there cultural regions for this? On the Mid-South set, Bill Watts calls Adrian Street a "sissy" and a "California type". Can someone explain this to me? Don't they have wrestling fans in Cali?

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California was a huge hotbed decades again but flamed out something fierce by the early 80's, with SF totally collapsing and LA turning to shit. But both did great business in their heyday. I forget what Blassie-Tolos drew at the Coliseum but I know it was the biggest gate in wrestling history at the time - or at least that's the popular myth.

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LA started to die out when they lost English language TV and stopped bringing in as many established name guys and stopped bringing in more expensive talent. That was in the early to mid 70s. They had ups and downs after that and totally collapsed around '79, but stayed open until '82.

 

I'd have to dig into the WON back issues for the Shire bio to remember all of the SF details, but the first big problem was when Shire, burnt out, brought in Bob Roop as booker. Roop popped the territory with his crew, featuring himself vs Kevin Sullivan on top in a feud that actually drew as well as Ray Stevens vs Pepper Gomez. Roop got backers and tried to steal the territory out from under Shire, but Shire found out about it, leading to Roop and his crew leaving. Then he brought in Buddy Rose, eventually switching to the Portland crew, using their syndicated TV show, and running less towns. There was a dispute and Rose went on a planned rant at a Cow Palace show on the house mic slamming Shire and talking about false advertising and why some other wrestlers had left. Shire then switched to the Kansas City crew for some reason before switching to the Florida crew (it may have been the other way around). The AWA invaded at some point during all this with Stevens and sometimes Patterson on top. He decided not to lose too much of his fortune and quit. McMahon came in eventually.

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KC was first then CWF and AWA didn't step in until the end.

 

Shire @ San Francisco, CA – Cow Palace – December 27, 1980

Guy Lambert fought Kurt Von Brauner to a draw

Mike York d. Jerry Monti

Dory Funk Jr. d. Barry Windham

Barry Windham & Cowboy Lang d. John Tolos & Little Tokyo

Dory Funk Jr. & Bobby Jaggers d. Mike Graham & Kevin Sullivan

US Heavyweight Title: Dusty Rhodes © fought Ole Anderson to a draw

 

Shire @ Oakland, CA – Coliseum – January 6, 1981

Rip Hawk d. Art Dominguez

Magnificent Muraco d. Tony Rocco

Mike York d. Moondog Moretti

Battle Royal won by Pampero Firpo

 

Shire @ Oakland, CA – Coliseum – January 13, 1981

Mike York d. Moondog Moretti

El Bracero & Mando Guerrero d. The Great Mephisto & Roger Kirby

Tony Rocco d. Magnificent Muraco

Tor Kamata d. Pampero Firpo

 

AWA @ Oakland, CA – Coliseum – January 15, 1981

Battle Royal won by Crusher Blackwell

Billy Anderson d. Jerry Monti

Greg Gagne d. Bobby Heenan

Dino Bravo fought Big John Studd to a draw

Pat Patterson & Ray Stevens d. The East-West Connection

Nick Bockwinkel d. Tito Santana

Andre the Giant d. Crusher Blackwell

 

Shire @ San Francisco, CA – Cow Palace – January 24, 1981 (8,500)

Dick Slater & John Tolos d. Pat Barrett & T-John Thibbedeaux

Alexis Smirnoff d. Ray Evans

Dory & Terry Funk d. Dusty Rhodes & Mike Graham

NWA World Heavyweight Title: Harley Race © battled Pat Patterson to a double pin

16 Man Battle Royal won by Pat Patterson

 

Shire @ Oakland, CA – Coliseum – February 11, 1981

Ray Evans & Mike York d. El Bracero & Tony Rocco

Mando Guerrero d. Guy Mitchell by DQ

Tony Rocco fought Mike York to a draw

Guy Mitchell d. Steve Pardee

El Bracero fought Ray Evans to a draw

 

Shire @ Oakland, CA – Coliseum – March 10, 1981

Ray Evans d. Guy Lambert

Hector Guerrero d. Moondog Moretti

Mike York d. Jerry Monti

Leilani Kai d. Wendi Richter

Roger Kirby d. Mando Guerrero

Magnificent Zulu d. Guy Mitchell by DQ

 

AWA @ Oakland, CA – Alameda County Coliseum – March 16, 1981

Pepper Gomez d. Guy Lambert

Tito Santana d. Steve Regal

Bobby Heenan d. Buck Zumhofe

Nick Bockwinkel d. Greg Gagne

AWA World Heavyweight Title: Verne Gagne © d. Crusher Blackwell

AWA World Tag Titles: The East-West Connection © d. Da Crusher & Ray Stevens

 

Shire @ Oakland, CA – Coliseum – April 17, 1981

Ray Evans d. Jerry Monti

Hector Guerrero d. Dr. Ota

Magnificent Zulu d. Tor Kamata by DQ

John Tolos d. Mando Guerrero

Dean Ho d. Jerry Valiant

Pepper Gomez battled Roger Kirby to a no contest

 

Shire @ Oakland, CA – Coliseum – May 1, 1981

Johnny Mantell d. Tom Shaft

Tor Kamata d. Hiro Ota

Peggy Lee d. Brenda Starr

Roger Kirby & Guy Mitchell d. Hector & Mando Guerrero

Ron Starr d. John Tolos

 

AWA @ Oakland, CA – Coliseum – May 2, 1981

Pepper Gomez d. Jerry Monti

Tito Santana d. Guy Lambert

Baron Von Raschke d. Big John Studd

Ray Stevens d. Adrian Adonis

Da Crusher d. Jesse Ventura

The Hi-Flyers d. Nick Bockwinkel & Bobby Heenan

AWA World Heavyweight Title: Verne Gagne © d. Crusher Blackwell

 

Shire @ Oakland, CA – Coliseum – May 23, 1981

Ray Evans d. Jerry Monti

Woody Farmer d. The Invader

Coconut Willie d. Billy the Kid

Pepper Gomez d. Guy Mitchell by DQ

Ron Starr d. Tor Kamata

 

That's the last official Shire show in the Bay Area.

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I'm on less than 10% regnition for most of those Shire cards.

 

I had to google Magnificent Zulu because of the awesome name. Got this from Obsessed with Wrestling.

Zulu was booked for Inoki in Japan based on his tremendous physique alone. His work was so bad in his first match in Japan that the entire dressing room cleared out, jumped into the ring and preceded to beat the crap out of him... and it was a shoot.

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CA had two promotions in the 60s & 70s: the Los Angeles based LaBelle promotion and the San Fran based Shire promotion. They both had stretches of being red hot, and some stretches of being less hot.

 

They each were probably closer to something like Florida than the WWWF.

 

I think most of us don't grasp that the WWWF was far closer to a National promotion than as territory. From a population stand point, it was massive. NY, PA, MA, DC, Maryland.. there are solid cities to promote in even the smaller states. We think of it as a region, but it was massive.

 

There just wasn't any push for LA and SF to get together into one territory since both were making good money when things were hot. In hindsight, they probably should have by 1977 or 1978. Someone probably should have taken a look at how the WWWF, AWA and Mid-Atlantic (with its split crew) were operating and made it work. Problem is that Shire and the LaBelle's probably weren't going to leave easy.

 

Vince took both eventually after the territories died. We hit on that in the WWF thread to get across what Hogan & Vince did: they moved into the biggest population state in the country, the #2 metro and #4 or #5, and turned a dead territory into a red hot part of the WWF.

 

John

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I think most of us don't grasp that the WWWF was far closer to a National promotion than as territory. From a population stand point, it was massive. NY, PA, MA, DC, Maryland.. there are solid cities to promote in even the smaller states. We think of it as a region, but it was massive.

Yeah. The WWWF was basically a monopoly on everything from DC to Maine. That's a huge stretch of land, with several big cities to promote. I wouldn't be surprised if Vince Sr. had exclusive rassling access to a full quarter of the American population, considering how ridiculously large that "territory" was.
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Yeah. The WWWF was basically a monopoly on everything from DC to Maine. That's a huge stretch of land, with several big cities to promote. I wouldn't be surprised if Vince Sr. had exclusive rassling access to a full quarter of the American population, considering how ridiculously large that "territory" was.

 

Yep. I think I've rolled out the numbers on Vince's pre-Expansion home base and then the cities Hogan & Vince added to the base. I think I used the 1980 Census for pre-expansion. The % of the population those base states would make up was larger back then, as a lot of the growth of the country has come elsewhere.

 

I also used a bit of that for a discussion recently on the Torch boards about the story that the WWF would have died if Mania 1 bombed. Among the many things Vince could (and frankly would) have done until getting fully back on his feet would have been to pull back into profitable cities and ease off promoting in cities that weren't doing well. There are a lot of other obvious things he would have done, especially given that he ended up doing most of them through the years when faced with different financial ups and downs.

 

Anyway... that base of the WWF was monsterous.

 

I think in the end on California the reason a super territory didn't come out of it was that the north and south had their own reasonably successful promotions. We've all seen that a lot of promoters don't want to give up power even when times are rocky. When you're cycling through periods of things going well, you really don't think things will ever get so bad the promotion is dead. When things are good, those promoters were making really good money relative to era. Hard to have guys like Shire and the LaBelles get together and say:

 

* we can trust each other

* we can make more money together

* once we firm up in CA, we might be able to expand into other nearby states

 

Never would have been a massive expansion, but AZ has some good cities that wouldn't be bad for bi-monthly "tours". Portland was a no-go, and it's hard to get to WA (Seattle) without having OR. Hell... I'm trying to remember if anyone ran Seattle in the late 70s / early 80s. Denver was out because that was an AWA town if I recall. So there are limits to expanding into a larger territory.

 

The biggest problem becomes that first part: trust. Not likely.

 

Only way it might have happened would be if one or the other wanted out of the business and sold to the other one.

 

John

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I know touring companies like WWE and AAA (and WCW at one time) have done great business in California, but I do often wonder why the super indies (the ones that get the most attention among hardcore fans) are always the ones in the Northeast. You'd think an ROH-style group could run regularly in California or Chicago, just as two examples, and do reasonably well. The Northeast fans seem to get all the big indies.

 

Also, considering how historically rabid Carolinas fans were about their wrestling, you'd think a super indy could run all the old Crockett towns (Charlotte, Greensboro, Ashville, Winston-Salem, Columbia, Raleigh, Norfolk, etc) and do reasonable business too. I know it wouldn't be an ROH-style presentation in that area of the country, but I do think some parts of the business model used by your bigger indies could be applied there and do well. (I don't think the business model that relies primarily on DVD sales to an audience outside the territory would work as well.)

 

Also, there's Dallas. Houston. Memphis. Atlanta. New Orleans. Tulsa. Louisville. All at one time hot cities.

 

I realize most of these places have local wrestling. But none of them are as big as ROH.

 

Is there something I'm missing as to why?

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LA has a lot of indies. One key thing it's lacking is a good money mark like ROH has had. :)

 

PWG has run regularly for years, but it doesn't run all over the place. Tends to have a home base, especially now, and runs roughly once a month unless they have a back-to-back like BOLA (and one coming up next month). There are other small promotions. They often run the same weekend as PWG, and will get one of the outside talents to come in. There are a _ton_ of other ones: we're always finding cards for shows on our cars coming out of PWG shows for promotions we haven't heard of. That's not even getting into the various lucha ones.

 

No one really has tried to make an Ubber Indy... frankly because it costs money. Beats the hell out of me how PWG makes a go of it, and what the heck they're paying guys. Can't be much given how many are in the building (which isn't a ton different from the pair of ROH spot shows I've been to in Richmond and Manasas though).

 

Your point on fans... there is some truth there. There is a core of fans... the folks who come to PWG are pretty rabid. I suspect we have as many wrestling fans in the LA metro/CSA as most anywhere other than New York simply because the metro/CSA is so massive. But it's not really focused/rabid enough on the indy scene where you'd have confidence that an Ubber Indy could promote monthly in a 1000 seat building, while also running shows in say OC and Riverside and Ventura or SD in between to give people regular work. Let alone then bust up to take the Bay as well.

 

Maybe they could... just doesn't seem likely. Though I don't know if ROH could monthly draw 1000 in Baltimore and Richmond and Carolina, etc.

 

Ubber Indy is pretty much a pipe dream as ROH has shown.

 

John

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I think we would probably need to split up what we're talking about:

 

* Nostalgia Shows

* Irregular Spot Shows

* Regular Shows

 

The first we can pretty much toss aside since they don't have much bearing on talking about creating a Large Indy Promotion (in a sense what ROH is) rather than a Regular Local Indy Promotion (which is what PWG is). Nostalgia shows don't really tap into the crowd of either of those things, plus they typically are one-off things even if they're annual. Coming out to a one-time thing, or a once-a-year thing isn't the same as running a promotion.

 

The second is a bit tougher. ROH runs Manassas and now Richmond irregularly.

 

05/09/08 Manassas

08/01/08 Manassas

01/16/09 Manassas

06/12/09 Manassas

12/18/09 Manassas

05/07/10 Manassas

08/27/10 Richmond

01/14/11 Richmond

07/08/11 Richmond

 

2-3 shows a year. Less regular than they do NY and Chicago, and probably the other cities that are a bit more of their "home base" cities.

 

PWG and a lot of smaller indies do Regular shows. PWG will probably be between 10-12 shows this year in LA.

 

Creating a promotion that combines regular and irregular shows that draw _and_ give enough work to the stable of wrestlers takes a fair amount of resources. Kind of need a money mark.

 

Or a parent company.

 

Honestly, if I were the WWE, I would have created a circuit a long time again to develop talent.

 

John

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Also, there's Dallas.

You'd think that the former WCCW would be a hotbed of indy wrestling, but there's nothing here. Literally, as far as I've found, a grand total of 2 indy promotions running in the entire Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex area. Considering that this is an area at least the size of Atlanta, you'd think there'd be something here, but we've got jack shit.
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RoH has given up on Manassas now that they are running Richmond. Which is sad because the Manassas crowd was always hot, and was always completely full (except for the show they ran in the middle of the god damn blizzard) But they must have wanted a bigger crowd, so they moved to Richmond. I know they at least lost my group of four who went to every show. 90 minutes to Manassas was one thing, 3 hours to Richmond is another.

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Yeah, I understand they moved from Manassas to Richmond. Was trying to get that across in my "ROH runs Manassas and now Richmond irregularly" comment, but could have been clearer. I happened to be on the east coast for the last one in Manassas and the first one in Richmond, so saw the transition.

 

One can understand the move. As you say, bigger city to draw fans from. The new building has a lot of space in it to grow (i.e. put more seats in) if demand increases.

 

John

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  • 1 year later...

Was considering making a new thread, but this one will do. Once upon a time, I made a long post and an interesting thread followed, about the importance of the WWF's location in the Tri-state area to its success.

 

Here's a question: Other than New York and that region, where else could a globally successful wrestling promotion viably be based? I do think that one of the things NWA / WCW always had against it was geography and local demographics. Where else are there enough people to pack out a place like MSG every month? I'm thinking either California or ... London. Seriously, where else is there?

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When you're broadcasting nationally, do you really need a large population base? Ice Road Truckers is very popular and they film in the frozen hinterlands. You just need a location that looks good and if it's a viable product, you can travel and draw.

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When you're broadcasting nationally, do you really need a large population base? Ice Road Truckers is very popular and they film in the frozen hinterlands. You just need a location that looks good and if it's a viable product, you can travel and draw.

I think if you look at WCW live show figures and PPV rates, the answer is "yes".

 

There's a big difference between driving from NY to Philly and selling out 5,000-10,000 arenas on the way and driving between Houston, Oklahoma City, The Mid-South Collusieum and The Omni drawing houses of 1,000-2,000 on the way.

 

I mean which of those is more commercially viable just from a logistical point of view.

 

BUT, it's not just that. Why do most major corporations have their HQs in New York and London and not in, say, Nashville or (unless you're Coca Cola) Atlanta? Do you think Vince would have been able to be so great at marketing, at booking celebrities and at co-promotional deals if he was based in Red Belt, USA?

 

I don't buy this "if you've got TV you can be based anywhere" line.

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