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We're Number #3: A History Of The Number Three Promotions 1985 to ???


Victator
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I was listening to the Gary Hart book on youtube and fascinated hearing about the ups and downs of Texas wrestling. It made me think of how the fight for number three in wrestling is usually more interesting than one and two, I think because it becomes a fight for survival. So I wondered about the different number three promotions after the WWF national expansion. I think in the pure territory days, its too difficult to determine, though people are welcome to talk about it.  So I am going to try to interact with a message board for the first time in a year. 

I think 1985 , the AWA was number three with WCCW and Mid South nearly equal. Gary Hart said WCCW was offered the ESPN deal and I believe Gary on most things. But AWA got it and they were still drawing well. In my plebeian view, I think Hansen running over the belt was the beginning of the end.

1986 to Mid 1987 has to be the UWF, an argument could be made for Mid South in 85, but AWA had  the buff of ESPN. Though its funny, ESPN never helped any company long term. I remember it was a struggle to find GWF on. 

Late 87 to 88 is hard to tell, because AWA and WCCW are struggling and UWF was absorbed into Crockett Promotions. It is probably Memphis by default, even though Memphis had seen better days, they were making money. But an interesting thing happened when Jerry Lawler won the AWA belt, he made it look more important by traveling to every viable territory left. even if the AWA was not drawing. 

I don't know the truth about Super Clash, but I lean toward believing Jarrett and Lawler. Verne Gagne never spoke of it and Greg Gagne is a Hogan level bullshitter. Super Clash 3 took WCCW, AWA, CWF, CWA (Memphis) and even POWW were on one show. Now the show didn't draw and Verne stiffed everyone not related to him and maybe Ron Garvin, but it at least got attention from the wrestling media. Lawler comes out looking like the real Unified champion and Kerry looks like he has a legitimate claim to it.

1989/1990 The USWA was born and covered the southern united states southeast to southwest and controlled the lineage of the AWA. I'm not sure why the magazines sided with Verne, in Kayfabe terms, Lawler was clearly champion, but they just sided with the AWA and sorta shrugged if asked why. 

1991 has to be Global, even as a dumb yet handsome and charismatic child, I knew about Global before even getting the magazines. 

1992 the money in Global dried up or never existed and USWA is number three by the two sweetest words in the English language, default. Lawler/Jarrett vs Moondogs even won Feud Of The Year in PWI. But there really isn't anything to compete. I think this is the year Portland became USA wrestling or something. TWA barely existed and baby ECW  I think was not even on TV.

1993 is either USWA or SMW and there are arguments for both. The USWA had some huge WWF stars come in, including Bret Hart, Randy Savage and even Vince McMahon. SMW doesn't necessarily have brute force, but they had the Steiners come in and challenge for the tag belts and said belts were defended in WCW and the WWF. The SMW lead manager was representing the WWF champion, but the top USWA star was feuding with the most popular WWF star.  

1994 I think would be SMW, but wrestling is sickly and nobody is doing well in America except for AAA, and ECW is starting to make waves.

1995 to 2000 I think is safely ECW;  SMW died in 95 and USWA was getting weaker and finally died in 97, though from the sounds of it, USWA might have been murdered.  People can correct me if they like, but it seemed the wrestling boom produced a bunch of small indies and spot shows. Memphis came back as Power Pro and Bert Prentice was running Nashville. 

2001: This is strange to say if you have ever seen their TV, but I think it is NWA Wildside based on its syndication network.  The other answer is OVW, which was drawing well with no national aspirations. 

2002: TNA and ROH are born but neither are doing huge numbers. I think you can make an argument for OVW still, some people might dismiss it for the WWF connection, which is fair to a degree. 
However much like ECW and Power Pro, OVW was not getting enough money to stay alive. 

2003/2004 I think is ROH, they were making money and running regular house shows making money. TNA was still doing the weekly ppvs and aside from Jarrett/Raven they were not doing well.  But I don't think the weekly pay per views could not work for TNA. I think a cult company could do it if it had no overhead. Like if ECW was just showing fan cams and I'm not sure even then. 

2005'/2010 ROH ran into problems with its former owner and TNA stopped losing money and was doing decently on the former Nashville Network. 

If anyone wants to go further, please do so.
 

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25 minutes ago, Victator said:

I think 1985 , the AWA was number three with WCCW and Mid South nearly equal. Gary Hart said WCCW was offered the ESPN deal and I believe Gary on most things. But AWA got it and they were still drawing well. In my plebeian view, I think Hansen running over the belt was the beginning of the end.

Dave has told the story that the ESPN deal was between Mid-South and the AWA, and the tipping point was the ESPN executives knew who Sgt. Slaughter was and didn't know anyone in Mid-South despite it being in much better shape creatively/financially. 

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1 hour ago, sek69 said:

Dave has told the story that the ESPN deal was between Mid-South and the AWA, and the tipping point was the ESPN executives knew who Sgt. Slaughter was and didn't know anyone in Mid-South despite it being in much better shape creatively/financially. 

Thanks, I haven't heard that, but makes sense. Though to be honest, Twitter Dave has made me retroactively question him.

That said it could be Mid South and AWA were in the running after WCCW declined. 

Please hear me out. WCCW already had great production and would not need as much effort to look big time. I could see ESPN going after them first based on the syndication numbers.

The Meltzer story makes sense too. Just trying to reconcile both.

 

Off topic, but I don't see a good reason Slaughter didn't get the title. Unless Sarge refused to job and would be difficult to get the belt back. But it ended up happening with Hansen anyway. 

I think Slaughter would have helped the AWA more as World Champion.

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ESPN did eventually air the syndicated episodes of World Class, but according to Gary Hart's book, the original offer was for them to produce a show specifically for ESPN. He said Fritz turned them down because they wanted to air the show alongside roller derby in prime time and he didn't want wrestling to be looked at like roller derby. If they had ended up on ESPN, it likely would have hastened the deaths of both World Class and the AWA. Kerry was a ticking time bomb and would have self-destructed even faster with a national spotlight. And ESPN money was the only thing propping the AWA up by the late 80s. As for why Slaughter never won the AWA title, it could be that they thought he was over enough on his own and didn't need the belt to draw. And Verne received a hefty booking fee from All Japan for the right to promote Hansen as AWA champion.

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1 hour ago, Log said:

World Class was on ESPN at one time, right? I’m not misremembering that am I? 
 

I swear it was even on there when AWA was too. I remember catching it after school sometimes in the mid-late 80’s. 

In the late 80's, potentially into the early 90's, I remember most days at 4PM (eastern) there was wrestling on ESPN. Sometimes it was AWA, sometimes WCCW, sometimes a ladies promotion (I think it was GLOW, but it could have been LPWA), and I feel like there may have been another, but I don't remember what it was.

I don't remember if that continued until Global started, but I am pretty sure GWF was on at least 4 days a week when it began and all of the other wrestling went away.

Although at some point they did air the Herb Abrams UWF as well, but I am fuzzy on that timeline.

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WCCW was on ESPN in the late eighties, as was USWA Texaa shows. I'm guessing the women's promotion was POWW. That was the promotion started by David Mcclain after his falling out with Glow.

I mean no harm but who watched Glow thinking it needed longer matches.

I saw some POWW matches on AWA shows too.

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11 hours ago, Victator said:

2001: This is strange to say if you have ever seen their TV, but I think it is NWA Wildside based on its syndication network.  The other answer is OVW, which was drawing well with no national aspirations. 

2002: TNA and ROH are born but neither are doing huge numbers. I think you can make an argument for OVW still, some people might dismiss it for the WWF connection, which is fair to a degree. 
However much like ECW and Power Pro, OVW was not getting enough money to stay alive. 

2001-02 was obviously a weird time for the business, but I think you could make the argument that either XPW or CZW were the number 3 in these years. They had strong video distribution and loyal fan bases. Both were obviously pretty limited, but they at least had a place in a lot of the online wrestling discussion at the time. 

Weirdly, this period before ROH and TNA rose up was sort of a weird territorial era, where very few companies had real reach outside of a region, but were pretty strong within the region.

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5 hours ago, Migs said:

2001-02 was obviously a weird time for the business, but I think you could make the argument that either XPW or CZW were the number 3 in these years. They had strong video distribution and loyal fan bases. Both were obviously pretty limited, but they at least had a place in a lot of the online wrestling discussion at the time. 

Weirdly, this period before ROH and TNA rose up was sort of a weird territorial era, where very few companies had real reach outside of a region, but were pretty strong within the region.

I think NWA Wildside had a lot of tapes out there in that gap period as well. ECWA was also big in that era as the Super 8 always got a lot of hype.

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WWC may figure somewhere in that 87 to 90 period.

For 2001 onwards, the question becomes who is number two and three since WCW and ECW close. And for that period of 01 to 03/04, maybe even 05 (although by the latter part of this period I'd say it's more between TNA and ROH), I'd put IWA Puerto Rico as a candidate. 

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My apologies for forgetting WWC, even though Puerto Rico is a common wealth, I sometimes view it as its own world likd Japan and Mexico.

In 87 there is definitely a fair argument for WWC being number three as they were drawing good shows. 

 

IWA is also a fair candidate for 01 to 05, they were reguarly drawing big houses.

I can see an argument for CZW being number three in 01/02, but I don't think they were selling enough tapes to overcome what Wildside was doing in syndication and were not drawing enough to outdo OVW or even Bert Prentice in Nashville.

XPW had weak TV and was not doing good numbers in 01. But to their credit, they were doing decent numbers durinv the Philly wars of 02 when Shane Douglas was booking 

XPW also had commercial tapes being sold in places like FYE and Suncoast video. 

As for ECW being number two in 2000. Anyone that knows me, knows I loved ECW. I still love a lot of the shows and the wrestlers.

But to be frank, I don't think the number two promotion should bounce checks tl its wrestlers. 

That hurts to say as I truly hate what WCW was in 2000.

[unwanted editorial]even if it became a template for all wrestling today.[unwanted editorial]

But WCW paid everyone on time. 

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No need to apologize, Puerto Rico definitely falls into a bit of a gray area here. Just wanted to offer some other possibilities for the discussion. I'd agree that 87 to part of 88 is likely WWC's best argument, 89-90 is more based on the dearth of territories still successfully active. I actually think IWA PR is a sneaky good candidate for 01-02 considering where the other companies were then.

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Surprisingly, a viable option for #3 in the 2001-2002 period before TNA and ROH were established was ICP's company, JCW. The handful of tapes they had sold very well, and they ran shows coinciding with their tour dates and gatherings.

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28 minutes ago, Laz said:

Surprisingly, a viable option for #3 in the 2001-2002 period before TNA and ROH were established was ICP's company, JCW. The handful of tapes they had sold very well, and they ran shows coinciding with their tour dates and gatherings.

Any company boasting a roster with Fat Fuck Barrel Boy and the Hornswogglin' Hillbilly is #1 in my heart

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6 hours ago, El Boricua said:

No need to apologize, Puerto Rico definitely falls into a bit of a gray area here. Just wanted to offer some other possibilities for the discussion. I'd agree that 87 to part of 88 is likely WWC's best argument, 89-90 is more based on the dearth of territories still successfully active. I actually think IWA PR is a sneaky good candidate for 01-02 considering where the other companies were then.

I do remember IWA being talked about a lot online and Dutch Mantell as booker drawing well. 

Honestly in 99 as house shows go, they might have been equal to ECW. ECW had better TV, but IWA was drawing just as well. Also IWA was paying its talent.

Honestly I'm not sure how I missed IWA PR. Did they run any shows outside of Puerto Rico?

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To continue with NWA Wildside. They had TV since 1999 and sold VHS of those. They produced a number of stars and in that dead period had AJ Styles, Jimmy Rave and Abyss who are super notable. And if you knew indy names at the time, most of them were doing stints there. So you had guys like Onyx, Jason Cross, Lazz, Caprice Coleman, Silky Boom Boom and Todd Sexton.

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1 hour ago, Mad Dog said:

To continue with NWA Wildside. They had TV since 1999 and sold VHS of those. They produced a number of stars and in that dead period had AJ Styles, Jimmy Rave and Abyss who are super notable. And if you knew indy names at the time, most of them were doing stints there. So you had guys like Onyx, Jason Cross, Lazz, Caprice Coleman, Silky Boom Boom and Todd Sexton.

Also guys like Iceberg Slim who should have made it along with Cross and JC Dazz. 

I don't know how TNA never gave Jeff G Bailey a break 

This is embarrassing but I forgot MLW in 02/03. They had good syndication and drew decently. It was my personal favorite promotion at the time.

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The original MLW suffered from the same things the current MLW suffers from, though not to the same extent: the inability to create stars or highlight names better than other companies.

MLW gave us Raven and Punk...at the same time as ROH and TNA, with ROH doing it the best and TNA having greater exposure. MLW tried so, so hard to capture the ECW audience, but didn't have the same "let's break the mold" attitude that Heyman-protege Gabe Sabolsky had.

The shows where Gary Hart were involved, though, are great. I remember there being a really killer LowKi/Homicide program made even better by Hart's involvement.

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