By Kevin Claunch 10/13/14
I was so excited when I first heard of it. It makes total sense to have a professional wrestling league. There is already a complete feeder system in place with the number of divisions and the levels of college wrestling, let alone the booming popularity of mixed martial arts. Anyone who knows anything about MMA already knows that wrestlers transition the best into the sport. At least moreso than any other deviating form of combat sport. This allows people to be paid to continue wrestling, make a living doing it, while also training to accomplish other Olympic and World Championship level dreams. I don’t see a down side to this at all, I’m so happy to be getting in on this from the ground floor. All of these thoughts went through my head when I first heard of RPW, “Real Pro Wrestling”.
It was the summer of 2005, and I had stumbled across RPW on some public access channel while I was moving into my summer apartment. It was the first, and last, time that I would ever see RPW on TV. As it turns out, it did make it for two seasons, although according to Wikipedia, the second season was dispersed across a variety of broadcast stations. That says to me that occasionally someone gave it a shot, only to have it fail. It folded shortly thereafter. I bring this up not to discourage what Flowrestling is doing, I completely support what they are doing, but to discuss some of the shortcomings of the other attempts. I believe that Flo has the staff, infrastructure, passion, and foresight to get this done the right way, but before we get to them, let’s go through a bit of a history lesson of RPW and similar ventures. Not really a cautionary tale, but more of a spotlight on what I believe Flo will do that others weren’t successful with.
Donny Pritzlaff vs. Joe Williams was the semi finals. That’s how good the talent was, and yet it didn’t make it more than the two seasons. Another match I found was Tommy Rowlands vs Garrett Lowney. It’s amazing to me that with such All Star caliber matches, it didn’t get more hype. Was it just not the right time for RPW? Was it the marketing? Was it issues behind the scenes? Who knows, but at least it got our sport on TV, got a scoring system together, and showed that there was a STRONG group of wrestlers ready and willing to sign up. It certainly failed, but it was a great start to what may turn out to be great 9 years later. More recently, we had AGON. I was even more excited about this than I was about RPW. It started off with a bang, bringing Ben Askren back into the wrestling world, and had him not only win, but systematically destroy Quentin Wright, who was significantly larger than Askren. Additionally, Ben wrestled Mike Poeta (2x NCAA Finalist for Illinois), which was a great matchup. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this was one of the most fun matches that I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the quality of the only footage I can find is terrible, and certainly doesn’t represent the quality of the match. Additionally, when I was looking for information on how to watch the matchup live, when it was being promoted, I was embarrassed and confused with the quality of the AGON website. It didn't have any information about the upcoming event, other than it was happening (not any information on the date or time, where I could pay to watch it, etc). It was incredibly frustrating from a consumer's angle that I couldn't find out how to purchase their product. Seems like a bit of an oversight from a business standpoint if you ask me. At this moment, their website is promoting their match-up between Stephen Abas and Shawn Bunch that took place on March 12th 2014. Either way, it was another great idea that wasn’t executed properly enough to succeed. Once again, they had the match-ups and talent that people wanted to see, it just wasn’t presented effectively, and appears to have been almost dropped altogether.
Moving forward however, we have Flowrestling getting the “Flo Premier League” started. Based on the people involved with both organizations (the Askren’s mostly), it appears that AGON and Flo may have teamed up to pair top notch production and marketing with an already excited and engaged wrestling audience, to really get this idea going the right way. Flo has been spectacular with bringing wrestlers together and giving them a forum to not just watch wrestling matches, but to become more involved with almost all aspects of the sport. Not just at the college level, but with High School, Youth, Prep, and International wrestling. Flo has grown their audience over the last couple of years, and has developed and ran incredibly successful tournaments that draw some of the best wrestlers across the country. They have smart people who think outside of the box to help our sport continue to get more exposure, and afford those who want to be fanatics of the sport, an outlet to do so, and like-minded people to converse with. These very people who helped the sport expand its foundation, are now helping us to bring truly Professional Wrestling back. I only know what I have seen from their site, and that it will begin with 6 dates with big matches, the majority of which will be announced later. The only match I’m aware of at the moment is Chris Perry vs. Robert Hamlin, which should be a great match-up. Chris Perry is a 2x National Champ and Robert Hamlin is a 2x NCAA finalist, who actually defeated Perry the last time that they met (albeit a number of years ago). It’s going to be exciting to see what the smart people from Flo will do with a spectacular opportunity to afford the best wrestlers in the country a way to go pro.