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|Real Pro Wrestling hoping to build on momentum as it prepares for Season Two of competition|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Real Pro Wrestling provided a little bit of everything for fans when it debuted last year.
There was virtually non-stop, edge-of-your-seat action featuring numerous Olympians and World Team members.
A unique format that combined elements of folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman into one style of wrestling.
And it was packaged into a television show that not only featured the competition, but also provided insight by showcasing the athletes with numerous in-depth features that were done on the RPW competitors.
Now Real Pro Wrestling is looking to capitalize and build on the momentum of Season One when it launches the RPW Season Two Qualification Series over the next month.
RPW has four Regional Qualifiers on its schedule. It kicks off with the Western Regional on Oct. 28 in San Jose, Calif. It follows with the Northern Regional on Nov. 4 in Mount Vernon, Iowa. The Eastern Regional is set for Nov. 11 in Philadelphia with the Southern Regional scheduled for Nov. 18 in Tulsa, Okla.
Winners from those Regionals then advance to the Super Challenge on Jan. 7 in San Jose. Winners from the Super Challenge will be placed on one of the teams that will compete in dual meets in Season 2 of RPW. The dual meets are scheduled to start in late March, with the schedule close to being finalized.
For more information on RPW, you can visit their website at www.realprowrestling.com.
Matt Case, co-founder and president of Real Pro Wrestling, provided an update on RPW in a recent interview with Craig Sesker of TheMat.com.
Looking back on Season One, how successful was it and what were you guys able to accomplish?
We accomplished mostly what we wanted to in Season One, which was to begin building awareness in the wrestling community that a pro league now exists. While we believe the launch was very successful, it wasn't all that we wanted as we ran into many difficulties, including a fire that destroyed our production facilities just a couple months before our TV dates. As a result, we had to push back our schedule and it really affected our marketing efforts. We had many other hurdles to overcome while learning about the TV business and finding the right personnel to maneuver in that world. (Real Pro Wrestling CEO) Toby Willis and I are artists and want to develop a product that people can enjoy. But when it came to selling the "work of art," there were many hurdles such as the stigmas that word "wrestling" has in the TV industry, to the image of our sport which is severely underdeveloped. But by and large, with the help of many people and a loyal base of die-hard wrestling fans, we were able to succeed in Season One.
You are going with a regional format and then a dual-meet format in Season Two of RPW, why the changes and what direction are you headed with RPW?
We have always stayed with the basic same plan that we've laid out from the beginning. 1. TV show. 2. Dual Meet Tour. 3. Full League Play. The TV show in Season One was simply a vehicle to build awareness of the league. There's no sense in trying to have live professional sporting events without people knowing first what the product is all about. The Dual Meet Tour (Season Two) is all about introducing these eight teams to the cities and states that we will have the events in. The Full League Play is the beginning of a week-to-week, dual-meet season with competitions over the course of several months, just like you'd see in high school or college. To cap each season (including Season Two) we will feature an All-Star championship tournament to showcase the individuals, probably with a title belt at stake.
The Regional Qualifiers were added as we saw a need to develop a fair system on how guys made the teams. If we did not create this system, then it would have been up to our own judgment on who is still the best or who is still in shape. From here on out, we'll let the qualifiers determine that for us.
How will that work with the dual-meet format?
Each Regional Qualifier will crown a champion. Those champions will wrestle-off a Season One athlete that did not advance past the first round match. These Season One wrestlers (who didn't advance) are essentially defending their spot or their right to remain on a team. It's basically a Pro-Am challenge.
The dual-meet format was designed to give the fan a fun 2-hour experience. We will also have an All-Star Championship tournament at to cap off the Season to crown individual champions after the team title has been decided.
Will there be some duals in New York City?
New York is one of the locations where we want to plant a team (New York Outrage). We launched with eight teams and therefore will have an eight-city tour in each of the areas these teams are to be planted. Therefore, we will have one dual meet in NY, probably the city, where we can generate some media attention for our sport and the league. We are also finalizing possibly have the All-Star championship tournament in NYC as well.
What other changes have you made heading into this season?
Since the fire, we've had the opportunity to rethink and recharge a bit. We hired a great staff and have been very careful in who we select on the business side. Our computer and editing systems are now back to where they were before the fire and in many cases, exceeding where we were. In other words, we took the time to learn about our mistakes and what we did right. What we lost in steam from the momentum of Season One's TV program, we gained in the quality of staff and knowledge we've acquired in having to gear up for the next push. There will also be some slight changes to the rules, but those won't be significant. We're staying with the same "hybrid system" of freestyle, folkstyle, and Greco to showcase what we call the "complete wrestler."
RPW brought in many of the top names in wrestling for Season One. Who has committed for Season Two? What big names can fans expect to see?
Let's just say that we'll see some familiar faces and some new faces. We'll announce the signings sometime in mid-December, just before the Super Challenge, Jan. 7.
Many of the athletes who took part in Season One said they enjoyed the experience. What kind of feedback did you get?
99 percent of the feedback we received from the athletes was positive. These guys are so deserving of first-class treatment from pay to the way they are presented. RPW is doing our best to give this to them the fastest way we know how. We truly believe that someday soon these athletes will be able to make a comfortable living competing for much longer than they're currently able. These guys need to have an income that just doesn't supplement their 9-5 jobs. These are elite athletes, some as good as any professional athlete out there. They need to be showcased and rewarded for their skill and that is our main objective. It will take us a few years to get there, but we have to start somewhere or these phenomenal athletes will continue to have their careers marginalized by their lack of good income.
RPW was televised on Fox Sports Net and FX last year. Do you have anything set up for TV this year?
We were offered another deal with Fox Sports Net, but we don't think it will maximize what we want to accomplish, which is build our sport on both a regional and national basis. FSN simply isn't targeted enough for us at this time. Therefore, we're going to continue with two avenues of television to accomplish our mission. The first it to create our own regional network of stations that air RPW highlight shows either all year long or for our 10-week Season Two. We have negotiated deals with major stations in local and regional markets to ensure that our presence there is known. This isn't dissimilar to any major pro team sport like the Yankees, Bulls, etc. While we will not yet have a two-hour block of time on these regional networks, we will have the opportunity to build our brand on a local level.
Secondly, we have a deal with a major Pay Per View distributor that will feature the two-hour specials including all the dual meets, the team championship, and the all-star championship. PPV allows provides us that two-hour block of time needed to offer a quality show to the viewer. A two-hour block of time is extremely difficult to get in the world of TV and the wrestling community needs to get all over this to show they want their wrestling. Ratings and subscriptions are going to be how TV judges our sport. The wrestling community has to show up "at the box office," as the phrase goes, or we won't be able to enter the mainstream market place. This season is the time to show TV that we are loyal to our sport. We hope that people have seen how RPW is giving back to wrestling at the grassroots level and will continue to do so as long as people support the efforts on the TV side.
Many of the features on the TV show you did on the athletes were very popular. Do you plan on doing those again?
It's vital to showcase these great athletes beyond the mat. People need to see how they train, how they interact, the level of confidence these guys have, how tough they are, etc. Why they're real people, these guys are amazingly gifted. They're studs. But because they haven't yet had a stage to be showcased to the world on a consistent basis, they'll continue to live incognito. And it's not just about giving these guys their place in the sports community, it's about allowing people to learn from these guys. These wrestlers are "the experts" when it comes to martial arts and hand-to-hand combat. They are some of the most fit athletes in the world, yet they're hidden and they go unnoticed. So, it's vital for us to bring out these athletes to show the world who they are and what they can do.
Will the rules be virtually the same again?
Yes, by and large, the rules will be the same. While the :20 sec Bonus will still be Greco, we will allow scoring from any position, not just from a throw. Therefore, guys can score from the clinch with a gut wrench, bear hug, etc.