The journey to becoming a wrestler is easily one of the hardest careers to embark upon. It requires training, dedication and a huge level of commitment that many trainees don’t realise when they attend their local academy, many of them possessing the mind-set that as soon as they learn a few bumps and how to grapple they have the potential to be the next Triple H or Undertaker.
Many of the biggest names in the WWE started their careers on the indie circuit, travelling to different towns and putting on matches in school sports halls, community centres and even taking part in carnivals or festivals. They are often met with a mixture of disinterested fans or screaming kids who want nothing more than to try and get in the ring or run interference when wrestlers are throwing down outside the ring. If it wasn’t for these small time promotions, then the biggest names in wrestling would not be who they are today. But when the lights have died and the fireworks have ended, how many of you remember the referee or the ring announcer?
As a founding member of a local indie show in North Wales, not only do I know first-hand the sheer amount of planning and advertising that goes into running a show, I also know that come show day, anything can happen. It is not the well-oiled machine that the WWE has become today because each and every one of us have day jobs – wrestling is just our passion.
In recent months, I have recently become the ring announcer of our promotion. When you watch an episode of RAW or Smackdown, you don’t really pay too much attention to the immaculately dressed lady in the ring announcing both the match and the superstars. In WWE, the show just starts with the company relying on the wrestlers to fire the crowd up. On the indie scene, it is a lot different. It is the job of the ring announcer to try and fire the crowd up and turn the frowns of scowls of the crowd into anticipated smiles. If the crowd doesn’t take to you within the first few minutes, then you know that the rest of the evening is going to be a nightmare. You have to sound excited and you have to try and allow your excitement to become infectious and sweep over the crowd like a common cold.
At one of our more recent shoes, the microphones decided that they just didn’t want to work anymore. The amplifier blew a fuse and as it was 7:15 at night, getting a replacement was just not possible. Instead, I was forced to shout, hoping my voice would echo across the hall. Luckily it worked, but if it hadn’t, then it would have been an utter disaster. It is also important as the ring announcer to maintain a sharp appearance. As the first person the audience see, it is important that you remember you are representing the promotion.
Our promotional material is produced by one of the nicest people I have ever met, and his posters are always superbly designed with a crisp, professional feel to them. This is possibly one of the most important aspects of the indie scene. Your posters are what draw crowds into the venue and by making them look the part encourages people to come and watch the show. When you look at our posters, it is hard to believe that he is self-taught, something that makes me insanely proud.
The other role he undertakes is our lead commentator, providing fresh and original commentary that is uploaded the same time as the show on YouTube and social media. This is where the passion for wrestling comes in, taking cues from the commentators from WWE and TNA to ensure it sounds exactly the same.
It must also be mentioned that the role of a manager in an indie promotion is more important than it is in mainstream wrestling. It is their job to sell someone who has just graduated from the academy or try and get the new champion over with the crowd. Assuming the identity of a face or heel and seamlessly portraying that character is not only essential to the storyline, but also to the wrestler. As we have learned from WWE, a good manager helps to generate the right buzz for whoever they are supporting.
One of the most overlooked, yet crucial member of the wrestling world is the referee. It is arguably the hardest job in the industry as they have to ensure the rules are obeyed while keeping their counts consistent and looking after the general well-being of those competing in the ring. If he messes up his pinfall count and the wrong man goes over, it can have dire consequences for the outcome of the match and earn disdain from the wrestlers.
The referee is also in the ring longer than any of the wrestlers, with many promotions having just the one official. It is their job to know the spots and the finishes for each match as well as the time limit, ensuring the wrestlers finish promptly so the show does not run over. It is a lot of information to take in, especially if the card has seven or eight matches.
Ring positioning is also key when officiating a match as the ref needs to ensure he stays out of the way when wrestlers are performing big moves and is always in a position to slide across the mat to count the pin in full view of their shoulders.
Finally, it is also worth noting that the booker of the show is also a hugely valued and crucial member of the team. It is their job to ensure that each wrestler knows who is going over, when the titles are being changed and also the stipulation of each match. It is also their job to ensure wrestlers are paid and the show is run well within the available budget. But the most difficult job of a booker is dealing with the complaints of wrestlers who either don’t want to lose their match or don’t want to wrestle a certain opponent. They are often the front line of any complaints both from the wrestlers and the audience.
The next time you venture to an indie show, it is always worth sitting back and appreciating not only the wrestlers busting their guts in the ring, but the cogs that constantly turn backstage because without them, the shows would not run.
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