wrestling isn’t just withheld to basic cable, you can find it right
here in Utah!
Among the groups that have started up in recent years, ACW Wrestling has been one of the few independent promotions that has managed to stay alive and continued to bring live local wrestling to a local venue near you. Currently in its fifth year the group is pressing forward to make itself the best local promotion Utah has to offer, which is good news since our state was widely ignored by the old territory system and has yet to even host a pay-per-view event of from major promotion. I got a chance to talk with ACW’s Chad Bryant about the promotion, issues in wrestling today, his thoughts on the major promotions, and some other stuff that came to mind.
Gavin: Hey Chad, first off, tell us a little about yourself.
Chad: Well, I'm 32, and I've lived in the Salt Lake City area for most of the last ten years. As far as professional wrestling goes, I've been following it for a good portion of my life, and pretty regularly for over twenty years. I have done everything from wrestling to managing to what I'm doing currently, which is working as the host and ring announcer for ACW.
Gavin: For those who don't know, what is the ACW?
Chad: American Championship Wrestling of Utah is an independent professional wrestling promotion started by my good friend Nic Hardy in early 2003. By "independent", it essentially means that we don't claim any affiliation with any larger promotion or organization, such as WWE or the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). The NWA name for many years had a lot of meaning, but the criteria for membership now just isn't what it used to be.
Gavin: You wrestled before in other groups, what made you decide to start your own?
Chad: There were a lot of factors that went into the decision to start ACW. Most notably, there were a number of talented performers in and around Utah who for one reason or another were not active at the time, and having a promotion available to them that was being run the right way did a lot to coax them back "into the fold", so to speak.
Gavin: Was it difficult starting up or did things come together rather easy?
Chad: It was actually quite difficult for a couple of years. Professional wrestling done the right way with proper equipment and promotion will cost a lot of money. If you were to start a promotion tomorrow, you'd be out several thousands of dollars before you ever even put on a show. Truth be told, a number of people have come along in this area over the past several years and proclaimed that they were going to start their own promotion. Then they dig in and find out, usually the hard way, that they're in for a long period of spending money, spending money, and then spending some more money. The majority of these groups last maybe one or two shows before they throw in the towel and are never heard from again. The fact that there is even a regional circuit here in Utah is due in large part to the stubbornness and tenacity of a very few people who had an idea and did what they had to do to see it through.
Gavin: Did you have to construct the ring yourself or were you able to find one? And in the end how much did it cost you to get everything put together and ready to go?
Chad: There are a few companies around the country that specialize in the construction of pro wrestling rings. We were able to secure one from a company based in North Carolina, which cost about as much as a down payment on a nice car. If you add up that with all of the money invested in promotions and such, Nic Hardy would probably own said car by now.
Gavin: Have you set up any kind of training, or is just not something you can do at the moment?
Chad: We have run training classes and sessions in the past, and we are looking to do so in the future.
Gavin: If someone wants to start wrestling, what would you suggest to them to prepare for that?
Chad: The first thing I'd suggest anyone who wants to make a serious effort in wrestling is to know the history of the business, have a knowledge of the current product, and be prepared to sacrifice a lot in the way of lifestyle and personal comfort in order to dedicate yourself to the business. It is to your advantage to learn what to and what not to eat, how to train properly both on your own and in a gym, and what supplements are good and what should be avoided. And before anyone asks, pretty much any "supplement" that would get you kicked out of the Olympics is one you want to avoid.
Chad: I'd also suggest forgetting everything you've ever read on the internet about the "inside workings" of the business, because 95% of what is online is pure garbage manufactured by very ill-informed "reporters" who take bits and pieces from legitimate newsletters and trade publications and add their own conjecture. There is a reason a lot of the people who are actually in the business hate the internet wrestling culture - they're simply tired of any loser in his parents' basement or a trailer in the middle of Hogswallow, Kentucky thinking they're an "insider" because they have their own little rasslin' website.
Gavin: Do you guys do all your own promotion and booking, or do you go through someone to take care of it all?
Chad: The production of independent wrestling shows is almost always done in-house. We put the shows together, we book the talent needed for the shows, and we promote the events.
Gavin: You don't just cover Utah; you cover most of the mountain states. Was that done for the fact that those places don't really have mainstay organizations or more because you wanted to have more area like the old territories?
Chad: We've more or less concentrated on Utah, but we are always looking for opportunities to expand our base of operations.
Gavin: Expanding a little to the sport in general, what do you say to people who say "it's fake" or "you're not real athletes"?
Chad: I remember as a kid watching the AWA's ESPN show, and one of the commentators challenged anyone at home who didn't believe that what was taking place in the ring required physical and athletic ability to get off the couch and try jumping around for twenty or thirty minutes without a break. That's the same thing I'd suggest now. I'd also suggest that anyone who thinks that pro wrestling doesn't hurt try stepping into a ring and letting someone body slam them. Then I'd suggest they get up and let someone else body slam them again.
Gavin: When it comes to injuries, pro-wrestling seems to have frequent issues with taking bumps and hitting spots wrong. Does it feel like there's more of a risk factor, or do you think of it as par-for-the-course like any other sport would?
Chad: Wrestling is traditionally a battle of good versus evil taking place inside of a ring. The "psychology", or the art of telling a logical, coherent story can be as simple as "Guy A doesn't like Guy B, so they're going to fight". As long as something like that is there, you're okay. I think the tendency in the past ten years or so has been to replace the "psychology" with what a lot of the old-timers would call "flippy-floppy bullcrap", or in worse cases, the "hardcore" or "extreme" element. Guys really aren't telling better stories with high-risk activities, they're no longer telling any kind of story except "watch how many different ways we can jump off the top rope, and then Jim Bob will hit me in the head with this chair that he's set on fire and scrape a cheese grater across my face". That's not professional wrestling, that's just blatant stupidity. Professional wrestling is supposed to be a performance, since it is first and foremost an athletic endeavor, so injuries are bound to occur. However, it should never be the intent of the people involved to hurt themselves or each other. If you are replacing actual ring work with stunts that all but guarantee that you're going to be injured, you're a bigger sucker than any of the "marks" in the audience.
Gavin: . What are your thoughts on blading in wrestling, and do you think it even has a place nowadays in the sport?
Chad: The art of using some sort of sharp object to produce blood on demand has been a part of wrestling since most of the folks currently in the business have been involved, and goes along with creating the illusion that what is going on is really a fight, while making sure that the people involved can go on to the next town and work on the next show. That said, it's also evolved into another prop for barely-trained or lazy wrestlers to throw into a match instead of telling a story. There are promoters now who will throw blood into just about every match on a show they produce, which does nothing but kill the illusion. If everyone on a show bleeds, it's not special, and the fans are conditioned to just not care.
Gavin: A little on mainstream, what are your thoughts on the current state of WWE, both good and bad?
Chad: I've come to expect a fair amount of rubbish in WWE programming while they continue to chase the elusive "casual fan", so as long as I go into an episode of their TV product with that expectation, I'm usually not too offended.
Gavin: Same questions, but on smaller promotions like TNA and Ring Of Honor.
Chad: TNA frustrates me almost to the point where I don't even want to watch, because while they can put together some great pay-per-view shows, their TV show, outside of the flashes of brilliance being put into the ladies' division, is almost unbearable to watch. That has everything to do with their primary creative input being a one-trick pony who constantly attempts to create a backstage-centric "WWE Lite" show, when the strength of the promotion is in what they do in the ring.
Gavin: Do you ever believe the National Wrestling Alliance will be relevant again, or are they destined to die off like the territories before them?
Chad: The name means nothing. It's been on life support since the name all but disappeared from national TV in the early 1990s, and now that TNA no longer borrows the initials for their top championships, it's pretty much worthless. Of course, you will always have a few money-mark promoters who believe it still means something, so they'll put the "NWA" initials on their t-shirts and their posters, but if you're still doing the same pointless shows in church parking lots in front of 30 people, all the money you paid to use those initials could have been much better spent actually securing a good venue for your shows and paying the talent you've used and abused to build your promotion in the first place.
Gavin: Just offhand, what do you think of the local MMA circuit and promotions like Ultimate Combat Experience?
Chad: I think mixed martial arts is the here and now of combat sports. Outside of a few pockets of interest, boxing is as good as dead in the United States, and you're just not going to see a lot of interest in it amongst the younger generation. MMA is what is hip and what is getting the twenty-something’s with lots of disposable income to pay attention. That's why the MMA groups here have done well. I went to Hooters for a UFC broadcast about two months ago, and there wasn't an empty seat in the house. There is definitely a market here to be successful with.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make pro-wrestling better in Utah?
Chad: We could definitely use venues more willing to host wrestling shows, because that has been a problem in years past. I'd say even more that we could always use even more people working in the business here who are completely and totally committed to it. Some people get in and just want to be a star, and have no interest in really giving of themselves in order to help both themselves and the local scene as a whole.
Gavin: What can we expect from ACW the rest of the year?
Chad: We're going to be working hard to finish the year strong with the best wrestling shows Utah has ever seen.
Gavin: Anything you'd like to plug?
Chad: We do have a website that we invite anyone interested in Utah wrestling to visit. We post show results as well as upcoming show dates. A number of ACW folks will also be appearing for a new Utah-area promotion called American X-treme Wrestling on August 23rd, at the Dow James Building in Tooele. For more info on that you can visit their website.