Around 20 years ago ECW sparked a wave of interest in wrestling outside of the mainstream that has yet to subside, but while the reasons for fans wanting to seek out alternatives haven’t changed much in that time, the number of fans who independent promotions can reach has only grown along with the growing ubiquity of the internet in our daily lives. Immediacy is often king in this modern, always-connected era and it’s something various indies have struggled to come to grips with, be it in the form of live streaming, digital distribution or simply engaging with fans through social media. However, as more promotions take the steps necessary to fully promote their product on the digital stage, we’ve reached a point where there’s more worldwide wrestling content that’s more readily available to more fans than ever before. With the advent of video on-demand streaming services the market is already becoming saturated, dozens of promotions now competing to entice new users into a monthly subscription and, as such, first impressions are everything.
Which is why it’s disappointing to see many promotions falter when it comes to presentation and establishing a visual identity. ECW’s shoestring budget and DIY production helped give the promotion an underground feel. It was a grimy, loud and unpredictable counterpoint to mainstream wrestling presented by the WWF and WCW and the lack of the usual TV polish employed by those promotions only helped ECW establish what they were all about. Years later, what Ring of Honor lacked in funds it made up for with an in-ring product unparalleled in America at the time. The ethos of ROH was that the wrestling was paramount, emphasising competition and skill over brash entertainment and, as such, fans were more forgiving of production that was a world apart from the WWE at the time. In more recent years, with digital recording equipment becoming ever more affordable and pro-quality home editing tools more accessible, a number of promotions have put out products that it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine airing on television.
While no one expects the scale and grandeur that only a promotion the size of WWE can offer, with so many alternative options out there it’s just not as easy to forgive a promotion that doesn’t at least look presentable, let alone one that doesn’t look like it was recorded within this decade. Ring of Honor’s hook was that they were providing quality wrestling the likes of which you couldn’t get on TV, but in the intervening years since then some of the world’s other national-scale promotions have taken steps towards becoming accessible to an international audience. The ROH of a decade ago didn’t have to compete with the likes of NJPW and CMLL. What’s more, they didn’t have to compete with WWE at a $9.99 price-point, either. Of course not every promotion has the benefit of an eye catching venue, or the funds for showy effects to enliven their events, but some still fail in areas they can more readily control, such as ensuring the camera work and editing are solid and coherent, that the cameras themselves are properly set up and that the action on display is well lit.
It’s sometimes the little things that can go a long way and, with that in mind, more promotions need to think about their visual identity and what they’re doing to make sure they stand out amongst the crowd, or at the very least keep up with the pack.