Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Take On The Fan Attacks In McKeesport

Everything that I write after this initial paragraph will be construed as sour grapes.  I assure you it is not.  I have strong feelings about the following situation, and I am expressing them.  These problems were not new in 2006 when I quit taking bookings for this company, and they were not new in 2000 when I started accepting bookings in Pittsburgh.  They continue however, and what comes next is my opinion on the situation.  My two cents, and no one else. 

A group of fans regularly attend shows promoted by Jim Miller in Pittsburgh that cause a lot of trouble.  I have never sat down and asked for their family tree or anything, but I believe they are all related somehow.  They cause a lot of problems. 

My first recollection of problems with this family involved different wrestlers being chewed out by the promoter and bookersfor claims that wrestlers bumped them, touched them, or spit on them while at ringside.  The conversation always seemed to go in the direction of "She threatened to call the police because you touched her/her son/member of group".  Usually it was not true, or it was something along the lines of them reaching for a wrestler, and the wrestler pushing their hand away. 

I remember one of my former colleagues there, Damian Stockholm, actually being told by the promoters there that he had to actually apologize to this family's matriarch for making fun of her weight during an in ring "promo".  Stockholm did indeed apologize, but did it in a very backhanded and humorous way. 

Over the years, there were more and more run ins with them.  One time during a tag match where I partnered with Dirk Ciglar, a full scale riot broke out in the old Sportatorium as a couple of fans attacked me (which turned out to be trainees at another area wrestling school), and this woman threw a glass bottle at Ciglar.  The bottle shattered, which she blamed on a referee, and as people scrambled for the door, me going at it with fans on the other side of the ring caused a crazy situation.  This woman called the Police, and when they arrived, she stood in the parking lot and told them that the referee had thrown the bottle at her son.  Why would a referee have a glass bottle?  The referee was forced to apologize to the woman to keep her from pressing charges. 

Over time, incidents like this became more and more common, and the promoters, Jim Miller and his son-in-law, refused to do anything about their behavior, such as throwing them out of the building.  A permanent barrier was built at the Sportatorium however, and that alleviated some issues. 

Around the time that the promotion left the Sportatorium, the son who was so famously involved with many of these occurrences, approached the promoter about becoming a wrestler.  While he was of the age that I accepted students, he was under the age of 18, so I demanded a waiver and permission slip from his mother.  His mother had a multitude of questions for me, which I answered.  I accepted her son's down payment, and he began training.  He became a regular no-show to training, and eventually his mother came to me and asked me to take it easy on him, because he was scared of me.  I told her that he should be scared of me, and that if he couldnt handle training, he needed to quit.  He attended a few more sessions, after which his mother brought him to training, and asked for me to have a talk with her son.  Apparently he was suspended from school for bringing a switchblade to class, and threatening another student with it.  I told her that, for trainees of his age, my policy was that if he did not maintain his grades, then he was not allowed to train, so it would probably be best if he not attend training until he was back in school.  He never returned while I was doing the training at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Academy. 

Around the time that he stopped training, the promotion was evicted from the Sportatorium, and this family's antics kicked back into gear at the Palisades, and then intensified at the promotion's current home - a park shelter in McKeesport.  Before I turned in my notice to the company, the promoter demanded that I apologize to her and her son for an incident that occurred on a prior show, in which I supposedly threatened her son.    At the time I was one of the promotions matchmakers and the talent booker, and I told the promoter to tell them they would get no such apology.  Shortly thereafter, in mostly unrelated circumstances, I stopped accepting any bookings in Pittsburgh, so I never had to deal with these people again. 

That, however, did not stop the incidents from continuing.  I have heard numerous stories over the past few years about members of this family hitting wrestlers, throwing objects, spitting, and even fondling females at ringside.  In fact, I have heard about incidents where Dash Bennett was attacked at ringside by a family member (supposedly the family patriarch), and Ashton Amherst actually having someone get in the ring.  Saturday night one of the athletes that I trained for this sport, Jason Cage, had another run in with this kid.  Apparently this time, while Cage was at ringside, the kid climbed in the ring and had to be forcibly escorted out by a referee. 

Now, if you have read this far, you have probably come to the same question that I, and countless others have: Why the hell have these people not been kicked out yet? 

The answer to that is, in short, I do not know.  It is inconceivable to me that you would let a group of individuals continuously attack and attempt to injure your athletes over a period of longer than a decade.  It is nonsensical. 

Make no mistake, in my more than twelve years in this business, I have had my share of run-ins with fans in many different towns and promotions.  I have even had a fan climb into the ring and attempt to attack me, and I had to lay my hands on them to protect myself.  In addition, I have had guns pulled on me, things thrown, been spit on, etc.  I have even seen and been a part of some of the craziest moments in indy wrestling history, like when Jimmy Jacobs tried to stab everyone in the lockerroom.  Generally speaking though, they have all been isolated incidents.  However, never have I seen a promoter completely pander to a group of fans who cause this much harm to the talent as in this situation, with these people. 

The reason is simple - the promoter does not care about the welfare or well being of his talent.  There is no other explanation.  Many wrestlers have been injured by broken rings, ceiling fans in the building above the ring, and a plethora of other hazards both typical and atypical of a wrestling show.  The promoter does almost zero promotion for the show, outside of a website maintained by an outside individual.  Miller & Co. have worked out a perfect formula where they know exactly how many die-hard fans they have that will come to nearly every show, and they know how to keep costs down so that the minimum amount of work will result in the same regular profit. 

Forty.  That is the break even point.  That is the number of fans that are needed to cover the costs of running a show.  Miller makes his money from selling concessions.  While the "break even" number may have changed over the years, this was the number when I was running the shows there.  While we were running events out of the Palisades, the number was higher, but attendance had regularly dipped below forty paid fans, thus necessitating the move to the park shelter. 

In my research into the situation in the past, when I worked there, Miller & Co. pay nothing for the building they run in.  They keep 100% of concessions. Except perhaps in special circumstances, none of the wrestlers make more than $5 per match - if they get paid at all. The problem is, the promotion regularly draws 35-50 paid fans.  With a gate total of around $350-$500, there is a very small profit margin for Miller & Co.  This group of problematic fans, who I will completely admit are loyal fans, make up around 1/5th or 1/4th of your total attendance, asking these people not to come back could bankrupt the promotion.  You are talking about the gate going to $250-$400, with less people buying concessions.  Aside from special shows that tend to draw higher, these are the typical numbers turned into the athletic commission by Miller & Co. 

So, the message is clear: Having a max gate of $500 for a show is more important than the well being of the wrestlers helping to draw that gate.  There is no security, no effective barriers, and no penalties for not only disrupting an event, but for coming into physical contact with a wrestler.  None whatsoever. 

I do not understand why wrestlers, who have no reason to stick around, would do so.  The promoter doesn't care for their well being, they are not being paid, and they are not performing in front of a crowd.  Plus, they are in danger of attack by the fans.   There are no big time scouts from the WWE, ROH, TNA, Japan, or Mexico sitting in the crowd.  There is no benefit to working there. 

Why do we, as wrestlers, do this?  Well, I do not.  If I wrestle on a show for a promoter and there is a crowd of forty for the event, the promoter is going to get an earful from me - even if I get every penny I was promised in advance.  I demand more from my sport.  I do not want to practice my craft in front of as few people as possible - I want to do it in front of big crowds that pay to see me. 

Professional wrestling is about one thing and one thing only: drawing money.  The success of a wrestler, a company, a feud, a match - whatever it is - is measured by the amount of people that will in fact pay to see it.  10,000 fans throwing beer in the ring at Ric Flair or the NWO means that you drew a great crowd and you drew a ton of heat from the fans.  Ten fans doing it over and over again one thousand times is not the same thing; It is a serious problem.  

If the promoter isn't going to fix the situation by removing those fans, then the boys need to remove themselves from the situation. 

Like I said, this will be called sour grapes by many.  But, it is the truth.  If you have kids, loved ones, a job, a life and bills, is it worth it to go through everything that we go through, plus being forced to deal with repeated attacks from fans?  It makes no sense. 

No comments:

Post a Comment