Pruett's Quick Blog: Indie Corner - The importance of production value to independent wrestling, including comments on DGUSA, ROH, EVOLVE, and PWG
By Will Pruett
Monday, August 13 - 12:05 P.M. (CT)
In a way, WWE has ruined the wrestling business for upstart promotions. They haven't done this by making it too cartoony or placing less importance on wrestling. They have done this by being too good in one area. They are so good in this area that no one can even compete with them. This area is production value.
Look at the average WWE television show. There's a giant screen, hundreds of lights, LED walls, HD cameras, pyrotechnics, and an amazing production crew making it all happen. Not even WWE's closest competitor (TNA) can compete with what WWE brings to the table. WCW, even with buckets of Ted Turner's money, couldn't compete with WWE.
What is an indie promotion to do when people are so accustomed to seeing wrestling in a bright and shiny package?
DGUSA/EVOLVE: Dragon Gate USA does a decent job on production, but the quality varies on a show by show basis. Sometimes everything works in their favor and the lighting is perfect, the sound is audible, and the camera work is great. Other times, we've seen poor lighting (Freedom Fight 2011), promos that can only vaguely heard through camera microphones and can't be understood, and a hard camera left unmanned.
DGUSA/EVOLVE (they are grouped together for the purpose of this review since the production is done by the same people) also tries to look as professional as possible with their lighting and video work in the building. This, like the rest of their production, has varying results. On big screens, they project a moving logo for the show. This is a nice touch during entrances, but when action is happening in the ring, it is very distracting.
The lighting can have the same issue. The ring is highlighted, but the crowd can sometimes be very dark. This also includes the entrance area, where wrestlers often appear to answer challenges, celebrate, and brawl. Without a light focused on the entrance, these areas are lost in darkness. This is an area where they would be smart to hire a spot light operator. One light, controlled by a human, would solve 95 percent of the problems they face.
ROH: Production has been one of Ring of Honor's biggest problems for a long, long time. In the last year, it has become exponentially worse. Even on their professionally produced television show, we have seen poor lighting, very poor sound quality, and a total lack of sense in camera angles and cuts. ROH has taken steps to correct these things in the last year, but many of them still remain.
The most egregious part of Ring of Honor's set is their giant, shiny black entrance curtain. I was amazed to see something that looked this low budget make an appearance in ROH. I was appalled to see it used as a permanent feature. I would expect to see this hanging in the $5 Wrestling arena, not in the "number three" promotion in the country. Hanging over this curtain of shame is usually a small flat screen TV. I don't understand why it is there. Is it the world's smallest Titantron?
Lighting on ROH television has improved since the launch of the Sinclair show. It has moved from being atrocious to passable. There is still a lot that ROH could do to improve it without having to spend a lot of money. At this moment, it seems like they don't care to improve. They just want to stay where they are.
Camera cuts and direction on ROH television still need help. The missed spots have piled up over the past year and they aren't going away. The sound quality is decent for the most part, but still occasionally difficult to hear. Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness, aside from being a poor commentary team (or a team of poor commentators), are also often way too loud. I don't like being screamed at for hours on end.
PWG: Pro Wrestling Guerrilla takes a unique approach to production. Instead of trying to be like WWE and TNA on a miniature scale, they are nothing like them. The building is lit with the fluorescent lights that are built in, not hot and bright lights. There is no entrance music (unless you are there live). There are no entrances. The lights never change.
The only true "production" element is the house microphone used for promos and ring introductions, which works most of the time.
All of this totally works for me. It works better than any of the aforementioned companies. That is because it reinforce Pro Wrestling Guerrilla's over-riding philosophy that they don't want to be more than they are. They don't tour. They don't contract talent. They don't run more than one show a month (aside from two day events like Battle of Los Angeles). They are one of the best indie companies in the nation and they are fine with just being that.
Final thoughts: Production can really help to enhance wrestling. One of the things that keeps me drawn into WWE when the storytelling is poor is the production value. I admire those that work on it. I love seeing it done well.
Production is also one of the most frustrating elements of indie wrestling. When a company attempts to copy WWE's production style, they tend to expose themselves as lacking in both money and skill. When a company does nothing but turn on the lights, they seem complacent. I don't see the need for a company to go all-out and attempt to copy WWE. I do see the need for companies to make sure their shows can be heard or seen in a pleasant way.
Let's do some good old fashioned talking about this blog and the Indies! Feel free to email me at email@example.com or to follow me on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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