A Shore Special - Through the Curtain: Pro Wrestling Evo promoter Patrick Wright explains why Life As We Know It will never see the light of day
By Chris Shore
This is part nine of my series on Pro Wrestling EVO, an upstart independent promotion in Salisbury, NC. You will find previous parts of A Shore Special—Through the Curtain here. In this article, we look at the problems that lead Evo promoter Patrick Wright to decide not to release the DVD of their second event, Life As We Know It.
Patrick Wright called me the Monday after Pro Wrestling Evo held "Life As We Know It" at the Cabarrus Arena. When we talked after the show that night, I knew he wasn't thrilled, but he had taken a pretty tough bump on his neck so I thought it was mostly just tired and sore talking. But when he told me he wasn't releasing the DVD of the event, I knew it was much more than a stiff neck. I asked him why he made that decision, and was unprepared for his anger and frustration.
"Because the whole thing was shit," he snapped. "It looked like shit, it sounded like shit, it was just shit." I asked him to slow down and break it out for me. He started with the look.
"Well first of all, both cameras (hard and hand held) were very dark. I don't know what happened, but the video just looks terrible. But that's not as big of a deal as what I saw. I saw what I have seen at a thousand shitty little indy shows all over the East Coast. It didn't look special, it was just more of the same old stuff."
I asked if he meant the large and mostly empty room. "Yes, that was part of it. It didn’t feel right not being in the Black Box (the site of Evo Eight). It was too big. We took on too much at too fast. I specifically didn’t get the armory when Black Box canceled on us because I didn't want to have that look. Instead, I paid out the nose for the arena and still got the same look. So yeah, that made me unhappy.
"But I could have gotten past all that. The product was bad. Too many guys went out there tonight and just went through the motions. There was no drive like in Evo Eight. There was no buy in like when we talked about it. That was the same garbage that a hundred wrestlers were doing in a hundred other promotions tonight. That's not what I wanted for Evo.
"Don't get me wrong, there was some good stuff. I thought Cedric [Alexander] and Jake [Manning] delivered. But the whole show just felt flat and emotionless. I hated it. And I'm really pissed off about it too.
"I'm friends, good friends, with most of these guys. And as I told you when you first interviewed me, I would not let friendship get in the way of what was right for business. If I put a guy over in a match, it's because I thought it was the best that he go over. Not so I could give my friend a rub. They all told me they respected me for that, and I think I've kept my word.
"So it especially hurts when those same guys start screwing around with my money. My expense for this show was almost twice what it was for Evo Eight and I had one less match. They know this is my slow time of the year (for his video production business which finances a lot of Evo) and they knew how high my costs were. But I made a commitment to them and I honored it, knowing I would probably lose money, because it was just that, a commitment.
"And I thought I had a commitment from all of them. But apparently not based on some of the performances I saw on that tape. So before the next event I am going to have to have some serious talks. I'm not going to have anybody here who is not committed to the vision I have for this promotion. If after that I have a core group who are committed, then we'll have another show. If not, oh well. I'm not doing it if it's not done right.
"And we will also go back to a smaller venue. We are the underground wrestling organization, not a bunch of misfits trying to be WWE Jr. or TNA Jr. I want it to be in your face, loud, maybe even a little scary. I'm not looking to have crazed matches, we still want to be family friendly, but I want it raw and brutal and real.
"Speaking of family friendly, that was another problem. Everybody was running around and shitting on Trevor (Lee) vs. Chivas. Did they do a lot of the same spots as the first match? Yes, and they made a mistake by not watching that match and adjusting what they wanted to do. But is that a reason to act like some of the boys acted? No.
"I know he's a [expletive] goat. I'm not blind. But did you see the kids? They loved him. They all wanted to shake his hand and they all cheered for him. That's something you need if you're going to reach all ages. I understand why you may not like the silly mask, but it's my show, and I booked him knowing he was a goat. So go out there, wrestle your match, offer the young guys some pointers if you see something they can improve on, and shut the [expletive] up. I'll bring a real goat to the ring if I want, and you'll like it or wrestle for someone else!"
I sensed it was time to move away from the look of the show to try and calm him down. So I asked what was wrong with the sound. Wrong decision. "My announce team is done. Done. No more. Especially Andrew."
Andrew was the play by play guy who had had a falling out with Patrick earlier over a creative difference. "He spent the whole show putting himself over as the CEO of the company, which he isn't, not even in kayfabe. We had decided to call him the COO to give the guys an authority figure to work against if necessary, but it was a fallback story device, not the big deal he made out of it.
"Hell, you heard him when he started the show in the ring. I didn't mind him saying it, but it became this big deal all throughout his commentary at the expense of the product. He was spending so much time making himself look like a big deal he wasn't putting over what was happening in the ring like he should have.
"And don't even get me started about him and the tryout match (with Trevor Lee and Chivas). He shit on it on commentary! Are you kidding me? Your job is very simple when you are on the headsets, you put over the product. Even if they botch, even if it's bad. Hell, even if it's [expletive] terrible you put it over because that's your single job. And not only did he fail to do that, he went the complete opposite direction. I'm finished with him.
"And my color guy." He sighed and his voice mellowed some. "You know, that guy is my best friend. Has been for years. We grew up together. And he comes to me after the show and says, 'Hey man, by the time we got to the last two matches I was so exhausted I started zoning out.' You zoned out on the number one contender's and title matches? The most important matches on the card? Seriously?
"I was running on three hours of sleep, had put out 200 chairs, put a ring together, setup the entrance and projector, and then went out and almost broke my neck and you're too tired to call a match?" The frustration returned to his voice. "I couldn't believe it. So if we have another show, I'll just start trying people out. I'll do the next show; you can do the one after that. I'm thinking about having the guys sit in on color PWG style and even using that to create stories. Oh, and that ring announcer will never be back. How do you call out the wrong name for the number one contender? I'm surprised he didn’t announce a new champion."
I asked him if he was ready to wash his hands of it. After hearing everything he had to say, I wouldn't have blamed him had he said yes. But in his answer, I sense even more intensity than at any other point in our conversation. "No. But we are going to go back to basics and do this thing right. Everybody makes mistakes. The trick is learning from them.
"I'm not walking away yet. I said I would do five shows and I intend to do five shows. It's just a matter of who will make it to the next show. I'm taking us back to our roots, as shallow as they may be. We are going back to that feel we had at Evo Eight. And whoever wants to come along is more than welcome to. But they better be ready to do it right. I know I am, and I won't accept anything less."
I hung up with Patrick concerned about the future of Pro Wrestling Evo, but confident he would make the best decision. I emailed him the next day and told him I would sit on this story so that the people he was unhappy with would hear it from him first. He texted me the next Tuesday to tell me he had spoken with everyone and to run the story. He wanted to make sure that Evo's whole story, both the successes and the failures, would be told. And he added one final line:
Our next show will be in June and will be called "Live and in Stereo."
Questions and comments to css3238 or on Twitter @the_shore_slant. Join me next time when I start profiling the main Evo roster, beginning with their first champion, Cedric Alexander.
You can check out more on EVO and order EVO Eight, the first DVD production from Pro Wrestling Evo on the EVO website. Don't forget the promocode DOTNET (all caps) to save $3 off the DVD price!
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