by Corey Clark
In the territorial days, the measure of great business was if you had a strong television presence. In the early days of television, there were no national companies of any kind and every respective region was treated as an independently sovereign organization that all others weren’t allowed to tread on. Most importantly their television reach.
So in that vain, you had Florida owning all of the said peninsula as well as a few rare feeds off into the Northeast, simply because many of the Floridians of those days were Northeastern “snowbirds” that held dual citizenry. The same can be said for just about every other territory and their television jurisdictions but as the territorial system that held everything together and pristine began to fall apart, a void was left in the wrestling landscape on television.
That void would be filled with what became known as independent promotions. Traditionally, indepedents were just another way of phrasing what was known as “outlaw” territories; the little dive-bars of wrestling where regulation was hissed at and sometimes work as well. Those independents didn’t have the same allegiances that the territories did, although some like Joel Goodhart’s TWA did have quite a cult following. Eastern Championship Wrestling would rise from the ashes of Goodhart’s outfit and became the standard for what would become independent wrestling, anchored by their syndicated television that was beamed nationally at oddball times like 3 AM here in the Ozarks. Still, they had TV and that’s all that you needed.
Of course that was before the Monday Night Wars really heated up and networks viewed anything non-WCW or WWF as a waste of time after the bloom had fallen off the rose. Then came the fall of WCW and ECW respectively and all in one fell swoop, the days of easy-access to television distribution ended abruptly. For the early part of the 2000‘s, no one seemed to break that television embargo that was being put upon the wrestling industry.
Ring of Honor changed the landscape of how people promoted events on a larger independent level when they took from the King of the Indies tournament that was held in 2001, which was nothing more than a glorified all-stars show of all the top independent talent of the day. Ring of Honor set forth to have that effect as a full-time promotion and without television, they relied on DVD sales which was very much in flux for most of those early days. That format worked for practically any independent worth their weight in salt for years and years, but around 2012 or so that even began to age quite drastically.
That’s when streaming became a hit thing(see my article “Is Indie Wrestling Fighting Upstream on this very website). It’s becoming rather quickly the standard for how wrestling is viewed in the near future, with even the traditional pay-per-view mode of distribution shrinking more and more to the business. The distribution has changing quite a bit but only until very recently have people begun to play around with the formating of shows and companies more than really before in the attempt to become something truly unique in a world full of copycats.
In comes the latest idea from Gabe Sapolsky, the man that brought us much of the Ring of Honor goodness that we’ve either loved or hated depending on your opinions. One thing though can’t be denied; Sapolsky tries all he can to break the mold of how wrestling is presented. In the early ROH days it was by bringing an all in-ring approach to things, with the occassional angles to spice things up and advance stories onward. His latest move is Style Battle.
What is intriguing to me about the Style Battle shows going on is that they’re being presented on their own without any EVOLVE or other tie ins that WWN live could afford. In fact, Style Battle is putting what we expect out of independent shows on its ear. Instead of going with angles that progress month to month or what have you, each show is its own benign entity that doesn’t tie into any other “episode” of the series until the “season finale” which will consist of the final rounds of the larger Style Battle tournament to crown that season’s Style Battle Champion. So in other words, it is the old Evolve Style Battle tournaments extended even further.
See that is another thing, these shows aren’t numbered or given some clever tagline like we have come to expect in the last two decades. Instead, each show is considered an episode of the first season that is Style Battle in 2017. Pretty cool I say. So Sapolsky is in essence taking reality television’s competition format that has made Survivor and Big Brother huge successes in the mainstream and brought it into the wrestling world. Think Steve Austin’ Broken Skull Ranch with spots.
I have really enjoyed the shows and while I’m not going to go into depth about them here, you should go on over to Floslam and check them out. Each tournament has had their own little story attached and it feels very different from what else is out there for me. Sure, some will say it is just another gimmicky indie tournament but it feels different and it is a chance for young stars to shine on a big stage in a different way than has been afforded to wrestlers in recent memory.
What I’ve loved most is that so far, each winner has been practically a dark horse. Strong Style’s own Dave Crist set the tone early in episode one by going through an impressive host of opponents and matches in one night. The first episode proved to be successful because Dave Crist, among others looked stronger than when they came into the scenario.
The real test is seeing how this whole first season pans out. This comes during the build towards the first ever crowning of a WWN Live Champion from all promotions within the umbrella. This is massive in the indy world, and like the Evolve Championship hype this has been both heavily hyped and also a bit of a sleeper story going into the WrestleMania weekend festivities which says a lot for what’s going in the independent world. If Style Battle can come out of all the oversaturation that threatens all wrestling, especially indy outfits, then it will be worth its weight in gold.
The trick as always in this carousel business we all love is the unknown. When Georgia Championship Wrestling rolled the dice in the late 70‘s to roll out onto the new cable medium, most of the rest of the wrestling world waited with baited breath or laughed. They won out in the end and everyone else was forced to follow suit. I’d argue WWN Live already did that very thing when they began to really master the live streaming of shows on a consistent basis, something so many indy promotions benefits from. Style Battle might change the wrestling landscape towards one that favors a more realistic, sports based approach all the while still giving us the tropes that we all love about pro wrestling as well as the drama.
Style Battle’s next show will be on June 16th in Tampa, Florida. It will be streaming live over at www.FloSlam.tv. Learn more about the event by clicking here.