Photo Credit – PWG
Since 2003 PWG has been the promotion that has presented must see dream match shows allowing talents from all over the globe to appear and showcase their talents with the hopes a major promotion will see them and higher them. In the independent promotions’ world, PWG is the equivalent of Switzerland as they have made no attempts to compete with anyone or expand outside of the Southern California area. The talents that have passed through PWG over the years is a virtually who’s who of the top stars of the business today.
Because PWG has made no attempt to compete with promotions such as ROH, they were able to not only feature top independent stars that weren’t signed but also ROH contracted stars starting in 2015. PWG has no TV deal and despite only running less than a dozen shows a year, it has developed a cult like following. PWG’s sole source of income is ticket sales for these shows and the biggest thing DVD/Blu-Ray sales. With not much overhead since it is a relatively small operation compared to touring promotions that produce more shows and no major production costs like pyro, video screens etc. this has been a very lucrative model for them and their video distribution partner, Highspots. Over the past few years, PWG has been more open to making digital copies available of their shows months after they have taken place via Highspots and a year after making them available on Highspots Wrestling Network streaming platform.
The one thing that PWG has never attempted to do was hold a PPV of any kind and despite there likely being a huge demand for it amongst the passionate wrestling fan audience it has never happened.
The main reason, I think PWG should finally be open to this is, look at their biggest shows of the year, Battle of Los Angeles (BOLA), it is arguably the biggest independent wrestling tournament of the year. The only problem is unless you’re at the show you won’t see it for about a month until the DVD is released but at that point the winner of the tournament is already spoiled. Imagine being able to watch the tournament live. I’m sure I speak for many wrestling fans here, that I’d gladly pay to see that show live on PPV.
Now there are a number of potential reasons or theories on why this hasn’t been done and I want to run through some of those here now and discuss why they may or may not hold water.
Contractual Issues with Signed Talent & Reliable Platforms:
On the independents years ago, this was certainly a thing before every promotion had convenient and reliable PPV options for them. The early iPPV platforms weren’t reliable at all so many promotions wouldn’t even touch the PPV option. They certainly didn’t have the funding or following to pursue the traditional PPV carriers on cable and with the iPPV not a suitable option that limited promotions to live crowds and maybe DVDs of shows. They were hoping tape trading and word of mouth would help their promotion grow. So, it was often written into contracts that you couldn’t appear for WWE, so they didn’t care if you wrestled for ROH and TNA. That of course blew up when ROH and TNA ended their working agreement years ago over the Feinstein controversy.
In 2007, TNA saw the booming business that PWG was doing with their DVDs and was likely doing better than TNA DVDs did and wanted to pressure PWG to drop Highspots or any other third party from selling PWG shows featuring TNA talent. Was this an attempt by TNA to become the exclusive distributor of PWG DVDs? Maybe. PWG weighed their options on whether they could have TNA talent still appear on their shows but not on the DVDs sold by Highspots but TNA played a hand that backfired on them and PWG stood with Highspots and dropped TNA talent from its shows. PWG felt it would be unfair for the fans to buy DVDs of their shows and not get the full show.
Since that time, FITE TV has emerged since 2012 as a reliable iPPV provider, that almoat every independent promotion under the sun that isn’t WWE seems to use. Talent appears mostly freely on competing independent iPPV shows. Some AEW talent such as Jon Moxley has appeared on GCW shows despite AEW not have a working partnership with them. It is likely due to Moxley negotiating a deal in his contract that allows him to work GCW shows as long as it doesn’t interfere with his AEW bookings. It is believed the Bucks have a similar deal when it comes to PWG, and Jericho has something similar when it comes to NJPW. Matt Cardona appears regularly for Impact Wrestling but has appeared somewhat regularly with GCW and now the NWA.
AEW, Impact, NJPW and NWA all have working partnership agreements, and their talent have appeared across shows and PPVs. So, between the working agreements and talent negotiating exceptions into their exclusive agreements and promotions being afraid of the independent contractor tax status being challenged they are more open to talent appearing elsewhere unlike WWE’s stance on the issue.
All of these things being considered and added to this AEW’s top color commentator, Excalibur, is a co-owner of PWG, it seems unlikely AEW would stand in the way of AEW talent appearing on an occasional PWG PPV. Whether or not the other promotions would be as open? I don’t know for certain, but I certainly think they’d be more open to it today than they would years ago.
It Would Hurt DVD Sales:
I could completely understand this argument years ago but not today. In a 2019 report, overall DVD sales since 2008 have dropped 86%. Now I don’t know what PWG’s DVD sales are but if the overall entertainment industry has seen that dramatic of a drop and with so many pirate wrestling sites out there, I’m sure they have taken a sizable hit as well. It is likely why PWG was more open to offering digital copies and streaming via Highspots as it is obviously the cheaper option because it eliminates the cost of the DVDs. WWE is completely pulling out of the DVD market entirely in 2022 and with so many independent promotions offering their shows on platforms like FITE or Bleacher Report (AEW) or Peacock (WWE), with unlimited playbacks often times, the days of buying wrestling shows on physical media has seen its best days gone passed.
High Ticket Prices:
One theory, I recently heard is that PWG doesn’t want to do iPPV is because it is a huge selling point for them that the only way you can see the show live and avoid spoilers is to be there and that allows them to charge higher prices for tickets like $80 for standing room only. If that is truly PWG’s mindset here, I think they are way off the mark. Look at WWE or AEW, they are able to charge way higher ticket prices for their big shows (Wrestlemania, All Out, Royal Rumble, etc.) and they still offer PPV because they know that there is a demand to see this show more than the number of tickets in the arena. Not offering the PPV option is just leaving a substantial amount of money on the table. So, for me that argument just doesn’t hold water at all. If you are presenting a product that the audience wants to see they’ll pay to see it live for the experience because it is nothing like being in an arena of passionate fans. They are paying the higher prices for the experience and to me I don’t think they would see a drop off if they offered the show on PPV. The building that PWG is performing in the Globe Theater in Downtown Los Angeles holds about 1,700 fans, and there are a lot more fans than that want to see this show and would likely buy the iPPV to see BOLA for example live.
Being able to watch professional wrestling from all over the world has never been easier especially with the various wrestling streaming services or iPPV providers like FITE being available. I know years ago, the short lived FloSlam made an attempt to sign PWG to their service, but they weren’t interested, and it was probably a wise move considering how that service crashed and burned quickly. However, with options like FITE or Bleacher Report or even their longtime partner, Highspots, it may finally be time for PWG to take the leap and finally offer their product via iPPV in 2022. January’s BOLA would be the perfect show to do it. As the world is still trying to get out of this never-ending pandemic and with PWG not holding any shows in 2020 and only able to hold 3 in 2021, it would be amazing if they offered BOLA and potentially other shows in 2022 on iPPV. In regards to it impacting the ticket prices or DVD sales, a simple solution is to feature a match or two that is exclusive to the live crowd and for those not in attendance at the show they can see it on the DVD. That way fans can see the main show live and if they want to see the bonus match or matches bad enough, they may want to pick up the DVD and the live crowd is getting to see the bonus match live.
From a business standpoint, PWG is leaving a significant amount of money on the table by not offering iPPV as an option and they could even get a bigger payday if they sign with Highspots or FITE as the exclusive iPPV provider for example. Wrestling is going towards streaming and iPPVs and PWG should embrace this now and join the wave of momentum.