David Marquez and The Western Front: California Indie Breaks Out

0

When the Great Collapse of mainstream professional wrestling occurred in 2001 – when the WWE purchased WCW and absorbed ECW – many predicted the absolute end of professional wrestling as we know it. The juggernaut of the WWE was now in absolute control of the world’s pro wrestling market and everyone else would be reduced to bingo halls forever – after all, if the financially backed territories of the NWA and AWA couldn’t compete with Vince McMahon and the WWF, what chance did smaller promotions have with less budget or star power against a corporation that was now even richer and powerful than its last two Great Wars. But in a way they would be right – it did change the landscape forever. You see, where the territories failed – and ultimately the majors like WCW and ECW – was that they died trying to compete with the WWE. Sure, ECW was a lot more hardcore and edgier, and some of the territories had their “stamps”, but in the end, the territories died because they couldn’t keep up with Vince and his TV, the Monday Night Wars ended because ultimately no one can out-Vince Vince on television. Taking on the McMahonpire was as futile as resisting the Borgs.

THE RISE OF THE INDIES

So these new territories emerged – now referred to as indies (independents) – but instead of trying to fight the WWE with a similar product, they decided to remain organic and grassroots and instead produce a product that was dissimilar with the Stamford blueprint and showcased talent that the WWE watch seemed uninterested in. Promotions like PWG in California, Ring of Honor, Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), and CHIKARA in Philadelphia, and TNA in Nashville all rose from the ashes and began to offer real alternatives to the WWE style of storytelling and ring work. Cult followings began and they soon became congregations, with most of them rising to national prominence in the wrestling mainstream, profitable companies that were able to grow and build (most of the time), and whose talent scouting and booking began to influence the very landscape of the WWE Universe – well over 50% of the WWE’s current roster passed through a few of the major indies before landing in Connecticut.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

And with a resurgence in the world of indie wrestling, with ROH, CHIKARA, EVOLVE, and more now touring beyond their smaller “territories”, plus the indies foresight in jumping onto the on-line world of streaming long before there was a WWE Network, it’s only natural that many of United States’ strongest markets are getting national coverage on cable television and touring to become viable major promotions – they’re all still miles from the WWE, but the fight for #2 to #10 have never been closer. But oddly, a major force out of one of the US’ largest states – and arguably it’s most creative and wealthiest – California, has not truly appeared. Sure, they’ve got Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG), arguably one of the most well known indies in the world. Their annual Battle of Los Angeles tournament is one of the most prestigious wrestling tourneys of the year. It was one of the first ten things on Cody Rhodes’ “List” when he left the WWE last year (he wrestled at the 2016 BOLA). But the ownership – former PWG wrestlers Super Dragon and Excalibur – seem quite content where PWG is at. They’ve happily remained steadfast to Reseda, California and rarely leave the same arena (which holds a miniscule audience for what it could get). They don’t tour, they don’t do European tours – they just book monthly shows with some of the very best indie talent in the world and make lots of cash off DVD sales and online streaming. Their working agreement with the East Coast’s ROH only makes it far less enticing to travel that way – they can use ROH stars to cast their shows and their talent can find work on the East Coast without their assistance. Hey, not everyone needs to be McMahon wealthy or famous. Some bands would rather stay Sonic Youth their entire career than be a Spin Doctors for one year. And while PWG’s stuff is readily available on-demand at the Highspots Network, they have no regular programming on television.

Another argument could be made for Lucha Underground – after all, it tapes in California. But Lucha Underground isn’t exactly a promotion. It’s a television show that just happens to feature wrestling as part of it. It’s not a live event, it’s a match in front of a studio audience. They don’t even tour or put on live events locally. In all reality, Lucha Underground has more in common with the original GLOW than it does Ring of Honor.

DAVE MARQUEZ AND CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FROM HOLLYWOOD

But there is one promotion out of California that has the potential to really step up California’s presence in the world of television wrestling. And that’s Championship Wrestling of Hollywood (CWFM) and the mind of David Marquez, a TV broadcast/production man who has worked for WWE, WCW, WSX, XPW, ROH, NJPW, you name it. Back in the mid-2000’s, he helped New Japan open the original NJPW US Dojo. He has nearly a 30 year career in the wrestling industry.

The promotion – as well as its subsequent television show of the same name  – debuted on September 7, 2010. Since then, they’ve appeared weekly, first on local television stations in California, slowly expanding their reach to many stations across the United States. In the beginning it was originally booked by Adam Pierce (now a WWE Producer), then Joey Ryan, and Dave Lagana, before Joe Franciosi and Angelo Trinidad took over the realms in 2011. David Marquez, the creator of the show and owner of the promotion, directs the television show and handles the production side.

Marquez with former NWA World Tag Team champions, The Real American Heroes (Joey Ryan and Karl Anderson), 2007

But in the past week, CWFH has received two big jolts in the newswires of professional wrestling – first a new alliance, followed by news of national television distribution.

CWFM Meets CZW

CZW co-owner DJ Hyde

It was reported yesterday by PWInsider that David Marquez had purchased ownership in CZW. Originally founded by John Zandig in 1999, it was bought out by DJ Hyde (David John Markland) in 2009. A few months back, Hyde stepped down as head of creative and brought in Sami Callihan, ushering in a new direction for CZW – a promotion more famous for it’s extreme violence than most anything else. Presumably, Marquez will be handling the video production end of things, revamping and updating the promotion’s presentation. It also gives Marquez access to the CZWStudios site – CZW’s on-demand streaming network that also houses Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU – which Hyde also owns), British Empire Wrestling (BEW), Big Japan, Preston City Wrestling (PCW), Jersey All Pro Wrestling (JAPW) and Ignite Wrestling to name a few. Marquez and Markland’s connection has gone on longer than they’re recently business dealing – since 2013, they’ve been allies under the United Wrestling Network (UWN) banner, a unified governing body that oversees several indies around the world, including CWFH, CZW, WSU, New England Championship Wrestling (NECW), Winnipeg’s Canadian Wrestling Elite (CWE) and Japan’s Pro Wrestling Zero1. The UWN acts as a board of governance, similar to what the NWA was during its heydey in the 1960s and 1970s. The network of promotions, combining both the CZWStudios and UWN is impressive.

CWFH GOES NATIONAL

Photo: CWFM

Yesterday, David Marquez announced a national television deal for Championship Wrestling From Hollywood with The CW Network (formerly The WB and UPN), starting on October 7, 2017. The show will now be televised nationally on 110 CW Plus affiliates across the country. While it’s only available in about 11% of the country’s homes, that’s still impressive for a lower level indie promotion and can only help with marketing CWFH outside of just word of mouth on social media. It’s 11% more television coverage than PROGRESS or PWG are getting. Small steps forward are still exactly that – steps forward.

From CWFH’s press release:

“CWFH has come a very long way. Our company has been around for 14 years and we’ve always have had some sort of television presentation, but it wasn’t until KDOC-TV in Los Angeles gave us the chance to shine 7 years ago that we hit our stride. Today, I’m proud to add these new CW Plus television stations to our existing distribution. Over the years we’ve been able to establish a loyal fan base and many of those people live in the areas where we’ll be premiering on Oct. 7th. I’m also excited because of the timing. We’ve been planning our upcoming United Wrestling Network World Championship Tournament and this coverage will help us build anticipation to that event. I’d like to thank everyone for their continued support and to everyone who helped craft this syndication.” said CWFH Executive Producer David Marquez.

The CW Plus (CWP) is The CW Network’s broadcast platform that distributes programming exclusively to smaller television markets. CWP provides a 24/7 program schedule to these affiliates, with The CW’s primetime schedule as its centerpiece. CWP’s line-up is supplemented by first-run and off-net syndicated programming. CWP is currently available in 111 markets, and reaches roughly 12.8 million homes, or 11% of US television households on an NTI basis.

The CW Plus stations join WVVH-TV New York City, KDOC-TV Los Angeles, KDCO-TV Denver, KWWL-TV Waterloo, WADL-TV Detroit, You Too America, Tuff TV and FITE as a part of the company’s weekly distribution.

With a new shared ownership of CZW with CWFH, coupled with a new national television deal, expect Marquez’ wrestling vision to flourish and perhaps finally give California the strong touring major indie promotion it deserves.

LEAVE A REPLY