By: Cam Vale
Promoting or co-promoting with IMPACT Wrestling their Downunder tour was both the most exciting and nerve-racking event in my 22-year sports administration career.
I have been across events at AFL with North Melbourne Football Club and then also at Hockey Australia and Baseball Australia where I was CEO – so everything from national to international, multi-sport, world championships, etc.
Wrestling is a sporting event and mirroring so many of the events I have done but like those three sports – whenever you do something for the first time you are on steep learning curve. I tried to be as professional as possible, wherever I could.
I had a great team around me with a great group from Melbourne City Wrestling and in particular from IMPACT Wrestling, Scott D’Amore and head of their broadcast production Dan Rehel – but that is it, two people from IMPACT to help run a show in Australia for the first time, in a regional location at a venue that had never hosted anything like that – that is the story here.
Initially of course this was meant to be a NJPW show, and working with NJPW and the respected Toks Fale, so it was also a bit bittersweet as Fale was the first one to back me in, so not working with him was a bummer.
Oceania Pro Wrestling – OPW – I created to build events that match the best in Australia with the best around the world. I am not looking to compete against the great local brands in each major capital city, but instead showcase the best in Australian wrestling – wrestlers, ring announcers, referees, backstage people and other key areas of support with international talent in key events – ideally on Australian TV as well which is maybe article 2!
I have followed wrestling all my life but am not the wrestling guy from the industry – but neither was I the AFL guy, the Hockey guy or the Baseball guy when I started in those sports – I became part of those sports from engaging and putting in the effort, leading and wanting to grow each sport and those inside each sport.
So, in creating initially the NJPW Oceania Cup that then became IMPACT Downunder, I did so with a partnership model mindsight knowing I have significant business, commercial and high-performance experience in sport, and then working with those that know this sport the best.
I treat pro wrestling as majority (let’s say 80%) sport, and the rest the entertainment – almost the perfect mix from the business side.
I also strongly believe that like other sports, our pro wrestling talent in and out of the ring, need to be exposed to the best in the world as we are better than most in the world but seemed to get marked down due to distance and at times ignorance about Australia. I saw this in baseball all the time thus the Australian baseball league was about international and Australian talent.
The Australian wrestling talent I knew would excel at this event and they did, as did the refs and the ring announcers, whilst the operations went well. I am sure none of us would give ourselves a 10 out of 10, but we all will have learnt and will consolidate that next time.
The IMPACT talent were at the top of the athletes I have worked with over 20 years in elite sport, not just because of what they did in the ring on Friday and Saturday night, but how they embraced the Community activities on the Thursday and the fan engagement on the Sunday.
I am overall happy with how things went but learnt a lot and will improve.
I am proud of the Showcase Event and Scott D’Amore backing it in – more will come from that in the coming months.
I want to make that a feature moving forward whilst building a stronger audience and how it fits into the model of the events I create. We will announce shortly where the Showcase can be seen but it will be on free to air TV. The athletes – sorry I keep calling them athletes as that is what I see them as from my background in sport, I know they are wrestlers but this Showcase group – outstanding athletes/wrestlers who worked with a rookie like me exceptionally well.
Why this model which is different to other wrestling models
- Its what I know and have done well at. Make a 3-4 day event, engage the community, fans and put on a good show.
- Regional – Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth have very good local promotions so I want to go regional and national.
- TV – I will create a product to engage broadcasters, hopefully with others in the industry as I am a partnership mindset guy.
For those wrestling fans that enjoyed it, or if you couldn’t go and backed it in, thank you – I am always humbled when those that are the key to sporting events – the fans and athletes, do well.
Thanks to the Australian talent and workers in and out of the ring – the easiest part I had was telling IMPACT boss Scott D’Amore we could do it with Aussies matched to the IMPACT stars. I won’t name names, but a few really helped me with genuine advice and support, which was critical to this event going well.
Thanks to NSW Government – they backed this in, it was important we went regional and showed a venue like the Equex Centre is capable of hosting other sports. Throw in Wagga Council – brilliant support across all activities.
Thanks to the IMPACT wrestlers, amazing people that are almost too humble – this IMPACT brand is international top tier elite wrestling, grossly underrated and maybe too humble.
Thanks to Dan Rehel and Scott D’Amore at IMPACT – I couldn’t have done it without Dan’s support and late-night calls (his time) and Scott for backing me in which was a big leap of faith by him. Again – two IMPACT people and we delivered a two-night international show.
All other partners and suppliers – to many to name, you lifted me and this event up.
OPW is not going anywhere, and we have some exciting things to announce soon. I want OPW to play a strong but small part in this industry growth – pro wrestling is a great business product so knowing the talent is here, I am confident in my model. But I am staying in my lane – the business and leadership side and won’t be getting in the ring or being a booker anytime soon!
And to those that complained about it being in Wagga or shit-canned the event or me – hey you are entitled to your opinion. But when you opinion is more like a social media troll comment, no one of influence pays any attention. When it is constructive – someone like me who believes you need to listen and learn and anyone is capable of giving you something really good to work with, I pay attention, as some fans know when I thanked them directly.
Wrestling is a strong product and if you are a fan, you should want anyone contributing to wrestling in this country – in or out of the ring, to be successful, as it is still an uphill battle with non-wrestling fans – so the more people helping push us forward the better, rather than throwing stones from the outside.