Well, here we are returning w a "special interview" w Wrestlejam owner and promoter Mike Banks, who runs a fine annual show in CT. This is number 54, since Sept 2004. I hope you enjoy, and please comment on the "Wrestlejam " thread on the INDY SECTION.
1. How long have you been a fan of pro wrestling, and who were some of your favorites?
- I've been a fan for as long as I can remember. I can't recall the first match that hooked me, but ever since I was 5 years old wrestling was all I watched. My favorites growing up were Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold, and Rey Mysterio.
2.Now, you have been an indy fan for a several years, What are some of the plus's and minuses of the indy shows in your eyes?
- Indy wrestling is not the same as it used to be when I was much younger. Back then, nobody wanted to be "different" - Now, it seems almost everyone is trying to be different. The plus's are definitely seeing better match quality (sometimes,) the up close interaction between fans/wrestlers, and it's overall a more fun environment. The minuses are the fanbase/economy. A strong attendance isn't guaranteed anymore, sometimes due to the economy and often times, fans get tired of the WWE product, and some think that if the major league wrestling company can't deliver to their satisfaction, then certainly a minor league isn't worth their time. It's sad but true. Another minus is too many untrained guys, I won't even call them wrestlers. It's dangerous and it's a disgrace to the guys who went through proper training. A big pet peeve of mine is workers expecting to get in a show for free, simply for the fact that they are workers. If you're not booked, not a guest of someone booked, didn't help the show at all, or didn't give any courteous notice - there is no reason why you should get in for free. Too many fly by night promotions, kayfabe's nonexistance, and when there's no care nor control over shows are all other examples of the minuses at indy shows.
3. Who/What prompted you to start the Wrestlejam shows?
- WrestleJam was just suppose to be a one time fundraiser for my high school. I aligned with the now defunct, Connecticut Championship Wrestling - did 2 shows and that was that. But no, it really wasn't. The more I got to see/get involved in the process of putting on shows, the more I began to really like it. So once I graduated high school, I wanted to do more shows. I thought of the name WrestleJam for the school fundraiser, so I rolled with that and kept the concept of running once a year... kind of like a WrestleMania (if you will) aspect. The chance to see never before seen matches, no politics in the way, and just a fun night of exciting wrestling.
4. How is it, especially in your early shows, to be looked at as a "Kid promoter"? Was it easy to get the respect of the wrestlers, and did wrestlers ever question the booking, due to your age?
- "Kid promoters" often have a bad reputation. They don't know what they're doing and/or they don't have the right direction. At first, I had the help of CCW and Bulldog Blanski, so the wrestlers knew they weren't just accepting a kid's booking. But once I branched away, that was a big concern of mine. As the years went by, I feel I started to gain the respect of the wrestlers. Things were ran professionally and accordingly, that my age wasn't a factor anymore. Turning 24 years of age this June, I couldn't be any happier with what I started and the respect that has been given not only to myself but to the WrestleJam name.
5. Tell us about some of your favorite matches that you have promoted as part of the Wrestlejam shows. Favorite moments at the shows, etc ?
- There's several, but from memory, The CHIKARA Trios Tags (WJ6, WJ5 & WJ3), Gran Akuma/Kid Mikaze (WJ5), Jigsaw/Hallowicked (WJ4), Claudio Castagnoli/John Walters (WJ4), Jason Blade/Frankie Arion (WJ5), Brian Fury/Scott Reed (WJ6), Spider/Dan Barry Ladders Legal (WJ1) stand out as my personal favorite matches. All the WrestleJam shows are available for purchase! http://wrestlejam.tripod.com ...My favorite moments are seeing the looks on fans faces if they're having a good time, and how fans thank me for a good show after each event. That alone makes me feel proud and grateful that I have such a respectful fanbase.
6. What goes into your thinking when you sit down and start thinking about the shows? Is there any kind of "winning formula" that you think any promoter should follow, not just you?
- I'm still young, so I'm still learning about promoting myself. I'm blessed to know what I do now, but am even more thankful to have received help/advice from: Mike Quackenbush, Bulldog Blanski, Mike Milano, Joe LaChance, Dave Padula, Matt & Kyle Storm and Nocturne. All of these men have took the time to help me in one way or another and I am very grateful. But from my perspective, as far as a winning formula: certainly get input from a respected/known promoter (that you can trust), go to shows and keep up to date and see what or who the fans like/don't like, promote your product anywhere possible, and really think what can you offer from your product that will make fans want to go. Staying away from petty arguments on message boards does help. Every promoter has every right to defend their product, but within reason. Having respect for your staff/locker room and having common sense is also an important factor.
7. Another factor with your age is likely trust w the actual show itself, once the matches are signed. Describe how the booking works for you, etc? You have had help in the past I believe, how did that work, and how do things work today, esp w the upcoming show on July 16?
- I used to have help from CCW and Bulldog back when I was just starting. Being so young and inexperienced you feel you have to listen/do certain things... and looking back at past WrestleJam shows, I was not happy with a few of the matches held. From 2008 to now, branching away to myself has been the better decision. I don't book just my friends, I don't take full credit if I didn't do it, I don't put the blame on someone else if something goes wrong, and there's no creative idea battles.
8. You started training with the CHIKARA Wrestle Factory in Philly a few years back. Can you tell us what training was like and how was it to be trained under the experience of some of the most respected names in the world?
- Yes, I began training with the CHIKARA Wrestle Factory in January 2009 (hence no WrestleJam that year.) I always wanted to be a wrestler and while I was still young, I didn't want to ask myself "what if?" I've been a CHIKARA fan for some time, as I love the Lucha Libre style and I've also had a longterm working relationship with Mike Quackenbush and CHIKARA in bringing them here to New England. One thing lead to another, and I began making the roundtrip 6 hour drive once/sometimes twice a week from CT to Philadelphia, PA. If I wanted to be a great wrestler, I certainly wasn't going to settle for less than best training. Training with Quackenbush and Claudio was an honor and one of the best experiences. Everything is broken down into smaller than small steps, so you can understand the way it works, and of course how to perfect it little by little. Psychology was big and was taught every time for us to understand the way things work inside/outside the ring. Cardio was insane! I often wanted to throw up or pass out from dizziness, I never did though so I was happy about that... but if you're going to be a luchador, you should expect the conditioning to be rigorous. Being a student you're also expected to help with the shows. Sometimes I had to wake up at 4am, make the drive and be on time for ring crew. It was during the shows, that I got to see how much of a tight-knit family CHIKARA really was. It was there that I learned a lot about promoting from Quack too which I began using on the WrestleJam events. But everyone welcomes you and always tries to help you in some way. I highly recommend training at CHIKARA. The experience is unlike anything else. Unfortunately, I had to stop training. Too much personal stuff kept me from keeping my mind on training/traveling, and that's not safe. Eventually, I may return though. Never give up on your dream.
9. Taking all into account for this years show, what would make it a "success" overall in your opinion, not just ticket sales. Give us some thoughts on the various matches you signed and what the fans can expect from the whole Wrestlejam show experience?
- Besides ticket sales, the biggest success a show can have is if your fans leave happy. Sometimes the fans don't get into it as much as you may want, but you can't tell a fan what to do in how to spend their money. Regardless of which, fans leaving happy is a big success. As you can tell, WrestleJam clashes all sorts of wrestling styles/wrestlers in one show. We try to mix it up and give something special to everyone for fans of the technical, lucha, American, high flying, comedy. That's what helps make the WrestleJam experience so different. It's a blend of different things. Wrestlers CT doesn't get the chance to see often or at all, showcasing many First Time Ever matches (some which would never happen to begin with), and we're so focused on being Family friendly, that the fans know they can enjoy a very unique show and bring their kids without any fear. Every fan is important... while we try to please everyone, I realized you just can't please everybody.
10. Feel free to discuss anything I haven't covered. Thanks Mike for your time.
- Thank you for the time, Scott. And a big thank you to everyone who has been a WrestleJam supporter. I can't stress enough how much I personally appreciate it, as well as the staff who help make WrestleJam possible. We return to action, Saturday July 16th in Hamden, CT with TNA Impact Wrestling star: Amazing Red! Come out and bring the kids, and experience the most talked about, entertaining, family show in CT!
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