8:20-9:10: Professionals and the Pandemic

Professional wrestling is often performed before a live audience. Whether in the dozens or the thousands, live audiences interact with wrestlers and can help sell matches, characters, storylines, and even entire promotions. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has made it hard to host these live audiences. So how has professional wrestling fared during this pandemic?

This panel brings together promoters from around the world to present their experiences during the past year.

Sam West of Wrestling Resurgence

Sam West is currently a doctoral researcher in the School of Design and Creative Arts at Loughborough University. Sam’s research, which is part of Loughborough’s Storytelling Academy, focuses on applied storytelling in independent professional wrestling. Sam is uncovering the hidden knowledge and history of theatrical wrestling to understand how performers use physical movement and vocalization to tell stories. He is also exploring the unique ways that wrestling incorporates digital technology, such as social media, to extent stories beyond live performance into the wider world. Prior to starting his research, Sam was a professional curator, specializing in performance art, film, and photography, with a particular interest in contemporary art relating to the human body.  

Alongside his research, Sam runs the theater-led, UK based, independent wrestling company Wrestling Resurgence, which has grown out from publicly funded free events, into a fully-fledged, commercially viable, independent wrestling company. Wrestling Resurgence was founded in 2017, and until the global pandemic had been running bi-monthly small-scale events in Leicester, Loughborough, and Nottingham.

In conjunction with Wrestling Resurgence, Sam has received consecutive Arts Council England Project Grants (Art & Wrestling, 2018, Everything Patterned, 2019, Combat Theatre 2020). The most recent of these funding grants is to create a series of short films exploring the history of wrestling in British theater. The films are currently being developed under covid-19 restrictions and are scheduled release in early April.    

Vinayak Sodhi of Wrestle Square

Vinayak Sodhi aka Vins, born and raised in Noida, is a lifelong wrestling fan and supporter.  He works as a digital marketer as his 2nd profession (first is wrestling, of course).  He’s the founder/promoter of India’s first independent wrestling promotion known as Wrestle Square. A wrestler himself since 2015 when he trained in pro wrestling in the backyard with other wrestlers and then had the opportunity to visit other international independent promotions to train further.

However, his main goal is to become India’s #1 wrestling promoter. Since his profession is digital marketer, most of the work of their promotion is handled by him: from training new students to booking the matches, video production, graphic designing, and all other work. He started Wrestle Square in 2015 when he met very inspiring wrestler Baliyan Akki (who currently wrestles in Japa), and at that time there were no active wrestling promotions in India and only a few wrestlers were trained in backyard wrestling. 

India is currently a top consumer of wrestling content. His aim in starting  Wrestle Square was to provide a platform for Indian talent to get international exposure and make India one of the leading talents and wrestling industries of the world. Wrestle Square runs a professional wrestling academy in Delhi (National Capital Region) India, and in 2019 WWE visited the academy and featured it on their YouTube channel. 

Wrestle Square works along with several Independent wrestling promotions in Asia including IWF (Russia), SPW (Singapore), SETUP (Thailand), Gatoh Move (Japan), MYPW (Malaysia), and many other neighboring independent promotions. Wrestle Square is the only Indian company that produced a wrestling TV show in conjunction with LEX Sportel, which was broadcast on Discovery Sport in 2019.

Jeremy Gomez of Generation Championship Wrestling

Jeremy Gomez is currently the Owner / Operator of Generation Entertainment Fl and Generation Championship Wrestling, both out of Tampa, Florida. Founded in 2011, Generation Entertainment specializes is Large Scale Outdoor Events, incorporating food, music and live entertainment and is currently the Guinness World Record holder of The Largest Parade of Food Trucks (121 Trucks) and The World Record of The Largest Food Truck Event (208 Trucks), both set on March 29th, 2014, in Tampa. Generation Entertainment Fl now host events all over the United States, including “The Worlds Largest Food Truck Rally,” ” The World’s Largest Food Truck Rally: River Days Detroit,” “The Original Tampa Bay Grilled Cheese Fest,” “Tampa Bay Chocolate Festival,” “Bacon & Brews,” “Canna Fest Florida,” “Taste of Asia Fest” and many more. Generation Entertainment Fl is proud to work hand in hand with over 500 family owned small businesses from coast to coast. 

Generation Championship Wrestling, founded in 2018, is a professional wrestling company out of Central Florida. With over 30 live events under its belt, and boasting one of the best women’s divisions in the world, Generation Championship Wrestling is now regarded as one of the premier independent wrestling companies in the Southern United States. Hosting wrestlers from all over the globe, and almost every major promotion on Earth, GCW is streamed live on TitleMatchNetwork.com.

Combined, the company’s events boast an annual attendance of over 275k+.

Laura and Gene Miller of Diamond Championship Wrestling

Laura and Gene Miller are the owners of Diamond Championship Wrestling. According to Laura, “We are a proud, veteran-owned professional wrestling company that run established shows monthly at the Pascagoula VFW Post #3373 and the Ryan Youth Center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.” A fully licensed and insured company, they generate money for the VFW and the community as a whole with their shows. They also own and operate the Diamond Mine Wrestling Academy, a professional wrestling training school.

Gene has 30-plus years wrestling for the NWA/WCW and WWF, as well as many independent organizations, and has owned two successful companies in Michigan and now DCW on the gulf. He wrestled under the name “Hard Time” Gene Austin and was trained by Jerry Oats in Georgia. For more, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DCW2017 and their website www.DiamondChampionshipWrestling.com.

Diego Piancentini of Italian Wrestling Association

Diego Piacentini created Italian Wrestling Association in October 2016 after being a fan from early 2000, a columnist for 3 years on wrestling websites, and working in the press office for another Italian promotion. He has a degree in Economy and Management and is a digital marketing specialist. From October 2016, IWA had nearly 40 shows, a big number for the Italian wrestling scene, and had even development partnerships across Europe and Canada. According to Diego, “I think that cooperation is the best way to get exposure today in the wrestling business and maybe also to fight this COVID-19 crisis.”

Dann Read of EVE — Riot Grrls of Wrestling

Dann Read began his career in the wrestling industry training at Hammerlock Wrestling in October 2000. He was taken under the wing of Chris Champion AKA Sinn, Yoshi Kwan (WCW) and one half of The New Breed (US) in the 80s. He began promoting / producing / booking wrestling events in 2002 before being brought into the FWA in the UK, which at the time was the UK’s most famous wrestling promotion, to co-promote there.

Dann continued to promote independently, including promoting the UK’s first ever death match tournament (which he’s sworn to never do again) the UK’s first ever live independent wrestling iPPV, and Europe’s largest ever all women’s wrestling event. He created the first ever link between European and Japanese women’s wrestling that has continued to flourish. 

Dann is the promoter / producer / booker of “that show where Kota Ibushi shot fireworks onto his chest” that you’ve probably seen the gif of from his XWA [UK] brand. He has worked with everyone from Aja Kong and Bret Hart to Vader and Yuka Sakazaki. He has written / co-produced wrestling segments for non-wrestling live events and TV shows such as Reading Festival and the BBC.

He is currently promoting / producing / booking EVE – Riot Grrrls of Wrestling as well as producing Wrestling Producer content on the EVE YouTube channel. EVE is the most commercially known wrestling product within the mainstream media in the UK.
Prior to the pandemic, and its shut down of live events, EVE boasted an impressive live attendance ratio of 75% women to 25% men.

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