Drew Cordeiro AKA Denver Colorado (the man, not the place) is the mastermind behind the trangressive, progressive, post-modern Pro Wrestling outfit known as Beyond Wrestling. We talked to him about the creative process behind his unique company, the Beyond wrestlers you should be watching, the advantages of working together, the value of social media, and the nature of the art of Pro Wrestling. Enjoy!
Photos Courtesy Wayne Palmer
What do you love about Pro Wrestling?
I love the versatility of Pro Wrestling as an art form. I have access to a plethora of creative outlets which ensures that my work always remains fresh and exciting. In fact, I enjoy what I do so much that it very rarely feels like work. I can trace the origins of many of my longstanding friendships back to one common bond – wrestling. As strange as it may sound, when Beyond Wrestling was formed, I always wanted to use it as a platform to give back to the industry that had given me so much growing up. Even though Beyond Wrestling has come a long way since our pilot taping in May of 2009, we want to provide the wrestlers involved with the tools that they need to complete their individual goals. We’re just lucky that, by and large, the byproducts have been too good not to share.
Initially Beyond was described as a wrestling utopia where guys could come and perform free from the politics and pressure of the outside wrestling world. With the growth Beyond has gone through and the changes in creative direction, do you think that still applies?
It becomes more and more difficult to balance total freedom while trying to find our place within the world of independent wrestling, but it is a challenge I am willing to endure. We’ve taken countless steps to legitimize Beyond Wrestling which in turn lends more credibility to our achievements. The more popular Beyond Wrestling becomes the better chance we have pushing those who have sacrificed the time and energy to contribute to our project up the ladder. We’re not 100% effective in maintaining an environment absent of political influences (not that we ever were) but it is still something to strive for.
For those who don’t follow Beyond yet, who are some of your wrestlers you feel they should be seeking out?
Right now, for my money, Drew Gulak is the best on the roster, and that covers a lot of ground. Gulak is most prominently featured at CZW, but I feel like he is often overlooked since some fans are turned off by the deathmatch genre. Mark Angel hasn’t had a bad match since debuting for Beyond Wrestling in February of 2011. His change in disposition is disheartening but he is still producing between the ropes. Sugar Dunkerton has used Beyond Wrestling to demonstrate that he can connect with his strikes just as much as he can connect with his fans. In the time that he had to take off to heal his broken arm, he has only become more focused. He knows exactly what he wants out of wrestling which will only serve to further motivate him.
Jonny Mangue, Darius Carter, and Anthony Stone are all on the verge of something amazing. It is a shame that the scene is more exclusive than ever before, but we’re lucky to have these guys making positive contributions to our events. As more footage becomes published from our recent tapings, fans will be shocked that they haven’t seen more of the New Englanders that joined up with us when we relocated to the Northeast.
Beyond began by only have wrestlers in the audience but you’ve expanded into more traditional events recently. What brought that change and what have been some of the challenges and benefits of running fan attended events?
Beyond Wrestling reached its full potential at the Developmental Hell taping in November of 2010. We needed to move on to another challenge because it was going to be difficult to top our efforts without a change of scenery. We were contacted frequently by fans who wanted to attend our tapings, as well, so the timing seemed right.
The live events have been a total 180 since we’ve gone out of our way to make them as interactive as possible. The wrestlers remain ringside for every bout just as they would at a studio taping which opens up a direct line of communication between the wrestlers and fans. It took us a while to nail down the format but when fans leave saying it’s the most fun they’ve ever had at a wrestling show we know, we’re onto something really special.
In an industry where there’s often a resistance to working with other promotions, fostering relationships with other companies has been an important part of Beyond’s growth thus far.
It’s not just important – it is essential. We want our wrestlers to have as many opportunities as possible so we want to build relationships with as many promotions as we can. Sure, wrestlers can learn the mechanics of professional wrestling by training at a school (and that’s the right place to start), but the real experience comes from competing against a variety of opponents versed in different styles. In the last year alone we’ve worked with InterSpecies Wrestling, Absolute Intense Wrestling, New England Pro Wrestling Academy, CHIKARA, and now St. Louis Anarchy. These organizations have helped us reach a larger fanbase while allowing us to produce better events. The key to cultivating successful working relationships is making sure that the arrangements are mutually beneficial.
On that note, your next live show is Double Trouble, a joint show with St. Louis Anarchy. Tell us about your relationship with SLA, as well as everything on the show fans should be looking forward to.
I’ve known Davey Vega for years, so you’d imagine how excited I was when I found out he was competing at CHIKARA’s King Of Trios in 2009. The reception that he got, along with Gary Jay, Evan Gelistico, and Pierre Abernathy got was… less than stellar. Anyone else would have given up after being ridiculed to such an extent, but it only fueled their determination. Those guys, along with Mat Fitchett and now ACH, are on the road for hours at a time every weekend besides running their own promotion. Their work ethic is inspiring. The show is going to be awesome. We’re working with a number of competitors that have never competed in Cleveland. Absolute Intense Wrestling deserves credit as well for helping us organize this event.
Beyond has made significant use of the internet and social networking. It’s grown from you putting full matches on YouTube to Pitboss threatening fans by name based on who accepted invites on Facebook to having a campaign where fan funded ACH’s flight into Beyond. Talk to us about the value of interaction between fans and promoters online.
I always get upset when our detractors talk about Beyond Wrestling like we’re “too good for the marks.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Our closed tapings are controlled environments designed specifically to force wrestlers to compete at a higher level to impress the other wrestlers who are ringside for every bout. There is a huge trial and error element to Beyond Wrestling and sometimes the content we produce during our studio tapings isn’t suitable for a paying audience. In other words, the footage never sees the light of day.
But we’re lucky to live in a day and age where online resources allow us to have direct contact with fans. Since they are unable to attend every event, we have to turn to social media to make the experience as interactive as possible. We’ve had an undeniable influence throughout the industry when it comes to media distribution and we’re always looking to innovate. Of course we’ve seen over the past few weeks that this direct line of communication between fans, wrestlers, and promoters may not always be a good thing. There are some that are selfishly looking out for their own best interests rather than the interests of the fans or the industry at large. It does more harm than good reaching out to these types.
The concept was really simple – take eight of the most exciting but overlooked competitors on the scene and release the whole show for free in its entirety. The wrestlers that made it to the finals got more exposure than everyone else since all three of their bouts were put up for the world to see. All of the matches, as well as non-tournament contests, previews, promos, interviews, biographies, and blogs from the competitors were posted to a Tumblr account making it super easy to follow. This November, we will tape Tournament For Tomorrow II. All eight qualifying matches will pit a male wrestler against a female opponent. We want to give as many deserving wrestlers as possible a shot, regardless of their gender.
Female wrestlers and intergender matches have long been a part of Beyond wrestling. Do you think more promotions should bridge the gender the gap?
This is a very delicate question. No, I don’t think more promotions should try and bridge the gap because I don’t think everyone has the progressive thought process required to pull off these unique match combinations. CHIKARA, Anarchy Championship Wrestling, and PWG to an extent all deserve credit for their efforts over the past few years. There are some girls that can straight up go and they should be recognized for their ability. It also works best on an independent level, where smaller male athletes are more prominent, eliminating the differences in size, thereby making the match-ups more believable.
This is a very interesting question, as well, but will be more interesting this time next week.
Personally, what sort of music, movies, TV shows, books, etc. are you into? Anything that has particular influence in your creative direction for Beyond?
I’m a workaholic and very rarely have time to read or watch TV or go to the movies. Drew Gulak and Jarek 1:20 both recommended books which I downloaded my phone but I haven’t even had a chance to open the files yet. My television is always tuned into TV Land since I watch old sitcoms to help me fall asleep (when I do). The last flick I saw in the theaters was “Three Stooges” because I thought it was absurd to cast Larry David as a woman.
I don’t draw inspiration from the work of others. I draw inspiration from those that I work with. With that said, I love to eat, and I’m not bashful about it. My whole family works the kitchen for our live events in Bridgewater, MA, and the food is becoming a bigger draw than the wrestling. It definitely contributes to the overall experience and adds a dimension not found at other wrestling shows.
You view Pro Wrestling as not just a business but as an art form. How do you think that effects your approach as a promoter?
I make my decisions based on what I think is best for the wrestlers and for the fans. A lot of other places will make their decisions based on the bottom line. You have to remember that Beyond Wrestling is not run like a typical independent wrestling promotion. The original business plan did not call for DVD sales or live event tickets as sources of income and even to this day, both are break-even affairs, but both were necessary to increase our reach. Would I like to make more money? Sure, but if there is extra cash coming in, it would only be reinvested to help us better achieve our goals.
What are some companies or some wrestlers out their not affiliated with Beyond that you feel are doing new and interesting things with the sport.
Not affiliated? That makes this question difficult to answer since we have so many working relationships. CZW features some of the best Junior Heavyweights in wrestling and I love how the athletic contests compliment the ultraviolent matches. It’s a neat dichotomy. AAW in Chicago have an awesome live show and their presentation is very professional. From what I remember, they play packages on a projection screen in between every match which certainly adds to the experience. I was really impressed by the first EVOLVE show and thought it had the potential to change wrestling. I keep it in mind when planning every live event. Everything moved so fast.
What is Beyond’s greatest accomplishment thus far?
Beyond Wrestling’s YouTube channel is the fifth most watched for any promotion in the entire world behind 1. TNA (who had an official partnership dating back to 2006, I believe) 2. WWE 3. NJPW 4. ROH. That was never even something we set out to do. It really is a credit to how much support Beyond Wrestling has. Something that always bugs me is that some of our best ever matches are on DVDs that have been seen by less than 50 people. At least when we throw something up on YouTube it has the potential to reach a worldwide audience. Some of those contests have been seen by over 10,000 people. That helps the popularity of the competitors involved which in theory makes them more appealing to promoters.
If someone reading this interview has a crazy idea for starting a unique promotion, what advice would you give them?
Make as many connections as possible. Be prepared for fans and wrestlers alike to hate what you’re doing just because it is different. Don’t abandon the inherent traits needed to be successful in wrestling like respect and trust. Everyone thinks that their way is the best way to do something, but you need to be flexible. Every decision must be made with a goal in mind. Oh yeah, one last thing. If your top priority is to make money, I would throw your start up costs into a CD because everyone is struggling to scrape by, despite what they may let on.
Beyond subverts countless wrestling conventions. Do you see this as more of a way to make Beyond stand out on its own, or as a way of provoking change to the rest of the industry?
There is no sense following in the footsteps of others. Beyond Wrestling gives everyone involved the freedom to try new things, whether they succeed or fail. One of the few lessons that has always stuck with me from college is a concept known as “Blue Ocean Strategy.” If you do your own thing, there is less of a chance of competition. Some of our more inventive qualities have been lifted by promotions with far more resources. It doesn’t bother me that we go uncredited because it is rewarding knowing that we’ve had a positive influence. We’re going to keep trying new things and see who follows. We may not have as much buzz as some other companies, but I can guarantee there are hundreds of eyeballs within the industry watching our every move.
To learn more about Beyond Wrestling follow them on Twitter (@BeyondWrestling), Facebook, their Official Website LookMaNoFans.com, and their Youtube Channel. Their next show is Double Trouble and is this Saturday, June 16th in Cleveland, Ohio featuring Johnny Gargano vs. ACH, RD Evans vs. Johnny Cockstrong, Mark Angel vs. Drew Gulak, Pinkie Sanchez’ final Beyond match and more. Full info and tickets are available here. Also, check out this full match where Pinkie Sanchez, Aaron Epic, and Taka Suzuki take on The Pitboss & The Hate Junkies: