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  Sep. 19, 2001

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Struggles on the indy circuit
Where can the young guys go?

By DUKE DURRANGO -- For SLAM! Wrestling

For those of you who donít know me -- most of you wonít -- my name is Duke Durrango, and I'm an independent wrestler in Canada, based out of Calgary. I was trained by Bruce Hart, and conditioned by his brother Ross in the famed Dungeon.

At the risk of sounding passé, I never, ever anticipated being involved in the wrestling business. That is until five years ago, someone told me that Iíd be in Japan in a year making $3,000 a week. Sounded good to me. Having had a long career as an amateur wrestler, what better than to keep wrestling and get paid for it. Or so I was told? So with an exchange of amateur training for some of the Hart kids, they trained me as a pro, and here I am five years later, certainly not making a living wrestling, never mind $3,000/week.
Duke Durrango

In recent months the wrestling industry has taken some incredible turns. For better or worse? With the most recent real big news being WWFís take over of WCW, a move that for now seems to be working very well for WWFE. But at the same time one has to look at the effect of this move on the independent worker.

At one time itís been said that there were 30 very good-to-excellent promotions in North America. At that time it is also said that vast numbers of workers (I was told in the range of 3,000) made a 'living' working between all of these various territories. Iíll be honest and be up front with you -- I havenít exactly researched this fact, but speaking with many veterans, I get the impression such was the case, sometime around the '70s.

I think I can also make this assumption very safely -- I donít think this is anywhere near the case today. Personally, I havenít been around long enough to know when the last time really more than a handful of guys working for the big two, or three, depending on the era, made a living wrestling.

Some people ask, 'Why, what happened?' The only answer you can offer is, 'The big promotions.' As with any business, there is always a large conglomerate willing to buy what it needs in order to control a certain market. Good or bad, thatís capitalism. Of course we all know thatís what happened with wrestling. The money to be made is in the big promotions, with their television deals. The traditional sources of revenue for the independents are totally hampered by the strength of the big promotion.

Number one, the talent. Before you can run a viable promotion you have to be able to provide the best talent available. If one huge company has all of the best guys from all of these small territories, and the local television markets as well, what do people want to watch? The stars from their old territory, as well as the other territories' best guys are on this show, hence the people watch. Once they have experienced the large production values, wrestling in stockyards, like the much heralded Pavilion where Stampede Wrestling made its name here in Calgary, doesnít cut it. No smoke, no lights, therefore NO SALE! Thus the Indy promotion canít produce the revenue to provide the best talent available. If you have a roster of mediocre talent, expect to draw mediocre crowds without a miracle booker. There is something to be said for good booking bringing in good crowds, and there are also a lot of great bookers running some great programs in front of some very small houses. But they are few and far between.

Number two, television advertising. Itís been proven time and time again that wrestling is a television driven industry. Once the networks smell the advertising dollars of the big production and the ratings pop, their minds are made up rather quickly which is the better show to run with. The indy promotion stands no chance. The bottom line in television is ratings, as ratings dictate the price of advertising. The rest is self-explanatory.

Having said all of this, what are you left with? We all know guys that have had tours cancelled because of bad draws. Or, someoneís willing to work for half of what you can viably make the trip for. So, do you lose money and wrestle? Or do you stay home and make a living?

I believe it comes down to passion and circumstance. If a young guy has bills to pay, or wants to save money for a future, it's nearly impossible. On the other hand, if you can afford to work for peanuts, and continue to pay your dues I believe your shot will come. Thereís some good money to be made overseas, but usually having a name from a big promotion is the only way to be noticed. How many of WCWís guys landed in Japan? Thereís a full market as well.

Therefore, bide your time kids, all of the Indy guys are in the same position working for very little. To quote a good friend of mine, 'The moneyís sh*t, but the laughs are good.' What better sums up independent wrestling? Eventually people get injured or they retire.

If youíre worth the look and paid your dues, youíll get your shot. Bottom line to quote another respected peer, 'The ones that make it are the ones that hang in there.' Good luck boys.
Duke Durrango, who is know as Jordan to his family, lives in Calgary and can be emailed at

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