I know that Beyond Wrestling doesn’t need me to defend it and it’s possible that they don’t even want me to bring any light to this situation — but yesterday for awhile my Twitter timeline was flooded with an argument focused primarily on Beyond and their “studio taping” system. As it stands right now, Beyond has two different outlets. They have the live shows at Fete Music (March 23rd, Critical Acclaim) and they have the “studio taping” which you may be familiar with from the All Killer series released on the Beyond YouTube page. The issue that arose yesterday appeared to generate from Michael Bennett, the ROH mainstay and New England wrestling star who was seemingly upset that a company like Beyond would ask wrestlers to participate in “studio tapings” where the boys didn’t get paid, and only wrestled in front of other wrestlers. I have a couple of thoughts about this.
The first is that, I don’t blame Michael Bennett for not liking the idea of wrestling “for free.” Michael Bennett is regularly on TV (somewhere) and is a mainstay in one of the largest independent wrestling promotions in the United States. I don’t typically expect to see a guy like Kevin Steen on an All Killer episode either, not because a guy like Steen doesn’t like Beyond Wrestling, from all accounts (including from the man himself) he enjoys wrestling for Beyond and he’s a fan of the Fete Music experience. But a guy like Steen, or Bennett don’t NEED the things that Beyond offers with the “studio taping” and for that reason, I don’t blame someone like Bennett for not understanding the appeal of a studio taping.
But not everybody is Michael Bennett. I personally think the Beyond Wrestling studio taping provides two invaluable things for wrestlers, the first is ring time. Everyone who has even a passing interesting in professional wrestling understands that there is no substitute for “in ring experience.” Being a professional wrestler isn’t like being a basketball player — you can’t just jog down to the local park and grapple. You need a ring, which is a commodity that not a lot of places have available, and you need other wrestlers interested in working with you — again, not the easiest thing to track down. So unless you’re willing to shell out money to a “wrestling school” what are the chances that you’re going to find a completely judgment free zone to actually practice your craft? I would never speak for someone like JT Dunn or Shynron but it’s hard to imagine that guys like that would have improved to the degree that they did over the course of 2013 if it wasn’t for having an opportunity to perform during these studio tapings. I’d ask Michael Bennett, how much money does he think it would cost to enroll in a wrestling school, or take wrestling seminars twice a week, one weekend a month for the entire year? Yeah on the one hand you can look at a Beyond Wrestling taping as something that you’re doing for a company, that is being taped and sometimes released but that you’re not getting paid for — or you can look at it as “in ring time” with other professional wrestlers that you’d otherwise have to pay for, that you’re getting for free.
The second thing that the studio taping does — it increases your visibility. Again, this isn’t something that matters for Michael Bennett, he’s got Sinclair Broadcasting on lock – it doesn’t benefit Bennett to show up in an All Killer release because Bennett is on ROH TV. But when I watch a match like Shynron/AR Fox that took place during a Beyond studio taping, and that match goes up on YouTube and thousands of people see it — isn’t that better for both of those guys? Tag teams like Da Hoodz who typically perform in NEWF or RWA, local promotions with little following and a small imprint in the larger professional wrestling landscape — if those guys just performed in front of the crowd of say 50 people, one weekend a month would they ever have a chance to “make it” in this business? Beyond Wrestling currently has about 9,500 subscribers to their YouTube channel, most local promotions have less than 3,000 subscribers. Is being exposed to an additional 6,000 people a benefit? Ask someone like Biff Busick, a Beyond Wrestling studio taping guy who now has a position in CZW and makes appearances in Dragon Gate USA. The added exposure may not appeal to everyone, but you can’t deny that Beyond has a very active social media presence and if getting that exposure helps build your personal brand and gets people from other promotions talking about you — how is that a bad thing?