Professional wrestling is a very difficult and expensive business to get into as a promoter. Start-up costs can include equipment, insurance, staffing and promotion that must be paid before any profit can be gained. It is also difficult, because casual wrestling fans generally ignore wrestling products that are not produced by World Wrestling Entertainment, the dominant wrestling company worldwide. Starting an independent promotion is possible, but the odds of taking a financial loss on your first few shows is very likely and care must be utilized budget-wise to keep your company in business.
1. Write a business plan. A business plan is a document that maps out your short- and long-term goals for your company and how you plan on achieving those goals. Include your budget for your costs and what your realistic expectations are on how that money will be earned back.
2. Acquire investor funds to cover start-up costs. Unless you already have a source of capital ready, you will need to raise a minimum of $30,000 to $50,000 to put on your first show. Apply for small business loans and talk to investors about your business plan to try to generate excitement and enthusiasm for your product.
3. Choose a company name and file for a ‘limited liability corporation’ (LLC) status with your state. An LLC protects your personal assets in the event that your company gets sued and an LLC filing is vital to give your company legitimacy. Your state’s website will have forms you can download for this purpose and you’ll have a filing fee that could be as high as $800 when you apply, depending on your state. An attorney can be useful for this process and you need to choose a company name that is not already in use in the wrestling field.
4. Talk to multiple insurance companies to find the best rates for insurance for your shows. Insurance is a requirement under most state laws as well as any venue at which you plan on performing.
5. Find a building that will be appropriate for your first show. You’ll likely need to show proof of insurance before the final contracts are signed. There are various venues that can be appropriate for pro wrestling, including gymnasiums, warehouses and even paintball venues. When examining the space, make sure you have enough space to accommodate a ring, seats for the fans and a backstage area for your talent and crew.
6. Book medical personnel for your show. It will probably be required by the building and by the insurance company and, more importantly, is important for the safety of your wrestlers. Professional wrestling is a dangerous activity with a high risk of injury, so you don’t want to cut costs on your doctor that will take care of the talent when injuries occur.
7. Rent your equipment. You can buy a wrestling ring, lighting and video equipment but renting will probably be more cost-effective your first time out. A new wrestling ring can cost over $10,000 by itself. Talk to other wrestling promotions in the area and see if you can rent their ring. Inspect it before you pay for it, because some companies use very shoddy or unsafe rings. You’ll also need lighting, depending on your venue, and video equipment, if you plan on taping your show. You’ll need to transport the ring and equipment as well, so you’ll probably need to rent a moving truck.
8. Book talent for your inaugural event. Talk to local independent wrestlers and consider signing a former WWE or TNA talent, if you have the funds to cover it. Some name recognition could help draw attention to your show, but be careful with your budget. You’ll need to have a contracted agreement with each of your wrestlers, referees and crew members, and if you haven’t utilized a lawyer yet, you should consider one for this process to look after your interests.
9. Advertise your show and include the names of any recognizable talent in your advertising once they are under contract. Always include the phrase “Card Subject to Change” in all advertising, because anything can happen in the wrestling business. Fliers are the cheapest method, but radio spots can be effective as well, if you have the money. Television is likely out of your budget to start with, but the Internet is a good place to post video spots.
10. Decide your match-ups once everyone is in the building and figure out who is winning and losing. The wrestlers will figure out the matches for the most part, but you have the final say on any storylines and who “goes over.”
11. Book more shows and learn from any mistakes that occurred on the first one. It will take persistence to build up a base audience, so try to keep your operation within a small region to start with and then you can expand to new areas once you have a successful routine established.