Real Pro Wrestling was set to be the next great thing in the sport of wrestling. The league was going to give the best collegiate and international wrestling stars a chance to compete at the professional level. Teams were going to compete in dual meets across the country, and finally, America’s top wrestlers were going to have television exposure – and a chance to earn money for their talents. But the dream never materialized and eventually the league folded. What led to the downfall of Real Pro Wrestling? RPW’s Matt Case explains this and much more in an exclusive interview with TheWrestlingMall.com
By Matt Krumrie
Real Pro Wrestling was going to be the next big thing in the sport of wrestling “a professional wrestling league for “real” wrestlers, those who competed in folkstyle. freestyle and Greco-roman styles, featuring the top collegiate and international wrestling stars from across the country.
But the dream never worked out for co-founders Toby Willis and Matt Case. Many wrestling fans have wondered why it didn’t work out, and what happened to the league that showed so much potential but never was able to develop into what wrestling fans “and Willis and Case “had hoped for.
In an exclusive interview with The Wrestling Mall, co-founder Matt Case talks about what went down when Real Pro Wrestling (RPW) went down. Case was a former Northwestern wrestler who was the executive vice president and eventually president of RPW, which was in existence for 5 years. The league put out a pilot episode in 2002, launched Season I in 2004, and season II in 2006-07 before ceasing to operate in 2007.
Now, nearly two years later, Case gives answers to many questions that wrestling fans across the country were looking for. Here is part I of a two-part interview with Case:
TWM: I guess the question everyone wants to know is, where did RPW go? What happened and why is RPW no longer in business?
Case: RPW had to shut down for two reasons. For one, there was a specific deal that went bad just before season two was supposed to launch. One of our salesmen decided he wanted to do his own league, and consequently decided to lead our probable sponsor and investor money away so he could finance his own venture. But on a macro level, and a second reason, was that RPW was simply too much for just a few creative guys to handle. It really takes a team of businessmen in addition to creative people to see something like this launched. I think we got very close, but there was just too much for us to get done. Just like wrestlers, we wanted to take on the world.
TWM: When did the organization officially cease operating?
TWM: Many people have wondered why RPW never made an announcement that the organization was no longer going to continue. Why was there never an announcement or information released that the organization was going to cease to operate? Do you think there should have been? Why or why not?
Case: Well, we continued to hold out hope that our business deal would come through for Season 2. We’d already launched a pre-season qualifier series where we had four separate qualifying events. These would have lead to the creation of the new teams for that second season. So, we prolonged any sort of final decision until we knew the outcome of our potential sponsorship, which took 4 months of waiting (Dec-Mar 2006-7).
Needless to say, the guy working the sponsorship side of things couldn’t close the deals (or wouldn’t close than rather), and so instead of closing up shop then, Toby and I continued to fight for possible ways to keep RPW running, until we just had no more energy left in the tank. In hindsight, maybe we should have formally made an announcement. However, we continued to hope that we’d find more interested parties to help us”¦even until this day.
TWM: What were/are the biggest obstacles for a league like RPW to succeed?
Case: There were a trillion obstacles, but the biggest was trying to do everything at once by ourselves. Toby would say we were fighting a battle on too many fronts. We were simply spread too thin and while we had many people willing to help on the grassroots level, we didn’t have enough key to help on the business side. So, Toby and I a couple others had to fight all the battles at once instead of concentrating on what we were good at – the creative.
TWM: What were the biggest challenges/surprises that you guys didn’t envision when you started RPW?
Case: We didn’t realize that finding the key business people would be that difficult. We hired and tried many people in the key positions like TV, sponsorship, venues, etc. But most of them didn’t pan out. Several of them were dishonest and greedy. Others were great people and were incredibly hard workers, but they just didn’t have the right skill sets and/or contacts to take RPW to the next level.
TWM: Do you think a professional wrestling league that features freestyle, folkstyle and Greco, or a combo of all three, can ever succeed? Why or why not?