Gable on RealProWrestling: “It’ll Work”

From Eddie Goldman’s ADCC News

Submitted by: E.Goldman/Boxing & Wrestling Editor
Posted On 12/15/2004

The television tapings for the first season of Real Pro Wrestling, set
to debut in the U.S. for 15 consecutive Sundays starting Feb. 13 on the
PAX TV network, were met with a warm response from those who witnessed
them. The tapings were held Oct. 8 and 9 in Los Angeles, and attended
by people with varying degrees of connection to the wrestling

One of those in attendance was Dan Gable, the Olympic, world, and NCAA
champion wrestler, as well as the most successful college coach in
history with 15 NCAA titles in 21 seasons at the University of Iowa. As
a footnote, Gable was also a commentator on the one and only
pay-per-view of that failed 1997 attempt to create a professional
submission wrestling league, known as ‘The Contenders.’ So he has not
only seen just about everything there is to see in amateur wrestling,
but also has been keeping abreast of the various attempts of wrestling
people to capitalize on the world-wide boom in interest in the combat
sports in the past decade or so.

A few hours after the Real Pro Wrestling tapings concluded, I caught
up with this wrestling legend at a post-event party to get his take on
how it went. As usual, he was surrounded by well-wishers, those seeking
autographs and photographs, old friends and colleagues, as well as
newcomers to the world’s oldest sport. Still, he took the time out to
share his thoughts on Real Pro Wrestling in this exclusive interview.

I began by asking if he ever thought he would see the day when
professional wrestling was real.

‘Yeah, absolutely,’ he replied without hesitation. ‘I’ve been hoping
for it for many, many years. I know it’s been tried and hasn’t really
worked that well. But I really think that we got the opportunity to
make it work now. I’ve been hoping for a professional wrestling league
for years. It’s been done in Germany for years.’ The key, he added, was
that such a league had to be started by those who have ‘a passion for
what you love.’

And in Real Pro Wrestling co-founders Toby Willis and Matt Case, Gable
believes the right people have come forward. ‘In reality it took a
couple of special guys to put a lot on the line,’ he continued. ‘I
didn’t know these two guys were going to be the guys that stepped up. I
would have thought maybe somebody that’s been around longer. So it’s
been rather unique.’

Willis and Case are former college wrestlers themselves at the Big Ten
school Northwestern and very much involved in all phases of amateur
wrestling. But perhaps it is precisely because they haven’t ‘been
around longer’ it was easier for them to see outside of the box of
amateur wrestling. We didn’t pursue that line of thought, but went on
to another topic.

For Real Pro Wrestling to succeed, its appeal must be not just to the
dyed-in-the-wool wrestling fan, but to average sports fans. Gable
thinks that they can succeed in attracting these types of fans.

‘I really think that if they put and package the material that they
have into an entertaining hour show, several ones, that we’ll pick up a
whole new audience,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen some of their past work, and
this is probably even better footage hopefully. With that in mind, with
that many opportunities in front of the masses, I think we’ll get not
only the hardcore wrestling people, but other wrestling people, and
people start talking, and they’ll start tuning in. I think it’s a real
good opportunity for us. And I hope everybody sticks by us during the
whole time. It might take us to a new level.’

The Real Pro Wrestling rules are an attempt to create a unique blend of
freestyle, Greco-Roman and Sumo wrestling that emphasizes and rewards
action while also penalizing and preventing stalling as much as
possible. The push-out rule, where one point is awarded to a wrestler
who pushes his opponent out-of-bounds, in particular has helped
stimulate the action, as was evident at these tapings.

‘I like a lot of them,’ commented Gable on the rules. He quickly added,
though, ‘But there’s a few things I’d rather do another way. I think a
smaller test event that didn’t cost much money, which gave these guys
an opportunity to test some of these rules ahead of time, might have
made some of the things that were controversial eliminated. But I think
there’s a lot of good rules.’

Then he got specific. ‘I think any time there’s scoring action and
nobody scores, then I don’t go along with that,’ said Gable. ‘So I’m
not real fond of the step-out rule with one foot. I’m more of a
two-foot guy. It’s too easy for somebody to do all the work and then
lose a point. There’s a few rules that I think that I would modify. But
there’s enough good ones that made for great wrestling.’

Still, he did acknowledge that these rules helped create a lot of
action while producing much less stalling than is common under the
various amateur wrestling rules used both internationally and in the

‘They tried to address all those issues. That’s what I like about
them,’ he remarked. ‘It’s a good thing to address the things that
aren’t good. They tried to address them. And I think they did a good
job of it. But maybe we can even tweak these to make it even better.
And that’s the key. You get a product. You don’t completely change it.
You just kind of redefine some if it or maybe fine-tune it. I think
that’s all that’s needed with what just took place. If you had a
worthless product, then you need to completely overhaul it. But we’ve
had wrestling for a hundred years, so we’ve had a good product. When we
have changed it and gone completely in different things, bad things
happen. When we completely changed our weight loss rules, three kids
died. If you completely change the rules in your sport, your sport
dies. And if you had a good sport, then just fine-tune it.’

Gable then outlined his relationship to Real Pro Wrestling.

‘I’m kind of a consultant with them,’ he stated. ‘I work a lot with
trying to help seal some deals with sponsors, and hopefully my input
means a lot to them even the rules and those types of things to help
make a good product. I wouldn’t mind having some say even in the final
product once they start putting things together in the final package.’
And he added, ‘I just think it’s real crucial that they do the best job
they can. And they can use people that like me that’s got passion and
are looking out for the future of the sport.’

We closed with me saying that I really hope that this project works.

‘It’ll work,’ said Gable definitively. Then he cautioned, ‘It depends
on how well it works. That’s the key.’

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