Indie Wrestling. Indie Soccer. What in the world do these two things have in common, and how can they learn from each other? I'm glad you asked, because there is a lot more to be learned than you'd think!
In the world of professional wrestling, and entertainment in particular, most people are familiar with World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE, formerly known as WWF. They are the big dog, the big cheese, the monopoly of professional wrestling in the United States. Yet in spite of everything, the indie scene of professional wrestling continues to thrive against the odds.
Ring of Honor, Lucha Underground, the National Wrestling Alliance, and a host of local and regional promotions continue to operate in front of good crowds and even appear on television. But for a long time, there was very little co-operation, other than a talent sharing deal between Ring of Honor (ROH) and New Japan Pro Wrestling. (NJPW) But as WWE continues to make more and more money and sign more and more talent, these independent promotions were faced with the stark reality that if they wanted to grow their market share, something had to change. Enter the largest non WWE wrestling show in North America in decades:
The brain child of popular wrestling tag team The Young Bucks and the wrestler formerly known as Cody Rhodes, All In was an attempt to create a show that could actually sell out a 10,000 seat arena. But how on earth do you secure the type of talent needed to put together a show strong enough to sell that many tickets? By working together for the common good.
NJPW and ROH already have a working relationship, but started finding new ways to work together with other promotions, like Lucha Underground, Impact Wrestling and the NWA. All In provided these promotions with a vision for how to challenge the status quo and begin to chip away at the monopoly that is the WWE. Going it alone hadn't worked. In fact, it almost wrecked several promotions, like the NWA, Impact, and Lucha Underground. But by working together, they realized they could do something so monumental that it could change the face of wrestling in North America forever.
You might still be asking yourself, what does this have to do with indie/non league/amateur soccer and MLS/USL? Okay, lets break it down.
MLS, alongside it's arrangement with the USL, is able to operate as a monopoly in the United States, just like WWE does in professional wrestling. Indie soccer has little room to maneuver, and as the announcements of new teams in the USL D3 in Greenville, SC and Chattanooga, TN, where there are thriving indie teams shows, the amateur scene is being squeezed ever tighter.
There's a big lesson to be learned here. In the world of wrestling, promotions from Japan, Canada, Mexico, the UK and the US have enough common ground to begin laying aside differences and egos to start pursuing a common goal. They aren't merging or buying each other out, but are simply working together to the best of their ability. And their competition is a company with a legitimate global following and foothold, not just a company with a foothold in one country.
This is what indie soccer can learn from wrestling. Common ground is powerful if you're willing to find it, talk to the other party, and begin moving towards a common goal that benefits everyone.
Why do UPSL and NPSL need to merge? Why not find a way for the UPSL to promote it's teams where applicable to the NPSL, and the NPSL relegates to UPSL? Could regional leagues do the same with the UPSL?
There is common ground a plenty for indie soccer right now if leagues are willing to start moving towards it. But the longer they wait, the more that common ground becomes smaller and smaller and self preservation grows stronger and stronger. Now is the time for indie soccer to learn from indie wrestling and start working together. There's still room in the market, there's still time to make something happen that changes the face and perception of indie soccer in the US for years to come.
But if they wait to much longer, it may wind up being too late.