Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Breaking Kayfabe #2 w/Gabe Sapolsky

Welcome to the second edition of Breaking Kayfabe. I am as always Mr. C.C.. On this edition, I will be talking with Gabe Sapolsky, a man who has risen through the ranks behind the scenes in professional wrestling to become a respected booker and promoter. Rising through the ranks of merchandiser in ECW to co-founder of Ring of Honor to vice president of the North American chapter of the Dragon Gate promotion called Dragon Gate USA. As well in 2010, Sapolsky has once again founded a promotion called EVOLVE which has achieved some early success and more.

Mr. C.C.: Thanks for taking the time to do this.

Gabe: Thanks for having me.

Mr. C.C.: Not a problem. I've been reading some of your history in the business of professional wrestling and you got a start in ECW as a merchandiser. How did that come about?

Gabe: I wrote Todd Gordon a letter asking if I could do a newsletter and he took me up on the offer. It was before the Internet, so I'm sure he didn't get a lot of letters like that. Now he'd get 25 emails a day like that.

Mr. C.C.: So in a backstage role, it wasn't hard breaking in you would say? Was a career in pro wrestling a dream you always had?

Gabe: It was a different world back then. Yes, it was always a dream.

Mr. C.C.: So during that time, kayfabe was still closely guarded? The business was still guarded and the appearance of it being real attempted to be maintained?

Gabe: Nah, not really. It was definitely much, much more guarded than it is now, but once you gained the trust of a couple of people it was easy to break through.

Mr. C.C.: Seeing as ECW was your first employer in wrestling, was gaining the trust of Paul Heyman one those people? Or did Heyman come a little later?

Gabe: Yeah, definitely. It probably took a good six months until Heyman really started acknowledging me. Then I guess he figured I wasn't going anyplace.

Mr. C.C.: But now he probably thinks different with your success with ROH, DGUSA, EVOLVE, etc.. Now, as I understand, you were there with ECW throughout it's peak.

Gabe: I was there the whole time.

Mr. C.C.: ECW caught that niche market of wrestling fans. How "rabid" were the ECW fans?

Gabe: They were incredible. They were one with the product. ECW was theirs.

Mr. C.C.: I've said many times that ECW grabbed the niche portion of fans, do you feel the WWE's Attitude Era was their attempt at grabbing the niche fan base that ECW had? As well, do you think the Attitude Era was done because of what ECW was doing?

Gabe: Attitude Era was taking what ECW created and mass marketing it because they had the TV exposure and money to do it.

Mr. C.C.: Do you agree with the opinion that Vince McMahon did a watered down version of hardcore wrestling?

Gabe: Well, they were doing some crazy stuff there. It was as extreme as ECW, but its hard to call some of the stuff they did watered down.

Mr. C.C.: As ECW was one of the first hardcore/extreme promotions in North America, why did XPW and why does CZW get labeled ECW ripoffs? They are just following a mold ECW set out for that type of wrestling.

Gabe: Well, XPW was definitely a rip off. They were trying really hard to be ECW. I haven't heard CZW called a ECW ripoff. I think they always put their own spin on things.

Mr. C.C.: From watching the history of XPW DVD, they often tried to feud with ECW with some going to XPW, what was the feeling in the locker room when Shane Douglas, one of the top guys in ECW left for XPW? Was there a bitterness towards him?

Gabe: I didn't have any to him, I really don't care about XPW. I have no idea why I'm being asked about it in 2010.

Mr. C.C.: Touche, touche.

Gabe: It's not relevant to anything.

Mr. C.C.: Right and I agree, they didn't have the same impact as ECW.
Now after ECW folded, you went to working full-time for RF Video. What was your time like there?

Gabe: It was good for a while.

Mr. C.C.: It wasn't something you felt you wanted to do long term?

Gabe: I don't remember, it was a long a time ago.

Mr. C.C.: So your involvement in RF Video is how you met Rob Feinstein?

Gabe: No, I knew him from the ECW days.

Mr. C.C.: So, how did you both come up with Ring of Honor? I understand you two founded ROH.

Gabe: A big part of RF Video business was the ECW Fan Cam Series and that needed to be replaced after ECW went under. We looked around at different indy groups and then figured there was lots of great talent and we had some new concepts so we decided to just do it ourselves and start our own promotion.

Mr. C.C.: Did you ever imagine that ROH would become what it is today?

Gabe: I don't know what it is today. I don't watch it.

Mr. C.C.: Or did you see it becoming as popular as it is?

Gabe: Oh yeah, I think it can be more popular.

Mr. C.C.: You said you don't watch it, but being on HDNet is what is hindering ROH from being seen by a much more wider audience. Would you agree?

Gabe: That's not really my concern.

Mr. C.C.: During your time with ROH, did you ever hear fans who didn't like ROH call it a promotion geared towards "smarks?"

Gabe: Yeah, it was. It wasn't a product for everyone, just like ECW wasn't for everyone. The people who were into it, loved it and that's what counted. It's about finding your niche and learning to live in it. That's what we are doing with DGUSA and EVOLVE now. We want to serve one type of fan and serve them as best we can. Not all music is meant to be for everyone. Not all food is meant to be for everyone. You have to find your niche and do your best to satisfy that audience.

Mr. C.C.: Have you ever heard ROH called the next ECW due to the niche fan base it has?

Gabe: It was two totally different things in two totally different times.

Mr. C.C.: Also during your time with ROH, how did you get to be a booker for FIP and how did that come about?

Gabe: I was in Florida all the time for ROH production so Sal Hamaoui gave me the FIP gig so we could tie it in with ROH production and help raise awareness of FIP. We felt we could have a product with some of the hot names at the time that complimented the ROH product.

Mr. C.C.: While you were there with FIP, you enjoyed your time?

Gabe: Oh yeah, it was a blast. The crowds down there were great and it was a lot more of a loose atmosphere than ROH. You could relax a lot more and have fun, while at the same time seeing some great wrestling. It was a great time.

Mr. C.C.: I've noticed that people still ask you about ROH and FIP, but was leaving both companies due to you becoming the vice president of Dragon Gate USA?

Gabe: How do you not know the answer to that question?

Mr. C.C.: How has the response been from the fans in regards to DGUSA (Dragon Gate USA)?

Gabe: It's been great. We really hoped to become pro wrestling's premium product and I think the fans have responded. When I say that I mean when it comes to in ring action, as we have the tremendous roster from Japan in addition to the top indy workers, and also in our products. For instance, we have deluxe packaging on our DVDs, have great bonus discs and do everything we can to make them the highest picture quality possible. I think the fans have responded.

Mr. C.C.: I seen the Mercury Rising pay-per-view and have to say that it's one of the top pay-per-views of the year. Truly great stuff.

Gabe: Thank you.

Mr. C.C.: With the weekend of events DGUSA did in Phoenix, did you purposely plan it out that way due to the WWE being in Arizona for WrestleMania? Or was it just a coincidence?

Gabe: No, we planned it that way. WrestleMania weekend sees tens of thousands of fans travel in from all over the world. It is a hub. We want to take advantage of that and expose our product to those fans, who will then go home and talk about our shows.

Mr. C.C.: In your own mind, you were successful in exposing new fans to the DGUSA product?

Gabe: Somewhat, but you always want more.

Mr. C.C.: Wrestling promotions are a business, so you want more fans to grow your promotion in any ways possible. Now, how important has it been for DGUSA in establishing partnerships with other promotions like Chikara and Maximum Pro Wrestling for instance?

Gabe: It's really important. There's a lot of great independent wrestling groups but there's also a lot of terrible ones. The bad ones can drag down the good ones, because they can give the fans the wrong impression of indy wrestling. I think its important for the quality, professional groups to really bond together and help each other rise up.

Mr. C.C.: I notice you offer special bonus matches from other promotions on your DVDs from time to time. Is that part of the commitment you are making in exposing the fans to the quality promotions out there?

Gabe: Yes, exactly.

Mr. C.C.: You also allow the other promotions talent on your shows. How have the fans responded to someone who isn't on the core DGUSA roster?

Gabe: They have all played a big part on the DGUSA roster. Mike Quackenbush, Jigsaw, Gran Akuma, Hallowicked and the CHIKARA talent have made a huge impact and been a really important part of the first year of DGUSA. Now we are seeing talent like Jon Moxley, Ricochet, Johnny Gargano, Brodie Lee to name a few make their mark. Ricochet got over huge with his spectacular high-flying on the last Chicago show. Moxley is a guy that is really connecting with the crowd. Chuck Taylor is making some noise too. I know I'm missing some names too, there's a lot of great talent with high ceilings of potential now. The fans will see them develop into stars right before their eyes.

Mr. C.C.: Speaking of Jon Moxley, he is a the future of wrestling. His match against Tommy Dreamer at Mercury Rising was very good. His skills on the mic are second to none. He went from little known to being booked everywhere. A guy to watch for years to come.

Gabe: He has a tremendous character and promo ability. He's totally different than CM Punk, but he reminds me a lot of Punk in 2003.

Mr. C.C.: I know you've ventured into Canada for shows. But is DGUSA just going to stick to putting on shows in North America?

Gabe: Yes, I'm just involved with DGUSA in North America. I don't have anything to do with DGUSA's shows in other places of the world.

Mr. C.C.: Now aside from working with DGUSA, you have once ventured into owning your own promotion once again. What was the decision for doing so?

Gabe: There was a lot of great talent we could feature and we had some new concepts so we decided to start EVOLVE. Our next event will be November 20th in Union City, NJ, right outside the Lincoln Tunnel. You can go to www.EVOLVEwrestling.com for info.

Mr. C.C.: For those that don't know, can you can share the philosophy behind EVOLVE.

Gabe: It is giving wrestling a fresh and modernized approach with a total focus on win/loss records and the real person outside the ring.

Mr. C.C.: So have you decided on bringing in any titles at this point in time?

Gabe: Just wait and see.

Mr. C.C.: I've noticed that you've brought in Canadian Kyle O'Reilly, who got his start in Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling. How has he worked out?

Gabe: He's a future star.

Mr. C.C.: I've noticed you've been promoting shows for EVOLVE in New Jersey. Have you thought about promoting outside of New Jersey with EVOLVE?

Gabe: Sure, right now we are just trying to get the brand and concepts over.

Mr. C.C.: Would you say from the initial response that EVOLVE has been well received so far?

Gabe: Yes, I have gotten lots of positive response. We weren't trying to be an overnight sensation. We were looking to slowly build a brand and earn a reputation and I think that has happened.

Mr. C.C.: Why have you decided to go with the "win a qualifying match to get on the roster" type concept?

Gabe: We dropped that.

Mr. C.C.: I didn't hear that. Now going on to wrestling in general, where do you see it headed?

Gabe: Hopefully it is headed in a good direction.

Mr. C.C.: Anything you would like to plug and promote.

Gabe: Make sure to check out DGUSA on live iPPV on October 29th with "Bushido: Code Of The Warrior" on www.GoFightLive.tv. You can also get DGUSA DVDs and gear and all the latest news at www.DGUSA.tv. DGUSA will have its final shows of 2010 on Oct. 29th in Fall River, MA and Oct. 30th in Rahway, NJ so come check them out. For EVOLVE DVDs and news go to www.EVOLVEwrestling.com and check out our event on Nov. 20th in Union City, NJ, just outside Manhattan. Thank you everyone.

Mr. C.C.: Thanks again for your time and make sure to support DGUSA or an EVOLVE show near you. In fact, support indy wrestling near you.

DGUSA Twitter: @DragonGateUSA
EVOLVE: EVOLVEwrestling.com

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