It is sport at its most dramatic level. Massive men performing death-defying maneuvers designed to inflict severe pain upon one another. Granted these warriors are often in tight spandex and the outcome of their combat is predetermined but that’s beside the point. And, OK, it may lean a little more on fiction than your average sport but it’s still wildly entertaining and the athleticism is most definitely as much for real as the injuries dealt to the competitors. It is, of course, professional wrestling.
Whether you love it, hate it or simply don’t understand it, professional wrestling is a big, big business. It’s a business, however, that is dominated entirely by one company, WWE.
The WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.), formerly the WWF, and before that the WWWF, has spent the last few decades taking over the wrestling business in ways that would make Walmart look friendly and welcoming to mom-and-pop shops. The hostile takeover and acquisition of all competitors would probably be illegal if pro-wrestling were an actual sport governed by state athletic commissions, but in a brilliant move the WWE literally changed the definition of what the wrestlers do, from professional wrestling to “sports entertainment,” and opened the way to complete domination of the industry.
But it wasn’t always that way.
For decades, professional wrestling was run on a territory-based system. Promoters were content to stay within their agreed-upon areas and struck up television deals with local networks. With so many different promotions needing weekly TV time, shows would be open to the public for free. Wrestling fans that remember the old territory system almost universally miss the “good old days” before the WWE, when they could attend free matches and be up close to the action, seeing future stars of the sport.
Well, local wrestling fans no longer have to live in the past. In a truly strange but amazing storyline, a small regional wrestling promotion based out of LA has made a local venue home and is producing a highly regarded old-school-style wrestling TV show.
Championship Wrestling From Hollywood may be titled so as to appeal to a larger demographic but to the local wrestling fans who pack the Oceanview Pavilion twice a month on Sunday afternoons, it’s more like championship wrestling from Port Hueneme.
An hour-long show that airs early Sunday mornings on LA-based channel, KDOC, Championship Wrestling From Hollywood, or CWFH, now in its fifth season, is almost exclusively filmed at the Oceanview Pavilion.
While it’s not exactly WWE — don’t expect any famous wrestlers or pyrotechnics — it’s still an incredibly solid show with a host of established independent wrestlers such as Joey Ryan, Adam Pierce and Colt Cabana, names that hard-core fans of the sport will recognize and appreciate. Another element to the CWFH’s local success is that, unlike the high costs associated with a trip to a WWE event, attending the TV tapings at Championship Wrestling From Hollywood is completely free. That’s an absolute deal, especially for families with wrestling-crazed kids, which is the demographic that continues to keep WWE’s flagship show RAW at the top of the cable ratings every Monday Night.
Perhaps best of all, wrestlers gladly hang after the show for pictures and autographs with fans, creating an environment that keeps regular fans coming back and remaining loyal as the promotion grows.
So while Sunday may be a sleepy day of rest, for wrestling fans in Ventura County, it’s an afternoon of camel clutches, clotheslines, frog splashes and good old-fashioned entertainment, courtesy of the heroes of the squared circle.
The next taping of Championship Wrestling From Hollywood takes place Sunday, May 25, at 3 p.m. at the Oceanview Pavilion, 575 E. Surfside Drive in Port Hueneme. For more information visit www.hollywoodwrestling.com or call 805-986-4818.