I've been reading a lot in the "top 10 PWG workers" thread regarding guys like Daniels, AmDrag and Joe about how they "don't care about PWG," "PWG is a low-priority booking for these guys," "they don't try as hard in PWG" and the question I keep coming up with is WHY?
Well, it's a good question... and a complicated one.
First of all, I wouldn't put too much stock in the "they don't care about PWG" talk. That's fans being defensive about their company. We don't know what goes on behind the scenes, and I think there's really no basis to say that any of these workers doesn't "care" about PWG. In fact, all the evidence points to the opposite -- increasingly famous and sought-after guys like AJ, Daniels, and yes, Joe, have continued to work fairly regularly in PWG. Those guys can get booked anywhere... if they truly didn't care about PWG, they wouldn't have to take bookings there. On a whole, indy stars seem pretty committed to working PWG, as the only big smark name we've never seen here is Low-Ki.
Similarly, I just don't buy all the "X doesn't try hard in PWG" stuff. Those accusations stretch back to Punk and Homicide, and it's almost always just bullshit from fans who aren't paying attention to the details of the situation. Joe goes full-speed, AJ goes full-speed, Danielson goes full-speed... Sabin, Shelley, Hero... they all go full-speed. There are only two guys who seem to wrestle any different in PWG than they do elsewhere: Christopher Daniels and Rocky Romero.
As far as Daniels goes, I don't think it'd be fair to see he doesn't try, so much as to say that he's focusing on being a comedy worker in PWG, not a workrate guy. Is that because he doesn't give a shit about PWG? I highly doubt it -- he works the fed every time he possibly can, and he's given more than one rah-rah speech about the company. Seems to me that the reason Daniels is wackier and less physical in PWG is *because it's a wacky company*. He can't get away with wackiness alone in TNA and ROH, but he can and does, in PWG -- he's no less over than he was a year ago. Let's not forget -- Daniels isn't young. He's 37 and probably more beat-up than most, so he takes fewer hits than usual in PWG and goes for larfs instead. That's not not caring -- that's knowing your audience.
Romero... I don't know about Romero. Part of it is that he's always liable to have random meandering matches, no matter where he is -- he has a recurring habit of randomly switching styles mid-match, which hurts what he's doing. But part of it -- well, shit, I'll admit that sometimes in PWG, Rocky looks like he flat-out doesn't want to be there. I don't know if that's true, but it's worth remembering that he's the biggest wrestler star on the roster, by far. TNA is all well and good, but Rocky is a regular on New Japan tours, and wrestles in the Tokyo Dome. If there's any guy that might feel "above" PWG's level... well, you could see it being Rocky.
So that takes care of the "they don't care/they don't try hard" arguments. The only one remaining is the claim that PWG is a low-priority booking for some of these guys. And that one, on a purely factual level, is clearly true. So let's talk about why.
First of all, I think it's far from clear that PWG is the #2 indy promotion in the US. In terms of actual business, I'd imagine it's more like #7. CZW draws substantially more and also sells a lot of DVDs; JAPW draws a lot more. There are a couple Southern nostalgia feds that kill PWG in terms of attendance... hell, I'm not sure that PWG outdraws FMLL. PWG is gaining stature and popularity, and the European shows will really help that, but as of right now, money-wise, I don't think it's #2.
However, PWG is a clear (or fairly clear -- IWA-MS always has its supporters) #2 in terms of smark credibility, which one would think would sway a lot of indy stars. But here's the problem: for indy stars, it's not "ROH, then PWG, then IWA-MS... then everyone else". It's really "ROH... then everyone else". ROH is head-and-shoulders above every other fed in size, Internet buzz and exposure. ROH is even on the WWE's radar, which PWG most likely isn't. I don't know the pay scales, but I'd certainly assume that ROH pays as well as PWG, if not better. Most importantly, ROH helped launch the careers of a lot of PWG's biggest names: Joe, Daniels, Danielson, Cabana, AJ, Shelley, Strong, etc. etc. etc. Those guys are all hugely loyal to ROH and to Gabe, and they'll pretty much always work ROH over PWG. I think we all understand that, and I doubt any of us really even has a problem with that. ROH has always been a variable PWG has had to work around, and it's always worked out fine.
But over the last year, a new problem has arisen. That problem is FIP.
FIP is a lot like PWG -- it's a fast-rising DVD-sales-based smark-ish feds with a lot of the same stars. The problem is that Gabe books FIP, so the ROH-raised guys are almost as loyal to FIP as they are to ROH. And for younger, less established workers, FIP is a better place to be booked than PWG, because FIP leads to ROH. So as ROH and FIP just keep adding more and more dates, PWG will have fewer and fewer opportunities to book many of the usual fly-ins. Add in a few additional variables, like the high-paying 1PW shows over in England, and the fact that TNA is increasingly persnickety about their guys working their indy dates, and you can see why PWG doesn't land the big names as often as they used to.
None of this has anything to do with workers not caring about PWG. I think they do... but they care about ROH and FIP, too. It ultimately comes down to business decisions, and you have to admit that most of the time, ROH/FIP would be a better business decision for a worker than PWG.
The good news in all this is that PWG is *extremely* savvy about dealing with all these variables. They've established a small number of regular fly-ins who aren't booked by ROH or FIP but who still bring a lot to the table: Steen, Generico, Sabin and Hero. When ROH doesn't fit certain guys on their cards, PWG knows well in advance, and gets them... we see Shelley and Evans a lot that way. And when there's a small window where you can book the superworkers, PWG does, and has a hugely successful double-shot weekend. I actually really like the rhythm of PWG shows, as both the local-heavy shows and the star-studded shows have their pluses.
Finally... and damn, I've rambled... there are big issues with booking either Joe or Danielson right now (and they don't relate to Joe's European gaffe). The big issues are the TNA X-Division Title and the ROH World Title. There's no way in hell that they're going to let Joe job these days, which really ties a company's hands. He's no-showed a couple times lately, but in general, he's being booked less, and I think the fact that he can't job is a variable in that.
The Danielson thing is different, because he inexplicably jobbed to Jimmy Yang at All-Star Weekend 2 (it wasn't 100% clean, but it was 90% clean). I have no idea why that was booked or why it was allowed... but in general I doubt that Gabe's letting Danielson job these days. Again, that hamstrings a company. You can't have part-timers going over full-timers every show -- you need the part-timers to help build up your full-timers. So I wouldn't be shocked if the PWG brass were a little less enthusiastic about booking Danielson than they used to be.
It can be disappointing when stars can't be booked or have to cancel, but when you look it, I think the more striking thing is how many great stars PWG books and how often they book them. The only more consistently star-studded feds are all run by Gabe Sapolsky and have a big money mark behind them. It's a real credit to the professionalism of the Six that PWG can operate on the level it does.