In 2011 we have lost Naked Kombat and NHB-Battle, two very different companies in style, but both targeting the gay underground wrestling fans. Bard recently conjectured on some probable reasons for the indefinite closure of Naked Kombat, pointing out some of the limitations (as well as strengths) of NK's product. The same explanation might work for NHB-Battle, on the opposite end of the spectrum.
My first thought is that these closures are due to the weak economy (unless you're part of the 1 percent) and piracy, a topic Bard wrote eloquently on back in September. BG East's Kid Leopard warned us about this danger back in July. Distribution of video content without permission floods the market with cheaper (or free) sources of that content. In the past, readers have chastised me for not uploading videos I have access to, as if it were all a matter of selfishness. Distribution of video and photographic content without attribution (i.e. giving credit by naming sources) eliminates any possibility that interest stirred in a wrestler or match will drive sales and stimulate further production. I have tried to be careful to name wrestlers, wrestling companies, photographers, and even titles of videos, whenever the information is available. (Side note: Given that I write a lot about non-gay-oriented independent wrestling, I sometimes get requests to delete those names and that content. In October, one young lady, a photographer, expressed how appalled she was to find her work on my site and thus associated with me and my perversion. She noted that I credited her, adding that the credit "makes it worse." I immediately scrapped all the posts featuring her work. On the whole, though, crediting artists' work and companies' product is good for business.)
It's possible too that free venues of wrestling kink, even with permission and attribution--venues like YouTube and perhaps even the proliferation of wrestling-kink blogs like mine--both support the industry and encroach on its territory--though I think it's more probable that these outlets serve mainly as good buzz, certainly comforting to think so, anyway.
It occurred to me, too, that the production companies are pricing themselves out of business. This is possible. It seems to me that kink wrestling appeals to a large number of "blue-collar gays," gays from a working-class background who are unable to afford the entertainments enjoyed by circuit queens. Naked Kombat's highly polished production values--credits sequence, attractive athletes, set, lighting, camerawork, editing--created such a high overhead that it was perhaps impossible to price its product to my lower-middle-class-at-best means. Even so, the site went belly up after it dipped its monthly charge to under $20. And most wrestling kink companies charge considerably less than gay porn companies do, which then puts the blame on the current economy ... or on a still too small audience base (though growing, apparently).
The recent success of wrestling kink, however modest, has encouraged greater diversity--and fans have become very specific (even picky) about what they like, to the exclusion of some really good stuff out there (assuming they have the cash to partake). Of course, it's natural that wrestling fans would like some things and ignore others. (I have been criticized for not being more catholic in my tastes on this blog.) But unless a new company can afford to diversify the way the early giants BG East and Can-Am have done, it enters into a battle of the specialized niches, where only the strongest (or most popular) survive, making it twice as difficult to launch new companies catering to a taste for erotic wrestling. It has been my impression, too, that a lot of gay wrestling fans are closeted--closeted as gay or closeted as wrestling fans or both. Trying to create product to satisfy not only a fickle and increasingly specialized audience, but also one that is largely unidentifiable and in hiding, only complicates the task set for a businessman interested in starting a gay-centered wrestling company today. To a certain extent, because of these conditions, kink wrestling's potential for success might veer towards its dissolution. I hope not.
We still have a lot to cheer for as 2011 draws to a close. We still have BG East and Can-Am, both going strong, by all indications. We have Rock Hard Wrestling, Thunder's Arena, Black Wrestling Network, Bulldog Wrestling UK, Underground Championship Wrestling, and others, which are steadily introducing new wrestlers and new venues. We have international and independent wrestling federations that are opening up to the idea of having gay men as a large part of their audience. We have Wrestling Arsenal, Neverland, Rants Roids N Rasslin, Beefcakes of Wrestling, Inner Jobber, Luta vs Luta, Le Blog de TigreMasc, Bodyslam Fan, and more blogs every month. We have entrepreneurs making plans to open up more sites, and more and more of us gay wrestling fans are coming out of our closets, embracing both our gayness and our wrestling kinks.
We may then be witnessing the birth pangs of a new and bigger version of the game, in the worst case, a devouring mega-business like WWE, in the best case, a more diverse and sustainable business model for wrestling promoters who include gay men as a target audience. Right now, of course, it's too soon to tell.