What Now?

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 UKUnderground 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.


  1. Could it also be that there are too many companies out there competing for what is basically the same niche market? You named 7 in your post, but I think there are quite a few more. Some were bound to fall to the wayside. Some businesses I know (retail and food) closed down not because they weren't making money, but because they were mismanaged. That might be a reason too.

  2. Persuasive logic, Bruno. My first response always is to look for underlying social, cultural, and historical significance. Economics underlies all that, of course, but I tend towards more sweeping analysis. As you suggest, mismanagement and intense and mounting competition would be more proximate causes of downward turns in business.

  3. great article and very good points. there is also http://PiledriveU.tumblr.com

  4. Bruno makes a good point about over saturation of the market, yet the managing entity, kink.com, is too successful an organization to attribute mismanagement as the underlying reason, unless mis-management relates to the content producers that never developed the concept beyond men grappling then fucking. Part of why BGEast is so successful is that they have variations on the theme, ring, mat, gazebo, whatever, with occasional sex thrown in. Had NK bothered to vary the product i would have continued to subscribe, and i suspect their failure to evolve resulted in a corresponding lack of interest from an initially enthusiastic niche market. Then again No Rules Wrestling seems to continue producing content that has never developed beyond good looking guys appropriately dressed yet missing 75% of the moves they attempt to implement, so who the fuck knows....

  5. For fuck's sake, people--Naked Kombat wasn't wrestling; it was porn! It wasn't supposed to last. It was a quick buck scheme, no more about "wrestling" than a porno with a delivery boy opening a pizza box with a hole for his dick is about fine Italian cuisine. I was always surprised that that Joe and the Sidelineland blog mentioned it at all as if it was on the same level as BGE, Can-Am, Black Wrestling, Thunder's or Rock Hard, especially when some posts have given wrestlers from those companies that actually care about wrestling bad reviews (Rio Garza's matches suck, but Rusty Stevens at NK is burning up the mat?!?). The best NK match made the worst NRW action look like ballet.

    Piracy? NK videos were everywhere, but that was by design. Kink.com itself "pirates" their videos, expecting that if 1000s of people see them for free, some small percentage of that number will then be excited enough to go to the site and pay for it. It's standard operating procedure in the internet era.

    And I have to riff on this whole "over saturation of the market" thing. The gay pro wrestling market is not over saturated. It's not even saturated or even just kinda damp. It is massively under, under, under saturated. A fraction of gay fans who watch WWE ever buy a single gay wrestling video. It's simply internalized homophobia--no straight wrestling fan would ever watch BGE and subsequently enjoy just the pieces that appealed to him while overlooking everything else. We do it reflexively, sometimes even parsing through indy companies to find the "real" stuff, as if those details then somehow make it more relevant to us.

    But by the numbers, the average WWE draw wrestles 2 to 5 times a week, well over 100 matches a year. All of those matches are available, either on TV, DVD or even youtube videos shot by half a dozen smartphones. By contrast, the most prolific worker on the "gay" pro scene appears a dozen times total over the course of a year. Z-man, for obvious example, appeared 4 times at BGE, 4 times at Rock Hard and 8 times at Thunder's. Sixteen matches for an entire year. For less than the price of a crappy Black Friday laptop you can see the full year's output of the most "over exposed" worker in the entire history of gay pro wrestling.

    That said, I do get the rationale behind that perception. 1) Specifically gay oriented wrestling (or anything for that matter) hasn't been around that long, so to go from Physique Pictorial stuff way back in the day to Old Reliable, CAL and the original BG doing a handful of actual wrestling videos over mail order to the internet era where there's a whole half-dozen companies producing dozens of matches all instantly available at the click of a mouse seems like a massive influx. 2) To then see some of the same guys at some of those same companies sounds like the same old thing, especially if you aren't into that guy. But here's the kicker: the most "over exposed" wrestlers are the ones generating much of the buys. That's why they're used. Forget the whole a guy who's willing to wrestle "for us" should be get paid decently to do it thing. Another way to think of it every Zman and Rio and Cameron Matthews and Jobe Zander and Jake Jenkins and Austin Cooper who works makes it possible for those companies to hire more guys for more matches who might ultimately draw your attention. That's just the way it goes.

  6. Having run WrestleMen.com for 15 years now, a site dedicated to all wrestling men, I can undeniably say that it's the result of too much free wrestling content on Youtube. When every wrestling company puts out samples of their videos to watch for free, you end up with a TON of free samples. The thought is it would attract people to go buy full videos, etc., but people are cheap. You can easily get off to 10 good seconds of a free sample. And when you have hundreds and hundreds of free samples..do the math.

  7. YouTube has provided an embarrassment of riches for me (and I’m guessing a lot of others too) ... there is so much content that it’s amazing! And there is wrestling from all over the US, and the world. From classic pro, to the newest of the new indys on YouTube, I almost rarely look at my old tapes and dvds.

    I do find myself interested in new product and am glad many blogs are now reporting on wrestling kink, but I have not bought many dvds, aside from the occasional BG East sale disk, over the last year or so. There is not too much from the other companies that I feel like interest me (though I can find myself buying from Rock Hard one day, if the funds are available) ... I was not moved to buy from Naked Combat, though it seemed hot, and imho: i find thunder’s to be way too amateur for my taste.

    I have been buffeted by the continuing BushRecession(TM), so funds for kink are definitely limited, but there is almost too much choice on YouTube to make me pay for dvds these days.

    This blog and a few others are always “must-reads”!

  8. Is there a market for 1-on-1 kink gay wrestling? There seems to be plenty of businesses with female wrestlers available to wrestle men, offering competitive, semi-competitive, fantasy and domination wrestling, but do those services exist for men wanting to wrestle male kink wrestlers???


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