11 min read
Attention investors: current and former pro-wrestlers operate in the media and retail sectors. No, not just The Rock (although he's definitely fine). Whether it's Stone Cold Steve Austin's successful entry into craft brewing and reality TV, the boutique cigar line from Cody Rhodes and Frankie Kazarian or the femme-centric clothing line from Brie and Nikki Bella, there is money to be made, to promote the branding efforts of sports entertainers.
The experienced grapplers Karl Anderson (real name: Chad Allegra) and Doc Gallows (real name: Drew Hankinson) rely on this. After being released earlier this year by industrial powerhouse WWE as part of cuts related to Covid, they did two instant calculations: sign with a competing company that has its back and create a small empire of media and Merchandising that uses their personality (think worker pranksters) and decades of relationship with fans around the world.
Image Credit: Impact Wrestling
In the five months since breaking up with WWE, the duo caused a stir by joining the ranks of rival Impact Wrestling (which airs its eponymous flagship show on AXS TV every Tuesday at 8 p.m.) and restarting their popular talk. N & # 39; Shop Podcast with co-host (and wrestler colleague) Rocky Romero. They broadcast a successful, satirical PPV event called Talk & # 39; N Shop A Mania (a sequel is already known for November 13th). They worked at Talk & # 39; N Shop Beer with Kentucky-based craft brewer Jarfly and a Talk & # 39; N Shop Bourbon with Tennessee-based Leatherwood Distillery and a range of reds and whites with Wine Savage. And finally, they're cooking up an animated series and a variety show special called Talk & # 39; N Shop: Full Keg, which will air this Tuesday at 10 p.m. on AXS.
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How did this duo of career fighters manage the quick switch to serial entrepreneur? We met her on a Zoom chat recently – Anderson (we'll stick with her last name on screen for the duration) from his home studio in Tampa and Gallows from his residence outside of Atlanta – for answers and some insight What any aspiring self-made Maven can learn from refusing to say, "I'm quitting."
If there is one thing wrestlers understand, it is reinvention. Was this more generally applicable to establishment in business?
Anderson: I don't know how much of it was reinvention or how much of it became more true to our personal selves.
Gallows: On the day of this (WWE) release, I sat in my sauna, hung up and said, "Well, being bitter is what everyone expects, and I don't feel bitterness in my heart." You have to find the humor and express it through entertainment and art. And that's where Talk & # 39; N Shop A Mania came from because we lost that amazing multimillion dollar deal. So why not turn it into something positive for our brand? Why not build a brand and generate income for us and our company? And I'm damn proud that we did it.
Anderson: That call was probably the biggest call I ever got in my life because (we) could reinvent and create Talk & # 39; N Shop A Mania and we went to Impact. And we have Talk & # 39; N Shop: Full Keg about to come out and that was something we had blamed the WWE network on since we started there and they just said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." Now the businessman stuff really comes out because we have Talk & # 39; N Shop LLC and we get big checks for this and that and we have to find out the taxes on that stuff. This is all real shit we need to learn, but the business side of these past six months has been a lot of fun.
There is something to be said when not resting on your laurels, but are you worried about going up and down the face of the learning curve?
Gallows: I don't think you're keeping up yourself. I think you're running at it head-on. I've been watching my father. When I was born he was a hot tar roofer who was making $ 8 an hour, and he's the most self-made man I've ever seen. He now owns five companies. And that's what they always say, "I don't know how we got here, but we'll figure out how to get out of there" when something comes up that you don't understand. We like to have a drink, but now we're in the liquor business and we're going to find out all of this. We'll find out the laws on alcohol and can we send this stuff over here? How does it work? We didn't know anything about it. We just said, "Well, we want a whiskey and we have a cool brand and we know we are great." So it flies past the seat of your pants a lot. It won't always be perfect, but you can't take no for an answer. No is just another question.
What made Impact the obvious choice for your "day job", so to speak?
Galgen: You have put together a nice offer for us. Sitting as a performer on a no-script show when we go to the ring and then watching a commercial for a pay-per-view that we came up with out of the blue and shot in my backyard and they're running a commercial for on TV us for it – that's a team that I'll hang my car on for the whole day.
Up to your point, they have given you plenty of leeway to work on external projects. How do you know when you have this type of bargaining leverage?
Galgen: I don't think it was leverage. It was pretty open on both sides because I think they saw that we were in a good mood. We want to be Impact stars Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson who do all of these things. As a co-branding, let's see how big and badly we can get impact. It's an exciting time for us in wrestling, but it's also an exciting time for business.
Anderson: We've always been confident about our abilities in WWE, and that was when the carpet was constantly being pulled out. We knew we could do what we do now, and Impact trusted us. We like it when people trust us because we know we can deliver.
Wrestling also takes a hell of a cumulative toll on your body. Is much of that branding geared towards pulling out of the ring?
Gallows: We don't count down the days until then. We want to be out there when we are 50 when we can. There is a possibility that our body will not withstand. That's why we want this brand we are creating now to be what takes us to the next step. I have a lot of respect for people who had to leave business before social media existed. With all of the platforms we have today, if you are really out there and can express yourself, you can build a brand. Without the internet or anything like that, a man would get let go or get hurt and get out of business and there was no way to see who he was or what he was doing or building a brand for them. Those poor guys, there was no more wrestling money coming in. So do you go to work in a car park or do whatever you need to do to get through and support your family. But I think we have a real chance in this generation and for all the guys younger than us to build your brand while you're hot and we will keep pushing, further grinding.
Anderson: We're more than wrestlers. When you walk into the Impact locker room you think we're just there to hang out with the guys and make them laugh. We like to talk. We want a radio show like Howard Stern-esque. That is the ultimate goal. You can do this until you're 80 right? Fuck it all.
People point to The Rock or John Cena as a role model for transitioning from wrestling, but in your case I'm thinking of Steve Austin who has specifically legitimized himself in the drinks space and has a robust podcast presence.
Gallows: We had a great time doing his podcast when we were in WWE, but it would be a whole different conversation now. I bet he went through what we go through. We're less on the go than ever before in our 18 years, but my day is full of Zoom calls and meeting everyone from the government to liquor stores to cartoon makers, merchandise makers and movie producers. Whatever we can come up with to further advance this brand. We went from pushing and feeding to being a businessman four days a week. I can just do it from my own house and don't have to wear a tie, but I feel like I now have my dad's schedule. (Laughs)
Anderson: I'm like a dad who stays home and makes damn good money.
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Is there a nuance on the business side of wrestling that the layman may not appreciate?
Anderson: When we did Talk & # 39; N Shop A Mania 2, you had to book all of those flights and produce every single segment. Gallows knows about all of this.
Gallows: Well, it's negotiation. (We are) on the other side of the negotiation because you are now the promoter. How do we market this? It's okay, this budget is growing. How can we compensate for that with a (PPV) purchase rate? Part of my Impact deal was that I have an independent promotion here in Georgia and we have Impact Plus shows (digital subscription service). And we ran these socially distant shows here through the pandemic. We follow CDC guidelines and there are temperature checks and the questionnaire. You have to manage all of this, but then you have a full talent budget. There are a lot of things that are different at the level of pretty much any other wrestling company besides WWE because WWE is no longer a live events company. You are a media company. But anyone who hasn't reached that level, the live events part is a lot of it. If I don't have a goal here, I probably won't be running the show. I love our sponsors and they help, but that's the other end. So it's all about managing a budget and figuring out how to market that with what it takes to get the greatest return on investment. It's not that you can go to wrestling promoters college so it was a lot of fun figuring that out.
You mentioned earlier that nothing is perfect. Are you prepared that one or more of your ideas may fail?
Gallows: It's inevitable that this will happen. All you do is adjust and move on and find the next one. I think the good thing about us is that we have so many irons in the fire. If something falls, the rest will pick it up again.
Anderson: I'm not going to lie: I was kind of ready to rest on my laurels and just collect this massive check from WWE. And when we finally left it gave me a nice slap in the face and got me ready to jump back into this business world.
Gallows: There's a lot to do and hopefully those of you who are not fans of wrestling will find out about us sooner rather than later.