Ultimate Championship Wrestling’s new sports journalist Casey Shaw sits down with UCW owner “Matt Docherty” to discuss the year that was 2017.
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In this interview we discuss the controversy, the success, and the failures of Ultimate Championship Wrestling in its first year in Business. Ultimate Championship Wrestling, launched with a flurry of social media controversy that let’s be honest never really dissipated, owner and founder Matt Docherty has without question become the most controversial man in New Zealand wrestling, some will love him some will hate him, but the reality is Ultimate Championship Wrestling and the infamous Matt Docherty have achieved more than anyone ever thought they would, actually I’m going to say; they have achieved more than any other promotion in New Zealand Wrestling.
So, what is your opinion of your first year?
I am an extremely confident person, I know what I want to achieve, and I tend to just get on with it and get it done. I think our first year has been a tremendous success we have achieved many firsts, yes, we have had some hiccups along the way but in all honesty, I think the successes have far outweighed the negatives
You mentioned firsts, do you want to elaborate on those?
Sure, we are the first promotion in New Zealand to commit to paying its talent, any by paying I mean paying properly there is no weird deals of “free burgers” as part payment. We were also the first promotion in recent history to sell more than a thousand tickets to a show. (Invasion 2017) We have continued to have strong attendance numbers at all shows, not a single show dropped under 200 people, our last show of the year “Sole Survivor” sold more than 600 tickets.
We have brought in some great international talent such as WCW Star Buff Bagwell, MCW Star Avary we have also had WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley appear on a show “via Satellite” and some wonderful promos from Bushwhacker Luke. (Who is here in Feb for Invasion #2)
We have launched two amazing championships The Ultimate Heavyweight Championship and the Ultimate Light Heavyweight Championship, both are amazing pieces of craftmanship fabricated by the same company used by top promotions all over the world Wildcat Belts in the states, this is important as most “championships” in NZ as DIY jobbies that look to have been fabricated using a DIY engraving kit from Bunnings.
We are the first NZ promotion to live stream its shows (Invasion 2017 & Sole Survivor 2017) the important thing to remind people of here is that we are essentially producing live TV and there are only a few promotions in the world the produce high quality live broadcasts. As we continue into 2018 all our shows will be live streamed with IPPV’s for the bigger shows.
We have brought in mainstream talent from the NZ combat sports world namely Lt Dan Hennessey who has worked as our Ring Announcer on our two biggest shows of the year. It’s great to be able to bring in people such as Dan who are synonymise with combat sports in this country. It brings in a whole next level of professionalism and credibility to those viewers checking us out for the first time.
Our production quality is literally second to none. A pro wrestling show isn’t just about what happens in the ring it’s about the whole show, and so many promoters in NZ lose sight of that fact. Our lighting sound and pyro really do leave the audience questioning if they are at a local wrestling show and that’s super important. A good show should be 60% wrestling, 40% entertainment.
You have a love hate relationship with the online wrestling fans in New Zealand, as in they love to hate you! How do you feel about the “Wrestling Groups” on social media?
These guys are funny, in the greater scheme of things they make up for probably about 1% of the wrestling audience in New Zealand. Let’s be honest most of them seem to be the types of people that were probably bullied all through high school and now have more friends on social media than they do in real life. They do love wrestling though which is great. Whilst they love to comment on who I am and what I am doing with my promotion I doubt most them even attend local shows so it’s all a bit hypocritical. I guess anyone can be a tough guy behind a keyboard. Does what they say bother me? Not really its funnier than anything else, which is why I tend to egg it on. The more I piss them off the more I think I’m doing something right! They are so desperate for us to fail its great motivation to make them eat their words, which has happened more times than not.
You mentioned pays earlier, there was some controversy around pays at one point wasn’t there?
Ummm, yes there was some stuff that went down post our show in Nelson (Bad Company) the show itself was fantastic, we had great attendance for the size of the town we were in, it was our loudest crowd of the year, they were so into it! But once the dust had settled it and we were stung with some hefty unexpected bills from the venue the show financially was a train wreck. In fact, we are still in a legal battle with the venue over damage they claim we did to their carpet, they are expecting us to stump up with $55k to replace the entire carpet in the venue, which is just ridiculous but that’s why you have insurance and our insurance company is fighting this on our behalf.
So yes, back to the “Pay Issue” basically with the increased costs the company was unable to pay its talent their match fee, so an announcement was made to the talent that all match fees would be on hold temporarily, but to ensure no one was personally out of pocket we ensured all accommodation costs and travel costs were covered. (I paid this out of my own personal money) Reality is no one was out of pocket for the show they just didn’t receive their agreed match fee. Don’t get me wrong I totally agree that is still unacceptable but it was a decision we had to make, live to fight another day, or pay everyone their match fee and face the probability of closing the doors. In all honesty the bulk of the talent had no issue with it, remember most these guys weren’t getting paid at all 4 months earlier.
Unfortunately, there was a small group of guys who decided they would publicize the fact they hadn’t received their match fee, one person (Paul Sayers) breached his contract by passing on confidential information and communications to the third party (Will Ospreay) who then launched a social media attack on Ultimate Championship Wrestling and me personally. At no point did Will reach out to me to find out the details of the situation, he had an agenda and seemed determined to damage the company.
The truth behind his aggression, I think goes back to the previous week when I meet Will Ospreay in Wellington for a meeting that he had requested, basically Will was pitching me the idea of coming on board with Ultimate Championship Wrestling in the capacity of head trainer. Myself and Danny Sol meet Will at a Bar in Wellington and listened to an extensive pitch that lasted nearly two hours, we also had to listen to his Girlfriend (Bea Priestly) run down top NZ talent, I guess this was her way of proving we needed Will. The conversation ended in an amicable manner and we walked away contemplating weather to bring Will in or not. Unfortunately, no deal was ever struck, and I believe Will was a little put out by the fact we didn’t rush to offer him a contract, so when the news broke of our situation in Nelson he decided to take his shot at us. Will is an amazing talent no doubt but will is the type of person that is out for himself no matter the situation, there has been many instances where Will has rubbished international promotions and talent. But hey we were the talk of the wrestling world for a few days! I should probably add that to our list of firsts! (Laughs)
Has there been any other issues with pay for talent?
Absolutely not we live, and we learn. We made mistakes in Nelson that we haven’t or won’t make again. We lost some good talent who decided to stay away from the controversy, but we also found out who those people are that are really committed to the brand and my vision. So, overall the situation with Will helped us out much more than could have been foreseen at the time.
That brings me to my next question, what is your vision for Ultimate Wrestling?
I have always said my goal is to legitimize professional wrestling in New Zealand, we have some amazing talent in this country who just need an appropriate stage to highlight their skills and Ultimate Championship Wrestling is that place.
So, in your opinion how do we legitimize NZ Wrestling?
I feel it’s quite easy, it requires the promotions in the country to all follow some simple standard operating procedures; pay your talent, cover their travel and accommodation costs, invest in proper production, and present a product that is conducive to promoting New Zealand wrestling, if we all did that the local scene would grow dramatically in both audience and new trainees. Imagine training to be a pro wrestler and then realising that 90% of the promotions in the country don’t pay their talent. It’s ridiculous which is why it was the first thing we wanted to change. It must change, if the talent can make money the public perception of the sport will change.
So, what are your plans for Ultimate Championship Wrestling in 2018?
We have just released our full schedule for 2018, we have confirmed a minimum of 24 shows. And are going to run fortnightly starting with our first IPPV show of the year (Invasion) on the 10th of Feb. These fortnightly shows are titled “Aftershock” which is a throwback to APW which people will know as the original Christchurch wrestling promotion. I purchased APW last year and consolidated the talent and training school with Ultimate Championship Wrestling.
We will also be running monthly IPPV shows, a similar model I guess to what WWE runs. I think that the increased regularity will bring in more fans and enable for better story telling opportunities. I am extremely excited for what 2018 brings as we tour around the country proving that we are in fact the #1 promotion in New Zealand. We are also working on a pretty extensive list of top international talent that will make their way to an Ultimate Ring!
The full interview will soon be available online to watch with thanks to www.prowrestlingnetwork.tv