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Palmer: Real Pro Wrestling, 10 years later

Ten years ago this month, at a studio in Los Angeles, 70 wrestlers, a number of coaches, and hundreds of fans participated in the filming of Season One of Real Pro Wrestling, a new venture designed to provide former college wrestlers an opportunity to continue to compete in the sport they love, on TV, and earn money doing it.

What happened in that LA studio on October 7-9, 2004 was later shown on cable TV the following spring, over the course of eight weeks. The Real Pro Wrestling telecasts from March to May 2005 generated considerable buzz within the amateur wrestling community, and decent ratings. RPW planned a Season Two, and, in fact, conducted some preliminary qualifying events ... but then the enterprise seemed to vanish without a trace -- not even a press release. (Later, sportswriter Matt Krumrie conducted a two-part interview with the two principals. More on that later.)

So, why write about Real Pro Wrestling now?

Beyond the fact Real Pro Wrestling telecasts were filmed almost exactly a decade ago, there are other reasons why InterMat is looking back at RPW. For starters, RPW featured highly accomplished amateur wrestlers -- most coming off impressive college mat careers, or freestyle and Greco-Roman experience. At least a trio of RPW participants went on to make a name for themselves in mixed martial arts. Others have gone on to become coaches at major college wrestling programs.

There's another timing issue: Earlier this month, the amateur wrestling website Flowrestling.com announced it was launching Flo Premier League, a professional wrestling venture featuring former college athletes which will have a handful of events to coincide with the 2014-15 college wrestling season. Flowrestling.com caught the attention of wrestling fans by announcing the first Flo Premier League match would feature recent collegians Chris Perry, a two-time NCAA champ for Oklahoma State, taking on Robert Hamlin, a two-time NCAA finalist for Lehigh at its Who's Number One showcase for top high school mat talent on October 18 ... and that the commissioner and matchmaker for FPL would be none other than Ben Askren, two-time NCAA champ for Missouri, 2008 Olympian, and undefeated MMA fighter who recently won the ONE FC welterweight crown.

For those reasons -- and more -- the time seems right to look back at Real Pro Wrestling.

A very quick history of pro wrestling

Real Pro Wrestling wasn't the first attempt at professional wrestling without the scripted outcomes, soap opera-ish storylines and other showbiz elements that seem to be as much a part of today's pro wrestling as wrestling rings and trunks. And, it isn't the last.

For those whose understanding of pro wrestling is limited to today's WWE, there was a time when athletes climbed into a wrestling ring without costumes, managers or a backstory, and used holds and moves that any amateur wrestling fan would immediately recognize today. One wrestler would come out the winner through honest competition, not what was written in a script. (See for yourself; check out silent films of a couple pro matches from a century ago -- a 1920 Madison Square Garden bout between Earl Caddock of Iowa and Nebraska native Joe Stecher, and a 1913 match featuring Gustav Fristensky and Josef Smejkal in Prague that is believed to be the oldest existing film of professional wrestling.)

A hundred years ago, pro wrestling was viewed as legitimate sport, covered by major newspapers in the same way as baseball or boxing or other significant sporting events of the time. The two world championship matches between George "the Russian Lion" Hackenschmidt and Frank "the Iowa Plowboy" Gotch in Chicago in 1908 and 1911 received extensive front-page coverage akin to today's Super Bowl or World Series. At some point, however, pro wrestling changed into something more familiar to today's fans. Historians who study professional wrestling can't seem to agree on when this changeover took place. Some contend that pro wrestling always had predetermined outcomes; however, a number of historians believe most matches were legitimate until the 1920s, when theatrical aspects started to take hold with the introduction of clearly identified "bad guys" and time-limited matches, among other developments. These changes accelerated in the 1940s and 50s with the advent of TV coverage that turned up the theatrical aspect a few notches, with flamboyant costumes and personalities, and more acrobatics.

Even as pro wrestling started to become more theatrical and look less like what takes place on college mats, a number of collegiate wrestling champs found fame and fortune in the pro ring, starting with Columbia's Nat Pendleton, Oklahoma State's Earl McCready and Michigan's Ed Don George in the 1920s and 30s ... Minnesota's Verne Gagne and Oklahoma State's Dick Hutton in the 1950s ... and Oklahoma's Dan Hodge and Oklahoma State's Jack Brisco in the 1960s. In the past decade or so, we've seen collegians like Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, and Jake Hager (now Jack Swagger) enter the WWE.

As pro wrestling became less about actual wrestling, the past couple decades have seen the rise of new ventures featuring former amateur wrestlers, competing in a way that looked more like amateur wrestling, and getting paid for it.

Twenty-five years ago, there was the National Wrestling League. This venture, launched in 1989 by Chicago businessman and former high school wrestling coach Wayne Gerenstein, failed because investors didn't come through as promised, so wrestlers -- some of the biggest names in college and Olympic style wrestling of the 1980s -- could not be paid as originally promised, according to Matt Krumrie in his 2006 feature about NWL for TheWrestlingMall.com.

Fifteen years after NWL, Season One of Real Pro Wrestling was recorded in that LA studio. In the decade since RPW came and went, there have been other similar ventures. During the 2013-14 amateur wrestling season, at least three new ventures came to life: Agon Wrestling Championships (which held four events at various locations around the country) ... a test event for Tour ACW (Association of Career Wrestlers) in Pittsburgh last October ... and, in November 2013, Victory Wrestling Challenge in Omaha. And, just a few weeks ago, the announcement that Flowrestling.com was entering the new pro wrestling arena with its Flo Premier League.

What was Real Pro Wrestling?

First, it might make sense to describe what Real Pro Wrestling wasn't. RPW did not have the showbiz elements that are a hallmark of WWE and other brands of pro wrestling: no roped-off ring, no costumes, no managers or valets, no soap-opera storylines ... and, perhaps most importantly, no scripted, predetermined outcomes. What's more, no one was hit over the head with a chair ... nor did anyone from the audience interfere with the action.

In a 2009 article for the online news service Examiner.com, I described Real Pro Wrestling as "amateur-style wrestling where the athletes were paid."

It was a venture launched by two former Northwestern University wrestlers, Toby Willis and Matt Case. A premiere event -- essentially a pilot TV show, to attract sponsors and be used to pitch the venture to networks that might be interested in showing Real Pro Wrestling -- was filmed in 2002. With some changes, that 2002 pilot served as the template for what was called Season One of Real Pro Wrestling which was filmed in October 2004 and shown on two cable TV networks -- Fox Sports, and PAX-TV (now ION) -- in the spring of 2005 over the course of eight consecutive weeks.

A look at the arena for RPW's pilot event in 2002
Both the 2002 pilot and 2005's Season One were filmed on a set that looked something like a Roman gladiator arena. Here's how the original Real Pro Wrestling website described the setup: "In RPW, classic meets the future as the matches are conducted in a specially designed coliseum which showcases a raised circular mat to facilitate better camera angles and to afford the live audience a better viewing experience. The circular mat allows for 360 degree camera angles and aids in covering the close quarters that wrestlers frequently find themselves in as they maneuver for position."

Fans sat in stands which surrounded a raised, round wrestling mat where the action took place. Beyond the edge of the mat, there were padded sides that sloped down approximately four feet to the studio floor, with the space between the mat and the audience serving much like a dry moat. The wrestlers' coaches were situated in the "moat" during the actual wrestling action; they came up onto the mat to provide instruction and encouragement during the downtime between the two three-minute periods.

The rules were a hybrid of folkstyle (the style used in high school and college wrestling), freestyle, and Greco-Roman; Wikipedia's description of Real Pro Wrestling said, "The rules were similar to freestyle wrestling but were modified to encourage risk and intensity."

A couple aspects of RPW's rules were new to amateur wrestling of a decade ago. A wrestler who pushed his opponent out-of-bounds (off the mat and perhaps down into the moat) earned one point. There was a bonus for a wrestler who managed to stay in the center of the mat and remain active, as measured by a "bonus meter" -- the aggressive wrestler would assume a special position that allowed him to earn additional points by throwing his opponent. What's more, there was a TV Challenge -- one per wrestler -- to officially question any call by having it reviewed by off-the-mat officials, somewhat like today's video review process.

As for the format ... the 2002 pilot could be described as a dual meet between the Red Team and the Black Team. The 2005 edition of Real Pro Wrestling was conducted more like a tournament, with eight teams of wrestlers, each with seven team members, one for each of the weight classes -- 121, 132, 145, 163, 184, 211 and 264 pounds. Each week's episode featured competition for one weight class in an eight-man bracket, with the eight competitors "seeded" for a preliminary-round match. The four winners advanced to a semifinals round ... with the two winners of that round later competing for his weight-class title on a finals program shown during the eighth week. Wrestlers were not only competing for individual glory; they were also earning points for their team. Not to mention a $25,000 prize for the champ in each weight class.

Teams and Participants

In Season One of Real Pro Wrestling, there were eight teams, each with seven wrestlers, one per weight class. While the teams had geographical names, it wasn't as if all the wrestlers on a particular team had actual ties to that particular state or city. Here are the competitors, listed by weight class, in alphabetical order by team name:

55 kilos/121 pounds: Matt Azevedo, California Claw ... Lindsey Durlacher, Chicago Groove ... Mike Mena, Iowa Stalkers ... Tim Dernlan, Minnesota Freeze ... Jeff Prescott, New York Outrage ... Teague Moore, Oklahoma Slam ... Sammie Henson, Pennsylvania Hammer ... Eric Akin, Texas Shooters.

60 kilos/132 pounds: Dennis Hall, California Claw ... Scott Schatzman, Chicago Groove ... Zach Roberson, Iowa Stalkers ... Ryan Lewis, Minnesota Freeze ... Tony DeAnda, New York Outrage ... Joe Warren, Oklahoma Slam ... Jim Gruenwald, Pennsylvania Hammer ... Danny Felix, Texas Shooters.

66 kilos/145 pounds: Tony Davis, California Claw ... Chris Bono, Chicago Groove ... Doug Schwab, Iowa Stalkers ... Jared Lawrence, Minnesota Freeze ... Jesse Jantzen, New York Outrage ... Jared Frayer, Oklahoma Slam ... Mike Ellsworth, Pennsylvania Hammer ... Eric Larkin, Texas Shooters.

74 kilos/163 pounds: Darryl Christian, California Claw ... Joe Williams, Chicago Groove ... Joe Heskett, Iowa Stalkers ... TC Dantzler, Minnesota Freeze ... Ramico Blackmon, New York Outrage ... Tyrone Lewis, Oklahoma Slam ... Donny Pritzlaff, Pennsylvania Hammer ... Sean Harrington, Texas Shooters.

84 kilos/185 pounds: Markus Mollica, California Claw ... Andy Hrovat, Chicago Groove ... Lee Fullhart, Iowa Stalkers ... Brandon Eggum, Minnesota Freeze ... Brad Vering, New York Outrage ... Mo Lawal, Oklahoma Slam ... Quincey Clark, Pennsylvania Hammer ... Aaron Simpson, Texas Shooters.

96 kilos/211 pounds: Garrett Lowney, California Claw ... Dawid Rechul, Chicago Groove ... Chad Lamer, Iowa Stalkers ... Damion Hahn, Minnesota Freeze ... Tommy Rowlands, New York Outrage ... Daniel Cormier, Oklahoma Slam ... Nick Preston, Pennsylvania Hammer ... Ryan Tobin, Texas Shooters.

120 kilos/264 pounds: Tolly Thompson, California Claw ... Kevin Hoy, Chicago Groove ... Wes Hand, Iowa Stalkers ... Khoren Papoyan, Minnesota Freeze ... Angelo Borzio, New York Outrage ... Brian Keck, Oklahoma Slam ... Pat Cummins, Pennsylvania Hammer ... Kellan Fluckiger, Texas Shooters.
Real Pro Wrestling participants had amateur wrestling backgrounds and were already out of college. Most were NCAA All-Americans, some were national collegiate champs, and at least one -- former University of Minnesota heavyweight Garrett Lowney -- was an Olympic medalist, having earned a bronze medal in Greco-Roman competition at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Other Real Pro Wrestling participants went on compete for the U.S. at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, including Doug Schwab, T.C. Dantzler, Daniel Cormier, and Brad Vering. At least three RPW competitors -- Cormier, Mo Lawal, and Patrick Cummins -- have gone on to successful pro MMA careers.

What did the Real Pro Wrestling participants wear into combat? In the 2002 pilot, there were two uniform styles -- singlets, or trunks, without shirts. Within in a particular match, the two wrestlers agreed to wear the same type of uniform -- in other words, it was singlet vs. singlet, or trunks vs. trunks -- based on the preferences of the individual wrestlers. For the 2005 edition, all wrestlers within the first six weight classes wore fight shorts with their team colors and logo, without shirts ... while heavyweights in the 264-pound class wore singlets. ("If I remember correctly, some of the heavyweights were actually disappointed that their weight class was assigned singlets and they couldn't don the fighter shorts like the other weights," according to Danielle Hobeika, respected wrestling photographer hired for Real Pro Wrestling.) All but one of the 70 wrestlers competed without headgear; Jesse Jantzen, 2004 NCAA champ for Harvard who went on to serve as wrestling trainer and choreographer for the movie "Foxcatcher", wore earguards.

The one-hour episodes of Real Pro Wrestling shown in the spring of 2005 were fast-paced, with what I would describe as engaging, professional-quality production values, including clear graphics, excellent camera work, and an announcing crew consisting of Tim Johnson -- who provided play-by-play -- along with 2000 Olympic gold medalist and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Rulon Gardner and 1988 Olympic bronze medalist Nate Carr providing commentary, analysis and opinions. A typical episode provided a lightning-fast review of the previous week's action and results, followed by an equally quick introduction to the eight wrestlers featured that week. The show then provided a highly edited version each of the four preliminary-round matches, followed by the two semifinals matches shown in their entirety. These semi bouts were preceded by two-minute profiles for each of the four wrestlers, usually incorporating workout footage, actual college or international match action, and fun "slice-of-life" footage that provided a bit more of a portrait of each of the competitors at home with their families or engaged in their favorite off-the-mat activities ... all with voice-over commentary from that particular athlete.

You may be wondering ... because the Season One matches for Real Pro Wrestling were filmed in October 2004, and not shown on TV until spring, 2005, so ... didn't the fans in the stands at the filming divulge the match outcomes? Amazingly, the fans were incredibly tight-lipped. On the various online wrestling forums -- including one at the official Real Pro Wrestling website -- I never saw any posts hinting at match outcomes. To my knowledge, no scores were revealed. (At their website during the course of the 2005 broadcasts, RPW founders Matt Case and Toby Willis repeatedly thanked those who had been at the filming for keeping results a secret.) A friend of mine who was lucky enough to be in the studio audience a decade ago told me immediately afterwards how exciting the event was ... without disclosing any results or other inside information, other than to comment that he was surprised at the "spare tire" one of the wrestlers was sporting. (We won't name any names here.)

A wrestler and a photographer remember RPW

Getting the call

One of the 70 contestants at Season One of Real Pro Wrestling was Teague Moore, who was a three-time NCAA All-American for Oklahoma State, winning the 118-pound title at the 1998 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. The Pennsylvania native was also a two-time Big 12 conference champ. Moore is now head wrestling coach at American University in Washington, D.C. In addition, he is the founder of Tour ACW, one of the newer pro wrestling ventures which had a test event in October 2013. A decade ago, as a participant in Real Pro Wrestling, Moore competed for the Oklahoma Slam at 55 kilos/121 pounds, where he made it to the finals.

When asked how he got involved in Real Pro Wrestling, Moore said, "I got a phone call about the opportunity from one of the owners. He asked if I would be interested and I said yes. It sounded like a unique situation. At the time I was recovering from knee surgery sustained at the '04 (Olympic) Trials and RPW gave me something to train for." Moore said there was no tryout or audition, saying, "They said I would be competing in LA so I assumed I would be able to take part without having to prove my worth."

Getting started with promotional photos and videos

"I remember being in LA for a few days," Moore recalled. "We were scheduled for a photo and video shoot followed by a long interview session on camera. It was a lot of fun and it felt good to be a part of something new."

"We filmed the whole production in an LA studio," the former Cowboy mat champ continued. "We were allowed to see the video shoots so that we could get action movements that we liked and that the director thought would work well for the final cut. The photos were set in a weight training and wrestling environment. Something that could be used to promote us individually. "

Danielle Hobeika
Danielle Hobeika was one of the photographers who captured images for Real Pro Wrestling, working on promotional shots like those described by Teague Moore which were used at the RPW website and on the telecasts, as well as the actual matches. Experienced in various types of photography, Hobeika has made a name for herself as a photographer of amateur wrestling and mixed martial arts events, especially for the website AmateurWrestlingPhotos.com. In fact, from Hobeika recalled, that was how RPW founder Toby Willis was aware of her photography when he contacted her as he was assembling a team of photographers to cover the event, as well as to shoot some artistic images a couple days beforehand.

"The artistic images were shot by myself as well as the other three photographers," according to Hobeika. "We traveled to Los Angeles two days ahead of the actual event -- the first day was dedicated to photographing the lighter weights, while the second day was dedicated to the heavier weights. These images were shot in a studio in downtown LA adjacent to the studio where the actual competition took place."

"There were two types of artistic images that Toby wanted us to capture," Hobeika continued. "The first type of pictures were posed portraits which were taken on a set that was configured to look like a locker room/weight room. To be honest, these photographs came out a bit cheesier than we had wanted, partially because they were so posed, and partially because I think we went a little overboard with some of the special effects we had at our disposal. Note: smoke machines might seem like a really good idea at the time, but don't come out quite as well as planned."

Chad Lamer in an action shot (Photo/Danielle Hobeika)
"The second type of pictures were choreographed action shots which were photographed in a dark room with a black backdrop and on a black mat. The only lighting in the room was pointed directly on the wrestlers for a dramatic effect. The wrestlers would partner up with someone from their weight class and would drill dynamic throws and take downs. We encouraged them to use the types of moves that would look amazing when captured on film, but to be mindful that no one got injured. These shots came out much better than the first type of pictures."

"Some of the wrestlers really got into the pre-event photo shoots," Hobeika recalled. "The most memorable was a duo who worked as assistant coaches at the same university. They had been assigned by RPW as partners for the choreographed action shots segment of the photo shoot, and really enjoyed coming up with new, exciting ideas of how to toss each other around. As they repeatedly threw each other on their heads, the clock was fast approaching midnight, and we had to kick them out so we could get out of there and prepare for another day of shooting. But it made for some really great pictures!"

Geared up for action

From what this writer recalls from a decade ago, the initial reaction of the amateur wrestling community as the Real Pro Wrestling matches filmed in October 2004 were shown in spring 2005 was mostly positive, in terms of TV ratings, and in comments posted in various online wrestling forums, including the one at the official RPW website. Beyond some negative reactions to specific incidents during the matches, the one issue that seemed to rankle more than a few fans was the gear worn by the contestants -- trunks without shirts for all but the heavyweights, who wore singlets. Some of the comments said the RPW gear looked too much like what WWE pro wrestlers wear ... while a good number of posts used words like "queer" and "gay" to describe the RPW uniforms.

Tommy Rowlands battled Daniel Cormier in Real Pro Wrestling (Photo/Danielle Hobeika)
This reaction may seem strange now, given that trunks/fight shorts worn without shirts is the standard gear for the vast majority of MMA competitors. (Then again, maybe not, having seem negative comments about the fight shorts/no shirt gear worn at Flo Premier League and Who's Number One high school showcase this month.) However, realize that a decade ago, MMA was just coming into its own as a popular sports activity, in the process of being legalized in more and more states, and overcoming a widely-held perception of being bloody and barbaric. Years ago, Sen. John McCain, himself a wrestler in high school and at the US Naval Academy, described MMA as being "human cockfighting." In fact, UFC -- Ultimate Fighting Championships -- which had been in existence for about a decade before Real Pro Wrestling, at one time seemed to play on that perception with its slogan "There are no rules!"

Fans who disapproved of Real Pro Wrestling's trunks/no shirt look may not have realized that this was what wrestlers at a number of Midwest and western college programs wore up until about 50 years ago. Thumb through old college yearbooks from University of Iowa, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or other schools -- or watch old films such as the 1962 NCAA finals on YouTube, for instance -- and there's not a singlet to be seen. (Singlets started making their appearance in high school and college wrestling in the late 1960s.)

Because the wrestler uniforms was a major sticking point with some Real Pro Wrestling fans a decade ago, InterMat had to ask about the wrestler reactions.

"I remember most of the guys being happy to lose the singlet," according to Teague Moore. "Most of us trained in spandex shorts every day. Training for freestyle also had many of us lose the shirt while in practice so it wasn't much of a change for us."

"I don't recall anyone having an issue with no shirts and for the most part everyone liked the idea of competing without a singlet. We did it every day in practice."

Photographer Danielle Hobeika weighed in with a concurring opinion, saying, "The wrestlers actually seemed to prefer wearing shorts as opposed to singlets while competing."

RPW: A training ground for MMA?

At least three of the competitors in Season One of Real Pro Wrestling have gone on to successful MMA careers: Daniel Cormier, Mo Lawal, and Patrick Cummins. InterMat asked if there might have been something about RPW that helped prepare these guys for that success.

Mo Lawal dances before competing (Photo/Danielle Hobeika)
"Some wrestlers really embraced the entertainment value of what RPW was doing," according to Danielle Hobeika. "I remember Mo Lawal dancing up high on his platform before making his grand entrance and descending onto the wrestling mat. (For those that don't remember, wrestlers entered from above via a long ramp to a raised mat area.) But I suppose 'King Mo' is the consummate entertainer, seeing that he has made a name for himself in the MMA world, and always has very unforgettable entrances. "

Teague Moore agreed, saying, "Daniel and Mo were wanting to blow up their 'characters'. They had an idea of taking RPW into an almost 'pro wrestling/WWE' setting. They were sure that fans wanted more than a boring wrestler persona. In those days, Daniel and Mo entertained most of us with their everyday stories and banter. Sometimes they would start telling stories or picking on someone who had a bad practice and everybody in the room or van would be laughing, including the guy getting picked on. Rarely was it done in bad taste. They could always lighten the mood!"

Behind-the-scenes perspective

Both Moore and Hobeika have positive memories of their experience working on Real Pro Wrestling a decade ago.

For the most part, the wrestlers were really enjoying themselves behind the scenes," said Hobeika. "Toby (Willis) waned to ensure they were treated like celebrities -- he had made accommodations for them in a luxury hotel, the wrestlers arrived to the finals in a limo and walked a red carpet, and were given a lot of benefits that many professional athletes are used to having, but wrestlers usually never have the luxury of experiencing."

"I suppose this is true of most sporting events, but watching RPW in person definitely had a much more profound effect on its audience than watching it on TV," the photographer continued. "It was an amazing product -- the lighting, the atmosphere, the excitement -- it was the complete package that any sports junkie could ask for, and I thought it was destined for success. Unfortunately, I don't think the televised episodes had the exact same impact after production, but I was spoiled by seeing the live event, so my reactions might not have the same magnitude as someone experiencing RPW for the first time."

What happened to RPW?

As mentioned earlier in this article, what was called Season One of Real Pro Wrestling was aired on two cable networks in spring 2005. A Season Two was in the works, with discussions of using a dual-meet format rather than the weight-by-weight tournament format that was a hallmark of RPW's first official season. Preliminary qualifying events were held in various locations around the country, again featuring recent college grads as well as some freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestlers. Then RPW seemed to vanish, without any formal explanation. The official website remained operational for a time, with a message that hinted that Season Two was still in the works.

So ... what happened? Matt Krumrie of TheWrestlingMall.com conducted interviews with the founders in 2009, putting that question to Matt Case, who responded, "RPW had to shut down for two reasons. For one, there was a specific deal that went bad just before Season Two was supposed to launch. One of our salesmen decided he wanted to do his own league, and consequently decided to lead our probable sponsor and investor money away so he could finance his own venture. But on a macro level, and a second reason, was that RPW was simply too much for just a few creative guys to handle. It really takes a team of businessmen in addition to creative people to see something like this launched. I think we got very close, but there was just too much for us to get done. Just like wrestlers, we wanted to take on the world."

Tony Davis poses for a photo (Photo/Danielle Hobeika)
When asked by Krumrie why Real Pro Wrestling didn't offer an official explanation for why they shut down operations, "Well, we continued to hold out hope that our business deal would come through for Season Two. We'd already launched a preseason qualifier series where we had four separate qualifying events. These would have led to the creation of the new teams for that second season. So, we prolonged any sort of final decision until we knew the outcome of our potential sponsorship, which took four months of waiting (December 2006 - March 2007).

Case continued, "Needless to say, the guy working the sponsorship side of things couldn't close the deals (or wouldn't close), and so instead of closing up shop then, Toby and I continued to fight for possible ways to keep RPW running, until we just had no more energy left in the tank. In hindsight, maybe we should have formally made an announcement. However, we continued to hope that we'd find more interested parties to help us, even until this day."

RPW: A roadmap for other pro wrestling ventures?

In the course of their separate interviews about Real Pro Wrestling, both Teague Moore and Danielle Hobeika mentioned specific new professional wrestling opportunities for former college wrestlers.

Teague Moore, who now serves as head wrestling coach at American University, competed in Real Pro Wrestling (Photo/Danielle Hobeika)
Moore, who developed Tour ACW (Association of Career Wrestlers) which had a test event one year ago in a Pittsburgh airport hotel ballroom, said, "RPW taught me a number of things about the concept of wrestling. It allowed me to think of wrestling outside of the collegiate or Olympic mindset. It has always been my opinion that our rules system in college and Olympic style has actually held the action back. RPW really proved to me that with some creative thinking and some dedicated people, wrestling could be presented in a new way.

"I appreciate my experience with RPW because it gave me the inspiration and confidence to try and implement a new set of rules and scoring for Tour ACW which we call 'First2Ten'," Moore continued. "The team concept was good but I'm not sure wrestling would survive in a dual meeting setting for RPW. Its appeal was in the mixture of talent and personalities that seem to come out better in the tournament format. Had RPW tried dual meets, I believe it would have faltered like the IFL (International Fight League).

"RPW has its place in wrestling history and if the timing were different, it could have taken off."

"I recently learned about the Flo Premier League, and it seems to be quite a hot topic," said Hobeika. "I recently had conversations with a couple of wrestling's prominent coaches and leaders who are very excited about this endeavor, and think it has a great chance of success."

"I believe that one of the main reasons why RPW didn't achieve as much success as we hoped was due to timing. It launched at nearly the same time as the first season of the UFC's 'The Ultimate Fighter' reality TV series, which catapulted the UFC's resurgence, and provided direct competition for the target demographic," Hobeika continued. "Had RPW launched a year earlier, it might have captured this audience first, and could possibly still be on air today."

"Currently MMA is very popular, but almost to the point of over-saturation. The UFC has bought out most of its competition, and while they used to put on one amazing fight card per month that would kill yourself if you missed, they now hold events nearly every week, and most of them lack the appeal and firepower of the more stacked cards of days past. Perhaps it's the perfect time to re-introduce a professional wrestling league, and if Flo's Premier League lives up to expectation and delivers a lot of excitement, it might be able to convert many MMA fans who are unhappy with recent lackluster fight cards to wrestling fans."

"Should the Flo league succeed, it will provide wrestlers with a financially viable option to continue wrestling at a professional level instead of turning to MMA after their college careers are over," concluded Hobeika. "All around, it sounds like a winning idea for everyone involved in the sport wrestling, so let's do what we can to help it succeed."

Back in 2009, despite the collapse of Real Pro Wrestling, Matt Case still thought that there was a place for a professional wrestling venture such as RPW, telling TheWrestlingMall.com's Matt Krumrie, "Toby (Willis) and I both still believe a league can succeed. In today's age of TV and media, there's a possibility that anything can succeed with the right ingredients. However, it takes a ton of work and more specifically the right contacts. RPW looked great. We packaged the best of what wrestling has to offer. However, if you don't convince the right people, it doesn't matter how good it looks."

More Real Pro Wrestling photos can be found on Danielle Hobeika's website.

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