Sunday, 16 September 2012

AJB’s Biggest British Wrestling Pet Peeves Number 1 By Adam James Bullivant.

Looking through what other contributors have added since my last post, there seems to be a lot of focus on British Wrestling as of late. Which, personally, is bloody wonderful to see. British Wrestling is in the strongest state it has been in years. Today alone there are three UK shows that, if my current budget of minus £100 pounds would allow me to do so, I would love to attend. Not to forget the addition of “TNA British Boot Camp”, an original commissioned series by Challenge TV, starting in December and the opinion splitting “Wrestle Talk TV”. British Wrestling is starting to make waves, however mild, into the world of mainstream broadcast television for the first time in many a year. Many mainstay companies like New Generation Wrestling and Futureshock Wrestling took its product to new, bigger and more impressive venues this summer for the first time. Both successfully. Whilst newer companies like Preston City Wrestling, Progress, Southside Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Elite and the import heavy Fight Club Pro continued to do great business. Each one of the above, and others, bringing back the faith in British Wrestling once lost among fans and talent alike. Especially after the later 1PW years, a company now often forgot when discussing this countries wrestling. A clear cut sign that things are truly on the up and up.

Saying all this, British Wrestling is still not perfect. By any stretch of anyone’s imagination. You only have to see the often comical rants of a certain now retired infamous pro wrestler (@Isaacharrop75 on Twitter, thank me later) regarding a number of ‘Div’ wannabe members of the British Wrestling community. The untrained self-appointed “superstars”, who go on to train the next generation of untrained self-appointed superstars. Think NXT but with more poorly applied wristlocks and more TNA finishing moves in the opening minutes of a match. I say match, for want of a better term. Saying all this, this issue is not just with the unprofessional, the often unwashed and the downright unsafe that litter the metaphorical streets of British Wrestling City. Like that one local tramp everyone in a certain city knows, but without the harmless charm and communal acceptance.

Every promoter, or at least the many I have come into direct or indirect contact in my time on the rim of British Wrestling, make mistakes. Mostly because, well, they are all human. And as human, that is what we uniformly do. But for the most part, these mistakes are easily avoided with basic forethought, logic and minimal expense.

So, I have decided to start a weekly piece, simple entitled “AJB’s Biggest British Wrestling Pet Peeves”. This being of cause being instalment number 1. I should go on the record about a few things before I begin. I have never promoted, I never intend on. I have eternal respect for those who do, or at least the ones with the brainpower to do it successfully. I have worn many hats in British Wrestling, some more successfully than others. Everything from trainee, wrestler (of the lowest level), ring crew, graphic designer, one off ring announcer (a comical notion, considering I have a stammer/stutter), journalist, social media admin, poster/flyer distributor, referee and of cause, fan. Saying this, in the grand scheme of things, I still happily class myself as “A Pro Wrestling Nobody”. So however debateable my credibility in giving advice to promoters, these views are for entertainment purposes, and do not reflect the views of or its owner. To be honest, I just always wanted to say that. I do not intend to offend any British Wrestling promoters with this, and will refrain from using actual company names wherever possible. Unless you are called Andy Hogg or Brad Flash, then all offense is intended. Strawb.

AJB’s Biggest British Wrestling Pet Peeves No 1:
Awful Wrestling Event Posters.

It’s 2012, there is no excuse. Don’t even attempt to make one. I can only assume we are now at the point where one can actually install a copy of Photoshop on ones iPhone/iPad these days. In a world where seemingly every Tom, Dick and the often overlooked Harry can use photo editing software, this is very much a double edged sword. I remember as a child, in primary school, being told the often repeated rhyme “All medicine are drugs, but not all drugs are medicine”. This rule very much applies to people who use Photoshop, or any similar product.

“All digital designers are photoshoppers, but not all photoshoppers are digital designers”.

It’s easy to throw together a bunch of, often poorly cut out, images of wrestlers on a background, put your company name on there somewhere and expect people to chop at the bit to come to your event.

“I mean, wrestling fans watch WWE RAW every week, and that’s wrestling. And my event is wrestling. So that means they must want to come to my event”

The Illogical mind-set of way too many British Wrestling promoters. This logic is on par with saying “I enjoyed watching The Inbetweener’s Movie. That’s a film. So I must enjoy this 3 hour German documentary about the unexplainable increase to the population of the native earwig in 1870’s Berlin. That’s a film too”. An extreme comparison, clearly, but a fair one none the less. The difference being that people who watch RAW watch not only because it’s wrestling, but because they know, from experience, that they are going to get a professionally marketed product. Ignore the fact they have the incredible talent, in the best venues on the planet, to sell-out crowds of passionate fans. RAW, and all WWE broadcasting for that matter, is seen as the pinnacle because it is lit, filmed and presented to a truly world class standard by an incredible team of production staff. The introduction package to each episode is always to a very high standard. The motion graphics to advertise the upcoming matches are crisp, cleanly designed and easily readable to the untrained eye. The RAW logo, however ever changing it may be, is always well designed and would not look out place in a line-up of the world’s finest brand logos, whether it Pepsi or Pampers. Maccy D’s or Marmite. Factor in all forms of external promotion, be it scientifically placed TV advertisements or simply walking past excellent DVD covers or T-Shirts in Walmart. Everything you see of WWE makes it look the best, because it’s been designed that way.

Not merely photoshopped that way. Designed.

My point being, people turn into RAW because they have been seen nothing but crisp, clean, well thought out, logical, enticing marketing. A concept many UK companies seem to forget. I’ve often seen some truly solid British Wrestling cards, featuring the true elite talent in the area/country. Often featuring true UK dream matches anyone, whether in the know about the British Wrestling scene or not, would thoroughly enjoy seeing. And not mind paying for the pleasure to do so. The excitement is often ruined when I see the poster advertising the aforementioned show itself. A poster is only as good as it’s effectiveness as a tool to entice people who walk past it in the street to stop and look. Simple as. This is where most UK posters, in my opinion, fail.

The important things, in my opinion, that all wrestling event posters should have are a followed.

1) The word WRESTLING as big as humanly possible. There is no point in having a poster if no one knows what it is. Pictures of semi naked men, out of context, can easily be seen as many other kinds of event. My ultimate biggest pet peeve about posters is when the show name is bigger than the word WRESTLING. A poster with semi naked men, some in masks, with the word wrestling in tiny font, with the show title “EXTREME PUNISHMENT” plastered all over it can easily attract the wrong kind of connotations…

2) A few images of wrestlers that look like wrestlers. Let me clarify this careful. If down to designers, we will normally want to have as few wrestlers on the poster as possible. But promoters often want as many as humanly possible. Try to find a good middle ground. Saying this, there are only 2 kinds of worker that are suitable to be on advertising for a pro wrestling event in my books. One with muscles and one whom is exceptionally fat. The golden rule is, Guns/Abs or Big Daddy. If your arms are as thin as the paper the poster is printer on, you have no place on the poster. Whether your mate booked you as the champion or not.

3) For these images to be of quality. If you are starting a wrestling company, you should have the money to invest for all your talent to be professionally photographed. That way you have sharp, well lit, high resolution images of your talent to use in all advertising (Poster/Flyers/Match Graphics/DVD Covers). For your first event poster (which will need to be designed for your first show, and therefore your first chance to get your wrestlers photographed) then try to work with a reputable photographer that will have a back catalog of your talent to draw from. Or a fellow company that has copyrighted images they can lend you to use. Photos taken by talent in there mums backroom, compressed to a small JPG image and sent to you over Facebook is not going to look good on anything.

4) Simple use of colours. The one most forgotten. A poster with a limited colour scheme, maybe 2/3 colours top, is normally much better than one with one with a million different clashing colours all mixed together. This is where an artist eye, or artist training, really comes in handy. On a side note, maybe black and white looked badass for the nWo in the 90’s, but a poster featuring 80% black is rarely going to attract someone’s attention. Never be scared of colour.

5) All the information needed. Again, let me clarify. A poster typically needs the venue, date, website/Facebook address, ticket price, how to get tickets and event name. That really is about it. And it doesn’t need to take up 50% of the design either. Draw them with the imagery; let them find the information afterwards. Look at posters for other events, whether they be for a concert or a stand up or such. It’s rare the font will take up more than about 20%-25% of the total canvas space. To the everyday punter walking past it in a chippy, they don’t need to know that Johnny Kickpads is going to be taking on Muscles Mike in a grudge match after Kickpads valet, Miss Buttercup, cost him the title at the working mens club show in March. These names mean nothing, and not just because I made them up. Neither does the match itself. Even actual well respected talent like, for example, Kris Travis means nothing to the man in the taxi firm waiting to get home at 3am after failed night on the pull. So why include it if you don’t have too? Unless you have a respectable, and more importantly recognizable, import on your show. If you have a former WWE star on your show, then feel free to milk it for all it’s worth.

And that is about it. When it comes to wrestling posters, less is more. Always. Without fail. Something seemingly everyone forgets. Make your pictures big, the word WRESTLING huge, most of your other writing small. I’ve only come to learn this stuff through trial and error over the last number of years. I’ve made all these mistakes myself and learnt from them. The import thing to remember is: A good designer can make even a piss poor show luck half decent. A half decent show look great. And a great shows look world class.

After reading this, you will return to world of wrestling message boards and social media pages and see these little imperfections everywhere. They drive me mad. How much it bothers you will depend on how much you respect my incite on the matter and how much you actually care. Most importantly, stick to the age old design rule of K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid.

I give this advice to anyone willing to read it for one reason and one reason only. I know one other harsh truth about British Wrestling. Promoters will, in most cases, rather do the design work themselves. Or get a mate who knows photoshop to throw them something together instead. Whether they have any concept of good design or not. A bad promoter will ignore all this advice. A typical promoter might think of some of this, but in the end probably not take note in the long run. A proper promoter will pay a proper designer, with a proper artistic background, a very fair price to properly design and properly create his proper event poster for him. You know, to actually properly promote his event.

A proper promoter professionally promoting his event. Both a wonderful use of alliteration and, sadly, a completely foreign concept too many promoters.

Adam James Bullivant can be found at:
Twitter at @TME_AJB (for banter)
Tout at /adamjamesbullivant (for pointless videos)
Facebook at /adam.james.bullivant (for reffing & design work)

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