In mid-2012 John LaRocca left the California based All Pro Wrestling. After spending many years helping to book the company he had decided it was time to move on. But not just move on from APW mind you, he no longer felt the need to be involved in pro wrestling altogether. A break was in order, a chance to remove himself from the pro wrestling maelstrom and recharge his batteries so to speak. The length of the break was not determined, but a break would be had, or so LaRocca thought.
A friend approached LaRocca with an idea; why not start your own promotion? At first LaRocca balked at the idea, he’d just left a prominent indie promotion and seen all the headaches Roland Alexander had gone through in running said promotion. LaRocca couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that everyone in wrestling knows of; the feeling that is the siren call of pro wrestling. His break would have to wait, an idea for a promotion had formed in his head and he needed to make that idea become a reality.
The idea that would become PREMIER Wrestling was a simple one. A promotion built on traditional wrestling values where wins and losses matter, championships are the end goal, and the wrestlers as well as the wrestling is believable. To that end LaRocca decided to present a stripped down product, minus the bells and whistles that dominate most modern independent wrestling promotions. He also decided that his promotion needed to be centered around a certain style; shoot style.
The only issue with such an approach was the fact that not many wrestlers in the Northern California indie scene were proficient in that style. There existed an eclectic cast of characters in that scene, but high flying and flamboyant wrestling was the norm. John knew the end goal, but he couldn’t get there quite yet. With that in mind PREMIER would debut with a roster of wrestlers who worked a varied style as opposed to a strict shoot style. Dave Dutra would come out of that event as the PREMIER Champion. He was a flyer by trade, but he was also a guy who worked hard, had a positive attitude, and was a great benefit to any locker room he was a part of.
Thus was revealed another one of LaRocca’s goals with PREMIER, a promotion with a locker room full of guys and gals who wanted to help one another and put on a quality product. We’ve all had jobs where one bad egg can ruin the entire experience. Some of us have even had jobs where your co-workers were the sort that created a work experience that was stressful and unfulfilling. With PREMIER LaRocca wanted to remove the locker room cancers, drama, and whatnot. He wanted a positive locker room, one built on the ideas of teamwork, camaraderie, and enthusiasm.
In addition to Dutra, the likes of JR Kratos, Oliver John, Jeff Cobb, Timothy Thatcher, Joe Graves, Marcus Lewis, and Nicole Savoy were highlighted by the promotion. They represented a professionalism that was just as important in the ring as it was in the locker room. Based on the way they carried themselves they could create a positive locker room atmosphere while also giving the fans a product that they could respect. Essentially LaRocca had crafted a roster that treated the fans like they were smart. That is the polar opposite of the way a company like World Wrestling Entertainment, or any number of independent promotions, operate. There were no fast ones coming from LaRocca or this roster. Just a high quality product from high quality human beings that the fans could enjoy and respect at the same time.
Another thing that came out of that roster was that it was a move towards the style of wrestling John LaRocca wanted to present to the masses. In John, Cobb, Thatcher, Graves, Kratos, etc. LaRocca had found the talent who could work the shoot style he wanted and make the fans believe. The way wins, losses, and the championship/s were being treated also helped to sell the style. Joe Graves beating Timothy Thatcher and Jeff Cobb at the latest PREMIER event wasn’t just a victory for the shoot, or grappling, style; it was a victory for the idea of wins and losses meaning something.
The fans have steadily been along for the ride. That’s not to say that attendance has been through the roof, but for a newer California indie drawing one hundred and fifty to two hundred fans is no small task. According to LaRocca the key has been holding onto the fans once they step through the doors. Because the product the promotion presents doesn’t insult the intelligence of the fans they keep coming back and the buzz over the promotion in the area keeps getting larger. I know one fan who has attended PREMIER events and he always has positive things to say about the experience. Heck, Dave Meltzer himself attended the last event they held, and if that’s not a sign of a promotions positive buzz I don’t know what is then.
The main avenue of availability for those of us not out in California is PREMIER’s YouTube channel, found at https://www.youtube.com/user/PremierWrestle. It’s peppered with matches and video clips, with LaRocca stating that starting in 2016 they plan on releasing past matches on a weekly basis. The best thing going on at that channel is the attempts by PREMIER to run live events free for everyone to see. They have attempted twice so far, with their IX and XI events. It’s safe to say that there were issues both times, but the effort is there and that’s what matters. The events have been made available to view on their YouTube channel after the fact as well. But, LaRocca knows the fans want the live experience and he will continue to use YouTube to provide them with that experience.
There are plenty of independent promotions the world over. Now, more than ever, people’s wrestling time and money is stretched very thin. I enjoy spending my time, and probably eventually my money, on PREMIER Wrestling. They are a young promotion, still finding their feet in many ways. Yet John LaRocca has managed to put together a promotion with a solid base, a great roster, and a positive attitude that matches the lofty goals of their promoter. I always enjoy checking out matches and shows from PREMIER, and if you’re a fan of quality professional wrestling you will too.