by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Danny Warren is the General Manager of Canadian Wrestling’s Elite (CWE). He launched CWE along with the rest of the company’s originals in 2009 and has since led the company to expand and develop its talent. Warren is not just the General Manger of CWE, he’s also a wrestler. Performing as “Hotshot” Danny Duggan, he is a cornerstone of CWE’s in-ring action and has held the CWE Heavyweight Championship, the CWE 123Approved.ca Open Rules Championship and the CWE Tag Team Championship. CWE can be followed on Twitter @cwecanada and the online home of CWE can be found here. This interview was completed on July 1, 2013. In this interview Warren and I focus on the topic of running an independent wrestling promotion in Canada.
Daniel Johnson: In a nutshell how would you describe Canadian Wrestling’s Elite?
Danny Warren: If I had to choose one word it would be one right in the name itself and the premise of the company’s vision, elite. CWE is a melting pot of Manitoba professional wrestling with the top stars accumulated from various different promotions prior to CWE’s inception mixed in with fresh new faces to the province as well as a nice blend of out of province and country talent you won’t see elsewhere in our market.
Daniel Johnson: Was it difficult getting the resources to found the company?
Danny Warren: To be 100 percent honest there wasn’t a large amount of “resources” built up to launch CWE. As a wrestler in the area for so long I had accumulated enough contacts and built enough of a network both socially and through local businesses that I was very confident in rolling in the dice and giving it a try on my own. It was very common that I would bring more to the table financially through my network and contacts for other promoters as well as put in more of an effort promoting wrestling in the town that I felt I would be better benefited reaping those benefits instead of seeing them go underused or under appreciated.
Daniel Johnson: How did you get your first sponsor and what do you believe makes your product appealing to sponsors?
Danny Warren: CWE has been very blessed in the sense that we have probably secured over 100 financial sponsors throughout the three provinces we have operated events in over the years. A big part of this success is we really try to go the extra mile and maximize not only the exposure a business will receive through our events but the experience a sponsor will have attending our events and the way they are treated. A lot of our first sponsors were me pulling from those personal contacts and rallying support. If I am not mistaken our very first “cold” sponsor would have been the purchase of a CWE after party which are still immensely popular to this day. For anyone that knew the “old Danny Duggan” will tell that if I didn’t know anything else it would be to throw a great party and have a good time. Blend that in with the wild and crazy atmosphere professional wrestlers bring and there you have the infamous CWE after party.
Daniel Johnson: How did you go about putting on your first show?
Danny Warren: Once it was decided on that I was ready to jump into the promoting end of the industry I contacted Maples Community Center where I had wrestled many times previously. It has the perfect set up and environment for an independent show and was my first choice. Shane Madison, Mike Davidson, and myself went before the community center board and pitched them regular wrestling events. The board gave us approval and we were off to the races.
Daniel Johnson: How much importance was placed on coming up with a name? What about the initials? Were you pleased with the end result?
Danny Warren: In all honesty I am not overly thrilled with the name itself. I love the initials CWE but regret deciding and giving final approval to Canadian Wrestling’s Elite if for nothing more then I have never heard a company name spelled or said wrong as many times as I have ours. Shane Madison, Mike Davidson, and myself threw around a million names and the only thing we could agree on was that we all liked the word and meaning behind “elite.” We were trying very hard to think outside the box, so much in fact that something a little off base was decided upon. It is very common by even people who have wrestled for our company since day one to refer to the company as Canadian Wrestling Elite when it is in fact Canadian Wrestling’s Elite. Small difference but enough of one I kick myself every time I see and hear it said incorrectly.
Daniel Johnson: How was your roster structured when you first began the company? Did you have any big name stars from the beginning or did you depend solely on local talent?
Danny Warren: CWE has featured a major international import talent as a headliner on almost every one of our events for the past four and a half years. When the company started Manitoba was at a political standstill in the sense that every company expected “exclusivity” where if you wrestled for one company you were “not allowed” to wrestle for anyone else in the area. As someone who likes to constantly better myself I didn’t like being capped at how much experience and ring time I was able to get in front of an audience so I was always fighting tooth and nail with promoters to stop that mentality. When CWE began spots were offered to many talents from each and every company that was operating at the time. We were “breaking the barrier”. Come one, come all. Another gripe I had was the lack of import talent coming through the city so we were constantly wrestling the same guys over and over again and when you are always wrestling talent that was just as good and in a lot of cases less experienced than you there is very little room to advance as a performer so a part of that vision was to not only bring in outside talent to work and learn from, but some of the industries very best so we could really have an opportunity to learn and step up our game.
Daniel Johnson: How many of your current roster have been there since day one? How do you go about retaining your talent?
Danny Warren: There is a lot of talent still actively competing in CWE that were on the very first show. Many have come and gone, but we still have a lot of our core original crew. I wouldn’t say you retain your talent, if anything they retain their position by continuing to go out and bust their ass and helping build the product and holding their spot.
Daniel Johnson: Do you encourage your wrestlers to work for other promotions in addition to yours? Do any members of your roster just work for CWE and no one else?
Danny Warren: Winnipeg is geographically in the middle of nowhere in the grand scheme of the wrestling world so by being so far away from other major markets and regular work, a lot of our talent work exclusively in Manitoba. However, there are still plenty of talent based out of Winnipeg that travel across the country, into the United States, and beyond. I always encourage people serious about pursuing wrestling past a local level to be inside a wrestling ring whenever and wherever they can.
Daniel Johnson: What, if any are the challenges of running the company and being a performer for the company?
Danny Warren: “If you want it done right, you do it yourself” as the saying goes and that was my attitude and mentality for a very, very long time. It is very hard to trust your investment and all of the time and work you have put in with someone else during an event when you are set in your ways and prefer things done a certain way. There are many times you get so overwhelmed dealing with the venue, fans, sponsors, your crew, the booking of the show, all while trying to set an example by going out and working hard and trying to have the best match on a show that some areas start to lack and not get the attention they need. Not too long ago I had to make the decision to man up, put my ego aside and put trust in others in some areas of the business in order for the company to grow and run more smoothly.
Daniel Johnson: Speaking of your performers, CWE also has a training school, the Elite Wrestling Academy headed by Mentallo. How did this come about and how significant is it for an independent promotion to be affiliated with a wrestling school?
Danny Warren: The Elite Wrestling Academy is the creation of Canadian Wrestling’s Elite. Building and grooming people for the future of your company is important in every genre of business and wrestling is no different. New blood is essential to staying fresh in professional wrestling and Winnipeg has had very few new talent come through our area in the last while with potential to be a major player so we remain hopeful by having a wrestling school that will change in the future.
Daniel Johnson: Do a lot of graduates of the school join the CWE roster? Is there a percentage of how many make it to the full-time roster?
Danny Warren: In CWE’s existence there has only been one wrestler to completely graduate from our wrestling school and that is Tyler Colton. I am a firm believer that you have to show the dedication, passion and commitment required to be a productive member of our wrestling society to be pushed through our school and be allowed entry into our crazy business. Manitoba for a long time and still does in some circles across the country and afar have a reputation of having some of the worst wrestlers you will find on an indie show and that covers a lot of ground. This problem was created by people allowing people in the business without showing any level of commitment to properly learning the craft or conditioning them physically and cosmetically or teaching or equipping them with proper work ethic or etiquette. I know wrestling is a business, but I do not believe in pushing someone through training regardless of their skill and ability to simply continue making money off of them or in hopes of having extra help setting up your ring or help sell tickets, It is that mentality across the wrestling word that has hurt the business at our level to a point it may never recover. Tyler Colton paid his dues and continues to show that drive to continue growing as a performer each and every day and in return is now wrestling in big main event high pressure situations and getting regular work across the Canadian indies.
Daniel Johnson: Where else have members of CWE’s roster been trained aside from the Elite Wrestling Academy?
Danny Warren: Our roster spans over almost 40 people that have been wrestling anywhere from three to 25 years so trainers cover a lot of ground. Some notable names would be the likes of Lance Storm, Johnny Devine, Don Callis, Mentallo among countless more.
Daniel Johnson: A few questions back I mentioned Mentallo. From what I’ve seen of CWE he seems like the face of the company? Would you say that is a fair statement or would someone else more accurately be described as the face of the company? How important do you think it is to have a face of the company?
Danny Warren: That is a very fair statement and that was very intentional as he was our “go to guy” when this company was launched in 2009. Mentallo delivered many classics that I still fondly remember to this day against a variety of international and ROH talent that came through CWE. It would be safe to say I have personally grown into that role as well over the last few years and Robby Royce as our current champion has really stepped up in that role as well.
Daniel Johnson: Likewise, how important do you feel titles are for a Canadian independent wrestling promotion?
Danny Warren: Titles are important in professional wrestling as if there is no prize at the end of the tunnel what are we all wrestling for? Championships are the traditional focal point behind most wrestling stories. Holding a title belt means more money!
Daniel Johnson: What do you feel the perfect number of titles is to have for a Canadian independent wrestling promotion your size and why?
Danny Warren: We have have a heavyweight title, tag team titles, and a TV title. I think three is more then enough to have importance put on all of them.
Daniel Johnson: What do you consider your home base and why did you consider that location for your home base?
Danny Warren: Winnipeg is our home base. It is where the company was launched, where the majority of our roster is located and the city we have produced monthly and the most events out of since our inception.
Daniel Johnson: How long did you run the company before beginning to branch out? What areas did you branch out to first and why?
Danny Warren: CWE ran its first tour one year in to operations and that was throughout Northern Manitoba. Shortly after that we branched out to Northwestern Ontario and then Saskatchewan. Touring Manitoba first was a logical choice being the province we are located in.
Daniel Johnson: What, if any impact did the global economic crisis that began in the last decade have on your company and how did you deal with any negative effects?
Danny Warren: The biggest economical challenges to a company our size is the price of transportation. Like mentioned earlier, in the grand scheme of the wrestling world and our physical location we are far away from everything which means flights are a lot more expensive here then most places and it costs a lot of money to transport out of town talent. I recall helping a friend in Toronto a few years ago price out an event and the cost of a flight there for a talent I had used was two thirds cheaper flying them to his area then it was mine for an almost $400 saving. That goes a long way in the world of independent wrestling.
Daniel Johnson: Getting into more the local Canadian scene have you had to compete with any other Canadian independent wrestling promotions? Have you coordinated with other companies or does CWE just stick to it’s own business?
Danny Warren: I don’t believe in “competing” with other local wrestling companies. To a small degree I suppose you are but in reality we are hosting events in markets with hundreds of thousands of people, we are competing with ourselves to draw those people to our events not fight over the core couple hundred wrestling fans that already regularly attend. If people are choosing to attend another wrestling show regularly over mine then I am at fault for not putting forth a product they’d prefer to pay and see. I have worked with plenty of different wrestling companies in Canada over the years and am always open to it. Independent wrestling is such a niche form of entertainment that I truly believe the more we help each other stand and grow the better for everyone involved.
Daniel Johnson: On a similar topic have you done any inter-promotional work with other companies? If so then what have you done? If not then is this something that would interest you?
Danny Warren: We have done plenty of regular talent trade arrangements with companies throughout Western Canada and currently have one with High Impact Wrestling in Saskatchewan and Revolution Pro Wrestling in Alberta. It allows the wrestlers for those companies and the companies themselves to branch out and create awareness for themselves in other parts of the country.
Daniel Johnson: What factors do you consider in deciding how many shows to run a month? Do you think you’ve decided on the perfect number or does it still need to be tweaked?
Danny Warren: There isn’t a set number of shows you look to do any month. You approach any town or show on when it is appropriate and viable to operate it. Some towns can handle a monthly to bi-monthly event like Winnipeg does and other small rural Canadian towns will only financially support a wrestling event once or twice a year.
Daniel Johnson: You recently announced that Paul London would be appearing for your company. Is it easy to get big name stars to come out to your part of Canada or has it been difficult?
Danny Warren: Of course it is easy! It is a wrestler’s job to travel and perform where the money is!
Daniel Johnson: Do bigger names tend to come back to work for your promotion? What is important to know about making a bigger name talent want to come back?
Danny Warren: That is a very simple question. As long as they are paid what they are promised and treated well they will be likely to return if asked.
Daniel Johnson: Have you had or are you planning to have any shows in the United States? If so is this a short-term goal or a long-term goal?
Danny Warren: That isn’t in the game plan of CWE. There is so much legal red tape just trying to perform in the US legally I imagine it would be a very long and expensive process to try and promote events there as well.
Daniel Johnson: Beyond the United States and Canada? How do you feel having an online presence helps the promotion if at all?
Danny Warren: Most definitely. Having a national television show has really helped with that as well. Wrestling fans from all the world constantly communicate with us.
Daniel Johnson: Did you have an online presence from day one? If it has grown then how did you develop and nurture this growth?
Danny Warren: We have always had one, but it definitely has grown and continues to grow by the day.
Daniel Johnson: Aside from having an online presence some promotions attempt to stand out by creating something new such as a match type unique to the promotion. For instance, CZW has the Cage of Death. Has CWE created anything that can only be found in CWE and if so what?
Danny Warren: The 50 Man CWE Rumble To Remember has quickly become an annual event that people look forward to every year. This match features wrestlers from the past and present of Manitoba wrestling and from across Canada. Although not an original to CWE the ladder match definitely has become a staple of our promotion. Some very awe aspiring matches done over the years.
Daniel Johnson: I also a have a few non-wrestling related questions just to make the interview a little different, which are as follows: Outside of wrestling what television shows do you enjoy watching?
Danny Warren: Criminal Minds is the only show I make a point to watch outside of professional wrestling. When I am not studying professional wrestling it gives me a good opportunity to study how to try and get away with murder! I love Kayley Cuoco so The Big Bang Theory gets some play as well on my television.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Danny Warren: I really enjoyed Pain and Gain. I don’t get out to the movies too often and that was one I have happened to have time to watch.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Danny Warren: When in Portland, Oregon earlier this year they brought me to this gimmicky doughnut shop that had doughnuts with all kinds of crazy things put on them including cereal and such. The Oreo covered doughnut was heaven on earth.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song to come out this year?
Danny Warren: Pick any Taylor Swift recently released single!
Daniel Johnson: What was the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Danny Warren: I am currently reading JBL’s “Have More Money Now” book. Just getting started though!
Daniel Johnson: Getting back to wrestling what would be a few words of advice you would give to someone interested in starting an independent wrestling promotion in Canada?
Danny Warren: Don’t!
Daniel Johnson: What is there weirdest part of being the general manager of a wrestling promotion?
Danny Warren: It really has helped me grow as a person and as a professional. I have been wrestling since I was 15 and up until a few years ago I was a wild child to say the least. Running my own wrestling company has allowed me to mature with the responsibility and workload that comes with running one successfully. It really opened my eyes and gave me a new appreciation for every promoter I have ever worked for as it is a lot of work, time and money put in and for a lot of times very little to no reward. I have been quoted as saying that every indie wrestler especially those always complaining and demanding things should have to try and run their own show just once to see the realities and hardships that come with running an event to gain that insight and appreciation for those that put forth the work and effort to give them a show to live their dream on.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Danny Warren: Give CWE TV a chance! Our weekly television show has grown leaps and bounds since when we first started and become something I am quite proud of. Visit www.cwecanda.ca for how you can watch it!
Check out a full episode of CWE TV! CWE Tag Team Champions M-Max: Mentallo and Tyler Colton fight against “First All Star” Brian Rich and “Pimp Daddy” Rick Matthews, “The Tattooed Terminator” Darren Dalton works with Kevin Cannon’s Mystery Client, CWE Heavyweight Champion “The Pissed Off Pitbull” Robby Royce takes on Heavy Metal and Stevie Richards wrestles “A-List” Anderson Tyson Moore in the main event:
Categories: Wrestling Interviews