by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Lisa Johnston is the owner/promoter of the Delaware based RightCoastPro (RCP). The folks at RCP ran their first show in November 2012 and promote themselves as a family friendly organization showcasing sports entertainment done right. RCP’s next show, RCP Back to School is scheduled for one week from today on September 14 and will take place at the RCP Arena at Life Community Church: 750 Otts Chapel Rd. Newark, Delaware. From there the company will run shows monthly until at least December 2013. More information about RCP can be found on the promotion’s official website. RCP also has an official Twitter account, Facebook page and YouTube channel. This interview was completed on September 3, 2013. In this interview Johnston and I focus on the topic of running a family friendly independent promotion.
Daniel Johnson: How did you first become interested in wrestling? Were you a fan growing up? If so who were some of your favorite wrestlers and why?
Lisa Johnston: I was a casual fan in the 1980s watching Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, Miss Elizabeth and my favorite: The Ultimate Warrior, who I got to meet in the 1990s. When I got married in the 1990s, my husband was training to be a wrestler on the independent level. At that point I got involved with the indie promotions that he worked with.
Daniel Johnson: Prior to your first show how did you go about getting the resources to launch RCP? Were there any challenges in securing sponsors?
Lisa Johnston: My husband works as a physical fitness trainer and has been training all types of athletes for years. He decided to add in-ring skill work to his regiment so we purchased a professional show style wrestling ring several years back. Once we decided that running shows was the next step, our vast contact list of people and organizations that we’ve worked with prior were more than willing to support our efforts.
Daniel Johnson: I was also curious how you were able to decide on and secure the venue for RCP’s first show?
Lisa Johnston: Our venue is an established church in our community with a beautiful facility, mid-sized gym and many fundraising needs. Again, through our community ties, we were able to find and secure the church as a preferred venue for RCP shows. We work together with the church staff to make our events beneficial for all parties.
Daniel Johnson: How many venues has RCP been held in to date? Would you like to expend in to any additional venues? If so where?
Lisa Johnston: RCP is a very new company; we’ve only been running shows since November 2012. We are currently working on promoting and establishing ourselves in the community. Our fan base continues to grow and we are just about at capacity limit with our current venue. We would love to stay there forever but if the attendance dictates a bigger venue, then we will be looking for a bigger venue. We are willing to go to any venue that can accommodate our crowd in the Delaware area.
Daniel Johnson: Would you ever like to hold shows out of state or would you like to just stick to Delaware?
Lisa Johnston: Right now, we want to stick with Delaware shows. It is our home, and this is where our fans are, we are a community based company. There are many rules and legal regulations to running shows in other states and we just aren’t ready to tackle that yet.
Daniel Johnson: When you were first forming RCP how did you go about putting together a roster? How much emphasis was placed on finding talented local wrestlers?
Lisa Johnston: Through years of working in the independent promotions, together my husband and I have accumulated a huge contact list. We have both good friends and general acquaintances from far and near that we carefully evaluated before inviting to join our company. Not only wrestlers, but support staff and behind the scenes workers were on that initial calling list as well. We had a company mission spelled out and some guiding principles that we wanted to follow and we talked to each person about our approach to the business. Since we are a training based organization, the emphasis was on the skill level. We only chose highly skilled and experienced workers to ensure a safe environment for everyone as well as a high-quality performance for our fans. Local talent is important to indie feds in order to build the fan base. But on the flip side, you have to bring in fresh, new faces to keep the interest up and keep a variety of talent on the roster. Right now we are about 50/50 on local talent and we swap in/out workers at each show so it doesn’t get stale. We have about 30 wrestlers and another 25 person support staff including trainees in the RCP family.
Daniel Johnson: What, if any, attention did you put into finding some name wrestlers for your shows? How important do you think it is to have name talent for your shows?
Lisa Johnston: Our philosophy is that if you build your roster correctly and have great storylines, you don’t need “name” talent for your fans. If you keep the show interesting, and keep it fresh your fans will stay interested. But, since we do have such a vast collection of “name” friends that we’ve known and worked with throughout the years, it’s really hard to tell them to stay away! Once the word got out that RightCoastPro was up and running, we were flooded with well-wishes and offers of, “Let me know how I can help,” from many “names.” We have used the surprise element of a “name” showing up unannounced and the fans go wild. It’s just another incentive for them to attend the RCP events and see what we have in store. You never know who may walk onto our stage and down the ramp at an RCP event!
Daniel Johnson: How much flyering do you do for each show? Also, who designs your flyers and how important do you believe they are for promoting the event?
Lisa Johnston: We probably print 300 to 400 flyers for each event. Our biggest advantage with flyers is handing them to people personally and telling people about what we do. We also have an established list of local retailers that allow us to hang our flyers in their store fronts. Most just get ignored, or lost in the clutter, but we have had some success in gaining new fans just because they saw the flyer consistently posted in the same spot. We do all of our flyers, publications, artwork and design graphics internally. Both my husband and I are experienced with desktop publishing and graphic arts tools. We also design and maintain our webpage and online presence internally.
Daniel Johnson: What, if anything, surprised you when you were able to run your first show? Did it go exactly as planned or were there any surprises, either positive or negative?
Lisa Johnston: I’m a pretty laid back person, nothing really surprises me, but I do have high expectations and I’ve learned that my expectations are rarely the same as other peoples. At our first show, I was blindsided by the fact that people don’t think like me! I’ve learned that every little detail must be spelled out to the most intricate level in order to get the expected results. I also realized that if you want things to turn out the way you expect, you have to do it yourself, or supervise it in person while it’s being done. I guess that first show was an eye opener as to how much work you have to do yourself at these events while answering hundreds of questions at the same time from about 50 different people!
Daniel Johnson: For those unfamiliar with the independent wrestling scene in Delaware how would you describe it? Have you had any difficulties working alongside other promotions? Also, have you ever worked or considered cross-promoting with another promotion either in Delaware or outside of the state?
Lisa Johnston: Delaware is a great melting pot of people. We have the laid back country folk that go for anything and then there are the more stringent types that require more action, more information, more entertaining to keep them interested in your product. But, these folks all come together and support their local organizations and just know how to have a good time without leaving their communities. No matter their backgrounds, Delaware fans all pull together to support the locals. As for other promotions, we have great personal friendships with several other promoters in the area; we’ve even used talent from their rosters and supported each other’s shows. We openly welcome all other organizations to come and check out our events. As far as cross-promoting, we have an established talent/training exchange with the Monster Factory in Paulsboro, New Jersey. We are also working on cross-promoting with other established organizations yet to be named publicly.
Daniel Johnson: RCP is a family friendly promotion. What made you decide to run a family friendly promotion as opposed to a more adult oriented company?
Lisa Johnston: Yes, we are proud to be strictly family friendly. This was an easy, strictly marketing based decision for me to make. Why would we want to limit our fan base due to our content? It doesn’t make fiscal sense to limit your ticket sales to a particular audience. We also pride ourselves in appealing to youth organizations, special needs groups and those that just enjoy a simple, fun production filled with energy and lightheartedness. Children bring that aspect to our shows. We want everyone to be happy! We also work with youth in our developmental program and mentor them in all the behind the scenes support work (writing, filming, acting, performing, production work, special effects, lighting and sound as well as hosting and customer service). As mentors, we find no need for adult content on our shows. We strongly suggest that everyone working with us be aware of their actions and words at shows and while representing our company to the public either in person or on the Internet.
Daniel Johnson: How much does RCP cater to children? Also, if you had to break it down in rough terms what would you say the ratio of kids to adults is who attend your show?
Lisa Johnston: Just because we are “family friendly” doesn’t mean that we cater exclusively to children. Our shows are balanced with simple, comedic skits as well as serious, technical wrestling and solid storylines that everyone can enjoy. We have developed characters that are geared towards the younger audience, but then others are for the adults as well. We boast a nice balance between the character performers and the technical performers. I would estimate we have a 40/60 ratio of kids to adults. After all, those kids need an adult to bring them and those adults have to purchase a ticket as well!
Daniel Johnson: Are there any other family friendly promotions you are familiar with and would recommend to readers?
Lisa Johnston: Most promotions say they are family friendly when essentially they are not. Having scantily clad women, brutal weapons matches, blood, back-stabbing storylines and a constant evil force, perceived or real, taking over or running your organization negates you from being family friendly. Advertising through negativity, foul language and threats on worker videos or merchandise also negates your organization as family friendly. My biggest pet peeve is organizations that state they are family friendly and allow their workers associated with them to post publicly about internal conflicts, their questionable habits, foul language, arguing with others opinions on the show results, disrespect for other humans and generally inappropriate content in public forums that tie into their company. Being family friendly means being socially conscience of the image your company and workers portray to the public. Just because you have a clown on your show, doesn’t make you family-friendly! So to answer your question, no, I would not recommend any other organizations that I know of as being family friendly!
Daniel Johnson: Have you ever had any challenges with keeping RCP family friendly? Have any wrestlers or anyone else ever tried to sway a show from being family friendly?
Lisa Johnston: No, we have stated our goals and guidelines clearly to everyone upfront. We have a vast list of workers and we run a tight ship. I am in control of the content on my show. I am always open to suggestions but I have the final say and everything must fit into the grand plan. If anyone is ever unhappy with the direction of the show or the company, we can easily replace them with someone else that is happy with our direction, we have a huge waiting list! It’s just a matter of having a vision, communicating that vision and sticking to the plan. Once people see you are in control, organized and have a solid plan, they tend to go along with it. I don’t anticipate any issues with being persuaded into a direction that I am not comfortable with.
Daniel Johnson: This is a broad question, but if you had to pick one thing then what would you say is the toughest part of being a promoter?
Lisa Johnston: Anticipating a person’s action/reaction to situations. Many things come up quickly and unexpectedly, the hardest part is anticipating what people will do in these adverse situations and being ready for a plan of action.
Daniel Johnson: On June 1, 2013, King Mega was crowned as RCP Heavyweight Champion. Do you consider King Mega the face of RCP? If not then who would you consider the face of the company?
Lisa Johnston: Yes, King Mega is an all-around great guy, he has overcome adversity through injury to become our first champ. He is a larger than life character and all the fans love him!
Daniel Johnson: The RCP Heavyweight Championship has a distinct look, featuring Chess pieces on it in addition to the RCP logo. How was the design of the championship decided on?
Lisa Johnston: Again, all of our artwork and design is done internally. My husband came up with the idea of the “Chess Belt,” affectionately named by the belt maker, due to the precision and strategy of the game. He was able to tie each of the elements of the game into wrestling and competition in general. Each piece on the belt is symbolic of something in life as well as the game and wrestling. After we came up with an initial drawing, we found a belt maker willing to work with us and give us the intricate details that we required. It was a nine month period of design and production, but finally the finished product was well worth it.
Daniel Johnson: Outside of King Mega, who are some other standout wrestlers from your roster?
Lisa Johnston: We have Chris “The Show” Steeler, Ryan “Adrenaline” Rush, “Self-Made” Michael Blake, fan favorite Francis Kipland Stevens, Bazooka Joe, “The Outlaw” Stockade, technical wrestler Billy Bax and “Mr. Upgrade” Mike Reed and newcomer “Trademark” Tommy Maclin.
Daniel Johnson: Are there any wrestlers who have yet to work for RCP that you would like to work for RCP? If so then who are they and why would you like them to wrestle for RCP?
Lisa Johnston: This is a huge list for me! And not to give away any spoilers, we are working that list every day! We are still a very new company and have plans for many new faces joining the RCP family in the near future.
Daniel Johnson: Former WWE, TNA and ROH wrestler Low Ki recently wrestled for your company despite rumors he was retiring. How were you able to secure Low Ki and will he wrestle for RCP at all in the future?
Lisa Johnston: Low Ki is a personal friend and very close to many workers on our roster. He has been in touch with many of our workers and familiar with our product. When we advertised the Champions Reception for King Mega in July, Low Ki wanted to be a part of the celebration for his friend. We easily worked out a deal for Low Ki to wrestle Billy Bax, someone he had worked with before, but never faced in the ring. It was a tremendous match-up, the fans were thrilled and Low Ki was overwhelmed by the welcome from all his longtime fans in Delaware. We welcome Low Ki back at any time his schedule allows.
Daniel Johnson: How important do you believe it is for RCP to have an online presence? Also, do you plan to expand RCP’s online presence at all? If so how?
Lisa Johnston: It is extremely important for any company to have an online presence. The world today is Internet based and if a customer can’t find you on the Internet, they will find someone else to do business with. We currently have an up-to-date website www.rightcoastpro.com as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts that we update on a daily basis. As we expand and grow our merchandising, we will have online sales of anything and everything RCP!
Daniel Johnson: What would you say has worked best in RCP to date?
Lisa Johnston: Positive promotion, family friendliness and delivering a great product. Our fan base has grown simply by word of mouth and people bringing their friends back with them for the next event. I like to practice a “no drama” environment where everyone is welcome and encouraged to have fun. We make friends, not enemies! We focus strictly on our own business; we don’t have time or energy for worrying about what other people are doing!
Daniel Johnson: On the flip side where do you think RCP still needs to improve? What will you do to make sure this improvement happens?
Lisa Johnston: Again, I am a perfectionist! I look at everything and see an improvement that can be made. For overall production, we were lacking a big screen and visual equipment for the shows. We are implementing a new big screen at our September event with pre-recorded video clips. In the future we want to have the capability for live feeds or on-the-spot interviews to be broadcast live over the big screen into the arena. That’s just one of the plans for improvement, the others, everyone will have to see live at shows as we unveil them to the public! Also, I feel a need for some type of reserved seating system. Many of our fans request the same seats for each show, but marking chairs and seating charts on show day gets a little tedious when you’re working with 150 plus reserved seats.
Daniel Johnson: This is a broad question, but what, if anything makes RCP unique from any other promotion?
Lisa Johnston: This is my favorite question! We pride ourselves on being unique in the indie wrestling world because we focus exclusively on the small details of every aspect. When fans walk in, they know they are in for a treat. First impressions are everything and our professional set up shows immediately. We have state-of-art equipment, professional show ring, lights, sound, stage, sturdy guardrails. We accent each show with props that enhance our theme for the show, we have colorful banners and promotional stations where fans can take pictures, all staff members are easily identified by their uniform shirts and are readily available to help anyone. Our arena is clean, bright, welcoming and has plenty of free parking and a full concession stand at each event. As for the show production, we run a fluid, non-stop show the entire time with a professional sound and video team, a professional ring announcer and dedicated host for each show. We also feature guest performers for music and have some type of children’s activities at each show. Face-painting, balloon characters, arm wrestling. As for the wrestling part of it, that’s pretty darn good as well!
Daniel Johnson: What are your short-term goals for the promotion? Is there anything in particular you would like to achieve by the end of the year?
Lisa Johnston: Short-term goal is to always sell out a show. Long-term would be to sell out a larger venue. A real goal of mine for the end of the year, which will be the one year anniversary for us, is to have a solid crew that knows their jobs and can work the show set-up, during the show, and show break down without being micromanaged by my husband or myself. Right now, there are still too many variables and we haven’t ironed out all the details just yet. But, we have a solid crew now, with a few more shows under our belts; I think we can accomplish this goal.
Daniel Johnson: On the flip side of this question what are your more long-term goals for the promotion? Basically, where would you like to see RCP in five years?
Lisa Johnston: In five years, I would like to have RCP be a household name in the Delaware area. I would like to run more frequent events, shows or public appearances featuring our Elite Pros, and I would like to be more engaged with our community and neighbors and have more youngsters enter into our developmental program.
Daniel Johnson: I also had five short non-wrestling related questions I like to ask everyone to make interviews just a little more interesting. Outside of wrestling what television shows do you watch?
Lisa Johnston: You assume I have time to watch wrestling! I’m behind on all TV watching! Personally I have watched the series Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy and the remake of Dallas this past season. And with an occasional view of Glee to change it up a bit, that’s about all I have time for. These all are on my DVR, so I watch whenever I get a chance to catch up. I try to avoid any spoilers on the Internet, which is tough these days.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie to come out this year?
Lisa Johnston: Honestly, I have not seen a single movie in the theaters this year!
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Lisa Johnston: Organically baked Sunshine Bread. Awesome!
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song released this year?
Lisa Johnston: I’m typically a hard rock fan but right now I’m really liking more mellow songs; “Sail” by Awolnation and “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons. Perhaps, I remember these because they are so different from everything else I’m hearing on the radio nowadays. Also, I love the new Sabbath with Ozzy song.
Daniel Johnson: What was the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Lisa Johnston: I can’t remember the last time I read a book, it’s been that long!
Daniel Johnson: I then just had a few more wrestling questions. What is the weirdest part of being a wrestling promoter?
Lisa Johnston: Everyone seems to know you all of a sudden! I’m everyone’s best friend now!
Daniel Johnson: Who would you say is one wrestler 25 or younger that readers should be aware of?
Lisa Johnston: Trademark Tommy Maclin. He has a great look, solid training and is willing to work for it!
Daniel Johnson: What advice do you have for any prospective promoters interested in running a pro wrestling promotion?
Lisa Johnston: Grow a thick skin, don’t make any enemies, stick to your own plan, and don’t let others dictate how you should run your business!
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Lisa Johnston: Wrestling is a hobby for most people, fans, and a lot of workers. They want to have fun with it, you should have fun too, but if you are running the show, you have to treat it as a business, not a hobby, regardless of if you are making money or not. Make business decisions that are best for your business, don’t grant favors for your friends or copy what other businesses are doing. Be unique and creative, it will make a huge difference in your end product. You have to be in charge, follow your plan, and not be afraid to ask for help from people that have experience in the business. Don’t ever think you know it all, you will always learn something new every day while in the wrestling world. Keep your mind open and take it all in. It’s a lot of work, but in the end, you have to enjoy the show!
Check out some action from Lisa Johnston’s RCP! In this match The Legendary Chick Magnets consisting of Brian Soscia, Mike Tobin and Mozart Fontaine take on RCP’s Legendary Ladies Men consisting of “Self-Made” Michael Blake, “Mr.Upgrade” Mike Reed and Billy Bax:
Categories: Wrestling Interviews