When it comes to the wrestling industry, you have all kinds of people who are into the phenomenon of wrestlers busting their asses in the ring to entertain fans around the world. The WWE is the biggest game in town, but the independent wrestling scene is thriving as well. Much of this is thanks to the efforts of various indie wrestling promotions, like the Millennium Wrestling Federation.
I was lucky enough to attend Wrestlemania 34 and met MWF founder Dan Maride, who was sitting next to me in the crowd. Dan was extremely knowledgeable about the business and I couldn’t resist interviewing him for The Comic Vault. Read on to hear his thoughts about the indie wrestling scene, his relationship with the WWE and why it’s hell on earth being a wrestling promoter.
Cheers for taking the time to be interviewed Dan. What attracted you to the wrestling industry in the first place?
The WWF worked it’s magic strategy on me to perfection. I was first introduced to the “Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling” cartoon series on CBS Saturday mornings as a six year old. It was an easy transition over to their two, one hour syndicated shows (Superstars & Challenge) which in Boston aired later Saturday morning. Those shows continued to work WWF’s strategy, teasing me with superstar squash matches and larger than life interview segments, but forcing me to go to the Boston Garden to see the big “superstar vs superstar” matches, which is now all we see on WWE television in 2018. The “Saturday Night’s Main Event” series on NBC was the greatest wrestling special in the modern era, for a variety of reasons. I’d go to bed at my regular time then be woken up around 11:30PM for an hour and a half of big matches that had run their course at the house shows.
I remember you saying you got into doing camera/video work for wrestling shows in your teens. How did that come about?
Community television came to my area in late 1992 and there was a wrestling talk show that aired. They had “insider” scoops, things that were going to happen on television before it aired, PPV matches that hadn’t been announced on WWF television shows yet. They advertised a studio audience for a future episode and I had to go. I wound up being active at the studio and learning how to use all of the different equipment, which was my foot in the door in pro wrestling when the opportunity knocked several months later.
For anyone unfamiliar with cameras in wrestling, can you explain their importance and how much they add to the overall match?
The importance of good camera work and overall production values in pro wrestling enhances the magic. I marvel at how WWE has it down to a science week after week, month after month, year after year. It’s not easy to pull off, but when you do, it can cover and add to every match.
You went on to found your own wrestling company the Millennium Wrestling Federation. What inspired you to do this and how is your organisation set apart from other companies?
I actually attempted to book our first event when I was in the third grade at the playground across the street from my elementary school. $1 per ticket. There was one computer in the school that would be transferred from classroom to classroom each week, and it had the Print Shop program on it. We made up a little flyer, and lets say it did not go over well once parents found out about it and brought it to the attention of the principal. I’d have to wait fourteen years for it to come to fruition! The Millennium Wrestling Federation came to life as a result of “Boston Bad Boy” Tony Rumble, who broke me into the business, passed away in 1999 and his company went down the toilet, and after a brief stint working with WWE on a variety of live events, them not needing my services. The week after I wasn’t needed any longer, we booked our first event.
I’d like to think the MWF is a throwback to “the good old days” where it was more of an athletic wrestling presentation as opposed to “sports entertainment” with humour. That doesn’t really appeal to me, as it’s more miss than hit. We’ve kept great relations with WWE throughout our existence, which has led to them letting us use contracted talent at times (Daniel Bryan when he was US Champion, JBL as IC Champion, Teddy Long as SD GM, Paul Bearer and others). We are the only wrestling company other than WWE to have a ticketed event at the TD Garden in Boston this century. We don’t operate a wrestling school, so we’re not forced to use talents that are paying to train with us, we’re able to select the best talents that can add to the fan experience.
You mentioned that you have a close working relationship with the WWE that allows you to use former talent and advertise with them. How did that relationship come about?
Our connection with WWE was simply through my efforts with them in 2000-2001, being a good, stand up person apparently appealed to certain people even if they haven’t found the need to offer me a bi-weekly paycheck. We’ve always tried to give back in our small corner of the universe promoting their local events, teaming with them to bring Steve Austin to Boston for the premiere of his movie “The Condemned,” things of that nature.
There have been so many classic matches in the WWE and outside the company. What are some of your favourite/most personal matches?
Favourite matches is a tough one. Like many, Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels from WM25 jumps right out. When I went to WM21 with Iron Sheik for his Hall of Fame induction, I thought Michaels vs Kurt Angle was the best match I’d ever seen, which Bobby Heenan agreed with 110%. Sometimes the matches that are the most memorable aren’t considered “the best” move for move, so to speak.
What’s your opinion on the current mainstream wrestling industry?
I worry about the overall health of the industry in 2018. WWE is making more money than ever before, which is the most important thing. At the same time, there’s little focus on the millions and millions of fans that have departed the product from it’s peak during the Monday Night Wars. Not every fan is a “lifer,” but I would have loved to see what WWE’s revenue would have been like in the 80s and late 90s if they had the various revenue platforms they do now. It would have been amazing, and I think it would bring reality to their numbers present day.
WWE is the only company in the United States running a full time schedule. Outside of bigger events, ROH isn’t knocking them dead at the door. Impact Wrestling has been through so much transition the last few years – I’m just happy to see them still exist and can hope for the future. It’s actually independent wrestling that’s on the rise. Ever since Triple H pumped electricity into NXT, independent wrestling has really come to life attendance wise.
It was really a tough go for a long, long time from the early 2000s until NXT became more popular with the advent of WWE Network. I’d like to see more variety from WWE where they have so many platforms – a program geared towards older, more mature fans. I’d love to see the return of a kids theme’d programme. An all women’s wrestling show would be great. Movie companies have a various ratings for different movies, there’s no reason why WWE can’t appeal to all fans where they have WWE Network.
I feel the current WWE product has a wealth of talent, but the characters aren’t nearly as developed as compared to the Attitude Era. Do you feel there could be a better focus on characterisation?
The comparison between the present and any era is that in recent years, you’ve had a core group of writers trying to be the Dr. Frankenstein between an entire roster of talent, for better or worse. Before that, you had characters that had both realistic and creative elements from the human being portraying it. That’s missed, especially in televised promos that can seem forced and over produced far too often. While there’s room for improvement, it’s still occurring during a time when WWE is generating more revenue than anytime in the history of the genre.
Not too long ago the WWE specialised in one-off matches like Hell in a Cell and the Elimination Chamber. These days the matches are centred around an entire PPV. Do you think these kind of matches have become oversaturated or lost some of their impact?
Hell In A Cell and Elimination Chamber have lost almost all of their appeal. First, the aspect of blood. Second, adding them as “just another” PPV whether there was a real need for a certain grudge match or not. HIAC is just a prop. I would only pull out the Chamber every few years, as to do it right and have six top guys in the match, you have to have five guys doing jobs. I thought this years mens Chamber match was a fantastic effort from both the athletes in the ring and the production team that “booked” it. If I had the magic pencil, I’d retire the match for a few years until there’s a real need for it again.
In terms of opportunities, do you believe the independent wrestling scene has improved as opposed to a couple of decades ago?
Independent wrestling is alive and thriving, and that’s a great thing. The good promotions were extremely healthy in the 1990s. Several reasons led to a massive decline that became its death in the early 2000s. There were still groups that invested big money on great talent and/or were aligned with a fundraising effort that could still draw good numbers, but it wasn’t until WWE started featuring NXT as a cornerstone of WWE Network that indy wrestling had life breathed into it again.
Is there anyone on the independent scene that you’d like to see get called up to the WWE?
More than seeing new talent brought into NXT, I’d like to see a second WWE Performance Centre open in a different part of the country (or maybe event a different part of the world), with different coaches, different talent, and running smaller live events in a different state than Florida. What WWE is doing right now is phenomenal – and it can be just the tip of the iceberg as time goes on.
I was overwhelming proud to see Warbeard Hanson debut on NXT TV and Tommaso Ciampa in the main event of the Takeover event in New Orleans. Ciampa is one of the best in the business. WWE sent him packing when he was in OVW, and instead of crying, feeling bad for himself, saying he was screwed over, he went out, worked harder, and is now revered. Hanson’s story hits close to home. He did the ring for the first couple of MWF events. He came to our studio every Sunday night working on his promos. Injuries have hit him hard, there were times he wasn’t sure he could continue. He didn’t give up. He did it the right way. Every aspiring professional wrestler should become familiar with his story, as it’s the right path to follow.
What would be your best advice for anyone who’s looking to become a wrestling promoter or run their own company?
To anyone looking to start their own professional wrestling company – don’t do it. If you want to do it the right way, giving wrestlers and fans a quality product and presentation, it will eat away at every second of free time you have. Anyone can do it wrong and waste peoples time (including their own). To do it right, without having great financial resources behind you, is an overwhelming, stressful task. It’s much more fun and enjoyable to be a fan.
The Millennium Wrestling Federation operates in New England as one of the biggest promotions in the Northeastern United States. Be sure to check out the company’s website and Facebook for a look into their roster and how you can be involved.