Credit: Slam! Wrestling (Bob Kapur)
Saturday night’s Hardcore Roadtrip’s show in London was full of violence and mayhem, but the most painful part was the ending – the announcement that the promoter Mark Livingston had screwed over the wrestlers by not paying them and by not arranging transportation for them to the various airports from which they would be flying home. SLAM! Wrestling talked with booker Steven DeAngelis and U.S. hardcore star Luke Hawx, shortly after the show to get their take on the situation.
"During the last match," DeAngelis said, "one of the drivers came back to tell the locker room that the promoter, Mark Livingston’s wife had taken him around the corner to a hospital. He said, 'I got a call, and was told to get the money and bring it back to the locker room.' He allegedly went to the hospital to get the money. But I don't know who this guy is, I don't know what he did or did not do. And that's it."
Beyond the money -- which never did appear -- however, there were even more pressing concerns.
"Not only did he leave (the wrestlers) without pay, he left without making travel arrangements to get them on their flights back home," DeAngelis fumed. London is roughly two hours to Detroit and two hours to Toronto. "The flights had been booked, but didn't arrange a way for them to get to the airport. That's three hours away for some guys who are flying out at 6-o'clock in the morning. He stranded them for money, but he also stranded them for transportation to get home. That's almost worse, to strand someone in a foreign country with no transportation."
Faced with no other options, DeAngelis did what he had to do -- make an appeal to the fans for assistance. As reported by PWInsider, DeAngelis and the entire locker room -- who had come to the ring to applaud the efforts of the main event participants, MASADA and Jesse Amato, who battled it out in a Taipei Death Match -- explained the situation to the fans.
"I asked the fans that if anyone had a valid passport, if they could take a bunch of guys to the airports, depending on whether they were flying out of Detroit, Niagara Falls, or Toronto," said DeAngelis.
Hawx was one of those in need.
"I'm relying on a fan," he said, "so hopefully he comes through. He had to drive to his house -- an hour each way there and back -- to get his passport to take me to the airport in Detroit for a 6 a.m. flight. If I miss my flight," he worried, "that's a whole other thing, because then I'll get screwed even more, because I'll have to buy a new flight home."
For this to happen is a particularly big blow for Hawx, given his recent experiences. He was a big part of the now-defunct Extreme Rising promotions, another hardcore company that was plagued with financial issues and died with a whimper last weekend when it was announced that all future shows would be cancelled.
"It sucks," he said bluntly. "This is two weeks in a row. You come someplace new, someplace you think is going to work out well and that you'll be taken care of. And to put up with the same old thing, to get screwed one more time, that sucks."
What's worse, he said, is that an experience like this puts a huge blemish on the wrestling industry in general, and ruins it for legitimate promoters.
"Every good indy show suffers because of indy shows that are full of turds -- and it could be untrained wrestlers or backyard trained wrestlers -- as much as bad promoters," he said. "Then when someone goes to put on a good show, a lot of people won't even want to give it a chance, they'll say, 'Oh, I've already seen one of those shows, and it's not WWE.' WWE is on a pedestal, and it should be on a pedestal, because they have a great product, it's huge. Whereas indy wrestling is all classified as the same -- my show ain't no different than the guy next door's show, even though they could be completely different shows. But they're going to get classified as the same thing."
A lot of this is based on the loose and unregulated environment of indy wrestling.
"Wrestling is the only quote-unquote sport where you can get in the business without having a background in it," he observed. "You can just buy a ring and start promoting shows. If you're a football guy, you can't just get into the NFL and put in a team. You can't just put in a basketball team or an NHL team and start running games. But you can be in the professional wrestling business as long as you buy a ring -- all of a sudden, you're a promoter."
Hawx's ride did return to the building mid-interview, which Hawx was naturally pleased about, so the night wasn't a total disaster.
And for the fans, the night wasn't a disaster either -- in fact, DeAngelis noted that for those who were only interested in the in-ring product, the night was probably a great one.
"Everybody worked their asses off," DeAngelis said, about the professionalism of the roster. "The locker room was freaking amazing, the shows were great, the storylines were developed and the crowd responded. It was all those things a show needed to be, except..." his voice trailing, still somewhat shell-shocked over how things went down.
Though one wonders if there were signs that this might have been possible. Last year, before the company's first show, stories surfaced about Livingston's allegedly spotty past in the business -- some of Ontario's local indy wrestling authorities had claimed he'd done the exact same thing as on Saturday night, while promoting events years ago. Though, Hawx noted, "Everyone got paid last year, so I've been told."
Then on Friday, the company announced that ECW original Devon (Dudley) would not be appearing "due to advanced ticket sales not reaching anticipated levels." Could this have been a portend to the problems that were about to occur?
In hindsight, DeAngelis even speculated that some of the card changes made on Saturday morning were made specifically to cut costs. "I know that some guys were supposed to do both shows, but I believe he talked them into doing only one show, and I'm sure that was financially motivated. That happened this morning, so I had to rework the show based on that."
Hardcore Roadtrip promoter Mark Livingston. Photo courtesy of Hardcore Roadtrip
So could anything have been done to avoid this?
"Here's the thing," said DeAngelis. "Just communicate. If he'd have been up front and told them, 'Look, there's an issue here. I'm paying you what I can pay you, and I'll get the rest of it.' Just something that indicates a desire to have good faith. But not communicating at all with somebody..."
In that light, there has been no official comment on the situation on the company's website, its Facebook page, or on Livingston’s @HRTBoss Twitter account. Nor any comment about whether the show will air on iPPV on Sunday as was the plan -- though it's probably safe to assume it will not. It's probably also not a stretch to say that the announced May 31 show in London and June 1 show in Toronto will never come to pass either.
As Hawx put it, "There's no way that's happening. He's never going to run again. Anyone who would come up for this guy again would be an absolute moron."
"He can't run again, there's no way. He shouldn't be allowed to. It's such a disappointment, because of the quality of what we were able to create. He could have ridden this thing, it could have really been a home run of success. All those fans in that building would have bought a ticket for the next show."
"I don't know what to tell you, it's freaking awful. It's just a crying shame."