LaBar: Reality Of Extreme Rising closing its doors
It only takes one guy to ruin it for everyone — just ask all of those out of a payday courtesy of Extreme Rising closing its doors.
The Philadelphia-based company was headed by Steve “Mr. Miami” O'Neill. Yes, he's Mr. Miami living in Philadelphia.
The company began in 2012 with a show called Extreme Reunion and then evolved to Extreme Rising as it moved forward to running regular shows every so many months. Pittsburgh native Shane Douglas was originally part of the group of founders.
I was always aware of what Extreme Rising was, but it really came on my radar in December 2013. One of the other founders was a television producer named Kevin Kleinrock. He has an extensive and impressive history in television working with professional wrestling and reality television. So he grabbed my attention when he reached out to me in December.
He spoke about Extreme Rising and their plans for the future that involved getting on television. The conversations weren't entirely clear but he had some idea that maybe I could be part of it all. He invited me to their next show, which was Dec. 28, 2013, at ECW Arena in Philadelphia.
I appreciated the invite but had some hesitation. One of the hesitations was I had yet to hear one word from O'Neill and get to form any kind of relationship with him. Nonetheless, I didn't have another booking that weekend, I knew enough people working the show between talent or production people and I had never been to the ECW Arena before, so I went out to see what it was all about.
I showed up and met Kleinrock in person. He was extremely busy with the chaotic backstage you can expect a few hours before a show trying to get wrestlers to do promos and on the same page with everyone else. Kleinrock was a good guy, and I really viewed him as the glue that kept everything going.
We spoke about the potential television hopes but he told me on that day he had just found out things were getting delayed with their television plans.
There still was a ton of potential as I looked around at the locker room and the quality of the entire presentation. A big jumbo screen over an entrance way with a video walls, smoke and lights. It looked like an entrance way from the last few months and years of WCW. In hindsight, that's an ironic comparison.
He gave me a script, and I was penciled in to do a promo backstage with Rich Ortiz. The promo eventually got cut. As I recall, changes were made after hearing how Ortiz was received from the crowd and the creative direction they were going to go with him.
I never made my on-camera debut with the company.
I ended up sitting back observing. I watched most of the show from behind the curtain where Kleinrock was the leading force on keeping the show running. I helped him on the spot when needed with getting guys in position and ready to go.
I barely got to see or know Steve O'Neill.
Not a total surprise as I'm well aware how busy the lead promoter is on show day handling all that needs to be handled. We crossed paths once backstage. The only other time I saw him was when he gave his “go get em' team” speech to the locker room before the show.
Kleinrock spoke to me about being booked for their future shows to help run the backstage with promos and everyone knowing their cues. I left encouraged by the good ending in the main event, cautious by how much I felt I still didn't know and interested to see what could come about.
It turns out that would be my first Extreme Rising show — and my last.
The next few months were riddled with cancellations and what appeared to be excuses. I started noticing people who worked with them in different capacities souring on it all. They all with one common complaint of shady business courtesy of O'Neill.
Now, remember Shane Douglas was an original founder but had disappeared from it all for a while. It wouldn't be long that I started seeing a back and forth of accusations and “worked shoot” Facebook promos between O'Neill and Douglas.
It seemed they were potentially taking the real issues they had trying to work together and work all the boys and fans with this power struggle. I hated whatever was going on. I felt they needed to focus on selling their talent, many who were really good, and spend less time trying to sell a beef between owners.
As that went on, so did cancellation of shows. The next show was going to be in Pittsburgh. It never happened, and I believe O'Neill claimed it was due to a weather advisory. I do remember on that particular Saturday night that it wasn't even snowing.
Looking back, at this point I think I had made up my mind that I wasn't going to be working with Extreme Rising anytime soon. Both because I didn't want to be there, and it didn't seem like a show was ever going to happen.
Sure enough, I was right.
The bad thing is, all of these shows had fans purchasing tickets in advance for the shows, meet and greets and other packages. Tickets for the Pittsburgh show a few months ago. Tickets for two shows next week in Philadelphia. Tickets for a Pittsburgh show in early May.
Extreme Rising closed the doors earlier this week and the website told fans to contact their credit card companies for refunds. I've had many people tweet me this past week who are victims. Some having ticket purchases over $100 and appearing to not have any chance of getting that money back from Extreme Rising.
It seems not one person has been refunded. Where did that money go? O'Neill even deleted his Facebook page.
His Facebook page being deleted is comical to me because as months went on I thought about unfriending him because of the amount of annoying posts he would make airing constant drama that no promoter should make public. Fans don't need to know about the negative stuff behind closed doors. Deal with it internally. Forget about getting “likes” on your post and fix things.
Oh, and the reason I didn't unfriend him is because I have to admit I was somewhat entertained after a while reading some of the dramatic posts.
Being a promoter is not easy. I've said many times to promoters I work closely with that I'll never take on that role for a wrestling company. I've helped do it for some wrestling events and parties and that's stressful enough.
It's not the first wrestling promotion to fail, and it won't be the last. However, handle it the right way in terms of those who worked for you and those who purchased from you.
In the end, you can have so many people work so hard, but one guy can ruin it all. It's this kind of stuff that gives independent wrestling and the good promoters all bad names. It doesn't give people any hope that they can purchase tickets in advance unless its a WWE show. Otherwise, they want to show up to the building and be sure the show is going on, or that they don't have something better to do.
Other promotions are coming to the aid and trying to clean up O'Neill's mess by offering discounts and deals to their shows for fans who lost money on Extreme Rising. Tommy Dreamer's House of Hardcore and The Hardy Boys Omega promotion were the first two who stood up.
Extreme Rising has some good talent in the locker room with Luke Hawx, Stevie Richards, Rich Ortiz and many others. They had good people working the production with Kleinrock and Mike Moran. But it only took one guy to let it all fall.
Perhaps Mr. Miami can go back to being a DJ because I don't see anyone letting him near a wrestling promotion.
Justin LaBar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7949 or firstname.lastname@example.org.