They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that’s the truth in most cases.
When it comes to the professional wrestling business, it’s not the truth. Imitation can be seen as a harmful dig, mockery, or even worse – a reproduction. Success in wrestling comes from being original, or being first.
Game Changer Wrestling is not a parody, copy, or rehash of ECW. The comparisons are there, the similarities are striking, but as company owner Brett Lauderdale noted at Saturday’s Fight Club event, “We’re not the next anything, we’re the first f***ing GCW.”
The independent promotion is experiencing a wave of momentum that is comparable to those fond memories of those exciting days of ECW. Backed by a rabid fanbase, a case can be made that GCW is the number three promotion in North America behind WWE and AEW.
For every light tube that is shattered, for every magnificent eye-popping dive, for every sold-out building, and for every Nick Gage entrance, the small New Jersey based promotion grows a bit more in popularity. The punk-like arrogance pops off the screen whenever you turn on a Game Changer Wrestling event. The company doesn’t try to be a polished, corporate, watered down product – they target the grimy, hardcore, violence-craving fans who were once were in love with the product that ECW put out.
Led by Nick Gage, AJ Gray, Effy, Joey Janela and more, 2021 has easily been the promotion’s most successful year. During one of their WrestleMania week shows, Jon Moxley showed up and ignited a feud with the company’s top star Nick Gage. This would lead to a domino effect of exciting things for the promotion, which brought us the Nick Gage/Matt Cardona feud.
I would have personally never thought that Matt Cardona of all people would be the guy to send GCW to that next level. Google Trends data shows however, that the promotion reached an all-time high in google searches around the time of Cardona’s arrival in the company.
Cardona doesn’t deserve all of the credit though, as there are other factors that are contributing to the booming popularity of the company. Nick Gage was also featured on an episode of the hit Vice TV series Dark Side Of The Ring, which surely got some unknown fans invested in his underdog story. Gage also had an appearance on AEW Dynamite in a match that saw him take on Chris Jericho. The match was seen by nearly 1.18 Million people, which also surely prompted some fans to look up Gage and discover his affiliation with Game Changer Wrestling.
Some new eyes have also been cast upon the product due to the sheer amount of outside stars they’re bringing in. People like Thunder Rosa, The Briscoes, Minoru Suzuki, Taiji Ishimori and Homicide have all made appearances in the company recently.
The success doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon for Brett Lauderdale and company. At this past weekend’s Fight Club event (which featured a massive Gage vs. Moxley main event), the promotion announced their intentions to run a show inside of the Hammerstein Ballroom which is one of the most iconic wrestling venues ever. This move immediately drew more ECW comparisons, and maybe rightfully so, but the company is creating their own narrative and path so that they hopefully don’t end up like the defunct Philadelphia based brand that now rots away in WWE’s creative property junkyard.
"I've seen a million GCW's come and go… it'll never last"
Hammerstein Ballroom pic.twitter.com/hnJ61mp1Cc
— GameChangerWrestling (@GCWrestling_) October 10, 2021
The company has birthed many creative aspects to their product, which as mentioned earlier, is always the key to success in wrestling. Wrestling fans have seen so much of the same thing over and over as the years pass along that when something different comes around, they sink their teeth into it. A concept like Bloodsport is something that could go on to be a defining characteristic of the company for years and years to come. Other concepts like their yearly Backyard Wrestling show also stand out as a fan-favorite.
There will always be a demand for an “outlaw” in wrestling, whether it’s like CZW or IWA Mid-South of yesteryear, or Freedom and Zona 23 of today. Either way, GCW seems to be sticking around for the foreseeable future as they continue to challenge other important promotions like IMPACT! Wrestling and Ring Of Honor for the very valuable wrestling fan dollar. They’ve built an established fanbase that will continue to support their shows week in and week out for as long as they’re around. In today’s day and age of wrestling, there are more ways to make money in wrestling today while also building your brand which is something that ECW was never really afforded. Given the backing that GCW has, it can be said with great confidence that the promotion sets itself apart from ECW for that simple reason.
As GCW becomes more popular, will the promotion continue to truly live up to its moniker of being the “Last True Outlaws?” We don’t have a crystal ball, but the future looks game changing.