Wrestling Inc. president Raj Giri recently interviewed Shane Strickland, a.k.a. Lucha Underground superstar Killshot. As an experienced independent wrestler, Strickland gave his thoughts on how the indies are experiencing a growth in popularity.
In addition to his work in Lucha Underground, Strickland is known for his time in Combat Zone Wrestling, which he has worked for since 2012. With wrestlers like Cody Rhodes helping lead the resurgence of independent wrestling, Strickland said it's helping up-and-coming wrestlers focus on putting on great performances as opposed to trying to become TV stars. Wrestlers now understand that they can become popular on their own without the exposure that comes with signing with a mainstream company like WWE.
"It's flourishing so well. The fact that there are a lot of guys that can say no to those big time contracts in Stamford, Connecticut [WWE], I feel like is a testament to how independent wrestling is doing. Internationally is booming. Guys are not even looking to be on television, they are just looking to become professional wrestlers, to the way they were in the 1970's," Strickland said. "They are looking to be professional wrestlers, not television stars, which I feel that that is what is helping this business draw right now. So many guys wanting to come on the scene to want to be stars on the Independent scene and that is what their goals are, and that is what they are fighting hard to do."
One of the major differences in wrestling today is the focus on the in-ring product as opposed to character and promo work. Especially on the independent scene, some wrestlers don't spend enough time developing their characters and they get criticized for it. Strickland said with each new generation, changes arise and what's considered most important to a previous generation gets replaced by a new one.
"Honestly, I would say that it is difficult because once again there is that generational gap, because I am sure the generation before them were telling them not to climb ladders and not to leave the ring, and not to do hardcore matches as well," Strickland said. "So the generation moving forward, we are getting all the flack for what we are doing now, and how we are performing and how to survive in this business today. It is literally like, I honestly think it is a generational gap honestly."
In addition to being in the fourth season of Lucha Underground, Strickland is scheduled to challenge Matt Riddle for the MLW World Heavyweight Championship this Thursday, April 12th. MLW recently signed a national television deal with beIN Sports and the first show will be on April 20. Strickland said he's proud of how MLW has been progressing and he's honored to be one of the superstars to carry the company.
"I think it is amazing. Just seeing the production and how it has grown over the past several months since they first started, it's amazing, and also being one of the staple guys where they tell me that I am going to be in the official main event after this long hiatus from years ago, you are going to be in the first main event against Ricochet, and we are going to build it and we are going to build it and film all of these documentary-like vignettes and videos, and we are going to have you go on ESPN Radio and have you talk with this person," he said. "Just being the guy to be one of the staples of the new company, the new regime of MLW is an honor and I honestly didn't feel like I was one of the guys. I didn't feel that people saw me as one of those guys to be the company man for a long time, and over the past year and a half more and more promotions have seen me become that company person, so MLW being one of the first. MLW and DEFY were one of the first to be able to put the weight and responsibility on my shoulders to see me carry it."
The MLW World Heavyweight Championship Finals takes place this Thursday, April 12th in Orlando at Gilt Nightclub, tickets are available at MLWTickets.com starting at $15. You can follow Shane on Twitter and Instagram @StricklandShane, and visit his Pro Wrestling Tees store at ProWrestlingTees.com/ShaneStrickland. His show, Swerve Talk produced by himself and Sami Callihan, is available on YouTube.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.