I had the chance to share a phone conversation with Sanjay Bagga, the Managing Director of LDN wrestling based in London, England. Here’s what he had to say.
SB: I’ve only just got back from a show two and a half hours ago so I’m a bit rough.
HARI: Where was your show last night?
SB: North-Wales, so that’s a six hour drive by the time you’ve dropped people off back home and everything. Just got back home at 7.30, so a bit tired.
HARI: You were described as a well-dressed, passionate and confidant teenager, stirring up controversy on the UK Fan Forum, according to the book The Holy Grail. You are now Managing Director of LDN. Is it true you parents got you into wrestling from sitting you down in front of the television during the World of Sport days?
SB: That’s sort of true, my parents got me into World Of Sport but my generation grew up watching the WWF.
HARI: Who stood out to you at the time?
SB: The British Bulldog, I was a huge fan at the time, and Ric Flair too. The first wrestling show I ever watched live was SummerSlam 1992 in Wembley stadium, so you can imagine how that felt.
HARI: You now run over 150 shows a year. What problems do you have touring the UK?
SB: Travel mostly. Like I said I just got back from last night’s show, just got up and am getting ready for the next show. No major problems, I can run shows anywhere in the country. No real problems .
HARI: Nothing bad like vans breaking down?
SB: No, don’t jinx it. No problems like that.
HARI: Do you still ring announce or split duties part-time?
SB: No, I work with another guy who does most of the announcing around London and Essex. I do 90% of the shows, so out of the 150 shows we run I probably do 130 of them.
HARI: What’s the art of being a good ring announcer, it doesn’t get spoken about much?
SB: Interaction, getting people to react the way you want them to. If you have people welcomed to the show, as the announcer you’re the MC for the event, so it’s part of the package deal. My job is to present the show and be as professional as possible. It’s quite an important role.
HARI: Especially at those times of the show when you pile-drivered.
SB: I haven’t done anything like that for about 7-8 years to be honest, I’ve just been the MC for 7-8 years now.
HARI: Back in 2007, you said one of your main aims as a promotion to own your own ring and have one training school set up in Essex. Come 2014, you’ve got Three Training Schools in (Staines, Romford and Barnet) and I guess you have your own ring, how have you seen the improvements come along?
SB: Yeah we do have our own ring now. It’s going very well, we have a very good training coach with Lee Travis, who started out with us as well, along with John Richie and Stixx Benedict. It’s been great, with training running Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.
It’s great in a business sense too because we have our own group of wrestlers and talent that we can take around the country.
HARI: There’s recently been a new drive to recruit more trainees, any prospects so far or is it too soon to tell?
SB: We always have students coming through, 100s every year,there’s a couple of people we have our eyes on. Let’s hope they keep at it
We’re looking for those people who can do it, can be a professional wrestler because not everyone can do it. The percentage of people coming to the first session and the percentage of people coming to the second isn’t very high.
People come to us thinking it’ll be very easy but unfortunately they can’t hack it. Our training is intense, our warm-ups last an hour. It’s hard to find that right person but every once in a while you see it.
HARI: You went on record saying you weren’t always the biggest guy, and knew you never wanted to be a wrestler in the ring. Why is that?
SB: My generation of family are all businessmen, specifically Goldsmiths. So my dad, grandad, twenty-thirty generations have never worked for anyone else. So I’m self-employed, a business man by trade and love professional wrestling. I was always going to run my own business and the professional wrestling business really fit into it compared to the family business. Wrestling works well.
HARI: The people and style you’ve gone for emphasises technical talent, having the alternative with shoot-style or catch-wrestling. Growing up with the WWF, was that the reason guys like Bret Hart and Davey Boy stood out?
SB: Absolutely, I’m not a big shoot-style fan by the way. I do like technical wrestling though, my love for British Wrestling came in 2007/08 on The Wrestling Channel. LDN became affiliated with it. It’s a fantastic style of wrestling, so we have a gap in the market.
HARI: So does that mean using the Lord Mountevans rules, focusing on physicality, body contact, the history, the rounds system and best of 3 falls?
SB: We have a great tradition, a great history, but the problem in this country is no one knows, the youngsters haven’t grown up watching it. The young people watch WWE but the adults still remember watching it on ITV, so it’s a nice gap in the market for everyone to enjoy the show.
HARI: Do you use the old British rules in every match?
SB: No it’s usually just one match per show.
HARI: And that balances the argument for trying to go with the more American style.
SB: Absolutely, just keeping a balance of everything. If you go to a buffet, you can have what you like but there’s something for everyone. So when they go home, they might say they enjoyed one part of the show more than the others, but they still enjoyed the rest of the show. That’s the key to it, have something of everything.
HARI: Do you still have strong links with The Knight Family and WAW?
SB: Ricky Knight’s son Zack still works for me, and yeah I have a good relationship with the Knight Family.
HARI: IN 2013, you were approached by ITV for a WOS filming. What was the deal there?
SB: I was approached by John Chapman, who had the rights to the World of Sport and he wanted to re-produce an episode of WOS with the idea of celebrating its 50th year anniversary. So he contacted myself to provide the show, which was in November last year in Fairfield Halls.
HARI: Were you able to work with Mick McMannus before he passed, or who do you think would have worked well against him from this current generation?
SB: McMannus did work for us, and received a special lifetime achievement award in 2009. I spoke to him quite a lot over the last few years, particularly because I’m involved with the British Wrestler’s Reunion and his last appearance, not wrestling, was at my show.
It’s hard to say for inter-generation matches, I would say ‘Cyanide’ Kid Cooper, there’s a very similar style. Some of the older WOS guys work for me now, like Johnny Kidd, so it’s nice to see the young ones like Yorghos and Travis work with them.
HARI: Have there been any people from the WOS-era that haven’t been as approachable or involved?
SB: No not really. Johnny Saint worked with us, that match on YouTube got 50,000 views for just One Round. You have people like William Regal, MVP commenting on the match publicly. It led to him wrestling on CHIKARA. I can’t say any WOS people haven’t really been uncontactable.
HARI: What was the trouble that arose with Kendo Nagasaki, you said it was a nightmare working with him?
SB: I like Kendo, he’s a great name. But he had his own way of doing things, Kendo’s way or the highway. It was at the cost to everyone else and unfortunately I’m the boss at my show, not the other wrestlers so I wasn’t willing to let Kendo dictate to me what happens. We had a difference of opinion, but Kendo was fun to work with and really drew the numbers in at the Civic Hall when he performed there for his last ever match.
HARI: You went back to education to get a Master’s Degree in marketing, and currently put out over 3000 posters for your shows, taking out newspaper ads. Has this helped with production costs and improving your budget for shows as you’ve been criticised in the past for production quality given sports halls tend to have poor acoustics.
SB: Our production comes from the theatres I hire so our shows have theatre-quality production, our lights and everything come from the theatres I work with.
HARI: Speaking of your lineage as a businessman, are you seeing more business-minded people working in British wrestling now? You’ve said before that the wrestling industry needs more business men.
SB: I don’t really keep my eyes on British wrestling. To be honest, I run my own shows as my own shows and run them up and down the country. I don’t really speak to anyone outside the LDN bubble and I have no real interest in what happens outside in British wrestling. I honestly don’t care, I run my own shows three or four nights a week and do the marketing in between.
What other people do is regardless and I have no interest in keeping up with them so I leave them to it.
Article originally published with Pyro & Ballyhoo HERE.
End of Part 1, in Part 2 we discuss Sanjay’s views on other wrestling companies in more detail and business tactics.
For more from LDN Wrestling, visit http://www.LDNWrestling.com
Follow Sanjay and LDN on Twitter @LDNSanjayBagga and @LDNWrestling
For more from Hari, follow me on Twitter @HotChocHari and visit http://www.hariramakrishnan.com