At the start of the new year the Slamforce-africa.com team asked me to write a feature for the website about the year ahead, the year past and the general state of things within the Slamforce Africa household. It is quite overdue already, because I have been incredibly busy, but I had to make time for this feature, because I believe it is important to address our fans and investors alike.
2019 has been an incredible year, we launched Slamforce Africa, after 18 months of research and a lot of planning. At the start it felt like only a pipe dream, many people were sceptical, a lot of us working behind the scenes were sceptical whether or not we will get it off the ground successfully. But our scepticism was overshadowed by the support and love from fans all over the world and it kept us going forward. Eventually, after a lot of sweat, blood and tears we did it. We delivered SFA01 to mark a new era in professional wrestling for Africa.
Who would ever thought that Rob van Dam would travel to South Africa, and wrestle in front of a modest crowd at the University of Pretoria for a proudly South Africa, and proudly African wrestling promotion? If you told me that 2 years ago, I probably would have laughed and went about my daily life. As have many fans. I remember when we started advertising it, we had so many negative retractors and toxic internet trolls telling us, this will never happen. This is a scam, like so many other “promotions” have done, or on the day of the event we will abruptly announce that RVD did not make it etc. We heard it all. Well who’s laughing now? We promised. We delivered.
Now we move forward to 2020. My oh my, what a year we have in store for wrestling fans on home soil. Looking at our projects and schedule for this year, I can honestly say, hand on my heart, this is going to be the biggest year professional wrestling ever have experienced in South Africa, or on the African continent for that matter. So many things to look forward to; SFA02, WWE Live, Impact Wrestling on e.tv and OpenView, SFA03, SFA04, SFA Masterclasses and a couple of surprises I won’t mention just yet.
Speaking of SFA Masterclasses, we just launched the SFA High Performance Wrestling Academy, and the interest and applications have been flying in. The Masterclass program is the first of its kind in Africa and has never been attempted in South Africa. Where the rest of the pro wrestling world is very much accustomed to having workshops or seminars, South Africa is not. This is the first. A nice feather for our cap, but its not about who is first or ending up with an Indian-Chief Headdress. Its about development, getting our wrestlers on par with the rest of the world, and having the ability to identify what is lacking and building on that. We want to build our people stars, create our own heroes. Can you imagine what an amazing win for Africa it would be, if we are able to train, guide and inspire the first ever, South African black woman wrestler to debut in the WWE? If you can picture that and you get goose bumps like I do when I think of that possibility, especially in a country where we NEED good feel wins to distract us of the harsh realities of our economy and difficulties we face on a day to day basis. The SFA Masterclasses is our first steps into delivering on that dream, and we do hope that South African will get behind the initiative.
We have so many things we are working on right now, just typing that out my to do list have grown by an extra six things to do today. We are working on incredible collaborations, never before seen or attempted in South Africa, some initiatives that has never been attempted anywhere in the WORLD let a lone Africa, TV deals, sponsorships, investors etc. All of these things go on frantically behind the scenes. The harsh reality for professional wrestling in South Africa is that, even though its not new, corporates and investors view it as new and untested. Which makes it so much more difficult to obtain finances to do bigger and better things, funny enough, Slamforce Africa and the team manages to get it anyway. Which is testament to how extremely passionate every member of our team is about this vision of establishing the first and only Premier wrestling promotion in Africa. Finances remain a big problem in professional wrestling in South Africa, and will stay that way until we grow our audiences into passionate fans that WANTS to spend their hard earned money on SFA events and merchandise.
A lot of fans and people in general, for some very odd reason, thinks businesses just exist, and it doesn’t cost money to start a business. People think Rob van Dam and Celeste Bonin got on a plane for free to wrestle in South Africa for free. Sorry to burst your bubble, they cost money, everything does. And not a small amount of money. A very large amount of money. Therefore, it is imperative that our fans, especially for our die hard fans, the guys that has become extremely passionate about Slamforce Africa (yes, we see you daily on our social media pages, and we appreciate you!) to help us. Help us build this vision, this empire, this hopeful dream machine. Support us, buy tickets, buy an extra ticket or two if you can, and bring a long a friend whom have never been to a wrestling show in their life, buy our merchandise, every t-shirt sold not only goes to sustain Slamforce Africa, each wrestler on our roster, gets royalties for the t-shirts sold, so you are helping them continuing their dream of entertaining you. But our PPV’s on FITE tv. Whether you are located in South Africa and you are going to watch a live event, buy the PPV as well, if you are not in South Africa, but we caught your eye and you really like what you see, please, buy our PPV. Supporting us with these purchases, is what keeps the wheel turning. We do not have a billionaire investor that backs us as a hobby. Everything you see, was built by normal passionate people with a normal amount of money saved up over many years to make it possible. We built this for the fans, now its up to the fans to keep it going.
Help us reach new audiences, new people. Personally, I converted close to 20 people whom never watched professional wrestling in their entire lives until we came on the scene, now they sit glued to the tv screen on Tuesday nights to watch WWE Raw on Supersport…addicted. Professional wrestling is cool. Its one of the coolest things in the entire world. Really, think about it, break it down to what it is, half sport, half entertainment. There is nothing like it on the face of the planet. Its really cool. Bring new people to shows, we will do the rest! That’s a promise!
Obviously, finances are not the only challenges we face as an organisation. For example, I have it on very good authority from an inside source at Supersport, that the WWE was not supposed to tour in South Africa this year. However they abruptly changed their plans, partly and majorly because of the inroads made by Impact Wrestling to get on South African television screens…and strangely enough we have heard it from multiple sources from inside the company, that we did ruffle a little bit of feathers. But what is good about that, is that suddenly the WWE has fixed their eyes squarely on South Africa. It is a shame though that they quickly wedged their tour in between SFA02 and SFA03, in an attempt to squeeze the life out of us, I mean its easy to deduce at their extremely high price tag for their live events, the possibility is there that it could effect our own event sales. Sure. But what they don’t get, and what most other promoters in South Africa in particular don’t get, is that we do not care about other promotions and what they do. We are truly and very honestly 100% focussed on what we are doing. We do not look at ANYONE and consider them competition for us in any shape or form. In fact, we welcome as much professional wrestling as possible. It is good for the industry, it is good for South Africa, it is good us!
Yes, of course it is a challenge for us. It would be a challenge for any company. But I have learned that people, especially South Africans, say what you will, but we are incredibly proud. We choose our own. We support our own. It’s a simple question of if you do buy a ticket to a WWE live event, are you helping a multi billion dollar company get more multi billion dollars, do their presence grow professional wrestling on a local front? Or do they come here, anything between 2 years and 7 years and leave with your money? Do they leave anything behind? Except empty wallets (have you seen their prices). Supporting a local product, that also brings you big stars…ask the same questions…you will find your answer differs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the WWE and I love it more than anyone when they bless us with their presence. It is special. But I have to be a little bit subjective and say, Slamforce Africa, is so much more special to me…because we have purpose, we have vision and it is OURS!
What was fantastic about SFA01, is that right after the show, the very next day a couple of our international roster members received multiple texts from WWE scouts and Impact Wrestling scouts asking if there is any South African wrestlers they should keep their eyes on. The answer was yes. Guess what happened next? We have a WWE scout attending our Masterclass on 29 February personally, and bigger yet, we have inside information that the WWE has green lighted an official WWE Try Out in Cape Town. Would that ever have happened without Slamforce Africa on the scene? Possibly. But I doubt it.
Slamforce Africa is good for the industry in South Africa, it forces people to think outside the box, it forces other promotions to take it more seriously and to take South Africa as a territory more seriously, it forces people to dream big again. And that is all I ever wanted for wrestling in South Africa. So far so good.
I am excited about 2020, and I truly hope our fans, whom we have dubbed the Horde, are even more excited than we are!
Here is to a great year! I do hope to see many many more faces at our events this year.
Cornelius A.P. van Tonder
President & CEO: Slamforce Africa (Pty) Ltd.