Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments of YouTube Millionaires here.
Beyond Wrestling was not an instant YouTube success. But then, the organization‘s founder and owner, Drew Cordeiro, didn’t expect it to be. When he started Beyond Wrestling in 2009, Cordeiro, a longtime member of the wrestling community known for his commentating, wanted it to first and foremost be for the wrestlers. Uploading videos of their skills to YouTube was a way to help them find their audience — and by doing so, Cordeiro found a YouTube audience for Beyond Wrestling, which has grown from 100,000 subscribers to more than a million just in this year, making it a bona fide YouTube Millionaire.
Currently garnering between 45 million and 85 million views per month, Beyond Wrestling has become one of the internet’s top destinations for indie wrestling. Cordeiro posts new content to the channel almost every day, including full free matches, highlight clips, and more, for fans of all types of wrestling — women’s, men’s, and mixed, from rookie fights to expert death matches.
As Beyond Wrestling continues to grow, gaining thousands of new subscribers each hour, Cordeiro’s chatting with Tubefilter about the long road to building a thriving channel, how YouTube has helped him build a platform for hundreds of indie wrestlers, and where Beyond Wrestling is going from here.
Tubefilter: How does it feel to have more than a million subscribers on your channel? What do you have to say to your fans?
Drew Cordeiro: It was quite unexpected! It took us more than eight years to surpass 100,000 subscribers, so up until recently, one million subscribers seemed like an unattainable goal. There are only two other wrestling organizations in the entire world that have a larger presence on YouTube, and those are multimillion-dollar corporations that have had an international TV presence for years. It just goes to show you what we can accomplish with the support of our fans, who continue to grow by the thousands every single day.
To our fans — the best is yet to come. The larger our fan base grows, the more premium content we can release for free on YouTube!
TF: What made you decide to launch Beyond Wrestling? Why did you choose YouTube as the platform to share your content?
DC: We started Beyond Wrestling in May of 2009 as a way for wrestlers to take back the more artistic elements of professional wrestling. I was heavily involved in backyard wrestling growing up, and I remember traveling across the country and meeting dozens of wrestlers who had professional training and preferred to wrestle with their friends on a mattress in the backyard rather than compete in front of a traditional live crowd. It didn’t make any sense to me that promoters were bossing these guys around for minimal financial compensation.
The original idea behind Beyond Wrestling was to remove the business element completely from professional wrestling and give the wrestlers total freedom. The result was a series of matches that captured the attention of the professional wrestling world, not only for the unusual presentation, but also because of the quality of the contests. Then, we didn’t have paying fans at the taping of matches–instead, the other wrestlers, who would also be competing at the taping, stood ringside. Wrestlers know the tricks of the trade, so these guys were forced to pull out all the stops in order to impress their peers, which in turn led to some truly wild moments.
Considering the risks that these athletes were taking, we wanted to share the matches we taped with the world, so instead of releasing them on DVD and charging a premium, we uploaded them to YouTube for free. This was really before WWE embraced social media, so in that regard, we were ahead of the curve.
TF: What do you think makes your voice stand out despite all the noise on YouTube?
DC: Our style of professional wrestling is very different than what you would see if you tuned in to “TV wrestling” on a Monday night. We don’t have to answer to anyone, so we put as few restrictions as possible on our performers. Many of our athletes are rookies who are just starting out. They are willing to take some insane risks to get noticed, so the contests can become very physical. It creates a legitimate sense of competition, since each match wants to outdo the last in an effort the steal the show. If a fan is going to invest 15 minutes to watch one of our free matches, we want to make sure they are getting action every single second of the presentation.
We have also been at the forefront of promoting intergender wrestling in the U.S. Some of our mixed matches have millions of views! Athletes on the independent wrestling circuit have a tendency to be a bit sleeker, so there isn’t the same size discrepancy that you’d expect from mainstream professional wrestling. The end result is competitive bouts where both men and women are presented as equals.
TF: Your channel has seen massive growth in the past few months. Can you pinpoint why it started drawing so many fans so quickly?
DC: Back in February, I really wanted to buckle down and start releasing more content — as many as two or three videos a day. I noticed a huge jump in viewership around this time.
It helps that we have some incredible partners, like the Powerbomb.TV independent wrestling streaming service that can provide us with wrestling content from other organizations around North America (besides the content we create from our monthly Beyond Wrestling live events). A match between Keith Lee, who recently signed to WWE, and Kimber Lee, who had just finished a stint with WWE, attracted a massive number of new fans, and it just snowballed from there. I remember doing a live event in New Orleans this past April in conjunction with WrestleMania weekend, and being blown away that we had a quarter of a million subscribers by the end of it! Since then, we’ve more than quadrupled the number of subscribers, which allows us to release even more free matches.
TF: When did you join ThePostGame Network, and how did that partnership come about? What positive changes have you seen come about from joining?
DC: We joined up with ThePostGame Network during the summer of 2013. They emailed us out of the blue and said they were affiliated with Yahoo Sports, which grabbed my attention. I was really naive to how YouTube worked, and even though I understood the power of the platform for sharing our matches, I honestly didn’t see it as a viable source of income. At the time, there was no way to communicate directly with YouTube, so the partnership with ThePostGame has proven to be invaluable on a number of occasions when we needed to solve an unexpected technical problem.
ThePostGame was also able to help us expand the features of our channel, which gave us a leg up over other wrestling organizations who saw our success and tried to copy it. We have weekly conference calls with ThePostGame and Powerbomb.TV discussing new ideas so that we can further integrate our content and continue to grow our audience.
TF: What did you set out to do when you launched Beyond Wrestling? Were you looking to create something for wrestlers and wrestling fans that hadn’t been out there before?
DC: Again, it’s all about giving back to professional wrestling by trying to create as many new stars as possible. We do that by removing restrictions on the performance and giving rookie wrestlers the tools and the platform that they need to get noticed. We taped for the first time in May of 2009 and again in September of 2009, and the matches from those tapings alone were enough to get a handful of wrestlers prominent gigs at some of the top promotions in the U.S. That further legitimized our effort.
We used YouTube to share the matches with industry insiders, but had never considered that fans may also be interested. It eventually got to a point where there was enough of a following that we started running more traditional events where fans bought tickets to watch the shows live and in person. The passion from wrestlers and fans alike was palpable. Whether you’re a wrestler or a fan — we’re all in this together. Somewhat symbolically, we don’t set up guardrails at our shows, and fans can stand right against the ring like our wrestlers did when we first started taping matches in 2009. There is no barrier to separate the wrestlers from the fans. You can’t have one group without the other anymore. The independent wrestling scene is one huge community.
TF: What’s your favorite part of making content specifically for YouTube?
DC: To be fair, we also make content for other video platforms, such as Powerbomb.TV, which streams our monthly events live as they happen. We also have to find a balance to make sure that the fans who are buying tickets to attend our shows are getting an unbelievable value for their money.
The real challenge for us these days is to run a more traditional format, take the three or four hours of wrestling that we create at our live shows every month, and figure out how to maximize that content on YouTube. For instance, some performers are more popular for our YouTube crowd than any other audience. Certain match types resonate better with the audience watching at home than the crowd standing ringside. The intricacies of scientific wrestling play out on the mat, which is incredible to see when you have the benefit of a three-camera shoot and can pick the best perspective. Unfortunately, it can be tougher for the live crowd to enjoy those types of matches with a limited vantage point. To contrast that, we’ve been known to host some pretty gnarly “death matches” from time to time. The live crowd absolutely eats it up but blood being splattered all over the canvas isn’t the most “YouTube-friendly” presentation.
TF: What’s your production schedule like? How large is the team? Do you have a set upload schedule?
DC: We have three videographers shoot our live events — one of whom, Tanya, has been shooting pro wrestling for about two decades. There are also two Powerbomb.TV production people on hand running the livestream, promoting the shows on other social media platforms, and shooting bonus content. At the end of the show, all of the footage is sent to Tanya, who remasters the show by syncing audio, correcting lighting, and cutting together the three camera angles. At that point, the final edit is sent to me.
I am responsible for all of the individual matches, clipped-up highlights, and important story elements that find their way to YouTube. We don’t have a set schedule, necessarily, but it is something we are working toward. I try and find one aspect of every single match we tape — maybe it’s a cool move or an innovative sequence — to share as a short clip on YouTube. The free matches typically feature wrestlers I feel have the best chance of breaking out, or past performers who have gone on to WWE in an effort to grow our audience by capitalizing on their newfound popularity.
TF: How is money for the channel managed? Do you have a per-video production budget? Are the wrestlers who appear on your channel paid?
DC: When we first started, nobody got paid, so it’s pretty rad that everyone is getting fair financial compensation now, even if it took us almost 10 years to get to this point. Every single dime that comes into our organization goes toward making the next show as big as possible. Our live event budget is typically in the range of $5,000 to $10,000, which includes the cost of the venue, equipment rentals, the production crew, the wrestlers, and the rest of non-wrestling staff.
Wrestlers are paid a flat fee for their performance, which can range anywhere from $25 to $25,000 per match! We’re lucky to have other sources of revenue, such as paid subscriptions on Powerbomb.TV, merchandise, live event tickets, and concessions, but the growth of our YouTube channel has been a huge boost to Beyond Wrestling this year. We’ve been able to take more risks and run more shows, which hopefully leads to our wrestlers getting more experience and increases their chances of being the next breakout star on the independent wrestling circuit.
TF: What’s next for your channel? Any plans looking to the future?
DC: I want to start doing more live specials on YouTube instead of just limiting them to Powerbomb.TV. I want to run more live events, especially during periods of time that other promotions won’t touch, like weeknights. I want to go back to taping matches without a live crowd. I want to incorporate as many up-and-coming athletes as possible at our events.
Eventually, fans are going to see a pattern — many of the wrestlers kicking ass in WWE got their start in a Beyond Wrestling ring. We have to continue to adapt as mainstream wrestling rapidly changes, but we need to be the one setting the trends. I never thought we’d get this far, so it is impossible for me to predict how big this could get. I think at some point, Beyond Wrestling will become bigger than pro wrestling, since the number of people who watch YouTube on a daily basis is substantially larger than the total number of wrestling fans worldwide.
No matter what happens, YouTube will always be what drives our organization forward.
You can add yourself to the ranks of Beyond Wrestling’s more-than-a-million YouTube subscribers at its channel YouTube.com/BeyondWrestling.