Last Saturday night was going to be a special occasion for Janesville’s Daniel Jackson.
Six years in the works, Jackson’s dream project—American Prostyle Wrestling—was to hold its inaugural event at the Menominee Nation Arena in Oshkosh.
Unfortunately, the initial command to “wrestle” never was given.
A month ago, Jackson was forced to pull the plug on his new venture. A lack of sufficient funding was the reason.
“A lot of people have good ideas, but they don’t always work out,” Jackson said Sunday afternoon.
The planned purse structure would have paid the eight wrestlers on winning teams $25,000 and $15,000 to members of the losing teams for each of the seven dual meets. The Krimson Kup championship winning team was to earn $200,000.
Jackson planned to raise the needed capital through sponsors, ticket sales and subscriptions to watch APW matches via live streaming.
Getting people to pay to view a new product—just as the Alliance of American Football discovered in April—proved to be a problem too big to overcome.
Securing the 3,500-seat Menominee Nation Arena in February was a major step for the league. But a deadline to finalize the agreement was the ultimate factor in closing down.
“That was a big cost,” Jackson said of the arena lease.
Jackson was a standout wrestler while at Janesville Parker High, and he went on to wrestle at the University of Minnesota.
His love for the sport and the lack of opportunities for freestyle wrestlers to make any kind of living competing at it were the seeds of Jackson’s project.
No one is more disappointed than Jackson that the venture he had put so much time into will not be realized. He said the wrestlers that signed up and were drafted by the eight teams were hit hard by the announcement.
And it didn’t stop with the wrestlers.
“I spoke to one athlete’s parents,” Jackson said, “They were pretty bummed out. They were hoping to see their son back out on the mat again. He had some unfinished business.
“He didn’t finish the NCAA Tournament like he wanted, and this was an opportunity to showcase his talents once again.”
The WIAA state wrestling tournament packs the Kohl Center each March. Premier collegiate programs also pack arenas.
But Jackson never got that type of feedback from fans in Wisconsin, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri—the eight states that would have had franchises.
Season tickets for the monthly matches in Oshkosh started at $151. Streaming passes were priced at $45. He even turned to a GoFundMe account in a last-ditch effort to raise capital.
It proved to be a hard sell, with no team allegiances established.
“The wrestling community is somewhat challenging in regards to supporting things like this,” Jackson said.
Jackson did get to meet and work with several of his wrestling mentors, who helped him get the project as far along as it did.
“The saddest part for me is that I’m just an avid wrestling fan who wanted to see some great wrestling right in our own backyard,” he said. “I hope if it’s not me, that someone can get something like this going. I would love to see wrestlers get to compete on a professional platform.”
Jackson now turns his full attention back to his job as dean of students at Marshall Middle School. Registration begins in three weeks.
He’s been through a lot of ups and downs the past year.
“We gave it our best effort without having a lot of resources up front,” Jackson said.
The project, he said, was now “on the back burner.” Someone else might try to pick up where Jackson left off.
He doesn’t regret going for it.
“In school, we always encourage kids to go for their dream,” he said. “If I hadn’t done it personally, it would have almost made me a hypocrite.”