GCW Owner Brett Lauderdale Discusses GCW's New FITE+ Deal, Possibly Working With WWE, Joey Janela's Future & More - Exclusive

In 2015, Brett Lauderdale bought famed independent promotion Jersey Championship Wrestling and rebranded it as Game Changer Wrestling. Many fans at the time saw the new coat of paint on the company as blood red, since it quickly embraced and became known as a haven for death match wrestling. And while that may have been how the promotion restarted itself, it has since become known for so much more. 


GCW still embraces it's bloody-thirsty roots with crazy matches at big shows like Art of War and Tournament of Survival, usually involving death match icons like Nick Gage and Jimmy Lloyd. However, thanks largely to the success of Joey Janela's Spring Break, the company has been able to expand its portfolio of work to also include Josh Barnett's Bloodsport, Effy's Big Gay Brunch, and AJ Gray's For The Culture. With success has also come big names, like AEW World Champion Jon Moxley, who was a regular with the promotion before recently re-signing with AEW.

So it comes as no surprise that as GCW has continued to grow, its distribution has needed to grow with it. In this exclusive interview, Wrestling Inc. Senior News Editor Nick Hausman speaks with Lauderdale about the bold new way that GCW will now be delivering its content to fans, as well as a wide-variety of other buzzy GCW topics.


Big News For GCW Fans

So Brett, thank you for taking the time. You've got this huge announcement here that just dropped today. Tell me and everyone else all about what this is.

Okay, so it's been in the works. And for, honestly, a couple years now. We've been kind of trying to figure out what the best move was as GCW has grown and we do more and more shows, both around the country and around the world. And as our fan base has grown and the enthusiasm for our product has grown, we've been looking for ways to make it easier to follow and watch everything we do.


Of course, for the last few years, our shows have all been on FITE TV on a pay-per-view model, where people basically have to pay for each show or even by the bundle, depending on if it's a busy weekend or whatnot. But of course, the more shows we do, it's obviously harder for people to be able to follow every show on the pay-per-view formula. So we are proud to announce today that we will be moving, not just all of our future live events, but our entire back catalog and library will now be available starting November 1st, today, on FITE+.

Oh, very cool. And tell me a little bit more about what FITE+ is, because I know that Black Label Pro, it sounds like, is going to be doing this FITE+ thing. So just tell me a little bit about how it works, I guess.


So FITE+ is a subscription. It's a subscription product that FITE has offered and been working on kind of behind the scenes on developing for the last, I don't know, year and change now. And believe it or not, FITE+ is $4.99 a month, which is the best value ... that I know of, in all of wrestling as far as the subscription services go ... The entire GCW catalog and library will be available. And again, all of our events going forward will be available live on FITE+ for just $4.99 a month. It sounds crazy. That's less than the price of what one pay-per-view cost up until this day.

Is schedule changing at all? Are you going to continue the same amount of shows?

No, we're not slowing down. Over the next 12 months we're looking at including all of our partners, everything under the GCW umbrella. I expect over the next 12 months to continue the pace of the last 12 months, which is, I don't know, anywhere from 75 to 80 shows under the entire umbrella. And all of that will be available literally for $4.99 a month. And it's not just us. It's not just us. I mean, as you said, Black Label Pro is moving their library and their live events over to FITE+, AIW from Cleveland is moving over to FITE+ and I'm not a liberty to speak on others, but I know there's more coming as well.


The Dollars Make Sense

And so for $4.99, do you get all of those promotions or is it just one a la carte?

All of them. All of us that are under the FITE+ umbrella. So $4.99 doesn't just get you GCW, it also gets our partners AIW, Black Label, and everybody else that's currently available on FITE+.


I hate to get all Wrestlenomics. I'm not Brandon Thurston here, but even I know that the numbers... Because I know you guys are getting 30, 40 bucks, sometimes way more for these combo packages.


I mean, we're talking literally a 10th of that now for this price. Are you getting subsidized by Triller and FITE now to do this deal?

That's a great question. And anybody who follows the business of the business, or does the numbers, would ask that question. And I'll just tell you, I'm no dummy here. This was a deal that was very beneficial for us and them ... You have to remember, they have a customer base that goes beyond just independent wrestling. They do massive boxing and MMA and bare knuckle events, all kinds of events beyond just wrestling. And ultimately I think they're going to put all of this under the FITE+ umbrella at some point. And so they're actually looking at... There is a lot larger customer base available to them.


So while $4.99 sounds low to us in this indie wrestling world, you have to keep in mind that they're not just targeting the indie wrestling world, they're targeting a much larger fan base. Yes. Our deal is something that ... I feel comfortable with, knowing that hey, moving to this model is a dramatic change for us, but it's worth it. I wouldn't be doing that if I wasn't confident in it and if FITE wasn't willing to make that commitment to us in return. So yes, it's leaving behind our old model to come to this, is a dramatic change, but one that is again, with much negotiation and with much confidence.

And I bring up Triller there. I don't know that all the people reading this right now know this or not, but FITE TV was acquired by Triller within the last year, I think.

I think so, yeah.

But that's a major company. They've done these huge, I call them rocking wrestling, boxing type shows.


Spectacles. Over the top pageantry, right?


Does this open the door, I guess, for you guys to be working with other people in the FITE+ Triller universe? What does that look like for you guys?

I don't know. I think that everything's on the table. I think again, everything that FITE is doing right now is... They're constantly expanding their portfolio. Triller of course is constantly expanding their portfolio. And yes, they throw crazy events, they have a lot of resources and they work with so many different people in all lines of entertainment. I think that anything's possible, and especially once this gets going and as we see FITE+ continue to grow, I think that... I think it's very possible that anything could happen. Who knows, you could see GCW as part of one of these spectacles. Or maybe Triller will want GCW to host a spectacle, who knows? This is all just speculation, but I think that anything's possible. They are all under the same umbrella now.


GCW's Relationship With WWE

One thing that a lot of people were interested in was a possible episodic GCW show. Is that something on your mind, like a weekly type episodic show? Do you think this would be a good vehicle for it or is that not on the radar right now?


Of course this is something that's been suggested, discussed many times over the years, the possibility of some sort of episodic program. I've always kind of shied away from the idea of TV or a regular weekly program. However, I think that there are ways to do it. Maybe more like a series, so to speak, a limited series or a limited episodic run. Seasons maybe, if that makes sense. I think that that's something that's maybe more conducive to what we do, and also very complimentary to this platform and this model going forward. And again, that doesn't mean we're going to stop what we do right now, but it may be something that gets incorporated into what we do.

A lot of people have a lot of assumptions about GCW these days, Brett ... Another entity that people seem to think GCW's getting money from right now to help them grow and find opportunity is WWE. Now I've seen y'all in the box seats at WrestleMania. I know Kevin Gill is getting some really nice seats these days. What's going on here, Brett? Is it just like, you think that they're just trying to be nice to you guys to create an open relationship? Are you the new Paul Heyman? Are you getting that ECW check each month?


Well, with this point, we know lots of people in every company, all the larger companies. A lot of people that work for WWE or AEW started at GCW or came through GCW. So we have lots of friends in high places and all these companies. Not just WWE or AEW, even beyond that. So we've always done our best to do good business and keep good relationships with everybody. And sometimes it pays off in ways where we get invited to nice things or nice places. And we enjoy it as much as the next person. So our good friend Stephanie was so gracious to host us at WrestleMania, and we thank her for that.

So when Stephanie McMahon is hosting the GCW crew, is she like, "Oh guys, that Cardona/Gage match, that slapped man, that was so good."

She's definitely gang affiliated. She's definitely part of the MDK gang.


Of course, she's so busy on a day like WrestleMania. The conversation's pretty brief and she's got a million people to talk to. But I think Stephanie and the current regime there, I think that they're very aware of what goes on and the wrestling world outside of just their bubble these days. And they have to be. That's just kind of the nature of the business now. Things change so quick that it would behoove them to be aware of not just what GCW is doing, but everybody else in the independent landscape. So I'm sure that lends to whatever relationship there may be.


Potential GCW/WWE Crossover

Do you think it's out of the realm of possibility with this new regime that WWE could have a hand or some kind of participation in The Collective during a WrestleMania weekend or no?

I do think it's possible, and I think anything's possible ... Something like that was discussed a few years ago. They've been involved, or they've been interested in, certain things we've done in the past and discussed involvement, both limited and otherwise, as part of Mania weekend activities. It didn't happen for a number of reasons, in part just because we work with so many different people that it's hard to... At any given time, especially on short notice, it's tough to cancel certain plans to fulfill other commitments ... But yeah, it's definitely possible. I think again, as we've started to cement our kind of position during Mania week and people know what The Collective is, and it's become sort of a destination underneath WrestleMania. Again, I think anything's possible. And especially under this new regime. Who knows, literally anything can happen. That's one thing I've learned in wrestling, is anything can happen.


So why Omos?

Well, listen, that guy is a powerhouse, right? He's so dynamic, and what an athlete, and... The guy's a throwback. It's just a huge guy. And I see a lot of potential and personality in him. And I would love to see the Big Man come through GCW.

Joey [Janela] got a lot of attention, obviously, when he started telling people to watch "Monday Night Raw." And about a year ago, when I kind of had the vibe that Joey may be leaving for WWE. I know under Vince it sounded like an insane idea, Joey and WWE, but the dude's in the best shape of his life, he seems happy again ... I don't know. I feel a spark again with Joey. Do you think that he would fit in Triple H's bubble? I mean him at "NXT," that seems like a layup to me at the very least.


Again, anything's possible ... There are times when I think Joey's the exact opposite of fitting in an environment like that. And then there are other times where I think, 'Oh no, he'd be perfect for this.' But one thing that I've learned about Joey as well over the years is that you can never doubt him. You can never count him out or doubt him, what he's capable of or what he can do... Especially at a time right now, where as you said, he seems like he's having fun right now and he's motivated, he's in great shape ... And what he always loves is being busy, as you mentioned. Right now he's at DDT, and I think he's wrestled in four or five countries in the last whatever, six weeks. He's wrestling, he's all over the place.

He's three, four shows a week. He's super busy. And this is when Joey's literally at his best. When the chaos level is turned up, that's when Joey thrives, and... I'm happy for him. He's happy, and it's exciting to see him find his smile again, so to speak. And that's not even a dig at where he was or what he was doing before. I mean, he had a nice arrangement with AEW, and I think it was a good experience that he was able to learn from. But again, I think Joey's at his happiest and at his best when he's busy.


Expansion Plans

Is it true that you tried to buy CZW?

It is true. I actually had a deal to buy CZW. We had a signed MOU, which is a memorandum of understanding, where we outlined the terms and it was signed by all parties. And yeah, it was basically a done deal. And then when it became time to progress, DJ bailed. I guess he got cold feet or whatever ... Or somebody got in his ear, or whatever it was, and he just bailed out.


I know you resurrected Jersey Championship Wrestling. What's your next market? Do you have another market you want to target and really set up shopping? I know LA is another market you guys really settled into obviously as well with LA Fights.

I think that our next market or markets are going to be international ... I see us doing more in Japan in 2023. I can see us doing more in Europe. We've already started developing relationships in Europe, and our relationships in Japan are growing. And both with our existing partners at Freedoms and also outside of Freedoms, we've started to make new relationships in Japan. You've seen that we're going to be doing some stuff with DDT coming up, and I think this is really just a start. You're starting to see GCW wrestlers pop up all over Japan, Freedoms, DDT, NOAH ... Again, I think this is just the beginning and that's really one of our targets for 2023.


I want to thank you for the time, man. Is there, before I stop the recording here today, anything else you want to touch on bring up that we didn't get to here today?

No, probably not. But again, just to remind everybody. It's not a typo. $4.99 is literally going to get you FITE+, which is going to get you every GCW show going forward. So all the people that have reached out and said, "Hey, I wish I could order more shows, but it's just tough." And all along the whole way I've sympathized. It is hard to pay $10 every time you want to see a show. I totally got it. And I understood people who were asking for an alternative, and I've constantly told them, just hang in there, be patient. We're working on something. And I'm glad that it's finally here. And I'm glad that those people who have had trouble keeping up are now going to be able to keep up for not $9.99, but literally half of that, $4.99. So I'm excited for everybody to be able to catch up on what they might have missed and then join us now... And new people I expect, and I hope, will join us along the way.