Otto Wanz: CWA-Catch

August 20, 2007

This week Iím going to take another look back at one of the promoters I worked for during my career. In 1993 and 1995 I worked in Europe for CWA-Catch Promotions. Most people associate CWA-Catch with Otto Wanz but there were actually two promoters that promoted CWA-Catch, when I was there. Otto Wanz promoted the Graz, Austria and Bremen, Germany tournaments but he co-promoted Vienna, Austria with a guy by the name of Peter Williams, and Peter Williams promoted the Hanover, Germany tournament by himself. I had very different experiences working with each man so this will be a two-part commentary covering my CWA experience with Otto Wanz this week and Peter Williams next.

I got the gig with CWA through my barber; yes the guy who cuts my hair. It turned out that a guy by the name of ďTokyoĒ Joe Deigo and I went to the same barber. Joe was an agent for New Japan Pro Wrestling who lived in Calgary so I asked my barber if he would pass on a package to Joe if I left it with him. He said he would so the next time I was in I left a tape of my work and pictures with him, in hopes of getting booked in Japan. 2 weeks later I got a call from Joe wanting to know if I wanted to get booked in Europe for 6-months. Turned out that Joe and Otto were close and Joe often booked talent for Otto and CWA.

I needed work so I agreed to the booking; 6-months in Europe for CWA at $1000 US per week. This was not only the longest booking of my career to date but also the best money (or at least I thought). They booked my ticket and I was told both Joe and Otto would be picking me up at the airport in Linz Austria.

As a promoter Iím not a very big fan of Otto Wanz. Back in 1993 I would say I developed a rather strong dislike for the man and the way he treated his talent, but that was more because I didnít really understand the way CWA worked and was comparing CWA to the way Japan treated its talent. When you worked for Otto you were very much on your own, much like a North American Indy promotion. You were responsible for your own accommodations, transportation, everything. I was so green in 1993 I was not prepared to be just dumped on my own in a strange Country left to fend for myself.

After picking up Hiro Yamamoto (now Hiro Tenzan) and me at the airport, (Hiro was also booked through Joe) we were dropped off at a small hotel with no instructions or assistance other than we will pick you guys up for the first show the day after tomorrow. No one at the hotel spoke English, I didnít speak Japanese and Hiro didnít speak English either, so we had a lot of fun surviving our 2 days on our own. We almost starved to death before working our first match and I pretty much had a hate on for Otto Wanz right out of the gate.

Once we started working my impressions of Otto as a promoter got worse. Otto was all about size and loved his 300+ lbs guys, which didnít bode well for me and my 215 lbs frame. I was just a Canadian guy to round out the World Cup tournament and have never felt less appreciated for my hard work and was pretty miserable as a result. A lot of this wasnít Ottoís fault, but my inexperience and home sickness compounded with the way I was treated at the time, made for a pretty unpleasant experience.

Money was also an issue, which never helps a situation. Remember me mentioning the $1000 US per week, well that didnít actually turn out to be the case. Otto paid in local currency (Shillings in Austria, Marks in Germany) and when you convert currency there are always differences between buy and sell rates. From what I could tell Otto calculated our pay by taking $1000 US and converting it to Shillings, and then dividing that by 7 to figure out what we got paid each day. The main problem with this process was that if you then took your Shillings and converted them back to US dollars to take home youíd come up between $75 to $100 short. On top of that there was one big catch that was not pointed out to me in advance. Otto only paid you for the days you worked. That may sound reasonable but any other overseas trip Iíd been on when you get told you are paid BY THE WEEK you get paid BY THE WEEK not the show.

My first week in Europe I worked only 3 shows and thus got paid only about $400 and I had to cover food and hotel expenses. I was making no money and was miserable. Things got better once the main tournaments started because those ran 7 days a week, but I always felt screwed on my money and was never very happy working for Otto. There was also usually a week to 10 days off between tournaments where you didnít get paid at all, which certainly didnít help matters much.

Whether Otto Wanz actually owes me money or not is certainly a debatable point. I doubt he would think he owes me money. Once I got over there he told me Iíd be paid this amount pre show and that was exactly what he paid me, but in no way shape or form was I paid the $1000 US per week I was promised. Whether Otto intentional misled me with the $1000 per week promise or not we will never know, but either way I was not then, nor am I now a particularly big fan of Otto Wanz as a promoter.

Peter Williams on the other hand I have nothing but good things to say about and I will cover my experiences in Europe working for Peter Williams next week.

Lance Storm