Wrestlers and apparel brands are bring a new meaning to the phrase: “You are what you wear.”
The sport of pro wrestling changes faster than the day turns into night with the industry becoming more of a self-driven business instead of one dictated by companies. The inhabitants of wrestling’s indie circuit don’t have the luxury of a huge marketing team behind them, and in most cases, talents are their own public relations, marketing, and promotion team. Social media has made connecting with fans a much easier task, but has also opened the door for talents to show that they are entrepreneurs as well. With brands like SPLX, StrongStyle Brand, Defend Indy Wrestling, and Future Legend, wrestling and combat sports apparel is rapidly venturing into a new territory.
Suplex Apparel (SPLX) is all about creating a legacy through hard work, positivity, focus and progression. The athletic sports brand is owned and created by veteran UK wrestling referee and designer, Joel Allen. SPLX is represented by a team of superstar talents like Zach Sabre Jr., Matt Riddle, and Gail Kim. The brand was launched in late 2013, and while the brand started to gain traction quickly within the UK, it has rapidly gained a following in the US, Canada and throughout the world.
“What Tapout is to MMA is what I want SPLX to be for wrestling,” said Allen. While fans have supported the SPLX team members for years, the apparel company has become a factor in self-motivation as well. Wrestling fan and SPLX devotee, Thomas Jackson, cited the brand as an inspiration in his quest to lose weight. With the encouragement of SPLX’s message, Jackson lost over 65 pounds and also become an avid weight lifter. With wrestlers like Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly also representing the brand, it’s no secret that SPLX is on the rise within the sports community.
Strong Style Brand (SSB) started from a simple love affair with pro wrestling. Frankie Screamz, owner, creator of SSB and co-lead vocalist for the hybrid metal/hip-hop band, Scare Don’t Fear, grew up a huge fan of the late 80’s WWF. “I knew I couldn’t be a wrestler, but I wanted to be a part of it [so] lets start a clothing line”, said Screamz. Later becoming a fan of WWE and TNA, Screamz counts Combat Zone, Chikara and Hoodslam as pro wrestling brands that helped open his eyes to the creativity and importance of indy wrestling. Furthermore, Scare Don’t Fear’s music is a perfect match with the rapidly growing indy wrestling scene.
SSB is all about turning nothing into something, a negative into a positive, and aims to help inspire fans and wrestlers alike through its apparel. Frankie Screamz would link up with another Rhode Islander, JT Dunn, to create the RELENTLESS series of clothing and videos. Dunn has been very open about his struggles in and out of the ring throughout his life, and with the help of StrongStyle, his story has resonated with many people outside of the Providence, Rhode Island area. The SSB team is represented by talents like Crazy Mary Dobson, Dave Crist, Lio Rush and Britt Baker as well.
Future Legend Apparel didn’t begin with combat sports in mind. In fact, founder Frank Kozlowsky, created the original Future Legend t-shirt under The Underground Clown brand and donated its proceeds to charities after his friend, Cory Pelzer, was senselessly shot and killed on a busy transit bus in NYC on his way home from a workday at a Guess clothing store. “When Cory was 13, I hired him [at Carousel Collision Body Shop] to help out. To keep him off the street. He was the best kid ever. Hard worker. Smart. Funny. Colorful. His murder absolutely crushed me,” said Kozlowsky.
After 15-years, his murder has still yet to be solved, but through Future Legend, his legacy lives on. The members of the Future Legend team have become an extension of family to Kozlowsky, and with the help of professional boxer Paul Malignaggi and MMA fighter Phil Baroni, Future Legend is rising in the athletic community. The brand focuses on inspiring people to chase their dreams and aspirations. Wrestlers such as Bobby Lashley, Eddie Edwards, and Moose can be seen representing Future Legend apparel on the regular.
I took to [Future Legend] because they have the same attitude as myself, the t-shirt says ‘We don’t chase dreams, we live them’ and I think that’s a great line to live by. Another line, ‘Dream big, live large’, is something you can believe in and wear, and like me I wear it with pride.
Wrestling apparel brands are becoming just as hot of a ticket than the talents that wear the product themselves. Social media and the emergence of independent wrestling on the internet has given fans access to talents like never before. Wrestling is a sprawling community, but whether its with music or apparel or film, the sport has even more segments within it.
Wrestlers like “All Ego” Ethan Page, Braxton Sutter, Allie and Mark Andrews also have rocked wrestling inspired apparel by the Heels & Faces streetwear brand. Recent WWE UK Tournament competitor, Mark Andrews, started DEFEND Indy Wrestling to help promote positivity on the independent scene in England. The concept is much more than just purchasing a new shirt from your favorite wrestler on ProWrestlingTees or any other site. Its more subtle. Wrestling, much like music, can be a healing mechanism, and anyone trying to preserve that should be recognized. WWE is such a huge organization that we sometimes scoff at their attempts to promote real positivity within wrestling culture, but it simply isn’t their place anymore. For the indy workers, promoters, and apparel providers that seek change, there is an audience. Wear it for the culture.
SPLX Apparel – www.suplexwrestling.com
StrongStyle Brand Apparel – www.strongstylebrand.com
Future Legend Apparel – www.futurelegend.biz
Heels & Faces Apparel – www.heelsandfaces.com
DEFEND Indy Wrestling Apparel – www.defendindywrestling.com
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