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RECAP AND REVIEW: Talk is Jericho with Pro Wrestling Tees Founder Ryan Barkan on the superstar who wore one of his shirts on SmackDown, why a deal with WWE didn’t work out, working with the Young Bucks, the shirt that has sold the most for them

Talk is Jericho – Pro Wrestling Tees Founder Ryan Barkan

Release date: October 5, 2018

Recap by: Caitlin Lavelle

DIRECT LINK TO LISTEN/DOWNLOAD

**NOTE: This interview took place in late March/early April 2018.**

5:50 – Ryan Barkan on starting One Hour Tees

Ryan explains that his original business was Creative Ventures, which created websites, business cards, etc. Originally, his business outsourced screen-printing, but around ten years ago they made a switch to printing in-house using a digital printer, which could print designs in full color directly onto garments. This is when One Hour Tees was formed.

Ryan explains, “Every other T-shirt company prices by quantity and colors and how many prints you have. We price it by turnaround time.”

8:00 – Ryan on starting Pro Wrestling Tees

Two years into running One Hour Tees, Ryan says Colt Cabana came into the shop to have a T-Shirt made for CM Punk to wear on Smackdown that said, ‘I BROKE BIG SHOW’S HAND’ (inspired by the classic ‘I BROKE WAHOO’S LEG’ T-Shirt). Later, Cabana emailed Ryan to ask him to print shirts for Cabana to sell at shows. Over time, Cabana would introduce Ryan to other independent wrestlers, like Joey Ryan, Kevin Owens and The Young Bucks.

Ryan says, “I would make bulk orders for a lot of these independent guys through One Hour Tees – at the time, there was no Pro Wrestling Tees – and I’m like, well, you guys are making money on the weekends, but what about the weekdays?

“Let’s create a website where you can sell merchandise all over the world. You’ll set up your own store, and we’ll sell those exact designs you’re doing in bulk, but I’ll take care of the printing and shipping.”

Ryan says Pro Wrestling Tees currently turns out 3,000 – 4,000 pro wrestling shirts each week and has thirty full-time employees.

14:35 – Ryan on how Stone Cold Steve Austin started working with Pro Wrestling Tees

Ryan says his relationship with Steve Austin started when Colt Cabana was a guest on Austin’s podcast and mentioned Pro Wrestling Tees. Later, Ryan spoke to Jim Ross to try to convince J.R. to set up a Pro Wrestling Tees shop, and J.R. also mentioned Pro Wrestling Tees to Austin.

Ryan says he spoke to Austin and sent him a few rough samples, and that Steve was initially unimpressed with the quality and declined to work with Pro Wrestling Tees. Ryan asked for another chance and sent Austin softer, more fitted samples, at which point Austin agreed to set up a shop on the site.

Ryan says he sends Austin tons of designs, but that most of them get denied. Ryan says he considers Austin the “Top guy” on Pro Wrestling Tees, even though he isn’t the top seller.

29:10 – Ryan on who can open a shop on Pro Wrestling Tees

Jericho asks if anyone can open a shop on Pro Wrestling Tees, and Ryan says, “You have to have a certain amount of social media followers – 10,000 between Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. If you have 10,000, we’ll set up your store for free.

Ryan says, “If you pay a $75 fee, we’ll set it up. We charge $75, but I’m like, ‘Hey, sell 8 shirts and you’ll get your money back.’”

31:25 – Ryan on pitching Pro Wrestling Tees to WWE

Ryan says that when Pro Wrestling Tees was in its infancy, Colt Cabana put him into contact with WWE to do a test run of a few of WWE’s shirts. Ryan says he believes WWE may have been looking for a new printer at the time. This was around the time of NXT’s inception, about 2012, and Ryan pitched WWE the idea of a website where he could set up a store for each wrestler on NXT’s roster, as well as shops for wrestlers on the main roster whose merchandise wasn’t currently being sold by WWE.

Ryan says, “(WWE) said, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’ They don’t deserve merchandise. I don’t know if they said they don’t deserve merchandise, but they’re not going to sell merchandise – they’re not a big enough draw to sell merchandise. They’re not, like, John Cena.

“I think everyone should sell merchandise if they’re going to market it the right way. If you have a big social media following, you’re going to sell merchandise.”

Ryan says this conversation is what pushed him to start the Pro Wrestling Tees website.  

33:50 – Ryan on The Young Bucks

Ryan says, “(The Young Bucks) were always selling a lot of merchandise. Once they joined Bullet Club, all of a sudden they just started selling tons of merchandise. Obviously, I’m going to work harder for the guys who are selling merchandise, so I’m constantly coming up with ideas. Every day, I’m texting with Matt (Jackson).

“I tell them, just ride it while it lasts. I don’t know when or if they might go to WWE, but I assume if they do we won’t be able to sell their merchandise anymore. Why not try to capitalize on it?”

Ryan explains that The Young Bucks have four different merchandise avenues: Pro Wrestling Tees, YoungBucksMerch.com, Hot Topic, and in-person sales at independent shows.

37:10 – Ryan on Pro Wrestling Tees’ relationship with Hot Topic

Ryan says that after a Hot Topic merchandise buyer Joe Enriquez saw a sea of Bullet Club shirts at a WrestleMania, Hot Topic approached Pro Wrestling Tees to ask if they had a relationship with a retail store.

Ryan says, “Usually when they (Hot Topic) test out products, I think they do 1,000 to 2,000 items a test. They put in like an 8,000 to 10,000 piece order for Bullet Club right off the bat.”

Ryan explains that Pro Wrestling Tees currently holds the exclusive license to print the Bullet Club logo in the United States, and that they brokered the deal between New Japan and Hot Topic. He elaborates that this deal allows Hot Topic and Pro Wrestling Tees to split royalties between specific wrestlers (i.e. Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks) and New Japan Pro Wrestling.

39:10 – Ryan on working with New Japan Pro Wrestling

Ryan says that the relationship between Pro Wrestling Tees and New Japan Pro Wrestling has evolved. Initially, Ryan says NJPW never approved his design ideas, but now that Pro Wrestling Tees has made so much revenue for New Japan, almost everything they pitch to NJPW is approved.

40:10 – Ryan on the Bullet Club shirt phenomenon

Ryan says, “The original Bullet Club shirt is definitely our highest seller of all time. It’s still in our top three currently, even though it’s been around for three or four years, maybe five years…A lot of people say that it has that feel, like the Austin 3:16 or the NWO (shirts). It’s just black and white, simple, cool design, and that’s kind of what attracted people.

“On Pro Wrestling Tees alone, we (have sold) maybe 30,000 (Bullet Club shirts). Then you’ve got all the wholesale – like Ring of Honor wholesales from us, Las Vegas Fight Shop, plus you add Hot Topic in there – it’s got to be close to 150,000 – 200,000.”

43:10 – Ryan on CM Punk

Ryan says CM Punk still has one of the top ten highest selling merchandise stores on Pro Wrestling Tees. Ryan says he’ll periodically send CM Punk designs and put up new merchandise in his shop.

45:00 – Ryan on Colt Cabana and the Jericho Cruise

Ryan mentions that Colt Cabana is on all of Pro Wrestling Tees’ Billboards, and Jericho asks why.

Ryan says, “Without (Colt), we wouldn’t really have Pro Wrestling Tees. He has a small (financial) interest in it. He helped me start it. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have been.”

Jericho says that Ryan pitched and brokered the deal to get Colt Cabana on Jericho’s cruise. Jericho says Ryan also reached out to the company who is promoting the cruise and expressed interest in sponsoring the cruise as the official merchandise provider, which is how Pro Wrestling Tees and Jericho initially connected.

46:25 – Ryan on Pro Wrestling Crate

Ryan says Pro Wrestling Tees bought Pro Wrestling Crate, a monthly merchandise subscription service, from the company who used to run the Top Rope Tuesday website. When Pro Wrestling Tees acquired Pro Wrestling Crate, it had about 300 subscribers. Today, Ryan says they’re “pushing 3,500 subscribers.”

Timestamps:

0:00 – Introduction
3:25 – Interview begins
5:50 – Ryan Barkan on starting One Hour Tees
8:00 – Ryan on starting Pro Wrestling Tees
14:35 – Ryan on how Stone Cold Steve Austin started working with Pro Wrestling Tees
17:32 – Advertisement
20:30 – Interview resumes
29:10 – Ryan on who can open a shop on Pro Wrestling Tees
31:25 – Ryan on pitching Pro Wrestling Tees to WWE
33:50 – Ryan on The Young Bucks
37:10 – Ryan on Pro Wrestling Tees’ relationship with Hot Topic
39:10 – Ryan on working with New Japan Pro Wrestling
40:10 – Ryan on the Bullet Club shirt phenomenon
43:10 – Ryan on CM Punk
45:00 – Ryan on Colt Cabana and the Jericho Cruise
46:25 – Ryan on Pro Wrestling Crate
1:01:55 – Outro

Rating: 8/10

If you’re interested in the business of independent wrestling, this is a totally fascinating interview. Fair warning – you’ll have to stomach the fact that Jericho doesn’t know who Biff Busick/Oney Lorcan is, not to mention the astonishing revelation that the Ayotollah of Rock and Rolla was somehow unaware that the city of Chicago has its own flag.

Writer Bio

Caitlin is a wrestling fan who hopes to one day discover that she is the illegitimate daughter of Vincent Kennedy McMahon and the rightful Anonymous RAW General Manager. Until then, she’ll keep on living in Orlando, Florida with her husband and son.

 

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