Perhaps the X in Pro Wrestling X should be a reference to the extremes.  The company has been on one hell of a ride, that ironically enough shows no sign of slowing down post Covid-19.

Dave Wishnowski, CEO of Pro Wrestling X and I go back more than 25 years to when we both had long hair and wanted to be Rock Stars. As long as I have known him he has had three loves in his life, his family, his music and wrestling; okay maybe 4, if you consider his Harley Davidson.

When Dave announced he was going to focus his time on building the ultimate video game, for the ultimate wrestling fan, it didn’t shock many of us, other than we were not sure what he knew about game development.  What we did know was that if there was a guy with the passion to figure it out and get it done, it was Dave.

He did just that, immediately he had no shortage of true wrestling gamers supporting him from all around the world. Many of them developers who assisted with building the game. He started talking with some of the world’s most famous and infamous wrestlers from all the codes to ensure the planned moves, characters and even settings were designed as they should be. 

Dave and his team have had many ups and downs, walked away from life changing offers, that would make many shake their heads, and tethered on the edge with 10 cents in the bank.

This man from the prairies of Canada is a real life entrepreneur. 15+ years on, this is a true start-up story, no overnight success that we all read and hear about and stop and wonder if that could be us, but the real truth, laid bare, from the heart, the passion and with the drive to just keep moving.

THE WHY

Why did you want to start Pro Wrestling X?

It was on a dare, actually. I was complaining about the sad state of wrestling games on an internet (because THAT’S what grown men do) when someone replied, “If you think you can do better why don’t you make your own damn game?” So I thought about it for five seconds and said, “Fine! I Will!” and that one seemingly insignificant moment changed my life trajectory and started this amazing adventure. 

Where did your passion and love of wrestling come from? And, how did it get from that to building a game?

My family is to blame for the whole damn thing! My father, especially. Growing up in the 80’s one of my favourite memories is watching Stampede Wrestling on TV Saturday morning with my dad and younger brother. Forty years later, I can still hear his voice echoing in my head as clear as day, “David! Wrestling’s on!” And then years later when I’d come home to visit from college my brother and I would rent and completely devour the classic Nintendo 64 wrestling games like WCW vs. NWO Revenge and the all-time greatest WWF No Mercy. Sitting on the couch laughing and shouting our way through 30 man Battle Royales are memories largely unsurpassed to this day. So, when the quality and fun factor of wrestling games began to wane in the subsequent Nintendo Gamecube days I had become essentially genetically modified to feel the need to do something it.

THE HOW

What were the first few years like?

Very hard but very exciting. I think I read a hundred books and chased down dozens of strangers for advice and wisdom. From day one I committed to sending out a weekly communication to our supporters and I’ve been doing so all this time. We’re nearing 1000 newsletters soon and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Because when hard times hit your supporters know you will always show up and be accountable. That trust is priceless.

Where did you get your funding?

Everywhere! From the early days of friends and family and credit cards to loans, grants, crowd funding, pre sales revenue, and private investors. I learned that raising money was far from the hardest part. Raising money has no effect on whether or not you spend it wisely.

THE LAST DIME

Did you ever think about quitting?

It crosses my mind when things get tough but then I think of sitting in my rocking chair when I’m 100 years old and how much I would regret not pushing this as far as I can possibly take it. Tough times don’t last, tough people do.

At one stage you walked away from a big offer of interest from one of the world’s top companies – did you ever regret that over the years?

I have no regrets about the deals I didn’t make. We’ve outlasted nearly every company that ever offered a so-called deal and to this day, all these years later, we still own 100% of the IP and control every Pro Wrestling X revenue stream.

You were down to your last dime and had it framed?

Five years ago, I nearly lost everything. Pro Wrestling X was circling the drain in a death spiral as funds dried up and development halted after The Uprising debacle (an early product launch that nearly didn’t). For the first time since Pro Wrestling X began I feared there might be no path forward and we were done for. It’s the closest I’ve come to truly feeling hopeless.

I went to close the company bank account and laughed when the teller asked what I wanted to do with the last 10 cents in the account that once held almost $500k. As a sick joke on myself I took that dime home and framed it for my office wall.

No one would have blamed me for leaving that dime on the wall as a stark reminder to never dream too big or fly too close to the sun. A reminder to stay in my lane and “be realistic.” But since that day Pro Wrestling X found a way. There was no quit. Good people came to help and we now have the strongest crew ever. The game itself is light years ahead of where it was. And our supporters continue to grow in numbers and passion.

So, I’m leaving this dime on the wall as a reminder alright. A reminder of how much we have already accomplished after starting with nothing all those years ago.

And this dime is 10 times more than we started with the first time. So that means we can “realistically” expect 10 times more success and awesomeness THIS time 🙂

FOR WHO

How many Supporters do you have? And, what do they mean to you?

We have thousands across different platforms. The balance gives us a real sense of demand while encouraging us to reach for more. We’re convinced by the numbers that the people who will love Pro Wrestling X haven’t even heard of it yet and that’s a good thing.

How much do your Supporters help with the games growth and development?

A lot! With every update they let us know what they enjoy and what they don’t. It helps guide our strategic growth knowing what people want. But it still remains the most fun to take chances and give people what they didn’t even know they wanted in the first place. 

LEARNING THE HARD WAY

What has been your biggest let down?

Coming to the sad realisation that there are actually people in this world who seek to take advantage of hard working dreamers. That there are people actively enjoying the failures of others. It’s hardened me in a way and I often have to remind myself that most people are generally good hearted and that even the awful ones are generally not evil, but sad and disappointed with their own lives.

You have had some famous supporters over the years – who were you most in awe of?

Hands down, Bret “The Hitman” Hart. During our first meeting I handed him a document to review and my hand was literally shaking like a kid. He was kind enough to not call attention to it but I’m sure I saw him smirk!

Your favourite phrase: “Make it work. Then make it work well. Then make it pretty.” Is that still the construction of how you develop the game?

Nope! The current development climate, where we update the game in bite sized sprints, means everyone contributes as much as they can, when they can. Programmers and artists in equal measure. Often, yes, we’ll get new features developed with unfinished art and the original mantra applies. But our lead artist isn’t tethered to that limitation and now we often see gorgeous new content created before the underlying code is ready to take advantage of it. This works for us as we are a relatively small team. We now see this process more like being in a rock band. Would you tell Robert Plant to not write lyrics for Led Zeppelin until the drum parts were recorded? Approaches need to be free to breath and change to fit each scenario and goal. The art should dictate the process, not the other way around.

Your first release was in November 18, 2014, how many releases have there been?

There were demos and prototypes before that as well. Dozens of updates to the game since then. It is so much bigger and better than it was at launch thanks to the hard work of our passionate crew. Every update, no matter how small and incremental some have been, contributed to growing size and scope of the experience we have today and it just keeps improving. 

THE FUTURE

Will it ever be finished?

Not while I’m alive and there is more fun content to add to the game which will hopefully be for at least another 50 years.

Why Steam?

Because it’s the most popular PC gaming platform around the world. We gained distribution on the platform a few years ago when it was still highly curated and it was a huge win for us to finally earn Steam distribution. I could not be happier with the service they provide.

How are you growing your Supportership?

The old fashioned way by improving the project as often we can to grow via word of mouth one supporter at a time.

You have a newsletter and a podcast – what are their topics and who is the audience etc?

The weekly newsletter covers the Pro Wrestling X development news of that week along with whatever else might be wrestling or gaming related in the news that week. The podcast is geared more towards introducing our community to like-minded entrepreneurs in the wrestling, gaming, and creator circles. It’s my intent to share not only inspiring stories but the actual nuts and bolts of how people have made things happen in spite of the challenges they may face.

RE: next round of funding – what is the plan for that?

It all gets rolled back into project development, marketing, and maintaining momentum. 

Why don’t you call your gamers customers?

“Supporters” seems the most fitting and a lot of them feel like family because they’ve been there with us through good times and bad.

If there was one thing you could change in the 15+ years of PWX, a process, planning, how money was spent etc, what would it be and why?

If I could do it all over again I would gladly do it with the sharper ability to see the red flags that I have now. I don’t believe any time or money is truly wasted if you learned something in the process. And after all this time I have definitely learned to spot the users, losers, and quitters from a mile away. 

Do you have a mentor? Can you share who?

Tons! Sadly, none in person since I now live in the remote Canadian wilderness. But I do have a few industry big shots who are generous with their time and advice. Mainly, though, my library card is my biggest source of mentorship. I read books by and about positive, fulfilled, tenacious people every morning to start my day and “tune my head up” for the day ahead.

What is next for PWX?

A new funding round and then growing the game platform bigger and better.

What is next for Dave Wishnowski?

I could really use a beer or ten.

ON REFLECTION

One word that describes you best?

Grateful

What are your 3 greatest accomplishments?

Perhaps not exactly personal accomplishments but the three things I’m most grateful for are my daughter, my circle of friends, and the work ethic I learnt from my father.

COMPANY BACKGROUND

  • Company Age: Pro Wrestling X has been in development under various entities since 2003
  • Number of employees: 3
  • Industry: Video Game Development and Publishing
  • Public/Private: Private
  • Annual Revenue: >100k
  • Supporters 10,000+

LINKS:

Best place to get the weekly newsletter is by following our Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/ProWrestlingX

The Talk Shit Podcast is still in its infancy and only available on YouTube until it finds its way to Spotify and iTunes:

https://www.youtube.com/user/PWXDave

Pro Wrestling X is available now on Steam:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/297310/Pro_Wrestling_X/

You can also support the project and get early updates on Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/ProWrestlingX

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