The amateur wrestling website Flowrestling.org has announced it is launching its own professional wrestling organization called Flo Premier League, with unique rules, a one-of-a-kind commissioner, and a first match featuring two top NCAA finalists.
The debut match for the Flo Premier League will be two-time NCAA Division I champ Chris Perry of Oklahoma State, facing off against two-time finalist Robert Hamlin, a Lehigh mat alum. The Cowboy-Mountain Hawk match will headline Flowrestling’s second-ever Who’s #1, a showcase event featuring top high school wrestling talent, to be held at Lehigh’s Grace Hall on October 18. Last year’s Who’s #1 event concluded with a battle of former collegiate champs, with Jordan Oliver, a two-time NCAA champ from Oklahoma State, defeating Arizona State’s 2011 champ Bubba Jenkins.
According to Flowrestling’s announcement of the Perry-Hamlin match at Who’s #1, the two have only wrestled once, in the 2011 NCAA quarterfinals, where Hamlin came out on top.
Both wrestlers are eager to meet again on the mat. Perry said of his FPL opponent who graduated from Lehigh in 2013, “Robert is a good wrestler. I am excited to get to wrestle him and have the opportunity to compete in his old college gym and get the chance to wrestle in a good atmosphere.”
Hamlin weighed in on his expectations for his premiere at the Flo Premier League event at 2014 Who’s #1 event, saying, “I’m really excited to wrestle Chris. We wrestled once before and it was a very close match. He has got a lot better from that time. Anytime you get a chance to wrestle someone like that, you jump at the opportunity.“
FPL: New rules, new look
According to the September 23 announcement, Flo Premier League “will look to attract the most exciting and talented post-college wrestlers.” To that end, FPL will have some elements to set it apart from traditional collegiate wrestling… and from professional wrestling as practiced by the WWE and similar organizations.
For starters, the rules will be a hybrid of college folkstyle and international freestyle. As InterMat columnist and former University of Virginia All-American wrestler Tim Foley wrote in his “Foley’s Friday Mailbag” column Friday, September 26, “According to their release, the FPL will use ‘Tirapelle Rules,’ which were developed by 2001 NCAA champion wrestler Adam Tirapelle.”
In addition, according to Flowrestling’s announcement, Flo Premier League wrestlers will not be wearing collegiate-style singlets, but fight shorts instead, much like today’s mixed martial arts fighters… or college wrestlers more than 50 years ago, where trunks were the standard uniform, with shirts optional until the NCAA changed the rules in the mid-1960s.
A familiar face as FPL commissioner
Flowrestling announced that Ben Askren – a familiar face in folkstyle and freestyle wrestling as well as MMA — will be Commissioner of the Flo Premier League. Askren, a former University of Missouri wrestler, was a four-time NCAA finalist and two-time champ who was twice honored with the Hodge Trophy, an annual award presented to the nation’s best collegiate wrestler. The Wisconsin native was also a member of the US men’s freestyle team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. More recently, Askren has fashioned a successful professional MMA career, first as a Bellator Fighting Championships welterweight champ, and, most recently, winning the same title in the ONE FC organization.
In writing to InterMat’s Foley about the “Tirapelle Rules” for the new Flo Premier League, Askren said, “The rules bridge the gap between freestyle and folkstyle,” Askren wrote to me this week. “I think it allows us to use post-collegiate athletes who don’t compete in freestyle as well as MMA fighters.”
Last year, Askren competed in and served as a matchmaker for Agon Wrestling, one of three organizations established in 2013 to provide former college wrestlers opportunities to compete in the sport they love, for prize money. A Twitter message from @AgonWC indicated that partnership is now over, stating, “We wish Ben Askren well in his new venture – @AgonWC is #AuthenticProfessionalWrestling”
In explaining his reasons for switching from Agon to Flo Premier League, “Flowrestling is the gold standard in media coverage for the wrestling world and I am very proud to be assisting them with this project. I am very excited to be working with Flowrestling, whose entire existence has been about pioneering and leading the sport of wrestling in new directions. I am excited to help professional wrestling grow in America. I think a highly successful professional league will increase our sports stature among the general population.”
More than Perry-Hamlin
The Flo Premier League plans to host a total of six events in its first year. In addition to the Chris Perry-Robert Hamlin FPL premiere match at October’s Who’s #1 event, other FPL events scheduled include Albany, NY on November 29; Chicago on December 21; Whitewater, Wis., January 25; St. Louis on March 18; and Indiana, Pa. on April 5.
Flocasts CEO Martin Floreani said this about his new Flo Premier League venture: “Wrestling is the greatest and most exciting sport in the world. With the Flo Premier League fans across the country and world get to see match ups that previously could only be imagined. It’s going to be an excited transformation for our sport.”
FPL: Familiar territory?
The Flo Premier League is the latest professional wrestling venture that resembles amateur wrestling, rather than incorporating the theatrics and showbiz elements of today’s WWE and other pro wrestling organizations, and were designed to provide competitive, money-making opportunities to post-collegiate wrestlers. During the 2013-14 season, at least three such ventures took to the mats. In addition to Agon Wrestling Championships already mentioned which had a total of four events at various locations throughout the US, there was Tour ACW which had a “test event” in October 2013, and Victory Wrestling Challenge event which took place in Omaha in November 2013. Each venture had its own set of rules and unique presentation.
In addition, some fans are old enough to remember Real Pro Wrestling, a 2005 cable TV series which featured former college and international wrestlers competing in a tournament format… which followed in the footsteps of even earlier ventures which sought to create legitimate professional wrestling competition free of predetermined outcomes.