Wrestling fans from all around the world bought nearly a half-million dollars worth of merch at Pro Wrestling Tees in Chicago this weekend. 

By Justin Barrasso
September 03, 2018

One of the biggest winners of All In weekend did not have a match at the pay per view.

Thirty miles away from the Sears Centre, the site of the show, is Pro Wrestling Tees in Chicago, which generated almost a half a million dollars in revenue by selling over 20,000 products—t-shirts, jackets, figures, hats, pins, and posters—from Thursday to Sunday.

“I was really excited Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks were bringing All In to Chicago,” said Pro Wrestling Tees owner Ryan Barkan. “This was a huge event and I knew how big it could be for us, so I wanted some of the biggest events of the weekend to be at the store.”

Barkan was visible during All In, firing off pro wrestling t-shirts from a t-shirt cannon during the Zero Hour preshow. With fans in town from around the world, he also delivered two sold-out meet-and-greets this weekend at Pro Wrestling Tees, with CM Punk on Friday and Kazuchika Okada on Sunday.

“We’ve always wanted to have Punk at the store, and this was the perfect opportunity,” said the 35-year-old Barkan. “There may not be another WrestleMania in Chicago, so this was the ideal wrestling weekend to have fans meet Punk. There were people in line locally and ones from all over the world.”

A handful of fans even lined up across from the store at 4 a.m. to meet Punk, and the line for the signing—which started at 9 a.m.—extended an entire city block. Barkan worked with New Japan Pro Wrestling to negotiate a deal to bring in Okada, whose appearances in the United States are rare.

“At first, it was going to be either Punk or Okada,” said Barkan, who introduced Okada to the famous deep dish Chicago pizza from Lou Malnati’s. “Once we realized we could get both, we did both.”

wrestling
How 'Pro Wrestling Tees' Became a Merchandise Powerhouse

Pro Wrestling Tees, which has a unique partnership with the wrestlers whose t-shirts they sell, is primarily an online business. But Barkan sectioned off a piece of his warehouse and transformed it into a show room, which served as a destination for 2,500 wrestling fans who arrived in-person over the past four days.

“A regular weekend normally sees 50 customers,” said Barkan. “Our retail is not normally that busy, but I opened the store as a show room. It’s a place for wrestling fans to come and see the merchandise and how we make it.”

Courtesy of Ricky Havlik

The store is closed Monday in observance of Labor Day—and Barkan, like a Chicago hero from years past, is going on a vacation with his family to celebrate the store’s success.

“I’m taking the family to Disney World,” said Barkan, who will be accompanied by his wife and three children. “Everyone in the store has been working so hard, so it will be good to have some time off.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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