A house show is a short professional wrestling show run by a major promotion, such as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) or Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), that is not televised or taped. Promotions use house shows mainly to cash in on the exposure that they and their wrestlers receive during televised events as well as test reactions to matches that they think that the television viewing audience would like to see.
Both of WWE's touring groups (Raw and SmackDown! / ECW) run four shows in a typical week, but televise only one. Promotions also use house shows to promote upcoming televised events, especially pay-per-views; typically, wrestlers who are scheduled to work a match at the promotion's next pay-per-view will work matches against one another at house shows. This also allows them to test out parts of matches before they appear on pay-per-view. Since house shows are not televised, promotions usually do not set-up elaborate staging or pyrotechnics for the event, just a ring and basic lighting, except for international tours and house shows in Madison Square Garden.
Today, most major promotions try to develop their angles only during televised shows and will rarely book a major development (such as a storyline or a title change) for a house show. If there is a title change, the title usually changes back during the same show or another house show before another televised event. Title changes are usually reserved for televised shows to boost ratings.
In 1986, when Dino Bravo debuted with the WWF, his first actual match was at the Montreal Forum at a house show where he teamed with the Rougeau Brothers in a 6-man tag-team match against the Dream Team (Greg Valentine, Brutus Beefcake, and Johnny Valiant). Toward the end of the match, when it looked like the Rougeaus and Bravo were headed for victory, Bravo turned on them and left the ring with the Dream Team. But this heel turn by Bravo was never mentioned on WWF television, and when he debuted on television a few weeks later he was introduced as the newest member of the Dream Team with no mention of how it happened. Also in 1987, hometown favorites the Rougeau Brothers beat then-champions the Hart Foundation for the WWF Tag Team Championship at a house show at the Montreal Forum on August 10. But in the 1980s the WWF never talked about house shows on television, so the win and title change was never recognized and the Rougeaus never did get to wear the belts on television. The WWF did, however, continue to acknowledge the match and the reversed decision on its interview segments that were done for the local Montreal market, as studio interview segments at the time were specific to the market where it was being shown. A similar incident occurred in 1990 when The Rockers defeated the Hart Foundation for the tag title, but the decision was overturned by Jack Tunney and never acknowledged on television.
Even rarer is the top title in a promotion changing hands. This has occurred relatively few times. An exception is Bret Hart's 1992 win over Ric Flair for the WWF Championship in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Also, in 1994, Diesel defeated Bob Backlund for the WWF Championship at a house show at Madison Square Garden.
House show title changes also include winning titles close to hometowns, such as Edge beating Jeff Jarrett for his first Intercontinental Title in Toronto, Ontario. This title change was done to excite Edge's hometown crowd. He, however, lost the belt back to Jarrett the following evening.
Title changes at house shows most commonly occur when a promotion is overseas promoting their brand. For example, Nunzio won the WWE Cruiserweight Championship from Juventud Guerrera in Rome on November 15, 2005. At a French house show on April 24, 2007, Mickie James pinned Victoria to win Melina's WWE Women's Championship in a triple threat match. Two matches later, Melina had a one on one rematch with Mickie and pinned her to recapture the title after. On its website WWE recognized both title changes, making Mickie a three time Women's Champion and Melina a two-time Women's Champion. Several months later, at a house show in Cape Town, South Africa on September 5, 2007, Paul London and Brian Kendrick defeated Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch to win Cade and Murdoch's World Tag Team Championship, but went on to lose the titles back to Cade and Murdoch just three days later at another house show on that South African tour. The World Tag Team Championship changed hands again at a house show on December 13, 2008 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, when John Morrison and The Miz defeated CM Punk and Kofi Kingston.
More examples include La Résistance defeating William Regal and Jonathan Coachman (Eugene's Substitute) to win the World Tag Team Championship on January 16, 2005 in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Christian defeating Booker T to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship on August 10, 2003 as Booker had suffered an injury. On May 19, 1995, Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) beat Jeff Jarrett in a Ladder Match at the Montreal Forum for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Then Jarrett beat Hall to regain the belt in a regular match two days later on May 21, in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. Although neither one of these house show matches was taped, the title changes are officially recognized by WWE on its website. On the Monday Night Raw following the Sunday night match in Trois-Rivieres, Vince McMahon informed the audience about the title changes from that weekend, and they were referenced several times in the weeks that followed on WWF television whenever Jarrett appeared on TV with the belt.
World Championship Wrestling's house shows occasionally featured title changes which were never officially recognized. Recordings of certain house shows were occasionally televised by TBS midweek, including one in which Diamond Dallas Page used his Diamond Cutter finisher on the hosts of the network's Dinner and a Movie. Booker T and Chris Benoit traded the WCW World Television Championship back-and-forth on several house shows, with Booker (the official champion) always having the title back in time for Nitro. Terry Funk once defeated Lance Storm for the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship in Funk's hometown of Amarillo, Texas; this title change remained unrecognized until World Wrestling Entertainment bought out WCW in 2001.
Also, because house shows are not televised, sometimes controversial things happen at them, which would not happen on a televised show. For example, on May 19, 1996, the "MSG incident", which was also a rare example of a shoot, occurred at a house show taped at Madison Square Garden. At the same show, The Bodydonnas lost their WWF Tag Team Championship to The Godwinns.