When I was a kid there was the WWE and WCW. Sometimes, if you happened to be channel surfing at the right time, you’d stumble upon a random lucha libre program en espanol. We were all happy to get whatever professional wrestling we could, and then things changed. The WWE became the big dog in the yard, gobbling up whatever they could in order to create a more “polished” “unified” product; albeit a product that was the pinnacle, the Mt. Everest, of professional wrestling. The supposed highest point for someone in that line of work. This was the beginning of “what’s best for business”, and although merchandise and ticket sales are important the actual wrestling was what began to suffer. Story lines became convoluted, booking slipped, and my attention was lost to the homogenization of professional wrestling.
After nearly a decade of only following wrestling from the outskirts (talking to friends who continued to watch, reading the random article here and there) I decided it was time to get back into it. I started watching the weekly programs when I could, but it still seemed to suffer from the problems I had previously seen. There wasn’t anything wrong with the quality of the matches and the talent was on top of their game, but it felt like I was only seeing the same eight wrestlers every week in the same exact matches. It was still missing something. My search for more engaging wrestling lead me to the WWE’s developmental territory, NXT, and that was a step in the right direction. The talent was fresh and innovative, the crowd was smaller, it was intimate and you could feel the passion. It truly brought the spectacle back to the wrestling, put the spotlight back on the ring. I once again felt like a child, awestruck by the superstars. This was what I had been looking for; I wanted to feel the energy, like I was caught up in what was going on, more than just taking it in.
It truly is an incredible age that we live in. Promotions that were once only available to the most die hard fans are now available to everyone as internet pay-per-views or video on demand, expanding the professional wrestling horizon exponentially. Spurred on by talents I was being introduced to in the NXT I decided to check out New Japan Pro Wrestling. In January of 2017 I watched Wrestle Kingdom 11, for all intents and purposes NJPW’s Wrestlemrania, and it stood up to that hype. One match in particular, Adam Cole v Kyle O’Reilly, specifically caught my attention. This match was a collaborative effort between two territories, with NJPW allowing Ring of Honor to have a match during their biggest event of the year. It was something unheard of to me, a fan who grew up under the monopoly of the WWE. This also wasn’t a standalone thing, as the next NJPW event was their Honor Rising pay-per-view, a completely collaborative event posed as Ring of Honor versus New Japan Pro Wrestling.
It was Honor Rising that really made me fall in love with the wider world of professional wrestling. The irreverence and humor brought to the ring, all in the name of entertaining the fans. They had top Japanese stars draped in feathers and masquerade masks posing as Dalton Castle’s lovely “boys”, they had the best tag teams from either territory face off against one another, and they had the Ring of Honor championship on the line against a rising star in Japan. To me this felt like what wrestling should feel like; providing the most exciting card that you could, bringing electricity to the fans.
In the past two years professional wrestling has gone through another renaissance, rising in popularity to heights once known in the early 90s. The quality of territories from around the world is growing and the collective talent pool is exponentially rising. There’s more wrestling to be consumed by fans than there ever was before. In today’s world the WWE might be the biggest name in the industry but it doesn’t necessarily provide the best product. With Wrestlemania weekend upon us, whether it’s Joey Janela’s Spring Break on 03/30, Ring of Honor’s Supercard of Honor or NXT Takeover on 04/01, or Wrestling Revolver vs Wrestling Circus Midnight After ‘Mania on 04/02 I highly encourage you to reach out and look into something new, because you just might find your next favorite star or see your new favorite match. Wrestling is a big part of my life. It combines all of the elements I love in pop culture and entertainment (drama, high power fights, acrobatics, heroes and villains) and with this new era upon us it’s opening up an infinite supply of wrestling to consume. As I watch the weekly programming and follow along with the rumor mill I hope to bring to you my thoughts and opinions on as much of it as possible. Whether it’s discussing the feminist potential of WWE’s Women’s revolution, speculating on the future of the Bullet Club, or just dumping the best memes that came to me during a particularly bad episode of Smackdown, I look forward to our discussions about professional wrestling.
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