24th Jun2019

Opinionated: Picking A Wrestling Side?

by Chris Cummings

opinionated-wrestling-companies

I’ve been a fan of pro-wrestling for over 27 years and in that time I’ve been a fan of so many promotions within the landscapes of wrestling. In the early 90s when I started watching wrestling the big two companies were WWE(F) and WCW. I remember buying VHS tapes for both companies, leaning much heavier towards WWE, but still enjoying the WCW stuff I watched. Moving on to the late 90s I became a fan of ECW, and started dipping my toe into tape trading. I’d get a train to Manchester and visit a little dingy wrestling shop in an alternative market, and pick up ECW tapes, as well as tapes for indie promotions like IWA, Japanese stuff from All Japan and even some hard to find WWE and WCW stuff. It was a blast. It was harder to get hold of wrestling back then. It was hard to even find out what existed, especially if you didn’t know too many people who were also rabid wrestling fans. Still, with the use of zines and the birth of the internet and forums, it was a blast to uncover these other promotions that offered an alternative, something that wasn’t the same product as WWE or WCW, something fresh or interesting or specific. It was a blast.

Today, all these years later, and so many promotions are in existence. TNA turned into IMPACT and has had highs and lows in its run as a wrestling company. I remember seeing TNA back in the mid-00s and being hooked by the tremendous roster and their awesome X-Division. Watching guys like Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, The Amazing Red and Samoa Joe tearing it up was definitely something that attracted me to TNA. Sadly, my interest waned when the product lost its feet and I stopped watching. Ring of Honor has had highs and lows too, but the talent that has come out of there is highly documented, guys who we see on our WWE screens on a weekly basis, from Seth Rollins, to Daniel Bryan, to Cesaro, to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn all made strong careers in ROH. Right now, I enjoy IMPACT and ROH when I tune in, and though neither company is riding a high, in my view, they’re still worth watching if you like wrestling.

In 2001 WCW was bought by WWE. Vince McMahon wrote a cheque and filled his shopping bag with WCW’s tape library and a bunch of wrestler contracts. Nothing ever came of WCW, as we know. The rumoured launch of WCW as a WWE show never happened. WWE was the last big promotion in town. ECW, never a competition to WWE but rather a promotion that existed to push the envelope and do things differently, also closed their doors in 2001, and the so-called BIG-THREE became the BIG-ONE, with Vince standing at the top of the mountain, the head of Ted Turner in one hand, and the wrestling audience sitting in his other.

With the death of WCW and ECW, the pro-wrestling fans were left with much less content to watch on television. The wrestling industry saw a boom period in the late 90s heading into the early 00s, but with WWE becoming the last show in town, the audience eventually diminished and the wrestling fans, or some of them, stopped watching. WWE, in the years since becoming the only big promotion, have created a product that is slick, shiny and stacked with the biggest and best roster in wrestling history. There are many who will say that WWE are offering an over-produced and saccharine product, a product aimed more at attempting to attract casual fans than at pulling back the hardcore base. Still, with the creation of NXT, the development brand that isn’t really a development brand, and NXT UK, WWE are definitely producing content that the hardcore wrestling audience can enjoy and be passionate about. NXT is, after all, a product based on excellent in-ring, old-school promos and production, and a home-arena base of fans who adore it. It’s popular among the wrestling universe, and when you watch the hour-long weekly TV show, or the TakeOver specials, it’s easy to see why. NXT is, in this writers view, the best thing that WWE is doing, and the best thing they’ve been doing in recent years.

My love for NXT, however, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the main WWE shows, because I do. Being a fan of wrestling means being someone who complains, hates and agonises over things we don’t like, things we think are being done incorrectly, people we think should be given more opportunities, people we think should be given less. Being a fan of anything means being passionate about it, and so wrestling fans are well-known for being incredibly full-on with their opinions on it all, and many of those opinions obviously fall on WWE.

I’m a WWE fan. I have been since I was a kid. That certainly doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy, and can’t enjoy, other wrestling.

The UK wrestling scene has been on fire for a while, and so being able to go to local shows for smaller promotions like Futureshock, and the bigger UK companies like Progress and ICW, is incredible. NXT UK, the WWE brand that launched recently in the UK, is also, in my view, a solid thing. It means the UK scene is under a microscope now, people are watching, and more opportunities are bound to arise for the wrestlers on the scene. Companies that work with WWE will have a chance at better promotion and having WWE contracted workers on their shows, and those who work independently will have fan bases who are loyal and wrestlers who will be passionate about making those promotions stand out. I like to think of the whole thing as a positive, and not a negative. Some will disagree, and that’s also fine.

Japan have some tremendous wrestling, but I only tend to watch New Japan Pro Wrestling. The sheer amount of product out there means I just don’t have the time to watch other stuff, but the NJPW product is fantastic and some of the highlights of pro-wrestling in the past few years come out of there. It’s impossible to ignore just how important and exciting the Bullet Club run in NJPW has been.

AEW launched this year. All-Elite Wrestling. Not just an indie promotion, not a small league that is attempting to do something cool and special. AEW is backed by the Khan family and has the financial backing to really give it a chance to change the world of wrestling as we know it. The BIG ONE promotion could very well become THE BIG TWO again.

With Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega as management and an already impressive roster of talent, AEW has a genuine chance at being a real big time alternative to WWE. The debut PPV show, Double or Nothing, saw a promotion with intent, with a real aim to be something new, something fresh and something different. This has also led to a division of sorts in fans, those who want AEW to succeed and WWE to fail, those who want AEW to fail and WWE to remain the only show in town, and those… like me, who want to see both promotions, as well as all other wrestling companies around the world, succeed, remain and do well. More companies means more wrestling. Bigger companies means more wrestling on a grander scale. How can this be a bad thing? It isn’t. It simply isnt.

There has always been a “pick a side” element in wrestling. WCW or WWF? ECW or WCW? IMPACT or ROH? New Japan or All Japan? And now… AEW or WWE? I didn’t pick sides back then, and I won’t pick a side now, either. The wrestling business has definitely found itself to be stale, in areas, and there’s so much talent who are dying to break out, do something special and show what they’re capable of. Those upset with WWE’s product, which is far from perfect, now have alternative places to watch. Wrestlers unhappy with their place have another place to work. It’s such a positive things, and those who want to see one side fail are short-sighted and ignorant to what it truly means to have ALL THIS WRESTLING.

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