The Rebirth of Pro Wrestling
Oscar Rendon | St. Louis, MO | September 21st, 2019
Wrestling has always been a circus mash-up of ridiculous storytelling and outlandish characters to match it. Over the years wrestling has become a monopolized monarchy with the McMahon family at the top ever since the purchase of WCW in 2001, thus ending the Monday Night Wars. Just the title “Monday Night Wars” screams wrestling, a time in which chaos and the unexpected still existed and bred competition. In fact, pop culture wouldn’t be the same if wrestling and the Monday Night Wars hadn’t happened. The Attitude Era gave us The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Degeneration-X, the nWo, and countless other pop culture references. Before Marvel or DC films created villains you could root for wrestling did it first! The nWo made it cool to cheer the bad guys, Hollywood wouldn’t have the box-office monster of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and who can forget “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” a classic line or how about “open up a can of whoop ass”. Things we’ve said jokingly (sometimes not so jokingly) and have lived beyond it’s years. John Cena came after that era with Ruthless Aggression, and because of him we got an all time classic “You Can’t See Me”. But alas all good things come to an end, after the purchase of WCW the WWE had a few great years as the only game in town. With no other competitors in the horizon, WWE once again became a monarchy standing atop the mountain.
After a few years of cultivating big stars like John Cena, Randy Orton, Edge, Batista (who would later go on to become Drax in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and starring in films grossing over a total of billions of dollars *wink), CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and many more the WWE became something else. It ditched wrestling for a glossier term.. “sports entertainment”, wrestler for superstar and between us what difference does it make? None. The WWE was ashamed of the word that helped it make its millions and with money comes expansions like creating a performance center, NXT a developmental show that helped up and coming guys and girls acclimate to working on television. Suddenly the game changed again with WWE signing many great independent talents like Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, Jon Moxley, Adam Cole, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Finn Balor, and much much more (just look at the NXT & NXT UK rosters!). Why wouldn’t these diehard wrestling fans turned pro-wrestlers sign with WWE, it’s a million (they’ll tell you billion) dollar business. They tour and perform in large arenas and stadiums in front of thousands of rabid wrestling fans. So much content, a lot of great talent, so why am I changing the channel when Monday Night RAW comes on? Why is their talent unhappy and vocal about it? It can be many things, but let’s keep it to one subject.. creative. If you sat down and watched an episode of RAW you would think you’re watching a rerun, with all the talent they have sitting backstage just begging to be featured you think they would have the time for it. RAW is 3 hours long and somehow we get the same matchups, same segments, dull promo performances that sound hokey and terribly scripted. Talented performers being wasted to nothing more than silly characters and bad acting. Why do we remember the Attitude Era so fondly, they had hokey characters and weird segments each week. Now, this isn’t some essay on why the Attitude Era was so great because it’s not, it was a bi-product of competition, so why do we remember it so vividly and fondly? The answer is easy, each character, segment, promo, show, etc had life to it. It didn’t feel overly produced and scripted and it looked fun. The performers themselves had significant input on characters, promos, matches and segments. Of course the show wasn’t a free for all but at least the wrestlers had input to go and steal the show or garner ratings. WWE forgot the one key ingredient to their success, trust. Trust in their performers to deliver on a great story or match and trust in its audience to follow along the crazy and adult themed storylines and not dumbing it down for us.
Obviously, there are other smaller companies you can watch like Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA), Lucha Underground, New Japan Pro Wrestling and even your local wrestling shows. Those promotions aren’t the problem though, the diehard fans will find those other outlets and alternatives but to the casual viewer who tunes in, their first experience will be what is presented to them on TV and WWE is the most prominent. Now what if I told you that there is another company debuting this year, with the financial backing like a WWE, production and talent like WWE, would you watch? Cody (Rhodes) and the Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) started something, something spawned from a YouTube web series ‘Being The Elite’. On September 1st of 2018, the Bucks and Cody put together the largest independent wrestling show with high production and top tier athletes for an event that in my mind changed the course of pro wrestling. ALL IN was the name of the event, 3 guys and their friends with a passion for wrestling bet on themselves and created history. Suddenly, I was excited again. Pro wrestling was back in the limelight for the right reasons. This year the 3 men announced to the world that AEW “ALL ELITE WRESTLING” would be debuting its first official show ‘DYNAMITE’ on TNT. Wrestling fans anxiously awaiting for the company’s first episode of on TNT don’t have to wait much longer as October 2nd is just a week and a half away and so begins what most people consider as the “Wednesday Night Wars” as AEW’s DYNAMITE will go head to head with WWE’s NXT brand. Will the upstart company de-thrown one of the WWE’s most critically acclaimed brands or will the Black & Gold brand give the new company a run for their money?