Week of September 15, 2014
I’ve been a wrestling writer (on and off) for over a decade now. I’ve been a fan since the early 80’s watching The Great Malumba and Leo Burke in Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling. Yes...that means I’m old. It also means that I kind of have an idea of what I’m talking about.
This isn’t a column to get myself any kind of recognition. I’m not here to hype a product or become “more popular” in the IWC. I’m also not here to cause waves. I’m simply a fan who has seen a lot in this business over the past 30 years and I feel the need to get some things off my chest when it comes to today’s product.
So let’s use this first column to go over the state of the wrestling industry right now.
While most people in the IWC have nothing but disdain for WWE’s PG product, you can’t sit back and say they’re hurting at the moment. Are we in the wild and crazy Attitude Era? No, but it’ll be quite some time before that type of success is seen again. Until that happens, it’s important to look at what’s going on with WWE and how they are progressing forward.
- The WWE Network (apparently it’s available for $9.99) is a huge positive for the wrestling industry as a whole. Give it a year or two and then tell me it’s not successful. The ability to not only watch major live PPV’s but also all of the old PPV’s (I’ve caught up on some of the older ECW ones that I never got to see) and the original programming (NXT, Legend’s House, & the Monday Night Wars are really well done) make this MORE than worth the price to any wrestling fan.
- While the main event scene is a bit stale at the moment, don’t blame WWE. They have done a fantastic job in bringing up new talent like Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, the Usos, Bray Wyatt & the Wyatt Family, and Rusef among others. They are all established stars who are now unique gimmicks on their own. Will they ever main event WrestleMania? Possibly...but until they begin displaying the personalities of a John Cena or Triple H then the answer is “probably not”. Obviously, Daniel Bryan was an exception to the rule but he was an anomaly. Until somebody comes along with a gimmick or personality that lights the world on fire (i.e. The Rock or Steve Austin), then you’re going to be stuck watching Cena and Orton in the main event. It’s not all about wins and losses. Sometimes you need to overcome Creative and connect with the crowd on a whole other level. Nobody has stepped up to do that lately.
- I’m not saying that WWE is infallible, though. They’ve completely dropped the ball on Paige, Adam Rose, Bo Dallas, Fandango, and Emma (just to name a few). No, it’s not entirely WWE’s fault...but all of those characters were B-level gimmicks at best, so they needed the “WWE Machine” to help get them over that initial hump. Hopefully, the next crop of debuts (i.e Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville, Charlotte, The Ascension, and Tyler Breeze) will be handled a bit
- Speaking of which, there is a LOT of great talent right now on the NXT roster. If they weren’t a “minor leagues” for the WWE main roster, they would probably be considered the best indy promotion in North America. As it stands, they have a really good weekly program and I think we’ll see a lot of great stuff in the coming years thanks to NXT and the WWE Performance Center.
- You will find no hotter promotion on the indy scene than Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. They are FULL of talent and put on some of the best matches you will find this side of the Pacific Ocean on a regular basis. PWG is like a new-age ECW without the hardcore violence. Sure, some of the matches can turn into spotfests...but for the most part, they are providing an extremely entertaining product that California fans are eating up on a regular basis. I only wish they had their shows available for downloadable purchase...I don’t need wrestling DVD’s in my home.
- Ring of Honor is still doing extremely well and, it could be argued, is still considered the #3 promotion behind WWE and TNA. They recently had a changing of the guard in terms of their champion as they went from Jay Briscoe to Adam Cole to Michael Elgin and back to Jay Briscoe. I think Briscoe is the perfect champion for them right now and even though he wasn’t originally scheduled to be champion again (sorry Elgin...those Visa issues can be a bitch sometimes), he’s a better all-around performer both inside and outside of the ring than Elgin could hope to become. It’s just a good decision. The rest of the roster is a combination of indy vets and upstart hopefuls...so they seem to be on the right track.
- EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA are both Gabe Sapolsky indies that seem to do okay. They might not have the rabid crowds of PWG, but they consistently put on a really solid product in the ring. I hope both promotions continue to grow. And here’s the great thing...indie wrestling seems to be growing right now. The early 2000’s brought about a near death-knell for the indy fed, but if you take a look online you’ll see promotions garnering 500-1,000 people per show...and that is more than most live TNA events! I’m excited to see what happens over the coming years with indies. I’m even more excited to see what Jeff Jarrett does with his Global Wrestling Federation (but that’s another story for another time).
Overall, the business is doing quite well. Is it doing late-90s business? No, but it has taken an upturn that cannot be denied.
Canadian icon ZAH has been a contributor to PWTorch.com and World Wrestling Insanity. Follow him on Twitter @_ZAH_
- In spite of the TMZ story on the imminent cancelation of Impact Wrestling by SPIKE, they are still scheduled for shows until at least the end of 2014 and both parties are still in “negotiation”. From a business standpoint, I’m really hoping that SPIKE keeps TNA...but there are probably some things that need to change in order for them to prosper and (finally) grow.
- The name NEEDS to change. At this point, after 10 years, the TNA brand is a joke. So much has happened, especially, over the past few years to give TNA a black eye that I don’t see them growing under the TNA name. It’s a silly moniker to begin with and it sounds silly when you say it...“Hey, I’m going to watch some TNA tonight on TV.” Yeah...the name needs to go.
- If you’ve watched their latest batch of programming from New York, then you should know just how much better the product is already. The storylines aren’t over-done or the matches over-produced. Overall, the product is pretty entertaining and I haven’t been able to say that in a VERY long time.
- I enjoy Lashley as champion with MVP as his mouthpiece. It’s a good combination that gives the title some credibility with two former WWE stars that don’t seem like they are washed up yet. He should remain champion for awhile, too...especially until at least the end of the year. I think SPIKE likes him, as well, due to his involvement with Bellator.
- The departures of some veterans like AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Kazarian, Chris Sabin, Sting, (reportedly) Bully Ray, and (rumoured to happen soon) Kurt Angle can easily be seen as a hindrance to TNA’s growth. In the end, though, it should be seen as an opportunity to branch off and develop new stars. Guys like Ethan Carter III, Gunner, Samuel Shaw, and Bram have all shown sparks of great things so far, so I think the roster is in good hands despite the recent losses of talent.