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Pro Wrestling's Interesting Place in 2017

Courtesy: WWE.com

For me, pro wrestling is an interesting place. And it got here in 2017. 

For the pro wrestling fan, there are plenty of current options. We're not talking the kind of options that was once out there on a national level (ala WCW and ECW), but the kind we now have in various indie operations, the many regions that are currently on fire (UK Scene), and yes, those that you can simply log onto YouTube, or some other streaming service to find content of.

The pro wrestling fan doesn't have to have cable anymore. Actually, there isn't much of a need for cable as is. And quite frankly, the pro wrestling fan probably doesn't even need national wrestling companies as well.

Just like the pro wrestling fan, I too find myself in this peculiar area on the spectrum seeking and exploring various organizations, offerings, and presentations of the art form that is available. Much like I did in the past, I'm open to seeing what's out there, and more importantly, what is entertaining.

After all, for all of it's options, and even in it's sudden transformation of access and presentation platforms, pro wrestling is in this weird bubble of not knowing where it needs to be next. Of where it needs to go heading into 2018. From this pro wrestling fan, here is a breakdown of what I mean, and where me - just my personal fandom (calm down fired up internet debaters) - on where pro wrestling currently is in 2017.


WWE

It's still king, and as of right now, the "E" is still the most frequently watched company by myself as of this notice. The WWE has become less of the push-the-envelope innovator in the pro wrestling market that it has been over it's history. Today, the company has become this weird Chinese Takeout version of wrestling - offering everything in various forms under it's banner. The product is reliable, but deep down inside you know there has to be a better (healthier) option. Yet, you still go to it because of convenience. 

Look, WWE programming has now become "I'll-check-it-out" programming rather than appointment television. I DVR it, fast forward through it (especially RAW - I can't do 3 hours...sorry.) and immerse myself in the good stuff. I still tune in for the big shows or the occasional pay-per-views because I know there is where things actually will mean something. Again, with so many hours of programming, I'm left wondering how can so much mean so little?

NXT

I'll say it immediately off the bat - NXT's reputation is vastly overrated. There is this counter-culture facade that fans want to make NXT into, especially when there are claims of NXT being better than WWE. Folks, it's the same company!

And most importantly, I'm pretty sure (I'm guessing, obviously) that most only watch NXT for the Takeover specials. But here is where things get confusing - those specials are damn good! NXT has now built this reputation that you can miss 4 months of their weekly programming, tune in, and get a helluva show. I know that Takeover: War Games was one of my favorite shows of 2017.

Yet, it's still WWE. The machine is too smart. They are aware of the various interest in pro wrestling fans. And they've essentially created their own indie-rific company with super production, guaranteeing them another night of gate revenue on certain weekends of the year. 

Vince is a genius. 



ROH

I believe people when they say ROH is the "true number two" in pro wrestling here in the States. The problem is - what does that even mean? Seriously, who cares when you can't even see the tail lights of #1. 

For me, I haven't been invested into ROH in a really, really, reaaaaaaalllllly long time.

If there is a company that has escaped the wrath of the internet community and has enjoyed this pardon (for some unbeknownst reason from wrestling fans) it's Ring of Honor wrestling.

For me, the talent is super talented, but rather bland and doesn't make me care, other than those opportunities to see those from New Japan. And yes, their women's division is awful.

IMPACT

A fan of this company since day one, I gave up those exclusive support rights last year. It's one of the many reasons I discontinued my column over at Impact Asylum. Under new ownership, this company finds itself once again in the same position - inconsistency. And weird inconsistency.

From sheer name and identity, to it's belts (ugh, the cover ups - bad optics), the storylines, the wrestlers on our television constantly changing, to the randomness that occurs in it's behind-the-scenes drama, this company continues to make it difficult to watch with that level of fandom and belief I once had. Amazingly, it still has a television deal, yet, still can't draw as much as some independent shows. Such an anomaly. 

But it does have Eli Drake. Excuse me, E-Li Draaaake!!! That guy has the ability to be special. 

It's wrestling, so I'll tune in, and Impact does provide some really cool programming still. But it just can't get out of it's own way. 

Having that feeling of this company doing something special is long - long - gone.



NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING

Who can forget good ol' New Japan Pro Wrestling? The company produces awesome shows, with awesome wrestlers, who we really don't know other than well, they pretty much kick ass, and do it in such an entertaining way!

Much like NXT, I can't follow New Japan on a weekly basis, but will find myself seeking out their bigger shows, especially that of Wrestle Kingdom. 

Ironically, too many stateside are attempting to make the NJPW philosophy work for them. However, are just unable to capture that same magic. 

LUCHA UNDERGROUND

One minute there won't be a season, the next there will. Their reliability is the biggest downfall. It's hard to get invested when you think every season could be the very last. No thanks, I've given up after season 2.

NWA

I find it very cool that this brand has been resurrected by new owner, Billy Corgan. The NWA means too much to the history and lore of pro wrestling, and shockingly, it isn't owned by Vince McMahon.

I oddly believe in Billy Corgan, especially from his time in Impact. He seems not only to be a fan, but truly a creative enough mind to understand that pro wrestling needs to evolve slightly as we move forward.

Currently, the Ten Pounds of Gold segments have been interesting, and I'm looking forward to seeing where and how things will progress beyond their champion wrestling in other promotions. I'm looking forward to their product. 

But until then, I won't hold my breath. They'll need to do something really special to differentiate themselves. 

OTHER INDIES

As stated before, I don't watch much independent wrestling. I would love to, but I just don't have the time. Although, I slowly am finding my way into this because of the lack of truly engaging products from the national televised options.

What is amazing to me are the set-ups and production of some of these companies, as well as the crowd turnouts and support they each have. From episodes of Impact, it seems like Border City Wrestling does very well. The Crash promotion as well. 

NWA Hollywood is always in discussion on websites. Progress has a great reputation. And there are so many more. In this odd, ironic, and insanely weird way, pro wrestling has moved back into territorial days. Well, heck, the NWA is back. The past is cool again. 

I also checked out House of Hardcore on Twitch recently. My goodness, what a platform and opportunity Tommy Dreamer currently has! That platform is tremendous, and as mentioned above, House of Hardcore seems like another stable option as well.

However, that last show - woof. That was rough in some areas to watch. Which brings me to my next point...


CROWDS, FANS, US

I think even us fans need to evolve and to allow for change in the pro wrestling scene. While watching the House of Hardcore event on Twitch, I found myself constantly shaking my head at the fans who cursed, chanted obsecnities, and almost attempted to re-create ECW.

Let's just accept it, ECW is dead. Grab yourself access to the WWE Network and enjoy the authentic version. 

Why some continue to attempt to rally around products in this way, or chant "this is awesome" five minutes into a match, or fire off a few "CM Punk" chants in attempt to hijack a show is beyond me.

I love the passion - I really do. But we need to do better. All of us.

And finally...

PRO WRESTLERS

And this might be my biggest gripe currently with pro wrestling - the wrestlers. The very men and women themselves who tell the stories, make our imaginations run wild, and pull off high-risk maneuvers with their bodies to entertain us.

My complain may be their fault, or it may be of the doing of that evil group we like to hold responsible for the moments we individually cringe at, the creative team. Either way, my biggest problem with pro wrestling today is this:

Wrestlers are boring.

They are. Too many of them don't standout out. There aren't enough brand, enough characters, and enough stories - doubling down on this - that make these men and women larger than life like they once were.

Again, just my opinion, pro wrestling has too many wrestlers who are alike. I honestly can think of ten (maybe fifteen) wrestlers in all of the promotions named above that are must-see, whether they are in the ring, doing a promo, or even in just a segment. Everyone, in some weird way today just feels the same. 

There are too many talented men and women in the business today for this to happen. Actually, there are SO many talented wresters. But again, it's a combination of many things in pro wrestling that just doesn't have "it" for me. Us. Them. The demand. The offer. The industry competition. And honestly, the internet (go a month without reading dirtsheets, you'll be amazed how different your perspective is!).

Pro wrestling is still one of my favorite forms of entertainment. But as mentioned above, somehow, the entire industry has become less innovative, and more alike than ever before. No one stands out. No one has a unique product. And no one has a consistent product worthy of ultimately diving into. 

I have faith though that pro wrestling will find it's way out of these cyclical issues. I'm just waiting on who will do it? And how awesome - and industry changing - it will be. 

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