WWE vs The World

By @Ciaran_Heel

In March 2001 WWE officially became the number one wrestling company in the world. After systematically destroying the regional promotions in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Vince McMahon finally purchased the smoky remains of both ECW & WCW, the wrestling industry was forever altered. Like many businesses WWE’s product faulted after their stable ship was rocked by the arrival of new talent, staff and mindsets, the years following the purchase of their competitor were rocky. WWE’s in-ring product suffered hugely, except for a few talented wrestlers, WWE relied heavily on the same faces in the same spots. Their once huge talent pool started to shrink, like a small country fearing invasion WWE put up fences and locked the doors, WWE became a sovereign state. They only talent they did produce was homegrown, they might have been athletic, good looking and muscular but they lacked that real-world experience. The number one wrestling company in the world was failing at producing an enjoyable wrestling show, but why? When you have Vince McMahon at the helm, the man who helped revolutionize the industry, why oh why is WWE not just getting it right?

In contrast to WWE becoming the holy land of professional wrestling, multiple independent wrestling companies emerged from the embers of 2002, each of them with their own identity and style of wrestling. Instead of recounting all the steps from the start of millennium, I am going to focus on the recent resurgence of independent wrestling companies or just ‘indy’s’ as they are known. Just before I started writing for Kayfabe Today myself and my partner had attended a handful of regional promotions in the UK, then as my work with KT grew I started to cover these promotions more seriously. I attended a show organized by Pro Evolution Wrestling in Gloucester (UK), the main event was between Justin Sysum and former NXT talent Oliver Grey. The action that night was of a very high standard, from start to finish the card delivered in all matches. Only a few months later I witnessed two of the best matches I’ve seen this year at 4FW in Swindon, the first was between Kenny Omega and Mark Haskins, the other one pitted Tiger Ali against Saime Sahin. I then attended Pro Wrestling Chaos and once more I was suitably impressed with the product they were selling; most sobering was the fact that the cost of going to the three shows worked out cheaper than going to see a WWE event.

I have always flirted with New Japan Pro Wrestling over the years, catching the matches on YouTube when I could. I was then instructed that there was an NJPW On Demand service, which I almost immediately signed up for. This opened my eyes even more to the different styles of wrestling that existed the world over, soon after that I attended my first Rev Pro show in Reading. After attending and meeting Elliott from Kayfabe Today, he instructed me to look at Progress Wrestling, again I was taken in by the high octane, sublime performances from the plethora of independent talent. So, 2016 went on like this, I attended as many shows as I could within a 50 miles’ radius and previewed & reviewed all of them, and I must say there has hardly been a bad show. Recently I logged onto Ticketmaster and checked out the WWE UK tour ticket prices, let’s just say I was gobsmacked, for three adults and a child I would be looking at paying around £140 English pounds. I pondered for a while and spoke to my partner and brother, then a few days later we decided against it. That weekend we attended Pro Wrestling Chaos and were blown away, every match was worth the £33.00 we paid, and after it finished we were thoroughly satisfied. There was a time when I would never consider any other type of wrestling, however now WWE is probably 5th or 6th on the list.

With WWE’s in-ring product suffering in 2011/12, Triple H came up with a novel idea to revolutionize the WWE development program and the company’s future. NXT the once abysmal reality TV series was repackaged as small independent/regional promotion, with unknown and veteran talent the new version of NXT would turn the tide for WWE…..for a while. Triple H it seemed saw the writing on the wall, the wrestling fan had changed, the attitude to wrestling had changed, people no longer wanted to see WWE style matches week after week. The once career killer Paul Levesque, alongside the hugely respected William Regal started their worldwide talent hunt. Within a few short years NXT was purchasing the top independent talent in North America and beyond, Kevin Steen, Prince Devitt, El Generico, Samoa Joe and most recently Shinsuke Nakamura joined the ranks. The independent wrestling scene, however, bounced back, Ring of Honor, Evolve, PWG and many others suddenly stepped up their game. In the UK Progress, Rev Pro, NGW and in 2016 WCPW gained prominence, outside of the big companies, Kamikaze Pro, Attack Pro, Chaos and 4FW and many other took their place on the ladder. Once more the wrestling industry evolved.

Last week I attended ATTACK Pro Wrestling and witnessed one of the greatest matches I have ever seen, Mike Bird and Tyler Bate literally created a piece of artwork. This match eclipsed anything I have seen in WWE in the last 10 years, you could not fault it, and this is my point. For £14.00 I witnessed greatness, for £10.00 a month and a Sky subscription I get mediocrity. Now why when WWE is the premier wrestling company is the wrestling product so boring and badly booked, why can’t they produce exciting, entertaining wrestling with the talent and budget they have? The once glorious Kevin Steen has been made an afterthought as Kevin Owens while holding the WWE Universal Title, AJ Styles the ‘Phenomenal One’ had been reduced to looking like a fool in his weekly escapades with Dean Ambrose and James Ellsworth. On the independent scene, the top guys perform like top guys, they portray an image that sets them apart from the mid-card. Why oh why is Shinsuke Nakamura performing in front of a couple hundred people down in Florida? Kota Ibushi according to rumour recently turned down a WWE contract, now a few months after the debut of the Cruiserweights on Raw I applaud and respect the decision he made. WWE/Vince have once again failed with some of the most talented wrestlers on their entire roster, the CWC was gift yet WWE just threw the momentum away within weeks.

WWE recently signed a handful of worldwide talent to full time contracts, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Big Damo, Tommy End and others all put their careers in the hands of WWE. Now to most I assume WWE is the big time, the financial rewards are endless and the exposure to foreign markets re huge, in WWE you become a superstar. The names mentioned are top tier talent and arguably better than who is on the main roster, arguable because WWE have done such an amazing job of brainwashing people over the years that they can’t watch anything but WWE. In recent years, we have seen a wealth of talent promoted from NXT to the main roster, Bray Wyatt, Emma, Tyler Breeze, Paige, Vaudevillians, Neville, Bo Dallas even American Alpha are slipping, all slowly and surely have been wasted. Tyler Breeze and Neville could eclipse the main roster just like that, Bray who should have taken the Phenom role from the Undertaker has been left to play second fiddle to the true main eventers. As much as NXT makes believable stars out of these people, Vince and his writers do such a good job at destroying any ounce of credibility they have earnt. Therefore, when Gargano, Ciampa, Damo and End get promoted to the WWE main roster am I excited? Yes, but at the same time I am hugely worried for their futures.

This year both Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne have stepped into the limelight and become the stars everyone knew they would be, as their reputation grows so does the rumor mill. Earlier this week both Dunne & Bate attended a WWE try-out in Glasgow, now at first I was full of praise, then I realized that this is again WWE gutting the independent circuit and trying to somehow appeal to other types of fans. If WWE were to sign these two it would no doubt be a financial safe move, however, would it improve their in-ring game? Would they be allowed to still exhibit the types of move and mannerisms they portrayed for the likes of RevPro, Progress and others? I think not, as much as the WWE system has changed there still is that WWE way of wrestling no matter who you are. CM Punk’s infamous speech in June 2011 went along way to changing the face of the industry, Daniel Bryan’s rise in late 2013 and 2014 bucked the trend of the type of wrestlers WWE once pushed, former ROH, CZW, NJPW and TNA stars are now and have been WWE World Champions. WWE generates millions of dollars of profit and the machine is not slowing down, but is World Wrestling Entertainment the place to be? This past week RevPro wrestling presented Global Wars, featuring the best talent from all over the world, the events eclipsed all WWE has promoted in the last five years maybe more.

WWE maybe the number one sports entertainment company in the world, but one thing they are not is the best wrestling company in the world, there is something hugely wrong with that statement. If NJPW was on mainstream TV they would be the number professional wrestling company in the world, why? Because they treat it as the sport that it is, they are not afraid of the word wrestling and they promote the right talent with the right skills. In the years to come more independent wrestling companies will harness the use of social media and On Demand/streaming devices and become bigger and better, I for one look forward to those times.

@Ciaran_Heel

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