I want to explore why I got back into watching Professional Wrestling, as I can’t really tell, but I think writing about it and looking at a few different things will help discover why.
I watched wrestling when I was younger, there were stories being told that took weeks to resolve. The earliest story line I remember really going through was the Test and Stephanie McMahon angle, where Triple H kidnapped her and married her in secret which played on the big screen in the arena. That day I learned what a cliff hanger was. It was all soap, drama, serialised, with action and it was awesome. There were people punching one another, throwing each other around, and telling these intricate stories, both in and out of the ring.
Despite calls of it being fake, it didn’t deter me initially, it took me to my second incursion to really get what hooked me, but I was undeterred. I continued to watch until I felt like I’d outgrown it. There were ridiculous plots aplenty, and I’d watch Raw and Smackdown each week, and over here, all the pay-per-views were available on the TV channel that Raw and Smackdown were on. It was a good time to be a wrestling fan. It was around this time as well that the Hardys, Edge and Christian and Team 3D, or the Dudley Boys, were elevating the tag team divisions to heights never before seen. They raised the stakes and they are some of the most memorable wrestlers of all time, if all 6 of them aren’t in the hall of fame it’ll be a tragedy (unless they commit horrendous crimes).
The time faded away, the wrestlers were replaced by newer talent that, and my interest waned. My first era of wrestling ended, kind of whimpering away. I still enjoyed it, but I was far more focused on other things, I discovered music, and found friends, and subsequently drinking, and my culture was around using music as my identity. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I reckon that Pro Wrestling shaped who I was in that phase far more than I realised. I saw that you could put on these clothes and be that person, but it also showed me that looks were everything. We know that isn’t true. Why was Rikishi vilified? Why was I never rooting for him? One of the best wrestlers, he could do so much, but I was never willing him on.
My interest died down, for probably about 7 years, until I was in university, with nothing to do, and so much spare time. I thought, why don’t I check out what all the MMA and UFC stuff is about, and I complemented it by getting back into watching pro-wrestling. I still remember so many outcomes of the UFC events around that time, I was hooked from the first card I watched. I picked maybe the best card of all time, UFC 92, the ultimate 2008. It was stacked from top to bottom, there were massive knockouts throughout the show. The card had 10 matches, and 2 of them went to decision. It was insane. There was never another card like it really. Well, until I stopped watching.
I picked up watching wrestling again, all was good, Smackdown was good, Raw was alright, and I got into the world of Chikara Pro. Chikara Pro taught me things. It opened my eyes to not needing to have the massive production that WWE had, you didn’t need commentators explaining everything to you, the stories carried themselves, and there were very clearly defined good guys and bad guys. Chikara has a family friendly style, and it was a delight to watch. Sure, there were some bad matches, but some of my favourite matches ever were held there. The two King of Trios, 2009 and 2010 might be some of the finest wrestling I’ve ever seen, and there was a 4 way elimination match with Kota Ibushi, Nick Jackson, Jigsaw and El Generico (Sami Zayn) that I hold as one of my favourite matches of all time. There was great work going on, and I was so engaged in catching it, and keeping up that I was invested in every win and loss.
About a year after I’d got back into wrestling NXT was about to be in its first iteration, Daniel Bryan was introduced to the world, I saw him go up against Tim Donst a few months prior through watching Chikara Pro. Then NXT had its first season, there were rookies introduced, Daniel Bryan was put in, and had arguably the worst time of anyone, he was so hot in the indies, and WWE pushed him down, he lost all his matches, his pro was The Miz, and that rivalry I still don’t see as finished. There was no denying his talent though, everyone looked good when working with him.
It was once this season winded down and things felt regular and stale again that I fell off, but it took a few years to get round to that, I reckon that I was back on watching from 2009-2011. During the time watching, many of the current WWE stars that I immediately recognise were present in the indie scene and were particular integral to Chikara. Cesaro will remain one of my favourite wrestlers, he went under the name Claudio Castagnoli, and I frequently mess up and chose the wrong name, Johnny Gargano was there in one of the stables, Brodie Lee was a big dude, he’s now Rowan from the Bludgeon Brothers, there were few others, but I was most scared of Sara Del Rey. She’s currently a trainer at the WWE performance centre, training all the NXT stars to be better wrestlers, but she could hang with all the guys and put on an incredible performance in Chikaras first grand championship tournament. She stood up to Cesaro, and the rest of the BdK, and came joint second in the block. It was a fascinating time.
Throughout that whole time I was also watching TNA wrestling, which was for a while doing incredible things, their 6 sided ring was great, innovative, and they had some of the top guys, Samoa Joe and AJ Styles to name just two, but they had a whole deal where Hulk Hogan came in, a bunch of others joined, and it all went south very quickly. I think they might have recovered now as Impact Wrestling, but I’m yet to invest time over there.
I started watching again last year after being excited about the idea of catching up with Royal Rumble and heading to WrestleMania after rumblings of top Japanese wrestlers getting involved, mainly Shinsuke Nakamura, and that AJ Styles was in the company. I was captivated, there was such high potential, there’s so much talent around, and there was a whole revolution on it’s way. Over the last year, not only did we have Evolution, and the rise of the Womens division, but the expansion into the UK with NXT UK. It was a good time to be a wrestling fan.
I’d heard of New Japan Pro Wrestling, and I was intrigued, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and after seeing a video done by Super Eyepatch Wolf about Why Pro Wrestling is Fascinating I gave it some serious consideration. I started watching a few of the more recent events and found myself hyped up and ready for Dominion.
The show that changed it all for me. After a disappointing few months from WWE pay per views, but finding NXT riveting, I sat and watched Dominion live on my laptop, and it was revelatory. I knew it was possible to not waste time, but still tell stories, things that weren’t watered down, punches not pulled, and wrestlers giving it their all. Omega vs Okada 4 gave me everything I was looking for, over an hour in one match, best 2 out of 3 falls, and it was incredible. There weren’t even many pinfall attempts, it was a slog, it was tough to watch at points, but it was two people at the top of their game putting on the best match.
I bought a ticket to go to a show in a city about 20 miles away, and got to see the Rainmaker, Okada, post title match, where he had lost his way, a story line that was seemingly resolved at Wrestle Kingdom last week, but everything appears to have unravelled. What will happen next? We don’t know, but I’m curious, and I’m hooked. I went to see the NXT UK tapings later in the year, saw a great bunch of wrestling, a title was introduced and the whole show was interesting. There was no context for a lot of the matches, there was a little continuity to tell larger story arcs, but it certainly felt different to the NJPW show I went to a few months prior.
Wrestling is entertaining, it’s fascinating when done right, and it is what takes up my viewing time when I want to watch a structured show. It’s all the drama I can really handle in my life, I didn’t even mention about how Asuka was treated and how invested I am in Ember Moons development and hope that she’ll get a big push soon. There’s so much to be hopeful of, and right now, between WWE, NJPW, and the newly announce AEW, I’m very excited. I guess when it comes down to it, I like wrestling because it’s stories and action. Perfect.
Have an excellent day! You’re all my favourites!