I’m Excited for Pro Wrestling Again
There was a time when my entire life was consumed by professional wrestling. From 1997-2001, my life was wrestling. I watched every single show, I read every book, I bought every shirt, and when I had free-time I watched old shows or edited new ones together. I spent my days thinking about how I couldn’t wait to get old enough to find a wrestling school and start training. I just knew my love of wrestling would never die.
I was right, my love for wrestling never died, but it did cool down. After the fall of ECW and WCW, I found myself bored with a stagnant product. Memphis Championship Wrestling was on the verge of collapse and I was left with nothing to watch other than what the WWF had to offer. I began working and began concentrating on filmmaking and I slowly let my interest in wrestling fade away. I missed wrestling, but I felt like no one was making a product for me anymore so I found other things to occupy my time.
I wasn’t completely devoid of wrestling, I bought DVDs of classic stuff and followed TNA once it started airing on Fox Sports, because I was anxious for an alternative to what the WWE was producing. I thought I had that with TNA from 2008-2010, but when Impact moved to Monday nights it became clear that TNA was not the alternative I was looking for. I went back to watching TNA and WWE on occasion, picking up DVDs, and waiting for something to come along that really excited me. I feel like that time has finally come.
Here in 2017, wrestling fans have tons of options. The widespread use of HD cameras and streaming video has made independent wrestling something that is accessible to everyone and looks fantastic. If you can’t get on board with the new independents you can always use the WWE Network and revisit the past. There is great wrestling out there to be seen, if you do a little work to find it.
I watch a little bit of everything now, but I’m not nearly as loyal as I was around the turn of the century. I’ll follow NXT a few months before flipping over to ROH for a few months. I’ll watch great matches and moments whenever I hear about them on YouTube or some other streaming site, and then go about my day. I don’t feel like I’m a wrestling snob, I just haven’t found something in a long time that really entertains me. Wrestling doesn’t capture my full attention like it used to. I’d much rather go see an independent show live than watch Raw or Smackdown. I love the sport of professional wrestling, I’m just sick of the sports entertainment aspect of it.
I’m telling you all of this because I want you to know how someone like me, who has watched wrestling off and on since 1987, became burned out on the same ole same ole. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I was enamored with a current wrestling product. I’m not one of those people who will just watching bad wrestling, bitch about it, and be happy. I’d much rather spend that time watching a quality movie or TV show.
That excitement and anticipation for professional wrestling has escaped me for years now. The few times I’ve gotten excited for a match, Sting’s return comes to mind, I’ve been sorely disappointed by how it was handled. It’s been rough and as I get older, I feel like I’m running out of heroes to cheer for.
But over the past month something has changed. It all began with Billy Corgan taking full control of the NWA on October 1st. A series of mini-documentaries were released hyping the upcoming battle between NWA Champion Tim Storm and challenger Nick Aldis. Billy Corgan and Dave Lagana took a different approach to building up a wrestling match. They went behind the scenes, gave us a personal peek into the lives of the competitors, and gave us a reason to give a damn. I cannot tell how nice it is to actually have a reason to care about a match.
Two months ago, I could have cared less about seeing Nick Aldis or Tim Storm ever wrestle. I didn’t like their looks, the characters, nor was I impressed with what I had seen before by either wrestler. It was a horrible match on paper and it wasn’t the direction I wanted to see the NWA go. I thought the belt should have been stripped and a tournament set up. But I was wrong, really wrong.
I gave the NWA a chance, and they told me a fantastic story. They kept me on the edge of my seat and I kept coming back for more. The NWA Championship Match scheduled for this weekend wouldn’t haven’t been a blip on my radar earlier this summer, but right now, it’s the most excited I’ve been for a wrestling match in a very long time. It’s something I cannot miss, and I wish I lived on the west coast, because I’d be there in person.
The NWA has something special going for it right now, and I hope the match lives up to the build-up. But the NWA isn’t the only thing exciting me.
(Note: I meant for this post to be up last Thursday, but I had to go out of town and didn’t get around to actually posting it. The NWA title match between Aldis and Storm happened last night and was even live streamed on Facebook. It wasn’t a great match, but it did make me excited to see what will happen on Ten Pounds of Gold. The fact that the match was very mediocre and I’m still interested in seeing what happens next is a testament to how well the storytelling is going on in the NWA.)
I woke up this past Sunday morning and stretched out on the couch. I picked up my phone to check Twitter and I saw multiple comments about Chris Jericho challenging Kenny Omega in New Japan Pro Wrestling. My initial reaction was, “This is a cool dream match” but the more and more comments I read, I suddenly realized that this was actually happening!
I’ve been trying to get into NJPW for a while now. I like what I’ve seen on AXS, but I don’t have cable. I haven’t been able to find a good source for episodes of NJPW on AXS, and to be honest, I’m not interested in listening to the Japanese commentary. There is also a bit of a learning curve with NJPW, because things run a little different over there than they do here in the US. The belts have strange names, the wrestlers are all broken into factions, and they don’t run traditional weekly shows like Raw or Smackdown. Plus, the majority of the roster is Japanese, which makes learning the names and a bit more difficult. I knew Okada thanks to his Wrestle Kingdom match with Kenny Omega, and I’d seen some of the other NJPW wrestlers on ROH or read their names online, but I just didn’t have enough familiarity to really get invested into the promotion. But after this Chris Jericho bombshell announcement, I was ready to commit myself.
Chris Jericho was my favorite wrestler when he was in WCW. I know he was misused, but I loved the guy. He was funny and a great wrestler who put on a good match with anyone that he got into the ring with. His WWE debut was one of my most memorable wrestling markout moments and I had a lot of hopes that he would take the WWE over by storm. Some will say he eventually did carve himself out a great spot in WWE history, but that was after I stopped watching. I was there to watch him be jobbed out and treated like crap by the WWE for a couple of years.
I’ve enjoyed his books, music, and in-ring work over the past several years, but he hasn’t been my must see guy. I think that is because I wanted to see Chris Jericho outside of the WWE system. I wanted to see him wrestle a non-WWE match, and to be honest, I never thought I’d see another. This match is the match I never knew I wanted. It features one of my favorite current performers and one of my favorite performers from the past. Both will be working to put on a great wrestling match, because in NJPW that is more important than goofy gimmicks and bad storytelling.
I was way more excited for Jericho vs. Omega than I ever thought I would be. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all morning long. I kept watching the clip on Twitter of Jericho’s challenge and by the afternoon I had already signed up for NJPW World and started watching the entire Power Struggle event. I was excited about wrestling the same way I was excited about wrestling in the 90’s. Things felt unpredictable and out of control, and I loved every moment of it. This match gave me the reason to dedicate myself to learning about NJPW and investing myself into the company.
It’s been four days since Jericho made the challenge and I’ve spent at least an hour each day studying NJPW. I’ve watched fantastic videos from Showbuckle and Real Neat Puro . I started reading over NJPW1972 and The Lion Marks. I also listened to the New Japan Puro Cast that covered this past weekend’s show. I’ve used Wikipedia and tons of threads on reddit, and I feel like I’m slowly getting a grip on what NJPW is all about.
Chris Jericho was the spark that I needed to take this leap to learn about New Japan. Will his match at Wrestle Kingdom 12 top last year’s Omega/Okada? I really doubt it, but I do feel like Jericho and Omega will be able to tell a great story in the ring that will be above average. And to be honest, this match isn’t about just Jericho and Omega. It’s a gateway into New Japan and if I’m going through all this trouble to learn more about New Japan and give it a chance, you know that others are doing the same. It’s a great way for the company to grow here in North America and I’m so glad they booked this match.
The WWE has the most talented roster it’s possibly ever had, but the creative direction and tone is stagnant. The company has hit a brick wall of what is acceptable and what is not, thanks to his corporate status. I’m happy that the WWE is around and I’m glad that there are fans that still enjoy the product, but I’m not one of them. I love AJ Styles, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, and the lot, but I cannot stand the way the WWE does storytelling and their cookie cutter matches. The WWE has needed a creative shakeup for a very long time now, and I think in order to keep sponsors happy they cannot/will not do what is necessary to bring in new fans or old fans who’ve given up on the product. Luckily, the NWA and NJPW seem willing to try new things and that makes me happy. Both organizations are presenting wrestling more along the lines of a sport instead of sports entertainment and as a thirty-three year old man that is what appeals to me.
I’m excited about wrestling again and that makes me happy. It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt this way and I hope that it lasts through the NWA title match and Wrestle Kingdom.