Corner 2 Corner: The Emancipation of Today’s Wrestling Fan

     Oppression is defined by Webster.com as- 1aunjust or cruel exercise of authority or powerthe continuing oppression of the … underclasses— H. A. Daniels  1bsomething that oppresses especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of powerunfair taxes and other oppressions
2a sense of being weighed down in body or mind DEPRESSION an oppression of spirits. This word is used by many in describing their struggles for freedom. It could be freedom from debt, freedom from conflict, or even freedom from toxic relationship. Regardless of the fight, the struggle is most definitely real.

Corner 2 Corner: The Emancipation of Today’s Wrestling Fan

Hello again everyone! It’s been too long since our last discussion but what better time than now to address the topic at hand? We have seen so much happen in such a short span of time. All Elite Wrestling is set to make their television debut on TNT October 1, 2019. The WWE is scheduled to hold their second Super Show Down in Jeddah. Interviews from Jon Moxley are coming out fast and furious with tons of information on the apparent inner workings of his former employer. Fans, we are finally at a point where it feels like the restraints are falling away from our abilities to enjoy wrestling at a massive scale. Let’s look at the key pieces of what’s going on today.

WWE: The Land of Opportunity, but for whom?

     For decades the WWE has been the dominant force in sports entertainment. In fact, the phrase “pro wrestling” seemingly became a myth on mainstream programming. I do want to point out that this is not to say that pro wrestling didn’t exist. Of course it did. The simple truth here is that the WWE has been top dog in the realm of televised content and pay per views. There have been attempts by companies to make their presence felt. There have been stabs at making an “Impact.” Nothing ever really came close to making a dent. Again, this is simply from a television and market presence standpoint. The people in charge during this time varied some, but not much. Triple H, Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Kevin Dunn, and a group of writers and agents served as the gate keepers to opportunity for the roster. In 2016, all seemed to be moving forward as NXT was ushering in new stars that had been signed from all over the world. It would finally appear that the mythological brass ring had been reached. Unless of course, you were guys like Tye Dillinger, Apollo Crews, Bray Wyatt, and Dolph Ziggler. These four gentlemen had been positioned for success and then very quickly swept under the rug in favor of guys like Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Braun Strowman. Fans would publicly cry out that they wanted something different. They wanted to see wrestling instead of sports entertainment. Wrestlemania 32 took place and featured Roman Reigns challenging Triple H for the WWE Heavyweight Championship. Fans would cry foul as Dean Ambrose would be shuffled down to a match against Brock Lesnar. I say shuffled down because, while on paper Brock is a huge opportunity the match itself would largely fail because of a perceived lack of collaboration between the two competitors. Also, it should be stated that Dean Ambrose was at the height of his popularity but, much like many many superstars in the past, was ignored or side stepped. This isn’t to say that there wasn’t a long term plan but, let’s face it, the plan wasn’t presented in a way that really made sense. The WWE was sitting atop the mountain with seemingly no challengers in sight. May 21, 2016 we would find out that Cody Rhodes, son of the Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes and brother to soon to be (in my opinion) Hall of Famer Dustin Rhodes, had requested and was granted his release from WWE. Now, on the surface I can understand how this may seem small at the time. Cody had been Intercontinental Champion, a Tag Team Champion, but had been relegated to a face painted character called Stardust. Many would actually credit Cody with making Stardust entertaining and enjoyable to watch but, most fans knew he was being underutilized. The funny part about this is that many times during conversation with the media, those in charge would basically tell us to stay tuned and that a plan was in place. We’d later see that there never was an actual plan.

We would see 2016 end with some positives for WWE. Kevin Owens was WWE Universal Champion. AJ Styles was WWE Champion. Bobby Roode had made a successful transition from Impact Wrestling to NXT and begin 2017 as NXT Champion. We had reasons to believe that the positives were starting to outweigh the negatives. Of course, we also had reasons to doubt. The first ever Women’s Money in the Bank was delivered with a resounding thud as Carmella would win with the help of James Ellsworth. The Women’s Revolution needed an assist by a man? Really? We also got to see a pay per view called “Great Balls of Fire.” That name, all by itself, screams awful. The cruiserweight division was championed by Enzo Amore. Let that sink in. Enzo. You have a roster of fantastic talents like Cedric Alexander, Drew Gulak, TJ Perkins, Neville, Mustafa Ali, and Noam Dar but, you decide to go the direction of Enzo. This snapshot of time between 2016 and 2017 is a tremendous indicator of where WWE was headed. Fans were starting to sour.

The World Outside

     New Japan Pro Wrestling has been thriving through out the years. Kazuchika Okada has stood atop the mountain since 2012. His challenges have been amazing to watch as he has had legendary bouts with AJ Styles, Kenny Omega, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Tetsuya Naito. Tanahashi on his own has held fantastic bouts with Shinsuke Nakamura, Kenny Omega, and Tatsuya Naito. The tag division was flush with numerous talents but none as charismatic as The Young Bucks. It should also be mentioned that the Bullet Club, a stable of American and Japanese wrestlers, had been amassing an enormous following. The commonalities of the flourishing of New Japan are obvious. Kenny Omega, Okada, The Young Bucks, Tanahashi, and Naito have been making New Japan stand out in the best ways possible. 5 star matches and drama to match.

Stateside, Ring Of Honor and Impact Wrestling would deliver solid performances as well. A recently released superstar now known as the American Nightmare, Cody Rhodes, was making his presence felt in both. The Bullet Club planted roots in Ring of Honor. Cody and Brandy would make their start in Impact. Fans were starting to notice a trend. The world outside of WWE was growing. Talents were improving by leaps and bounds. Names like Flip Gordon, Adam Page, Christopher Daniels, Scorpio Sky, and Frankie Kazarian were thrust into the limelight with blockbuster performances. The playing field was now level. In fact, some would say that the playing field was now in favor of those OUTSIDE the WWE bubble or machine.

All Elite Wrestling arrives

     The Bullet Club remains one of the hottest properties outside of WWE today. It has been considered the dominant force in New Japan and has made it’s name off being anti-establishment. Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), Adam Page, the Guerrillas of Destiny, Bad Luck Fale, Finn Balor, AJ Styles, Marty Scurl, Karl Jackson and Luke Gallows, and Adam Cole have all been major forces in the group. In 2018, the group separated into two parts. The Bullet Club and The Elite. The Elite is comprised of Kenny, The Bucks, Page, Marty, and Cody (and Brandy and Pharaoh). The Elite started making claims in 2018 to being able to change the world. What we didn’t realize is that they meant it. September 1, 2018 The Elite would stomp their feet to the ground and boldly proclaim that they are the gatekeepers to their own destinies. They proved it by selling out a 10,000 seat arena, a feat not accomplished by anyone but WWE/WCW since 1993. The show was called All In. Now, I don’t have to tell you the importance of such an event in it’s entirety. I think that’s been made abundantly clear by many of us writers. The key factor here is what it did for fans. Finally, there was a globally substantial product available to us. We could hitch our wagons to a company that didn’t require 9.99 per month or a Universe to approve of it. There was now a company that welcomed everybody. January 1, 2019 it was made official. All Elite Wrestling was created and announced that the way business was done would be changed. Results of matches would matter. Promos would be unscripted. The approach to pay and schedule would be a wrestler friendly plan. AEW would come to us with the backing of a multimillionaire. Someone, finally, has heard the cries of the voiceless. I understand this is a dramatic description but, you’d have to consider the fact that most AEW fans that have turned OFF WWE have been PLEADING for a new company arrive. If nothing else, an alternative has been needed to spice things up.

All Elite Wrestling just presented Double Or Nothing. Their first OFFICIAL ppv. Early reports showed close to 100,000 buys at $50 per purchase. Do the math and that’s 5 million dollars. There hasn’t been a success this size in so long, many fans are expecting a reprisal of the Monday Night Wars. Cool as that may be, the important thing to take away is that AEW is legit. They’re thriving and they’re taking steps to grow in their own time. They are not rushing. Look at Jon Moxley. Formerly known as Dean Ambrose, he was cast aside as someone WWE didn’t consider a major player any longer. His interview with Chris Jericho was so passionate and candid that millions of fans have downloaded and listened to hear what appears to be an in depth look at how crazy it is backstage at WWE. Moxley left WWE, they promoted his departure and wished him well. AEW could have jumped on the signing and announced it like they had with previous talent as soon as the ink dried. Instead, they waited. They waited and they set the stage for what turned out to be the debut that shook the “universe.” If you look at Twitter and Facebook right now, you’ll see an abundant amount of fans posting their approval of the Anti-Establishment Jon Moxley. “Down with the Universe” and onward for A E W!

The winner? The Fans

     So who wins these situations? Who benefits? Well, we do. The fans of professional wrestling win because there is another viable product on the market. Merchandise and content are being delivered at such a high rate that fans are practically salivating at the debut of AEW on TNT. The next pay per view is scheduled for August 31, 2019 and is titled All Out. Scheduled to be held in Chicago, IL at the Sears Center, AEW is poised to strike once more. Currently, we know the AEW World Champion will be crowned as Hangman Adam Page takes on Chris Jericho. Kenny Omega is scheduled to face Jon Moxley. These two matches alone will most likely sell out the Sears Center. The wrestling world has been buzzing for the first time in years. At last, we can enjoy something as it unfolds. We can be surprised again. This doesn’t happen much anymore with the involvement of Twitter and other mediums. Personally, I’m sorta hoping we see CM Punk. Yeah, I know, it’s pretty unlikely. Wouldn’t it be cool though? That’s the magic of the moment we’re in right now. Speculation can happen and everyone wins. People can say “Ya know who would be great in AEW?” and fans will respond. WWE has come close to becoming cliche for the time being. If there is one thing we’ve learned about the WWE though, it’s that they tend to answer the challenge when called. Thing is, it’s been so long since a real challenge has come around that we may see some time before they call gets answered. I feel like it’s a fair statement to make because, well WWE won the Monday Night War. Still you have to wonder, what would have happened if Bischoff hadn’t been screwed out of his purchase attempt? What would have happened if Tony Schiavone had not uttered the words “That’ll put butts in seats”? As it turns out, it was once a Rhodes that gave WWE a run for it’s money. And it’s a Rhodes that will do it again.

Thanks again for reading! It’s always a pleasure to hear from you guys and gals. Feel free to comment below or send me a message on Twitter. You can find me there @StanFromKrypton

Please check out Ultimate Championship Wrestling as well for some great wrestling action here in Virginia!

–Stan Grubb–

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