Well, 2020 has been a real kick in the balls. So much for going into a new decade with optimism and hope for the future.
Granted, all this COVID-19 stuff could actually be a wake up call but humans will probably just do what they always do and that’s be pissed for awhile, promise to make changes to ensure a catastrophe like this doesn’t happen again and then forget all about it after some time passes.
I hope I’m wrong about that but our leaders just react to things that happen and don’t put too much thought into preventing these problems in the first place. But I digress, as I don’t want to go on a political or social rant because that’s not what this is about, it’s about the state of the wrestling business.
Since The ‘Rona showed up and bitchslapped Earth, almost all industries and businesses have been adversely affected by it. The wrestling business is no different, as it can no longer have live shows in front of crowds and because the athletes and personalities involved have to be especially careful, as you can’t have a wrestling match and practice social distancing at the same time.
I noticed how negative it was on the wrestling community when a lot of the indie wrestlers I follow on Twitter were posting about shows being cancelled and not having any real income coming in. Some of them found ways to combat this in pushing their merchandise and by coming up with creative ways to fundraise for those most in need within their community.
The real big blow came just last week, however, on what many are now referring to as Black Wednesday.
In the much larger landscape that is World Wrestling Entertainment, many probably assumed that nearly everyone there was most likely going to be taken care of and a complete loss of their livelihoods wasn’t in the cards. But not too long after WWE’s flagship event, Wrestlemania, the company released and furloughed nearly forty employees, most of them being wrestlers.
Fans and the media haven’t been too kind in criticizing this decision with some calling it “morally heartless” and “not the way”. While it does suck, there could be a silver lining in some regards, as there was such a big pool of talent released into the wild and that could significantly alter the professional wrestling landscape going forward. Also, I’m sure that several of these people will be back sooner rather than later. For those that don’t make it back into the WWE in the next few months, there are at least more options available to them than there were even a year ago.
While they can’t all jump to All Elite Wrestling, the young company that may be able to become real competition for the WWE, there are still other places like New Japan, Ring of Honor and my personal favorite promotion, the National Wrestling Alliance.
I definitely think that AEW will scoop up a few and they could use the help, if I’m being honest. There’s some wrestlers that could flourish in fresh waters and be literal goldmines for that company.
Some of these released wrestlers have already hinted at where they could be going with one of the top tag teams letting it be known that they are most likely going back to New Japan, where they were once superstars as part of the most popular stable that country has seen in years.
All of this happened just a few days after The Revival got their release after wanting it for quite a long time. I put them at the top of the free agent list and I hope that they do stop off in the NWA because it fits their style and what they’re all about.
The landscape isn’t just going to change because of an influx of free agents into the open market, however.
It’s also going to change due to how these marquee wrestling companies have had to adjust how they present their product. Both WWE, especially at Wrestlemania, and AEW have gotten really creative in how they’re trying to make their programs work without live audiences and without being able to show their product in the traditional way that it has been presented in since the start of the television era over half a century ago.
That being said, a lot of this experimental content has been met with mixed results and it is going to be interesting to see what this means long-term.
Are we going to get more unique “matches” like the Firefly Funhouse Match or the Boneyard Match? Is it even wrestling if there’s movie style presentations, multiple camera setups, special effects and obvious edits and cuts? Does this somehow diminish the art of wrestling? While some fans may love this stuff, others don’t and won’t if this becomes the norm and with the wrestling business already having problems with ratings and audience numbers, should they try and reinvent the wheel beyond this pandemic?
While traditionalists will probably turn away, can these new creative changes possibly attract new audiences? I don’t think that they will but stranger things have happened and we live in a time where a new generation of fans don’t really know about the business before WWE became the only mainstream attraction in town.
Wrestling, like everything else, has mostly seen tradition stamped out and replaced with something that barely resembles what it used to be. I guess it’s all subjective but as a wrestling fan, I’d rather see the business thrive. But then again, if it becomes a business I no longer recognize and it can’t generate the same emotion and passion out of me as a fan, then what’s the point?
The great thing about wrestling, especially in a time where there are more mainstream options, is that there can be something for everyone. But if I’m being honest, AEW is guilty of some of the same things they claimed they disliked about WWE.
Plus, modern wrestling fans tend to have blind allegiances towards the things they deem superior. A lot of the things AEW fans claim they like about their favorite promotion’s product are the same things they say they hate about modern WWE. I’m mainly referring to the comedy shit, the goofy shit and the obvious favoritism that gives certain talent more screen time than those who probably deserve it more.
While I’m personally not against the expression of creativity and I’m all for trying new things, I hope that those that hold the keys to the business going into the 2020s don’t lose sight of the great history that existed before them.
Wrestling is fragile, right now. While it does need something to get it over this current hill, it can’t forget about the hard journey it had in getting to this point.
Side note: If you do want to help out your favorite wrestlers through this time, buy their merchandise. A lot of the current wrestlers have their shirts and other stuff available on ProWrestlingTees.