Talking Wrasslin’: All Elite Wrestling – Year One In Review

It’s been just over a year since All Elite Wrestling officially formed and close to a year since their first show, 2019’s Double or Nothing. We’re also several months into their weekly nationally broadcast show, Dynamite. So I figured I’d look at the first year of AEW and provide my thoughts, good and bad, as well as what I hope the future brings for those of us looking for a mainstream alternative to World Wrestling Entertainment.

Initially, my excitement was at an all time high after the success of the indie wrestling mega event All In, back in September of 2018. When I got wind that something bigger was happening beyond that, my excitement overflowed and I was “all in” on what this met for the future of the wrestling business.

However, right off the bat, there were decisions being made that made me question the newborn promotion’s direction and leadership.

First off, executive roles were given to wrestling talent that hadn’t proven themselves in that realm. While I was okay with Cody Rhodes being the public face of the company, due to who his father was and because he had flourished independently after leaving WWE, I was concerned as to whether or not he could effectively co-manage a brand new wrestling promotion with a lot of money pushed into it.

Additionally, when his wife and buddies were also given executive roles, I found that even more perplexing. Not because I’m hating on them but because none of them have had any experience in these sort of positions within a wrestling promotion.

Understanding that AEW wants to give more power and creative control to the on-air talent seems like a good idea in some regard but as history has shown, when active wrestlers become management, it typically leads to a shitty product and if I’m being frank, it’s not too dissimilar from some of their criticisms of other major league wrestling promotions, past and present. So even if they’ve got the best of intentions and are going to run their company differently, it still paints them into a corner. I’ll explain what I mean by that as this article rolls on.

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the Young Bucks but I liked a lot of Kenny Omega’s work in Japan and especially liked his matches with Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi and Chris Jericho. However, there are distinct stylistic differences between Western and Eastern professional wrestling. That being said, Omega has primarily wrestled in Japan for years but he and the Bucks have been given three of the highest ranking jobs in the company. As far as I know, based off of information that’s been discussed by many over the last year, these guys have their hands deep into the creative side of the women’s and tag team divisions. I’ll also get more into this, further into the article.

The first mistake that these guys made is that they started hiring all their other buddies. This also isn’t too dissimilar to what other wrestlers given power in promotions have done in the past. And while I’m not saying that the talent they’ve hired isn’t good or bad, it feels as if they don’t care either way and they’re trying to hook all their buddies up with gigs because they either didn’t make it big in WWE or because WWE doesn’t want them. From the outside it looks like, “Hey, buds… we’re your saviors! Come on in and let’s party!”

Plus, most of the guys they’ve hired wrestle similar styles to the Bucks and Omega where everything is highspot after highspot to the point that highspots become way too commonplace and lose their meaning and their effect on the psyche of the audience. I’ll also delve into this more.

Additionally, almost all of these guys are small by wrestling standards and even if the game is changing, a roster full of guys that don’t convincingly look tough is detrimental to a product that is supposed to be about kicking ass and being badass. No one is afraid of the hipster asshole that runs the register at Chipotle.

Furthermore, typical Western audiences don’t want to watch two hours of just high-flying shenanigans that are done so much that we’re seeing a record number of spot botches on national television. Anyone can Google “AEW botch” and see a slew of videos and GIFs that make my point for me.

Now there are a lot of good things about AEW too. I generally like the product, for the most part, and it is a decent alternative to WWE. While it’s got its issues, so does the juggernaut WWE, which is why AEW got massive support to begin with.

I think that the writing that’s been on the wall for well over a decade is that Western wrestling fans want to try a new flavor other than vanilla. AEW has answered that challenge but it’s like they took vanilla and added some hot sauce to it. Point being, you’ve got to have a palate in order to be a good chef. It’s like AEW has the palate of a six year-old kid left home alone with a full fridge.

Now I don’t say that to be insulting but the product they’re putting out is just recycling the standard mainstream wrestling formula but trying to overpower it with lightning fast matches, countless highspots, more colorful language and a pretty high emphasis on comedy wrestling. While all of that stuff has its place, doing everything with the volume turned up to 11 is pretty fucking tiresome to experience.

I feel like AEW is just throwing a lot of shit on the wall to see what sticks and what doesn’t. Maybe they’re in a little over their head due to how fast they got off and running and because of the lack of experience running a wrestling promotion. It feels like there is a lack of understanding in regards to the fundamentals of what works on this hemisphere. While Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks were big in Japan, it doesn’t mean that what worked for them there is going to work for them here. I’m personally a big fan of Japanese wrestling, always have been since I was a tape trader in the ’90s, but I also know that my love of it isn’t something that most mainstream normal wrestling fans have on this continent.

It’s like they’re trying to appeal to a niche audience. The problem with that is a niche audience will always be niche and not mainstream. If you’re “in it to win it”, you’ve got to think bigger and you’ve got to produce a product that is enjoyed by the largest audience possible.

That comes down to one simple fact: you’ve got to know your audience. Right now, I don’t know if AEW does. At least not fully and not this early. That doesn’t mean that they won’t figure it out, re-work some things and fix some of these issues going forward. I certainly hope they do because more wrestling is good for everyone.

Diversity between promotions is a good thing that helps build brand identity and uniqueness. However, there can also be too much diversity and I think AEW suffers from that in trying to encompass many things, all at once. But I really hope this is just growing pains.

My point with this is that you can’t try to cover all bases by trying to appeal to every little niche simultaneously. You have to find the balance between them while, again, appealing to the widest audience possible. I think that the solution is to be something between WWE and what AEW currently is.

The best example I can give is the Attitude Era of WWE. No, not because it was edgy with a Jerry Springer atmosphere but because it allowed talent to be themselves, have some creative control and it took chances and had diversity within the content of its segments. At its height, it found a way to take the best elements of the mainstream WWE formula, mixed that with an ECW influence and also adopted some of the better elements of what was working in WCW, at the time.

WCW succeeded for awhile too because it was doing the same thing. Even though they had their own style that slightly differed from WWE, both promotions were just different sides of the same coin.

So since I’ve brought up WCW, I want to go back to my thoughts on wrestling talent being in charge, as that was ultimately a major factor in WCW’s downfall.

Back in the ’90s, when WCW was buying up WWE talent like Beanie Babies, they gave their heavy hitters too much control of their characters and too much power in booking the shows. This led to these guys only putting themselves and their buddies over while younger talent got the shaft and ultimately, jumped ship to WWE, which helped that company recover and win the war.

I know that the guys running AEW know this, as does anyone that loves wrestling and has been paying attention to the business for several years. But just because they probably don’t want to make the same mistakes doesn’t mean that they won’t. Power is one of those things that can change a person and while I assume that Cody, Omega and the Bucks have the best of intentions, who is to say what this will mean over time.

Having now watched AEW for about a year, I can actually say that it looks like they are actually trying to deliberately do the stark opposite of what the WCW stars did. Maybe that sounds good but it isn’t. So let me explain.

First, there needs to be a balance, just like with all things. All four of these execs are four of the absolute best wrestlers in this new promotion. However, they seem to be putting everyone over except themselves. I’m not sure if they are just afraid of being accused of what guys like Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan were accused of twenty years ago or because they think that they’re building up the rest of the roster at their expense. But that’s just it, it’s at their expense.

You can’t objectively look at what has happened over the last year and tell me that Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks’ stock hasn’t dropped. Omega has lost his luster and the Young Bucks should be reigning tag team champions. Instead, Omega has been booked to look like a goof and the Bucks resemble the New Rockers more than the real Rockers.

In regards to Omega, he sucks as a babyface and he was at his best with The Cleaner gimmick. But the guy is sort of awkward and can’t cut good promos, at least not from what I’ve seen. And I thought of the guy as a superstar over the last few years that he was in New Japan. But now that I think about it, I watched his top matches and never really saw him talk all that much outside of press conferences. Also, the style of cutting a promo in Japan is different.

The Young Bucks just do three million superkicks per match and take two million dives to the outside. This reflects a problem I have with modern wrestling where devastating moves that should be finishers (or setups to finishers) are used so frequently that they’ve lost their luster and their impact. It’s like when someone uses a stunner or a cutter in a match and the opponent recovers like it was a simple neckbreaker. It shows a complete lack of understanding of ring psychology and in-ring storytelling. It’s like they’re just playing WWE2K and put in a cheat code to always have finishers active.

While some refer to this as a reflection of the times, I say that modern times suck because no one has time to have a real conversation without looking at their phone every five seconds while only having the attention span to absorb information the size of a tweet. But these people are what this style of “wrestling” appeals to. This is also probably why AEW considers an Ironman Match to be just 30 minutes. That’s more like an Aluminum-Man Match.

In regards to Cody, he’s at least had a main event spotlight on him but they booked him so that he can’t ever compete for the AEW World Championship again. I think that’s a massive mistake and hopefully it is rectified through a storyline because Cody, as well as Omega, should be World Championship chasers when the time is right. In fact, Cody should be the guy to take the belt off of Chris Jericho when that time comes. But I’d keep the belt on Jericho for well over a year because the title needs to build prestige and not be used as just a prop, which has been WWE’s problem for a few decades now.

I also have major issues with how the women’s and tag divisions have been booked. I don’t care how it looks on paper but the Young Bucks, despite my opinion on them, should have been the inaugural tag champs. They were the most famous team in the promotion and they came into AEW super hot after leaving Japan and Ring of Honor. I guess since they run the division, they didn’t want to crown themselves as the kings. That was a mistake and, as I’ve already said, their stock has fallen in the last year.

Now that’s not to say that the Young Bucks can’t recover but they’ve booked themselves into a corner and frankly, I don’t give a shit about them or the division anymore. Hopefully, management finds a way to right the ship.

Looking at the women’s division, despite her in-ring ability, Riho is not believable as the champion. They put the belt on Nyla Rose, who is massive by comparison, and that’s a much better fit. However, having Nyla lose to Riho when they crowned the first women’s champ was a major mistake that hurt the division immensely. People have talked up the quality of their last match but I can’t suspend disbelief enough for it to have physically made sense in my brain. Especially, when Riho’s neckline is below the top rope and she’s skinnier than a stop sign pole.

Beyond just that, the women’s division in general has been booked atrociously with just about everyone looking weak. They’ve ruined Britt Baker, their first female signed to a contract, and they brought in Kris Stadtlander and got her over immediately, only for her to get knocked out of the picture in a matter of weeks.

In a perfect scenario, Awesome Kong should have been the inaugural champion and she should’ve run through the division until management settled on who the top young star should be. Then, only after climbing the ladder to the top, should the new champion have been crowned.

Moving on, AEW also suffers from a lack of creative. Most of the storylines aren’t interesting and the show is carried by just two rivalries. Those are the Jon Moxley v. Chris Jericho (and The Inner Circle) feud, as well as the superb work being done by MJF and Cody Rhodes in their emotional conflict.

Outside of that, nothing interests me. I’m half interested in the Pac v. Kenny Omega Aluminum-Man Match coming up but that’s just because of the physicality of what the match should be and not the actual storyline that’s been booked like a fucking afterthought.

I don’t give a crap about The Dark Order bullshit and they’ve got enough Ministry/evil goth faction ripoffs between The Dark Order, The Nightmare Collective and The Butcher, The Blade & The Bunny.

Granted, The Nightmare Collective have been abruptly cancelled but that also is another problem with creative. You don’t just cancel an angle in the middle of it and say, “Oh, we weren’t feeling that, so whatevs!” No, you find a way to creatively end it within a storyline. How am I supposed to buy into what you’re selling when you can just pull the plug on it at any second? How do I build trust with your brand and the universe you’re building?

I’m not going to really get into my issues with the comedy stuff other than to say that I don’t hate Orange Cassidy like many old school purists do. I find the schtick to be somewhat enjoyable and it has got him really over with the crowd. But this will only work for so long and the character has to adapt and evolve if he’s going to have longevity and not go down as another joke lost to the sands of time. He needs to have something push him into actually getting physical in a non-comedy way. He can still fuck around and be funny but something has to make him actually pull his fist back and haymaker the fuck out of someone. You have to show him break through the character if you ever want him to emotionally connect with the audience beyond just being the doofus sidekick in a stoner comedy.

Granted, I don’t know what he’s actually capable of beyond his limiting gimmick and I don’t have the faith in AEW creative to capitalize on him and strike while the iron is hot. The thing is, you can only tell the same joke so many times before people start scrolling their Twitter feed.

The last thing I’m going to harp on is AEW’s insistence of having win-loss records. This is another thing that paints them into a corner, creatively speaking. No one really cares about wins and losses, they just care about seeing great matches and having the best guys get over. But to truly get the good guys over, you have to have them overcome the bad guys. Usually, this comes with losses and misfortune, only to have them eventually get the upper hand and win the rivalry. But with also including a weekly rankings system, keeping track of wins and losses is detrimental to that, especially when you compare them to the rankings and they don’t make sense. They need to get rid of this shit fast and just focus on stories and booking proper programs and feuds. They said, early on, that AEW was going to be treated like a real sport. Well, they’ve failed in that regard and seeing a guy ranked at No. 5 with a 3-1 record behind a guy ranked No. 4 with a 0-0 record is asinine.

I know it seems like I’m taking a big shit on All Elite Wrestling but hey, I’m still watching it every week and hoping for the best. Right now, I just have to focus on the things I love about the product. Those things are mainly Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, MJF, Cody Rhodes, Pac and Hangman Page, who could be the next massive superstar in the wrestling business. All six of these guys are the absolute highpoints of every show. I’m also really excited to see what Jake Hager can do in this environment, once he gets in the ring.

Furthermore, there are probably some new faces coming in. I’m most excited for what Brodie Lee (WWE’s Luke Harper), Lance Archer, Matt Hardy and The Revival can bring to the table if they sign with AEW.

The Revival are really what the tag division needs, as they can slow the matches down and add a new flavor to the proceedings, as their in-ring style is in great contrast to teams like The Young Bucks.

As far as Lee and Archer go, they would add some real size to the roster, which is definitely needed.

Keeping up with all the behind the scenes stuff, Tony Khan, the real guy in charge, has stated that he’s had some buyer’s remorse with certain wrestlers and that AEW, at least for the moment, are primarily looking for bigger, athletic guys. That shows me that he’s aware of the criticisms and that he’s trying to plug some holes and get the promotion on track.

Also, the commentary team is solid between legends Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone. I also like the recent addition of Taz. I’m still not sold on Excalibur, though. He needs to calm down a bit and focus on the action, as opposed to yelling out the name of every move just to prove he’s a human wrestling Wikipedia.

I feel like I’ve stated enough, even though I could go into greater detail on a lot of these points. The thing is, I like AEW and I want it to succeed because real competition benefits all parties involved. I want AEW to flourish and give me something to get excited about. I also want WWE to feel the heat and to start making their product better because they’ve become really fucking complacent at the top for two decades.

I hope that 2020 is the year where All Elite Wrestling finds its groove, works out a lot of its kinks and gives the fans a wrestling show that they don’t want to miss. I’d love for the Wednesday Night War to become as big of a phenomenon as the Monday Night War. The wrestling industry needs its fans to feel the passion that existed during that time. Hell, if you’re a fan and you don’t want to feel that passion again, why are you still watching?

Film Review: Ready to Rumble (2000)

Also known as: Untitled Wrestling Movie (working title), Head Lock Go! Go! Professional Wrestling (Japanese English title)
Release Date: April 5th, 2000 (premiere)
Directed by: Brian Robbins
Written by: Steven Brill
Based on: World Championship Wrestling
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: David Arquette, Oliver Platt, Scott Caan, Bill Goldberg, Rose McGowan, Diamond Dallas Page, Joe Pantoliano, Martin Landau, Ahmet Zappa, Jill Ritchie, Caroline Rhea, Lewis Arquette, Kathleen Freeman, Steve “Sting” Borden, Bam Bam Bigelow, Randy Savage, Booker T, Sid “Vicious” Eudy, Juventud Guerrera, Curt Hennig, Disco Inferno, Billy Kidman, Konnan, Rey Misterio, Perry Saturn, Prince Iaukea, Van Hammer, Michael Buffer, Gene Okerlund, Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, Charles Robinson, Billy Silverman, The Nitro Girls, John Cena (uncredited)

Bel Air Entertainment, Outlaw Productions, Tollin/Robbins Productions, World Championship Wrestling, 107 Minutes

Review:

“Just cause it’s your dream doesn’t make it right or noble or whatever! Charles Manson was following his dream! Joseph Stalin, Michael Bolton, you get my point?” – Mr. Boggs

When this came out in 2000, I didn’t bother to see it. It didn’t matter that I was a wrestling fan or that WCW (World Championship Wrestling) was promoting the shit out of it. The movie just looked terrible beyond belief and well, frankly, movies with major wrestlers in them were never good, at least up until this point. Thanks for fixing that, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

I finally caught this on TV a year or two later because I was trapped at home with my car in the shop, Uber didn’t yet exist, and there was nothing on in the afternoon other than soap operas, lame game shows and even lamer talk shows. So I gave in and watched this unfunny and bizarre turd.

Now I don’t want to sound like I’m just being mean and shitting on a shitty film for the sake of being an asshole. It’s just a bad fucking movie and that’s mostly because it was written by someone who doesn’t know a damn thing about wrestling. If they do, the script and the story doesn’t show it and it’s almost insulting for those who have a love for this stuff.

Frankly, professional wrestling was treated like a joke. I get that this is a comedy movie but that doesn’t mean that you don’t do your research and try to give the audience something more authentic. Look at Slap Shot, a movie about hockey that is, at times, batshit crazy. Yet, it respects the sport and it doesn’t insult the fans of it by being written by someone just writing about what they think hockey is about, as opposed to someone who actually knew because she spent a season traveling with her brother’s team, an experience that led to her writing the Slap Shot script.

I don’t know how the wrestlers in this weren’t furious and insulted. I don’t know how they didn’t have meltdowns on the set about how stupid and inaccurate the script was in regards to something that was their beloved profession. Granted, I’m sure they were held hostage by their contracts and had more mouths to feed other than their own but the actual wrestlers had to see the writing on the wall with this shit show.

Now all that being said, I can’t hate on David Arquette or Scott Caan for being in this. They both really tried to make the best out of it and Arquette is a lifelong wrestling fan that probably signed on to this with some enthusiasm. I hope he didn’t see how bad the script was until after he signed the dotted line though because I’d rather hope that he just got hoodwinked.

But the effects of this movie were so bad that it led to Arquette legitimately becoming the WCW World Heavyweight Champion in real life, something he was apprehensive about and felt disrespected the talent that spent their entire adult lives training for the spot that was handed to him just to help market a shit movie. The tactic massively backfired and the Arquette incident is a major factor in what led to WCW permanently shutting its doors a year later.

As for the movie, it’s terribly unfunny. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense and it makes wrestling look stupid as hell. The whole thing is a caricature of what it’s supposed to represent, written as if it were some asshole’s personal take on something he didn’t even give a shit about in the first place.

I honestly feel bad for the people in this film. And while I like Brian Robbins as a comedic actor, as a director, this is the equivalent of him volunteering to wear a dunce cap made out of excrement.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: really, really shitty ’90s and ’00s buddy comedies.

Talking Wrasslin’: The National Wrestling Alliance: Out of the Fire

For almost two decades now, World Wrestling Entertainment hasn’t had any real competition, at least in the United States, its home country. But even on a worldwide scale, it’s been pretty hard for other companies to rise up and challenge them. It’s become an empire, poaching the best talent from everywhere on Earth while becoming a boring shell of what it once was. Because without someone really on your heels, what are you running from and what are you running towards?

In the last year or so, the landscape has changed pretty immensely.

Ex-WWE stars and other stars not wanting to ply their trade in that company (because of how they’ve wasted and misused talent) have started to band together, make noise and a new company has formed: All Elite Wrestling.

This fledgling AEW is being bankrolled by the Khan family, who own the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham F.C. after becoming billionaires in the automotive parts industry.

The Khans teamed up with an ex-WWE star, Cody Rhodes, as well as some of the top North American wrestlers that were working in Japan, one of which is arguably the best in the world, right now: Kenny Omega.

They then started doing their own pay-per-view events, showcasing all the great talent that left WWE or that didn’t want to go there. Then they got a major television deal with TNT, the same network that used to host World Championship Wrestling’s weekly Nitro program, the show that nearly broke WWE two decades ago until WCW imploded.

Companies like Ring of Honor and Impact (formerly TNA) started stepping their game way up. New Japan Pro-Wrestling started coming Stateside and everything started to evolve in an exciting way.

But this isn’t really about any of those companies. It’s about the one really old promotion that seemingly hadn’t come up for air in a really long time. A promotion that no one was looking at because for most fans, old and new, it had died out years ago, even if its championships still existed and were contested for at indy wrestling shows that didn’t have much, if any, national exposure.

I’m talking about the National Wrestling Alliance, the NWA, the once gigantic organization that served as a network and governing body between all the territories in the United States.

The thing is, the NWA never really left. On the grander scale of the professional wrestling landscape, however, it hasn’t made very much noise in quite some time. In fact, it’s been pretty damn mum and kind of an afterthought once the WWE absorbed it’s top competitors and nearly every major video library of every territory that got swallowed up by the global juggernaut. They even absorbed the libraries of several NWA-allied companies from yesteryear.

Two years ago, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame bought the National Wrestling Alliance. He had some prior experience running Revolution Pro Wrestling and handling creative for TNA, now Impact Wrestling. However, TNA had a lot of issues and Corgan ended up on the outs. But he had always had a love for professional wrestling and decided to purchase the NWA with the hopes of building it back up into the large brand that it once was.

In the time since, Corgan has grown the NWA’s exposure and with the help of his current world champion, Nick Aldis, he’s brought some real prominence back to the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship.

The title was defended in a major marquee match at the culture shifting pay-per-view event All In. Aldis even dropped the title to the soon-to-be AEW Executive Vice President, Cody Rhodes. Although, Aldis won it back a few months later in another massive match that got a lot of exposure.

The thing is, people were talking about the NWA and it’s premier title once again. It had national exposure, it helped make Aldis a more recognized performer on a larger scale and it planted seeds for something bigger on the horizon.

So back in October of this year, AEW was finally ready to debut their television show on Wednesday nights. WWE then decided to take their developmental brand, NXT, off of their WWE Network streaming service in order to move it to television, on the USA Network, to go head-to-head with AEW in order to try and keep that brand from becoming a juggernaut on the level that WCW once was. You know, because Vince McMahon is kind of a dick and has to own it all, unopposed.

This battle for wrestling ratings supremacy was coined the Wednesday Night War, as a play on words of the Monday Night War that was the nickname of the intense ratings battles between WWF Raw and WCW Nitro from 1995 through 2001.

But while all this was going on, the National Wrestling Alliance decided that it was going to return to the ways of old and start filming wrestling shows in a studio setting like they used to do in the ’80s, at the height of the organization’s popularity.

Knowing that nostalgia can be a very good thing and that this sort of studio presentation would generate the right kind of feeling in old school wrestling fans that miss the days of yore, Billy Corgan gave us NWA Power.

Personally, I was aware that the show was coming and that it would be broadcast on YouTube weekly on Tuesdays at 6:05, similar to how the NWA shows of old started at :05 on the hour because that’s how TBS did things back then. But I didn’t know what to expect or if I’d even like the end product that much. I knew it was going for the nostalgia thing and while that made me happy, I was unsure of what the end result would be. It could be disastrous if handled poorly and in a cheesy, hammy way that insulted fans’ intelligence.

Then the first episode dropped and as soon as I heard Dokken’s “Into the Fire” blare through my TV’s stereo speakers, I was immediately in the right place. I felt a nice ease come over my body, releasing the apprehension I had and then I heard Jim Cornette’s voice, the excitement of the live crowd in the studio and the classic blue ring apron and a set that looked like it was from the era it was emulating.

I didn’t care that NWA Power looked dated, that’s what made it so damn cool. But it also didn’t just rely on that. It taps into the right vibe and hits the right notes for fans of what the NWA once was but it doesn’t rely so much on old faces, as it showcases a lot of young, newer talent, most of whom seem like they’ve got legit chops in the ring and in the realm of being entertainers.

As each new episode dropped, my rekindled love of the National Wrestling Alliance grew. And despite the great shows that AEW and NXT have been putting out since the start of their war, it’s NWA Power that I most look forward to each week. There’s just something special about it. It’s pure and it sparks that feeling that I used to get watching wrestling when I was a kid. But nostalgia alone can’t do that.

NWA Power has stars and I don’t mean that to come across like they’re the stars of tomorrow. No. These are the stars of today. And while they might not be on the biggest platform, that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete and also, who’s to say that the biggest platform is the right platform for everyone? It’s been clear that it hasn’t been right for a lot of wrestling talent. And, at the end of the day, where the biggest platform fails their talent, it only benefits companies like the National Wrestling Alliance.

Billy Corgan has big plans for new things going forward. There’s a reality show starting soon, which works as a talent search for indy wrestlers that want a shot at being on NWA Power. There is also pay-per-views, which the NWA has streaming through Fite TV, an app worth getting. Plus, there’s the ongoing Ten Pounds of Gold documentary series that follows the story of the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship.

So this Saturday night, the NWA is putting on a big pay-per-view called Into the Fire. And that’s honestly the inspiration for me to put down my thoughts in this article. Reason being, I haven’t been this excited for a wrestling pay-per-view in decades, as far back as the Monday Night War era.

I feel like I just have to tip my hat to the National Wrestling Alliance, Billy Corgan, Dave Lagana, Nick Aldis and all the talent in front of and behind the camera for making me feel as excited as I do. Being a wrestling fan has been a really rocky road for a long time with only one big show in town. But now things are changing and weathering the storm ended up being worth it.

While the big pay-per-view is called Into the Fire, the National Wrestling Alliance really just rose like a phoenix out of the fire: reborn and ready to ignite the hearts of fans across the globe.

Vids I Dig 149: Whang!: Wrestling E-Feds – Angelfire Adventures

Taken from Justin Whang’s YouTube description: The rise of the Internet in the late ’90s coincided with the most popular period in pro wrestling “The Attitude Era”. As such, wrestling and early Internet culture are inextricably tied. This was expressed with South Park Wrestlers, Fan Sites and E-Feds, which were roleplaying organizations in which fans created or took on the persona of existing wrestlers. In this episode of Angelfire Adventures, I browse what remains of some wrestling e-feds

Talking Wrasslin’: How WWE Finally Broke Me as a Lifelong Fan

I have been a fan of professional wrestling my entire life. I grew up with a lot of my family members watching it and I got to go to a ton of shows throughout Florida, as a kid in the ’80s and ’90s. In fact, I would often times get to go backstage at events, as some people in my family had old relationships with certain people within that industry. I grew up with this thing in my life at a very early age and I even aspired to be a wrestler after seeing the matches of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage, the more technical guys in ECW and all the great Japanese and Mexican classics that I acquired on VHS in the ’90s.

To say that I was a hardcore fan in my teen years and early twenties is an understatement. I grew up with the ’80s cheese, the early ’90s weirdness and the Attitude Era began as I was in my late teens. I remember vividly the first time I saw Scott Hall on Nitro, an ECW show on the Sunshine Network and the Montreal Screwjob. All of it instilled a passion in me that I never thought would die.

However, I’ve now gotten to the point where I can’t stomach WWE. It’s been something that has actually been slowly growing in me for decades since the start of the PG Era and the loss of real competition for Vince McMahon’s monster company. But despite holding on, because I love great matches and great in-ring psychology, I have finally broke down and can’t support WWE anymore.

To start, Raw has had some record low ratings this year and Smackdown is pulling in worse numbers. You can’t really look at pay-per-view buyrates anymore because WWE found a way to skirt around that statistic by putting their marquee shows on their own streaming service. Being that the WWE Network is $9.99 per month, paying that is a no brainer when compared to the $50+ per event that they were charging on the standard cable pay-per-view format. But this also gives WWE an inflated number when compared to pay-per-views of old, as more people can pay $9.99 over $50+. Regardless, you can’t compare pre-WWE Network buyrates to WWE Network subscriptions. It’s apples and oranges but WWE doesn’t want you to see the ruse. But they have seen their audience as dumb for many years, despite their insistence that they care about what the fans want and that WWE fans are “smart”.

You still get a damn good match in WWE quite often but usually they are watered down by the shit show around them. And in cases where you should definitely have awesome matches, you don’t. Look at this year’s AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura feud. Those matches could have been classics and we could have had an incredible feud but WWE stands in the way of its performers and don’t tend to trust outsiders that come into the company that made a big name for themselves outside of WWE. Instead, we got lackluster matches written around low blows and non-finishes.

And that brings me to the writing. It doesn’t take a genius to see that WWE can’t produce a good story anymore and for the most part, every single episode of Raw is made up of the same matches over and over again, week in, week out, where the winner loses the next week and the loser wins the next week. This prevents characters from growth, momentum or any sort of real development.

WWE is absolutely predictable. Even when it isn’t, it’s only because they didn’t see the actual writing on the wall and had their hands over their eyes and ears. It’s very rare that you are surprised by it anymore. Going back to last week’s Raw, everyone was “shocked” by the heel turn of Dean Ambrose but it’s been teased for a year and they only sped up the storyline, as he was probably going to turn heel at Survivor Series in three weeks.

Whenever WWE finds a hot young talent, they tend to build them up strongly, at first, or they become superstars in NXT and then get called up. But once they get even a sliver of the spotlight, Vince McMahon loses confidence and the company doesn’t let a star become a supernova. Most recently, we’ve seen it with Finn Bálor, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, Asuka and even Samoa Joe, who just came off of a high profile feud looking irrelevant. Point being, you invest your own time and emotion in these great performers that could carry this company into a bright future but ultimately, Vince McMahon doesn’t understand his audience and books his shows to promote his own biases to his own detriment.

Fans really want Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks to come to WWE. I don’t because I know what will happen, they’ll come in strong and within a year or two, they’ll flounder on the mid-card wondering what went wrong and wishing they’d stayed in New Japan and Ring of Honor. And based off of WWE’s track record, why would anyone think differently? I mean, what did they do with Cody last time? He was Stardust, a comedy act and a rehash of his older brother’s gimmick.

But the thing is, I have put up with all this bullshit for years and I have still tuned in. But that’s really shifted, specifically in the last few weeks during the build up towards two pay-per-views: Evolution and Crown Jewel.

Evolution, for those who don’t know, is, as they promote it, “…the first ever all-women’s pay-per-view event!” I was pretty excited about this when it was announced but it has become abundantly clear that WWE doesn’t give a shit about this show. In fact, it has actually come out that it was put on as more of a way to get Stephanie McMahon good PR, as she has been taking over as WWE’s public face.

The WWE doesn’t really give a shit about the “women’s revolution” and it’s pretty clear, at this point. All of it is PR and an attempt at virtue signaling and getting imaginary social justice brownie points, which absolutely sucks because the female half of the roster has never been stronger than it is right now. This could be a tremendously stacked pay-per-view with loads of talent, high quality matches and a place to showcase some of the female legends with the superstars of today.

Instead, we get one good match up with Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair, a Ronda Rousey match, a tag match where the premiere star has to sit out injured and then a few NXT level matches and a battle royal. So yes, 80 percent of the women’s roster is wedged into a battle royal. The last time this happened was at Wrestlemania, which no one remembers or cares about, and the trophy looked like a golden uterus… that’s not an exaggeration – Google it.

WWE Evolution has been promoted and booked like an afterthought because that’s exactly what it is. But hey, Stephanie McMahon… what a gal? Am I right? Out there putting women first and making things happen for the sisters? Maybe she spent a little extra and got a platinum uterus trophy this time.

But even with Evolution being a blight on WWE, nothing is as embarrassing and as heinous as what has gone down in regards to Crown Jewel, WWE’s second event in Saudi Arabia this year.

Why is this heinous? Well, there’s that whole thing about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, less than a month ago. For those that don’t know, he was a Saudi born journalist that was outspoken against his home country and was murdered for it in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. This is a terrible event that has put a microscope on Saudi Arabia and everything coming out about it is very, very bad.

Since this happened, there was been strong speculation that WWE would cancel the show our move it to another country but WWE is in bed with the Saudis and getting paid a ridiculous sum. This is actually the first year of a ten year contract that Vince McMahon made with the country. WWE wrestlers have expressed their fear in going there, fans have made their anger over it well-known and Vince hasn’t said a damn thing, other than WWE officially revealing that they are still going.

WWE has spent the last year promoting Saudi Arabia as a “progressive” country, even though women aren’t allowed on the show. So much for that “women’s revolution” business, right? In fact, Evolution was probably given to the women to keep them complacent while WWE continues to do business with one of the most non-socially progressive countries in the world.

WWE’s biggest star, John Cena, announced that he will not go to Saudi Arabia. Daniel Bryan expressed the same sentiment but we’ll have to wait and see if he’s forced to do the show against his will. And while other stars also don’t want to go there, it’s pretty clear that Vince McMahon prefers money to morals or if I’m being completely honest, fattening his own pockets while his employees are forced into performing like circus animals for a country that literally murders its own, simply for expressing other viewpoints. Saudi Arabia sounds so “progressive”.

In regards to Crown Jewel, social media has shown that most fans are upset with the event. In fact, polls on just about every wrestling news site have shown that fans oppose this in a landslide. But again, Vince is getting rich and the show must go on. Because some people can’t be satisfied by already being rich and heck, who cares who they murder over there, it’s none of our business and the show must go on! Glad to see that WWE truly cares what their fans think.

I just can’t give this company my money anymore and there are much better alternatives out there like New Japan and Ring of Honor. I just can’t stomach what WWE has become, as they can’t see the line between reality and the circus they’ve created. The McMahons live on another planet, high on their own rich gases where the fantasy is their reality. I don’t think their brains have broke kayfabe in quite some time and they don’t realize that most fans know the difference between the show and the real world.

Vince McMahon, we’re not stupid. And frankly, I have financially supported your product since the ’80s when my mum was yelling at me about the phone bill after calling your hotline too much. I have watched every “big four” pay-per-view since Wrestlemania I but I’m not doing it anymore. So enjoy the Saudi blood money and placating to the virtue signalers. I know I’m not alone in this, so I hope you can right the ship before it’s too late… but it’s probably too late.

But hey, “It’s all about the monaaay!”… am I right?

Documentary Review: Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name Is Paul Heyman (2014)

Release Date: August 5th, 2014
Directed by: Kevin Dunn

WWE, 121 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

WWE has done a great job over the years in making their own documentaries. They have covered a myriad of subjects and talent, especially since they hit the DVD market a decade and a half ago. Regardless of that, I was surprised to see them do a documentary on Paul Heyman. Not because Heyman isn’t an interesting subject, he most certainly is, but because of his turbulent history with the WWE has been legendary.

WWE was more than fair and really gave all sides of the story. I can’t say that there wasn’t an agenda, as there always is when the WWE produces their own material, but the fact that the bulk of the stories were told by Heyman himself, adds a level of credibility and honesty to the production, that would have otherwise been questionable.

This documentary tells Heyman’s life story and how he worked his way up the ranks and into the wrestling business, eventually becoming an enigma that changed the direction of the wrestling business forever, whether by creating a refreshing and edgy product to challenge the industry’s norms or through developing some of the biggest talents that the business has ever seen. Love him or hate him, Paul Heyman has contributed more to the wrestling business than most men.

I really enjoyed the documentary and I never get sick of seeing behind-the-scenes intimate coverage of ECW, my all-time favorite wrestling promotion. They spent a good amount of time on ECW and told the story from Heyman’s perspective, which hasn’t yet been done to this level and makes this a must-watch film for wrestling historians.

This is my favorite WWE production since the CM Punk documentary, a few years ago. While it isn’t about a wrestler and his epic battles, it is about a man that helped many of those wrestlers perfect their craft. Heyman is probably deserving of more respect and admiration than half of the legends who fought in the ring because what he brought was real significant change and a bold, new face to the business: changing it permanently.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: WWE’s ECW documentaries.

Documentary Review: Born to Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story (2006)

Release Date: March 3rd, 2006
Directed by: Vince McMahon

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), 88 Minutes

Review:

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper was one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time. In the ’80s, he probably was my favorite but I also loved that dastardly “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The thing that really made Piper eclipse the others though, was the fact that he was the star of They Live, which is still the greatest motion picture to ever feature a professional wrestler in the lead role. Sorry, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

This is one of dozens of WWE documentaries put out in the heyday of their DVD releases, most of which were met with great fanfare and always sold really well. Like most of the others, this was initially released with several extra discs featuring pivotal matches from the wrestler’s career. I happen to own the special exclusive addition that had an extra bonus disc featuring classic episodes of Piper’s Pit, Roddy’s popular talk show segment.

The documentary is chock-full of interviews with many of the people who knew Piper over the course of his career. There are interviews with his friends, rivals and other colleagues within the wrestling business. We also get to hear from John Carpenter on why he cast Piper in They Live and what it was like to work with him on the film.

The best part of this whole film is hearing Piper himself talk about his time in wrestling and about his life beforehand.

Born to Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story is one of the brightest spots in WWE’s long history of wrestler biography pieces. It features one of the most entertaining men in sports entertainment history and it flows nicely and covers all of the relevant stuff in Piper’s long and storied career.

Rating: 7.5/10