Though WWE holds a near monopoly, don’t have to play in Vince McMahon’s walled garden if you want to watch some pro wrestling.
Vince McMahon has lost touch. I’m cancelling my subscription! Remember when WWE used to be good?
The Internet Wrestling Community has seemingly spent the better part of the last decade hate-watching WWE. The vitriol ebbs and flows. Displeasure turns to apathy during the football season and reaches its zenith after each of the Big Four events (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series). After a particularly lackluster SummerSlam filled with confusing finishes, the IWC came out in droves to decry the WWE. Whether you refuse to rise above hate or whether you just want to see what else professional wrestling has to offer today’s fan, there are alternatives.
Before we begin, here are two options that reside in the WWE Universe:
NXT: The same thing seems to happen after every TakeOver. “How is the main roster supposed to top that?” the entire IWC asks in unison. NXT is definitely a viable option to the WWE. Something of a throwback, NXT relies on episodic weekly shows to get over characters and angles. Priority is placed on the in-ring product, while promos are downplayed.
Con: Major angles are sometimes blown off during tapings.
WWE Network: This is something of a cheat, but having the WWE Network does not mean you have to watch the current product. Want to watch they heyday of Monday Nitro? Or maybe you want to relive the Von Erichs-Freebirds feud? Maybe you are a fan of the Attitude Era? It’s all on the Network And if none of the hundreds of hours of wrestling appeal to you, there are other shows and cartoons. All for $9.99. Still unconvinced? Try it free for a month then see what you think.
Con: The order in which programming is added has no rhyme or reason. Especially frustrating for fans of the territory days.
Now let’s leave the WWE Universe and take a quick look at pro wrestling’s landscape.
New Japan Pro Wrestling
After the recently concluded G1 Climax, it became a little easier to argue that New Japan offers the best ring action in the world. And there is almost no argument that Kazuchika Okada is the best wrestler in the world. The Kenny Omega-Okada trilogy has been compared to the Flair-Steamboat trilogy of 1989. New Japan takes a more realistic approach to wrestling. The most obvious example is Okada’s current neck injury. The result of a heel beatdown? Attacked by a mystery assailant backstage? Neither. Okada’s body is breaking down on him after over a year of top notch IWGP Title defenses. Alternative to WWE, indeed.
Con: Undercard is poorly booked (is there still a tag team division?)
Dramatic Dream Team: DDT Pro Wrestling
DDT can be considered a Bizarro world version of New Japan. Most fans know of DDT for the Ironman Heavymetalweight Title. The Ironman Title has seen over 1,000 title reigns from stars Asuka, Scott Hall, and Rey Mysterio Jr. to…less conventional champions like Yatchan (a monkey), a blow-up sex doll, and a ladder. There was also the time Kenny Omega wrestled a 9 year-old girl. And there is the wrestler who uses a version on the Rock Bottom called the, um, Cock Bottom.
Con: Can get a little too silly.
At last year’s WrestleMania, the Divas Championship was retired. The word “Diva” would no longer be used to describe female athletes in WWE and a revolution was coming. Over a decade ago, SHIMMER debuted with the same goal. SHIMMER is a women’s wrestling promotion that places the emphasis on matches. Many of the participants in this year’s Mae Young Classic passed through SHIMMER, including Tessa Blanchard, Shayna Baszler and Candice LeRae. Paige, Natalya, Becky Lynch, and Sara Del Rey have also worked in SHIMMER. If you are a fan of women’s wrestling, then Shimmer is a must.
Con: They don’t run many shows.
Ring of Honor
At one time, ROH was the IWC hivemind’s favorite wrestling promotion. The halcyon days of Danielson vs Joe and the Summer of Punk are long gone, however. What ROH does have now are better production values and a working agreement with New Japan. ROH has seen many of its stars move on to NXT, with Adam Cole being the most recent. ROH has always focused on the in-ring product but is different than many indie promotions in the amount of promo time they give their roster. The current roster includes former WWE star and current ROH World Champion Cody (Rhodes), the Briscoe Brothers, and Jay Lethal. Plus, we got this.
Con: Once a strength, ROH now seems to be unable to book good long-term angles.
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla
Running one show a month out of an American Legion Post in Reseda, California, PWG has consistently put on the best wrestling shows in America for years now. High flying spot fests, classic-catch-as-catch-can, comedy, and hardcore, PWG has it all. PWG showcases the top independent talent in the wrestling world. Zack Sabre Jr, Marty Scrull, the Young Bucks, and Ricochet are just a few of the names appearing at this year’s Battle of Los Angeles. The list of WWE talent that has passed through PWG is amazing. Attending a PWG card live is an event in itself. Where else can you see Sofia Vergara and the best wrestler on the planet?
Con: Has no TV deal and is almost impossible to get tickets to a live show.
I am purposely not counting GFW. It still seems more WWE lite than an actual alternative.
One of wrestling’s greatest strengths has always been the number of options fans have. There may no longer be WCW, ECW, or strong territory system, however there are still alternatives. Technology has made finding those alternatives even easier. John Cena vs Roman Reigns, you say? I think I’ll watch some Young Bucks matches.