I recently finished Ron Synder’s book Wrestling’s New Golden Age, and the book goes in-depth about the rise of independent wrestling. After reading this book, and viewing ALL-IN, it made me ask the question are we in a “Golden Age” of wrestling?
Often times there are three time periods in wrestling that are considered Golden Ages. The late 1940’s to the 1950’s during the time of Gorgeous George, the Rock ‘N’ Wrestling era during the 1980’s, and the Monday Night Wars of the late 1990’s.
Each era has had its importance on shaping professional wrestling making it what it is today. The 1940’s had the pageantry and entertainment of Gorgeous George. The early 980’s had the popular territories of the WWF in New York, World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas, The Carolinas had Jim Crockett Promotions, and Minnesota had the AWA. While the territories started to die off in the late 1980’s, the WWF began its national expansion. Also, we had the advent of television and pay-per-view during this time period. Television ratings for wrestling were though the roof while the NWA/WCW and the WWF battled for supremacy.
The Monday Night Wars of the late 1990’s really doesn’t need an introduction, but in case you have been living under a rock, this time period garnered record numbers in pay-per-view and television ratings. Many fans and media consider this period the high point of professional wrestling and it may never be reached again.
So you may be asking yourself, why do I think this is a Golden Age? Let me answer.
While the WWE has essentially been the number one promotion for the last 30 years, (with the exception of a few years) there are now more choices for non-WWE fans than there has been in decades. Obviously, people are interested in an alternative with ALL-IN being the first non WWE/WCW event to draw 10,000 people since 1993. Essentially all 50 states has a wrestling promotion on the local level, and you have the larger independent promotions like Impact, CHIKARA, Ring of Honor, and Combat Zone Wrestling. You could make the argument that we are heading into the direction of the territorial days. Even the NWA is becoming relevant again since the ownership change to Billy Corgan.
WWE has even begun to take notice of the rise of the independent promotions over the past few years. Love him or hate him, Triple H has a great mind for the business, especially with the rise of NXT and the creation of the WWE performance center. The list of wrestlers the WWE has signed over the past few years from indie promotions is a long one but includes Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, etc.
Many wrestlers have also proved you don’t necessarily need the WWE to earn a living in wrestling. Examples include Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, Sami Callahan, The Young Bucks, and Chris Jericho. Obviously Jericho and Rhodes were big names in WWE, but they have been able to reinvent themselves in the independent scene.
Catching your favorite wrestling promotion is as accessible as it has ever been. On television Raw, Smackdown, ROH, Impact, Lucha Underground, 205 Live and New Japan have episodes that air weekly. If you can’t catch the programs live, you also have the ability to either watch archived versions of some of these shows on Sling, Hulu, clips on YouTube, or you can DVR and watch back later.
If all that TV isn’t enough, there are multiple streaming networks out there in which you can access thousands of hours of content. There is obviously the WWE Network, Global Wrestling Network (TNA/Impact), and Honor Club (ROH). But there are also many others including Powerbomb (a collections of smaller indie promotions), Highspots (indie shows, vintage footage, shoot interviews), Club WWN (Women’s promotions including SHINE, EVOVLE, and FIP), CHIKARAatopia, New Japan World, and many other promotions throughout Europe. If you have the cash, there is more wrestling out there than you can handle.
Wrestling also has more crossover appeal than ever before. Ronda Rousey has been able to successfully make the jump from UFC to WWE. Brock Lesnar has been able to transition from WWE to UFC and back and forth again. Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins purchased ownership of the NWA after a failed business agreement with Impact. Even Hollywood is involved in wrestling. Actor Stephen Amell, from the television show Arrow, competed at ALL-IN.
Whatever way you want to look at it, there is more wrestling out there now then there has been the in the last 30 years, if not ever. It is a great time to be a wrestling fan, and we truly seem to be in a Golden Age.