I love pro-wrestling. I believe it is one of the last great pieces of performance art on stage in the world. With a love of pro-wrestling comes many skeptics and critics saying, “You do realize it’s fake, right?”
To them, I say it’s more real than anything else you see on television these days.
Pro-wrestling is real in the same sense as Daenerys Targaryen is in “Game of Thrones,” or Walter White in “Breaking Bad.”
There’s a lot of goofiness in wrestling. There was a cult leader praying to his undead little-girl god, a group of African-Americans selling breakfast cereal every week and a plush cat becoming the manager of a wrestler. There is a suspension of disbelief when it comes to wrestling, but it’s because of this that wrestling creates such an entertaining experience.
Pro-wrestling is long past its golden years of the 90’s. It rode high during WWE’s Attitude Era and ECW’s renegade anti-establishment world. The WCW’s N.W.O. taking over the wrestling world changing the way wrestling stories are written and experienced.
For a long time, WWE continued to stay afloat through the 2000s. First by buying and absorbing ECW and WCW. Then by broadcasting two shows: “Monday Night Raw” and “Smackdown.” In this era though, wrestling would lose its mainstream appeal and become niche again. This was depressing for me as a fan. The rise of superstars such as John Cena, Dave Bautista, Eddie Guerrero and Chicago local CM Punk. These guys would carry the company through what could be called a mediocre period.
Independent wrestling became more prominent with the birth of companies such as Ring of Honor, Total Nonstop Action, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Lucha Underground. These companies became the breeding ground for future big names in wrestling, such as AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens. These guys would make their names in these promotions and even become champions in these respective companies.
WWE also implementing their NXT training grounds where they would build homegrown talents such as Roman Reigns, Charlotte Flair, Baron Corbin and Braun Strowman. In the U.S., wrestling was slowly building towards the future age we are currently in. However, secretly in Japan, the second biggest wrestling promotion in the world would rise New Japan Pro Wrestling or NJPW.
Now, NJPW was founded in the 70’s and shouldn’t really be considered a new company, considering that wrestling legends such as Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle, and Brock Lesnar all wrestled or even held their heavyweight championships.
However, it wasn’t until the early to mid-2000s that NJPW finally rose to prominence on the back of their own “Hulk Hogan,” Hiroshi Tanahashi. Tanahashi brought NJPW to mainstream Japan and would bring in a new exciting style of pro-wrestling along with Shinsuke Nakamura, Hirooki Goto and Kazuchika Okada.
But NJPW didn’t reach true mainstream wrestling success with the debut of its most popular fraction, the Bullet Club, but that’s another article.
Now NJPW is considered the second biggest wrestling promotion in the world next to WWE. NJPW is slowly creeping its way into the western market of the U.S.A.
We are entering slowly but surely into another golden age of professional wrestling that will be led by WWE and NJPW. WWE has made great strides to gain new talent from other companies such as Finn Balor, AJ Styles, and Shinsuke Nakamura to try and improve and weaken their potential threats.
WWE has created an “Indie all-star league” of sorts using their NXT brand to showcase new incoming indie wrestlers to their company. WWE has also revitalized Women’s Pro-Wrestling in their company on the backs of talented athletic women such as Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Bayley.
NJPW has teamed up with indie promotions such as Ring of Honor and Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre to improve their roster and create their own version of “WrestleMania,” “Wrestle Kingdom.” NJPW has two annual tournaments; The “G1 Climax” and “Battle of the Super Juniors”, which heavily involve indie wrestlers from all around the world.
Finally, their “International Wrestling Grand Prix Championship” has become the second most prestigious title in the world.
All seems to look well in the future of professional wrestling with WWE and NJPW at the helm. However, if history has taught us anything with WWE and WCW, Vince McMahon doesn’t like sharing the title of biggest wrestling company in the world.