Wrestling is better than the things you like. It’s been 18 years since the professional wrestling landscape became a monopoly when both World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling shut their doors, leaving the then World Wrestling Federation as the lone survivor. Eighteen years and one name change later, the professional wrestling industry has overgone a renaissance in the past 13 months alone. With so much content to watch, this article will show you the ropes and guide you through what to watch as the industry enters a new era.
World Wrestling Entertainment
World Wrestling Entertainment dominates the industry while also being its black mark. Ventures into Saudi Arabia and terrible booking have led to a serious decline in viewership that has opened the door for other companies to provide alternatives. However, the company will never be short on money. Having just inked deals with FOX to air Smackdown on Friday nights and USA for a three hour Raw each Monday, the company can essentially book whatever it wants with no repercussions — for now. If you’re a wrestling fan who actually cares about what you’re watching, NXT, a WWE brand, should suffice. Run by Paul Levesque — known to most as Triple H — NXT is run like a territory system in the ‘70s and ‘80s. With an emphasis on wrestling and logical booking, the show essentially acts as an indie show under the WWE umbrella. The show airs for two hours live on USA Network starting at 8 p.m. to counter-program All Elite Wrestling in the Wednesday Night Wars, and if none of that feeds your appetite there’s always WWE Network exclusive shows like NXT UK, 205 Live and much more content ranging from wrestling archives to documentaries.
All Elite Wrestling
The newest promotion on this list, AEW is the little engine that could. Funded and booked by Tony Khan — the co-owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars — AEW had its beginnings in the All In event run by wrestlers Cody, Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks on Labor Day weekend of 2018. Surpassing industry expectations by drawing 10,000 fans to the event, the show proved there’s still an audience for professional wrestling outside of WWE. That pipe dream has led to the first wrestling product to be broadcasted on TNT since the dying days of WCW in 2001. With commentary from industry veterans Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone and Excalibur, and featuring proven stars like Chris Jericho, AEW continues to defy expectations as their last couple of pay-per-views have done over 100,000 buys and their first episode on TNT drew 1.4 million viewers. With WWE in such sharp decline recently, especially with viewers in the essential 18-49 demographic, AEW could be the way of the future.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling
The best professional wrestling on the planet, New Japan Pro-Wrestling airs on both AXS TV here in the U.S. and their own streaming service New Japan World. It may not be as accessible as other options here, but it provides wrestling well worth the search. A sports based pro-wrestling company through and there, the company has seen a surge in popularity since 2012 due to various different elements such as the rise of the Bullet Club faction and the quartet of matches between Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega. With potentially the deepest roster — in terms of talent — of any company on this list, stars like Kota Ibushi, Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi and the aforementioned Okada have more than earned their spots at the top. NJPW also hosts some of the best wrestlers in the world from other regions, such as Will Ospreay or Zack Sabre Jr. from the U.K., or the occasional appearance from American AEW stars Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley.
If after all these services you are still looking for more content, there’s always more wrestling to go around. Promotions like Impact, Major League Wrestling, Ring of Honor and Mexican based companies like Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide and Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre are also around. Those are just the big names. For more information on the wrestling world and insider news, a subscription to Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer would be more than worth it.