It’s the year 2019, and the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) is a household name all over the world.
Even though it’s The “New” Era for the WWE, the teen and adult fanbase is decreasing as wrestling isn’t as edgy as it used to be compared to the “Attitude Era” (1997 – 2002) (when it needed to be edgy to compete against their rival promotion WCW (World Championship Wrestling) in the “Monday Night Wars”).
The “Monday Night Wars” was competitive series between Turner Enterprises Chairman, Robert Edward Turner III, and World Wrestling Entertainment’s (formerly known as World Wrestling Federation at the time) Chairman, Vincent Kennedy McMahon to see which show would have more viewers every Monday night during primetime. It was WCW “Monday Night Nitro” against WWF Monday Night Raw, but in the end, the WWF bought out WCW in March 23rd, 2001.
A few years have passed, and the viewership of professional wrestling have been decreasing. In 2002, Jeff and Jerry Jarrett founded “Total Nonstop Action” (aka TNA) right after WCW has ended. They were hiring former WCW and WWF wrestlers to create the hype, and they even hired former WWF writer, Vince Russo. A change of ownership took place and, a few years later, TNA was slowly gaining the attention of the wrestling fans with their original talents such as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, The Motor City Machine Guns, and most pro wrestlers who made a name for themselves in the then independent wrestling promotion, “Ring Of Honor”. They also had former WWE talent to gain the attention from the casual fans such as Kurt Angle, Christian Cage, Jeff Hardy, and Rhyno. Even with the great product that they had at the time, it still didn’t compete at the level of the WWE. It was proven, when they tried to go head to head with WWE “Monday Night Raw” with TNA “Impact” on Monday nights on primetime in 2010, and it quickly moved back to Thursday nights.
At that point, in order for a professional wrestler to make a living, they have to be either in the WWE or working in multiple indie promotions (were they will not make as much money as a WWE Superstar). Unless you were a big name such as Bryan Danielson, AJ Styles, or Samoa Joe, where they would travel to Japan, Europe, Mexico,Canada, and Puerto Rico to perform. For most wrestlers, they lose more than they actually gain in the business. Time away from their loved ones, an unstable income, sleeping in cars, and injuries that they can’t afford on their rise to the top. It was easier to be a professional NBA player than to be in the WWE, so the percentage of them making it was really low due to career ending injuries, backstage politics, or just not fitting in to the image of what they wanted in their company.
Meanwhile in Japan, viewership from the American audience was booming, and it was the formation of “Bullet Club”. An up and coming Irishman known as Fergal Devitt, formed “The Bullet Club” with Karl Anderson and Tama Tonga, and it brought as much heat in Japan as the “New World Order” did in back in WCW when they formed in 1996. It started to catch the eye of the teen demographic on the internet. It was different, raw, and brought that slight feeling of nostalgia for longtime wrestling fans. All of the professional wrestlers from the western part of the world wanted to be a part of it, and obtain that amount of heat. After Fergal left in 2014, AJ Styles became the new leader of the faction along with Karl Anderson, and obtained an even more mainstream audience. Two years after that, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson of “The Young Bucks”, who are also part of “Bullet Club”, started a Youtube channel with the 4th leader of the faction, Kenny Omega (who replaced AJ Styles after he signed with the WWE), called “Being The Elite” where they did video blogs and skits of themselves on the road. The channel has over 300,000 subscribers right now. At this point, “Bullet Club” wasn’t only in Japan, they started to appear on “Ring Of Honor” in the United States and “Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide” in Mexico.
Cody Rhodes, son of the legendary Dusty Rhodes, left the WWE in 2016 and joined “Bullet Club” while he was wrestling in the independents, and joined their YouTube channel “Being The Elite”. Frustrated that he wasn’t used properly by the WWE, he decided to take his career in his own hands and made a name for himself. In 2018, Cody and The Young Bucks decided to organize the biggest independent show ever on Pay-Per-View. They gathered talent from Ring of Honor (ROH), Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), Impact Wrestling, Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide (AAA) and the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). This Pay-Per-View was called “All In”. This was the first non WWE event that has sold 10,000 tickets. They did it to send a message. They wanted to let everyone know that there is a product outside of the WWE. After the success of “All In”, Tony Khan, the son of billionaire and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, decided to start a wrestling company with Cody and The Young Bucks called “All Elite Wrestling”(AEW).
AEW decided to sign indie talent such as Sammy Guevara, Joey Janela, Kip Sapien and “Hangman” Adam Page. Their biggest signee though was none other than wrestling legend, Chris Jericho. Who claimed it was the biggest paycheck that he has ever received.
Their first event under the AEW banner, “Double or Nothing”, took place at the MGM in Las Vegas and sold 11,000 tickets in less than 30 minutes. There was a lot of hype behind the event because of the match between brothers Cody Rhodes and Dustin Rhodes. The match had a lot of symbolism stating that The Attitude Era was dead, and Cody killed it.
This event was also the debut of former WWE talent, Jon Moxley (FKA Dean Ambrose).
Today, wrestlers have the opportunity to figure out where they want to work, and wrestling fans can watch as many shows as they want thanks to the Internet. Stars such as Tessa Blanchard and Sami Callihan decided to stay in Impact! Wrestling while performing in other independent leagues. Comedy wrestlers who are big draw like Orange Cassidy and Joey Ryan decided to just stay independent. But most wrestlers just want to make their childhood dream come true and join the WWE and start off in the NXT Brand.
With these options and all the wrestling styles that are out there —whether it is hardcore wrestling, Japanese wrestling or Mexican Wrestling— 2019 is the perfect time to be a professional wrestling fan, and it’s the start of The Golden Era of pro wrestling.