I don’t blog too much about wrestling here since my comic posts tend to be far more popular and the wrestling posts are usually on the bottom but I felt compelled. In this post Wrestlemania week Beyond Wrestling had been asking questions on its FB (and probably Twitter) about how much people were interested in WWE’s product and other related questions. I noticed a handful of wrestling fans who seemingly rolled their eyes at WWE but without giving reasons as to why. I can assume the reasons because I’ve had reasons myself at many times. Weird booking habits, dumb angles, pushing wrestlers who are not getting over, etc. These are criticisms I’ve had before and to some degree still do. However, when I say WWE is the best wrestling promotion right now I’m not doing it because I’m, as one would call, a mark. I say it because if you compare products-really compare beyond the spectacle and money that WWE has or the “big move” dynamics of indy wrestling and others you can see that WWE is really together. Let me delve in.
WWE has the biggest roster of any wrestling promotion in the world. I also would wager they have the strongest. Now that’s my opinion but I look at it from the simple standpoint that WWE has more wrestlers, a lot of them really good at what they do. To say they can not stand up to the top stars in another promotion would not be a credible argument because WWE employs some of the most popular former indy stars. Their top guy now is Daniel Bryan who was once Bryan Danielson the most in demand indy wrestler who also was doing well as a Jr. Heavyweight in Japan. On top of that you got the growing success of Cesaro, formerly Claudio Castagnoli. Keep looking and you see several indy stars in WWE and their developmental NXT. WWE has dropped the ball on top indy guys before and they’ll do it again but at this moment you have several former indy darlings who are doing well.
Even looking past them they have guys on the roster who are legit talented. Wrestlers who may not have made it on the indy scene or other wise never made an impression with the Internet Wrestling Community who have been doing strong work. I look at guys like Dolph Ziggler or Damian Sandow and I enjoy what they do. I don’t know if these guys had much of a pro-wrestling career before WWE but they bring energy to their WWE work. There is a bit of nepotism to WWE wrestling for sure, with the children of wrestlers seemingly getting opportunities other wrestlers probably wouldn’t. I know Natalya has stated she tried really had to get into WWE but sometimes I wonder about certain second or third generation wrestlers. That doesn’t change my feelings towards someone like Cody Rhodes who can be extremely electric in the ring. Nor does it take away from the rising success of Bray Wyatt who is in his third identity for WWE (one in former developmental FCW, Husky Harris in NXT and briefly WWE, and now Wyatt).
Now I’m not dismissing any other promotion. PWG has a great roster and New Japan has put on most of my favorite matches this year. A lot of promotions have good to great rosters, but WWE has a roster where they could fire half their wrestlers and still have a strong roster. Can you say that about another promotion?
There is no denying that WWE has a house style and there are rules. You can say they put limitations on their athletes but the best shine through. The idea that WWE does not produce the same match quality as any promotion is not true unless you don’t watch WWE. If you don’t want to watch the product, sure-cool. However never compare match quality because any WWE fan can say something like “what about the Shield vs. the Wyatts?” I would. That is right now my favorite WWE match of the year. That match featured two former indy stars in Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, an indy wrestler I was quite a fan of in Luke Harper, and a pair of wrestlers from wrestling families who are on the tip of breaking out into the next WWE megastars in Roan Reigns and Bray Wyatt. Before they touched each other the fans went crazy. The atmosphere was buzzing and they left the PPV as a glimpse of WWE’s possible future. Then of course there is what happens in NXT. Now I don’t watch all the time but when I do I am impressed. Sami Zayn, the wannabe El Generico, has been trailblazing down in that promotion. His matches have been up there in quality against a lot of wrestling product out there. He is also not the only one.
Now WWE does have bad matches no doubt, but I’d say there is at least a solid match on all the minor shows (like Main Event or Smackdown), a couple noteworthy to great matches on Raw, and at least one amazing match on most PPVs. WWE is producing how many shows in a month? When you have so much product there are going to be flubs but there is also going to be good stuff. I would say WWE produces more good matches than bad.
That said, I would say of the other stuff I watch New Japan Pro Wrestling is probably on top in terms of match quality. While I have not been able to watch many full shows what I have seen has produced more of my favorite matches this year. Watching NJPW you can definitely understand why they are #1 in Japan and the buzz with the American indy audience. I also would say PWG brings strong shows each and every time out. Who produces the best quality product is a matter of opinion but I think WWE not only holds up there, but its even more impressive when you have as much product being produce as they do.
I will concede that WWE’s weakest point is the managing of multiple story threads. In their main program they have champions that go from match to match or not at all. The US champion Dean Ambrose has rarely defended his title, its not part of his characters story arc. His arc is involved with his role in Shield and the matches that come with that. IC champion Big E has gone from match to match with no major rival. WWE works from a top to bottom position and while its fine to have exhibition matches the fact that several champions are an after thought is wrong. WWE positions their top people for story’s and feuds. If they have a top guy without they’ll just have them out there to win a match. It is one of the downsides to such a large roster but also a problem with the “writers” and “bookers.”
Indy companies and companies outside have it easier. Part of it is using the amount of time allowed. A company only doing a show a month will try to create a feud that will stick over a period of shows. Looking at PWG they currently have their world and tag champs aligned in a stable which also features their biggest star in Kevin Steen. So the story is about who will dethrone the champions, who will upset the applecart if you will. Most everything else is an exhibition to secure the spot to be the one or the team to challenge. Its smart, it works, and in the process they can build rivalries. Also indy’s being somewhat interconnected and willing to recognize other promotions you will have feuds that travel. Eddie Kingston and Chris Hero’s feud worked through CHIKARA, CZW, ROH, IWA: MS so that ithad a built in arc. In puroresu its somewhat similar but with the bigger companies they are afforded more money and time to develop. So NJPW can have many champions (4 singles, 2 tag titles) and produce feuds and rivalries. They don’t have as much product or as large of a roster as WWE so NJPW hits a sweet spot between the two. Currently I have been into the rivalry between Testuya Naito and Tomohiro Ishii over the Never Openweight Title. Ishii pulled it off Naito in one of my fave matches thus far in 2014 and the two have clashed mroe since. Ishii pinning Naito in a tag match, Naito winning in a match set during their New Japan Cup Tournment, and then Ishii retaining in a title defense. All this in the course of only a few months.
However no one can match the money and man power behind the feuds and storylines WWE produces. They can afford spectacle and when they are committed to a long term narrative no one really comes close to doing it better. In the fact the only company in the world I can think of who can produce story arcs and long term narrative with commitment is Chikara Pro and with them there is a divisiveness among indy wrestling fans. Personally I love Chikara and think they are the top of the heap with story crafting, having closed down their own promotion for almost a year and starting smaller promotions all to further their main story arc. It was risky and the payoff has so far worked for them. They are lucky in that they have a dedicated roster and their own school so they can produce wrestlers to fill roles when needed.
So yeah, WWE may not be the best in this area but at the same time, when they give you moments like Daniel Bryan beating the Authority and taking the titles at Wrestlemania you can’t help but admire when they do get it right.
Triple H recently referred to WWE as being in the reality era and for me it is the reality that WWE is untouchable. There is no competition in the states, which we all know to be true. I think however it should be a reality that WWE does indeed hire and push a number of the best wrestlers and entertainers in the world. They are producing a product that, while may not be appealing to a number of wrestling fans, does have positives beyond the competition. WWE may not be for you, may not fit your interests, but the positives outweigh the negatives in what they offer.