We live in a day and age where wrestling consumption is easier than ever. Both from a live and a “tape” perspective there is more wrestling available to watch than at any other time I can recall. I can decide to walk to the local rec center and check out all the journeymen at North American Pro Wrestling. If I’m up for it I can make the drive to nearby LaSalle, Illinois to see what DREAMWAVE Wrestling has on tap, or I can even make the trek to the slimy world of Berwyn, Illinois to witness Chris Hero and Pentagon Jr. killing one another for AAW Wrestling. Heck, I can choose to stay in and take advantage of the endless footage found on YouTube, DailyMotion, any number of promotion streaming sites, or my old DVD collection.
The point being, there is a hell of a lot of pro graps for me to watch. Digging deep into Billy Robinson in the 1970s in All Japan Pro Wrestling sounds like a swell use of this Saturday afternoon. Then maybe I pop in a 2005 Match of the Year DVD I have and take in the randomness found on said DVD. Heck, if I so fancy it I can still turn on the old idiot box and watch some Lucha Underground, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, or Paragon Pro Wrestling. The options for my wrestling viewing have become almost limitless. There is literally not enough time in the day, heck in my life, to watch the wrestling that I want to watch.
What this plentiful bounty of variety represents is opportunity. In this case the opportunity takes the form of breaking away from the shackles of World Wrestling Entertainment. I know, I know, WWE doesn’t force anyone to watch them. They certainly aren’t holding a gun to my head and whispering in my ear, “Watch SmackDown today, or else!!” All the same, WWE being WWE they carry a certain weight with them. What this means is that it’s often expected that one needs to watch the WWE product.
That expectation can, and often does, lead to burnout. On any given week if all you want to do is watch the main WWE A and B shows you’re looking at seven hours or so of content. Add in a week with a pay-per-view, toss NXT into the mix, and that seven hour week becomes an eleven hour week at the very least. That’s a lot of time to devote to one promotion, but it is something that can be done. It is something that is done, week after week, by many wrestling fans.
I used to be such a wrestling fan. It had been drilled into my head that WWE, or the World Wrestling Federation as it was known when I first got into wrestling, needed to be watched. I couldn’t call myself a wrestling fan if I didn’t, at the very least, have a cursory understanding of the comings and goings in WWF. There was even the notion that in order to be the best possible wrestling fan I needed to devote most of my time to WWF and watch all of their wrestling content.
For years I operated under this assumption, and not surprisingly the early years of my wrestling fandom revolved around the idea of frustration. Being a massive WWE fan is a frustrating experience. This isn’t the case for everyone, I’ll give you that. But, judging by the people in my bubble of online wrestling fans being mainly a WWE fan is a very frustrating proposition indeed. Yet, the frustration, and eventual anger, were dealt with because WWE needs to be watched. There’s just no way around that single fact, because WWE is the promotion to end all promotions and it is important that wrestling fans watch what they are doing.
It started in little bits and spurts. I’d turn to a random episode of Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre’s weekly television show instead of that week’s Sunday Night Heat. I noticed something right away; in no way did I feel like I was missing anything. Technically I was missing an hour or so of WWF programming, but my wrestling soul felt just as content as if I had tuned in for Sunday night’s WWF B show. In fact, I felt somewhat better. I had diversified as it were, and while what I had seen from CMLL wasn’t perfect, it was different and that was all that mattered.
From there the next step in the process was tape trading. I began to seek out shows from New Japan Pro Wrestling, Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, Mid-South Wrestling, and so on and so forth. New, old and everything in between, I started making time for it in my wrestling viewing schedule. I didn’t give up on WWF either, though my viewing pattern changed. Of the current product I was watching the main shows only. Of the older stuff I could find on tape it was purely on an “I want to watch this,” basis.
Essentially I had become my own programmer. It didn’t matter to me that I supposedly needed to watch what WWF was putting on my television screen. I knew that I would rather sit down on a Monday night and watch Wifebeater versus Zandig in a No Ropes Barbed Wire Exploding Hell Match than I would anything that was happening on WWF’s flagship show, RAW. And then later I could catch up on RAW by cherry picking the matches I wanted to see. The world of pro wrestling was my oyster, and WWF was but a part of the oyster not the entire mollusca.
I’m not advocating for anyone to give up on WWE. If you’re still digging WWE then that’s great for you. What I am saying is that if you are one of the many people who are continuously frustrated by the WWE product then realize there is plenty more out there for you to watch. Whether it be the European scene, American indies, puroresu, or Lucha Libre; there is high quality wrestling out there just waiting for you to jump on board. You can always go back to WWE as well. There’s no reason the WWE need to be excised from your life altogether.
The wrestling world isn’t what it once was. The days of a monolithic promotion controlling the airways and controlling your viewing habits are well in the past. The cost barrier is no longer a problem, and availability issues have all but been eliminated. If the WWE product is frustrating you to no end it’s okay to move on down the line. Sasha Banks and Cesaro will still be there waiting for you at some point. But, you can watch them on your terms, not the WWE’s terms. Trust me, your wrestling soul will thank you for letting WWE know they are not the center of your universe.