My Return to Pro Wrestling Fandom
Updated: Sep 23, 2019
About twenty years ago my obsession with professional wrestling was at its peak. The Attitude Era was in full swing. Kayfabe had yet to be completely destroyed. By Wrestlemania 2000 I had mostly stopped watching. I'm not completely sure why. All I know is that from 2001 until 2018 I had not watched a single wrestling program.
I imagine that my return to watching professional wrestling is a lot like others. You stumble upon some wrestling related video on YouTube and before you know it half of your recommendations are WWE related. Then you discover the WWE Network. For just $9.99/month you get unlimited access to the WWE extensive vault which contains just about every WWE match and program the WWE ever released plus content they now own from other promotions.
The Network was really what hooked me back in. I could go back and watch all I wanted to from the Attitude Era plus I could watch every new PPV live with no extra cost. It took me a while to get back to watching the weekly programming, but eventually I got pulled back in to that too, mostly thank to "The Man" Becky Lynch. Since last summer I have tuned in to most Raw and SmackDown Live airings. Sure they haven't been nearly as good as I remember from back in 1998, but I'm still more entertained than not. Even if the weekly programming is a bit bland the PPV's are still generally quite good.
I haven't even mentioned the current gem of WWE yet, NXT.
NXT is the WWE's supposed developmental brand, but a lot of times it feels like a complete separate promotion. Some of the best wrestling that I have seen over the past year has come from NXT. You get long term storytelling that is usually capped off by amazing matches at NXT Take Over events. Even though it is very much part of the vast WWE machine it does keep a very indie feel. Their one hour weekly show is recorded at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. It is a very intimate arena that is filled with extremely passionate fans. Also being taped means that they can control the pacing very well and fill an hour with great content. It doesn't hurt either that NXT is very much the baby of Triple H and Vince McMahon is very hands off.
There is a whole lot of well deserved controversy surrounding the WWE. From their deal with Saudi Arabia to the independent contractor status of their performers there are many reason why I should stop watching again. The problem is is that it just isn't that easy. Prior to their last show in Saudi Arabia I cancelled my subscription to the WWE Network. Two months later I had resubscribed. Wrestling is a ridiculous thing to try to describe to someone and get them to watch. Once you are in it is easy to get hooked. Right now I am hooked.
As we approach another Saudi show on Friday I know I should dump the network. I know I should stop giving WWE my viewership. But, I'm not. Even if I did I know I would just be back a month later. I'm hooked. Maybe I will grow out of it again, but with NXT's brilliance and the startup of AEW, I don't think that will be any time soon.