By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Remember when you could only watch wrestling on Monday nights? Or, well, Mondays and Saturdays, really. Unless if there was a week with a pay-per-view, which, also, by the way, didn’t used to happen every month. So more often than not, you had Monday nights, Saturday mornings and evenings, and the occasional Sunday big show.
Doesn’t that seem like light-years ago? It’s almost impossible to think of a time when there didn’t always seem to be something available for wrestling fans to watch. Why else did I feel like I had to sit down with my grandfather every Saturday night at 6:05 p.m. to watch a WCW show that oftentimes felt like a throwaway production?
Because there were very few other days of the week that I could watch the product. That’s why.
NEW SCHEDULES, NEW DAYS
These days, the game has changed. Dramatically, even.
Well, while an official announcement has yet to be made, all signs point to WWE’s NXT show moving from Wednesday to Tuesday. As a result, Impact Wrestling is moving its weekly television show from Tuesday to Thursday. And what does that mean?
It means that we will now have wrestling options every single day of the week.
Monday has Raw and AEW: Dark Elevation. Tuesday will have NXT, AEW Dark, and NWA Powerrr. Wednesday will have AEW Dynamite. Thursday will have Impact Wrestling. Friday will have Smackdown, 205 Live and NJPW Strong. MLW’s television show depends on which platform you choose, so that could run Wednesday or Saturday, among other days. And then Ring of Honor’s availability varies from zip code to zip code, but either way, you can pull it up whenever you want, if you belong to its streaming service.
And yes. Typing that paragraph took the wind out of me, just thinking about all of it.
Also, don’t forget about all these companies’ pay-per-views. AEW runs four a year (so far). WWE has at least 12 — and this is the second year in a row it’s running WrestleMania over two nights. Ring Of Honor has its share of special shows throughout the year. And in addition to Impact Wrestling’s regular pay-per-views, the brand has now started running periodic Impact Plus-only shows that kind of land someplace between a pay-per-view and a regular television show.
Plus, even though New Japan has Strong for its U.S. viewers, there’s a plethora of foreign content on its New Japan World service (not to mention the rumors that NJPW wants to do more to make headway in America, leaving the door open for more English-centric programming). Oh, and don’t forget about Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport, because that’s a thing, and it’s pretty good, too, along with other GCW content and various independent promotions.
I know I’m leaving something out. I’ve gotta be. But who cares? All of this alone provides the platform to ask a single question.
How much is too much?
I’ve accidentally fallen into wrestling being the only real thing I care about when it comes to entertainment anymore. I used to watch a bunch of movies. There were TV shows I followed. Music is my first love. But when I look at websites, they are wrestling websites. My Twitter account is dedicated to nothing but wrestling. At the end of the day, when I’m just in need of something to wind down to, what do I search for? The WWE Network. Or, well, Peacock, I guess.
It’s pathetic, really, but it’s also an indicator of how much wrestling I already try to consume on a daily basis to begin with. And I still don’t have time to keep up with Ring of Honor or MLW. The YouTube shows that AEW seems to invent every six months? Yeah, I’ve never seen a minute of any of them. Justifying that is what happens each time I go to read reviews on them and find out there were 291 matches and the episode ran something like nine-and-a-half hours long.
There’s just no way. I love wrestling. I really do. But I can’t keep up with all this. Combine the various forms of television programming from the various wrestling companies with the deluge of wrestling podcasts out there — and not to mention Conrad Thompson’s growing Ad Free Shows network that’s taking his empire to a completely new level — and it’s almost like I’m constantly feeling like I’m missing out on something.
In any other normal time in wrestling history, I’d be counting the days until I could watch Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone call a WrestleMania 3 match from a living room couch. Or, wait. There’s a podcast with the owner of AEW on it every few months, just to talk about the company? Sign me up. How about that Broken Skull Session with Randy Orton on the WWE Network? It was fantastic … for the 45 minutes I saw of it. I’m still trying to find the time to finish watching it at some point.
So, to answer my question: This. This, right here. All of this. This is too much.
Or, hold on. Is it?
COULD WE BE IN A GOLDEN AGE?
While it’s easy to complain about being over-saturated with pro wrestling content these days, it’s hard not to wonder if perhaps we find ourselves in a Golden Age. Just what it is that this Golden Age is a Golden Age of … well, I’m not so sure that’s easily defined.
Is wrestling better today than it ever was? I’m not even going to touch that after seeing all the back-and-forth between fans, writers and wrestlers alike on social media. The answer to that question, in my mind at least, is in the eye of the beholder. But is the means by which we are offered professional wrestling products in a sort of peak period?
Maybe. If you want to be a wrestling fan in 2021, it sure is easy to be one. You can’t swing a cat without accidentally knocking it into some form of wrestling something, somewhere. Does that make this moment in the genre’s history more affecting? It might not, but it sure does make it more prolific.
Is that necessarily a good thing? It depends on who you ask. While I have absolutely no evidence to back this up, I have to think that more wrestlers are making more money than any wrestlers have made in the history of the business. And that’s a good thing, right? Especially over the last year, when a global pandemic put everything from companies to careers in jeopardy, it’s good to see wrestlers have the ability to continue to make a living.
But what about us fans? Does all this stuff give us a crippling fear of missing out? Does it overwhelm our lives to the point where there’s little room for anything else in them? Or, for that matter, does this make us turn away? Like I said, I can’t keep up with Ring of Honor as much as I want to keep up with it, but if there wasn’t so much of this stuff out there, would I be able to sink my teeth into that promotion in the way I’d like to sink my teeth into that promotion?
Probably. And that, in some ways, makes me resentful of all these different companies constantly finding ways to spew out more content (and I’m not even talking about the vlogs and BTE and all that nonsense, which I touched on a few months ago). There’s a lot of “Can’t we just chill for a minute?” in my mind whenever I see the announcement of a new show. Like, come on, guys. We get it.
So, what’s to blame?
THE WORLD WIDE WEB
You guessed it. The Internet.
Let’s go all the way back to the territory days. One could argue there were even more prominent promotions back then than there are today. The issue, though, was that unless you had connections and relationships, if you lived in New York, you got WWWF. And that’s all you got. If you lived in St. Louis, you got Sam Muchnick and the St. Louis Wrestling Club, and that’s all you got.
I know it’s tempting to glamorize the years of old, but there was something innocent about that structure. No fans were burned out on the product, because you got a very limited product and that product came, for the most part, once a week. Maybe you could read about the results of the matches, but you didn’t have to choose between watching Jim Crockett Promotions or World Class Championship Wrestling on a Tuesday in the middle of February. It was just easier to be a fan.
These days, any wrestling company can put out anything they want at any time they want because of this tiny thing called YouTube. We’ve all been wondering what this third hour of programming for AEW is going to be, and while we’re doing that, Tony Khan just keeps popping out YouTube series like they’re Pringles. Combined with Cody’s upcoming reality show, there’s a very solid chance we could have five days a week of AEW programming in some form.
And yet none of it would be possible without the Internet. Not only is it cheap, but it’s also become bastardized with over-saturation — not just with wrestling, but so many elements of popular culture. It has stripped credibility from the things that were once sacred, leaving fans of anything to choose wisely with how they spend their time, while in the meantime, depriving those who want to expand their horizons of the ability to do so. It’s kind of like being handcuffed. You have 10 options, but you only have time for three of them. What do you do?
You give up on the other seven, that’s what you do. Which, in turn, makes you truly question just how valuable it is to have this much content this much of the time.
THE NEW HOUSE SHOWS
Wait. You want to know how valuable all of that is? Well, here’s what I think: Internet programming has become the new house show system. It’s been more than a year since WWE sent its wrestlers on the road due to the pandemic and a couple years into its existence, we are about to come up on AEW’s first-ever house show, which should tell you something in and of itself. That something? House shows have long been antiquated and a practice that some companies are abandoning altogether.
You have to remember that house shows were designed, in part, to keep wrestling in the regular fan’s mind, back whenever television wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now. You got to go, in person, to the matches to see the wrestlers up close. The communal spirit of it all was infectious and the energy, at times at least, was top-shelf.
People don’t go to things anymore — and that dates back to before the pandemic. That experience has been replaced with Twitch chat rooms and behind-the-scenes joke-fests that pass as wrestlers’ attempts to stay connected with their fans. Why pay $50 a ticket, deal with parking, heading out, grabbing some concessions, maybe even getting dinner and lose a few extra hours of sleep when you could just call up a web browser, put some headphones on, and never leave your bed?
So if that’s the case, and the world has moved on, fair play to it. That doesn’t necessarily mean I have to like it, and nor does it mean that I have to believe it’s the most optimal way to go. There’s a human quality that lacks in using and abusing the Internet in the way everyone approaches it these days. There’s a tangible connect that in my mind is lost.
Still, it’s hard for me or anybody to really criticize any of these companies for wanting to get their share of the pie. If the Internet is the best way for them to approach business, who am I to argue? I would only caution them that for this fan at least, falling in line with the herd of sheep by thinking if more content is good then the most content is better … well, that pushes me away.
Moderation and balance are good things to have in life. And if you’re all going to band together to make me choose which companies on which night I’ll watch … well, that means somebody’s losing out somewhere. Because sometimes, too much of a good thing is just that: Too much of a good thing. And even good things have their limits.