I find professional wrestling to be one of the most intriguing forms of entertainment there is. Professional wrestling comes in all forms, fashions and styles, and professional wrestling fans will stand behind the brand of pro wrestling they support. While I am a fervent viewer and fan of televised companies like the WWE, I have always had a fond love and passion for independent wrestling. A lot of the reasons why I love independent wrestling are the reasons that I plan to outline in this post on why independent wrestling matters. However this post is not only about why indie-wrestling matters to fans, but why it should matter to top companies such as WWE and TNA.
Its All About The Fans Investment
When fans have complaints about the WWE’s product, it is normally directed at wrestlers such as John Cena, Randy Orton etc. I have a great deal of respect for these talents and I don’t feel the problem is with anything they do inside the ring. Fans may use workers like Cena and Orton’s in ring work as an excuse for this complaint (ex. Cena’s Five Moves of Doom), but I feel as if there is an underlying problem. People don’t rally behind young talents and independent talents that make it to WWE just because of their amazing in-ring work. It is because many of these fans have a vested interest in the independent talent. Take CM Punk for example. One of the main reasons Punk was viewed as a potential candidate to be a WWE superstar was because of the reputation he built on the independent circuit as a top star. This includes not just Ring of Honor where he showed the most progress and skill, but companies like IWA Mid-South, International Wrestling Cartel and others across the mid-west and east coast. The question could be proposed that would Punk have been recognized by WWE if he had not developed such a cult following? Not only that, but is that the largest reason why Punk is succeeded in WWE right now. A portion of the wrestling fans that are watching today, whether smart fans or regular fans, got to see Punk start out his career back in the early 2000’s. Because of this, they have a vested interest in what Punk does on a regular basis. Imagine if you were a wrestling fan that got to see Punk’s first ever match in the wrestling business. Imagine if you had a kid who watched wrestling and was a CM Punk fan and you got to tell the story of how you got to see Punk’s first match, or first year. Fans have a reason to support Punk not just because of mic skills or ring talent, but because they saw him when he was nothing and saw him rise to become something. That is the reason why the CM Punk “Voice of the Voiceless” storyline was so successful, because the fans saw the CM Punk of the early 2000’s and not a product that WWE was trying to create and shove down their throats. They got to finally see the CM Punk that they wanted, and not the CM Punk that WWE believed the fans wanted. If fans, young or old, get to see talent make a name for themselves on the independents, they will support them intensely and passionately when they reach the big time. Another recent example of this is Daniel Bryan. People did not react during WrestleMania and the Raw after for any other reason than the fact that they saw someone who they watched grow and prosper on the independents get gipped on the biggest stage of them all. The Yes chants were not just a fun idea that the fans came up with. It was a response to the WWE that said, “We are sick of you not giving those we love the proper respect”. Whether that statement has any validity is not the point. It shows how much fans truly care for these independent talents. It would be different if it was a small portion of a WWE crowd doing this, but the entire arena erupted in Daniel Bryan chants. The independent wrestling community is not as small as people once thought anymore.
Ring Work is More Important in Today’s Era
I recently saw a clip from a shoot interview with former WWE star and current TNA road agent Al Snow. Snow is very adamant about the fact that the in-ring work during a match has little to do with what makes wrestling successful, stating, “Quality of matches mean shit. They mean nothing in this grand scheme of things”. While I respect Snow and agree partially that heat and a story is what draws fans, in-ring work has a larger place in todays role of professional wrestling. It has been said in the past that the Internet has caused a ripple effect in the downfall of the wrestling business from what it was. The Internet has not brought a downfall to wrestling, but has forced wrestling to change how it functions. It is not a matter of the fact that pro wrestling is considered “fake”, which is a term I despise using. Fans can have a respect for what wrestlers do in the ring and still understand that the outcomes are fixed. Even though some may deny this, MMA has become a direct competitor to professional wrestling, even though MMA is more sport than pro wrestling. It’s not that MMA is “real”, it’s that there is more going on inside the ring. MMA revolves majorly around the in ring activity occurring. It is become much more easier for someone who views wrestling and wants more in ring offense to switch to an alternative. This is the reason in-ring work has become more important than in the past. In the days of the Attitude Era and even before that, in ring skill was not a goal by most. The goal was to tell a story and get a character or storyline over. While that is all well and good, now a day in ring work is more regarded. You could have the best character, talk the best, or have the charisma. But if what you can do inside the square circle is not up to par, you will be eaten alive. Some may argue that the audience that WWE is garnering towards could not digest or respect the style of ring work that is common in independent wrestling and would only focus on characters such as John Cena or Big Show etc. People who believe this do not give kids who are wrestling fans enough credit. Independent wrestling shows are not just attended by smart wrestling fans. Kids can enjoy indie wrestling just as much as we can. Sure, a child may get bored by a 45 minute, catch as catch can, wrestling clinic with the likes of Bryan Danielson or Roderick Strong for example. But if they are shown 10 to 15 minutes of something more competitive and fast paced like the video below, you cannot tell me they would not be entertained.
Storylines and hype are still very important, but because of the generation wrestling has turned into, storyline and in ring work is now 50/50, whether those from the past want to believe it or not.
Indie wrestling is immensely important to me for so many reasons I can’t even list them all. That is why I take time to cover independent wrestling every week on the Wrestling Mayhem Show, in order to give credit to such great companies. By following independent wrestling, I have seen a plethora of young, hungry talent that want to impress, made important connections and friendships that I wouldn’t have without it, and my perspective of what wrestling should be has done a complete 180 turn. The idea of indie wrestling is not what it was 5 or 10 years ago. Larger companies need to take these smaller groups into account and not for granted. Because while WWE will always be the top of pro wrestling, they can learn many lessons from indie groups as far as fan service. They aren’t the young, naive kids many may think.
*video courtesy of MadAshSamuels