I’m going to watch Summerslam this Sunday on the WWE Network, I will watch NXT Takeover Saturday night, and I will watch the Raw after as well. I clearly have a wrestling problem and WWE is more than happy to serve up what will be more than ten hours of wrestling all from The Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. Three consecutive sold out nights in New York for a product that numbers wise isn’t that hot. As culture fractures it seems your best bet is to play to your base and give them more than they could possibly want.
Looking at network numbers there is a little more than a million wrestling fans willing to pay $10 a month and the ratings for Raw and Smackdown keep going down. WWE seems to have found it’s niche and it seems that niche can’t get enough. Unless it’s Tough Enough, ain’t nobody got time for that. I will watch it all. Happily. I got problems. Wrestling problems and it isn’t limited to what Vince and Co. are shilling.
The last month I’ve been keeping up on New Japan Pro Wrestling G-1 Climax Tournament. Over the course of 19 shows from July 20th through August 16th this annual tournament features the best wrestling in the world. Is the commentary in Japanese? Yep. Does that matter? Not at all. 20 men are separated into two blocks and compete for points with the winner getting to challenge the champion at their version of Wrestlemania in January. The final night featured probably the greatest match of the year between (my dude) Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi.
At the same time Lucha Underground wrapped up its first year of weekly shows (and hopefully not last) on The El Rey Network with Ultimate Lucha – a two hour culmination of all their storylines that featured a deathmatch, jaw dropping high spots, and a man that may or may not be a Dragon who flew away right before the credits. As I am typing this I have an old Pro Wrestling Guerilla show from 2011 on where Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens) and El Generico (Sami Zayn) are throwing themselves through every step of every ladder they could find at the Lowes in Reseda, California. I will probably listen to a podcast about wrestling as I fall asleep. I GOT PROBLEMS, access to wrestling isn’t one of them.
Watching, reading, listening, and talking about wrestling seems to take up the parts of the internet not reserved for Marvel, Star Wars, and whatever folks are mad about this week. You can follow the just about everything with GIFs on twitter. You can stream several different promotions from around the world at various price points that cost less than a trip to Chipotle (I get guac, yes, it’s extra.). ProwrestlingTees.com has made actual honest to god shirts that aren’t THAT embarrassing to wear in public.
Much like the Comic Con culture exploding into the mainstream it seems wrestling has finally figured out that there are nerds out there with money they can’t wait to get rid of. Previously you watched on Monday and from time to time you bought a Sunday night PPV. Maybe you spent a couple bucks a month on a newsletter. Wrestling fandom was pretty limited. You had to really work to tape trade or put up with some horrible website with too many pop up ads if you wanted to know what was going on outside of WWE or WCW. Now I follow every event live on twitter and then either do my own podcast right after or listen to someone else’s.
They call fans “marks” because we are the ones getting conned. The biggest difference now is that the con is now more of a co-op. This weekend in Brooklyn WWE is for all intents and purposes throwing a wrestling convention. WWE’s minor league promotion NXT sold as many tickets at the big show. Give the fans what they want, treat them like fans – not marks – and they will dump buckets of money on you. And you better take care of the fans because if you don’t there is more than enough wrestling to go around.