We’re almost to the end of the year (and decade, which sounds impossible to believe) and wrestling is in an interesting place. There are a lot of things going on at the moment but we are getting to close out the year with a bang. This coming weekend is going to see something that you almost never see in wrestling outside of WrestleMania season: a three pay per view weekend.
From Friday to Sunday, we are going to be treated to Ring of Honor’s Final Battle, the NWA’s Into The Fire and WWE’s Tables, Ladders And Chairs. That’s a lot of wrestling to consume in a single weekend and it comes less than a month after WWE took over Chicago for four shows in four days (not to mention AEW coming in the following Wednesday for an episode of Dynamite).
For once though, I’m not going to complain about having that much wrestling around in so short a time (I’m sure that’s going to come later). Instead, we’re going to take a bit of a laid back look at how awesome it is to have this many options and how the wrestling world has reached such a great point. We’re really lucky to be in a stretch like this and the good thing is it might not even be near the peak yet.
The big show’s main event:
When I was a kid, a pay per view was a big deal. I grew up in the Big Four era, with a grand total of four WWF pay per views of the year. You would have a similar number from WCW, which made it a big deal to try to talk my parents into letting me get a pay per view. I would be allowed six all year, though through the efforts of some extra work, that number would often go up. That being said, it didn’t help when every show I saw announced sounded like the coolest thing ever (wrestling had really good advertising back then, at least to kids) and I had a lot of issues trying to figure out what to ask for.
These things were events too, with the weekly television shows being masterful at making the pay per views the biggest things in the world. Couple that with WCW’s great idea of not actually saying who won most of the big matches until a week later (That is one of the most simplistic yet brilliant ideas in wrestling. If you don’t want people to just watch the next regular show to find out about the big show, don’t spoil the ending!) and you NEEDED to see what happened every single month. The same was true of the WWF, as you had to find out if someone held onto a title or not. It was how things were supposed to go and it worked.
Things would of course change though and it was time for a pay per view a month from BOTH companies (not to mention ECW, which wasn’t for me but did have an audience at the same time). Suddenly these things were even bigger and more frequent, making them that much more complicated every which way you looked at them. Pay per view became the centerpiece of the wrestling universe and while Monday Night Raw and Monday Nitro were hugely important, the money matches and payoffs (plus matches that went longer than five minutes) were going to cost you something. Again: how things are supposed to be.
Eventually WCW went out of business though and it was just the WWE for a very long time. Their pay per view were….yeah they weren’t quite as good. A combination of Brand Split pay per views and weaker writing made the shows a lot less important, but they were still things you had to check out, just to keep up with everything that was going on in the company. The shows just did not feel huge anymore though and that wasn’t going to change anytime soon.
The meat in the sandwich:
That would be the new norm for a long time to come as WWE ran roughshod over the wrestling world (if not flat out becoming the wrestling world) for years. Other than Impact Wrestling and Ring of Honor pay per views (neither of which exactly lit the world on fire), WWE was the only game in town and it certainly felt that way too. There was very little in the way of shows that you felt you needed to see more often than not and the lack of competition made WWE both the winner and loser by default.
We’ll skip ahead a bit and summarize things as follows: then the internet came and brought with it the ability to stream shows at a high level (yes streaming had been around forever but this was the first time it could be done so well). Now, the idea of hooking up with a cable provider and paying $60 for a show was thrown out the window because you could pick a variety of options to watch a pay per view. Couple that with a much lower price (often less than the Big Four era shows would cost you) and possibly even as part of a streaming service and wrestling fans were in a new golden era.
We’ll skip ahead a bit and come to where things are this weekend, with three pay per views in three days. Assuming you go with some of the cheaper methods of ordering available, you’re looking at about $75 for all three shows. That’s less than the $30 price per show when I was growing up and is still quite the bargain for three straight nights of wrestling. I know the shows might not feel as important as they were before, but they’re taking place and for a pretty reasonable price. If nothing else, how many other forms of entertainment have you seen go down in price over the last twenty five years?
That being said, it’s still a very different feeling. These shows aren’t competing with each other (Ring of Honor might as well be competing with infomercials at this point) and WWE is still the undisputed king of all wrestling. While you don’t need to pick a side and go with one show over another, you can still pick the show (or shows) that is worth your time and money. That may not be the easiest decision to make, but it brings us back to the important theme: you have the options to pick these days, and that makes for a very nice reality.
And then the main event:
I really can’t imagine this situation being the case back in the day. After spending so much time and effort trying to see so many shows (or listening to them on the classic scramble vision), having them laid out in front of you like this really is the remarkable thing that fans have been waiting for over the years. Now that it’s a reality though….my goodness it’s a great time to be a wrestling fan.
Finally, there is something funny about the decade being book ended so well. This weekend features a WWE show, a Ring of Honor show and an NWA show. In other words, just about the same three major promotions that started the decade (remembering that Impact was part of the NWA, which is a stretch but it’s not like there are some hard and fast rules to these things). In other words, as much as things change, they still stay the same.
This is a situation where the world has moved forward and while you may not need to see everything available, there is something so great about having the option to do so. With so much wrestling out there, you can pick and choose what you want to see without having to break your bank account at the same time. It really is a different age for wrestling and the fact that the quality of the product is so strong makes it even better. You can go with almost any kind of wrestling you want, be it on pay per view or on a streaming service, and that is something to be thankful for around this time of year.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books. His latest book is KB’s Complete 2004 Monday Night Raw Reviews.
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