The Independent Era

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The tickets for the All In event being held in Chicago on September 2nd sold out in less than 30 minutes and with it, possibly ushering a new era of wrestling.  The event itself is being put together by Cody Rhodes and Matt & Nick Jackson, who are known as the Young Bucks, without a major wrestling organization sponsoring it.  The event is featuring talent that is widely featured in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.  They’ve only announced talent and the only match that is even on the card at the moment is Cody vs whoever the NWA champ is (currently Nick Aldis).  Is it safe to say that we’re living in the “Independent Era” of wrestling?

I think ground zero for this current movement ironically begins with WWE starting the WWE Network.  Without its success other independent, and international, feds wouldn’t have tried switching to streaming instead sticking with the DVD/Blu-Ray model they had.  Some feds still use this model, PWG for instance, due to having talent that is currently under contract for other organizations that would not allow them to appear because they would be featured in a pay-per-view type event.  Being able to stream various matches and promotions makes it easier to find the next big thing, be it a new promotion or finding the next Daniel Bryan, and to see them evolve.  Another contribution from WWE has also been not listening to their fans as they continue to seem to push talent that the crowd is reluctant to get behind.  This has also led to people beginning to check out their local indys or check out other promotions that are streaming.

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In addition to independent bookings, merchandise is a major way for indy wrestlers to make money and connect with fans.  The launch of prowrestlingtees.com has helped make it easier to get merch from your favorite wrestler.  The Young Bucks have basically created a model for how to avoid having to do business with WWE and create your own path.  They’re consistently selling new t-shirts and this helped put them in a position to control their own destiny with regard of where they want to work.  Cody Rhodes may have taken a play from CM Punk’s playbook, but instead of walking away he asked for his release.  Upon getting booked on the indy scene Cody’s stock went up almost immediately and he’s become one of the best villains around.  He knew that given an opportunity he could make it work and so far it has.

The viral nature of gifs, YouTube videos, and social media has also helped any number of indy wrestlers gain exposure.  Joey Ryan’s YouPorn-Plex seems to go viral at least once a month.  The Japanese promotion, DDT Pro, also seems to have things go viral periodically.  Especially their weird match types (empty apartment, empty stadium, train, etc) or any match revolving around the Ironman Heavymetalweight championship that can be won by anyone or anything.  A ladder recently had a retirement ceremony.  The Young Bucks even have their own YouTube channel/show, Being the Elite, that not only features Cody, but many other indy superstars like Kenny Omega, Marty Scurll, Adam Page, and others.  The show started as a sort of “on the road” type show but has turned into more than that and has been influencing wrestling angles in ROH and NJPW for a little while now.

I was one of the lucky ones to get tickets for this event.  I really believe that we’re at the beginning of a new era of wrestling and one that seems to be lacking in WWE’s active participation.  Sure they have NXT, 205 Live, and Seth Rollins helping to take care of the in-ring side of things, but they produce so much filler content a week that you don’t really need to watch Raw or Smackdown live anymore.  You can either wait until the PPV or catch clips on YouTube.  With the times changing and there no longer really being “appointment TV”, you can give something else a try.  I’m all in on seeing what this “Independent Era” has to offer.

My Favorite Matches: January 2018

I thought I’d start keeping a log of my favorite matches throughout the year.  However, because I don’t watch EVERYTHING and sometimes end up watching things late due to only getting them on blu-ray (looking at you PWG) or just not knowing about it until later there will probably be additions throughout the year.  There will also be spoilers since these are matches that have already happened.

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 01/04/18 – Junior Heavyweight Title Match:  Marty Scurll © v Will Osprey v KUSHIDA v Hiromu Takahashi

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Screencap from NJPWWorld.com

This match was a great showcase for some of the best Junior Heavyweights in the world right now.  Each man had opportunities to shine.  It’s pretty clear to me that Hiromu is SUPER over at the moment since he got a huge pop when he went on offense.  KUSHIDA was pretty great too, but I’m almost at the point where I’d like to see him try out the Heavyweight division.  I thought the ending was perfect because Osprey always loses to Marty so it was nice for him to finally get a victory over him on such a large stage.

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 01/04/18 – United States Heavyweight Title Match (No Disqualification): Kenny Omega © v Chris Jericho

I’ve already written at length about the build and the match and it was a great way to kick off 2018.  A much different match than what I’m used to seeing from Kenny and a very ruthless Jericho made for a very fun match.

NWA Empty Arena Match 01/15/18 – Tim Storm v Jocephus

I wasn’t sure what to make of this one when it was announced.  I’ve been reeled in by the NWA relaunch and how low key it has been so far.  This was a fun brawl in the empty Impact Zone and I think it helped re-establish a good gimmick match type the NWA can use going forward.  The bump that Storm takes at the end is very painful to watch.  I’m hoping that more talent gets brought on board since it’s largely just been Storm, Jocephus, and current champion Nick Aldis.

New Japan Pro Wrestling New Beginning in Sapporo Night 1 01/27/18 – Intercontinental Title Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi © v Minoru Suzuki

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Screencap from NJPWWorld.com

Tanahashi came into this match pretty banged up and accepting the challenge of a sadist like Suzuki was probably a bad idea.  The match told the story of a champion that would not quit even though he probably should have.  Suzuki worked on Tanahashi’s bandaged arm and battered knee to the point where the referee had to stop the match because Tanahashi couldn’t break free of the submission hold he was in.  Suzuki cut a chilling promo while the Forever Ace of New Japan was stretchered out of the ring made for a very powerful image.

NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia 01/27/18 – Extreme Rules: Adam Cole v Aleister Black

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Photo courtesy of WWE.com

In my opinion this match told two stories:  Adam Cole can take a beating and Aleister Black doesn’t need weapons since he is one.  This was a pretty good “hardcore” match and Cole and Black meshed together well.  It had some pretty decent spots that seemed to make the notoriously blood thirsty Philly crowd happy (see above photo).  I’m not going to lie, but I popped when Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish showed up and hit Black with the Total Elimination finisher that The Eliminators used to do.  A very small ECW chant may have broken out in my apartment.

NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia 01/27/18 – NXT Championship Title Match: Andrade Almas © v Johnny Gargano

This is another that I’ve written more about, but I loved this match.  It followed the Cole/Black match, which was going to be a tough act to follow, and surpassed it.  I think Gargano is the best babyface that the WWE has right now and I loved how Almas has been salvaged after a very rocky start in his NXT run.

WWE Monday Night Raw 01/30/18 – Sasha Banks v Asuka

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Photo courtesy of WWE.Com

This felt like it could be an opening chapter of their rivalry.  Sasha struggling to remain relevant even though Asuka won the first women’s Royal Rumble and the appearance of Ronda Rousey could make for a compelling story.  Sasha wrestled this match with a chip on her shoulder and wanted to prove more to herself that she is still relevant.  This was my favorite Asuka main roster match and I thought their chemistry was good.  If WWE decides to call an audible and put the Raw Women’s title on Sasha and we get a rematch at Wrestlemania I would definitely be on board.  You’d have the story of Sasha Banks, who has never successfully defended the Women’s title after winning it, against the unstoppable inevitability of Asuka.  I can’t think of a bigger stage to tell that story.

Alpha Vs Omega

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Like most wrestling fans, I am eagerly looking forward to New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 taking place on January 4th.  The card is stacked with a main event several years in the making with the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada taking on longtime rival Tetsuya Naito.  While that match is the main event, one of the semi-main events has started to really heat up.  I am talking, of course, about Kenny Omega defending his United States championship against Chris Jericho.  Now this match definitely falls in the category of a dream match, but this all seemed very unlikely just a few short months ago.  Jericho has been perceived as a WWE guy for almost twenty years.  Just to have him step away from that and appear somewhere else is a big deal regardless of whom his opponent is.

Omega and Jericho had some interaction on Twitter.  The general feeling that it was to possibly hype a match that would be taking place on Jericho’s Rock ‘N Wrestling cruise that would be happening in late 2018.  This was their final interaction on Twitter before Jericho shocked the wrestling world.

After defending his United States championship against Baretta at Power Struggle on 11/05/17, Omega was interrupted while cutting a promo by a video from Jericho.  In the video Jericho challenged Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom and billed it as Alpha Vs Omega.  The reason for Jericho’s challenge is that Omega claims to be the best in the world, but so does Jericho since he claimed it first.  He used a similar reason to challenge CM Punk at Wrestlemania 28.  I think Jericho is one of the few wrestlers who remembers his own story so when he does something, it’s usually consistent with his character.  He also works much better as a heel and while the match was going to be something special, Jericho added something to it recently.

At a recent NJPW event Jericho ran another video after Omega’s matches, but this time when the lights came up he was standing behind Omega.  I figured Jericho wouldn’t actually be in Japan until Wrestle Kingdom, but I was mistaken like so many others.  Jericho laid a beat down on Omega that went on for several minutes.  Omega was bloody at the end of it and Jericho had even laid out one of his friends, Don Callis, who was an announcer who went into the ring to check on Omega.  The image of a bloodied and battered Omega changed the dynamic of the match.

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Photo Courtesy of WhatCulture.Com

It will no longer be a simple match of who the better person is, but a personal one.  Jericho being the clear heel and Omega being the scrappy face couldn’t be clearer than in the press conference that followed.  I strongly suggest watching the whole thing if you have time, but I have Jericho’s bit ready to go.

I love how the build of this is sort of a reversal of a similar angle Jericho was involved in 15 years ago.  In the build up to Wrestlemania 19 Jericho had called out a recently returning Shawn Michaels.  The two were very similar with their characters and in-ring style and it felt like Jericho was calling out the old man so he could put him down.  Ultimately Jericho lost that match and Michaels stayed around for several more years.  This time Jericho is the old man and he’s picking a fight with the younger version of himself, not someone who’s just making their comeback.  While Jericho is billed as the “Alpha” of the match, since he did all of the things Omega claims to do first, he’s really the “Omega”.  Jericho is probably nearing the end of his in-ring career while Omega hopefully has several years left in him.  I’m most curious if this will be a one-off for Jericho or will it lead to more appearances.  It’s also great to see Kenny Omega get rewarded with a marquee match that will help get more American eyes on the product.  He’s not the only person to help elevate NJPW, but he’s the one that most American audiences may know about.