Not even a full month into 2019 and it is already shaping up to be one of the most exciting years for pro wrestling in at least half a decade. So many things are happening right now that the fandom is constantly abuzz to the point where even the mainstream media is having to stop and take note. The landscape of professional wrestling is undergoing major shifts and changes on a level we haven’t seen since back during the height of the Monday Night Wars (WCW vs WWF/ WWE) almost two decades ago. In honor of all these goings on I’m going to look at what I believe are the most essential points about what is going on in 2019 in a nice easy list that fans can share and debate while giving newcomers and the causal observer enough information to understand why the wrestling fans in their lives are jumping up and down like caffeine loaded kids in a candy store.
5. WWE Is Listening To The Fans For The First Time In Years
As a slightly cynical fan, I suppose I should add the words “for now” to the above statement. 2018 was a weird and rocky year for WWE. For every positive like the all women’s event Evolution and scoring Ronda Rousey to work for the company, there were equal if not greater lows like record low ratings for Raw due to unwanted or botched storylines leading to sub-par PPVs/network specials and the company’s deal with the royal family of Saudi Arabia locking them into running a major show in country at the height of the controversy surrounding the death of Jamal Khashoggi as well several other future major events in the problematic nation unless WWE can get out of its contract. Despite deals like moving Smackdown to Fox this year, which sets to make WWE perhaps more profitable than ever, the fan’s opinion of the MacMahon family’s actual wrestling product was teetering on the rim of the garbage can. If WWE wanted to stay on top in the new year something needed fixing and fast.
Enter the above “mea culpa” segment from the December 17th Raw of last year. Since then we’ve seen Raw start the rebuilding process and Smackdown has continued its recent hot streak with no signs of slowing down, and the genuine buzz that has started to grow about the upcoming Royal Rumble. We’ve seen recently buried wrestlers like Finn Balor and Andrade Almas finally get treated like the big deals fans know they are. Things look and feel less micromanaged and overproduced allowing for more of the wrestler’s natural charisma to shine through. Look, I’m not about to tell you that everything is perfect now, there is still a lot of work to be done and WWE has backtracked from promises before, but credit where credit is due for the noticeable improvements.
4. The G1 Supercard At MSG During Wrestlemania Week
Madison Square Garden and what is now known as WWE have been joined at the hip since the territory days back in the ’60s. In fact, the pairing is so famous that one of MSG’s notable nicknames is “The House That Bruno Built”, a reference to famous wrestling champion Bruno Sammartino whose matches were often featured at the Garden. Every wrestler knew that the only way they were ever going to perform at this historic venue was in a WWE ring, but that is all set to change this year with the joint Ring Of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling event, the G1 Supercard. This major event is held during the same weekend as Wrestlemania no less which will be held just across the river in New Jersey! MSG will break a tradition held for half a century during the biggest week in the pro wrestling calendar, the week of Wrestlemania. WWE’s branching out and building long term relationships with other NY venues, such as the Barclays Center, has left the door open for ROH and New Japan, two of WWE’s biggest competitors, to put on a show on “WWE’s turf”. The G1 Supercard is going to make history and greatly increase the profiles of ROH and NJPW worldwide. I, for one, can’t wait to see it!
3. The Restructuring And Rebuilding Of ROH And NJPW
Make sure to turn on subtitles for the above video so you can understand the parts not in English unless of course, you’re fluent in Japanese. For years now ROH and NJPW have enjoyed a working relationship with stars from each brand making appearances for the other. This has helped each side gain exposure in each others market as wrestlers have been able to have matches on each side of the ocean and win various titles across promotions. The last few months however have seen major departures from these companies, most notably Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), and Hangman Page of super popular faction The Elite left, to form All Elite Wrestling (AEW) a new company backed by the financial power of the Khan family (more on AEW in a bit).
With even more migrations expected to AEW, WWE, as well as other promotions both ROH and NJPW, are tackling 2019 with several key members of the last few years already out the door and even more making moves that same way as contracts come due. As such, both promotions are experiencing a bit of a rebuilding period which, as many wrestling fans know, is often when some of the best stuff happens. The rise of Jay White, current leader of the stable known as Bullet Club, is just one example of winners in this new era. To be clear, neither ROH or NJPW are so hard up for talent that they can’t take this hit. Both look to maintain strong rosters that will carry them for many years to come, but to see who can rise to the top as these promotions transform to meet their new circumstances is something worthy of watching.
2. The High Chance Of The Wrestlemania Main Event Being A Women’s Match
One of the biggest highlights of WWE right now is the Women’s Division. Finally given a real chance to shine and show what they can do, names like Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Asuka, Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, Ember Moon, and of course The Man herself, Becky Lynch, are some of the most beloved wrestlers on the entire roster. The rivalry between Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey is easily the hottest feud in the company with frequent barbs during TV segments and explosions across social media. Ronda and Becky were supposed to square off this last Survivor Series, but due to a concussion and broken nose suffered during the above segment on Raw (a segment Becky owned, by the way) she was placed in what she described as “doctor jail” and selected her longtime friend turned rival Charlotte Flair to be in the match. Said match ended in a disqualification as Charlotte would lose her cool and viciously attack Rousey with a kendo stick.
Since Survivor Series all three have continued to trade barbs as they raise their stock in the company and the fans are damn near rabid to see Becky and Ronda go at it perhaps with the addition of Charlotte to the mix as well. WWE tries to tell fans that every match during Wrestlemania is a main event, but fans are smart enough to know when they’re being handed a line and they want to see these ladies square off in the true main event of the night. This would mark the first time in the company’s history that women headlined WWE’s biggest event of the year, Wrestlemania. With interest in the division so hot fans hope WWE has the intestinal fortitude to not only book a match involving some combination of Charlotte, Becky, and Ronda but also give it the landmark position it deserves.
1. Everything All Elite Wrestling
-Courtesy of Being The Elite
All Elite Wrestling is the hottest topic in wrestling today for a good reason. Other than a logo, some big wrestling names like Cody, the Bucks, and Chris Jericho, the financial backing and overseeing of the owners/operators of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid and Tony Khan, and two announced events (Double or Nothing on May 25th and another event in Jacksonville currently without any set date) nobody knows what AEW is actually going to be like. They don’t even have a TV deal, though many speculate that one may be announced very soon. This is something being built from the ground up and all the speculation and buzz is a marvel to behold.
Despite being so new, the players here are nothing if not battle-tested. The Khans have been running the Jags for years now and Cody and the Bucks independently promoted the highly successful PPV ALL IN only a handful of months ago. For fans, the biggest feather in AEW’s cap is the signing of Jericho, a known star of the industry even outside the fandom who had repeatedly stated that he thought he would never work work with another western promotion other than the WWE out of respect for Vince MacMahon. From the wrestlers perspective, it is the promise of being made employees of the company with full health benefits instead of working as independent contractors as they are most everywhere else including WWE, and that there will be parity between men and women working at comparable levels which is unheard of in the industry.
The Elite has been building a massive fanbase for years by putting on amazing matches across the globe and with their semi-autobiographical YouTube series, Being The Elite. With talk of remaining Elite members Kenny Omega and my personal favorite member Marty Scurll making the jump over once their respective contracts with ROH and NJPW end, AEW is poised to take the world by storm!
-Written by John Eckes.
Double Or Nothing Image © All Elite Wrestling, LLC