Save your Reddit posts and your hashtags, my angry friends. Wave the white flag, throw in the towel, and yes, tap out – we’ve lost.
As angry as you are (and everyone is) about the outcome of Sunday’s Royal Rumble with Roman Reigns standing tall pointing towards the Wrestlemania logo with his “cousin” The Rock by his side – you don’t matter. The WWE reported that they have reached over million subscribers on the WWE Network, the stock is up on the news, and a studio-bound (due to the snow storm) Monday Night Raw drew the series’ highest rating since July. The WWE is doing just fine. Well, not as good as they were, but not so bad that anything will change in the foreseeable future?
So what do you do?
Maybe it’s time to change the channel, folks. What if we all stopped acting like fringe religion fanatics and Apple enthusiasts, and instead, embraced all the different kinds of wrestling available to us these days? There is a shocking amount of world class wrestling available with commentary in English, and spreading the love is a far more satisfying alternative for frustrated fans than what the WWE is offering currently. I reached out to some friends, comedians, and even a real wrestler to ask what else I should be watching. I’ll share their picks along with some of my own.
Marty Derosa is a Los Angeles-based stand-up comic and host of the “Wrestling With Depression” podcast. He does a ton of great stuff with former pro wrestler and well-known podcaster Colt Cobana. I asked him for some thoughts on alternatives to WWE programming. Here’s what he had to say:
“When I’m burnt out on WWE it’s as easy as watching an episode of “Lucha Underground” to renew my love of pro wrestling. Plus Dario Cueto is the only authority figure you need in wrestling.”
I couldn’t agree with Marty more. “Lucha Underground” is an hour long mix of telenovela and lucha libre spectacular. The wrestling is part of the show; it’s not why the show is happening, which provides a much different tone than the WWE. The actor playing villainous owner Dario Cueto is mustache-twirlingly good. Its main star is Prince Puma, a masked character played by superstar high-flyer Ricochet. The roster is a mix of Mexican luchadores, American indy stars, and former WWE talent. Season two just started filming so you still have time to catch up either online or On Demand.
But if you’re in a hurry I would watch the “Aztec Warfare” match, which is “Lucha Underground’s” version of a Battle Royal that blew the Royal Rumble away in match quality, creativity, and storytelling. It’s available in English and Spanish on the El Rey Network and UniMas, and is only an hour long. You have to make some time for this show. With an increasingly out of touch WWE, “Lucha Underground” posits a wrestling world full of all kinds of people with all kinds of reasons to fight. It’s completely refreshing to watch.
Also a DeRosa pick.
Please excuse the forthcoming shift in language but I feel like it’s appropriate.
Dude, DDT is dope. Dudes are jumping off soda machines in the middle of a mall, then they’re fighting on a campground out in the woods, and then that time dude fought a blow up doll, and like Kenny Omega and Ibushi are, dude, I mean, DUDE. You should be watching DDT, man. It’s like a Suda 51 game but wrestling. Back to your regularly mangled prose.
“Lately, instead of Raw, I’ve been watching the trailer for Kevin Hart’s “The Wedding Ringer” on repeat. It is infinitely less painful.”
As much as Josh Gad’s appeal baffles me, I can see how three hours of that could be preferable to some of things we’ve been getting lately from “Monday Night Raw.” Bits aside, I know for fact that Daniel enjoys WWE’s weekly hour long developmental show “NXT.” Available on the WWE Network, (which you still have because you didn’t actually #CancelWWENetwork) “NXT” is the easily the best show the WWE produces each week.
“NXT” recalls the old NWA shows that creative consultant Dusty Rhodes knows awful well, baby. It’s fitting that the son of a plumber is back to making TV in Florida, just like he did back in an armory in the 70’s. One hour each week with a big two hour blow-off show every few months is exactly the kind of show wrestling fans have always wanted. The WWE has reinvented itself by going back to wrestling’s roots without needing to update very much at all. Good guys and bad guys fight over pride and everyone wants the belt. Some silly stuff happens and it’s usually pretty good. It’s over in an hour, and they don’t ask you to tout or tweet anything.
World class talent such as Finn Bailor (formerly a champion in New Japan) and indy superstars (we need to figure out a new phrase) including Sami Zayne, Adrian Neville, and Kevin Owens give this show one of the best rosters in the world. Additionally “NXT” is home to the best women’s wrestling anywhere. It’s a shame that Charlotte will move up to the main roster one day and be forced to be a “Diva” when she could actually be a great wrestler. The distinction is clear when you watch this show.
Bin Hamin hates America. But he loves wrestling. Hamin is independent wrestler that I reached out to in light of the recent #RawAlternative movement, in which several of the best independent wrestling groups across America offered up alternatives to Raw. Streaming live on YouTube from his channel and 2CW, Bin Hamin has plenty for you infidels to watch.
“Ya Allah. Well, I watch a fair amount of GLORY Fights these days on youtube as well as 2CW DVD’s to see how they’ve cheated me out of title shots time and again. All available at www.2cw.com”
If you’re interested, Bin Hamin has hundreds of great matches on his YouTube channel featuring WWE stars from past and present. I checked out a lot of the #RawAlternative stream and enjoyed CHIKARA!, 2CW, Inspire Pro Wrestling, and Yay Area favorite Hoodslam.
Independent wrestling is growing across America and I would encourage anyone reading this to watch anything with The Young Bucks or from Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
I saved my pick for last. I have no idea if you have the AXS channel. I wasn’t sure I had the AXS channel. You might, and it turned out I did. New Japan Pro Wrestling has partnered with AXS to produce twelve episodes, featuring a greatest hits of the last three years of NJPW. New Japan’s greatest hits involve some pretty stiff shots and several Match of the Year winners. To follow New Japan in the past, you had to watch bootleg streams on the web, sixth generation video tapes, or go to some weird uncle’s house with a satellite dish. And the commentary was always (BRAINBUSSSSTTTTTAAAHHHHHHHHHHH) in Japanese. This has finally changed. WE HAVE ENGLISH COMMENTARY AND IT DOESN’T SUCK. PRAISE BE TO BIN HAMIN.
Whoever paired MMA fighter Josh Barnett with MMA announcer Mauro Ranallo deserves all the money. Or give these two gentleman bags of cash to continue calling every single match in the back catalogue of New Japan and become the English voices of New Japan going forward. I honestly never thought I would hear high quality English announcing of Japanese wrestling. I just figured it was too niche, but someone somewhere has decided that I deserve an hour of television on Friday nights at 8pm Central all to myself. It’s a revelation to have high-quality wrestling paired with announcers this good. It truly is the wrestling show I’ve always wanted.
Ranallo’s enthusiasm and knowledge of New Japan is staggering. He calls wrestling the way it needs to be called: by telling a story and heightening the emotion in the ring. His call for a match featuring Tanahashi vs. Okada from “Invasion Attack 2013” is as good as it gets. Barnett grounds the wrestling with MMA terminology and creating believable reasons for moves and holds being used. Both of them add to the matches they are calling. When you compare what they are doing to what the team on “Raw” has to do, it’s night and day. Find out if you have AXS and set your DVR’s. New Japan Pro Wrestling is one of my favorite things on TV.
Short story, there are a ton of options if you don’t feel like you’re getting what you want from the WWE. It’s time to stop stomping your virtual feet all the time and either make peace with Vince and his nonsense or move on. That show isn’t changing until Vince goes, and even then, who knows what the next generation of McMahon could do. I hope it’s awesome and Roman Reigns ends up being Hulk Hogan crossed with Riki Choshu. But in case that does not go as I hope, there bottom line is there are other options. If you spent all the time you do watching all this awesome wrestling instead of bitching about all the awful wrestling, you may actually be happier in the long run. Sure you may have your doubts, but let’s all give it a go this year.