Ring of Honor, the NWA, Impact Wrestling, All Elite Wrestling and many more promise to rewrite the old rules of business in pro wrestling in 2019 by working with others.
By Michael Melchor, Executive Editor
“Honor Is Real,” the first episode of “The Pinnacle” – the Lightning One-produced video series for Ring of Honor – debuted on November 26. The same Lightning One that revitalized the NWA now seems to be branching of it’s magic and working with a theoretical competitor.
Anyone who has been paying attention this year can see that this has been a theme in 2018. Wrestling promotions big and small have worked together, learning that there is a bigger piece of the pie to be had than if they had gone solo.
The pinnacle of this (to date) happened on Labor Day weekend. No less than five companies – Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Impact Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and the National Wrestling Alliance – came together to produce what will likely be named as the best show of 2018. A show that was promoted and produced buy a handful of wrestlers working outside of the corporate system.
We’re already in an unprecedented time of cooperation but 2019 could see the wrestling landscape explode because of it.
To rewind a bit, back to the “Pinnacle” series and the fact that the core of the new NWA is working with Ring of Honor. This, of course, is not the first time these two entities have shared a promotional space.
But what do they get out of this latest pairing involving videos? It is a very easy, and symbiotic, answer. The new NWA raises its profile by working with a larger company owned by a media conglomerate that has been in existence for almost 17 years. In return, Ring of Honor get to borrow the services of an outfit that has its pulse on what storytelling means to the modern fandom and the genius that they bring to video production, enabling RoH to fill out its content on digital channels with quality product.
Many smaller but revered companies outside of the WWE umbrella are forging similar relationships for similar reasons. Impact Wrestling has produced several “One Night Only” pay-per-views teaming with smaller, regional independent companies. Those smaller companies are given exposure to a wider audience while Impact Wrestling gets a healthy dose of “street credibility” to help them win-back fans that may have turned away. Bonus points for also pairing with Lucha Underground – a television show once considered among the hottest wrestling properties – over WrestleMania weekend.
New Japan Pro Wrestling has long sought to gain a solid foothold in the United States. What’s better way to do so then to partner with an aforementioned established company in Ring of Honor? Ring of Honor, in turn, draws a larger audience of fans wanting to see the stars from Japan up close and in person by giving them that opportunity.
Even companies like CHIKARA and Beyond Wrestling have taken this approach, most recently seen at CHIKARA’s “7 Man Army” when teams made up of wrestlers from each company did battle. Regarding the reasoning behind that relationship, CHIKARA Director of Fun and Senior Official Bryce Remsburg recently told The Gorilla Position, “I think we’re both looking to expand that sweet middle spot of the Venn diagram of our fanbases. Ideally, some Beyond fans become CHIKARA fans, and some CHIKARA fans become Beyond fans by the time this is all said and done.”
And that’s to say nothing of one of the biggest stories closing out this year – the emergence of All Elite Wrestling. Whether Cody and the Young bucks are forming their own company or simply establishing a parent entity from which to launch any product or help out any other show remains to be seen. One way or another, that Elite trio – and those who stand with them – maybe the final proof that WWE is no longer the be-all-and-end-all of professional wrestling.
The days of hoping for a big “number two” competitor to WWE are done because it is no longer necessary. In an era when independent wrestling and companies outside of world wrestling entertainment are garnering coverage in mainstream outlets, these companies are smart enough to realize that they do not have to be direct competition with WWE.
Professional wrestling is an art form that has grown to the point that the old rules are out the window, especially in a business sense. There is enough money in the industry to go around and there are leaders outside of corporate structures that realize that money can be had, especially by working together. In turn, the fans – whether they can no longer stand for WWE’s product, grow tired of the companies bloated stagnation, or simply want something different from the sport – now have plenty of alternatives to choose from.
That symbiotic relationship between non corporate pro wrestling and the fans who support it will see to it that 2019 will be the true pinnacle of professional wrestling.