Wrestling 101: Introduction to the 2019 Wrestling Landscape by Jerry Whitworth
Professional wrestling, a staged live combat-based performance dating back two centuries, has seen its popularity rise and fall over the years. Reaching mainstream media in the 1980s with the rise of Hulkamania, pro wrestling hit its pinnacle in the ’90s during the so-called Monday Night Wars and the World Wrestling Federation’s Attitude Era. After WWF, known today as WWE (E for Entertainment), crushed and consumed its competition in World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling, the industry in many ways collapsed. The territories that largely fed companies like WWF/E and WCW died and gave way to a circuit that elder statesmen of wrestling consider “backyard wrestling” while WWE reverted back to its kid-friendlier days where Hulk Hogan reigned. Independent promotions such as Total Nonstop Action and Ring of Honor arose to try and fill the void left by the loss of WCW and ECW but they lacked the funding, fanbase, and reach of their predecessors. For nearly two decades, WWE has largely been the end-all, be-all of pro wrestling, though they have abandoned that description in favor of being instead “sports entertainment.” Now, with the emergence of All Elite Wrestling on TNT and its live weekly television series Dynamite, the paradigm is shifting as WWE has its first legitimate competition since the Monday Night Wars. What more, the largest portion of AEW’s audience is made up of new fans, children of fans, and returning fans that gave up on wrestling after the deaths of WCW and ECW. With so many new people and lapsed returning fans, we wanted to offer some insight into what content is readily available to consume.