Nostalgia makes all the fans look back fondly on The Attitude Era in WWE and see WCW as a great product. Many people argue that the time frame of wrestling from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s is the absolute best in terms of star power and crowd interaction. Others will say that ECW had the best wrestlers and was often credited as the most fun promotion to watch. When people compare the past with the present, they are usually wearing rose-tinted glasses when speaking about wrestling from the past. I want to explore why I think that modern-era wrestling is better than any of the previous eras of wrestling.
First of all, let’s talk about ratings. Ratings seem to be a big topic in wrestling nowadays but anyone can see that the ratings today are not close to the ratings WWE and WCW were getting in the 90s-2000s. But that is not an indictment of how well, or poor, wrestling is doing. There have been many shows on network television and cable that have seen drops in ratings over the years and that is due to consumers finding other ways of watching. Some of the ratings do take online streams into account but they do not take into account the illegal streams that many people use. All of that being said, WWE consistently garners ratings fitting to their placement on television and AEW does the same. There is nothing wrong with “not breaking one million in viewerships” especially when there is a consistent amount of people watching the product and more people using other means to watch as well.
Following along with the ratings, we can turn to television deals. A good indicator of how well a company thinks a product is doing is if they invest more money into it. WWE had a billion-dollar deal spanning multiple networks and is currently in talks for renewing or finding a new network to be on. It is also speculated that AEW is in the process of contract renewal and with the addition of Collision to the weekly schedule, it is a good sign that Warner Brothers Discovery feels that AEW is a good investment. This is not taking into account the numerous promotional and product deals that AEW and WWE continuously get. Both companies have incorporated brand integrations over the past year. Even though some people may have felt the integrations were a little heavy-handed, both companies gain a lot of funds for these promotions.
The ratings, television deals, and brand deals are all good for each company but what about the fans? Right now, there are more wrestling companies in the spotlight than in previous years. Whether you watch WWE, AEW, ROH, New Japan, Stardom, IMPACT, MLW, GCW, or NWA there is some form of wrestling out there for everyone. This also means, for example, if you don’t like the “new age flips in matches” style of wrestling and prefer “old school” wrestling, there is a promotion for that. Do you like story-driven wrestling more than hard-core deathmatch wrestling? Then there is a promotion for you. There is a variety of wrestling being presented to the audience and if one style does not suit you then perhaps you can find one that does. I enjoy an array of styles, so I try to watch a bit of everything or at least catch some things that I may have missed. It is a great time to be a wrestling fan if for nothing else than the variety in the wrestling industry.
It is not just the variety that is appealing to wrestling fans, today’s wrestlers are seen as more athletic than those from previous generations, and moves are being performed in matches that would astound a crowd from even twenty years ago. Wrestlers now focus more on the ability to provide entertaining in-ring work as opposed to when wrestlers just needed to “look the part”. This isn’t just about being able to do flips or see how many Canadian Destroyers a wrestler can do in a match, this is about being able to do more than just a scoop slam or a leg drop. There is nothing wrong with that form of wrestling but a lot of fans nowadays want to watch a faster-paced match or if the match is slower-paced than they prefer it has some big moves in it, the sport has simply evolved over time. Also, many wrestlers today understand the importance of the durability of their bodies so they try to find a good health regimen to adhere to and focus more on cardio and flexibility than on strength and bulging muscles.
Something else that fans notice about wrestlers now is how happy wrestlers seem to be. A lot of wrestlers seem to be pleased with what they are doing and where they are doing it. There are enough companies out there that if a wrestler wants to wrestle then they will, more than likely, find somewhere to wrestle and get a decent paycheck doing so. If it is not money that a wrestler is looking for, there are plenty of companies to work for that will fit the needs a wrestler may have. In turn, when wrestlers are happy and in a good state of mind they seem to get more invested in the feuds they are in, which makes for a better viewing experience. Plus, outside of wrestlers being happy for the sake of the product, it is good to have wrestlers be satisfied because they are people.
All of this together is why the modern era of wrestling has the best wrestling in history. On any given night of the week, you can find at least one wrestling match or segment that you will enjoy. If you can’t find what you are looking for on television then you can check online for the promotion you are looking for. And don’t forget to check out your local independent promotions, you never know what hidden gems you will find there.