The wild west of the pro-wrestling world
Pro-wrestling goes through phases, not only within the on-screen product but also within wrestling’s broader appeal in the mainstream.
It may be hard to believe, but there was a time not long ago when wrestling went mainstream.
The masses frequently discussed weekly wrestling episodes, sharing their thoughts on recent happenings in a fictitious wrestling universe.
This period is remembered today as the ‘Attitude Era’ and lasted from about 1997 until 2001.
It was an era defined by raunchy entertainment and dramatic storytelling featuring characters that, while larger than life, were often relatable.
Two wrestling companies, the (then) WWF and WCW, competed every Monday night with their weekly shows to see who would get more viewers.
The attitude era was long ago. Since then, there hasn’t been a time when wrestling reached similar heights of popularity.
The attitude era set the bar so high that I find it unlikely that another period will come along that’s equally as popular during my lifetime.
With that said, over the last six months or so, it seems that wrestling is as popular as it’s ever been since the attitude era.
While the raunchier elements have since been omitted from much of the programming, the dramatic flairs have returned with a vengeance.
The stories are elevated by engaging, charismatic, and talented personalities that have resonated with fans.
Roman Reigns, who several years ago was the whipping boy of the wider wrestling community, has reinvented himself into the devious, dangerous, and cunning ‘Tribal Cheif.’ His multi-year-long world title reign is already the stuff of legend.
When he is eventually dethroned, the new champion will have one of the most talked about victories of all time.
Maxwell Jacob Freedman (better known as MJF) has an old-school wrestling mentality that has translated into the modern world very well.
In my opinion, his charisma is unmatched, his in-ring work is exponentially improving and his character is one of the most unique in wrestling.
Crazy as it may sound, Logan Paul is a great wrestler.
I know that there are many reasons to dislike Paul; however, this near-universal aversion works to Paul’s advantage in the squared circle.
He makes for a fantastic bad guy, knowing exactly how to become the most hated person in any arena he enters.
He’s a surprisingly talented wrestler with great athleticism.
His media following and celebrity status have undoubtedly put more eyes on wrestling since his debut. Last but certainly not least, there’s CM Punk. Punk is perhaps the most interesting man in wrestling today.
He shook the wrestling landscape in 2021 when he returned to in-ring competition for WWE’s rival company, AEW, after not competing for the prior seven years.
Then, he imploded the wrestling landscape at the end of this past November when he returned to WWE. This is something that most fans believed would never happen.
Characters like these and the rivalry between WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and its new competitor, AEW (All Elite Wrestling), have provided fans with some of the best wrestling and storytelling witnessed in decades.
CM Punk’s WWE return and Randy Orton’s long-awaited return at the same show attracted many new or returning fans to WWE.
After the returns, their most recent weekly show sported a 29% ratings increase from the week prior. Celebrities, sports personalities and, most importantly, regular people are discussing wrestling once again.
This may be a flash in the pan for pro-wrestling, but who knows, perhaps the next boom period has just begun.