It wasn’t that long ago when, if you wanted to watch wrestling, your only real choice was WWE. Well, there was Impact Wrestling, if you could figure out which network they were on. It was the same situation for Ring of Honor, which I only saw during insomniac episodes at three in the morning. The times are changing, folks. By my estimation, starting this past Saturday up until this writing (Wednesday morning), I have watched 19 hours of professional wrestling. The Buy-In. AEW’s Fight for the Fallen. Evolve Wrestling’s tenth anniversary. The Extreme Rules kickoff show, then Extreme Rules itself. RAW. SmackDown Live. The latest episode of Botchamania. I even sat through an hour or so of the WWE Watch Along for Extreme Rules because I like to listen to Billie Kay verbally abuse Sam Roberts. I am either a dedicated journalist or I have lost my goddamned mind.
It was an abundance of riches, a ridiculous amount of content to choose from. AEW’s Fight for the Fallen, a free show in North America, ran at the same time as Evolve Wrestling’s tenth anniversary on the WWE Network. Shots fired, y’all. This concurrent programming marked the first real acknowledgment from the McMahon Empire that AEW constitutes a threat. While Evolve’s anniversary show was already on the calendar, WWE didn’t announce their broadcast of the event until two weeks before it took place. I’m not a television expert, but why would you run counter-programming against another promotion if you don’t view them as competition?
I think this is the beginning of what some fans are referring to as The Hard Reset.
Look at all the changes we’ve seen within WWE in the last two weeks.
There was the passive/aggressive scheduling of the Evolve show. Paul Heyman, the King of Extreme, was promoted to run RAW. Eric Bischoff, former president of WCW and campaigner against erectile dysfunction, has taken the reins of SmackDown Live. Perhaps most surprising was Extreme Rules itself, which was a great come-up in both quality and attendance.
It’s an odd thing to hear myself say, but Extreme Rules was a great show. Four titles changed hands that night. Becky Lynch took a vicious End of Days from Corbin in the most intergender wrestling thing WWE has done since the days of Chyna and Jeff Jarrett. Even the Bobby Lashley match was good! What the hell is going around here?
The answer is simple: competition.
The sleeping giant known as WWE has been awakened and, to quote Martin Lawrence, “Shit just got real.”
While Paul Heyman’s fingerprints aren’t smeared all over the red brand yet, there are signs that the man is in command. Brock Lesnar is Universal Champion again, but that is the worst thing I can say about the main roster right now. Bray Wyatt finally appeared in the ring in a creepy, well-executed segment. And while next week’s advertised RAW Reunion feels like a step backward, WWE has often relied upon their former stars with Legends contracts to introduce new things. Remember who first told us about the 24/7 Title? Yep. Mick Foley. It’s possible that bringing back old favorites from the Attitude Era could herald The Hard Reset more than we anticipate.
SmackDown Live, which I have always enjoyed more than RAW, has teased not only a feud between Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton, but a major character change for Liv Morgan. We’re getting Bayley versus Ember Moon at SummerSlam! Are these the doings of Eric Bischoff? Maybe. But I think it has less to do with the new executive directors and more to do with All Elite Wrestling.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter which company you like the best. The truth is that competition is good for any company. It encourages creativity and forces people to find new ways to stay relevant. Triple H is fond of quoting the Christian bible, telling competitors and interviewers alike that iron sharpens iron. [That’s Proverbs 27:17, for those of you keeping score at home.] But Trips never says the last part of that verse. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The same can be said for wrestling promotions. When you’re not spending your energy stealing their talent or buying them outright, they can make each other better.
The world of sports entertainment after this past weekend may not be The Hard Reset we were hoping for. But we are seeing some baby steps towards a WWE main roster product which fans can get excited about.
There’s an old Rodney Dangerfield line about going to a fight and a hockey game breaking out. Wouldn’t it be weird to turn on a World Wrestling Entertainment show and see some actual wrestling?