Welcome back to another long read on my thoughts about the comings and goings (and there are a lot of goings) in the world of professional wrestling. As Eric and I have stated many times so far on the podcast, 2019 is going to be a wild year for wrestling. So far we’ve already seen Kushida leaving for WWE, Dean Ambrose leaving WWE, Kenny Omega’s untold future, Hideo Itami (Kenta) leaving WWE, and even the possible contract expirations for Rusev and Nakamura. The crazy part is how big all those players are. The other part of this story, is largely about compensation: MONEY. And personally, I think leaning into this a little more could be a welcome reintroduction to an old school wrestling storyline.
Since we were also talking about The Office on our latest podcast, I thought this clip from The Promotion, perfectly illustrates the point I will try to make in this article. That point being that money, even in its simplest form, is a great storytelling element.
It’s as simple as that. With wrestlers moving all around, a massive new investor with the Jacksonville Jaguars owners and AEW, ROH and NJPW as well as other indie markets, there’s no better time for a wrestler with name recognition to strike it out on their own. And that’s why I think having wrestlers actually play into how much they are worth and how much they stand to make through a match could be a great addition.
Imagine, if you will, a grudge match between two bitter rivals. Imagine still if the addition of how much a winner stands to make over a loser would change that dynamic. I think this would play well to a crowd and to a casual viewer; winners make more than losers in the ring. The funny thing is I can imagine that promotions would likely pay both athletes the same amount, but if this is played up more in the traditional sense of wins and losses, I think it would work.
I would also make the argument that in these challenging economic times in, at least the US, the disparity between rich and poor could be considered, a hot topic nowadays. So pull that into your storylines! Bring in some part of that feeling into the ring. It’s also weird that this was a tradition in the bygone days of wrestling, but now it seems passé. I truly think there hasn’t been a better time to bring that up in the story. Hell, most of the viewers of any wrestling product know the value of their dollar and have been questioning that for years. “Does WWE really deserve my money?” I think money plays a big part in all things wrestling, it is after-all, live theater.
Take the above Heath Slater. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t say I am generally a follower of his, not generally a fan of him as a wrestler, but he does bring a general charm to his character. That was all a nice way to say I don’t think much of him as a big-time wrestler, but rather a player in the larger scope of the game. But take his story: he constantly plays up how he needs his job as a wrestler to support his family. Please, watch the following at your own risk:
And while Heath is mainly a comedic wrestler, this all works for the story he’s telling. A more recent example could be found in the Be The Elite series on YouTube. Within the first few minutes of their most recent episode, Joey Ryan is talking about contracts. This is an exciting time to see wrestlers talking about the industry, demystifying the myths.
Nick and Matt Jackson, as well as all the other members of the Elite are doing something with their channel that I think is very important. They are showing stuff as simple as tweeting out a GIF for a surprise appearance at and event in Seattle. There are other examples of this on their channel so definitely check it out, especially the AEW announcement videos. Getting to see some backstage reality to what they are trying to craft is pretty cool. And, makes it all seem more real.
It’ll be interesting to see all of the big moves we have left and they’re coming soon. Nakamura is up soon, although he did recently drop the US title and has denied rumors that he is leaving WWE. But, he’s 38, and likely NJPW would treat him better. The way he wrestles, I’d be happy to see his return. Rusev, oh Rusev. I feel so bad for him. He’s put in so much work, had a great ride with the Rusev Day stuff. Then, inevitably, WWE killed it. Rusev also has only gone as far as the US Title. He is in exactly the same situation, but he also has Lana to think about. I bet he resigns for safety sake, unless of course AEW’s large purse comes a calling.
The point is, the market suddenly opened up this year. There’s more places to go, and again, so long as that particular wrestler has name recognition, it at least seems like a possibility. I think we have to thank Cody and the Young Bucks for this. They took a gamble with All In, got the attention they deserved, and turned that into a massive deal with the Jaguars owners. They helped usher this in. Now whether or not the money is always going to be there, that’s left to be seen. 2019 and beyond, hold onto your butts!