It’s easy to view what happened at Slammiversary as just another happening in the world of wrestling, as opposed to an encapsulation of the current state of the industry. It’s easy to view it as a one-off event that will ultimately amount to very little, but I believe that is the wrong way to see it.
To me, this encapsulates the positive direction wrestling has been heading towards over the last two years. It exemplifies what can be born out of parity and the unique identities of independent companies, when they work together. In my estimation, it is exactly what the wrestling world needs right now.
Before you get taken aback by the title of this article, let me clarify exactly what I mean.
Regional wrestling like Mid-South isn’t coming back. It doesn’t have a place in the modern world where the Internet has us connected to an incredible amount of choice in what wrestling we watch. What it means is that promotions need to have distinct identities in order to grab viewers and set themselves apart. If you think back to the territories, they all had their own style and way of promoting and they all had their own unique offerings to wrestling fans. Promotions now may not be defining themselves by having a regional identity, but they are instead differentiating themselves by the styles they represent while keeping wrestlers apart long enough to build interpromotional “dream matches”. These can be matched happening for the first time ever, or matches given a new coat of paint due to a variety of circumstances.
When you look at the modern wrestling landscape, IMPACT, AEW, AAA, and NJPW all have their own discernable styles and rosters that set them apart from one another. They have their own unique offerings to present to wrestling fans and through the many wrestlers that have jumped between these promotions, storylines have been deeply woven throughout them over the course of the last decade or longer. We may have seen a match like Jay White vs Kenny Omega in NJPW, but the terms of the match were different and the characters involved have subsequently evolved in new and different environments that once again feel fresh. Even the simple idea of the match occurring in IMPACT or AEW feels like it adds a unique dynamic, a freshness that couldn’t exist if the match had been rerun in NJPW.
The relative parity in booking provided by the newfound abundance of wrestling companies working together cannot be understated in its importance to the product as a whole. The ability to plant seeds, to develop your character and transition it to another platform where you are getting new and unique exposure is something the wrestling business has struggled to replicate since the 1990s. It’s hard to reinvent oneself when there is only one prevailing style that can make money in your own country, but modern times have shown that this isn’t the case anymore. Wrestlers that work internationally are able to find their niche in a number of styles and promotions.
In the days of the NWA, promotions would often co-promote in order to promote dream matches that couldn’t be seen normally, and the tantalizing prospect of these special matches was enough to draw big money across the country. One could take the prestige of another territory to lend credence to their own matches or they could use the lineage of a title or wrestler to achieve the same intended result.
If you want to see what this will mean to wrestling going forward, I think it would be best that we all cast an eye towards the past. I know it’s hard to move back, and to be clear there will never be a true resurgence of the territories. There will never be a meaningful promotion propped up as a regional power, but the stylistic offerings of the territories might find itself back in vogue for the first time in a long time. If you’re a wrestling fan, no matter your stance on the products involved in this newfound union, you have to be rooting for it.
The success of AEW and Tony Khan’s vision for the wrestling landscape isn’t one I’ve always agreed with, but this could be what wrestling needs to move past the sports entertainment era, and into something totally new.
Perhaps what’s old, can be new again.