Ten years ago this week, VoicesofWrestling.com was born.

Originally designed to be a website and podcast series where people would discuss how they became wrestling fans and why they are fans today, the website eventually evolved into what you see today. This week, to celebrate our 10th anniversary, we invited VOW contributors past and present to re-create that original concept with a twist: why did you become a wrestling fan and how has your wrestling fandom changed in the last ten years.

We hope you enjoy the #VOW10 series and encourage you to share your memories of VoicesofWrestling.com, our columns, our reviews, our previews, our writers and our podcasts by using #VOW10 on Twitter or jumping into our special #VOW10 Discord channel.

Thank you for a great ten years. Enjoy.

-Rich Kraetsch

Voices of Wrestling 10th Anniversary

10 years ago, I was not watching wrestling. I was finishing my B.A. and my life consisted of books, plays, films, trying to get a girl, and this whole new world of friends and view of life that the University of Puerto Rico brought me. Pro wrestling was not in it at all. I only watched the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania with friends. I have been a fan since the year 2000, and the longest I went without pro wrestling in my life was from 2009 to 2012.

I was one of those fans that went out completely, even if I dipped my feet occasionally. What brought me back to this level of fandom where I write for this website and watch way too much wrestling nowadays? The Shield, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and NJPW.

Competent and awesome pro wrestling made me come back and stay, who would have thought it.

I started to dip my toes into the pro wrestling pool again when WWE came to Puerto Rico for a SmackDown Live house show back in 2012. I got tickets with my friend, and I decided to watch three weeks of Smackdown just to see what the hell was going on and who was wrestling in the brand. It was in one episode that I saw a video package of The Shield. I liked the cut of their jib, and I watched an illegal download of TLC 2012, their debut match.

This made me go back to Raw.

The Shield run from their debut match to their break up in 2014 was just fucking awesome. Be it their six-man tags or different variations of two men teams, and even their solo matches, I was hooked with what they did. They always had a kickass and really cool six-man tag match with any combination of wrestlers. Their promo style was different, they looked different, each member had a unique personality, and their matches kicked ass. WWE now does not even have kickass matches anymore. And their run started as CM Punk’s lackeys.

Talking of CM Punk, seeing him and Daniel Bryan being on top and on the way, there was another reason for me coming back. I was a ROH fanboy in my teenage years. I used to sell Avon products, and I sold chocolate by lying that they were for my graduation, and saved money from birthdays just to be able to buy ROH DVDs. CM Punk and the “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson were my guys. The ROH Summer of Punk was one of my favorite wrestling stories. Seeing them be successful despite what WWE threw at them? Of course, I had to watch.

When I came in, Punk was in a feud with Ryback and then The Rock. Daniel Bryan was part of Team Hell No, and the next year he had an awesome main event with John Cena at SummerSlam 2013 and I was invested in him all the way to WrestleMania 30, despite the company fighting against this all the time. I slowly started to pick up what I missed from these two guys when I was not watching thanks to DVDs and the internet. I even learned there was a second Summer of Punk, WWE edition. I learned about the Straight Edge Society.

All of this watching meant one thing: I was officially back into wrestling. How much? I went to WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans, one of my highlights as a wrestling fan. It had Daniel Bryan, one of my guys, winning the world title and Undertaker losing his streak.

Then my fandom started to wane. I tried going back to TNA/Impact and Ring of Honor, but it was not the same. What appeared? New Japan Pro Wrestling, Wrestle Kingdom 9.

I always heard of Japanese wrestling but between WWE, ROH, and TNA, I did not pay that much attention in my teenage years. I was mostly obsessed with historical US wrestling.

I decided to watch the first Wrestle Kingdom with English commentary, and my mind was blown wide open. I was seeing matches that I had no idea were happening. The intensity, moves, these awesome-looking wrestlers. I had familiar faces with AJ Styles, reDRagon, Alex Shelley, The Young Bucks, and Jeff Jarrett, but I was introduced to Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tetsuya Naito, and Tomohiro Ishii.

NJPW presented wrestling in a way that appealed to my sensibilities. It was the way that I thought wrestling should always be. This was officially the start of the hardcore wrestling fan coming back full-time. Add to those elements the awesome NXT years, and I was in.

When thinking about my fandom for the last 10 years, what brought me back was WWE being somewhat competent. When major pro wrestling fails, wrestling as a whole suffers. This is why WWE needs to be better creatively to survive and why it’s great that AEW is providing quality TV on a mostly consistent basis. To be able to attract new fans or have a nut like me coming back, pro wrestling needs to be trying more things and major pro wrestling needs to be at least competent.

If in my years as a lapsed fan I was presented with what WWE is doing now, I probably would have never come back, unless possibly I would have caught a random airing of NJPW in AXS TV. I would probably be writing scholarly essays about films or literature or dissecting Simpsons episodes instead of writing book reviews, columns, and NJPW tournament time reviews for Voices of Wrestling. Hell, thanks to this site and fandom I can say I am a published author on Amazon on the yearly NJPW books.

Now that AEW exists, my fears of shitty pro wrestling damaging the future of my hobby and not bringing new fans are alleviated. For the smaller companies to survive, there needs to be partnership with the big guys, or at least for the big guys to not suck.

Let’s see if in 10 years I’m still a hardcore wrestling fan. In the last week of June, I watched AAA, AJPW, NOAH, and GLEAT, so I guess this fandom ain’t going away soon. Pro wrestling has this power that if you are in it for more than six years, you are probably there for the long haul, even if it’s just watching old wrestling on YouTube or catching the big shows.