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

Voices of Wrestling has been around for ten years. That’s a huge milestone. On the tenth anniversary, the symbolic gift is a diamond. While I enjoyed the near-decade of content it has given me personally, I can’t afford a blasted diamond. The best I can do is say that the symbolic colors of a 10-year-anniversary are silver and blue, which are indeed the colors of the letters of the VOW logo.

It turns out that they didn’t ask me for a gift for them. Instead, VOW asked me to write about my history of professional wrestling. When it comes to things I enjoy from life, there are few topics I’d like to speak about instead. Pro Wrestling is instrumental in my life. It’s the fastest way to get my action fix. It’s the only sport I am an expert in (though I’m decent in American Gridiron Football too, Go Steelers). Even the most outlandish and unnecessary parts of it I have still followed for decades. I enjoy other forms of entertainment that I can’t hope to understand as much as I do wrestling.

I never had a chance to watch wrestling fully until 1994 (we’ll get there), but it was the 80s where I became a fan. It isn’t biologically possible for me to be born a Hulkamaniac, but I remember that hype clearly in my mind. While I never saw the Rock n’ Wrestling cartoon, I loved Sgt Slaughter from G.I. Joe around that time. Of course, Slaughter was a wrestler, but I didn’t know that at first (still counting it). At the start of the 90s, I was a fan of wrestling by osmosis. As I played video games starting with WWF WrestleMania Challenge for the NES and watched ads for Wrestling Buddies and WCW and WWF action figures, I became initiated to the names of the era. Not many people can say they discovered the Legion of Doom playing WWF WrestleFest at a Gabriel Brothers or that the reason Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels got over with them at first was that they were the characters in a video game that wore cool glasses.

At first, I didn’t have cable at my home growing up, so I missed a lot of early Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and of course, wrestling. Starting in 1994, WCW WorldWide appeared on my dial. For the first time, I saw Hulk Hogan on TV, through recaps, but it was better than nothing. Names like Vader, the Bluebloods, Johnny B. Badd, the Nasty Boys, Flyin’ Brian Pillman, Alex Wright, Bunkhouse Buck, Sister Sherri, and Harlem Heat will resonate with me forever because of that show. In 1997, I got hit with a double whammy of awesome. WCW vs. nWo: World Tour, the legendary Nintendo 64 Aki game, introduced me to the likes of DDP, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Glacier (what?, he looked cool), and the NWO. In addition, ’97 is when I gained access to WWF Shotgun (Challenge/Saturday Night), where I had my first real exposure to the WWF. Like WorldWide, Shotgun was a renaissance for me, so I can’t bring myself to hate Gladiator Faarooq, Savio Vega, Flash Funk, Rocky Maivia, and, to a lesser extent, the Headbangers.

At the tail end of 1997, my family was able to get cable, and I consider myself lucky. Not only did I finally see both Nitro and Raw in real-time, but seeing the NWO in action and WCW’s deep roster, watching WrestleMania 14, and being on the ground floor of the Attitude Era, solidified my fandom of pro wrestling. While my beginnings were humble and everything from 1997-2001 had me hooked, things became a bit formulaic immediately after. That’s what happens when you start working when you grow up and when the second biggest promotion in North America is sold and turned into untapped potential at best. WWE did awesome stuff in the 2000s, but I started to see warning signs on how they operate moving forward. Between the new signings from WCW and ECW and the first OVW class call-up, WWE bloated its roster, mishandling many and relying on very few.

That’s why I was thankful for and still support TNA/Impact. Despite all the chaos they went through, somehow, they’ve kept me engaged where WWE can’t.

Anyway, that’s how it was, how is it going?

What has my last decade of wrestling fandom been for me?

Great question 2010 has been transformative. I’ll give an Honorable mention to seeing Ring of Honor for the first time. It re-introduced me to Kevin Kelly from the early 2000s and introduced me to Kevin Steen, Kyle O’Reilly, The Briscoe Brothers, Adam Cole, and more. What the heck, I’ll throw WWE a bone, Z! True Long Island Story (at first), the Nexus (at first), and CWC, were fantastic and Royal Rumbles remain a guilty pleasure of mine.

2010 and wrestling really can begin unless I mention New Japan Pro Wrestling. Five names piqued my interest in New Japan. Giant Bernard because I felt WWE wasted him as A-Train and was glad he was doing well overseas. Brock Lesnar only because of his status and the mess he made in the company. Kurt Angle, who, in one of my favorite moments in TNA, held all the TNA’s championships for men in addition to being the IWGP 3rd Belt Championship as it’s currently known. I watched some of Kurt’s matches in Japan out of curiosity. These names included Bernard, Lesnar, and Yuji Nagata, a name I recognized from WCW. They were all great but then when Kurt lost the 3rd belt. I had to find out how so I found the match and got my answer. Angle lost to New Japan’s former Super Rookie and then-current IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Shinsuke Nakamura, to unify both belts.

From then on, I knew I wanted to see more New Japan.

Months later, on YouTube, I was merely seeing how Giant Bernard was progressing. By complete chance, I saw the most hyped-up vignette for a PPV that I had ever seen for Wrestle Kingdom V. That certainly was an unforgettable experience. The addictive theme song, the dynamic of the moving wrestlers on the match lineup, the sounds of metal clanging, explosions, and rock smashing, and testosterone-rich graphics. I know next to no Japanese, but the announcer got me excited for the card for the sheer bombastic inflection alone. Then I saw Bernard but other wrestlers I knew, Beer Money, Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy, Nagata, Jushin Liger, Hector Garza, and Nakamura. I was proud to see Kazuchicka Okada get on the show, not knowing about all the drama in TNA at the time or how far he would go. I had to watch it as soon as I could. My view of this sport changed forever at the end of that show. Two of the matches weren’t of the same caliber as the rest of the show, and Hardy wasn’t at his best but, I knew it was a better product than I was used to seeing overall. Seeing the Tokyo Dome for the first time, hearing Beer Money’s theme ring out in a massive arena, and seeing EIGHT ring announcers introduce themselves was a shock to the system. A quick aside, Yano was a menacing heel at one point, and his presentation was incredible.

I wanted to learn about everyone I wasn’t familiar with in that show. In one way or another, they all captured my attention. Prince Devitt vs. Kota Ibushi and Satoshi Kojima vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi stand out. The former was a master class of how to make a great first impression for a new viewer. The latter saw me immediately recognize Tanahashi as one of the most naturally gifted and complete wrestlers in the world and Kojima as one of my favorite wrestlers of all time.

Searching for Wrestle Kingdom’s VI and VII showed me how amazing Okada had become. I watched VI and VII on UStream, which also allowed me to watch New Japan more consistently. Eventually, I transitioned from Ustream to NJPWWorld when it was available for use. Viewing Takashi Iizuka’s epic theme song on YouTube had me subscribe to New Japan’s official channel. I learned on their channel that not only was the National Wrestling Alliance back, not only were they invading New Japan, but that Rob Conway was the NWA World Champion.

It excited me, at least.

While Conway was wracking up victories with the Ten Pounds of Gold, he interviewed with a pro wrestling website.

The interview was informative, and the presenter had an affable quality about him. I wanted to explore what other content the website had. The Booker T interview was also aces, but it wasn’t until I stumbled on one of their weekly shows. They talked about New Japan, TNA, WWE, ROH, NWA, everything I was watching at the time. I also learned about the vastly underrated (in that it should be viewed and talked about much more) Dragongate for the first time. The combined knowledge from the hosts about wrestling is uncanny.

One of the hosts maintains the flow of the show and makes it look easy. Even if he doesn’t suffer hot garbage in pro wrestling lightly, his friendly tone and a level head never waiver. The other host cuts better promos than actual wrestlers without trying. When he’s fired up about a topic, whether in exuberance or anger, it’s always great audio and sometimes makes me laugh. When these two guys talk about nearly anything, I’m engaged, even if it’s non-wrestling or they go off-topic.

As many of you have guessed, New Japan and NWA’s partnership led me to Voices of Wrestling. I’ve been listening to Rich and Joe since 2013, and I find myself learning more about the sport that I love with every new episode. It’s 2-4.5 hours (w/Overrun) well spent.

The rest of the 2010s was a blast. I saw the ascension of Kazuchika Okada, AJ Styles, and Kenny Omega within New Japan and hard-hitting contests with Hirooki Goto, Katsuyuri Shibata, Tomohiro Ishii, and Minoru Suzuki. I followed my distinct path to BritWres with WCPW and got to experience the American independent wrestling boom in conjunction with Evolve’s ascension to prominence. WCPW and Mexico’s AAA would also entertain me with World Cup tournament shows that managed to bring together wrestlers from different continents and promotions in the same ring. And while, sadly, both BritWres and the American indies have cooled down for a myriad of reasons, and no World Cup-style tournament has taken place since 2018 (and that was WWE’s jank version in Saudi Arabia), there is more pro wrestling to watch.

For better or worse, WWE created NXT, NXT UK, and 205 Live, within the last decade.

In 2017, Major League Wrestling came back from its 2004 demise, and Billy Corgan purchased the NWA, which increased their popularity and media reach under his watch. Ring of Honor and Impact added additional content on YouTube, adding to the literal hundreds of indy wrestling shows existing on the platform. Even New Japan finally followed through with its American expansion with NJPW Strong last year. Of course, we cannot talk about new wrestling shows, parts of Corgan’s NWA, and wrestling content on YouTube without mentioning All In and All Elite Wrestling. By far the brightest spot in the wrestling landscape, AEW has taken the wrestling world by storm. For the first time in a while, American pro wrestling has new, positive energy.

I can’t help but wonder and be excited about what the wrestling landscape will look like in the next ten years when there is so much wrestling to watch right now. As far as these past ten years, I’ve learned and experienced so much as a fan, and I have no plans on turning back. The world of wrestling is my oyster, and sometimes it can be a lot to follow. On days like that, I remember some reasoned and well-explained advice:

“Stick with what you like, don’t feel obligated, fight FOMO (fear of missing out).”