Thursday, April 12, 2007

Alternatives to WWE

As life is wont to do, the weeks following the granddaddy-of-them-all Wrestlemania, are usually marked with a downturn in interest. This decline will generally stabilize over the Summer, with a small upward swing typically around Summerslam. When Football returns in the Fall, usually that picks off a lot of wrestling fans until around the Royal Rumble.

So, what causes this diminished attention? Is it because WWE typically rehashes their Wrestlemania main events? In this case, Backlash will feature Lashley versus Umaga (this time in a handicap match with Vince & Shane McMahon), The Undertaker versus Dave “the Animal” Batista (again for the Smackdown championship) and John Cena versus Shawn Michaels versus Randy Orton versus Edge (at least a slight variation on the HBK/Cena WM match). Internally, the view is that “branded” PPV, that is Pay-Per-Views where only superstars from a single brand (RAW/Smackdown!/ECW), aren’t sufficiently strong in the domestic market. December’s ECW PPV had less than 100,000 buys worldwide and registered one of the lowest gross domestic buys in North America of the past decade. So, that’s why on this next PPV all three major championships will be defended.

However, if you’re not interested in this retread, what else is out there for you?

Of course, there is TNA: Total Non-stop Action. They used to be known as NWA TNA, but the NWA moniker is being phased out. They’re going back to a NWA Heavyweight Champion touring the indies, and TNA isn’t going to be sending Christian Cage or Sting out to Elbow, West Virginia to perform in a barn. This weekend is Lockdown, the PPV with ALL cage matches. (I believe this was originally Dusty Rhodes idea .) They’re on the road for this event in St. Charles, Missouri so I expect a very rowdy crowd.
The Line-up courtesy of Brian Alvarez:
* Christian & A.J. Styles & Scott Steiner & Abyss & Tyson Tomko vs. Kurt Angle & Samoa Joe & Rhino & Sting & Jeff Jarrett in a War Games match where the guy who gets the pin wins a title shot at the next PPV.
* Latin American Exchange (LAX- Homicide & Hernadez) vs. Team 3D (The Dudleyz) for the NWA Tag Titles in an ELECTRIFIED cage match
* Austin Starr (Austin Aries) vs. Senshi (Low-ki) with Bob Backlund as the referee
* Jerry Lynn vs. Christopher Daniels
* Gail Kim vs. Jackie Moore (Jacqueline)
* Chris Sabin vs. Sonjay Dutt vs. Jay Lethal vs. Alex Shelley vs. Shark Boy in an Xscape the Cage match
* Petey Williams vs. Robert Roode (formerly Team Canada’s Bobby Roode)
* Chris Harris vs. James Storm in a blindfold match (former tag partners)
* Bashams (Christy Hemme's new team) vs. VKM (Voo Doo Kin Mafia – basically, the New Age Outlaws – Road Dogg/BG James & Billy Gunn/Kip James)
The PPV will probably be solid. There is some variety and extra stipulations where they can keep the matches varied so the crowd won’t be too burned out. Expect the D-Von & Bubba (Team 3D) to win the so they can add the NWA Tag Titles to their vast lineage. Still, the PPV is under the radar of most fans. I don’t expect anything above the normal 30k PPV buys that TNA always gets.

You could go down to Memphis, TN. Hulk Hogan and Jerry Lawler are putting together something that would qualify as one of the most noteworthy independent wrestling shows in a long time. (As Dave Meltzer has emphasized, there have also been numerous lucha libre shows throughout the United States geared towards Hispanic audiences which have drawn huge crowds.) Set for April 27, Hulk Hogan versus Jerry Lawler is billed as the “PMG Clash of the Legends” and booked for the Fed Ex Forum in Memphis. Former WCW/WWE/ECW superchamp Big Show will be coming out of his “retirement” to wrestle under his real name of Paul Wight. Plenty of 80s legends, especially Hogan’s buddies will be on hand: Greg Valentine, Brutus Beefcake, Jimmy Valiant, Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson, Koko B. Ware, The Barbarian, Jim Cornette, Abdullah the Butcher and Jerry Lawler’s son Grandmaster Sexay (Brian Christopher). The arena seats about 19,000 and Hogan is very clever. Hulk won’t wrestle in half-empty arena, especially since this is seen largely as a major play by Hogan to prove to WWE that he’s still relevant. (If anyone is planning on going to show, PLEASE send us an email.)

If you’re an adult (above 18) and interested in a very “alternative” wrestling product, you could consider Carmen Electra’s NWWL. That stands for the Naked Women’s Wrestling League. This isn’t porn stars rolling around in oil or chicken wing grease. It is still professional wrestling, except all the women wrestle nude. While the earliest tapings featured some pretty cornball storylines and questionable wrestling, to their credit, the owners of NWWL have really invested heavily in their product and production values. They have a substantially large training gym in Toronto where Ron Hutchinson, a professional wrestling trainer who’s taught a host of accomplished performers (including Trish Stratus, Edge and Christian), works with the women. Also, they’ve brought in independent talent such as April Hunter and Melissa Coates. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to NWWL Writer & Producer Dan Brown on several occasions, and I must admit that while creating a sexy product is always the goal of NWWL, they’re also very serious about writing & producing a real professional wrestling show. The latest taping of NWWL: Naked Revolution, begun airing on Monday on InDemand. It was taped last year in Canada. If you’re at all curious, please listen to the hour interview with Dan & April which was conducted on Monday. It was a very funny, interesting and enjoyable time!

Lastly, there is plenty of excellent independent wrestling out there. Ring of Honor, the winner of Wrestling Observer’s “Best Booker” award, is touring Minnesota & Chicago at the end of the month. NWA Upstate in Rochester, NY just held an excellent card last week including a Wargames cage match pitting Brodie Lee’s Team vs Jimmy Olsen’s Team. Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG) will be having another superstar event in West Hills, CA on May 19. Portage, Indiana will host the rising Fight Sports Midwest with Human Tornado, Low Ki, Tiger Mask IV and Marty Jannetty. There is plenty of excellent professional wrestling across the entire United States and Canada almost every weekend. We urge you to check it out!

So, don’t forget – if WWE has you down, there’s plenty of other great professional wrestling out there! And that’s not even touching on all the Mixed Marital Arts goodness that awaits you as well…

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