WWE programming has been on TV for over thirty years. They have had their lows, their highs, then more lows and highs all over again. I think most will agree WWE is suffering through a low once again; this may be their worst low since the early 90’s. There have always been other options for wrestling fans. WCW in the 90’s gave viewers another choice and the wrestling business boomed because of it. ECW even gave another option at the time. TNA has tried their best to provide us with another viable choice for over ten years. At times their product has been good, and at other times not so good.
Now we have come to 2015, a time where excitement is once again growing, there is now four promotions providing the American television market with five hours of original programming. TNA has 2 full hours on Fridays nights on Destination America. Lucha Underground has one hour Wednesday nights on the Elrey network. ROH has one hour of television a week, but varies on network and time depending on your location. And finally New Japan Pro wrestling (NJPW) has made there American television debut on the AXS network. So how is each one becoming an alternative to WWE?
TNA recently went thru what I would like to call a transactional period. First they lost arguably the biggest star they have ever produced in A.J Styles. Then there television home was up in the air with the end of their Spike contract. The future of the company was in doubt and many speculated they would shut their doors. Then in came the Discovery family of networks to save the day. They gave TNA the financial ground they needed to move into the future. TNA now has a home on Fridays with Destination America. They have also signed their biggest names and key players in the company to new contracts. TNA no longer has to worry about going out of business and can again focus on their wrestling product. Now the first two episodes have been good but not great. The key here is they can focus on making it great with the same stars every week because of the financial security they have. They are no longer going up against any WWE programming, not even NXT, the only wrestling competition they have is from 9:00-10:00 PM, and that comes from NJPW. The only negative of their new TV deal the Destination America is not widely available network.
ROH has created many stars over the past years. Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, CM Punk, Sami Zayn, Antonio Cesaro have all come thru there, and many I have not mentioned. The program they put out is decent wrestling. The problem ROH has is you never know what channel and time to find their product. They recently had many stars on the NJPW wrestle Kingdom 9 show. They could gain allot of momentum from that if there program was easier to find. They offer fans a look at some of the stars of tomorrow, now with the addition of a proven star in Albert Del Rio or El Patron they have the potential to really capture viewers.
Lucha Underground after ten weeks has people talking. They just recently crowned there first champion, and are at critical point in their future. They have some of the best high flyers in wrestling today. They have also taken a star on the independent scene in Ricochet and given him a home as Prince Puma. Johnny Mundo and Big Ryck who WWE fans know as John Morrison and Ezekiel Jackson have even revitalized there in ring careers in Lucha Underground. They have a home on the El Rey network, the only down fall is the El Rey network isn’t available to everyone. By the end of this year they hope to reach 40 million people which will be good for Lucha Underground. They have quickly become one of the highest rated shows on the network They also have one of the better young announcers in the business in Matt Striker, who recently teamed with WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross to call the NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9 pay-per view. Lucha Underground is turning heads and is creating unique and great television.
This could perhaps be the most exciting of the four promotions, NJPW is one of the most prestigious and historic wrestling promotions in professional wrestling history. They have worked with NWA, WCW, ECW, and WWE at various times. Unlike the other three if they fail in the American market they still are one of the biggest and greatest companies in the world. Breaking into the American market is a want not a need by NJPW. They have familiar names to American fans such as A.J Styles, Jeff Jarrett, and others. Their debut episode on AXS was an hour long and only featured one match. That said this episode was probably the single best hour of wrestling I have seen in years. The match was from Wrestle Kingdom 7 which took place in 2013 but was a highly entertaining match between Tanahashi and Okada. They advertised the match between Tanahashi and Okada from Wrestle Kingdom 9 for next week. I think the choice to air this particular match on their debut episode was brilliant.
These four promotions are giving fans another alternative; there is something being offered for all types of fans. If you like high flying or mat wrestling there is a something for you. Now please realize I said an alternative to WWE. I do not think any of these programs are in a position to replace WWE, but they can be a nice break from it for the time being.