There are moments in time where professional wrestling gets thrust into the mainstream. The 80’s with the rise of Hulk Hogan and the WWF, the mid to late 90’s with the evolution into the Monday Night Wars between World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation. If things go the right way, 2016 can prove to be another significant moment in the history of professional wrestling and sports entertainment.
IMPACT WRESTLING FINDS A NEW HOME
The supposed “alternative” to the WWE, and the second largest promotion in the United States, Impact Wrestling has had a rough couple of years. They were kicked off of their original cable home of Spike TV, spent a year on third tier channel Destination America, and have landed back on basic cable at POP TV (the former TV Guide channel). Talent wise there has been a bit of a revolving door with longtime talents like Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and A. J. Styles (we’ll talk about him later) leaving, longtime talent Kurt Angle scaling down his in ring activity, and having a bunch of young, but unproven talent. One talent has stood above the rest, current TNA World Champion Ethan Carter III, better known as EC3. Positioning himself as easily the best villain in wrestling today, EC3 can certainly help Impact Wrestling become a viable alternative for pro wrestling fans. Last year, he even put together a ‘campaign’ as to WHY he would make a great world champion.
Watch out Mars, EC3 is coming for you.
THE RISE OF WOMEN, BOTH IN AND OUT OF THE RING
One of the many great things that NXT gave fans last year was equal time and a platform for female talent to show how good they really are. Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and a number of others showed that women’s wrestling can offer just as much as their male counterparts. Impact Wrestling has a smaller number of performers, but standouts like Madison Rayne, Velvet Sky, and current Knockouts Champion Gail Kim are fantastic performers in their own right. Outside of the ring, the success of Total Divas on the E! Network, now going into its fifth season has given a peek behind the curtain at the lives of the WWE Divas. Also, the independent promotion CHIKARA has Princess KimberLee as its current Grand Champion, making her the first female performer to hold the top title in a major promotion.
TALENT GETTING A LARGER PLATFORM
The past couple years have seen an increased presence of wrestling on the internet and on television. 2016 will have the second season of the surprise hit Lucha Underground on the El Rey Network, a resurgent Impact Wrestling on a new cable home, and WWE SmackDown moving off of the SyFy Channel and moving to USA, where it should have been moved years ago. On top of all of that, the current news that 4 extremely talented wrestlers may be making the jump to the WWE.
The past few days, rumors have been circulating, stories have been reported, and even a “No Comment” from the WWE on the signings of Luke “Doc” Gallows, Karl Anderson, A.J. Styles, and Shinsuke Nakamura. Gallows and Anderson are a very talented tag team but the real coup here is the signing of the “Phenomenal” A.J. Styles and the ‘King Of Strong Style’ Shinsuke Nakamura, both men are as talented as a performer can be, and while their futures are not yet confirmed, if they end up in a WWE ring, it is going to be a great time to be watching wrestling or jumping back onto the bandwagon if you haven’t watched in a while. A more in depth column on these four gentlemen is upcoming if the signings are confirmed.
The Turnbuckle Bandwagon will be a semi regular column covering professional wrestling, sports entertainment, and everything in between
What are your thoughts on the upcoming year? Let me know in the comments or reach out on Twitter @MatPDouglas