Where do I start with pro wrestling?
This is pretty much the greatest question a guy like me can hear, honestly. Pro wrestling has been a part of my life since I was a kid, but figuring out where to start can be pretty daunting.
Getting into pro wrestling is a lot like getting into comics. If you pick the wrong book, or the wrong volume, or the wrong series, you can be met with, “no no no no, things didn’t get good until Volume 2. No, oh god why did you pick that, you need to check this out instead.” It’s very hard, is what I’m saying. Pro wrestling is essentially living comic books anyhow.
WWE is the most mainstream wrestling company out there with a weekly 3 hour Monday Night Raw, weekly 2 hour SmackDown!, and a monthly wrap-up event shown on Pay Per View and their own network/app (think Hulu). You’ve probably seen Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker at least once if your lives on TV or on a cereal box.
While I grew up watching WWE(F) and their shows are readily available on TV, I wouldn’t have you start watching those shows I just mentioned just yet. I would have you start with something called NXT.
NXT is the WWE’s version of the minor leagues. It has just a weekly 1 hour show and a bi-monthly wrap-up event only available on their own network/app (first month is free). They use this “brand” as a way to train, create, and promote new younger starts for the future of the WWE. It’s just like WWE and Monday Night Raw with characters, matches, storylines, the whole 9 yards. It’s just that at some point where a wrestler does all they can do in NXT, they likely will move up onto the major leagues with WWE and RAW. If you even have a passing knowledge of wresting from your friends, wrestlers like Seth Rollins, Paige, Dean Ambrose, Charlotte, and Kevin Owens have all previously been stars in NXT.
Over the past year or so, NXT has becomes SUPER popular. In some cases like myself, folks often prefer watching NXT to the main WWE shows. The easiest way I can explain it is that NXT is a call-back to the wrestling of yesteryear. It has a focus on characters and wrestling. WWE has a ton of hours to fill each and every week and it can be very difficult to craft awesome stories with a huge roster. NXT has 1 hour of TV each week and one big blow-off show every two months.
Before we get into the recommendations themselves, a quick plug for the WWE Network itself. It’s $9.99/month, and the first month is free. The easiest way to think of it is the pro wrestling version of Netflix/Hulu. If you can run either of those apps, you can do the WWE Network. You can have it on your Xbox, PS4, Smart TV, phone, tablet, computer, etc etc. NXT plays exclusively on the WWE Network, and you can get every WWE Pay Per View EVER, and all the new ones that come every month. Monthly WWE PPV’s like WrestleMania are around $50. It is an absurd value, there is no way around it.
OK, let’s get to my recommendation list. (It would be great if The WWE Network allowed me to make public and share my list, hint hint.)
NXT Takeover: R-Evolution 12/11/2014
Probably the time-frame where I started to watch NXT. The main event is Neville vs Sami Zayn. Zayne is like this everyman kind of wrestler and has lost sooo many times trying to win the NXT title. How far will he go to finally win the big one? Will he…gasp…cheat to win?? The end of that match is like whoa. If you skip around this event, watch the main event and the promo videos for it. Don’t leave until the entire show is over, FYI.
NXT Takeover: Rival 2/11/15
Fallout from the previous monthly NXT event. It also has pretty much the best women’s match I’d seen at that point. The women at NXT are on equal footing and often times their matches are better than the men’s. If you skip around, watch the Women’s Championship match and the men’s title match.
NXT Takeover: Unstoppable 5/20
Rematch from the main event of the previous big show, BUT the Women’s Championship match is hot as shittttt. Sasha Banks is freaky good (she has since been promoted to WWE and RAW.). If you skip around, watch the Women’s title match. Bayley is fascinating because she fills the magic WWE demographic of young girls. John Cena has the young boy demo, and Bayley has these young girls following her around and it’s pretty amazing to see.
Beast in the East: LIVE FROM TOKYO
The one match to watch is Finn Balor vs Kevin Owens. The Japanese crowd and environment are amazing to witness. My son’s favorite wrestling is Balor thanks to his entrance. During BIG matches, he wears face and body paint like that of a demon. On normal matches he wears a sick leather jacket. He’s pretty much a badass.
NXT Takeover: Respect 10/7
This is the rematch between Bayley and Sasha Banks and they were the main event! First women’s main event in NXT history, and if you want to say, pretty much first in WWE modern history, too.
There you have it. I will say that I have at least converted ONE person due to this list and have sent it to two others. My buddy Dave watches the NXT shows with me and has started to watch their weekly shows to catch up in-between. The WWE Network has gotten him even more hooked to their wrestlers thanks to a new weekly show they produce called Breaking Ground. It films in the WWE Performance Center and follows wrestlers as they train, work on promos, buy houses, and in general act like normal people instead of their characters. It’s very well produced and feels like something ESPN would make.
Step 1. Create a WWE account at this link and start your WWE Network trial.
Step 2. Add the shows I mentioned to your Watchlist and get going.
Step 3. With your newfound pro wrestling comfort, absorb as much wrestling as you can inside of the WWE Network and learn about other companies like NJPW, EVOLVE, Lucha Underground, over on YouTube and Twitter. Maybe even ask @deadpresidents for some retro recommendations as well.
Up at atom!