Let it never be said that I have a bias in this fight. (Also I apologize for the wait.)
5. Variety of styles
Yes, this was one of the reasons MMA was better than pro wrestling. However, the English language is, unfortunately, a very malleable one, so I’m pulling that card and pulling out the various national differences in pro wrestling. Pro wrestling is very similar around the world, yes, but also very different. America has sports entertainment with crazy characters, crazier stories, and the matches that lead those stories on, Mexico has wrestlers that dress and fly like superheroes, Japan has combined a stiff, realistic style with a bit of the American craziness, and then there’s the worldwide independent scene (most widely known in America and Europe, but there are some in Japan and pretty much everywhere else) that turns it all into one big stew and serves it to a loving audience, and every promotion, from CHIKARA’s comic-book inspired storylines to EVOLVE’s MMA-style ranking system and Dramatic Dream Team’s (DDT) comedy stylings. Most of the regional differences in MMA come from rule changes.
4. Live event experience
Go ahead, try to start a chant at an MMA event. I’ll wait right here.
But seriously, don’t expect everyone else to join you. At an MMA event, you’re much less likely to hear a “Let’s go X” chant. Wrestling fans, to their credit, are one of the more creative fandoms I’ve ever encountered. You have the classic “Let’s go X,” which you’ll hear a lot, but you also have “John Cena sucks!” to the tune of his theme song and my personal favorite, a bunch of potentially drunken frat boys at a house show yelling “Please stop flexing!” to David Otunga. I went to that house show with two friends, as part of an effort to convince them that wrestling was worth watching. They had the time of their lives, even though that crowd admittedly wasn’t great. To this day I haven’t found a better experience.
3. Someone can always be blamed.
In MMA, if a fight bores fans to sleep, it’s the nature if the beast. Pure and simple. Sometimes a fighter will sit on someone for three rounds, sometimes two guys will paw at each other for five. And before you say the booker can be blamed, that’s definitely not fair in a lot of cases; my personal favorite is Kimbo Slice vs. Houston Alexander from the Ultimate Fighter 10 finale. That should have been a slugfest for the ages, but it turned into everyone gassing out. For more examples, check out this link from Tapology user theMMAmessiah.
Wrestling, however, does not suffer such trappings. There is no incentive to winning or losing, but there is incentive to put on the match of the night. And thus, when a match isn’t worth watching, it’s not an inevitability caused by a clash of styles or a trapping of a sport where winning means everything. A bad match always has a cause. Why is this a good thing? Only when you know what the problem is can you fix the problem. A wrestler’s professional growth is judged by the quality of his or her matches, not how quickly he or she can dispatch an opponent or how well that person can control their opponent. And as an audience that seeks entertainment over all else, shouldn’t we applaud this?
2. It makes kids happy.
I like to explain my love for NASCAR like this: it’s every young boy’s dream. Brightly colored cars go really fast around a track and sometimes crash into each other and go flying. Pro wrestling is a lot like that. People (sometimes in bright colors) crash into each other and go flying, and sometimes go really fast. (Looking at you Kalisto.) Add in an entire bagful of classic, basic good-versus-evil storytelling and just a dash of joyous cheesiness and it’s easy to see why kids love wrestling. And, at least at the very top, kids are at the forefront of the marketing.
But, let’s avoid cynicism here. Kid wrestling fans are the best wrestling fans. For example, remember when Brock Lesnar turned John Cena into his personal Raggedy Andy for about twenty minutes? Good times, good times. Now think about the reactions. Adults and children were both shocked, but for entirely different reasons. Adults thought “I can’t believe they’re booking Cena this weak.” The kids saw their hero being destroyed in front of them and reacted as such. Maybe that’s something we can learn? Wrestling is supposed to be fun, enjoy it.
You really can’t beat the availability of professional wrestling. Four wrestling promotions have national television deals (WWE has 2 shows then there’s, TNA, Ring of Honor, and Lucha Underground; I don’t count New Japan here because their show on AXS is kind of a highlight show). There are several MMA organizations that have TV deals; the two that immediately come to mind are the UFC and Bellator, and beyond that, AXS TV broadcasts several promotions as part of its AXS Fights, and Titan FC has a deal with CBS Sports Network. However, wrestling differentiates itself through its accessibility on the internet. The WWE Network, for the oft-repeated price of $9.99 a month, provides a live feed of WWE-related programming, from old episodes of RAW to pay-per-views and original content, an unlimited on-demand service, and, in my opinion most importantly, live showing of WWE pay-per-views. New Japan Pro Wrestling offers a similar service, NJPW World, for 999 yen (as of this writing that’s $8.20/month) that offers current pay-per-views. By comparison, the UFC has a similar service which offers on-demand access to past pay-per-views, Fight Nights, Ultimate Fighter seasons, and live broadcasts of some other promotions including Invicta FC and Titan FC. However, that does not include live pay-per-views or Fight Nights and I have not heard good things about Fight Pass, while the WWE Network has received great praise.
If two top level promotions having such a service isn’t enough for you, there are at least two others I know about: Insane Championship Wrestling On-Demand from England, which is $5.99/month for what the site describes as “120+ hours of video,” and CHIKARA, from the Eastern US, which offers a similar service for $7.99/month.
But, I hear you saying, “Yeah Jerron, that’s great and all, but I’m broke and don’t need to be dropping fifty bucks a month on streaming services.” I hear you, person whose argument I made up in my head, and I have some good news. There are several promotions who put their weekly television online for free. My personal favorites are Ohio Valley Wrestling and SMASH Wrestling (which also has an on-demand service, advertising all of their shows for $7.50/month). OVW is a Kentucky promotion (formerly developmental for WWE and TNA, now independent). Think of it like a modern Smoky Mountain, with a solid face-heel dynamic and a great southern vibe. SMASH is Canadian, and is more like Pro Wrestling Guerrilla than anything. They’re also well-known for their work in the community, being the masterminds behind Chris Hero wrestling for three hours for ALS Canada. Beyond that, there was a subreddit called FreeProWrestling which would showcase matches posted to WWE, TNA, and Lucha Underground’s respective Youtube channels, as well as television shows given away by the companies, such as OVW, SMASH, and Ring of Honor. However, that sub has gone private for some reason; I’ve sent a PM to the mod there asking what happened.
Thank you for reading; part 3, Five Reasons Why Wrestling and MMA Are Both Awesome, will be up at some point.