"Where do we go from here? When we know it hurts, but we just can't seem to let go from here? So we work things out, but we both end up hurting, and it seems to disappear, 'cause the love we had just ain't no longer here. I'm lost on a road with no speed limit. A heartbreak collision is near. Don't pull me over. Oh, I just can't take it. Just can't take it."
If you know me, you'd know that I became a wrestling fan at the tender age of four after stumbling upon a random episode of NWA World Championship Wrestling on TBS (before the show was known as WCW Saturday Night) and seeing Ric Flair cutting a promo. Everything was so over-the-top, and younger me loved it. I've been hooked ever since.
Now, even though my first experience with wrestling was with the NWA, it was the WWF that really won me over. Their production style was so different and flashy. Their characters were bigger, louder, wilder, and crazier. Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Andre The Giant, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, Hillbilly Jim, Junkyard Dog, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Koko B Ware, The Honky Tonk Man, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper... the list goes on and on. So much entertainment.
My relationship with the WWF got deeper as I got older. I paid more attention to the matches and the promos. I talked about it with my friends at school. I wrote and "booked" fantasy wrestling cards in notebooks. I was a teenager when the Monday Night Wars and the Attitude Era took off. Wrestling was becoming more of an obsession at this point.
It wasn't just the great times that I enjoyed. Even when one would say the WWF/WWE product was "poor", I was a faithful viewer on television and participated in pay-per-view parties with friends, where we would buy pizza and a cornucopia of the unhealthiest snack foods on the planet and watch the in-ring action from the couch. I've seen many matches that were piss poor, angles that didn't make any sense, promos that bordered on being insane, and workers that had no business being in the positions they were in. None of that stopped my love for the product, even after my teenage years became my adult years and my adult years became my very adult years. Even after I started writing about wrestling online, putting out thousands of columns for different sites, and I had to look at the business from a different perspective, I was still able to remain incredibly loyal to Vince McMahon and his promotion.
As of the time I'm typing this sentence, we're a few hours away from the 1,367th episode of Monday Night Raw and a day away from the 1,042nd episode of Smackdown. In those combined 2,409 episodes of episodic television, I haven't missed a single one. It's a minor accomplishment, but an accomplishment nonetheless. Until recently, though, my viewing habits were very strict. I watched damn near all of the episodes live as they aired, and if I couldn't due to work or other engagements, I would watch it later that night after recording it on VCR or DVR. In the last couple months or so, I find myself not really caring as much. If a report says that something interesting will be happening, I'll tune in live. Maybe a title match that I'm thinking will be very good or a rumored return that piques my interest. Otherwise, I have other things going on that take up my time. Even before my daughter was born and keeping me busy, I would find myself following along with Raw on Twitter and then checking out the post-show podcasts on Fightful. Monday would come to an end, and then Tuesday would come to an end, and then Wednesday would come to an end... and I'd still have that week's episode of Raw sitting unwatched on my DVR. That lack of desire to watch WWE programming has only gotten worse with time. I currently have four unwatched episodes of Smackdown and three unwatched episodes of Raw just sitting there, lonely.
"Damn, we used to kick it. Now, we disconnected. I thought we was different, but we ain't no exception."
Just count me in that ever-growing group of WWE fans that are upset with what is going on with the company. No matter what direction you want to point your unhappiness, any and every little thing ends with none other than Vincent Kennedy McMahon. There could be 100 different writers under WWE contract, and sometimes it seems like there are, but Vince has the final say on everything. We're watching things that don't make any sense, but apparently Vince thought they were good ideas. Having all those two-out-of-three falls matches to try and back themselves out of a corner that they put themselves in? All Vince. Having Roman Reigns get through multiple attempts on his life with lame camera angles that take away from whatever "realism" that is trying to be portrayed? All Vince. Cutting push after push off at the knees for no apparent reason? All Vince. Constantly running back to Brock Lesnar, even at the expense of the overall product? All Vince.
It makes me sad. All of it. I've spent a lot of time defending Vince McMahon, perhaps often when I shouldn't have been doing so. I'm running out of the desire and ability to do so. Vince is about to become 74 years old, and if we're going to keep it really real with each other, it has been a long, long time since he could accurately and believably have the "genius" title as he had in the past. Most of the best stories WWE has given us in recent years have been by accident. Ali getting injured gave us a push for Kofi Kingston that became entertaining television. Daniel Bryan got dicked around with and the WWE Universe took control of that narrative until Vince had no choice but to acquiesce to them. They weren't brilliant plans by the man in charge. They weren't even plans. They were just things that happened on their own.
"Used to be running through my mind, now you're jogging. Now you're just walking. Footsteps lightly, until they start to fade away, and all I hear is silence."
If there was ever a time for someone to think about walking away from WWE, now would be it. There are so many viable alternatives out there, whether it's the always-hot North American independent scene, New Japan, and... of course... All Elite Wrestling.
With Impact Wrestling's continued issues with finding a home on television, and with Ring Of Honor having problems with show attendance and booking decisions, AEW is already being viewed by many as the second-biggest promotion in this country, and by another group of fans as the second-biggest promotion in the world. They're selling out their events in minutes, they have a super sweet television spot that could potentially put them in front of a few million viewers every week, and they have a level of buzz that the wrestling world hasn't seen outside of WWE in a long, long time.
I'm ready for them. I'm ready for something different. Since my daughter takes up a lot of my time, I'm not able to watch as much wrestling as I used to. I used to be able to watch WWE, Impact, RoH, New Japan, PWG, EVOLVE, PROGRESS, NOAH, and other companies on at least a semi-regular basis. Now I have just enough time for one company to entertain me.
I don't think I can watch WWE's weekly programming anymore, or at least for the immediate future, unless something big happens and I've had people tell me to check it out. I don't want to have to do it, but I feel like I'm not being given a choice. You did this, Vince.
Goodbye, WWE. Maybe for good. Maybe for now. That's more up to you than me.
Hello, AEW. Maybe for good. Maybe for now. That's more up to you than me.
How many of you are "jumping ship" from WWE to AEW? Obviously, you can watch them both. Watch every promotion on the planet if you have the time and means to do so. I merely want to know who else is in the boat with me and is having AEW replace WWE in their viewing habits. Hit me up below or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage) and let me know.