SPOTLIGHTS: Can We Still Call It ‘Independent Wrestling?’

jericho-santana-ortiz-hager-guevara-aew.jpgAn epiphany occurred while watching the second televised episode of All Elite Wrestling (AEW) Dynamite alongside Huracanrana. The conspiracy theorist in me remains of the opinion the show intentionally aligned against the seemingly other ‘independent wrestling’ juggernaut that is NXT. Or the reverse, just because. But that’s an article for another time and place.

Watching an unbelievably well produced, engaging, and adult friendly wrestling program on national television…one filled with former or never WWE talent…completely altered my mindset about what is – or isn’t – independent wrestling.

See, independent wrestling was intentionally designed – based on its namesake – to be independent of excess sponsor commitments, shareholder whims, and management dictating match outcomes up to the final 3 count. Most importantly, its wrestlers independent contractors in the truest sense, with commitments mutually agreed upon or not at all. Independent wrestlers (except in the rarest of exclusivity licenses) owe no allegiance to a promotion in exception to carrying out good matches and storylines.

Then along comes AEW to throw a wrench into everything.

It’s not the alternate to anything. Not to WWE, not to ROH, New Japan Pro Wrestling or even NXT. It’s a far cry from TNA, WCW and/or would-be WWE challengers. It’s likewise not Lucha Underground, backed by a high profile director and aspiring for a movie-esque format.

Instead, AEW is the strangest of promotions created by active wrestlers, for an audience already favorable to the independent wrestling concept, and presents its episodes in a contained format (where each show tells stories capable of existing in isolation or a continuum). Related and while social media friendly, AEW does not derive success barometers on social media presence.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of AEW is how it will shape local, independent promotions alongside it. Well, if it all. Importantly, AEW proposes a new definition for independent wrestling more indicative of a genre than alternative…or contract vehicle. Instead, it considers independent to now mean athlete driven and -centric professional wrestling. One – while focused on its talent, of course – is selling a product perspective versus marketing [an] individual/s.

I’m very curious if/how AEW changes audience totals and viewpoints. We’ll report back after Huracanrana and some of her IndyKast buddies attend the Full Impact Pro show at Tampa’s Orpheum, 1 Nov.

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