that a new wrestling war is and has been going on for a little while right under our noses. I don't mean to start rambling, but that's probably what I'll wind up doing when trying to make my point so apologies in advance.

As we all know, pro wrestling has changed dramatically since the time WCW closed its doors and since then, the notion of any other company coming up to challenge WWE's supremacy as the biggest has been laughable. The last one to try, TNA, found itself royally spanked and slunk away in defeat but that was a ratings war and this new wrestling war isn't necessarily as dependent on TV ratings. After all, as with wrestling, our TV viewership or the way we watch TV programming itself has changed so drastically that the television industry itself has taken a huge hit. The result is that there are only a handful of shows left on TV, even among the big broadcast networks, that draw "big" numbers; big is in quotation marks because the numbers most of them draw would have resulted in most of them getting cancelled 10 to 15 years ago. Over the past 10 years, in terms of viewership, probably the top three shows to come along have been the Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead; the Big Bang Theory finished airing its 11th season and each new episode is averaging over 18 million viewers, GOT originally started out with a little over 2 million viewers and the latest season averages about 10.5 million. The Walking Dead is on the decline and the last season averaged about 7.82 million, which is down from a peak of 14.4 million a few years back, though roughly 8 million is still huge for a cable audience. Even powerhouse shows like Monday Night Football has seen, at times, a 50%+ drop in viewership the past several years. These days, you've got DVR and streaming services like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, the NFL Network that are the primary culprits for the dramatic change in TV viewing habits.

What's that all mean? it means that TV ratings aren't nearly as big of a factor in a new wrestling war. As to who the combatants are, you've got New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor as the top opponents to WWE while some indie companies, like Major League Wrestling, Lucha Underground and a few others are making strides. New Japan and Ring of Honor have their own streaming services, New Japan World and Honor Club, and these companies, along with a number of indie companies, have seen their audience grow due to the exposure given to them by YouTube. New Japan is miles ahead of the rest of the competition and most dirt sheet writers have consistently called New Japan the best wrestling company in the world for about the last 3 or 4 years, though Dave Meltzer has been praising the virtues of Japanese wrestling over wrestling anywhere else for decades. As you'd expect, it's gotten people curious, they're heading to YouTube, they're seeing what all the fuss is about and a good deal of them like what they've seen. New Japan has been expanding into the United States, having held several well received shows here, Cody Rhodes & the Young Bucks have put together their show "All In" that goes down on September 1st and it's the first wrestling event in the U.S. outside of WWE control to sell 10,000 tickets to a show since the demise of WCW in 2001. Ring Of Honor itself continues to slowly and steadily grow as a few of their shows have sold between 4,000 and 5,000 tickets in the states.

What's led to the rise to greater prominence of these companies among American fans? Well, to some degree, I think it's because WWE just doesn't seem "cool" anymore in a lot of ways. When WWE was embroiled in the Monday Night War 20 years ago, WCW was more along the lines of the corporate juggernaut because it had the nigh limitless resources of Ted Turner/Time Warner behind it and it forced Vince into a corner. He had to do things differently, he had to take his company in a direction in terms of characters, storytelling and antics no company had ever gone in before. It wasn't always in good taste or even good quality, I've read rumors that Vince himself is said to have not been thrilled with a lot of what he felt he had to do, but it resulted in the company reaching new heights in terms of audience size and creative direction. Since the mid 2000s, we've seen Vince go back to a decidedly more family friendly vision to such a degree that it's often stifled the wrestlers and the various creative teams over the years; many would say that he's hamstrung the company for the sake of corporate sponsors and for the sake of a very specific image that he wants the company to have. At the same time, however, WWE gets raked over the coals whenever it does anything with any real sort of bite or edge to it from many of the same people who claim they want to see a more adult oriented product, including some fans and industry writers. At any rate, WWE is now the corporate juggernaut that's making more money than ever before and, quite likely, makes far more than every other active wrestling company in the world; WWE took in over $800 million in revnue in 2017, is about to complete a new TV deal with Fox that, combined with its new deal for Raw with NBCUniversal, will see them pulling in $470 million in revenue from TV rights alone beginning in September of next year with the 5 year deal with Fox being worth more than $1 billion and the company's stock itself is currently worth close to $4.8 billion. WWE is more like the Empire while everyone else is basically the Rebel Alliance, only there are now convenient plot twists or 2 meter wide exhaust ports to make it possible for the Rebels to win.

Unless New Japan and/or ROH gets bought out by some billionaire or huge corporate conglomerate that'll invest mega capital into it, WWE is in no real danger of being toppled or even hurt. Aside from the financial strength, neither company can even be thought of as a real threat without a TV deal on a significant network. While it's true that TV is no longer the sole medium from which to view TV programming, it's still alive and well but there aren't a whole lot of significant networks geared towards wrestling. While ROH airs on Fox affiliates, it airs in syndication, which means different regions will see the same episode at different nights and times of the week. As for New Japan, it does air a show on AXS TV but it's really just a glorified clip show featuring cherry picked matches. With WWE's new deal with Fox, you can bet that there's a clause in the contract that prevents Fox from signing any other wrestling company to any sort of deal to air a show on any Fox owned network, such as FX or FXX, just like the agreement WWE has with NBCU. Viacom, which owns the Paramount Network, which used to be Spike TV, is obviously moved away from wanting anything to do with wrestling so they're highly unlikely. Disney is a possibility but whatever edge ROH and/or New Japan would bring would be heavily watered down as it's all but impossible to think of family friendly entertainment without thinking Disney; you're certainly not going to have Chris Jericho dropping f-bombs or Juice Robinson declaring he's about to go balls deep into some hot Japanese women after winning a big match. AMC is a possibility as a AMC's block of programming includes the Walking Dead, Better Call Saul and Preacher, all of which are definitely much grittier, violent and generally edgier than anything outside of HBO.

So yeah, this little war that's going on isn't going to be won in a couple of years or even a handful of years unless WWE suffers some mega financial meltdown. As a result, it's not something that's going to be on the level of the Monday Night War but that doesn't mean it's not good for wrestling as a whole. The changing times have seen more avenues open up for wrestling companies to generate significant revenue and for wrestlers to make good money without necessarily having to work for WWE.