‘ALL IN’ changed the game, in more ways than one.
Matt, Nick Jackson, and Cody Rhodes (with a little help from their friends) quite possibly redefined what the independent wrestling scene is capable of when you have a perfect storm of talent, fan support, and a need for alternatives to WWE.
The WWE, to some credit, is responding by throwing around money to keep performers on the roster…both in the United States, and now in the United Kingdom with the ascent of the NXT: UK brand that launched this autumn. In one of the more obvious attempts to “corner” the market on wrestling, the WWE has recently set in place new restrictions on signed UK talent. Initially, WWE signed UK talent were allowed to work with pretty much any promotion across the UK and Europe, now they are only allowed to work with WWE “partner” promotions like ICW or Progress, and need to get tacit approval for any other appearances.
Other promotions, like Impact and MLW are reportedly trying to sign talent to either exclusive contracts or beefing up their existing deals to keep performers close to the vest.
A bidding war is upon us and performers are about to get PAID. Reports floating around that sought after performers like WALTER and Shane Strickland are either signed with WWE or about to sign with WWE. Indie standout Jordynne Grace recently made her Impact Wrestling debut and has signed a 2 year deal as Impact looks to reload the Knockouts divison.
The new kid on the block, MLW, fresh off a tv deal with BeIN Sports has become an independent showcase. Talents like Maxwell J. Friedman (MJF), Brian Pillman Jr., and Sammy Guevara are helping push the promotion hard and fast, and while BeIN Sports does not have a wide footprint, the promotion puts episodes on YouTube typically in a day or two after they have aired. As MLW grows in profile, performers will be able to make more money there and elsewhere…notably MJF, easily one of the hottest heels in wrestling and the social media wunderkind and wrestling prodigy Sammy Geuvara.
Talent from Mexico have also had opportunity the raise their profiles by working with Impact and MLW as it looks like Lucha Underground may not be back for a fifth season. Pentagon Jr./Penta El Zero/Pentagon Dark, Fenix, Bandido, and others are also looking to cash in as audiences are exposed to a new generation of Lucha Libre, and are making appearances at promotions big and small across the United States, Europe, and Canada. Worth noting that Pentagon and Fenix are current MLW Tag Team Champions.
The WWE is going to make sure their talent is taken care of, and seem to be content to pay people to train, not be on television every week, just to make sure they aren’t working in other places. They have also recently been handed a giant sack of money by USA for Monday Night RAW and Fox, when SmackDown moves there next year.
Impact, currently looking for a new television home, as POP TV has shuttled them to 10pm on Thursday nights, has locked up Eli Drake, Eddie Edwards, and a couple others for at least the next 2 years. Television wise, reports are abound that they are shopping Impact to TBS, TruTV, and Syfy (which would be interesting, as they are owned by NBC Universal, who also owns USA).
MLW has a 2 year deal with BeIN Sports presently, but if their profile continues to grow, they may end up with a wider distribution sooner rather than later, which will then allow them to pay their roster a bit more.
Meanwhile AXS.TV looks to expand their relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling, new chairman Harold Meij and AXS.TV owner Mark Cuban want to raise NJPWs profile in the US with same day coverage of big events like WrestleKingdom, and at least 3 U.S. Specials in 2019.
All of this means more money for our favorite performers, and the floodgates may open once Cody and the Jacksons announce their plans, which reportedly include the launch of their own promotion called ‘All Elite Wrestling’. In short, it’s time for wrestlers to get that money and make hay while the sun shines.