It's Official: The Modern Era Of Pro Wrestling Is DEAD

Is this poop as fun as it was a few years ago?

Kenny Omega

The title is bound to attract a bit of fuss, so for those willing to read past it, an explanation:

Eras are subjective, but for the sake of the following argument, a new movement - or rather various new movements - developed beyond the shadow of the monopoly in the mid-2010s.

The BritWres scene boomed. In parallel, Germany's wXw unleashed GUNTHER unto the world. New Japan Pro Wrestling was so utterly seminal that a company that primarily operated from Asia became the #2 promotion in North America. Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, with its demented embrace of creativity and its imported talent locked in a race to pop the hipsters and make their name, was a more productive talent development facility than the WWE Performance Center. Kenny Omega transcended what a great pro wrestling match looked like. Wrestling was so vibrant that a promotion, White Wolf Wrestling, seemed to sprout from out of nowhere. They have great wrestling in Spain, too?!

A-Kid Vs. Zack Sabre, Jr., a searingly intense and hate-fuelled technical classic, was one of the best matches of 2018. The scene was so alive and thriving that it felt endlessly great. It was a magic period of discovery powered by the accessibility of the digital age.

Then, there was ROH and Being The Elite. Things were happening, and things did. All In and the formation of AEW once seemed impossible. That was how powerful everything felt towards the end of the 2010s: the industry, monopolised into tedium for nearly two decades, felt like it was in a long overdue state of karmic rebalance.

In 2021, professional wrestling fans - i.e., fans who didn't like and had been spurned by WWE - were in dreamland. They didn't merely have everything they ever naively dreamed of when that thought was remote: they got more.

If you ever wanted super-intricate long-term storytelling with an intense emotional heft, AEW delivered it, crystallising its vision with one perfect shot at Full Gear 2020. After the Young Bucks defeated FTR - modern wrestling fans got that too, and did in fact rejoice! - they celebrated in the ring alongside Kenny Omega, who had defeated Hangman Page earlier in the night to become #1 contender to the AEW World title. Lurking in the entrance tunnel, distanced from the friends he had betrayed and their achievements, was Hangman Page. Wrestling fans have killed the word "cinema" in 2023, mostly as a meme in fairness, but that was genuinely moving cinematography. It was artful. Page never felt Elite, that moment proved it, and his mental state was captured perfectly. This was Page at his lowest ebb, but it was also the catalyst for his stunning redemption arc. With this incredible bit of booking dexterity, Tony Khan initiated the next year and change of storytelling.

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Michael Sidgwick is an editor, writer and podcaster for WhatCulture Wrestling. With over seven years of experience in wrestling analysis, Michael was published in the influential institution that was Power Slam magazine, and specialises in providing insights into All Elite Wrestling - so much so that he wrote a book about the subject. You can order Becoming All Elite: The Rise Of AEW on Amazon. Possessing a deep knowledge also of WWE, WCW, ECW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Michael’s work has been publicly praised by former AEW World Champions Kenny Omega and MJF, and surefire Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Cody Rhodes. When he isn’t putting your finger on why things are the way they are in the endlessly fascinating world of professional wrestling, Michael wraps his own around a hand grinder to explore the world of specialty coffee. Follow Michael on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MSidgwick for more!