Wrestling, perhaps more than any professional sport, is home to a wide array of offerings to suit the tastes of most every fan. While football, hockey, baseball and basketball are dominated by a single professional league in North America, professional wrestling has been able to maintain some of its traditional territorial roots, even while World Wrestling Entertainment has emerged as the flagship organization for the industry.
The WWE, with its global positioning and diversified business interests, has certainly done its part to elevate wrestling from the fabled “smoke-filled arenas” and Saturday morning television fare to a mainstream, prime time piece of popular culture. However, while the brand continues to amass new fans, the WWE doesn’t appeal to everyone and there are a growing number of fans turning to the independent wrestling scene to whet their appetite for ring combat.
Wrestling on the independents, "indies" if you will, is presented without the pretension of “sports entertainment." Here it’s still “rasslin," a battle of good vs. evil played out between the ropes. The independents themselves have evolved from what was once considered "outlaw" promotions to claim a key place in the industry as a place to groom up-and-coming talent, a home for those wrestlers on the sunset of their careers and a stomping ground for those talents that maybe didn’t seem to fit into the culture of the WWE.
But the debate continues to rage on and the question remains: which is better, the independents (the “indies”) or the WWE? Each has something special and unique to offer, but there can only be one that is the best. Here are some of the top arguments for each case. You decide. And as always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section and let us know where you stand in this debate.
15 WWE is Better: Pure Resiliency
14 The Indies are Better: Not Bound by Political Correctness
13 WWE is Better: Diversified Wrestling’s Profile
12 The Indies Are Better: Breeding Ground of the Next Generation
While the WWE does offer a state-of-the-art training facility with some of the finest instructors in their Florida-based Performance Centre, nothing can re-create the education that comes from paying one’s dues in the harsh conditions of the independents. We can’t help but think that the shorter career expectancy of talent being developed “in-house” stems from the fact that wrestlers who are fast-tracked to the top tier don’t appreciate the opportunity in front of them.
11 WWE is Better: Roster Depth
10 The Indies are Better: Wrestlers That Defy The Mold
“Creative has got nothing for you” is a statement that has discouraged many talented wrestlers while under contract with the WWE. How can you demonstrate your value if you aren’t given the platform to perform? New Japan newsmaker Kenny Omega was once under a developmental contract with the WWE and parked in a developmental territory for several months. When he realized that he would never fit the mold they were hoping to create for him, he requested his release and ventured out on his own, creating his own success.
9 WWE is Better: In-House Expertise on Staff
When you list the number of outstanding wrestlers who are on the WWE payroll and never see a moment of television time, it is truly jaw-dropping. Working as trainers, producers or agents, men like Adam Pearce (former NWA World champion), Terry Taylor, Scott Armstrong, Arn Anderson, Fit Finlay and many more help develop the product but also mentor the wrestlers on the ascent of their careers to help them evolve in the sport.
8 The Indies are Better: Unpredictability of Free Agency
7 WWE is Better: Salaried Opportunities For Talent
As a wrestler, there are few places you want to be other than the WWE. The enticement of guaranteed money, plus incentives for merchandising and residuals create an attractive financial package for the top earners. Wrestlers at the top of the game now are earning greater money with greater security than at any time in wrestling history. This ultimately attracts some of the best talent in the world.
6 The Indies are Better: Allows Work/Life Balance
Forget what you think you know about the choreographed nature of wrestling. One wrong move or miscalculation and one can find themselves with a permanent disability. The independents allow athletes to hone their skills and explore their passion for wrestling on weekends while juggling the security of another career and family time during the week. That is a major help to a wrestler's well being as they could live a normal life outside of the business.
5 WWE is Better: Television Saturation
If you’re a wrestling fan and want to find some matches on television, chances are that you’re going to find the WWE. With three distinct brands under their umbrella, plus the extended on-demand offerings created by operating their own network, you can catch a WWE match on TV at any time, day or night.
4 The Indies are Better: Intimate and Interactive
Often appearing in legion halls and armouries, professional wrestling on the indies allows fans a greater opportunity to meet their favorite wrestler and snap a photo or get an autograph. Additionally, as most enterprising wrestlers augment their income through their own merchandising, they are interested to connect with the fans to support their own needs while engaging the audiences directly, which will lobby promoters to ensure they make future appearances.
3 WWE is Better: Production Value
When you become a juggernaut in the entertainment industry and are producing a product for prime time television, it stands to reason that your production will be first rate. The one area where the WWE leaves all of its competition in the dust is in the area of production.
2 The Indies are Better: Creative Autonomy
1 WWE is Better: WWE = Wrestling
There is no escaping it. Vince McMahon has done such a good job at establishing his brand of entertainment that when people talk about wrestling, non-fans may ask, “You mean like WWE”. The initials WWE are synonymous with wrestling in a way that no indie organization has yet to rival. While the WWE can accredit much of its talent to the indies, it promotes that talent on a worldwide stage, something the indies could never do.
In every sport, there is one brand that trumps them all and in the business of pro wrestling, WWE is king.
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