The Professional Wrestling Renaissance

The Professional Wrestling Renaissance

By Nick Miello

April 4, 2024

In the 80s and 90s, pro wrestling was one of the biggest things in entertainment. Now, it’s slowly making its way back to the spotlight.

In recent months, more people are interacting with professional wrestling than before. For the first time since the late 1990s, multiple companies with many shows compete for the most viewership.

In early February this year, Dwayne Johnson returned to his “The Rock” persona during a surprise appearance on WWE Smackdown. In the days following his return, The Rock allied himself with his cousin, the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns, in his rivalry against Cody Rhodes.

Clips of The Rock’s recent WWE appearances have been viewed millions of times across social media. However, The Rock’s return to WWE isn’t the only reason more people are watching professional wrestling. When movie and television productions halted during the Writer’s Guild and Screen Actor’s Guild strikes this spring and summer, televised wrestling shows like WWE Monday Night Raw and AEW Wednesday Night Dynamite were able to continue production.  

It’s an open secret that professional wrestling is scripted or “fake”; however, this isn’t entirely true.  Performers are given a time limit for their matches and a few notes on what should happen during them.  The wrestlers decide Everything else, often on the fly during the match, making professional wrestling more of a form of improvisational theatre than athletic competition.

But why watch wrestling if the outcome is predetermined? For many fans, it’s the characters and stories that wrestling creates that keep them watching.  For example, the rivalry between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and WWE (at the time known as WWF) Chairman and CEO Mr. McMahanon is one that can only exist within professional wrestling.  The brash, beer-chugging Austin felt that McMahon was holding him back from winning the WWF Championship, so he sought to torment McMahon in any way he could, such as spraying McMahon, his son and The Rock with beer.  Viewers found Austin’s antics cathartic, relating to the feeling of being held back by the authority figures in their lives.

In late January, prior to The Rock’s return, at WWE’s Royal Rumble Premium Live Event, Rhodes won the eponymous Royal Rumble match, a 30-person battle royale where competitors enter the ring in timed intervals, which guaranteed him a match against the champion of his choosing at Wrestlemania, WWE’s flagship show. He chose to challenge Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, restarting their rivalry that began when Rhodes won the previous year’s Royal Rumble. Rhodes seeks to “finish the story” by winning the only championship his father, the late Dusty Rhodes, was never able to win in his career.

Also on this show, Bayley won the Women’s Royal Rumble match for the first time in her career. She then challenged her former tag-team partner, Iyo Sky, for the WWE Women’s Championship.

Professional wrestling is more than just WWE, however. Earlier this March at All Elite Wrestling’s Revolution Pay-Per-View show, veteran of the squared circle Sting ended his almost 40-year career by retaining the AEW tag team championship with his partner and mentee Darby Allin. After the match, performers and production staff came to the ring to congratulate the 64-year-old legend as the sold-out Greensboro, NC crowd chanted, “Thank you, Sting.”

Also on this show, British performer Will Ospreay made his AEW debut in a victorious effort against Konosuke Takeshita.  Having recently ended his tenure with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Ospreay’s first match with an American promotion received universal acclaim from critics and fans.

So, if you find yourself at home on a weeknight, put on one of the many wrestling shows.  There is nothing else like it on television.

Nick Miello is a senior majoring in professional and public writing and minoring in graphic design.  He aspires to write or produce for television.  In his free time, he enjoys listening to music and reading comic books.