At the moment, WWE is getting a battering for its bland programming (at least, for shows not called NXT) – it’s not the first time that’s happened, nor will it be the last. However, as we approach the end of 2015, us wrestling fans have never had a better choice of alternatives. If that sounds a little stupid, let me explain.Of course, the WWE Network has the entire back catalogue of pay-per-views from WWE, WCW and ECW; and in recent weeks they’ve started to add sporadic content from other, defunct, promotions. However, as I write this, the network doesn’t have a complete catalogue of any company’s weekly TV. Sure, there’s a few years of Nitro and Raw, but given that most of the fans upset at the current climate of WWE lived through the much famed “Attitude era”, reliving old content will only get you so far before watching wrestling becomes as reminiscent as going through old photo albums.
In the old days (read: a few years ago), your options for alternatives were really quite limited. Unless you were lucky enough to live in a part of the world where an independent promotion had a show on a local channel, your options were limited to WWE, the oft-maligned TNA, or Ring of Honor. Granted, ROH’s product is the most accessible out of the three of them, thanks to the company’s website streaming its’ weekly television show for free. Beyond that, you were limited to “whatever DVDs you had previously ordered from your favourite company”, which veers closely into reminiscing territory, particularly since there are unavoidable delays between a show taking place and making it onto a physical release. Thanks in part to the success of the WWE Network, streaming services for wrestling are back in vogue, becoming more reliable and more accessible. Those of us who have been even casual fans of independent wrestling will be able to recall the nightmares that internet streaming brought to us. Ring of Honor ended up ditching the whole internet pay-per-view concept after a series of shows which were unwatchable thanks to a litany of technical errors, where fans were unable to stream or had a poor quality video.
Two years ago, I attempted to watch a weekend’s worth of independent shows through WWNLive that streamed prior to WrestleMania 29; with largely positive results. It’s largely just WWE and WWN who stream live wrestling shows these days. The possible technical issues that can ruin the customer experience during a live stream has led to companies opting to put their efforts on shortening their turnaround times and getting shows out of the door as quickly as possible. The aforementioned WWN Live allows you to stream shows on demand, but on a somewhat pay-per-view basis (in that you buy “a show” and you can watch it as often as you want; the digital version of buying a DVD, or much like how Amazon Video offers their non-Prime titles). Smart Mark Video has opted towards a similar offering, much like WWN, with a variety of independent promotions having shows available to buy individually.
Some promotions have decided to go in-house with the whole thing, with two British companies in particular leading the charge on alternative subscription services: Scottish-based Insane Championship Wrestling have built up something of a cult following, with the likes of Drew Galloway and the Marmite-figure of Grado leading the company beyond the borders of Scotland, and towards shows in the rest of the British Isles. Going a lot further south, PROGRESS Wrestling has earned a lot of praise for it’s alternative take on wrestling – and for once, “alternative” wasn’t a buzz-word for a product that would struggle to expand its fanbase. Both of those groups have enlisted the services of a company called PivotShare to enable them to host their entire libraries for fans to watch on a per-show base, or on a subscription-basis. This latter option has proven to be a game changer, as a monthly fee of $6.99 and $7.50 opens up the entire library of ICW and Progress for fans to watch on-demand, using a computer, tablet or a Roku device.
Thanks to a low price point ($7.50 works out at around a fiver in the UK), and a barrage of positive reviews, I’ve decided to dip into the libraries of Progress Wrestling to see whether the hype is indeed justified. Then again, all of those people shouting from the rooftops can’t be wrong. The only problem thereafter is actually getting to the shows, given how quickly tickets to Progress events sell out!
I’ll be reviewing a few Progress events on this site in the coming weeks, especially since Progress shows are being posted within a week of them taking place – but if you’re a wrestling fan complaining about WWE’s product and therefore saying that all wrestling is bad… there are legal alternatives out there. You’re probably just not looking hard enough!