Islands in the Stream: Navigating Online Wrestling Content (Legally)

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If you’re a true fan and purist of professional wrestling, who loves everything from the old days of the AWA and WWF to an indie supporter of Beyond, Evolve or World Wonder Ring Stardom, this is the greatest time to be alive in the industry’s long and rich history. Back in the glory days of the territories, unless you had access to regional networks that aired the territories, chances are you were limited to with promotion you can enjoy. By the time the 1990’s came, ECW or Japanese wrestling was seen more often by VHS tape traders than on television networks, and the only real viewing options were WWE or WCW. But now, thanks to an explosion of online streaming sites and collective promotions and companies structuring their own online archives and live event networks, it’s not out of the question for a wrestling fan today to easily watch upwards of twenty global promotions at a time. But which one do you start with? Which ones can you add to your plates for the biggest bang for your buck?

Here’s a look at all the major pro wrestling online networks available and the options they offer. Please note, there are still many, many more as even local indie promotions are developing new ways to get their content online to stream. But these are eight current on-demand/live streaming networks that are all reasonably priced and are a good start to adventure out and discover new indie promotions, or to return home to some old favourites.

Photo: WWE Network

The WWE Network

Launched: 2014
Cost: $9.99 US monthly subscription
Where To Sign-Up: wwe.com/wwenetwork
Promotions Included: WWE, NXT, WCW, ECW, Mid-Atlantic, NWA Mid-South, AWA, WCCW, Smokey Mountain Wrestling, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Stampede Wrestling

Let’s get the big dog out of the way. Chances are, everyone reading this is well aware of the WWE Network. While you can’t watch first run airings of Raw or Smackdown Live (both air on the USA Network) or Total Divas (E! Network), just about everything else WWE related is found on the Network, which includes first run airings of NXT and 205 Live, plus every Pay Per View. Their online archive is constantly being added to for both past Raw and Smackdowns (although not nearly as quickly as some fans would like), plus adding as much of the archived libraries for all the defunct promotions WWE has purchased the catalogues of (and continues to acquire). There’s still much they haven’t uploaded yet, and recent reports indicate that WWE may become the new archival home for some of Britain’s top indie promotions, including England’s Progress, Scotland’s Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW), and Ireland’s Over The Top (OTT), as well as two women’s promotions, the UK’s Pro Wrestling Eve and the USA’s Shimmer. These would not include the five promotions live PPV’s, but would act as a home for all their past events and programming. With the WWE hiring more indie stars than ever, it only makes sense to have the ability to showcase some of their footage from their breeding ground days.

Photo: NJPW World

NJPW World

Launched: 2014
Cost: ¥999 (about $8.75 US) monthly subscription
Where To Sign-Up: njpwworld.com
Promotions Included: NJPW, CMLL (Viernes Espectaculares only)

Months after WWE launched their WWE Network, NJPW countered with their own network, with every NJPW program going back to it’s inception in 1972. Like the WWE Network, it’s also the official home of their PPV events. Due to their working partnership with Mexico’s CMLL, they broadcast CMLL’s Viernes Espectaculares annually as well, but apart from that, it’s exclusively NJPW content. If they’re going to keep growing as a rivalry to the WWE Network, they could stand to bring in some other promotions to its Network, even if it was just DDT, NOAH or Stardom. Offering a bit more variety will go a longer way in gaining more North America viewers. But it is cheaper than the WWE Network.

Photo: FITE App

FITE App

Launched: 2016
Cost: Varies
Where To Sign-Up: www.fite.tv
Promotions Included: Ring of Honor, TNA Impact, ICW, Progress, Paragon Pro Wrestling, MMA

Flipps Media launched this App, available for Apple or Android, early 2016, and by the summer, had become the home for Ring of Honor‘s television and PPV on-demand, but TNA’s Impact Wrestling. Add in the European promotions and they were an indie paradise. They’re not exactly a network like the other ones per say, but a directional shopping tool. You buy the PPVs individually from each promotion, but it’s all kept together for you here.

Photo: FloSlam

FloSlam

Launched: 2016
Cost: $20 US monthly subscription
Where To Sign-Up: floslam.tv
Promotions Included: Evolve, Shine, Beyond, wXw, Full Impact Pro, IPW: UK, Over The Top (OTT), Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore, Dragon Gate USA, Style Battle, ACW

FloSlam exploded out the gate, securing WWN long term, which brought them Evolve, Shine and Full Impact Pro. They soon added Britain’s IPW: UK and OTT (although they may lose the latter to the WWE Network), Germany’s top promotion in wXw, and cult fave American indies Beyond and House of Hardcore.

Photo: Highspots Wrestling Network

Highspots Wrestling Network

Launched: 2015
Cost: $9.99 US monthly subscription
Where To Sign-Up: highspotswrestlingnetwork.com
Promotions Included: PWG, CZW, AAW, IWA Mid-South, Queens of Combat, PWX

Not just a DVD manufacturer anymore, HighSpots entered the online wrestling world in 2015. With such a back catalogue of some huge indie promotions – including being the exclusive online streaming home for PWG and it’s annual Battle of Los Angeles – it only made sense. And while PWG is their top promotion, the rest are no slouches either. CZW is one of the last bastions of true hardcore, Kentucky’s IWA Mid-South is the face of the new hardcore, and Chicago’s All American Wrestling (AAW) is becoming a hot promotion out of the Mid-West. North Carolina’s Queens of Combat is one of the top American women’s promotions, with a lot of the same names that frequent Shine or Shimmer.

Photo: Chikara

Chikaratopia

Launched: 2015
Cost: $7.99US monthly subscription
Where To Sign-Up: chikarapro.com
Promotions Included: Chikara

Chikara was perhaps the first indie promotion to branch out with their own on-demand service, when it launched Chikaratopia in 2015. The heavy long term storytelling lends itself well to an on-demand network, and with Chikara’s rich and amusing history is worth the repeat viewing. It’s managed to do something WWE failed at – make a PG family oriented promotion appeal to indie purists.

Photo: Smash On Demand

SMASH On Demand

Launched: 2015
Cost: $7.49 US monthly subscription
Where To Sign-Up: https://ondemand.smash-wrestling.com/
Promotions Included: Smash Wrestling, Progress, wXw

One of the new kids on the block, Toronto’s SMASH Wrestling launched SMASH On Demand in 2015 to offer an in-demand service for their local Toronto promotion, but SMASH has quickly became labelled “PWG North” by many, for their ability to draw some of the top performers in the indie circuit, including Matt Cross, Johnny Gargano, Jimmy Havoc, Zack Sabre Jr., Cody Rhodes and more, integrated with a who’s who of top Ontario stars, including their current Champion, Tyson Dux (who competed in last year’s WWE Cruiserweight Classic). In the past year, they’ve brought in on-demand events for both Progress and wXw. If you want to catch the best in the Canadian indie scene, mixed with touring sensations, this is the best place to start.

Photo: Stardom World

Stardom World

Launched: 2016
Cost: ¥750 (about $6.50 US) monthly subscription
Where To Sign-Up: stardom-world.com
Promotions Included: World Wonder Ring STARDOM

With the rise of women’s wrestling in North America in Shine, Shimmer, Queens of Combat and others, Japan’s World Wonder Ring STARDOM struck while the iron was hot and launched their own YouTube streaming channel for all of their events. STARDOM is quickly gaining the reputation of perhaps the top women’s promotion in the world right now.

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