10 Ways Wrestling Has Changed Since Grand Theft Auto V's Release

12/14/2023 8:14 AM

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10 Ways Wrestling Has Changed Since Grand Theft Auto V's Release

10 Ways Wrestling Has Changed Since Grand Theft Auto V's Release

December 14, 2023 8:14 AM
10 Ways Wrestling Has Changed Since Grand Theft Auto V's Release
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Why has WWE changed so much since Grand Theft Auto V's release? Probably the weather...

There are few video games as polarising as Grand Theft Auto V.

Oft-deemed Rockstar Games’ best offering ever, the game offered an immersive, immaculate, and impressive computerised take on Los Angeles as together, Michael de Santa (Ned Luke), Franklin Clinton (Shawn Fonteno), and Trevor Philips (Steven Ogg) provided a new generation of gamers with memories they’ll harbour forever.

The game first hit shelves on 17 September 2013, though - a vast TEN years ago!

At that point, The Undertaker was still undefeated at WrestleMania, Bo Dallas held the NXT Championship, the same title that would go on to be held by a glut of indie darlings, The Wyatt Family and The Shield were both still in their original runs, the WWE Network had yet to launch, CM Punk hadn’t left WWE, and as for Rhea Ripley? Well, she was still in high school.

Feel old yet?

Yeah.

Grand Theft Auto VI is next up for Rockstar, with the first trailer leaking ahead of schedule after over a decade of fan anticipation. Another horde of changes will have dominated wrestling headlines by the time the game hits shelves so until then, here’s a glut of what’s already changed since we first visited Los Santos…

10. A McMahonless WWE

Vince McMahon can be best described as an indecisive toddler who can’t decide between macaroni cheese or spaghetti for his dinner, except in this case, the macaroni cheese is him stepping back from his WWE responsibilities, and the spaghetti is him waltzing back in through the front door.

The longstanding WWE figurehead had originally retired in July 2022, with Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque assuming control of creative, and Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan being promoted to co-CEOs, though Stephanie later stepped down.

Her reason for doing so? Vince McMahon’s return to power.

The newly-appointed Executive Chairman returned in January 2023 to oversee the purchase of his sports entertainment empire, which was announced in a bizarre post-WrestleMania 39 interview as having been sold to Endeavour Group. WWE, resultantly, merged with Dana White’s UFC under the TKO Group Holdings banner.

This was astonishing. McMahon and White had long been considered rivals, with the latter going so far as to claim that Vince had “f**ked him” on numerous occasions. It’s important to stress that Vince and Dana have no say over the opposing product, but the uniting of two of the world’s leading sports enterprises was a once-unfathomable business decision turned reality.

9. WWE Finds Competition

The Monday Night Wars provided the mould for what the Attitude Era would become. Without Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff trying to one-up each other, the former’s goofy, cartoonish world of occupational gimmicks would be WWE as we know it today.

So pivotal was WCW to the success of the nineties for WWE that when they were bought out by Vince McMahon, a sizeable dent was left in the wrestling business. Many tried to fill it, with TNA notably attempting a rebooted Monday Night Wars in 2010, but none were as commercially and financially successful as All Elite Wrestling.

Backed by the luxuriously rich Khan family and a starting lineup that included Chris Jericho and The Elite, AEW skyrocketed as this genuine alternative to WWE, feeling, looking, and breathing different to what the norm was for mainstream North American wrestling.

The product has gradually decreased across 2022 and 2023 amidst a sea of rambling mistakes on Tony Khan’s part - an abundance of signings, tournaments, championships, and “major” announcements being the most flagrant - but WCW, too, struggled for a period coming out of the cherished eighties. AEW will be fine again if they can relight the fire they once sat upon.

8. The CM Punk Situation

To summarise, following Grand Theft Auto V first hitting shelves, CM Punk walked out of WWE, stated he would never return to wrestling, gave UFC a try, starred as an analyst on the FOX-produced WWE Backstage, signed with AEW in his first direct wrestling appearance since the 2014 Royal Rumble, had a physical confrontation with The Elite, returned on the premiere of Collision after a nine-month suspension, had another backstage altercation during Jack Perry, was terminated from AEW, and returned to WWE after seven years.

He’s a divisive performer, CM Punk, but his jaw-dropping Survivor Series: WarGames return to WWE marked the birth of a new era for the promotion.

His decision to re-sign with the company, though, made Punk the centre of hypocrisy allegations, having previously told Colt Cabana the following on the Art of Wrestling podcast (H/T Pro Wrestling Torch):

"I looked Vince in the eye and I said, 'I do not love this anymore. I'm f**king sick, I'm f**king hurt, I'm f**king confused, I don't know as a business what we're doing anymore. Every day you tell me it's a team effort, but every day it's an individual effort by me to find what's necessary to even f**king come here. It's not fun. I have zero passion for this. I'm concussed, I'm hurt, and alls you care about is what segment I'm in and how soon I can get my gear on and how soon I can pee in this cup and I don't want to do it anymore.'

CM Punk in November 2014 is not the same CM Punk in November 2023. Though he rocked the boat in AEW with his series of backstage scandals, his WWE return was made with certain legalities in place, including a clause that states he must be on his best behaviour at all times, but how long will this last? Long enough for him to still be in the company by the time GTA VI makes gaming history?

Probably not.

7. Saudi Arabia

Vince McMahon made a series of shameful errors during his time as WWE’s head honcho, but striking a deal with the Saudi Arabian government to promote a series of WrestleMania-level Premium Live Events in the kingdom was among his most shady.

Outside of the events being full of the drabbest in-ring horrors, a variety of humanitarian issues plagued the shows before they even occurred. The assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, bluntly described by Stephanie McMahon as a “heinous act”, saw several prominent US politicians calling for WWE to cancel the 2018 Crown Jewel. They proceeded regardless, citing contractual obligations, though Daniel Bryan and John Cena refused to work the show.

Saudi Arabia’s history of suppressing women’s and LGBTQIA+ rights has also led to a point of controversy. Women didn’t feature on the cards until Renee Young provided commentary at Crown Jewel 2018, while the first women’s match in the country wasn’t wrestled until the following year when Natalya faced Lacey Evans.

The events have gradually improved from a kayfabe viewpoint, but the real and inhumane environment looming over them each year acts as a constant reminder that even the Triple H-led WWE isn’t above ignoring their morals for a "blood-money-covered d*ck".

6. Everything Is More Accessible

If you’re of a certain age, then you’ll recall the golden days of entering your local retailer and scouring the shelves for the latest WWE DVD. If you were lucky, they’d have tons of the stuff, full of pay-per-views and Superstar compilations, and if you were one of the blessed few, you’d even bag yourself a couple of Tagged Classics.

You won’t be able to for much longer, though, as the WWE Home Video account on Twitter sadly announced they're ceasing operation of physical media - but was it overdue?

The launch of the WWE Network in February 2014 removed the need for WWE to continue producing DVDs. That they continued to do so for an additional seven years was surprising, but not unexpected; not everyone will have purchased the Network and even then, there are a smattering of events not currently available on the service, so physical media will always have its place.

Even outside of the Network, numerous promotions have their own streaming service. Priced fairly, they provide instant access at the click of a button to several decades worth of footage that you can’t turn down in favour of paying £20 for one 2012 WWE pay-per-view DVD.

5. The Glass Ceiling Has Shattered

Does the glass ceiling still exist in WWE?

To some degree, yes, but it’s now largely a non-factor in a bygone era.

Take Jey Uso as a shining example of this. In 2013, Jey was still firmly aligned with brother Jimmy, yet to lift their first set of Tag Team Championships. They did so, finally, in 2014, but this was presumed to be the benchmark for Jey until he broke out in 2020. Working opposite Roman Reigns, he became ‘Main Event Jey’, transforming into a viable contender to topple his Undisputed Universal Champion-reigning cousin.

He’s not alone either. Cody Rhodes had peaked during his Intercontinental Championship phase, but returned in 2022 as WWE’s top babyface. LA Knight was an NXT lower mid-carder, but having a go as a believable headliner in IMPACT Wrestling provided the stepping stone to superstardom. Seth Rollins was still in The Shield with Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, and although it was Reigns whom WWE had chosen as their next top act, it was Rollins who reigned first as WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

The point is, WWE has forever had glass ceiling presiding over its roster that only the elitist of the elite could break through, but now? It has an open-door policy.

4. Women Can Main Event

Said Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque when asked about the representation of women’s wrestling on WWE programming during the post-SummerSlam 2023 press conference (H/T Wrestling Inc.):

"I look at the women in WWE just like I look at the men in WWE, their talent, and it's irrelevant to me if they're female talent, male talent, doesn't matter to me. I put the same amount of thought, put the same amount of process and [I am] just looking for the things that are delivering in the moment.
If they were the main event, it was because they were the main event, not because, 'Hey, that's pretty good. You guys are women. I think I'll get better press if I put you in the main event. That's cool, right?' No, it's not. It's whoever is the most deserving.”

Women could always main event; it was just a case of letting them show it.

The inaugural women’s WrestleMania main event between Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Ronda Rousey was a game-changer, but not as much as Flair and Sasha Banks’ Hell in a Cell match from the titular event in 2016. This marked the first time women had main evented a WWE pay-per-view ever so although it wasn’t quite as lavish as the main event payday of ‘The Show of Shows’, it was a real piece of history for a rivalry that was most deserving at the time.

Subsequent moments in history, including the introduction of an annual women’s Royal Rumble match, and Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair’s war of attrition over the former’s SmackDown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 37, marking the first time two black women had main evented a WWE show, clearly displayed WWE’s stance towards women’s wrestling.

It may not be a perfect stance, but it’s improved.

Massively.

3. We Know More Than Ever Before

The Montreal Screwjob is among the most infamous events in pro wrestling history and the 1998-released Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows documentary exposed the real, bitter truth concerning what happened that night.

The documentary was critically acclaimed for providing a detailed insight into the exact intricacies surrounding such a contentious matter - but how amazing would it have been to have received that information the day after, not several months later?

The rise of reputable wrestling-centric news outlets means that such disgraceful acts of unprofessionalism are the talk of Wrestling Twitter within hours of them occurring. AEW’s ill-fated ‘Brawl Out’ is the best example of this, with details emerging almost every few minutes as to what, exactly, happened.

As wrestling fans, we are now inundated with reports on who’s coming back to WWE or whose contract is expiring soon which, don’t get us wrong, can be a good thing. CM Punk’s AEW debut and Cody Rhodes’ WWE return were all broken ahead of time by Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp, with Sapp’s reporting doing nothing to ruin either moment. Instead, the immense fan speculation and online theorising made each moment instantly iconic for the respective promotion.

2. It’s Just Better Now

Stating that professional wrestling in 2023 is generally better than it was ten years ago is pretty broad, given the amount of wrestling that’s sitting on your doorstep. There’s a mountain of content to swim through so to calm any qualms, no, not every wrestling product is currently hot.

But is there any questioning the quality of the wrestling itself?

Not a chance.

All Elite Wrestling has continued to be the dream match factory. A masterclass in catch-as-catch-can wrestling such as Bryan Danielson vs. Zack Sabre Jr. can be just as good as a bloody, barbaric Texas Death Match between Swerve Strickland and ‘Hangman’ Adam Page. In IMPACT Wrestling, Will Ospreay vs. Mike Bailey was a sleeper hit for the Match of the Year at Bound For Glory, while the imminent rebranding back to their Total Nonstop Action name will push the promotion to new heights. Ring of Honor, amidst a handful of first-class pay-per-views, has produced the single greatest women’s storyline of the year in Athena vs. Billie Starkz.

As for WWE? They can’t print enough tickets…

1. WWE Is The Hottest Ticket In Town

AEW was founded in 2019 as a polar opposite of WWE. It was designed specifically to do mainstream North American wrestling the right way, focusing on the wrestling element of the sport over the kooky sports entertainment aspects that have dominated WWE for decades.

In doing so, though, AEW achieved two genuine how-did-this-happen moments in one go; they got stale because they pushed WWE to do better.

AEW was formed to be this gritty, underground alternative to WWE and in the beginning, they were. The Wednesday Night Wars proved as much, with AEW's weekly Dynamite broadcasts dominating NXT in the weekly ratings. WWE responded to this by having the black-and-gold brand thrash Raw and SmackDown at the 2019 Survivor Series, which was the event’s best iteration in at least a decade.

This trend of AEW actively trying to do WWE the right way would continue to the point where we live in a world where WWE is breaking attendance records on a near-weekly basis while AEW is struggling to fill the most basic of arenas.

WWE hasn’t been this hot since the Attitude Era. It’s a harmonious era that fans hark back to a ton and now, a new generation of fans will look back upon this period in a similar light.

What else has changed since wrestling fans first visited Los Santos? For more wrestling content, check out 10 Wrestlers Who Defeated CM Punk CLEAN and 11 Shortest WWE Matches Of 2023!

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