The top wrestling divisions to watch outside of the WWE
The wrestling industry has never been more competitive with new brands and established promotions coming to the fore offering unique match-ups and excellent events. While WWE still leads the way overall, there are now a host of other divisions that wrestling fans can bet on at SugarHouse Sportsbook. With the professional sport enjoying a boom period, here are the top divisions to tune into.
New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) has a long history having been founded in Tokyo in the early 1970s, but its recent foray into the North American market has finally brought it to the attention of audiences in the West.
NJPW has been a steady factory line for bigger franchises including WWE. Wrestlers Karl Anderson, Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor are among those that have made the move to US-based promotions during the last decade.
NJPW is an excellent promotion in its own right though with its well-booked roster, enduring spectacle and popular tournaments such as the Grade One Climax and Wrestle Kingdom entertaining fans and viewers on a regular basis.
Kazuchika Okada has been one of the division’s brightest stars and has helped to push the NJPW to wider acclaim. The 32-year-old won the G1 Climax for the first time in 2012 and was named as the MVP of all Japanese professional wrestling later that year by magazine Tokyo Sports.
With Okada being joined by other legends like Hiroshi Tanahashi and Hirooki Goto, NJPW continues to go from strength to strength and is certainly one to watch as it continues to expand globally.
All Elite Wrestling
In contrast to NJPW’s longevity, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) only commenced in early 2019, but it was one of the success stories last year after acquiring former WWE stars and talented professionals for a high-quality show which now airs on American TV network, TNT.
AEW mixes engaging in-ring battles and entertaining gimmicks to keep viewers hooked, though experts are waiting to see whether it can sustain its early momentum to become a viable alternative to WWE.
With a stacked roster covering former WWE stars such as Chris Jericho and Dustin Rhodes, and fresh new talent including Kenny Omega and Lucha Bros, AEW is well-positioned to do just that. Its recent pay-per-view events, Double or Nothing, All In, and All Out, have also been very popular with audiences.
AEW has also impressed fans with its tag team division, which has been a focus for the promotion since day one. The appropriately titled ‘Jurassic Express’ featuring Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus and Marko Stunt have taken AEW by storm, both in and out of the ring.
Evolve is no longer the new kid on the block having been founded in 2010 by former WWE NXT booker, Gabe Sapolsky, but from a simple initial premise of driving change in the industry, it has now built an independent pro wrestling product capable of going toe to toe with WWE.
“We are a mom and pop company, but we try to stay ahead of the game on all aspects of the company,” Sapolsky notes. “We will always do these things and that’s why we last when some momentarily hot companies burn out.”
Evolve partnered with WWE in 2015 to allow the latter to scout talent for potential signings, but it is much more than a training camp for elite professional wrestling. This is highlighted by the fact that its recent 10th Anniversary Celebration was streamed on the WWE Network for the first time.
The Evolve Championship and Evolve Tag Team Championship are the two major events on the Evolve Calendar. Josh Briggs is the current solo champion after defeating Austin Theory in New York City while The Besties in the World, Favey Vega and Mat Fitchett, are the tag team champions following a memorable victory over AR Fox and Leon Ruff at Evolve 142 in Chicago.
Evolve has spent years honing its craft and its solid reputation and foundation make it a promotion to watch as the 2020s get underway.
National Wrestling Alliance
The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) was founded way back in 1949 and was the largest and most influential government body in the sport from that time until the 1980s. There have been major changes over the years and a few lean periods but NWA shows signs of blazing a trail once more.
Now headed by celebrity singer Billy Corgan and Nick Aldis, NWA is set to return to TV screens in North America. While the division does lack a true star, it has a solid roster of talent – and its recent events have impressed. It remains to be seen whether the NWA can build on its recent surge in popularity to become a mainstay among the wrestling elite.