Christmas has come early for old school professional wrestling fans.
WWE on Monday night added episodes of Smoky Mountain Wrestling and Mid-South Wrestling to its streaming network, called the WWE Network. Regional promotions like these dominated the pro-wrestling landscape before promoters like Vince McMahon used the reach of cable television to expand into nationally. These Smoky Mountain and Mid-South shows date back to the mid-90s and mid-80s, respectively, and offer glimpses into the early careers of stars like Chris Jericho, Lance Storm, and announcer Jim Ross. This follows the addition last week of classic episodes of NWA World Championship Wrestling. Behold the mighty Ric Flair being a crazy person on one of these just-added episodes:
This is a huge deal to fans because when WWE first announced the network in January 2014 (it launched in February 2014 for $9.99 per month), the company claimed that "classic matches" would be one of the WWE Network's key components, alongside monthly pay-per-views like the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania.
For most of 2014 and 2015, however, you didn't have to look very hard to find fans complaining about the lack of old school, non-WWE pro wrestling that was actually available on the streaming video service—especially considering since much of this content previously aired on a premium cable channel called WWE Classics on Demand. Before WWE in the mid-1980s codified what "professional wrestling" meant to a mainstream audience, regional promotions with names like Georgia Championship Wrestling, World Class Championship Wrestling, and the American Wrestling Association, all cultivated their own distinct fan bases with distinct wrestling styles. If you were a kid growing up in Florida in this era, you watched Dusty Rhodes, and if you grew up in Texas you watched the Funk brothers and the Von Erichs. By uploading this older content, WWE is making it easier for fans of this older era to re-watch their old favorites.
While WWE does continually add content to the WWE Network—one popular Twitter bot notes every addition—this is likely the highest-profile addition of older content to date, and one that old school fans have been waiting nearly two years for.