Since the internet began to gain public traction in the mid-90’s, just in time for the emergence of the Monday Night Wars, it’s become an invaluable – and often damning – tool for and within the professional wrestling industry. It was invaluable as a marketing tool, but within its underbelly, forums and groups began to form and take shape that would seek to expose the industry it apparently loved, by breaking “inside news”, dismantling the very kayfabe it was angered was disappearing, and spoiling impending storylines or debuts. The professional landscape that had driven the industry from its earliest days of the 20th century until the early 1990’s was gone. In this article, we’ll look at the rise and use of social media in professional wrestling, how you as a fan can use it to help the brands you love the most, and we’ll show you just how popular every promotion in the world is (well, 105 of them anyway) in comparison.
The Rise and Use of Social Media
In the past decade, the rise of Social Media platforms, from MySpace to Facebook to Twitter and everything in-between, has become essential tools for any professional wrestling promotion, whether you’re an international juggernaut like the WWE or a small regional promotion starting out. Millions and millions of people around the world now have access to things they never had before, particularly the ability to discover information about new promotions, contact these promotions, and most importantly watch these promotions. All of these are tools that any promotion can use when it comes to not only building a brand, but maintaining and increasing said brand.
The rise of Social Media has even changed the landscape when it comes to television ratings. Nielsen, the company responsible for Nielsen TV ratings for decades, has began switching to Social Media ratings as a more effective and accurate total of who’s actually watching the shows interactively. The archaic old formula just gauged if a TV was on a channel, not necessarily if the household was actively paying attention and watching. But by gauging Social Media interactions via Facebook or Twitter, they could get a more accurate reading of which people were actively paying attention to these shows, rather than putting it on as background noise at a party or dinner. The WWE has consistently proven to be one of the biggest winners in this category.
The Internet Wrestling Community
To some, it’s a badge of honour, to others it’s a representation of the worst kind of fans, but regardless, there’s no denying the unified voice of the millions of people who make up the internet wrestling fan base, collectively referred to as the Internet Wrestling Community, or IWC. And while technically it covers any fan who takes part in any wrestling discussion online, be it a Facebook group like Kult of Kayfabe or in the deepest bowels of reddit‘s forums, it’s often became a dirty word nowadays limited to those with often unrealistic expectations of business or characters, from the WWE to the indies. But there is one inarguable truth about the IWC – no matter what your involvement in it is – and that’s the power to help build on the brand of professional wrestling that is most aesthetically pleasing to your own form of wrestling enjoyment. With so many major social media platforms now being utilized by pro wrestling promotions, it is now easier than ever for fans to truly show their love for a promotion by helping their promotion grow to become a larger international presence online and thereby becoming more noticeable and followed by other kindred spirits, be it in small town USA to the United Kingdom to South America to the Asian market. Most of the free world has access to the internet in some capacity and nearly all find their way to one of (if not more) of the Big Four tools used by pro wrestling.
The Social Media Index: The Big Four
In creating this Social Media Index for professional wrestling, we looked at four platforms that are most prevalently used by the 105 pro wrestling promotions we looked at. Those four are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. In creating this Social Media Index, we added the combined totals of all four of these platforms total subscribers or followers. Studies have shown that while there is indeed a percentage of people that follow all four, the average person will follow one or two of them. The more casual fans are content with just the Facebook page, while more devoted fans may subscribe to a Twitter feed for more up to the minute information, YouTube for visual filmed content (such as matches and previews), and an increasing number of younger fans prefer to follow on Instagram, where they can indulge in a more personal side of their favourite promotion or performer. But make no bones about it, as the world of online media continues to explode, these are all vital components in building, maintaining and exposing one’s brand to other people. And the more new eyes a promotion can gain, the more likely they are to become ingrained in the culture of the industry and spoken with in reverence rather than afterthought.
The Top 10 Most Popular Promotions By Social Media Index
And thus, the debates and arguments will begin. While any of these names on here may not be your cup of tea as far as wrestling goes, this will give you an indication of how popular a promotion actually is. If today’s wrestling fan is as internet savvy as they claim to be – and if they truly believe their internet voice is as powerful as they say – then by that very claim itself, they should be following the promotions they feel are better than the ones that they claim are inferior (or at least damaged). By combining every available platform of the Big 4 we mentioned, we can see exactly how much the internet fans have invested in these promotions, in some way, shape or form. And seeing that the internet is not restricted by international barriers, these will give stronger indications than just the Nielsen ratings, which only follows US trends.
#10. BEYOND WRESTLING
Started in 2009, Beyond has become one of the premier destinations for top indie talent. This promotion from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, about an hour outside of Boston, has emerged as one of the most popular indie promotions out of the US, largely in part to their adaptability to all four of the Social Media platforms (PWG has yet to embrace Instagram), with all four showing solid numbers for a promotion of its size.
Facebook: 25K, Twitter: 17K, YouTube: 78k, Instagram: 16k
Total Social Media Index: 136.7k
When ECW and XPW fell by the wayside, the mantle of the most extreme promotion fell upon Combat Zone Wrestling. Founded in 1999, CZW has not only managed to maintain it’s hardcore legacy during eras where the hardcore has been frowned upon (or increasingly downplayed) but has created and nurtured some of the industry’s top stars today. They’ve managed to stay on the Social Media game throughout the internet’s rise and are the 9th most followed promotion in the world.
Facebook: 35K, Twitter: 19K, YouTube: 62k, Instagram: 22k
Total Social Media Index: 139.9k
Much to the chagrin of many UK wrestling purists, WhatCulture‘s foray into professional wrestling, WCPW, has emerged in less than a year (they were founded in 2016) as the most popular UK promotion in the world right now, thanks hugely to their revolutionary use of YouTube as their main platform (their flagship show Loaded airs free weekly on YouTube). Combining the best of the other UK promotions with international indie stars, WCPW has been putting on stellar bills for nearly it’s entire duration.
Facebook: 33K, Twitter: 45K, YouTube: 149k, Instagram: 13k
Total Social Media Index: 241k
Formed in 1933, Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (or CMLL) is the world’s oldest wrestling promotion still in operation. A legendary Lucha Libre promotion both in and outside of Mexico, CMLL has seen it’s upstart rival promotion, AAA become a bigger name around the world. It’s still got it’s klout, but CMLL has not embraced the social media world with the same passion that AAA has in expanding its legacy.
Facebook: 111K, Twitter: 81K, YouTube: 57k, Instagram: 35k
Total Social Media Index: 241k
Following the demise of Rikidozan‘s JWA in 1972, Antonio Inoki‘s NJPW was the weaker of the two promotions – All Japan was ahead for decades. But during the 1990’s, NJPW began to really take hold and is now heads and shoulders the most dominant puroresu organization in Japan. The past few years, NJPW has set its sights on expanding into the global market, and this year looks to be the start of creating a footprint in North America, beyond its regular partnerships with Ring of Honor. (Editor’s Note: In accumulating NJPW’s Social Media Index – as with all Japanese promotions on the Master List – both the official Japanese and official English platforms were all combined together)
Facebook: 223K, Twitter: 320K, YouTube: 139k, Instagram: 65k
Total Social Media Index: 748k
Although technically fueled in part by AAA, Lucha Underground has become it’s own entity altogether, with its Robert Rodriguez-esque storytelling narratives and influx of non-AAA talent as well. While it’s viewership has dwindled since the first season (more so due to the gaps in seasons and fans simply downloading to catch up), their recent partnership with Netflix is sure to cause this promotion to increase its global presence in 2017.
Facebook: 548K, Twitter: 147K, YouTube: 107k, Instagram: 225k
Total Social Media Index: 1.03 million
#4. RING OF HONOR
Despite rumours of it’s demise of late, Ring of Honor continues to be the strongest and well known independent promotion out of the United States. Since it began in 2002, Ring of Honor has consistently set the bar for indie wrestling in the US and has created some of the industry’s most electrifying stars, most of which have gone on to great success in other top promotions worldwide.
Facebook: 748K, Twitter: 154K, YouTube: 149k, Instagram: 142k
Total Social Media Index: 1.19 million
Asistencia Asesoría y Administración LLC (or AAA) was created in 1992 when promoter Antonio Pena broke away from CMLL with a desire to focus on the smaller and faster style of Lucha Libre. Since then, it has emerged as the largest Mexican wrestling promotion in the world.
Facebook: 879k, Twitter: 132k, YouTube: 264k, Instagram: 129k
Total Social Media Index: 1.40 million
#2. IMPACT WRESTLING
You can say what you want or what you will, but the numbers don’t lie. Impact Wrestling is the number two most followed wrestling promotion in the world via social media, double its closest competitor, AAA. It’s shaken off death rattles more times than John Cena has been pinned cleanly, but still they’ve emerged to live on and fight another day. With solid new financial backers in Anthem Sports & Entertainment and a return of the old creative guard responsible for what many consider Impact’s glory days (Jeff Jarrett, Scott D’Amore and Dutch Mantell), these numbers will increase before they go down. EDITOR’S NOTE: With the increasing likelihood of Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling merging with Impact Wrestling in the coming months, GFW was left off of this Top 10 List. GFW’s numbers alone though would have placed it at #9 on this list had it not been counted as an asterisk due to recent comments from Jeff Jarrett. GFW’s numbers were NOT counted in Impact Wrestling’s numbers and GFW’s numbers are seen separately in the Master List at the end of the article.
Facebook: 1.5m, Twitter: 470K, YouTube: 869k, Instagram: 206k
Total Social Media Index: 3.12 million
If anyone was surprised by this, they need to give their head a shake. WWE is indeed the worldwide leader in sports-entertainment and it’s not even close. It’s the most accessible promotion in the world and the easiest to digest for the most casual of fan. Simply put, while there’s definitely arguments that it’s not the best professional wrestling on the planet, there is simply no debate that it’s the most popular. EDITOR’S NOTE: NXT is not listed separately but considered a branch of the WWE tree, although it does have it’s own separate media accounts for three of the four (it shares YouTube with the rest of the WWE). If NXT was considered it’s own unique brand though, it would actually land at #2 on this list, with a Social Media Index total of 21.9 million – it’s exact numbers can be found in the Master List below).
Facebook: 37m, Twitter: 8.9m, YouTube: 15m, Instagram: 12m
Total Social Media Index: 73.9 million
Worldwide 105: Ranking 105 Global Promotions in Social Media
Here’s a look at the entire list of 105 promotions ranked. And a final thought. If you are indeed a fan of independent wrestling, we all have our parts to play in today’s digital and social media age. We are the towns criers, we are the messengers, we are the voices that can help those find new avenues – both for fans and for performers. If you truly love a promotion, follow them online. Find out more about their events, watch videos of their events, and spread that love. Because you may find out that the promotion you think is the one that everyone loves (because everyone in your circle of 50 people can’t stop talking about them) is actually barely a blip on anyone else’s radar. No promotion has ever grown bigger or better because their fan base hoarded them for the miniscule masses.
All numbers as of Friday April 7, 2017:
Stats Compiled by Jamie Greer; if used for other websites, please credit Last Word on Pro Wrestling as the source and link to this article.
Top 10 Indie Promotions
- Ring of Honor
- House of Hardcore
Top 5 Women’s Promotions
Top 5 Japanese Promotions
- Pro Wrestling NOAH
- DDT Pro
Top 5 UK Promotions
- Preston City Wrestling
- IPW: UK
Top 5 Canadian Promotions
- Smash Wrestling
There’s literally hundreds of promotions not listed here – it’s simply too exhaustive to find every local and regional promotion – but we’ve found 105 that are definitely on many people’s radars in discussions amongst the IWC.
And let’s face it. Sure we don’t have the mainstream battles like the Monday Night Wars anymore, but we are living in the best era of professional wrestling ever. We have access to nearly all 105 of these promotions online to watch and the ability and awareness to travel to see shows within 100 miles is easier than ever. There’s no reason not to support multiple promotions anymore if you’re more than just a casual WWE fan.
So if you’re a wrestling fan and you’re in a discussion, remember these stats – while they are not a 100% accurate tool about the popularity of any promotion, they at least are the closest benchmark we can ascertain about where they sit in the proverbial wheelhouse of the internet fan, be it die hard or casual. So if you want to help make a promotion more popular than it appears to be on this list, next time instead of tearing down a promotion that is in fact more popular, you spend the time to promote the one you think they should pay attention to – share it’s FB page, it’s Twitter account, or post videos from their official YouTube channel. In the long run, they’ll thank you for it.
Main Photo: WWE