Wrestling is easier to watch now than ever before. With the advent of streaming services like the WWE Network, fans can on a whim pull up their favorite matches of all time, or just root around and find something he or she has never seen before. Never seen that classic Dusty Rhodes promo? Wonder what all the fuss is about at Korakuen Hall? Access is just a click and a credit card away.
With the holidays are just around the corner, there’s always room to last-minute shop for the ones you love, or are otherwise obligated by tradition to buy presents for. We at Paste put together a list of some of the best streaming services. Happy holidays!
PROS: The gold standard for pro wrestling streaming services, the WWE Network launched in 2014, and has been steadily and regularly adding new content since. It has one of the best weekly wrestling television programs—NXT—plus classic content from WCW, ECW, the AWA, Mid-South Wrestling, and more. You can watch every single pay-per-view and “network special” live or on demand, as well as original content like the Cruiserweight Classic and the upcoming United Kingdom Championship Tournament. If you’re a fan of the WWE, there really is no reason not to subscribe, if even if just to watch the pay-per-views. For example, ordering the Royal Rumble through Time Warner Cable is a borderline-criminal $55 in HD, which would get you roughly six months of “the Network” (not including the free month you get upon signing up.)
CONS: As mentioned, it’s limited only to WWE-owned content, although that may soon change as Vince McMahon warms up to the idea of adding indie wrestling as well. Monday Night Raw and Smackdown Live are still shown live exclusively on USA, and aren’t added until a month after their original air date, so no cord-cutting just yet. And the company’s track record with original programming is mixed, to put it nicely. (See: Camp WWE.) And the search feature is basically useless.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: NXT, the Cruiserweight Classic, Mid-South Wrestling
PRICE: ¥999/month (currently about $8.50 in U.S. dollars)
PROS: There is maybe no better pro wrestling company in the world right now than New Japan Pro Wrestling. The Japanese company’s version of the WWE Network offers up every major show live or immediately on demand, plus each smaller show leading up to the big events. New Japan also finally added an English-language sign-up page, which means no more rough translations and walkthroughs from Reddit.
CONS: For some, there’s still a language barrier. Good luck navigating the rest of the site if you don’t read Japanese, and while a few of the major shows like Wrestle Kingdom have added an English commentary team, it’s fairly new and infrequent. Plus, the company’s archives are absurdly incomplete: While most of the shows from the past five years are there, there are large gaps once you start going back further, likely due in part to rights issues. Plus, no app.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: The 2016 G1 Climax Tournament, the 1994 Super J-Cup, Wrestle Kingdom 9 and 10.
PRICE: $20/month, or $150 for a yearlong subscription
PROS: The newest player in the streaming service game debuted with a lot of buzz just two months ago. FloSlam, the latest site in the FloSports library, is pushing to be the place to watch independent wrestling. And they’ve gotten off to a pretty good start: WWN brands like Evolve, Full Impact Pro and Shine have all signed on, as have Beyond Wrestling, wXw, IPW:UK and Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore. Plus, they’re working to regularly add archived shows like Dragon Gate USA. FloSlam could just become an indie wrestling fan’s dream.
CONS: The site navigation is absolutely horrendous. Shows are listed in the order they’re added to the site, not their original air date, so if you select Evolve from the dropdown menu, you’ll see Evolve show numbers 71, 70, 69, 68, 47, 55, 72, and 56, in that order— plus a number of random mini-documentaries about the companies. Not featured in that list is Evolve 1, which is inexplicably listed under “Weekly Series” and not “Event Videos,” though I’m genuinely unsure about the difference between those two labels. It does offer a good mix of promotions, and is continuing to grow, but double the price of the WWE Network might be hard to swallow for such a frustrating user experience.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Beyond Wrestling: Over-nite Sensation, any recent Evolve or Shine show
PROS: This is currently the only way to legally watch Pro Wrestling Guerilla online, period. Even though the PWG shows are uploaded months after they’ve already come out on DVD, that library alone makes the subscription worthwhile. But Highspots—which uses the Pivotshare on-demand video engine—also offers up indies like Combat Zone Wrestling, a Full Impact Pro archive featuring the likes of CM Punk and Seth Rollins, and a true gem for hardcore fans, The Kevin Steen Show: A talk show hosted by the man now known as Kevin Owens, in which he interviews friends in the wrestling world like the Young Bucks, Chris Hero and Matt Hardy. Plus dozens other videos of matches, shoot interviews, and more.
CONS: It’s for a very specific kind of fan, but if you are that kind of fan—indie-minded, interested in interviews—there’s not a lot of downside, although it might be nice to have an app.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2015 (2016 has not yet been uploaded), wXw 16 Carat Gold Tournament 2016, The Kevin Steen Show: Young Bucks
PRICE: $8.49, $7.49 and $6.99/month, respectively
PROS: If you want to dig into the UK wrestling scene, here are three places to do it. See UK stars like Zack Sabre Jr. and Will Ospreay, along with up-and-comers like Pete Dunne, and stars like Finn Balor and Neville before they got signed by the WWE.
CONS: Again, no real downside: If UK wrestling is your thing, these are the routes to go. They’re definitely all individually worth the price of subscription. (If you want access to all three, you’ll obviously be paying separately.)
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: RPW High Stakes 2016, one of the best shows of the year; PROGRESS Chapter 25: Chat Shit Get Banged; ICW Fear & Loathing IX
PROS: Chikara is extremely good and fun and totally weird, in the best ways possible. And now with Chikaratopia, you can watch almost 300 shows from the comic-book inspired indie darling, featuring wrestlers like Cesaro, Luke Harper and Ricochet before they became stars. (Cesaro wrestles one match dressed as a ice cream cone-themed luchador.) It also comes with a seven-day free trial.
CONS: The video quality isn’t the greatest.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Any King of Trios show
Paul DeBenedetto is Paste’s assistant wrestling editor.