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Is wrestling 'more popular than ever'? The New York Post thinks so...and they may have a point

Rupert Murdoch's New York Post never shies away from an outrageous claim if it will sell papers, get clicks or generate buzz.

So when you read the headline "How Jon Stewart helped make wrestling more popular than ever" in their July 11 edition, your first inclination is to roll your eyes and move along.

But the author of the article, Jozen Cummings, quickly dials back from the title's claim and answers everyone's knee jerk response, "The Attitude Era called and wants it's Austin 3:16 shirt back".

He clarifies that wrestling hasn't been so mainstream since the late 1990s. Stewart and Seth Rollins crossover appearances between The Daily Show and Raw are just one example he uses (along with John Cena's casting in Judd Apatow & Amy Schumer's Trainwreck and Brock Lesnar's ESPN contract announcement) for the widespread appeal of today's wrestling product.

It's not the same point, but it goes along with an argument I've made in the past. The way the internet and the ability to target audiences have changed entertainment, in part by helping fans band together and reducing stigma associated with liking things that were once considered "nerdy" or "weird" like comic books, or dressing up like television & movie characters - plus WWE's constant efforts to position itself as an entertainment company instead of a carnival attraction - have opened doors into the mainstream for pro wrestling.

The days of 6+ ratings are gone and never coming back, but with regularly finishing near the top of the cable ratings week-in and week-out, a strong social media and online presence and an increasingly successful over-the-top Network, Vince McMahon's business is doing just fine.

And with stars - especially hip and/or intelligent ones like Bill Simmons and Stewart willing to publicly proclaim their fandom - and mainstream outlets like ESPN and Rolling Stone featuring WWE more and more often, pro wrestling has a chance to become an established, lucrative, sustainable pop culture niche in the way that wouldn't have been possible in the late '90s.

Pro wrestling may not be more popular than ever, but it's built to last for fans, wrestlers and promoters, in a way it never has been before.

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