Even as Shane McMahon was shaking things up on WWE’s flagship program with the debut of Raw Undergound - “a battleground for WWE’s toughest fighters to prove themselves with few, if any rules” - people were pointing out similar concepts from wrestling’s past.
Jokes about movies like Bloodsport and Fight Club were plentiful throughout the night on Aug. 3. The connection made by our own Geno Mrosko was to Game Changer Wrestling’s worked-MMA shows that share a name with the aforementioned Jean-Claude Van Damme classic. Recently, it’s been Josh Barnett’s name on the marquee for GCW’s Bloodsport PPVs. But before that, it was an ex-UFC fighter who was recently moved to SmackDown.
The Underground feels so familiar bro pic.twitter.com/vlxds3DJle— matthew riddle (@SuperKingofBros) August 4, 2020
Barnett reacted as well:
Of course we did!— (@JoshLBarnett) August 4, 2020
But glad they see the value and that some of the wrestlers got a chance to shine. https://t.co/3WhLPgaeR6
Another version of the idea was playing out in Chikara last year. The concept was much more involved than “mixed martial artist who likes pro wrestling hosts a show” or what we know thus far about what Shane’s doing, because Chikara. In a nutshell, The Crucible was a secret training program for a group that would defend against the kinds of invasions pro wrestling promotions seem to be prone to, but their unorthodox methods caused a riff with the company’s babyfaces, leading to Season 20’s main storyline.
There’s an extra wrinkle to this comparison. Xavier Faraday, an alumnus of Chikara’s now-shuttered Wrestle Factory school who was heavily involved in the angle, alleges The Crucible storyline was featured in episodes of Chikara Action Arcade that were given to WWE as part of a pitch to be included with independent wrestling content on the Network. Chikara closed in June after it and founder Mike Quackenbush were the focus of numerous allegations from the #SpeakingOut movement. So the theory is WWE swooped in and took the concept now that there was no one to sue them for doing so.
Personally, I certainly have no problem with Matt Riddle, Josh Barnett, or anyone involved in the GCW shows promoting themselves by pointing out the similarities between Raw Underground and Bloodsport. I also understand Faraday and those involved in Chikara’s Crucible angle being upset... everyone at that company has had a terribly traumatic year, and seeing tons of people talking about something without ever knowing about the better version of it you helped create is more salt in their wounds.
But pro wrestling was built on the kind of shoot and worked-shoot fights that serve as the inspiration for Bloodsport, The Crucible, and Raw Underground. There also really aren’t very many, if any, new ideas under the sun. Most storytellers are doing their version of an existing tale at this point in history.
No matter. We know one group who will be taking their inspiration from Raw Underground...
Pretty excited for the Fight Club spoof that’ll happen on #BTE.— The #MULTIFARIOUS Matthew Hardy (@MATTHARDYBRAND) August 4, 2020
Let us know if you’re looking forward to that, and your thoughts on the comparisons & allegations, in the comments below.