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    Tuesday, May 5, 2020

    Four Years of Being The Elite, and Why I Love It

    Editor's note: Five years ago, Smark Henry was founded in the hopes of being a watering hole for wrestling fans to engage in critical discourse about our favorite sport or form of entertainment. We're celebrating our fifth anniversary this week through these feature articles to bring back that spirit, even through these troubling times. 

    When I look back at how my wrestling fandom has changed over the past five years, the best way to explain it is to talk about the humble YouTube show that changed everything for me: Being The Elite.

    Four years ago today, a red hot tag team—a couple of brothers—decided to start filming their adventures on the road. The video was just of them in a car talking about how crazy their schedules were and how often they didn't see their families. Put together with just a few clips of them in airplanes and a poster for the next show, the first episode of Being the Elite (BTE for short) was out in the world.

    Fast forward to the present time: they have now aired 200 more episodes, and by doing so, they have literally changed the business.

    Through putting their own content online, Matt and Nick Jackson, best known to fans as the Young Bucks, have opened up doors for their own creative freedom and changed what it means to be a wrestler in the current era. For those who have been following Being the Elite, the storylines that they have chosen to create in their YouTube series has bled into and added to the lore of the Elite's run in both Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling, and subsequently All Elite Wrestling. The show doesn't just feature the Elite's storylines (namely Nick and Matt, Kenny Omega, and later Marty Scrull, Adam Page, and Cody) but also serves as a platform for other wrestlers to express creative freedom they didn't have prior. 

    With all that said, here are my four reasons why I love Being The Elite

    It got me into independent wrestling.

    Being a fan of WWE in 2016 was an interesting rollercoaster ride. Roman Reigns just came off a critically condemned push, which solidified him as "the next Cena." Dubbed as The Land of Opportunity, SmackDown Live became the hottest brand in wrestling, led by Dean Ambrose as WWE Champion. And most importantly, the Universal Championship belt proved that an inanimate object can get nuclear heat.

    Also during this time, a young fan in the ninth grade was scrolling through YouTube and happened upon a video of a couple wrestlers traveling Japan and signing autographs. He was intrigued and then succumbed to the Google rabbit hole of these brothers, the people they associated with, and the places they frequented: The Young Bucks. Bullet Club. Kenny Omega. New Japan. Ring of Honor. The Elite. These were things I've heard about in passing, but never got around to check them out. After watching a few online matches, I realized that for the first time in a while, wrestling felt fresh to me. 

    For a guy who has been so frustrated with wrestling for so long, a fresh new take was something I desperately needed.

    The storylines are entertaining as hell.

    The Demise of Adam Cole.
    Kenny's DM.
    The Exorcism of Cody.
    The Murder of Joey Ryan.

    To the uninitiated, these may just sound like a list of weird titles for horror movies. However, for those who have been following Being The Elite for a while, these are some of the many ridiculous, hilarious, and smart storylines in the BTE canon. The stories are well thought-out but still have that homemade vibe, adding so much more to the appeal of the show. After watching hyper-choreographed wrestling my whole life, the realness of the storylines felt so new and groundbreaking.

    The storylines also blended into the Elite's storylines in Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling. From the Bullet Club Civil War to the tension between the Bucks and the Golden Lovers, the content on the YouTube channel added so much to the lore and appeal of the angles. With storytelling that rivals drama films, it was beautiful to watch it play out while it was happening.

    It eventually... gave us AEW

    Although I am not attributing the formation of AEW solely to the success of Being The Elite, the platform the show has provided for many of the wrestlers who are at the core of the AEW machine is undeniably a huge factor to the success of the company. Since the New Year's countdown which led to the announcement of All Elite Wrestling, the hype around the promotion is a direct offshoot of the love that fans have grown to have for a bunch of foreigners in Japan.

    AEW has now become the first legitimate contender to the McMahon empire and has, for the most part, delivered on providing an alternative for both wrestlers and fans who are fed up with the WWE style. Being backed up by the billionaire Khan family and being stacked with talent from all over the globe, it is humbling to know that it all started with two dudes just talking into a camera.

    It makes you feel like part of the Elite

    The running jokes and episodic format allowed for a feeling of continuity and the show, in my 16-year-old estimation, felt more logical and entertaining than other episodic wrestling content out there at the time. What evolved from a daily vlog has become a parody-kayfabe-vlog amalgamation of different segments and ideas.

    What also added to its appeal was the fact it showed a side of wrestling not seen as often: the human side. There's something both comforting and inspiring to know that the super-athletes we see on television are just regular dudes trying to make a living.

    As cheesy as it is, I felt like I was starting a friendship with someone. As I peeked into the personal lives of these wrestlers, I felt as if I learned more about who they were as people—as if I knew them personally. Because of this, the inspiration the show has added to my life is invaluable and the real-life stories of this group of wrestlers are ones I'll always look at fondly. From killing the business to changing it, from All In to All Elite, watching the journey play out was truly a delight.

    Photos and videos from Being The Elite


    Jacob Tambunting is a freshman at the Ateneo de Manila University currently studying BS Psychology. In his high school years, he authored plays for competitions, essays for projects, and fan fiction for fun.  He currently lives with his two parents, his two siblings, and his two dogs, and is probably writing something angsty on his 10-year-old laptop.
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    Item Reviewed: Four Years of Being The Elite, and Why I Love It Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Jacob Tambunting
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