The best storyline in pro wrestling today isn't taking place on "Raw" or "SmackDown Live." In fact, it's not playing out on any TV show. It's on a YouTube series, one that's not produced by WWE or any other wrestling company, although it does impact two promotions.
The big angle in Ring of Honor, which home office is in Baltimore, and Tokyo-based New Japan Pro-Wrestling is the civil war within Bullet Club, the hottest faction in the business. While some aspects of the power struggle between Bullet Club alpha males Kenny Omega and Cody (formerly known as Cody Rhodes) have taken place between the ropes, the key plot points are occurring on the
"Being The Elite" YouTube series
The series, which has nearly 190,000 subscribers, is an entertaining mix of reality and fiction featuring the exploits of Omega, Cody and fellow Bullet Club members The Young Bucks (brothers Matt and Nick Jackson), Marty Scurll and Adam Page, as well as a cast of recurring guest stars that includes family members and other wrestlers.
There's nothing else in pro wrestling like "Being The Elite," which uses its original content to enhance the angles in ROH and NJPW. It's not surprising that the series is the brainchild of The Young Bucks and Omega. The Young Bucks, especially, have been blazing their own path in the business for years, as they've built themselves into a hugely successful brand without having ever worked for WWE, the global leader in the industry.
"Being The Elite" has helped build the brand of the entire cast both as individuals and as a unit, as it has provided them with a platform to showcase their personalities (and sell their merchandise).
"See, the Bucks and I, we're still trying to make a statement in terms of what wrestling should be, what it can be,"
Omega told ESPN
in June 2017. " … We are able to express ourselves personally as performers. I think it widens our scope, and it shows the fans more of what my true range is as an athlete and a performer."
The series debuted two years ago and initially was a video diary that chronicled life on the road for The Young Bucks and Omega before it gradually morphed into its current form. The episodes -- there are 93 of them thus far -- usually run about 10-15 minutes and mostly take place backstage at ROH and NJPW shows, airports, hotels, restaurants and some of the cast members' homes. The episodes are shot and edited on an iPhone.
While WWE's TV shows are tightly scripted and WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon has final say on everything that airs, the "Being The Elite" cast has creative freedom on its YouTube series with no interference from ROH and NJPW.
"We don't trust anyone else with the creative process that we have," Nick Jackson told ESPN. "We had many people offer it, like, 'Hey, we'll come and do it all for you, we'll edit it all. … We're like, 'Sorry, we just want to have everything in our control.' We want to upload it whenever we have the chance to do it and whenever we want to. We like that, and we feel like we deserve to have that."
The current storyline on "Being The Elite" centers around the rift between Omega and Cody and how it affects the other Bullet Club members, who are caught in the middle. Never ones to miss out on a merchandising opportunity, the newest items in a wide array of Bullet Club products are "Team Kenny" and "Team Cody" T-shirts.
The first match with Omega and Cody on opposite sides takes place in Tokyo Feb. 24, as Omega reunites with former tag partner Kota Ibushi to face Cody and Scurll in a tag-team match. The much-anticipated singles match between Omega and Cody will headline ROH's big Supercard of Honor show in New Orleans April 7. Nearly 5,000 tickets -- an ROH record -- have already been sold.
You don't necessarily have to watch "Being The Elite" to get the gist of the Bullet Club civil war that's happening on ROH and NJPW shows, but doing so will certainly enhance your enjoyment of the angle. Case in point:
Episode 91 of "Being The Elite"
featured the most entertaining segment I've seen in pro wrestling since the Chris Jericho-Kevin Owens "Festival of Friendship" on "Raw" a year ago.
It began with a melancholy Scurll staring at a photo of Bullet Club. Then he began singing a heartbreaking rendition of the Avril Lavigne song, "Complicated," while a montage featuring teary-eyed Bullet Club members and other characters flashed on the screen. Cody, who is being portrayed as the heel in the feud, was shown sitting in a bubble bath with a big cigar and a smile. The segment concluded with Scurll bursting into tears and ripping up the photo.
Admittedly, not everyone loves the campy nature of "Being The Elite" or the group's irreverent approach to pro wrestling. Purists of the genre are especially critical of The Young Bucks, whose matches, their critics contend, are "spotfests" that lack psychology and expose the business.
It's an opinion that's not totally without merit, but pro wrestling is entertainment. It's supposed to be fun, and "Being The Elite" and its cast certainly are that. To paraphrase Lavigne (and Scurll), there's no need to make things so complicated.