After a Presidential Election that has seemed to fracture the United States and its people, it's been rough to be online recently. Everywhere you look, people are complaining. These people are complaining about the result of the Election. Those people are complaining that the other people don't see it their way. These other people are complaining because of all the complaining that everyone else is doing. It's crazy out here.
With all of the negativity that's floating around, and with America preparing itself for a holiday where you're supposed to give thanks for things, what better time is there for a wrestling column full of positive outlooks?
This is one of the craziest times that wrestling has seen in recent years. There are so many good promotions out there if you know where to look. WWE has given us an excellent Cruiserweight Classic, with talk of doing a similar tournament for women's wrestling next year. Since WWE announced their Network, it seems like we get a new company giving us something similar every few months, where fans can tune in 24/7 to watch their favorite action. Your likes could be very different than my own, but this is a list of some of what I'm personally thankful for in the world of wrestling right now, in no particular order:
- The phenomenal "rookie" year of AJ Styles. When we first heard word that AJ might be a surprise entrant in the 2016 Royal Rumble, people were excited, but very cautious. At the time of the Rumble, AJ was 38 years old, smaller than the usual "star" Vince McMahon likes to push, and there was supposedly a serious lack of interest in him on WWE's side for years. That didn't give folks much reason to expect much, but look how it has turned out so far. He has been the WWE World Champion for two months now. He has pinned John Cena twice in one-on-one matches, joining Seth Rollins (2015), CM Punk (2011), Randy Orton (2009), Big Show (2009), Edge (2006), Eddie Guerrero (2003), Brock Lesnar (2003) and Rikishi (2002) as the only people who can say they've done that in a calendar year since Cena debuted. Styles has been able to put on several Match Of The Year candidates, with more opportunities to come before 2017 arrives. Overall, he's just been a lot of fun to watch, and I'm glad he's getting a chance to ply his craft in a WWE ring.
- FloSlam. With the WWE Network allowing you to watch just about every piece of wrestling action that the company currently owns, and with companies like New Japan and NWA doing similar things with their own "networks", it was only a matter of time before we got one involving several independent promotions.
With the World Wrestling Network (EVOLVE, SHINE & Full Impact Pro), Beyond Wrestling, American Combat Wrestling, Premiere Wrestling Xperience and other companies signing on, fans have access to both live and archived events, just like on the WWE Network. It's a new exposure for those companies, allowing new eyeballs to be on their product that wouldn't or couldn't be there before. With different talks about adding Ring Of Honor, promotions like Progress from the United Kingdom, and others, there is potentially no end to the amount of content that could be seen on FloSlam in the future, and that's great news.
- A "golden era" for entrance music under the WWE umbrella. When you go back throughout history, WWF/WWE has given us some memorable entrance themes. Every wrestling fan from the 80's can recite Hulk Hogan's "Real American" word-for-word, while every fan from the 90's knows exactly what it means when you hear the glass to signal the arrival of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
WWE seems to be on fire right now, delivering great theme after great theme, both on the main roster and on NXT. Of course, you have the all-time greats that everyone has known for a while, like John Cena's "The Time Is Now" and Randy Orton's "Voices". However, you also have songs like Mark Henry's "Some Bodies Gonna Get It", Brock Lesnar's "Next Big Thing" and Bray Wyatt's "Live In Fear" that are legendary in their own way. Relatively newer main roster songs such as New Day's "New Day, New Way", Kevin Owens' "Fight", Bayley's "Turn It Up", Seth Rollins' "The Second Coming", Roman Reigns' "The Truth Reigns", Sami Zayn's "Worlds Apart", Sasha Banks' "Sky's The Limit", Dean Ambrose's "Retaliation", AJ Styles' "Phenomenal", TJ Perkins' "Playing With Power", Finn Balor's "Catch Your Breath", and Enzo & Cass' "SAWFT Is A Sin" are all instantly recognizable and get crowds to their feet immediately.
With all of that said, though, it is NXT that holds perhaps the best and most talked-about entrance themes in the company. Shinsuke Nakamura's "The Rising Sun" may already be my favorite theme of all-time, and Bobby Roode's "Glorious Domination" has gone viral thanks to the "Glorious Bombs" by Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. All of these songs have made it cool to listen to wrestling music again. Go ahead. Fire up your iTunes or Spotify and get your nerd on.
- The Women's Revolution. I've already mentioned it a bit in my Sasha/Charlotte column a couple weeks back, but the Revolution is an incredibly important part of wrestling, both now and in the future. An entire generation of girls are now able to watch wrestling and see women as more than just "eye candy". Little boys grow up watching and wanting to become a wrestler, and it's time little girls are able to do the same. Strong women like Sasha, Charlotte, Bayley, Nikki Bella, Asuka and Becky Lynch are at the forefront of the movement, and they deserve all the credit in the world for it.
- A new group of fans getting to enjoy the greatness of Shinsuke Nakamura. If you've watched his work with New Japan Pro Wrestling, you saw that Nakamura was basically a rock star who just so happened to also be a wrestler, but many (including myself) wondered how that would translate to a broader audience. Since making his debut for NXT on April 1st, he has done nothing but become somewhat of a rock star here, as well. As I mentioned earlier, his entrance music might already be my favorite in wrestling history, and it helps to make his entire entrance incredible. His natural charisma shines through, and you can't take your eyes away from anything he does because of it. His hard hitting in-ring style continues to stand out from the pack, and would do so on the main roster, as well. Unfortunately, rumors indicate that the company wants him to remain in NXT so that the brand will have a "star" that remains there through all of the call-ups.
- Pro Wrestling Guerrilla staying true to their own values and beliefs about how their product is presented. In the earlier talk about FloSlam, you'll notice that PWG wasn't mentioned. The company is, arguably, the biggest indy promotion in the United States, with tickets to all of their shows usually selling out within minutes of going on sale. Well, PWG turned FloSlam down when approached to be added to the service, and of course, that split opinion on the internet. Some were upset, as they wanted to be able to watch PWG shows live. Others, like myself, applaud the owners of PWG for their vision of how the company should be seen.
Yes, it makes it more difficult for people to watch PWG, but again, it's not exactly hurting the company's bottom line. Their shows sell out, their DVDs and Blu Rays sell like crazy, and they continue to have more buzz than most promotions around the world. They could have made a quick buck by signing with FloSlam, but if it doesn't fit their needs, good for them for standing firm.
- WWE's lack of heavy-handed "political" segments/promos/videos on television every week. It isn't a secret that Vince McMahon and his wife have strong political views as members of the Republican party. It also isn't a secret that the McMahons have been friends and supporters of Donald Trump for years, with reports that they personally donated $7 million to Trump's campaign in his run for President. In years past, we have seen WWE mention campaigns, whether on commentary, through promos, skits, or character changes. This year, even with WWE's ties to Donald Trump, we really didn't see much of anything. No "let's dress some goofy woman up as Hillary Clinton to mock her" segments on Raw. No repeating video clips of all the times that Trump has appeared on WWE programming. The company stayed away from political talk for the most part, and we can all appreciate that. Most of us are tuning in to get away from stuff like that.
- Chris Jericho's career rejuvenation. If you've followed my work on other sites before I arrived at Fightful, you would know that I've been critical of Chris Jericho in recent years. During what seemed like his last ten returns to the company, his work seemed to be jogging in place a bit, and his physique seemed to be that of someone who really was a part-timer. Even his usually excellent promo work seemed a bit "off". A couple months ago, my opinion had not changed... and then he began to grow a wispy goatee and talk about the "Gift Of Jericho". Suddenly, his promos were must see and listen. He has worked hard to get inanimate objects like a scarf, a clipboard and a pen more over with crowds than a lot of the people he wrestles with, which is quite the accomplishment. His work with Kevin Owens is his best in years, and he has positioned himself in a spot where he can become one of the top faces in the company if and when Owens turns on him like most suspect he will.
- Broken Matt Hardy. When it comes to wrestlers I have been openly critical of in the past, perhaps no one person meets that criteria more than Matt Hardy. Injuries, and the years of wear and tear due to Ladder and similarly styled matches, had pretty much robbed him of his ability to walk properly, and it was hurting his matches. His new character debuted, and even some of his biggest supporters were wondering what was going on. It has led to his best work as a singles act since his "V.1" days, and some would argue this stuff is even better.
For a period of time, there wasn't a more talked-about person in the business than Matt Hardy, even though he wrestled on a show that sees far less viewers than Raw or Smackdown every week. All because he decided to reinvent himself. His crazy accent, the way he pronounces certain words, the insane "Final Deletion" stuff and everything involving it... Matt has been on fire in 2016, at times being the sole reason to watch Impact on a weekly basis. He's a bigger star now than he has been in a long time, and people are clamoring for him to return to WWE when his TNA contract expires in Spring 2017. For one of the first times in their careers, Matt can say he's more relevant than his brother, Jeff, and hats are off to him for his work in making that happen.
- Fightful. Call it kissing up if you want, but I'm very thankful for this site. For one, they have me writing for them, and I appreciate that. Two, I'm thankful the site isn't like some of those scuzzy "dirt sheet" sites, damn near making up fake rumors for hits. If you see something reported here, it's something that has been researched and/or confirmed altogether. Thank you to Sean Ross Sapp, Jimmy Van, Alex Pawlowski, Joe Ferraro, Matt Riddle and anyone else who is involved in the continued growth of this site. Here's to a tremendous and prosperous 2017.
What about you, folks? What are you thankful for this year? It's been a wild ride, with plenty of time left to continue that ride, so let's hear from you.