By Nick Perkins, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@WesternRebel)
Hello friends, neighbors, readers and those precious few of you who like Thanksgiving more than Christmas and aren’t afraid. My name is Nick Perkins and I am your flag-bearer, your Paul Bearer, your Ring Bearer in the world of professional wrestling. Take my hand and follow me as I lead you through the week that was. We’re delving into the highs, lows, mediums and ‘mehs’ of pro wrestling and there is nowhere I would rather be than right here, right now, with you. Whether you’re an old fan, a new fan, or you land somewhere in the middle and just hate-watch these shows out of habit, I am proud to be the bearer of good news, bad news and the downright ugly news from WWE, AEW, ROH, Impact and more. With that being said, let’s step through the ropes and into the proverbial ring, as Pro Wrestling Dot Net presents Ring Bearer: Exploring the Week that Was in Professional Wrestling.
“You dismiss every accomplishment I’ve made. You’ve talked about my father. While you call me ‘an entitled millennial,’ I call you a carnie succubus because the dirty secret about you is that you need this generation more than it needs you. And you’ve surrounded yourself with impressionable youth. This isn’t about my dad. This isn’t about the dead, it’s about the living. It’s about my mother. It’s about my sister. It’s about my wife. It’s about the 14 years it took me to go from ‘undesirable’ to un-goddamned-deniable.”
Passion. It’s an evocative word that, all too often in the world of professional wrestling, gets severely misunderstood. Passion is not a large group of fans booing a star that has been pushed down their collective throat. It is something that cannot be bought, sold, or traded. It can’t be faked. Passion is hard to come by in any form of entertainment but, when done right, there is nothing like it.
Very few stars have been able to evoke passion, from their audience or even from themselves. It’s not that they lack passion for what they do; it’s that as fans get “smarter” and smarter, it becomes harder and harder to elicit real passion from them.
Lately, however, fans have been reacting very passionately.
Let’s start with the closing match of Hell in a Cell a month back. When the titular match between Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt ended, fans were, quite passionately, booing the hell out of it. It was a passionate response, but not in a good way. Luckily, this reaction, presumably, caused WWE to change course and actually award the Universal Championship to Bray Wyatt a few weeks later at Crown Jewel.
Passion, it seems, is hard to come by with the ‘Main Roster’ shows at times. Rarely are talent given anything substantial to work with (through no fault of their own) so, when they ARE given something of substance, it is evident.
When the WWE talent was stranded in Saudi Arabia after Crown Jewel, it was left to the NXT crew to ‘save the show,’ and they did just that. Tommaso Ciampa, Shayna Baizler, Adam Cole and the rest made last week’s episode of Smackdown one of the most entertaining one in ages, certainly since its debut on Fox.
Ciampa and The Miz had a highly entertaining verbal sparring session before competing in a match, which Ciampa won.
Later in the show, Daniel Bryan came face to face with Triple H and had a great exchange, which led to the dream match of Bryan taking on Adam Cole for the NXT title. This is a match I’ve watched about four times since it happened and it gets better each and every time. This was the first time in a long time we were reminded just how good Daniel Bryan is and Adam Cole shined as well. This was a match I never thought I wanted, but now I want it about ten more times. Luckily, knowing WWE, I’ll probably get just that in the coming weeks/months/years until I never want to see it again. But still, that first time was…magic.
These guys are passionate, because the passion hasn’t been sucked out of them due to ‘stupid ideas from bad creative.’ Tommaso Ciampa said this week on NXT TV that his show, NXT, is “the main roster.” He’s not wrong. These days, I watch Raw and, to a lesser extent, Smackdown, out of habit. It’s because I don’t know what else to do on Mondays. But I hardly ever look forward to Mondays like I did from 1997 through 2005-ish. Wednesdays are a different story. Some nights are better than others, but I have never ended a Wednesday night disappointed, let down or angry. The same can’t be said for Sundays, Mondays or Fridays.
NXT reminds me why I’m a wrestling fan. Finn Balor coming out to assist AJ Styles and The OC was something I’ve been hoping for from the moment all four men entered the company. And the Original Club reunion didn’t happen on PPV, Raw or Smackdown – it happened on NXT and I’m not ashamed to admit that when Balor gave the Double Finger Guns to AJ Styles, I stood up out of my chair and may or may not have “Too Sweet-ed” my television screen. It’s not weird. Shut up.
The point is, the best wrestling in WWE is happening in, with or because of NXT right now and it is reigniting the passion of wrestling fans who may otherwise have become disenfranchised with the product that WWE is putting out.
Speaking of passion…
The reason I even started thinking about that word this week was because of the promo from Cody Rhodes on AEW Dynamite this past Wednesday. It was, arguably, the best wrestling promo in years. And that wasn’t because it was a “shoot” or because it name dropped or used insider terms. It wasn’t a promo based on being miscast, misused or mistreated. It was a wrestling promo, from a wrestler, to sell a wrestling match. And it was perfect. Honestly, I can’t remember the last honest-to-God wrestling promo I’ve heard that actually moved me like that. We know wrestling isn’t real. We know this feud between Cody and Jericho is strictly a show.
But this promo was absolutely a case of belief being suspended. For just a few precious moments, we were transported back to a time where we didn’t know everything, or feel the need to comment on everything, or dissect everything. For just those few moments, we stopped being pundits, critics, and armchair bookers. We got to just be fans, taken on a journey. I can’t say enough good things about Cody’s promo, and that’s coming from somebody that was completely apathetic towards Cody for the majority of his WWE career. I thought the dude was bland as a banana for the longest time. But there have been at least three or four occasions now that a lump has developed in my throat and a tear has streamed down my face because of the work Cody did. He made me believe and now? Now, I want nothing more than to see Cody win the AEW Championship.
Or, at least I thought I did until Jericho reminded me why he is the best in the world at what he does. His vignette, which was designed to poke fun at one Cody had done weeks prior, was picture perfect. It was hilarious but it was also so damn slimy. Jericho is one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time, definitely in my top five, but man, does he make me want to see him get punched in the mouth. When Jericho vs. Cody was announced, I wasn’t exactly moved. But now, I can honestly say it’s the match I’m most looking forward to seeing this Saturday at Full Gear.
Don’t let your anger towards Vince McMahon and his vision of what professional wrestling should be cloud your judgment. This is a good time to be a wrestling fan. Companies from all over the world are putting out quality shows featuring incredible talent. Impact, Ring of Honor, MLW, NWA, AEW, NXT, New Japan – all of these companies and so many more are putting out a product that reminds us why we are fans of this crazy sport. The men and women working for these companies are giving everything they have to stand out, to entertain, to change the business for the better. They’re doing it for themselves, for the fans, for the history and for the future of pro wrestling. And they’re doing it with style, with determination, with defiance and, most of all, with passion.