By Nick Perkins, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@WesternRebel)
Well, hypothetical reader, Thanksgiving has come and gone. This holiday, like much of the rest of the year, has been a weird one but we’re still here. And we’re still watching wrestling.
I’ll be honest, watching wrestling has been a struggle lately. Actually, it’s been a struggle this entire year. There’s just too much going on and not enough quality wrestling to actually enjoy. Lately, however, I feel like that has changed. Maybe I’m just dying of boredom so any form of entertainment seems better than it actually is. No matter. The point is, wrestling currently has some pretty exciting things going on and, with the holiday season upon us, I thought it apt to detail some of the things in the wrestling world for which I am thankful. These aren’t in any order; they’re just I find myself enjoying the most during a time in history where joy is harder and harder to combine. These are the things in wrestling I am most thankful for.
- Pat Patterson: Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how thankful I am for Pat Patterson and the impact he had on the world of professional wrestling. Not only was he an outstanding wrestler in his own right (he was the first Intercontinental Champion, if you haven’t heard) – he also produced some of the greatest matches WWE has ever put on. This includes the Iron Man Match from WrestleMania 12, the WrestleMania match between Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle, and so many more. He also created the Royal Rumble, which is my favorite event of the year. The wrestling world would look a lot different if Pat Patterson wasn’t around, and he will be sorely missed.
- The Bloodline: Sad news aside, my favorite thing in all of wrestling right now is the current story involving Roman Reigns and his family. Reigns’ heel turn started out awkwardly when he first returned at SummerSlam, but since then he has knocked it out of the park every single time he’s been on camera. It’s almost as if Reigns is a natural heel who thrives best when he’s speaking from his heart and not being scripted to say idiotic things. If only someone could have told Vince McMahon that at any point in the last 5 years…
Seriously, though, Reigns has been great. And so have the Usos, specifically Jey. Jey has always been a talented in-ring performer but this is the first time he has really been able to envelop himself in a story and he, too, is knocking it out of the park. The saga between Reigns and his cousins is currently the best story in all of professional wrestling.
- Pat McAfee: I had no idea who this dude was until he started talking shit to Adam Cole. Then I was told he did football and had a sports show and blah blah blah. I wasn’t too impressed by the guy. In fact, he represented everything I hate in WWE – the former football player thinking he can hang with actual pro wrestlers. Except, that’s exactly what he did do. When McAfee met Adam Cole at NXT Takeover, he not only hung with the former NXT Champion; he excelled. McAfee took to the ring like a fish takes to water and he impressed even more once he got a microphone in his hand. Right now, Pat McAfee is giving the best promos in the wrestling business and I am very pleasantly surprised by the man behind ‘The Brand.’
- The Undertaker: For 30 years, The Undertaker has been makin’ plays and diggin’ graves. Or whatever the saying is. The Undertaker has never been my absolute favorite wrestler, but he has been a part of some of my favorite matches and moments. His feud(s) with Shawn Michaels and Kane are the definite highlights. The Undertaker really was a phenom and, if we really have seen his ‘Final Farewell,” then I hope he is finally able to find some peace and then rest in it.
- AEW: I don’t think it will happen right away. It might not even happen for a very long time. But I do think there’s a very good chance AEW could surpass WWE as the number 1 promotion in professional wrestling. The Khan family has more money than Vince McMahon does and, if AEW is actually making a profit, there should be no reason why Tony and his dad wouldn’t keep investing into the project. If it becomes more valuable than their football or soccer team, we could be seeing a lot more of AEW in the mainstream.
Money factors aside, however, AEW really is an alternative to WWE. I can’t remember the last full episode of Raw that I’ve sat through, but I make it a point, every Wednesday, to throw on Dynamite and I’m usually treated to two hours of a pretty damn good wrestling shows. There are things I don’t like about AEW and things that I certainly think could be better (Miro, the entire Women’s Division, etc.) but, for the most part, AEW reminds me why I like wrestling.
- As I was writing that last paragraph, AEW unveiled yet another brilliant movie with…
THE DEBUT OF STING!!!
Listen, I know that this isn’t 1998 and AEW isn’t WCW (though it certainly tries to be at times). But Sting will always be a worthwhile addition to any wrestling promotion. Like most people, I was ecstatic when he finally debuted in WWE…only to lose to Triple H at his one and only WrestleMania and then lose to Seth Rollins after suffering what we thought, at the time, was a career-ending injury. I didn’t want Sting’s story to end in WWE because they didn’t deserve the right to write his final chapter. AEW hasn’t earned the right, yet, but I think they will. I don’t believe AEW will make Sting world champion. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he never even wrestled a match. But Sting still has a lot to offer, both in front of and behind the camera.
And, let’s be honest. Who among us heard Tony Schiavone announce Sting’s return to TNT and didn’t get at least a little misty-eyed?
- Okay, as I was writing that last paragraph, Kenny Omega just defeated Jon Moxley for the AEW Championship with help from…Don Callis? From Impact? Things are about to get mighty interesting in the world of professional wrestling. Imagine a world in which AEW, Impact, New Japan, Ring of Honor, MLW and whomever else work together, with cross-promotional shows and everything. It’s possible that none of those companies, on their own, could surpass WWE. But all of them working together? The possibilities are, quite literally, endless. Imagine the dream matches that could take place on the bigger shows. The phrase ‘paradigm shift’ has been overused recently, but this move really is a paradigm shift. And I am here for it.
- WWE Network: I cannot overstate how awesome the WWE Network is if you’re a pro wrestling fan. If you’re dissatisfied with the current WWE product, and find yourself more tired and bored on Monday nights than you used to be, do what I do. Every Monday, I go back in time to 1997 and watch the corresponding Raw and Nitro episodes of the current day. Right now, Shawn Michaels and Triple H just tricked Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart into thinking he was a part of D-Generation X, only to double-cross him and further rub salt in the wound of the Montreal Screwjob. Over on Nitro, Sting is standing up against the NWO as he prepares to battle Hollywood Hogan for the WCW Championship at Starrcade. It’s a fun, nostalgic look at how great pro wrestling was 23 years ago.
- Conrad Thompson: If you, like me, are a podcast fan and you don’t know who Conrad Thompson is, you need to jump on this boat ASAP. Thompson is known as the ‘Pod-Father,” and it’s easy to see why. Thompson has 5 separate podcasts that he records every week, with Bruce Prichard, Jim Ross, Eric Bischoff, Arn Anderson, and Tony Schiavone. Each one of these is slightly different and always entertaining. They tackle the current product occasionally, but the real money is when they go back in time to talk about some of wrestling’s biggest moments from days gone by. Some people like to listen to hard rock music when they’re working out. I prefer to listen to Eric Bischoff talk about World War 3 1998.
Okay, that was a lie. I don’t work out.
- Eddie Kingston: Finally, I’m most thankful for Eddie Kingston. This dude has such an amazing story and it has been a real treat to watch him on the national stage of AEW. If you haven’t already seen it, I strongly recommend going on YouTube and watching the ‘And Then There Was King’ mini-documentary that was put out by AAW last year. It sums up Kingston’s character, as well as his true self, pretty perfectly.
And that is it for me, wrestling fans. This has been a huge week for pro wrestling and as we begin the road to Royal Rumble which begins the road to WrestleMania, things are only going to get bigger, better, and brighter. After a months-long lull, wrestling is getting exciting again and I am happy to take you by the hand and lead you through the desert that is the world of professional wrestling.