By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer
“Pro wrestling is hot now.”
“This is a new Golden Age of pro wrestling.”
“Pro wrestling is consistently drawing record gates.”
These are just a few of the things I’ve read in recent months, coming across websites, podcasts and everything in between. It’s a fruitful time to be parading around in various degrees of undress in front of thousands of people at once. WWE just completed a merger of the century. The Iron Claw, which tells one of the saddest stories in the history of the medium, is gaining traction as a Serious Movie. Even the NWA can get away with having its talent indulge in some nose candy on air and still find a way to land a deal with The CW (maybe?).
And yet for all the reasons pro wrestling is being celebrated these days, there are a few things that to me are just … well, they are just downright confusing. Maybe not in a mainstream sense – and certainly not in a popularity sense – but a few things recently have been stuck firmly in my craw and I need to let them off my chest somewhere. So, why not here? And thus, behold the five most confusing things in pro wrestling today.
Because for every sold out gate, there’s yet another ROH/AEW tournament lurking around the corner, you know?
1. Samoa Joe lays waste to the ROH TV Title.
Now, I’m no booker. Nor can I say I have ever been on even the outside-est parts of the inside of the pro wrestling industry. And God knows how precious those on the inside tend to treat their time on the inside. “You’ve never booked a wrestling show, so you don’t know what you’re talking about! Shut up, mark!”
But can someone please explain to me the logic behind Samoa Joe becoming the guy to hold the Ring Of Honor TV Title for the longest consecutive reign ever … only to just up and say, on a random Wednesday, “Nah, I’m good?” 574 days. I mean, really. 574 days. Do you know how much credibility that guy brought to that title? Ring Of Honor isn’t exactly thriving in its role as AEW Dark Elevation Of Honor these days, but one of the few bright spots has been Joe’s monstrous reign as its television champion. Not even Eddie Kingston, who seems to be universally loved by fans from all across the board, has brought some modicum of juice to the ROH brand. Samoa Joe, even if we didn’t see him defend it every week, built a layer of weight around the belt.
And so, then, wouldn’t it seem reasonable to take all that clout, all those 574 days, and hand all of it off to someone else in order to elevate them? Isn’t that pro wrestling booking 101? It wouldn’t even have to be as a result of some white-hot, months-long program that takes viewers on an emotional roller coaster ride. Shoot, the booking minds would hardly have to explain it, considering how so many twists in the AEW/ROH orbit often seem at least slightly illogical. At the very, very, very least, Joe could have built a feud in a few weeks and then relinquished it to someone who could use the rub. Hell – and please note the all caps – WHY NOT GIVE IT TO KEITH LEE, WHO JOE BEAT BEFORE ABANDONING THE THING?!
It’s like Roman Reigns holding the WWE Undisputed Universal Championship for 5,000 days and instead of making a new top star, just handing the belt to Paul Heyman and heading home for the rest of time. Rarely these days do companies take title reigns as far as Ring Of Honor took Joe’s TV title reign, and at the end of the day, nobody has anything to show for it. It’s not just confusing; it’s mildly angering, considering how useful a traditional victory over Joe could have been in the bigger picture. I know I’m not qualified to say such things – and rarely would I ever anyway – but the decision to have Joe vacate the title simply feels like bad booking. Sure, if Joe is going after the AEW world title, you might not want him to lose, but it’s not like he hasn’t been able to get his heat back after suffering losses in TNA, WWE and AEW before.
A terrible decision. A wasteful decision. A confusing decision.
2. Santos Escobar finally breaks bad, but did Rey Mysterio break first?
From the second Santos Escobar showed up on WWE main roster television with that cheeky smile, groveling about how much he loves Rey Mysterio, the countdown was on until he would ultimately turn on his hero. His days as a heel in NXT were far more fruitful than the sidekick who almost (but doesn’t) get secondary title shots on Smackdown. There are some people who are better off playing a bad guy than they are playing a good guy. At least in the context of WWE, Santos Escobar has achieved more notable success as someone who breaks the rules.
But why’d Rey have to push him like that?
For those who missed it, the trigger on an Escobar heel turn was finally pulled last Friday when Escobar attacked Mysterio (as well as Carlito). This, of course, came after he dumb-ass-edly took brass knuckles from Logan Paul’s bud and laid them on the ring apron, only for Paul to find them and use them to beat Mysterio at Crown Jewel. Perhaps Escobar was absent minded? Perhaps he made a mistake? Perhaps he’s sorry about it? Perhaps he meant to make it up to Rey?
All those notions are plausible here, but instead of Escobar being presented as a menacing, meticulous hater who always had it out for Mysterio … well, Rey Mysterio kind of/sort of flipped out on Escobar first during Friday’s episode of Smackdown. I don’t know that Escobar was entirely in the wrong for fighting back. I mean, what would you do if your friend shoved you and yelled at you in front of thousands of people? Beg for forgiveness or stick up for yourself?
And so Escobar’s purported heel turn now feels more confusing than it does viable. Sure, he took it a little far, ramming the ring steps into Mysterio’s leg and all, but the moment felt more 50/50 than it should have felt (even if it was, say 80-20 when it comes to delegating blame). The story was RIGHT THERE, WWE. Make the guy a sinister asshole who couldn’t stand to live in the shadows any longer. There’s no need to ease into this by having him haphazardly leave a pair of brass knucks on the mat and then wait for Rey to get in the first blow. It all adds up to something so confusing, I almost find myself rooting for Escobar now.
3. Chris Jericho beat Konosuke Takeshita in Japan because nothing matters anymore.
Say what you want about The Callis Family vs. Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega program (it sucks … whoops, I didn’t mean to say that out loud). And argue all day about the merits of how we got here, the usage of Kota Ibushi within it and about 5,000 other things. But in the immortal words of Brian Orakpo, “Come on, man. What we even doing out here, man?”
At a DDT event in Japan over the weekend Chris Jericho beat Konosuke Takeshita. It was weird (see: confusing) in that AEW hardly mentioned it was even going to happen despite the match being set up as part of a story AEW is in the middle of telling. It was also weird (see: confusing) in that Takeshita has pinned Kenny Omega twice now, at one point felt like the hottest thing in North American Pro Wrestling and has had a remarkable glow up (as the kids say) when you see how he used to look compared with how he looks now.
All of this … just to head home and tap out to Chris Jericho.
We can all insert our assumptions and/or criticisms about Jericho here, but that’s not really the point. Instead, what I can’t wrap my head around is why anyone thought that would help anything in the larger picture coming out of it. Jericho is working as a babyface in the AEW program, and we’re about to have some video game-sponsored street fight between the factions, so why not make the babyface look even more vulnerable with a loss before the Big Match? Furthermore, as if Takeshita’s alignment with Don Callis hasn’t already cooled the guy off to some degree, why make him take a clean loss at this point in his growth as a major player? Did AEW sign off on this decision? Did DDT troll AEW by booking it this way?
Make it make sense because as it stands currently, it’s just all so … confusing.
4. What the hell does Lexis King have to do with Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams?
It’d be great if there was more to say after that headline, but there really isn’t all that much more to add. One night, I go to bed, thinking about how it sucks that tomorrow will only be Wednesday. The next morning, I wake up and find the former Brian Pillman Jr. inserted in this uber-long, mildly complex saga that is The Story Of Carmelo Hayes And Trick Williams. But why? Even if you’re going to explain it away by saying he had something to do with this mystery attacker NXT introduced a few weeks ago, why on earth would you choose King as The One Who Has Something To Do With It?
If anything, it exposed how much work King is going to have to put in on the mic under the guise of this new persona, because Brian Pillman Sr., he ain’t. In addition to that, why muddy the Trick/Melo waters? Those guys have been in the top tier of the NXT card for a good long time now and their story appears to be kicking into another gear; what good does it do to add someone who hasn’t proven himself as worthy of that spotlight yet, no matter where he has been employed? I root for Brian Pillman Jr. I really do.
But this Lexis King thing is going to take time if it’s going to succeed. And the man behind the character is going to have to spend extra hours in promo class if he’s going to ultimately make it work. Putting him in a sink or swim situation this early in his NXT run feels counterintuitive to his growth as a performer. Trick and Melo can hold their own, guys. King’s presence isn’t just unneeded; it’s confusing.
5. You better not come to Hangman Page’s house and mess with his family because, damn it, he’ll wait at least a couple weeks before letting you know how mad he is.
I’m sorry, but if you’re going to break into my home and scare my infant child, we’re going to have to resolve this issue right the hell away – especially if I know where you’re going to be in the immediate future because where you’re going to be in the immediate future is national television. And no, I won’t wait until you’re in the middle of a wrestling match, let alone until after you’re done wrestling said wrestling match. If I know I’m in the same building as you for even a tiny amount of time, we aren’t waiting to make sure some tables are set up to power-bomb you through.
I’m all for heating up the Page/Swerve program in AEW – and Swerve, to his credit, has done a great job as a sort of maniacal villain in his recent programs, making Nick Wayne bleed like a stuck pig a few months ago – but I don’t know about this one. Pro wrestling is about suspending disbelief, and we, as fans, know our role and play our part to the best of our abilities most of the time, but this development is just a little too much to swallow. Plus, having yet another Texas Death Match in a company that treats Texas Death Matches like WWE treats “impromptu” six-man tag team matches takes a bit of the edge off this story, which is designed to be intensely personal at this point.
It’s confusing that Page would wait to attack Swerve. It’s confusing that Swerve wouldn’t be … I don’t know … arrested for breaking into someone’s home? It’s even confusing to reflect on what exactly Swerve accomplished by breaking into Hangman’s home other than being creepy. Who knew a story with two great wrestlers could be so … well … confusing?