I’ve spent the last three months in a love and work induced haze that has left me both completely jet lagged mentally and emotionally. Obviously, you’ve not come to this article looking for some odd and detailed memoir of some random, unknown writer’s life this fall so I’ll spare you. Mostly, I point this out to really set the stage for the point at hand, with the jet lag came attempts at spurring myself back to where I once was and what was the spur in question?
The good old, hard filtered and strong hitting pro wrestling. As always in my life, when the chips are down and sh*t just seems to hit the fan I lean on the professional wrestling entertainment medium I’ve known all of my life it seems. So the last few months I’ve spent transfixed and also obsessed again with wrestling, a medium I all but swore off until this recent summer when CM Punk was dropping “pipebombs” all over the wrestling world. Which in and of itself is a key piece to the question at hand. With Ring of Honor finally hitting television, TNA wrestling rebranding and refocusing their product to a more homegrown talent emphasis it seems and WWE simply doing what WWE does best: is professional wrestling closer to a boom period than once thought?
CM Punk talking about things that pissed him off about professional wrestling. He talked about Johnny Ace being a piece of shit, how people claim John Cena is the best wrestler in the world and how it disgusts him. He did what everyone wanted wrestling to do for almost a decade: just be realistic. He said all of the wild and crazy things, finishing with the creedo: “I will win the WWE championship and I will leave” siting his very real contract expiry the night after the Pay-Per-View in question Money In The Bank. I was dazzled and impressed. CM Punk in one promo did what no promotion, no worker and no promoter could do in a decade: he made wrestling real again for me. That was it, I haven’t missed a show since and have even trickled my interest into other places: notably ROH and TNA.
Now, if you’re an engaged WWE watcher you’re surely reading this thinking “but they fucked up the angle with Punk down the road” with the whole SummerSlam fiasco involving Kevin Nash and Alberto Del Rio. You’re surely thinking that a month after this, after losing the WWE title abruptly and randomly he was thrown in a horribly planned and executed match with Triple H, just to then be his tag partner in a losing effort to the team of Miz and R-Truth in a very anti-climactic fashion. I’m aware of all of that and definitely don’t site that it was failure on WWE’s fault, but there’s a method to it all. With all of those booking snafus and all of the executing that is questionable,
CM Punk is the big hero of it all. Even losing to Del Rio after his Cena match at SummerSlam, he was the victim and was set to be out for revenge which we are finally seeing come to a head at Survivor Series. To me, WWE is simply booking how WWE does so, quickly and consistently. You can hate or love it but it is what it is and certainly changes are happening. Zack Ryder, a guy just a few months ago that was a relative nobody on tv that was a big internet sensation is given big matches and just had a main event slot on RAW last week.
Others such as Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett, guys that were all but forgotten this summer are being featured the way many have been saying for a year they should be. WWE is getting better whether you like it or not and perhaps because of strategic booking of names such as CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Alberto Del Rio and other main event guys rising or risen the WWE can find itself in a much more fruitful financial standing next year and beyond.
The number one rule to learn regarding pro wrestling is that the business is cyclical. There will be boom periods that are followed by a drought if you will, where arenas are a struggle to fill but you always have to book for the big surge. Be methodical and be ready when the boom comes. WCW is a great example of having no idea and consequently, went out of business. Vince McMahon and company have been subject to great boom periods in WWE and believe me, they know how to deal with it. You already see the piece of the booking pie spread much more evenly between big names.
Mark Henry emerged as perhaps the breakout star of 2011 despite many years of being called useless. With that, Big Show returned and is being featured yet again after many years of being squandered. The key to booking is to be prepared and it seems, debatably perhaps that WWE is doing that. After a completely confusing 2010 booking year, 2011 has been much more focused. CM Punk’s quick rise as the top guy in the company has really forced the company to book more carefully and thus, more guys are getting more over because of it.
WWE is not alone. TNA has had perhaps the most tumultuous year in wrestling history. The year started with Jeff Hardy as TNA’s World Champion and top heel running rampant through the company in a very interesting and well done way. However March rolled around and the now infamous Victory Road event saw Jeff Hardy compete horribly impaired on drugs and subsequently exited from the company. A few months later, Jeff’s brother Matt was arrested with drugs and sent to rehab himself effectively being fired from TNA and leading to a bizarre YouTube suicide saga.
Kurt Angle as well found himself in legal trouble and thus, TNA spent most of the year under disaster control. The World title has changed hands more than the stock market has fluctuated and the focus of the company has gone along with it. However, just as WWE in the summer the focus shifted over to the very effective Bound for Glory series that saw Robert Roode, a longtime midcarder and heavily over member of perhaps the most popular tag team in company history Beer Money emerge as a main event player. He was built all the way to Bound for Glory for the title which ended in a controversial screwjob finish by Angle.
The following week, Angle met his tag partner James Storm and shockingly lost the World title to him. This has now led to an angle that begun as a friendly rivalry that has evolved now, after last week’s iMPACT Wrestling into a blood feud when Roode cheated to beat Storm for the World title.
Many hate this recent angle but I love it. It’s a new and fun way to do the tag team break up angle. Both men leave with World title reigns and also, intrigue is at an all time high for their fans. Roode now can become the top heel of TNA while James Storm is the sympathetic, over babyface. I am far from saying TNA is looking to become a huge force in wrestling. A very weak as well as under utilized undercard is a big problem for the company.
Mismanagement of such stars as Samoa Joe and Rob Van Dam doesn’t help either and the over pushing of Crimson is another big yellow flag for the company. It seems that TNA is always narrow minded: when they focus on a couple of important talents everyone else suffers. Recent changes behind the scenes are a big reason to keep an eye out for TNA’s ascension going into 2012.
Ring of Honor however is the maverick of this whole discussion. Before September 24th, I would have said there was no way ROH could be a predominant force in American wrestling’s television presence. Granted, the Sinclair deal is far from earth shattering. Syndicated television is a dinosaur compared to cable and satellite distribution however for a small and grass roots product such as ROH it is a big step. Piggy bagged by very impressive outings on the growing iPPV format, Ring of Honor’s 2011 has been incredible.
The emergence of Davey Richards, their World Champion and obvious face of the company as well as rising stars such as the amazing Tomasso Ciampa and Michael Elgin have led to ROH being in my opinion the best wrestling product on television today. The biggest cause of interest for me with the company was the Best in the World iPPV and most notably the Kevin Steen promo on ROH and subsequent beatdown of Steve Corino: former mentor and his “sponsor” Jimmy Jacobs.
The way in which this angle has been executed this year has been amazing and aside from the recent, comedic melodrama of the court room skit on ROH TV it has been done in a very realistic and calculated way. Kevin Steen is becoming the rogue hero of ROH and someone that is required viewing material for any wrestling fan looking for the total package.
With all three prominent promotions all seeing relative or projected success, a boom period can be coming sooner than expected. Granted, the insane wrestling business is impossible to project at all but as a fan watching the business ebb and flow, I have a funny feeling some special things are on the horizon for myself and my fellow marks worldwide. Keep your eyes glued to the squared circle and your fingers crossed, crazier things have happened. Hell, George Bush Jr. was re-elected for god’s sake!