Professional wrestling is a funny thing. Many say it’s nothing but gaga and pageantry. Others look to it as a source of sport, a sport that many never will understand. For me, it’s both. Without pageantry, you cannot have wrestling and without sport you cannot have wrestling either. It’s a beautiful balance of incredible athletic ability combined with amazing showmanship unparalleled in any other medium of entertainment. This last month has been a prime example of what wrestling truly means to me. From the recent success of Ring of Honor on television to WWE’s increase in drama to TNA looking to find a new face of their company the month of October has become one to remember for years to come.
First let us start with Ring of Honor. I can recall when I gained the internet for the first time at the ripe old age of 15 and immediately, being the mark I was and still am scavenging the web for any and all things associated with my passion: pro wrestling. That is when I discovered Ring of Honor. At the time, Austin Aries had just dethroned a man that had defined the young company for two years, that man being Samoa Joe. I gained access to the Final Battle 2004 match and was awestruck. I had never seen such a passionate, intense product in my life and instantly I became a fan of both Aries and Joe as well as this new company that was relatively unknown to me until then. Sure, I was a magazine mark just like anyone in the early 2000’s that didn’t have the internet.
So now fast forward to 2011. After a failed HDNet deal, Ring of Honor has found itself under a new direction. Sinclair Broadcasting’s purchase of Ring of Honor caused a huge stir in the wrestling world, many believe that this new acquisition could spell mainstream success for ROH. Ring of Honor, after all is the only wrestling company in America that holds sustained network television coverage. Granted, that is just technicality and actually, their reach is rather limited. I for one, here in midstate Michigan at school do not get the show on my television and thus have to rely on the new rohwrestling website every Thursday. All in all, I’m pleased however. Wrestling needs fresh ideas and faces and Ring of Honor is full of them at the moment. I’m pleased to see guys like Roderick Strong, El Generico and Davey Richards getting their chances at television exposure because they sure deserve it just as anyone on that roster does. I definitely believe that come 2012, ROH will become something to really pay attention to.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling has been the turtle to Vince McMahon’s hare for some time. As a default, TNA has been the second biggest company in America and arguably the world. The early days are well documented and discussed as a disaster and it’s a wonder the company is still afloat. I recall seeing TNA first in the FSN days on Friday afternoons. Back then, this is 2005 we’re talking about it was a different product. The X Division was easily the shining light of the shows with guys such as AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and the newest face to the company and former ROH Champion Samoa Joe. I was mesmerized at the ability of the roster and even though at the time the main event was dominated by Jeff Jarrett and his old WCW cronies, I tolerated it just to watch the great work in the X Division. The tag division was stacked as well with America’s Most Wanted at the helm along with Team 3D later in the year. When I began to follow TNA, it was on the up and up despite the ever present rumors of company closure. Now in 2011, after nearly a year of disinterest and honest disenfranchisement from TNA I return as a fan. What brought me back? A cowboy to be honest.
I watched Bound For Glory and I was taken back. Weeks leading in I had heard that Robert Roode was the winner of the long running Bound For Glory series and would face Kurt Angle for the title. This intrigued me so I made it a point to catch the show. I must say, the show was very good for TNA. A lot of matches were strong and solid with little issue aside from the clusterfuck Styles/Daniels I Quit Match and a retrovision Sting/Hogan match. All the dust settled and it was main event time. The match was very good and many times I thought Roode had it in the bag until the now infamous screwing by Angle happened and Roode jobbed. I was both shocked and pissed. This guy that had been given months and months of investment, hell even years if you really look deeply into it had been left on the biggest stage TNA can offer with egg on his face. So, I was ready to throw in the towel again and write off TNA as a fledgling company for good.
Then, I found a post on tumblr(best site on earth aside from this one :D) that claimed James Storm was the new TNA World Champion. I wrote it off as another internet trolling and went on with my day. However, the more I began to surf the net the more this story was seen. Finally, it was confirmed this had happened. So, days later I watched iMPACT in anxiousness and I was pleasantly surprised. The matches, the four there were, were solid. Granted, the show had WAY too many interview segments and literally the first hour sans the last 8 or so minutes were just promos. Good promos though, different from the usual TNA rambling that occurs. Finally however, after all the hogwash it was main event time. It didn’t last long, about a minute or so but after a great superkick and a three count TNA had a new champion! As he celebrated, I got goosebumps. Legitimate goosebumps for the first time in years regarding TNA. Not since Samoa Joe winning at LockDown against Kurt Angle had I felt the feeling I did last Thursday. It felt as though there was an honest shift in the company, that yes TNA was moving forward for the first time in years. It remains to be seen how swift the change will be for the company but with recent creative team acquisitions I expect the change to be very positive and clear.
WWE has been riding a huge wave of momentum from the summer with the recent emergence of CM Punk as a massive star. After a questionable handling of his stardom, with the likes of Kevin Nash and Alberto Del Rio gaining notoriety off of Punk’s star many feel Punk could be in trouble creatively. John Cena, the company’s obvious top star and face is not the champion for once in a long time. Alberto Del Rio, current WWE Champion sits atop the mountain and I must say, I’m not that upset. Earlier this year, I was not sold on him. I even felt he was oversaturated going into WrestleMania against Edge for the World Championship and as the months went on, his push got crazier. He never became WHC no, but he DID win RAW’s Money In The Bank and I scoffed massively.
Oddly enough though, it was his cashing in the title match on Punk following SummerSlam that won me as a fan. The way he took the moment and won the title was reminiscent of Punk just years prior. A shocking development and an even equally shocking result. Del Rio wasn’t champ long, only about a month until the Cena monster reared it’s ugly head and jobbed him out. Of course it being WWE, they can’t keep the championship on anyone longer than 5 months without a change. Lately, it’s been more like 5 WEEKS. I don’t complain though, it’s much like 1999 in the sense that there is just so much main event talent to go around, why not give everyone a piece of the pie? As much as I personally disagree, being somewhat of a wrestling purist believing the title should mean something and not just an emblem for someone to wear to the ring. However, I can’t argue with the way WWE does things it’s obviously working if people still come to see in droves. Is it 2000 business? Not at all however it’s not just WWE’s fault it’s the cycle of wrestling. You have boom periods but you also have depressions and WWE has been in a slump for some time and sustained very well. With UFC knocking on their door, WWE has begun to slowly bring back some competitive matches and less celebrity bullshit that typically has plagued WWE in the last few years. The Rock’s return will also greatly increase their business so for the moment, business looks bright for WWE.
Not to mention, the WWE product is just plain better now than it has been in a couple of years. Last night’s Vengeance card is a prime example of it. All morning I’ve seen hate about it, that this match was shit or that match had a bad finish and to me it’s just nitpicking. It’s pessimistic marks being pessimistic marks. You can’t have your cake and eat it too all the time and frankly, many wrestling fans of my age group were spoiled as kids. When I was deep in pro wrestling, there were three big companies that were competing for the same audience and they were forced to put on insane cards every night. It wasn’t uncommon to see a dozen highspot matches in two straight nights on TV. It was the way things were, you either blew the roof off with every match on the card or the other company got ahead of you. So now, with it really being WWE and then everyone else, the product naturally has regressed. It’s psychology though. If you’re having people go through tables every show, then you realize you can manage without that why would you keep doing it? That seems stupid to me.