Reasons to Be Thankful for Professional Wrestling
The holiday season is upon us.
One of the many things I am thankful is the ability to write about professional wrestling and share with you readers my passion not only for the business, but for also for its history and its true beauty.
In one of the longest running soap operas (that men truly enjoy), I have seen my share of changes, character assassinations, title reigns and forgotten superstars in this business. And while I am still an NWA homer through and through, I have come to appreciate the balance of Vince McMahon and what he has done to make the business truly an empire.
When I was my son’s age (13), Ric Flair was one of the best in the business and challenged the likes of David Von Erich, Harley Race, Jack Brisco and Terry Funk. There was drama in matches, great interviews conducted by Gordon Solie and battles outside the ring when the Road Warriors hit the ring or someone like Kevin Sullivan waxed profound about evil and cults and going to higher places for peace.
It also did not hurt that we saw his hot wife (Nancy Benoit) every now and then in lingerie.
As we all break bread with family and friends today and over the weekend, I wanted to share what I am thankful in this comical business we call wrestling. And I also wanted to extend a happy, peaceful and safe Thanksgiving to all of you.
Now, on with the debate.
21. The Return of the Brawler
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Bully Ray, Sheamus and Wade Barrett.
What I wouldn't give to see a triple threat match between them.
Each wrestler has star power, strength and the ability to be champion. You don't see that all the time in a wrestler.
And if Bully Ray ever got to the top of the TNA mountain, watch out. He is the one guy I think who will be a real force to be reckoned with, especially with the character change, in TNA.
20. Samoa Joe
Maybe the baddest man in TNA and in wrestling, period. You will never be disappointed in his performance in the ring.
Joe now has the TNA Television Title and should be a champion for some time.
And the best thing about Joe is that he is either liked or hated, but he is certainly loved by the fans.
19. New Talent
Damien Sandow will be a star.
Magnus as a singles competitor will be a star.
The WWE and TNA has been criticized for relying on older talents to get by. Now we are seeing new faces come in and shine.
If that is the case, then both brands will have great stars to lean on for years.
18. CM Punk and Paul Heyman
I did not think it would work at first, but this is a marriage made in wrestling heaven.
The two worms of wrestling have played the "respect" card to the hilt and have really shown that they can be the true heels of their company.
At some point, someone will blink and then all hell will break loose between the two of them.
17. High-Flying Luchadors
Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio bring us back to the days of Tiger Mask and Mil Mascaras.
The unpredictable moves, the speed and the idea that men who are 180 pounds can fly through the air with the greatest of ease.
These two have really brought back the cruiserweight wrestling division and made it special again.
16. Austin Aries Being One Bad Ass
They took the title off of him too soon. While he and Jeff Hardy have put together a masterful program in TNA, Aries is the best they have going today.
He is great in the ring, great on the mic and should be the centerpiece of the TNA building process.
Nothing else needs to be said.
15. The Return of Vince McMahon
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When the owner of the WWE is on television, nothing else matters.
For a senior citizen, he is better at this game than most of his employees. He brings a fire to the screen we don't see in many others and when he talks, people listen.
While there needs to be a true program for him on screen, it will be hard to see the Chairman of the Board in spots every week just to boost ratings.
I hate saying this, but he can thank Jerry Lawler's near-death experience for his growth and rebirth in the WWE.
JBL is the best on camera today. Lawler will take some time to get back into his groove, but JBL and his quick analysis and wit can carry over into the masses.
And he and Michael Cole are great together calling a match.
13. The Return of the Muscle-Bound Contender
Vince McMahon loves big, beefy muscled champions.
Ryback fits the category. If Ryback cannot win the title, or better yet, doesn't win the title, something is wrong. Ryback and his rise to fame was more because of John Cena's injury, but it has caused a great wave of fan support and has helped the WWE at a time when it needed a jolt.
Just feed him more.
12. John Cena
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I will give the man his due in the WWE. He has surpassed Hulk Hogan.
No one else could have been the marketing juggernaut that Cena has become. Maybe The Rock, had he not gone to Hollywood. But Cena has taken his character where no other WWE individual has gone before.
The mere fact that he is booed and cheered at the same time in a match is proof positive that the WWE did the right thing in adjusting his character to appease more people.
While CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler and Damien Sandow are the future of this company, Cena right now is the best pitchman the WWE could have ever dreamed of.
11. Gail Kim
I'll just start out with eye candy. Seriously, Gail Kim is one of the best to ever get in the ring.
What separates Gail Kim from other female wrestlers is she does just that: she wrestles. Whether it is against Awesome Kong, Velvet Sky, The Bella Twins or Beth Phoenix, there is no doubt you will get your money's worth.
What you see is what you get with Gail Kim, whether it is as a heel or a face, and she might be the best in the business today.
10. The Return of Veterans to the Ring
The way the WWE brought back veterans for their Raw 1000 Episode was priceless.
And the fact Heath Slater was able to help bring out the best in all of them was pure magic. No, I am not stating that Slater was any good, he was just there for the punishment.
But the use of veterans (when done properly) shows the WWE is still committed to preserving the past while extending into the future.
Any time we get to see Sycho Syd or Roddy Piper in the ring, it truly becomes a treat.
The chant throughout the arena after a knife-edged chop.
Don't thank Ric Flair for starting that, really thank Wahoo McDaniel, who taught Flair how to use it in a match.
But when it comes to wooing the crowd, there was no one better than Ric Flair.
And there may never be one like him again.
8. Bobby Roode and James Storm
Magnum TA and Tully Blanchard all over again.
This is one war I could watch night after night. Hopefully, it can continue into the next year because it has become really special.
Both men are classic brawlers with a touch of aerial moves and gut-busting power.
Bruiser Brody would be proud.
7. AJ Lee
I'll admit it, she grew on me.
I think I referred to her as the Black Widow of Wrestling at one point for her association with Daniel Bryan, Kane and CM Punk. And CM Punk loves crazy chicks.
What the WWE has done with her character is a little off, but then again this is professional wrestling. I figured at some point, she would get around to being the admirer of John Cena; however, I also thought the Eve/Cena thing had some legs.
Anyway, this cutie is going to be the biggest thing in women's wrestling in 2013. And she can skip to the ring all she wants. We will just sit back and watch.
6. Sting Still Brings It
Even in his 50s, "The Icon" still has what it takes to deliver.
It gives me hope that when I am his age, I may still be that active.
But seriously, how many 50-somethings do we know who can deliver night after night at a high level? Sting is not performing every night, but when he does, he is giving us the best he has and the best he had.
There are few who are better.
5. Kurt Angle
There is no one in this business that is as crafted in his sport like this former Olympian.
And to this day, he is still doing better than half the WWE and TNA roster. I'd love to see him in the ring with someone like Antonio Cesaro or Ryback.
Ooooh, that's a thought.
Seriously, when Angle came to this business, he knew how to "wrestle" but knew little else about the business. From learning and perfecting his craft, Angle now IS the business.
4. Ric Flair
I'm talking about the Ric Flair of the past. The 16-time World Champion and the man I would have given my right arm to be as a child.
No one was better than Flair when he came down the aisle and made it happen night after night.
He made wrestlers like Sting, Lex Luger and Barry Windham look like a million bucks each night and had some of the best feuds in the business with Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat, Jack Brisco and Bruiser Brody.
He was a rare breed that lived his life as his character in and out of the ring.
3. Taryn Terrell
Let me just say TNA wrestling is in a much better place now that Terrell is a referee and involved in the Knockouts Division.
It's good to see the need to have a female call matches when women are used in storylines at times and ineffectively at that.
Now if we could only see her in the ring in a match of her own.
2. Comedy in Wrestling
I know I am harsh on the WWE and TNA when they put together stupid skits, but I do appreciate the humor in some of the things both companies do.
Eugene, Hornswoggle, Kane and Daniel Bryan. They all have their place in wrestling.
The levity allows us to realize we should not take things seriously, especially in sports entertainment like this.
1. The Undertaker
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No one does it better at making us believe he can still deliver the best when it matters the most.
WrestleMania is his event. And what better way to get us to love his character over and over again than to see him perform at such a high level like he did with Triple H and HBK at Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania 28.
In my opinion, it is the best match we have seen all year.