Highlighting the Best Parts of WWE Right Now in Celebration of Thanksgiving
The year 2020 has been an arduous one all around, which makes the holiday season the perfect time to try to look at the positives that still surround us even through all this difficulty.
When it comes to WWE, the past few months have been a mess, with more bad than good to talk about.
Ratings have struggled, creativity has been largely absent with constant repeat matches used to fill time, mass layoffs and company restructuring will not have helped morale, and it can sometimes feel more stressful to watch the product than entertaining.
However, this rough ride still has a few fun twists and turns worth smiling about.
To embrace the holiday spirit and be more optimistic in celebration of Thanksgiving, let's take a look at some of the best things going on right now in WWE.
Survivor Series May Be a Sign of What's to Come
Survivor Series was arguably the best pay-per-view WWE has put on this whole year.
Even without fans, it managed to be a more coherent and successful showcase of matches than something such as Elimination Chamber or Super ShowDown.
Next up is NXT TakeOver: WarGames, which is also shaping up to be a fun event. Both of the titular cage matches should be great, Finn Balor is back in action, and it's anyone's guess what happens with the North American Championship.
There have been plenty of hiccups with events this year falling through or being underwhelming in general. At this particular moment, though, mostly everything is working out rather well.
Perhaps this is a sign of what's to come with TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, Royal Rumble and everything else after WWE finally hit its stride and figured out the formula of how to do these PPVs in this current climate.
Capitol Wrestling Center and WWE ThunderDome
Fans in the arenas are still sorely missed as an essential element of WWE programming, but the Capitol Wrestling Center and the WWE ThunderDome are significantly better than what we had earlier this year.
Everything filmed in the WWE Performance Center was dark and dour. Even with some people ringside, nothing felt energetic.
Now, though, WWE has figured out a better audio mix to work with the screens surrounding the ring. It will never fully replace fans in attendance, but it's much better than perpetually piping in the same WWE 2K video-game cheers at a high volume in the background.
The Capitol Wrestling Center has its own unique feel that gives a nice separation between Raw, NXT, SmackDown and 205 Live, while NXT UK is making decent use out of the BT Sport Studios.
Tribal Chief Roman Reigns
One of the best things at the moment is how Roman Reigns has fully taken on his Tribal Chief persona.
This is the type of heel turn fans had been wanting for years. He is a staunch jerk in every way but has the magnitude and depth to back up all his claims. Nobody should want to admit he's the top dog, but you can't disagree with it, so we hate him even more.
This gimmick has given Jey Uso his biggest part to play in years, too. He's gone from half of an amazing tag team that sometimes isn't even at the forefront of a forgotten division to a key player in the upper-midcard of SmackDown.
Paul Heyman remains a fantastic weasel by Reigns' side, and the whole vibe feels very Godfather-esque, which is different to how the usual monster heel champions present themselves.
WWE Champion Drew McIntyre
Likewise, but in an entirely different way, the top champion on Raw has been doing a fantastic job.
Drew McIntyre stumbled a bit by dropping the title to Randy Orton at Hell in a Cell but managed to win it back in time to fight hard for his brand at Survivor Series and only lose by shenanigans.
The Scot has had an impressive run this year, starting with his Royal Rumble victory, which sparked his WrestleMania 36 win over Brock Lesnar. Just when he was getting a bit stale recently, WWE gave him a giant sword to give the impression he's somehow leveled up.
Now that the WWE draft has shaken up the rosters, there are tons of interesting opponents ready to challenge him for the title. AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt and even his buddy, Sheamus, are just some of the Superstars waiting in line.
The Hurt Business
When has Bobby Lashley ever looked as impressive as he does as a member of The Hurt Business?
For that matter, the same question goes for Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin, who have a renewed vigor about themselves standing next to MVP, who is a fantastic mouthpiece for the group.
Every week, they come out looking sharp and ready to kick some ass, which they typically do.
Lashley has the United States Championship in his grasp, and the faction could have the Raw Tag Team Championship soon if they keep testing The New Day's mettle.
Thankfully, they've also managed to quell the threat of Retribution. Mustafa Ali's group has been a mess since the start as WWE had no solid plan for it.
However, after The Hurt Business signed up for the job to show them up and succeeded, Retribution isn't as big of a focus and can hopefully fade away to let its talented members do something better.
Limitless Keith Lee
Far too many NXT Superstars go from being a big deal on the black-and-gold brand to getting lost in the shuffle on the main roster through no fault of their own. It's happened to Tyler Breeze, Aleister Black, EC3 and countless more.
Thankfully, Keith Lee has managed to avoid that and holds strong as one of Raw's most valuable players.
He came to Raw at the top of the card but hasn't fallen victim to being pushed too far, too fast. Instead, he clinched the victory for his team at Survivor Series on Sunday.
The Limitless One just received a massive upgrade to his entrance music, too, after being saddled with a generic tune upon his arrival to the red brand. This may not seem like the most important thing in the world, but a personalized song can make a Superstar stand out and give them a boost in how fans perceive them.
Next week, Lee will be competing in a Triple Threat match to determine who gets the next shot at the WWE Championship. Win or lose, he's in the hunt for the top prize in the company, which is amazing.
The Undisputed Era vs. Pat McAfee and His Crew
How shockingly great is Pat McAfee in NXT? The guy had one of the best performances of the year against Adam Cole at TakeOver XXX in August and continues to be a highlight every episode he shows up.
Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch have been great to watch since they started tagging but were always overlooked. Now, they're NXT tag team champions and prominently featured as hired guns alongside McAfee.
Rounding out the crew is Pete Dunne, who is back to his grizzled, nasty side and the most physically fit he's looked.
They're fighting a refreshed babyface Undisputed Era, who are always top-of-the-line talent and reliable for an awesome performance.
When you put those elements together and look at The Undisputed Era's history inside WarGames, how could you not be excited to see what they have in store for December 6?
The NXT Women's Division
Not to be outdone, one of the healthiest divisions in all of WWE today is the NXT women's roster.
Io Shirai has held her own as champion after dethroning Charlotte Flair at In Your House in June. She also defeated Rhea Ripley, who has yet to move up to the main roster (but should be in consideration for a Royal Rumble victory), in that fantastic Triple Threat match.
Ember Moon and Toni Storm have moved to NXT, giving it two former champions who haven't been overbooked in 2020. They have fresh rivalries ahead of them against wonderful athletes such as Dakota Kai, Candice LeRae and Shotzi Blackheart.
Indi Hartwell is doing well. Xia Li has an interesting story at the moment. Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter have found synergy as a team, and even Jessi Kamea is wrestling more often.
Don't sleep on this division or you'll risk missing out on some of the best talent in the company.
Several other positives narrowly missed the cut for this list but should still be given some attention. Here are some other things to be happy about in WWE right now:
- Alexa Bliss has a new purpose alongside The Fiend and is reveling in the gimmick.
- Big E getting a singles push while The New Day still hasn't lost any steam.
- Bianca Belair is finding her footing as SmackDown's top prospect.
- Cameron Grimes has become one of NXT's most breakout characters by fully embracing his silly side.
- Santos Escobar is the best cruiserweight champion in a long while as Ashante "Thee" Adonis, Curt Stallion and others try to breathe new life into 205 Live.
- The painful Mysterio family drama appears to finally have reached its conclusion.
- Chad Gable ditched the "Shorty G" name recently.
Things may be far from perfect but no matter how bleak it may seem, there will always be some bright spots worth being optimistic about.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.