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15 Reasons to Be Thankful for WWE and AEW in 2021

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2021

Credit: WWE.com

Thursday is Thanksgiving and before we settle around the table for turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and the delightfully extraterrestrial cranberry sauce from a can, it's important to think about all we are thankful for.

For wrestling fans, it turns out there is far more to be happy and grateful for than the internet may lead you to believe.

From outstanding performers to captivating storylines, fiendish factions to triumphant heroes, both WWE and All Elite Wrestling have provided a considerable amount of quality for fans to immerse themselves in.

Here are 15 things to be thankful for from the two most prominent promotions.

         

1. The Tribal Chief

Once upon a time, Roman Reigns was denounced as the face of WWE, rejected by fans who refused to allow WWE to shove another babyface hero down their throats. As it turned out, all he needed was a heel turn. The self-absorbed Head of the Table, overly confident about his place at the top of WWE and the latest (greatest?) member of the Samoan Dynasty, has been tearing it up on Friday nights. A great in-ring worker who has finally found himself as a talker and character, he is undeniably the highlight of Vince McMahon's company at this point.

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2. Hangman's Trials and Triumph

Every once in a while, a storyline comes around that makes you remember why you love wrestling. That was the case with "Hangman" Adam Page's AEW Championship quest. From the guarantee that he would win the title on Day 1 of the company, the ups and downs that followed, and his monumental victory over Kenny Omega at Full Gear for the title, Page and AEW crafted an epic story that captivated audiences and made the young Virginian an even bigger star than he already was.

        

3. NXT 2.0

Is the show always high-quality entertainment? Absolutely not, but what the revamped brand has done is institute a youth movement that fans have long desired from WWE. Bron Breakker, Joe Gacy, Toxic Attraction, Cora Jade, Carmelo Hayes and Indi Hartwell are just some of the fresh faces making big splashes on WWE's Tuesday night show. That will only help with eventually freshening up the main roster when they are ready to make the jump.

        

4. Rebel (not Reba)

Lost in Britt Baker's meteoric rise to the AEW women's title has been just how great a heel sidekick Rebel has been. She can be over-the-top comedic or menacing but is always there to take a shot to the mouth by the babyface challenger and help her charge to victory. She's a quality sidekick who does the little things that capture your attention, without fully taking it away from the star of the segment.

     

5. RK-Bro

WWE has a long history of throwing mismatched teams together. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Riddle and Randy Orton is a pairing that has worked, thanks to the dichotomy that exists between them. The former's childlike personality meshes well with the latter's grizzled veteran seriousness. Beyond that, the fact that it is making The Original Bro a bigger star in the process only benefits everyone involved, including fans watching the entertaining interactions between the two.

     

6. Dante Martin

No one has taken the opportunity presented to them like Dante Martin and run with it as he has. Formerly one-half of Top Flight with brother Darius, he seized the opening created by his sibling's unfortunate injury and has become one of the breakout stars in AEW. A high-flyer who does things in the ring that were previously unthinkable, he is poised for a huge run alongside Lio Rush in the future. Breakout matches against Kenny Omega and Malakai Black only helped his cause.

     

7. Queen of the Ring and Tag Team champion Zelina Vega

When Zelina Vega left WWE late last year, it felt like the company had totally whiffed with her. Not only could she talk, but she was also a talented wrestler whose talents were never fully utilized by the promotion. When she re-signed months later, it appeared she would be wasted again. But a Queen of the Ring win and victory over Rhea Ripley and Nikki A.S.H. for the tag team titles has her in the midst of the hottest run of her career. She is a complete performer who we're only now beginning to see for all of her talents, and it's about time.

         

8. Malakai Black

How often do fans express their desire for something fresh and new? Malakai Black is just that. He's unlike any other character in WWE or AEW. The manner in which he commands attention, with his dark and foreboding entrance and commitment to character is extraordinary. Two high-profile wins over Cody Rhodes and a sparkling win-loss record have only helped. He is a future world champion in AEW.

     

9. Budge

If you haven't been watching Being The Elite on YouTube and are unfamiliar with the interaction between Adam Cole and The Dark Order's John Silver and Alex Reynolds, drop whatever you're doing and go watch. Now. The rest of the list will wait.

        

10. Sonya Deville

No longer an in-ring competitor (for the time being), Sonya Deville has become the most effective and unlikable authority figure in years. Completely crooked, with a clear bias against babyfaces in the women's division, she has shined in her role. Eventually, one of her many ongoing vendettas will result in her return to the ring and when it does, the result will be a red-hot match in which fans long to see the babyface dish Deville her comeuppance.

     

11. The Return of CM Punk

For seven years, fans debated if we would ever see CM Punk in the ring again. The Second City Saint and AEW answered that question in August, and the former world champion's return has been really strong so far. While he has yet to engage in a definitive rivalry to this point, he has worked with several young stars and had a show-stealing fight with Eddie Kingston at Full Gear. As long as he can avoid injury, the future is bright for Punk and his fans as a multitude of dream matches await.

      

12. Seth Rollins

People criminally underrate how excellent Seth Rollins has been over the last year. His willingness to make himself look like an ass in whatever over-the-top outfit he can find is eclipsed only by the extraordinary work he has produced between the ropes. Whether it was sparring with Cesaro or delivering three Match of the Year candidates with Edge, this is the best Rollins we've seen by far. And he's only getting better.

        

13. Serena Deeb

After years away from the spotlight, Serena Deeb exploded back onto the national scene with her work in NWA and AEW, just casually having some of the best matches in women's wrestling and establishing herself as one of the best technicians in the business. Her recent feud with Hikaru Shida has resulted in some great matches and as long as she is given the opportunity to shine, we should expect continued excellence from The Professor of Professional Wrestling. 

        

14. Kayla Braxton and Paul Heyman

The weekly interactions on SmackDown between Kayla Braxton and Paul Heyman are nothing short of fantastic. Their timing is great, the on-screen chemistry undeniable and Heyman's reaction to being asked hard-hitting questions by his interrogator is always good for a chuckle. He has always had a knack for recognizing what underused performers do well and working with them toward success. Braxton has long since proved she is really good at her job, and we're now seeing more of her personality on display, thanks to her interactions with Heyman.

         

15. Miro

The Redeemer has embraced a new life in AEW, leaving behind the Rusev character and completely reinventing himself. A god-fearing man, he obliterates his opponents and has already held the TNT Championship once. He came within an eyelash of defeating Bryan Danielson at Full Gear but proved he is worthy of mixing it up with the top stars in the promotion. His character is interesting and compelling, and his devotion to that character is apparent. Let him do his thing and reap the rewards, AEW. 

       

What are you thankful for in WWE and AEW this year? Join the discussion and let your voice be heard.

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