The world is crazy right now, but WWE and AEW have not stopped. Who has stepped up during these rough times?
The past couple of months have been tough for the wrestling business. The indies have been shut down along with Ring of Honor and most of the Japanese companies and it doesn’t look like anyone doing anything in front of fans in an arena is going to happen anytime soon. As for the folks who are still doing TV are doing it in empty building (or sorta empty buildings if you’re AEW), which even for a diehard like me isn’t the same thing as having fans inside to cheer and boo. And then there are the absences from Roman Reigns, Sami Zayn, Kyle O’Reilly, several of the regulars in AEW, notably Hangman Page, and now WWE’s biggest name of the past year Becky Lynch. Needless to say these are some tough times.
But in these times come opportunities, and there have been plenty for guys and gals who normally would not be on TV along with those who we are used to seeing every week. Who’s stepped to the plate and made something happen? Here are some of my picks:
She’s number one. Asuka is the MVP of WWE television since March and probably for the year. She’s gotten to unleash her whole personality; GIFs of her dancing every week have been a big hit, she’s grabbed a headset and played along with the commentary team, and they finally figured out that just letting her speak Japanese with the occasional English word thrown in is a much better way for her to communicate with us than trying to speak entirely in English. And with no jerks in the building to chant ‘what?’ it’s all good when she’s on the mic now. She makes the most of whatever time she gets every week and is often the highlight of the show.
Lucha House Party
They got thrown into the mix before the pandemic hit, getting put in the Elimination Chamber match instead of the soon to be exiting Revival and have been featured on TV ever since. And in the last few weeks they’ve really stepped up their game on TV and at the Money in the Bank pay per view (see what I thought about that here.) And now with the Usos out of the tag picture for a while due to injury and Otis’ singles work taking precedence over Heavy Machinery as a tag team they have a chance to stay in the mix and keep showing what they can do.
I spoke a lot about her in my previous piece here, so you can check that out. Now it looks like her program with Bayley may be done, but hopefully she’ll get some more time down the road.
Her journey as a young lady trying to find her way as a wrestler has made each match of hers one of the most interesting parts of Monday night. While a lot of people have her pegged as the star of the future right now it’s important that they don’t try to make her the star of today because she really does need the time to grow into that role. So far so good and she’s done well holding up her end so far going from a bump taker in tag matches to being able to keep up with Asuka the night after WrestleMania and Charlotte a few weeks ago.
While things have been a bit clunky for her faction (now down to two people after they kicked out Austin Theory), she has shined with all the extra time she’s been getting after WrestleMania. Be it in the longer promo segments or the times she’s gotten on commentary she’s proven that it’s long past time for managers to get a bigger role in the WWE again.
In the surprise return of the year MVP came back for a brief turn in the Royal Rumble and has parlayed that into a recurring role on TV where he’s wrestled, hosted a talk segment, and looks like he’s heading towards being a manager again. I have no idea if any of this was planned but either way he’s made the most of a golden opportunity here.
And on the other side of the street……
I’ll admit to having been totally dismissive of Matt most of this year, both before and after he left WWE and went to AEW. But he’s performed well essentially filling in for Hangman Page with Kenny Omega against Chris Jericho’s Inner Circle. To his credit he’s made the most out of being thrown into the fire in his new home and pumping a little more life into his Broken gimmick. This is a case where both things can be true – no he did not warrant a bigger on camera role in WWE because he just can’t go like he used in the ring but yes he is a great fit to doing more of what he wanted in AEW. So kudos to Matt for making it happen.
So that’s my short list. Who would you guys add?