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Mishal: It’s Time To Give Impact Wrestling A Chance

Mishal digs into Impact Wrestling and realizes…he likes it! You may too, you just have to #GiveImpactAChance.

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Impact Wrestling Ring Skirt

Mishal delves into Impact Wrestling and realizes…he likes it! You may too, you just have to #GiveImpactAChance.

Impact Wrestling is a strange topic to discuss for many wrestling fans in 2020, isn’t it?

At a time where the discourse in professional wrestling is so centered on brands such as WWE, NXT (since at times many act like it’s separated from its actual owners), AEW or even NJPW, we often forget that at one point in history Impact Wrestling, TNA, Global Force Wrestling or whichever name you choose to associate the promotion with given your experience with it, was indeed just as relevant as the names I just mentioned above. Before a plethora of controversy, an endless number of mistakes, lack of willingness to embrace what made it unique & industry that felt like it took five steps forward while management took ten steps back, Impact Wrestling was widely considered the biggest brand in professional wrestling after the WWE’s powerhouse of a brand across the globe.

In fact, there was a time, a dark time, where the flagship shows of both brands met head-to-head, with the results ending just as you’d imagine if you didn’t know.

Upon its inception, the former ‘’TNA Wrestling’’ had all the potential in the world to bounce off the end of the Monday Night Wars at the start of the millennium. Stacked to the brim with a roster of diverse talent from across multiple generations, unique action that was enhanced mainly due to the presence of their now brand-defining ‘X-Division’, a unique aesthetic with the a 6-sided ring being present as opposed to the traditional ‘’squared circle’’, as well as the attachment of the NWA brand to their product in its early days. Nothing here is to say TNA or ‘’Impact Wrestling’’ existed without its flaws during its early days, because anyone familiar with the product knows the hurdles they’ve had to overcome to get to where they are right now.

When it comes to the backstage politics & creative direction of TNA, I could start a series of articles on that alone for the next number of months, because there are somethings you’d need to hear to believe.

The story of TNA is one that is not unfamiliar to the average wrestling fan. A product that at one time felt like the awakening the industry needed at a time where one name was dominant above all else but fell victim to the curse of trying to become what their competition was rather than trying to be themselves. Almost every name in the business is a victim of this at some point in their existence, Impact Wrestling just feels like a larger blow due to how recent their issues have been for many of us.

That being said, I’ve experienced something over the last few weeks… something fascinating.

I last watched Impact Wrestling full-time back in 2016, at the height of the infamous ”Final Deletion” match which felt like the brands biggest success in years. Following that, something about the product never clicked with me. It could’ve been the constant changes to the product that always flustered my overall investment in what they were trying to sell me. It could’ve been the atmosphere of the companies ‘Impact Zone’ that made every show feel horrendously identical to the next. It could’ve been the lack of vision the company had as a whole. Or to put it plainly, it was likely the sheer lack of identity they had as a product. Nothing about it felt relevant or planned, much of it felt like it was written in 15 minutes without any second-guessing, something no fan of anything should feel.

But then 2020 happened, and it brings me nothing but joy to admit just how wonderful it has been revisiting a product that doesn’t just feel different but has come leaps & bounds from what it once was, in almost every single way you could imagine. This writing is meant to be a brief persuasion of sorts as to why Impact Wrestling is, in my opinion, the most consistently great product professional wrestling has to offer right now.

None of this is to say Impact is without flaws, of which it certainly has, but with all the negativity we face right now, I think focusing on the positives of this wonderful product is something it could use more than ever now that it’s trying to recapture the glory it once had.

Consistent Storytelling

Maybe it’s the side of my personality that’s been worn down by weeks upon weeks of Monday Night RAW talking, but consistency in professional wrestling seems like a chore for creative teams to hand over these days. While the likes of AEW or NXT certainly provide more well-rounded products in terms of being linear or you know, making sense, a lot of decisions made on each program feel rushed as we could reference in regard to how AEW is handling Brodie Lee vs Cody, for example. Or on the NXT side of things, the push of Karrion Kross which came months too early for my liking.

Impact Wrestling, however, has found the key to making their programming work for everyone.

Whether we discuss the main event scene (with the likes of Eric Young, Eddie Edwards, Sami Callihan, Rich Swann, Moose or EC3), the absolutely stacked tag team division with the most impressive roster of talent available out there, a solid mid-card that is largely using the newly found ‘Wrestle House’ to add a unique dynamic to the product, a stunningly booked Knockouts division or an X-Division that continues to shine, each section of Impact is so well thought out that very little of it ever feels less important. Regardless of their positioning on the show, talent always has enough time to shine in which ever storyline they’re involved in. Even the talent that don’t get feature on one given week, will always have a follow-up the following week, or reference of some kind to keep them in the mind of fans.

In terms of storylines, the company has amongst the best in the business going as we speak. From Young vs Swann, EC3 vs Moose, Deonna Purrazzo’s run as Knockouts Champion, Motor City Machine Guns vs basically every big tag team or Heath Slater once again trying to earn a contract. None of these are special solely for the immense amount of talent involved, they’re special because more than anything they’ve received more than enough time, planning & proper execution to mean something when these all come to ahead with Bound For Glory fast approaching. Unlike its competitors, Impact doesn’t just remain consistent, they understand that longevity is something fans value in the long-term not dread.

Top-Tier Character Work

Let’s just list off a bunch of Impact talent to understand just how much potential exists under their banner.

Eric Young, EC3, Rich Swann, Moose, Eddie Edwards, Sami Callihan, Deonna Purrazzo, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, Tommy Dreamer, Tenille Dashwood, Jordynne Grace, Ethan Page, Josh Alexander, TJP, Taya Valkyrie, Ace Austin, Brian Myers, Tommy Dreamer, Chris Bey, Willie Mack, and of all people… Ken Shamrock.

It’d be hard to sell that roster as ‘equal’ to WWE in terms of star-power or box office potential, but that’s not what Impact Wrestling is or should be about. Their product should never be meant to cater to an audience the size of WWE’s or AEW’s, building up their own reputation & image are the key to their success, something which they’re currently doing with great results. Whilst the talent mentioned all possess some kind of draw towards their product with their respective fanbases, they won’t be breaking any records anytime soon, rather they’ll enhance a product that lets each individual talent stand out in their own way.

Characters on Impact always feel more defined, more free & more well-rounded, partially because the company generally has a long-term plan for most their key talents. Rather than an endless roster of talent that tends to get lost in the shuffle due to far too much depth, Impact consists of a smaller roster with far more focus instead. Sure, every talent isn’t exactly as fantastic as an Eric Young, Moose or EC3, but at the very least they have a shot to standout amongst the crowd at a time when the company’s rivals seem overstuffed to the point of nausea.

Size may be an important factor when it comes to professional wrestling for some people, in the case of Impact Wrestling, it’s a prime example of how a smaller, more contained product just works better in the long run.

An Accessible Product

This part simply comes down to presentation. Because the appeal & willingness for an audience to revisit your product doesn’t just rely on how memorable your characters & storylines are, or how solid the in-ring action is, presentation plays a significant role too. And that’s probably the best thing about Impact Wrestling in 2020.

While the last two to three years have been hard for the brand in terms of presenting their product, it’s seemingly got better with time & ironically, with COVID-19 forcing them to restructure. In the past the company struggled due to factors such as low production value, pretty unenthusiastic audiences or venues that didn’t do the talent justice, this all seems to be redeemed since Anthem have had more influence in the direction of the product. Having a more confined setting has helped them develop a product & stars that thrive despite the conditions they’re working under.

Each week recaps the previous ones well for newer, more fresh viewers with a plethora of video packages or storytelling that never lets fans lose track of events. The in-ring product is shot in a manner that unlike WWE’s presentation style, isn’t overly edited & has the action flowing incredibly smoothly, letting each move resonate on-screen, which is useful especially when the X-Division takes centre stage. And even the manner in which backstage segments are shown might be absurd in theory, but Impact’s approach of simply owning the absurdity of the industry they lurk within works wonders rather than trying to suck the pure bizareness out of professional wrestling that so many people can enjoy.

Wrestling’s Strongest Mid-Card

Mid-cards in 2020 lay on two ends for me, either being too underutilized despite an immense array of diverse, young talent or (if you consider such a possibility exists) the mid-card is so overstuffed that those in-charge can’t possibly juggle the number of talents they have at their disposal. With either scenario, a lot of talent won’t get the shine they deserve due to either a lack of screen time or simply too much going on for fans to properly digest.

This is where Impact hits its stride for me, because so little of its talent ever feels underused, even pushed to the side. Whether its the talent making up the ‘Wrestle House’ segments, the Knockouts establishing themselves as the standard-bearers for quality women’s wrestling, Brian Myers taking on the likes of Tommy Dreamer or Willie Mack in a new pursuit in his career, a tag team division of the verge of explosion with the likes of MCMG, The Good Brothers, The North, Austin & Fulton, Reno Scum or The Rascalz or the ever-popular X-Division that continues to steal a good majority of the shows its featured on. Impact has found the perfect formula to give almost everyone something to do, regardless of what position on the roster they are.

But that’s what separates the best companies from one & another, the ability to not just focus on your main draws, also the workhorses that build the very foundation talents like that work off of every night. Impact certainly isn’t the apex of professional wrestling by any stretch, however, watching a show where everyone is involved or treated with some form of relevancy is a refreshing change of pace for myself personally. While the product could use some trimming around the edges, even work on some of its characters, the idea & effort they’re already putting into their presentation in commendable, because it displays the one thing that I think has kept them afloat for so very long, the ability to learn from their mistakes.

Granted they’ve always been prone to making more in the future, for the time being I’ll remain on the side of optimism as for the first time in a very, very long time it looks like Impact is transforming into what it always wanted to be, a vehicle for the future of professional wrestling.

No Crowd? No problem.

Addressing the audience seems like a silly thing to discuss in 2020 since you know, there is quite literally no audience for virtually all forms of entertainment at this very moment.

Unlike its competition, Impact has had an entirely different approach to the restrictions placed on the business as a result of the pandemic. Rather than creating a similar atmosphere to what fans knew prior to the pandemic, the company has gone forward in creating a product that doesn’t rely on an audience or audience interaction, instead enhancing its own product & storytelling methods to make the experience more adaptable & immersive in these trying times.

Brands such as WWE or AEW have used a plethora of methods to give fans what they are used to, with mixed results. The ”WWE Thunderdome” is certainly an achievement, and aesthetically pleasing to look at but feels hollow at the same time it does impressive. AEW has fans in attendance and talent at ringside, which I personally prefer, yet still doesn’t quite feel as organic as it’s portrayed to be by announcers and talent on the show. Displaying your product to be versatile during these times to me is more impressive than anything, which Impact has achieved against all odds. Nothing about their product requires fans to work, it’s all about the stories they tell, the characters they present & ensuring the action never flounders in order to keep your attention with the surroundings being completely empty. The show isn’t flashy or anything necessarily groundbreaking but is just a good, ol’ school wrestling show that knows what it is & excels at being just that.

So, why give Impact a chance?

There are two reasons everyone, whether you’re a WWE, NJPW, AEW, ROH, NWA or NXT fan should give Impact a chance in 2020.

The first, is the simple premise of how important, and vital, supporting other players in the industry is at this current time, under the circumstances the world is being forced to adapt under. Economies are struggling, people are hurting & especially when it comes to an industry like professional wrestling, our support is what keeps the wheels turning at the end of the day. As long as we have the time to invest & support companies such as this one who have survived so much through the years, we should play apart in their success as much as we can.

And second, is that it’s just a rock solid product with an endless array of potential to wrestling fans of all kinds. Whether you’re into pure professional wrestling, high-flying spectacles, hardcore wars, more dramatic long-form storylines or a product focused on building new stars, there’s something in here for absolutely everyone, fan or not. Impact Wrestling has slowly managed to supersede the reputation it so often carries in the wrestling community, one of failure & consistent letdowns, to become a product that isn’t just once again attracting big names, but some of the best (and also, most underrated) in the entire world.

Does Impact Wrestling have the reach or audience it once did? No. Not even close.

Does that matter? Not at all, because the amount of passion & effort everyone puts into this programme makes someone like myself, a wrestling fan since the age of five excited that a company continues to push past all of its obstacles to create something truly unique for fans to enjoy as a solid alternative to its much larger competition.

If you’re a fan like me who’s grown frustrated with a good chunk of the current products or brands like WWE, or elements of AEW, Impact Wrestling can offer as a solid secondary show or a place that will fill in the missing gaps that both companies fumble on based on your personal preferences or tastes.

Impact Wrestling isn’t just finding itself once again, it’s the most criminally slept on product in 2020 thus far, offering one excellent show after another, rarely stumbling & has somehow put together a roster of talent so good it’s no wonder the product they present is as consistent as it is on a week-to-week basis. Do yourself a favour and give this product a go whenever you have the time, because it’s a brand that deserves so much more attention in a landscape that constantly tries to undermine its true potential.


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Andrew’s Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 7/25/2021

So it’s been about a month, but we finally got enough good matches to inspire a Top 5! Let’s see what stood out this week!

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Been a while since this has happened, right? Well much like a bunch of people, wrestling hasn’t really lit my world on fire lately. Plus when there’s only like 1 or 2 decent matches a week, it’s pointless to make a Top 5.

With that said, I’ll play the executive decision card here and declare a winner for June.

  • January: NJPW New Beginning Nagoya: NEVER Openweight Championship: Shingo Takagi (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
  • February: NXT Vengeance Day: North American Championship: Johnny Gargano (c) vs Kushida
  • March: NJC 3.21.21: NJC Finals: Will Ospreay vs Shingo Takagi
  • April: NXT Stand & Deliver: UK Championship: Walter (c) vs Tommaso Ciampa
  • May: WWE WrestleMania Backlash: Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs Cesaro
  • June: Stardom: World of Stardom Championship: Utami Hayashishita (c) vs Syuri

Let’s be honest here, anyone that saw those two women put the work in, won’t question its place in the list. IF you haven’t seen it…go, find it. The initial match and the overtime I personally count together, and it was just beautifully done.

Depending on next week, this might end up being the July vote, so make your vote count this time around. I really hope that with all the in-ring returns and return of fans, wrestling picks up again.

Quick Top 5:

  1. NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam: IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Shingo Takagi (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
    Rating: **** ¼
  2. NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam: Kazuchika Okada vs Jeff Cobb
    Rating: ****
  3. NXT UK: NXT UK Tag Team Championships: Pretty Deadly (c) vs Subculture
    Rating: ****
  4. NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam: IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: SANADA & Tetsuya Naito (c) vs Dangerous Tekkers
    Rating: ****
  5. GCW Homecoming 7.24: GCW World Title: Nick Gage (c) vs Matt Cardona
    Rating: ****

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: El Desperado (c) vs Robbie Eagles
    Rating: *** ¾
  • NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles: Mega Coaches (Rocky Romero & Ryusuke Taguchi) vs Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & ELP) (c)
    Rating: *** ½
  • AEW Fyter Fest Night 2: IWGP US Championship: Lance Archer vs Jon Moxley (c)
    Rating: *** ½
  • AEW Fyter Fest Night 2: AEW Women’s Championship: Britt Baker (c) vs Nyla Rose
    Rating: *** ¼
  • IMPACT!: Chris Bey vs Rohit Raju w/Shera
    Rating: *** ¼
  • NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam: KOPW 2021 New Japan Rambo w/Handcuffs
    Rating: ***
  • NXT: Bobby Fish & Kushida vs Tyler Rust & Roderick Strong
    Rating: ***
  • IMPACT!: Knockouts Tag Team Titles: Fire N Flava vs Havok & Rosemary (c)
    Rating: ***

2t. GCW Homecoming 7.24: GCW World Title: Nick Gage (c) vs Matt Cardona

So Cardona took his shots in an area he’s not comfortable in, and much like WWE wrestlers treading into ECW territory, he was not met kindly. Cardona came out, action figures adorned on his gear and around the ring, along with appropriate chants made this feel very…ECW in the 90s. Part of the thing that added to this match was that rabid tension in the air, where the crowd is loyal to their brand and hates outsiders.

When we get around to the match, Cardona busts up Gage first, and pulls off the old Broski Boot, which pisses off Gage as he’s being fed light tubes from the outside. The early part of this match felt like someone in hostile territory and literally everyone not in the back, were trying to help Gage kill Cardona. Murder Death Kill was in full effect.

Cardona eventually loses the small upperhand he gets, when he just tries to treat this as a normal match at times, and Kid Ref has to be like “nope, that’s not how this works”. So playing in the space of Cardona only understanding sterile wrestling and being out of his element was amusing. The fact he came in with purple gloves that the fans and announcers decreed “Purple Prolapsed Anus” gloves or something like that, was amusing but got old the 20th time it was said.

Gage carved Cardona up, but then we go from ECW style death match to more of an AEW overbooking gimmick. First Judas starts playing, and some masked person rushes the ring, Gage handles him, but it’s not Jericho. Purely a mind game. But then 44OH come out, minus Ricky Shane Page. They attack Gage, RSP hits the ring after, RSP and Gage fight off 44OH, stand tall together for GCW…until RSP shows his true colors, Low Blows Gage, helps out Cardona and the end is nigh.

Three bundled Light Tubes and a Radio Silence/Ruff Ryder crown Zack Ryder..erm…Matt Cardona as GCW champion!

Yes it was overbooked, but it’s hard to deny the atmosphere and the cool factor of the old school ECW vibe of a packed house wanting to see a literal murder. It also was a little more pro wrestling than most American death matches, so I found myself enjoying mostly everything except the commentary. They are really awful.

Winner: Cardona via Radio Silence/Ruff Ryder

 

2t. NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam: IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: SANADA & Tetsuya Naito (c) vs Dangerous Tekkers

From My Results:

Naito and ZSJ start and mess with each other, as SANADA and Taichi continue their own personal rivalry around respect and pec dancing.

Most of Naito’s offense focused on ZSJ’s knee, but a huge portion of this match felt more like a tornado tag. We saw plenty of time where all four men were in the ring at the same time. Dueling submissions, stereo submissions, everyone hitting a finish/signature, just a lot of hard work. Call backs galore to previous encounters, but unless I blinked, no cheating. The beauty of the Tekkers this year have been that they are more tweeners than heels.

SANADA cut off Taichi at many times, but we saw great babyface moments from the Suzuki-Gun duo. ZSJ asking Red Shoes to stop the double knockout count so they could finish it correctly, Taichi imploring Zack that what ended up being the ending sequence was “their last chance”. So there was great desperation, great mutual needling. ZSJ pulled off the counter he couldn’t figure out when they lost the belts; and ends up surprising Naito by turning a Destino into the European Clutch.

Winner: Tekkers via European Clutch

 

2t. NXT UK: NXT UK Tag Team Championships: Pretty Deadly (c) vs Subculture

From Mitchell’s Coverage:

The ref is upset, but the count is over and this match continues! BT Sports Studio says “This is Awesome!” as Howley drags Andrews out. Howley whips Andrews at steps but Andrews jumps up to QUEBRADA! Howley catches him, but Andrews tilt-o-whirls to DDT Howley to the floor! Stoker victory rolls FMW, TWO! FMW has a cover, TWO!! Stoker and FMW run in, ETON RIFLE!! Tag to Andrews and he goes up the corner! FALL TO PIECES FLOPS as Howley drags Stoker out of harm’s way! The ref reprimands but FMW FLIES in! Only to be caught! DOUBLE BARRIER SNAKE EYES! Pretty Deadly get in the ring, but Andrews DECKS Howley!

Andrews fires off on Stoker, forearms and CHOPS on repeat! Howley grabs the tag title belts! Andrews DECKS Howley again and the belt falls in the ring! The ref grabs that as Andrews continues to fire off on Stoker! Stoker gets under, Howley runs in, SPILT MILK!! Cover, Pretty Deadly wins!!

Winner: Pretty Deadly via Spilt Milk

 

2t. NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam: Kazuchika Okada vs Jeff Cobb

From Mitchell’s Coverage:

Fans return to the thunderous rallying as Okada and Cobb stir. Okada sits up but Cobb follows, and the two stare down. They go forehead to forehead before going forearm for forearm! Okada hits, Cobb hits, and then Cobb slaps Okada on the head. They stand, Okada forearms but Cobb forearms back. Cobb eggs Okada on so the forearms go faster and faster! Fans rally up as the shots keep coming, and Okada gets the edge. Okada EuroUppers, talks some trash, and walks into a CHOP from Cobb! Cobb BLINDSIDE LARIATS! Cobb gut wrenches for the DOCTOR BOMB! Cover, TWO!?! Okada survives and Cobb can’t believe it! Cobb gets Okada up, whips, TOUR OF THE-

NO! Okada slips out and wants to gut wrench! Cobb fights free and SUPERKICKS! Okada staggers, fires up, but runs into a HEADBUTT! Cobb whips again, TOUR OF THE- Wait, Okada slips out again! Okada wristlocks, ripcords, but Cobb ducks to ripcord for a COBB MAKE- NO! Okada Alabama lifts but Cobb sunset flips, only for Okada to sit on it! Cover, OKADA WINS!!

Winner: Okada via Double Legged Cradle

 

1. NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam: IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Shingo Takagi (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

From My Results:

In typical Tanahashi fashion though, he powers through and gets better as the match pushes forward. His desperation attacks were well-timed and looked great. Tana had callbacks and all of his finishers and signatures come to mind. Texas Cloverhold was used to weaken Takagi’s base, just like earlier in the year, Slingblade countered Last of the Dragon once, and Dragon Suplex, were all kicked out of. These all won Tanahashi titles in the past and Takagi overtook them. The major moment was when Tana hit the first High Fly Flow to take Takagi off his feet, but Takagi grabbed the Ace’s foot. He refused to let him hit the follow up, so Tana smacked him around more and even pulled out the reference to Ibushi with a Kamigoye! God uses the move invented to surpass him!

A second High Fly Flow…BUT TAKAGI KICKED OUT! That’s the first time, in quite a long time that anyone kicked out of the sequential High Fly Flow. Also as we saw during his match with KENTA, Shibata handed Tanahashi a few new moves as well. The corner Dropkick and a resounding Headbutt kept Tanahashi alive at many times in the match.

This had a lot of moments of the “old gunslinger” style of fight, but I feel like that’s been consistent with Tanahashi the last 3 or 4 years. Tana took a beating, even ate Stay Dream, and kept kicking. A desperation strike exchange turned into Takagi getting the better of it and putting down the Ace with Last of the Dragon.

Winner: Takagi via Last of the Dragon

 

Final Thoughts:

Like I said at the start, wrestling has been weird the last few months. Not sure if it was just the pandemic wearing on me personally, but it was really hard to find things about this entertainment medium to enjoy. I really hope this is a turning point since most things are coming back, including covid…see this proves Loki was too popular since now even covid has variants.

ANYWAY – bad observational humor aside, we got a solid week for a bunch of different fans. My vote will honestly go to. GCW Heavyweight Championship: Nick Gage (c) vs Matt Cardona. Was it the best wrestled match in the Top 5? Nope. But hot damn was it electric. It was probably one of the most interesting scenes in wrestling since I went to ECW shows at the old Trenton CYO back in the day.

So maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe I just also enjoy watching brutality sometimes. But either way, Cardona and his action figures pulled off an upset in my personal preferences too! Until next…week? Hopefully next week…


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News From Cook’s Corner 7.26.21: Returns Out The Yin Yang

Cook’s News has returned thanks to wrestling being interesting lately! Has the current direction of wrestling helped to peak your attention as well?

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Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! I’m Steve Cook, and I’m here because there are things worth writing about. See, that’s one of the things about me. Maybe it’s held me back over the years, tough to say. All I know is I’m not one of those guys that has to have an opinion on every single thing going on in the wrestling business. Come to think of it, that probably has held me back, since wrestling websites want me to have opinions.

It’s nothing new.

Why do you think I burn out on wrestling writing every few years and transition to writing about other things that interest me? Why do you think the most common phrase I utter on podcasts other than “Good times” is “It is what it is”? I probably shouldn’t be admitting this live & in public, but I go to “It is what it is” when I have nothing further to say about a topic that is either relevant or true. My man Larry, he had a take on every single thing going on in the wrestling business, and after he was done talking he’d throw it to me and I’d reply with “Uh, well, it is what it is, man. Am I right?”. The poor bastard. If only he had a proper podcast partner.

It’s a weakness of mine.

Though, I feel like it might be preferable to the weakness many of you have, where y’all feel compelled to comment on every single thing for the most ridiculous of reasons. I was looking on the Twitter just after work ended on Sunday, and I noticed that Eddie Guerrero was a trending topic. Twitter usually kills people, so Twitter bringing somebody back to life would have been a welcome change of pace. No, unfortunately, it was just some jackhole Twitter account calling Eddie a B+ player. See, the “B+ player” thing is a trigger for a lot of folks. Including some folks in the business!

All because one thirsty guy trying to get attention from a female Internet wrestling personality in her replies said something. I remember when Colin Cowherd slandered wrestling fans for caring about Eddie’s death. That was actually worth responding to because the guy had an ESPN Radio show. The guy everybody’s complaining about barely has more Twitter followers than I do. Why waste your time? You’re giving the guy clout, which is what he wants so he can get attention from the female Internet wrestling personality.

This whole thing tells me that y’all are too thirsty. People need to keep themselves lubricated. That’s the lesson to be learned here. On to the news!

Summer of Cena!

WWE is back on the road, which means they have to fill some of those seats for television purposes. While just the idea of seeing rasslin live is enough for some, others need a little bit more. WWE knows the number one thing that appeals to those fringe fans…previous stars!

That’s why we’ve got the Summer of Cena coming to a town near you. John Cena is back in the mix and appearing on WWE live events up to SummerSlam, and people are pretty darn excited about it. It’s nice to see Cena getting this type of appreciation now after years of wrestling fans whining & moaning about Super Cena and his lack of work rate. I wonder if this is because the fans have done a 180, or if the fans that whined & complained about Cena back in the day have moved on to other things. Maybe it’s just the natural course of things. Jeff Gordon went from getting boos to getting cheers at NASCAR races.

Either way, Cena’s return seems to have sparked some interest, and a feud with Roman Reigns should spark some more. Seems pretty obvious after one week that Reigns is playing the role of 2011 John Cena, while Cena is playing 2011 The Rock. Some take artists will jump on the Reigns bandwagon since he’s pointing out that Cena’s playing the hits, while folks like me will point out that Cena’s doing what the fans want him to do. Play the hits.

You just have to make sure you don’t play the same songs too long. Then you end up like Bill Goldberg, making yet another comeback to challenge Bobby Lashley. It’s the same song we’ve heard a few times at this point, and I’m not really sure who it’s appealing to. Is there a large number of fans out there that want to see Goldberg vs. Lashley? Was there a large number for Goldberg vs. McIntyre, or Goldberg vs. Reigns/Strowman? Goldberg vs. Lesnar worked for what it was, but it’s been diminishing returns ever since.

Nothing against Goldberg, who seems like a good dude. But the 2021 nostalgia kick would be just fine without another Goldberg championship match. I feel like if he shows up in a few years at age 60 still all jacked, maybe you get some morbid curiosity buys out of it. Otherwise I’m not seeing a use for Goldberg.

Plenty of use for Cena though. Word is that WWE isn’t done, and that this is “just the beginning” with even bigger names to come! I get the feeling that some of these names are being oversold. As much as we love Becky Lynch, she isn’t bigger than John Cena. The only pro wrestling name out there bigger than John Cena is The Rock, who we might be seeing at Survivor Series if the rumors are true. Anybody else, well, they’re nice but they’re not bigger than John Cena.

AEW also going to that nostalgia well!

Say what you will about WWE digging up the likes of Cena & Goldberg to wrestle, but at least they’ve been in the ring fairly recently. AEW is reportedly going to bring in somebody that hasn’t wrestled since the 2014 Royal Rumble. Talk about ring rust!

CM Punk is the fella in question. They say he’ll be back for the All Out PPV in September, which I’m told is in Chicago. You might say it’s an easy commute for him, but saying that would tell me you’ve never been to Chicago. Indianapolis would be an easier commute.

Some question the idea of bringing Punk in at this point, largely because they don’t like him. That’s the main argument against CM Punk, some people don’t like him because he quit wrestling back in 2014. They got their feelings hurt and he didn’t properly apologize to them. It’s a strong energy these people have.

Not saying Punk doesn’t come without controversy. The first meeting with him & Colt Cabana should be interesting. The other big name reportedly coming to AEW is much less controversial.

Return of the Danielson

Bryan Danielson is a name we haven’t heard regularly except from super smart fans refusing to use his WWE name for over a decade now. Seems like we’ll be hearing it more often now, as Bryan is reportedly on his way to AEW. The scuttlebutt says that Danielson will be debuting at the Arthur Ashe Stadium show.

It was long believed that Danielson would sign wherever he could get the most freedom to do other things, with New Japan as a particular destination. To WWE’s credit, Nicholas Khan tried to get a deal done to make that happen. However, Anthony Khan was able to swing the deal, as we’ve seen with the IWGP US Championship regularly featured on Dynamite. Y’all thought that online promo he did was unhinged, but he knew what was going on. That forbidden door has been opened, and Bryan looks to be one of the folks jumping through. It’s a pretty cool wrestling universe right now with AEW, NJPW, AAA, Impact Wrestling and even ROH having some links to it. (Could we see a Bryan Danielson appearance in ROH? Since I recap their weekly show I’m certainly hoping so. Their spot in the grand scheme of things isn’t great, but maybe he has a soft spot for them.)

From a wrestling fan perspective, AEW is a good landing spot for Bryan. All kinds of new matches for him, and some that are ready to be re-visited. Yes, he wrestled Kenny Omega before, but that was before Kenny became Kenny BY GOD Omega. That’s an easy main event for some show.

Punk & Danielson are the two biggest names AEW can bring in right now. We all know that bringing in names is one thing. TNA was great at that. The important part is the follow-up. What Punk & Danielson do in AEW will decide whether they generate interest or not. Just showing up isn’t enough to change much of anything.

It is exciting, though. I root for exciting & interesting, and we’re getting plenty of that these days.

GCW > NXT

Here’s a truth: I’ve never watched a full GCW show. I have seen plenty of NXT shows. However, I can say that Game Changer Wrestling obviously has smarter booking than NXT. They know to take their championship off of a wrestler before he jobs on national television. They also know how to make a top heel, as indicated by the reaction of their fans to…Matt Cardona? OK, so that wasn’t the guy I expected to see covered in blood getting a reaction like he was the NWO in 1996.

I did expect to see Nick Gage on AEW television at some point. Given Tony Khan’s fandom of all things 2000s Combat Zone Wrestling, it was bound to happen. We just needed the right time for it, and MJF needing outside help to take care of Chris Jericho was as good a time as any. You gotta love 2021 giving us weird matches like Chris Jericho vs. Nick Gage, right?

Not if you’re a stick in the mud, apparently. Some folks are outraged that AEW would book somebody like Gage. One complaint is the fact that he robbed a bank, which, granted, wasn’t the brightest thing to do. That said, Gage did his time in prison, paid his debt to society, and has been a better person since. I’m told that America is a forgiving place and people deserve a second chance, so I don’t see the issue here. If Gage robs another bank before Wednesday, sure, throw the book at him.

Then there’s the argument against deathmatch wrestling. It can be argued that AEW goes to that well a little too often, as we’re getting this match a week after Lance Archer beat Jon Moxley by choke slamming him on a barbed wire board. Some would argue that any deathmatch wrestling is too much, and folks like Gage don’t belong in a wrestling ring. Me, I’m ok with it as long as the people involved are ok with it. You don’t have to watch it if you don’t like it, but the people that get on their high horse and claim that *fill in the blank* isn’t wrestling irritate me. Wrestling is a large number of different things.

You might not like people getting stabbed with a fork. Maybe you don’t like Alexa Bliss hypnotizing people. It’s still wrestling.

And that’s all we have time for this week. Thanks for reading, and have a nice day!


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