We are less than a week away from Christmas and that should mean everyone has already written their letters to Santa Claus (though I have heard good things about giving them to your parents to take care of it for you). It’s also a time to look back at the good things we have and hopefully remember some of the better times that have taken place over the last year. That is certainly the case with wrestling and it is what we are going to look at this week.
I’m going to keep things simple this week as we are going to look at the major wrestling shows (not promotions) and see what their best news/gift was this year. It might not have been the best year for wrestling, but there have certainly been good things to look at for almost every show. Those things need some attention, even if some of them are not exactly the strongest positives.
Note that these are only going to be the shows that I watch, as there isn’t much of a point in talking about a show I don’t see. Also, for the sake of sanity, I’m going to ignore all things involving the return of fans, as that would be the universal answer to every show. We’re going for some more individual options this week, as each show is different enough that it deserves attention.
In no order.
Rampage – CM Punk’s Debut
What else could it have been? This might be the greatest moment in AEW history to date, as the company almost flat out said that Punk was going to be there and then delivered as soon as the show came on the air. They made this feel like a huge moment and that’s exactly what it was, as Punk received the hero’s welcome to end them all in his hometown after seven and a half years away from wrestling.
Then you have the actual segment itself, which was one of the most emotional things you will see in wrestling. Punk was in tears as he soaked it all in and it couldn’t have been much better if they had scripted it to the letter. After Punk got to get some stuff off of his chest, he capped the whole thing off with the announcement of free ice cream bars for all of the fans in attendance. That’s one of the best payoffs to something he said a VERY long time ago and it was actually better than I ever would have believed to be possible.
NXT UK – Vince McMahon Doesn’t Know The Show Exists
Would this really surprise you? NXT UK very well might be the best wrestling show going today with some of the most consistently good action every single week. It follows the old NXT formula of setting something up and then paying it off week to week, while also announcing their matches weeks in advance. That sounds completely unthinkable in WWE, but everything you could ask for is present on this minor league show.
In other words, Vince McMahon has never seen this show and probably does not know it still airs. There are almost no McMahonisms on the show, to the point where you can go weeks at the time without a joke that completely misses. It is absolutely awesome to see what WWE is capable of doing without McMahon being there to drag everything down and that is what you get every Thursday from the UK.
Monday Night Raw – Bobby Lashley
This is one of the trickier picks because, well, watching Monday Night Raw is the preferred method of torture in fourteen states. The show is not good most of the time (in your understatement of the week) but Bobby Lashley and MVP have continued to be some of the best things going in all of WWE. It is just flat out fun to watch him mow people down and it is a big part of why his WWE Title reign was so much fun.
Here’s what makes Lashley work so well: WWE hasn’t taken any shortcuts to make him a monster. He won the title by beating the Miz, then speared one person after another to retain the title. Believe it or not, wins and losses matter to fans and Lashley (and Drew McIntyre before him) are all the proof that you need. Lashley has lost six singles matches on TV/PPV this year (not counting DQ’s), one of which came by Money in the Bank cash-in and three of which came via some sort of shenanigans. Lashley is over because he has been treated differently and it has worked very, very well.
205 Live – It’s NXT Main Event
I’ve been watching 205 Live since it debuted and the show is becoming less and less interesting every single week. The Cruiserweight Champion is barely ever there and it feels like there is no reason for the show to exist. I never quite got why the cruiserweight division, which was barely ever focused on in the first place, needed its own supplemental show. Thankfully WWE seems to have gotten that and are actually doing something about it.
The show has more or less become NXT Main Event, with wrestlers who might not get the most time in NXT getting a chance to have some short matches elsewhere. Since NXT can’t possibly have its own house show loop (because developmental wrestlers don’t need time TO DEVELOP) this is about as good as they can get at the moment. Above all else, it actually serves a purpose, and that is more than you can say about 205 for the last several years.
Impact Wrestling – AEW Is Gone
AEW made some waves by showing up in Impact Wrestling (and elsewhere) but they are going to take over any promotion they are a part of. There is no way around it due to their size and overall presence, but it doesn’t make things much better. AEW showed up in Impact and instantly took over, which went on for a long time. It helped for a bit, but then things got back to normal, thank goodness.
Ultimately, Impact Wrestling has done some great work in the way of building itself into a solid company and it is awesome to see that they are getting the chance to showcase themselves. That can’t happen with AEW running the place, making the day they finally left one of the better days for Impact. AEW had some benefits, but they reached a point where they ran out, only to leave a few months later.
NXT – The Veterans Got To Stick Around
To say the re-launch of NXT has not gone well would be an understatement. A lot of the talented wrestlers have been jettisoned or just left on their own, making it a nearly complete developmental show again. That’s fine on Peacock, but this is airing every week on national television, even on the same network as Monday Night Raw. The show has been a near disaster as a result, but just think about how much worse it could have been.
The NXT roster has been mostly wiped out, but it did manage to keep people like Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne, Kyle O’Reilly and Tommaso Ciampa etc. for a little while. Just imagine how dismal things would have been had those people not been there to make things better. The new roster needs those wrestlers to carry the show and help bring them along. Even though things are moving WAY too fast and those wrestlers aren’t ready, it could have been a heck of a lot worse by comparison. Consider that quite a major gift.
Dynamite – Bryan Danielson
All Out was about as big of a night as AEW could have had with a series of debuts and moments that made the show feel so important. The big one at the end of the night was Bryan Danielson, who inserted himself straight into the main event scene. In something no one could have seen coming, Danielson instantly became one of, if not the, best things in all of AEW (or the wrestling world). AEW got a big deal and treated him as such, which made everything work so well.
This is AEW’s version of Kurt Angle jumping to TNA in 2006. They have been handed someone who was in the main event of this year’s WrestleMania while also being one of the best wrestlers in the world. That isn’t something you get every day and AEW has been smart to capitalize on the situation. Danielson has already had a string of classics in AEW as he seems to be wrestling to prove a point. What more could you ask for out of him this year?
Ring Of Honor – Pure Wrestling
I know it hasn’t been the best year for Ring Of Honor with the whole “we might be going out of business” thing, but they still had one of the most consistently entertaining wrestling shows every single week. The Pure Wrestling division was a huge part of that, as it gave Ring Of Honor something they owned. There is nothing quite like Pure Wrestling elsewhere and it makes for some incredibly entertaining matches week after week.
At the top of all of that is Jonathan Gresham, who owned the division for almost the entire year before winning the World Title to close out the original Ring Of Honor era. It was a fitting achievement for what he has done over the year(s) and the way the company should have gone out. Gresham was the Pure Wrestling division and it was the best thing about Ring Of Honor all year.
SmackDown – Roman Reigns And Paul Heyman
I tried to come up with a joke entry here but it wouldn’t be right. At the end of the day, Reigns and Heyman have been one of the best acts in a long time and the will he/won’t he story with Heyman and Brock Lesnar has made things even better. Almost nothing in wrestling is in the same universe as these two and there is no reason to suggest that anything is better on SmackDown.
Much like and even more so than Lashley, Reigns benefits from the fact that he never loses. Reigns has not lost a singles match in over two years, with his last pinfall loss in a one on one match coming all the way back at TLC 2019 (at the hands of Baron Corbin of all people). He is presented as that much better than everyone else and his treatment of/relationship with Heyman has made it that much better. They’re the best act in wrestling today and I could see them continuing for a long time to come.
This has been a weird year in wrestling but there have definitely been some great moments on every television show. While there are a lot of thing that need to be worked on, we are in a good place in a lot of ways (though not all of them). Things could get a lot better in the new year, but for now we are seeing things get back to normal and it is a nice feeling. Now just keep is going, and we might have a merry new year.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 60,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 6,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.
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