When I write about fake wrestling, I’m often negative. Have you noticed? But that’s because fake wrestling mostly stinks, and I’ve long been spoiled by better.
But, in the holiday tradition of “goodwill toward men” and all that BS, here’s a look at five people involved in wrestling that have earned my respect:
Punk doesn’t look the part, but he’s wrestling’s top guy. For him to beat WWE’s predictable, stereotypical booking/promotional philosophy – and prosper – is an accomplishment beyond comprehension and not to be underestimated.
Moving forward, Punk’s problem is figuring out how to stay near the top without being ensnared in the web of “the family.” Punk’s program with Paul Heyman was entertaining because it was two guys who know what they’re doing and wanted it to work with no concern for agendas. If Punk gets ensnared in the McMahon trap – and, ultimately, he will – he could get treated like Daniel Bryan (see below).
Punk has never made much effort to hide his cynicism for WWE’s politics and predilections. It threatened to chase him out of the promotion once. It will be curious to see his reaction when those tentacles again threaten. Bryan didn’t have the desire, fortitude or cachet to fend them off. Punk did. Does he still?
“The family” did all it could to diminish Bryan. Bryan did every damaging thing he was told to do. Bryan’s story played out improperly. Now he’s being pushed back down toward the middle of the card.
But Bryan still might be WWE’s most over performer. That says a lot about his charisma, and about the execution of his character. Bryan never went into business for himself. He’s a pro. People know it. He’s good. People know it. He’s better than Randy Orton. People know it. He’s in a class with Punk. People know it.
It’s amazing that a family that pretends to know more about fake wrestling than anyone still doesn’t understand that the people always dictate. And by revealing that, the McMahons prove that they really don’t know very much at all.
You don’t like him. But Cena has been on top of WWE for a decade. He’s over with women and kids. That’s tough to do, and it sells. Cena’s character would benefit from a heel turn, but WWE wouldn’t. Anyway, WWE has no one to replace him as a top babyface. Bryan can’t. Too damaged.
Cena has been the same guy doing the same thing for too long, just like Randy Orton. When they feud, it’s like watching a re-run.
But Cena has no problem carrying that show-opening promo. He can change direction if the crowd dictates, and do so without damaging where WWE wants to go and without breaking character. Witness Cena’s mic work at the end of the Seattle Raw when the crowd went nuts for Bryan. Cena is just REALLY GOOD.
TNA stinks. Every moment of nearly every TV program stinks. But Sting really is the icon. He’s king of the garbage dump, but we all take what we can get. Sting is 54, but still looks the part. The makeup helps, but he’s still Sting.
I have mixed emotions regarding Sting’s last hurrah. Given opportunity, Sting should flee TNA like it’s a burning building. A big match at WrestleMania would be a fitting climax to a great career. It would complete an already great resume.
But part of me wants Sting to be the guy who never went there. Ric Flair went there. Dusty Rhodes went there. Harley Race went there. Dory Funk Jr. went there. Terry Funk went there. It didn’t always go well. Polka dots. “Hoss” Funk. Chainsaw Charlie. WWE has always been where NWA credibility goes to die. Flair vs. Sting. Clash of the Champions I. That’s what I want marks to remember.
I don’t pay much attention to NXT. But I’ve known Ashley Fliehr since she was a little girl. I’ve followed her ascension as much as possible.
Given the chance, she will be WWE’s top diva inside a year of her debut. She’s beautiful, but hardly archetypical. She’s 5-foot-10 with legitimate athleticism that transcends her wrestling training. Ashley was a scholarship volleyball player at Appalachian State. She has capability far beyond the paint-by-numbers style that makes most divas matches trite, clichéd and predictable. Ashley can GO.
I’m proud of Ashley. She’s got a tough road. Her father Ric is the greatest performer in the history of the wrestling business, and I’m sure Ashley also feels the need to succeed on behalf of Reid, her late brother. She will succeed. I’ve never been more certain of anything.