Wrestling had a big weekend recently with a big debut and some big returns. I generally have no interest in ratings or merchandise numbers, but even I know that the industry clearly does not have the same reach as it once did.
But this past weekend made me wonder: Could this start an upswing? Or has that ship sailed?
I think the easiest way to do this is to put it in a kind of list form, like I do with my show notes. So let's start with AEW Rampage.
CM Punk debuts in AEW
The rumors had been swirling for weeks, if not months. CM Punk had not been seen in wrestling for seven years. Many fans, myself included, missed seeing him. I have wondered many times if he would ever return to work with some of the great young rasslers going today. And on Friday, that door opened.
I loved everything about this moment. I've seen this sentiment shared by several fans so I will echo it here: When wrestling gets it right, they *really* get it right. There are ways this could have been dampened, but it wasn't. He was able to soak in the roar of his hometown crowd and say everything he needed to say. His "anti-WWE" comments were fresher than probably anyone else's have been. His excitement and passion about being back in the ring were so obvious, fans couldn't help but get wrapped up in the experience. It was so perfectly executed that I can't really say any more to hype it. That's part of the reason I posted the video up there. I was so happy with how this went down and I can't wait to see more from Punk in AEW.
I will admit that most of this show felt like a long episode of TV. And by that I mean that the matches didn't seem big enough to be on "the biggest party of the summer." Maybe that's me being a bit jaded (and no longer watching RAW, thereby not really knowing the storylines), but the first few matches just didn't have that wow factor. Once the show hit a certain point, though? This became a much better PPV. [I won't dive into it since I think I've mentioned it on the show, but Goldberg still doing full matches at this point is silly. Royal Rumble and Survivor Series tag matches are all I want to see from him.]
I love Becky Lynch. I think she's a great talent and can do nothing but good for the women's division in WWE. I also love that this moment was not spoiled for me. Come to think of it, none of these big returns were really spoiled for me. And in this age of internet things, that seems impossible.
As cool as this moment was, I do have a big gripe with what transpired after that video ended. If you missed it: Becky tossed Carmella out of the ring, then challenged Bianca for the Women's Championship. Bianca accepted and was squashed in seconds. With Sasha Banks (the original challenger for the title) out, there was time to fill. Why couldn't Becky and Bianca have gotten 10 minutes to have a fun match? WWE spent months building Bianca as a star. Hell, they actually succeeded. But this flushed all of that work in less than a minute. You had your pop with the surprise return, and it was great [Michael Cole's grating voice aside]. You could have still had the pop of Becky winning the title after a back-and-forth match. It may have been even better.
Instead? Bianca looked like such a chump. She was so excited to face Becky and, as THE MAN said, tear the house down. Why not let her, and us, have that? And yes I read the rumors of Becky being a heel. But there are other ways to kickstart that part of her character than making the star you've built over the last eight months look awful. "Pat, maybe you should wait to see where this goes on Smackdown this week." You're right. But what kind of wrestling fan would I be if I didn't post a reactionary response like this?
I realize that the last time Brock Lesnar was in WWE, fans got tired of him. Maybe you could also say that about the run before his last run. What I can say for sure is that his reliance on the German suplex has always bothered me, because it's both boring and it looks dangerous. All of that said, this next run could be very interesting. The excitement of the crowd - and Pat McAfee - during his entrance gives me hope for that.
Paul Heyman, as far as I know, never "officially" dropped Brock as a client. Brock's deal was up so he left and Heyman took on Roman Reigns as a client. So Brock returning after Reigns retained in a great match against John Cena was shocking for everyone involved. And I am intrigued to see how this goes. Reigns has been on top for a year, and doing his best work. Has he needed Heyman for this to really work as well as it has? I haven't seen anyone argue otherwise, but I don't consider that a knock against either of them. Where this could get fun is Brock having to cut his own promos. It could also get very messy, but I'm sure we'll find out on Friday. I do hope that Heyman doesn't immediately re-align with Brock, because the story of him riding the line between arguably his most successful clients has some great potential.
I don't know how much different another Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar match could really be, but we have never seen *this* Roman against old-man-Logan Brock. The story is interesting and, for the moment, the crowd is hot for it. This has me both excited about Smackdown and it makes me wonder how [or if] WWE will beef up RAW by comparison. If anyone is still rolling through those three hours on Monday, let me know how exciting that gets over the next few weeks.
So here we are. AEW has brought in one of the biggest names of his generation, and he seems to have reignited his passion for the business. WWE brought back arguably their top female talent and one of the biggest names of *his* generation. Fans are excited and for the first time in a while, rasslin might be must-see TV this week. I thought I would be able to answer the question I asked at the top by the time I got here, but truthfully I don't know.
What I do know? If nothing else, the TV on Wednesday and Friday should be a lot of fun and I'm glad we're in a spot where fans can be there to add to it. (Just try to keep the random mid-match chants to a minimum.)
How do you feel about all of this? Am I off the mark here? Did I nail it? Let me know either way and until next time, don't do anything I wouldn't do!
Crap open a cold one!