Photo Credits – WWE, AEW, Impact Wrestling and High-Risk Maneuvers (Instagram)
Every wrestling fan at some point in time has delt with a non-fan reacting to the fact that you’re a fan with, “you know it’s fake right?” or “how can you watch that you know it’s fake?”. Personally, I respond with you know that show that you like (for example), you know the actors on the Walking Dead aren’t really fighting zombies, right? You know the cast of This is Us isn’t actually related right? Wrestling isn’t fake, it is scripted like any other show, but the bumps are real or as DDP always says, “you can’t fake gravity”. Jeff Jarrett said one time, “Those that don’t understand why someone is a fan of wrestling, no explanation will ever satisfy them, and they’ll never get it but those that do get it, no explanation is needed”. What he meant was that those that allow themselves to be drawn in and are able to connect or relate to the story, they are able to ignore the fact that these two people don’t really hate each other but they are invested enough in the story they want to see where it is going.
Personally, myself and many wrestling fans crave believability and elements of realism in their wrestling because it makes the product more entertaining, and it is much easier to be drawn into a story. For me, I want to see more things like I will get into below and less of things like possessed Alexa Bliss and Orange Cassidy’s tap shin kicks.
Over the past few months, I touched on a few of these situations, we have been witnessing something really special across all of professional wrestling, in WWE, in the case of Becky Lynch/Charlotte Flair, wasn’t just a storyline hatred but the two women that were best friends legitimately disliked each other and that real life heat was used to create suspense and interest in the match and was easily the most compelling story at Survivor Series. In AEW, MJF/Darby Allin, wasn’t real life heat like Becky/Charlotte but they included real life elements like MJF bringing up Darby’s dead uncle and telling Darby, he should have died in that car accident not his uncle. The heat that MJF was able to generate because he is so easy to hate and the underdog connection to Darby helped make this feud going into Full Gear must see. Then in Impact, Moose, was able to generate amazing heat by literally stealing Josh Alexander’s moment as he cashed in and pinned Josh to take the Impact World Championship while Josh’s wife and son were literally still in the ring. In Impact/NJPW, Jonah, has been making statements by his actions and promos saying “he is no longer chained” referring to him no longer being in NXT and he is unleashed on the wrestling world.
Since, writing those articles we have seen several more moments in wrestling where through promos they have been able to generate attention by taking shots that have elements of realism in them and blurring the lines with the appearance of shoot comments make the hardcore wrestling audience go “oh shit…I can’t believe they just said that”. In WCW, Eric Bischoff, used this with the arrival of Hall and Nash and even with the Loose Cannon Brian Pillman, where he wanted the product to feel like “listen I know that was scripted but I’m not sure if that was supposed to happen”. It creates intrigue and therefore entertainment when the lines are blurred and the biggest smart marks in the world don’t know where something is going and at the core of it, we love to be surprised. Being surprised today in wrestling today is very difficult because it seems to always leak early but when they are able to pull things off like the Royal Rumble entrees or Adam Cole’s AEW debut that is incredibly entertaining.
Moose vs Matt Cardona (Impact)
Talk about two performers that have had a hell of 2021 that truly shocked everyone and exceeded any perceptions fans of them. Moose has embraced the dominate heel and has truly become a believable world champion. In his promos, he has taken shots at everyone from the then AEW World Champion, Kenny Omega, WWE & Universal Champions, Big E. & Roman Reigns and even WWE Women’s Champions, Charlotte and Becky, claiming he is the one true champion. That shoot style program was entertaining because it is something that can generate heat and is something that makes the audience go “wow…I can’t believe he just said that”. Matt Cardona, has truly transformed since his WWE release in 2020 to a performer that has blown me away because I never thought he was capable of what we have seen from him over the past few months. When WWE released him and AEW seemingly passed on signing him despite making a handful of appearances there, it seemed that he’d just settle into Impact and coast but that has not been the case at all. This summer, Cardona shocked the world by beating Nick Gage in a deathmatch to become the GCW World Champion and now he is scheduled to face Moose for the Impact World Championship and literally a few weeks ago, he shocked the world again by arrived unannounced at NWA Hard Times 2 and challenging the NWA World Champion, Trevor Murdoch for his title. Cardona has kicked forbidden doors open and is truly becoming an expect the unexpected performer that clearly his WWE release and AEW passing on him really lit a fire under his ass.
That brings us to the promo above, Moose asks Cardona how many years he’s wrestled. Moose answers his own question, stating it’s been 18 years. He runs down a laundry list of accomplishments Cardona has had in the last decade. Despite being very accomplished, Moose can’t see Cardona being the “top guy.” Moose begs the question, “Do you really want to step in this ring and have a match with me?” He reminds Cardona how he put Eddie Edwards away at Turning Point. Moose guarantees Cardona’s title chase will last as long as his former WWE Intercontinental Champion reign lasted. This fires Cardona up. He sends Moose to the mat and rains down a series of punches to Moose.
This was perfectly executed because it told a story and made it personal, so that it isn’t just about Cardona wanting Moose’s title, he wants to kick his ass. Cardona has been plagued his entire career with the perception from management and the fans that he is nothing special and nothing more than a mid-carder at best. Cardona has been on a mission in 2021 to prove he is way more than just a mid-carder and is capable of so much more.
Since that promo, they have turned up the heat by Moose making Cardona mad enough to swing a chair at him and accidentally hitting his future wife, Chelsea Green.
This is a great build up for their match at Hard to Kill in January. Personally, I’d remove W. Morrisey from the match as a triple threat isn’t needed here as Moose vs Cardona is way more interesting draw to me than a 3-way.
Becky Lynch vs Liv Morgan (WWE)
Hot off her heels of her feud with Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch again is proving that she is the best heel women’s champion in the business today. Inspired by the character that Roman Reigns has been using, Becky has turned the beloved The Man gimmick into a narcissist that believes her own hype. Liv Morgan has stepped up to the challenge and wants to be women’s champion and like Becky years ago, Liv was never looked at as championship material. Starting her WWE career as a part of the Riott Squad and has just floated since the members of the stable have been released. Now Liv is showing her true potential and Becky is the perfect person to take her to that next level because she can absolutely relate to the perception that Liv has had to endure since she went through the same thing. This promo, that referenced Liv’s real-life friends, Sarah Logan and Ruby Riott (AEW’s Ruby Soho), was tremendous use of shoot in that it used something real that they were fired by WWE but stating that they were released to pay for Becky’s massive contract and saying Becky has become what she always hated, possibly referring to Charlotte here?
This was so well executed taking something real but using it in a way to tell a story and make this feud all the more interesting. I know that WWE took some heat for this, and WWE pulled the quote from the promo, but I don’t see the problem here. Ruby has stated she is much happier in AEW than she ever was in WWE as she is trying to be the first TBS Women’s Champion and Sarah is taking a break from the wrestling business and I’m sure they are rooting Liv on and are both professionals and know if it can help Liv they are likely ok with it being used. Any issues they have with WWE doesn’t outweigh how much they support Liv. Becky had to cheat to retain the title once against Liv, which just makes Liv’s chase that much more interesting and compelling.
MJF vs CM Punk (AEW)
What do you get when you put two of the best mic men in the business today in a feud? Pure magic. Closing out 2021, these two men are providing such quality promos to create an interest in this match. Punk, who made his return to the wrestling world after a 7-year self-exile has always been known as a master of the pipebomb and saying things that has elements of shoots in his promos. MJF, has been compared to Roddy Piper, in the way he is able to generate heat from the crowd. MJF taking the shots at Punk’s failure of a UFC career was certainly low hanging fruit of a target but Punk telling MJF he is a less famous Miz was a bullseye of a shot. MJF has dealt with comparisons to the Miz before, they have plagued him his entire career, but this was the first time someone publicly said it to a worldwide audience. This verbal brawl that featured MJF saying Punk is essentially Cena preaching Hustle, Loyalty and Respect, was a tremendous dig because when Punk feuded with Cena, Punk considered himself as the representative of professional wrestling and Cena was what was wrong with the business as he represented Sports Entertainment and was the golden goose of the WWE. Punk telling MJF that the only way he’ll get ahead is if he marries Tony Khan’s daughter (he has no kids), which was a clear shot at Punk’s long time enemy Triple H, who has been plagued with he only got ahead because he married Stephanie McMahon.
Since that time, both men have traded shots back and forth but MJF calling Punk the new Ryback, worked so well because Punk and Ryback legitimately hate each other. Punk has accused Ryback of injuring people including himself. This feud between MJF and Punk have fully embraced elements of realism into their promos, and it has been created compelling moments as a fan because you have no idea what these two men are going to say. MJF calling himself better than Piper, clearly got under Punk’s skin as he has always professed that Piper is his idol on the mic and considers him the best on the mic ever. Out of any feud in the business that I’m most looking forward to seeing them finally face off in the ring one on one going into 2022 it is this feud.
Miz vs Edge (WWE)
Days after the first MJF/CM Punk promo brawl, the WWE had their own version on Raw, where Miz and Edge tore into each other. It is easy to criticize it as copying off of AEW, but it was damn entertaining and the best back and forth promo on WWE TV this year. Edge has shown since his return to wrestling that he really is leaps and bounds better than anyone else in wrestling on the mic and the Miz has been underappreciated for years. Edge directly referencing the MJF/CM Punk was surprising to say the least and WWE themselves via social media was also surprising. Miz was tossed out of the WWE locker room as a rookie, which was referenced by Miz here and said Edge was one of those responsible. In truth, it was Chris Benoit, that tossed him, but they’ll never use his name but using Edge as the face of veteran that always looked down on him is smart. Although Miz is a former 2-time WWE Champion among his many various title reigns, he is a lightweight when compared to Edge’s resume. So, this feud of Miz proving just how damn good he is against the veteran that didn’t respect him back in the day and that he is not that rookie that got tossed anymore is an interesting story. Miz’s greatest successes happened while Edge was retired so this is a match up, we didn’t know we needed to see but they have built this up to the point, where I’m really looking forward to the match. No one knows how many more matches Edge has in him, but he is consistently making sure to go all out in everyone and making them feel special. Edge’s return to wrestling has been without a doubt one of the best returns in the history of the business. Already a HOFamer, he is adding so much more to his legacy, with this second chance run to end his career hopefully on his terms, which he didn’t get last time.
As we are going into 2022 in a matter of days, the wrestling world still trying to recover from the pandemic that we are still in, have been turning it up by embracing elements realism and the shoot style in promos and that is 100% the right direction to go. The wrestling business has suffered with attendance and TV ratings, but the business has never had so many promotions on TV and easily accessible online via FITE to access PPVs and YouTube among other video sharing sites. I’m optimistic as we head into 2022, that if the promotions keep it up with the products that they are producing that 2022 could be another special year in the business. The art of the game is to create a compelling product to get viewers on TV, PPV buys and fans in the building for shows and nothing is more compelling than a product that embraces elements of realism and a suspect the unexpected product definitely gets eyeballs on the product and butts in seats. Just sit back and enjoy whichever brands that you support.