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What a great time to be a pro wrestling fan

In the past seven days, three matches have reminded me of what it is that draws us to this art form for our entertainment. 2016 has already been incredible, and we've still got five months left.

I'm not sure what did it for me, but all day long I've been thinking about...


By "us," I mean you and me, and what it is that brings us together. So many of my editorial articles are filled with concerns and are sometimes replete with polarizing opinions. You may not like me, and that's fine. I just wanted to tell you guys and gals that I dig you. I love who you are and what you are, even though I've probably never met you before. I'm happy when you smile, at least some of the time, because we share something special. Regardless of what else might be going in your life, whether it's waiting to hear about that great job you applied for, hoping that pretty brunette knows you're alive, or even praying for your mother or father who's severely ill, that thing we share is still there.

Even if we can't find the time to spend enjoying it, we know that soft, warm security blanket is waiting for us when we want it, or more importantly when we most need it. Life can be so difficult, so frustrating, so depressing, but since the moment we knew how to process the information in front of us, that thing we share has been there.

It's a great wrestling match. The kind of match that leaves our jaws on the floor and our social media feeds gushing with love and respect.

2016 has been a tremendous year in the ring, which has helped us escape, if only momentarily, a tough year in the world. The many terror attacks within American and international borders, the state of politics in the United States, major celebrity deaths, and an insanely hot and humid last few months have all exacerbated the complications in our own lives, and many of us have found ways to come together in the face of those stressors. Unfortunately, it shouldn't take tragedy or anger to force unity.

For us, as diehard, embarrassingly obsessive fans of professional wrestling, it doesn't.

Over the past week, three matches have captivated me, all in different ways, and in the process have brought back to the surface the emotions that drew me to the industry in the first place. Actually, it might be four matches, but we'll focus on three.

G1 Climax 26 hasn't been a can't miss event every night, but it's still provided some exceptional stuff. Tomohiro Ishii and Kazuchika Okada will be in nearly every top three list you'll find at the end of the year, and I'm not likely to forget it anytime soon. The intensity of that battle, combined with exquisite storytelling and professionalism, left us all scrambling to our Twitter accounts to bang out 140 characters to celebrate its brilliance. It was affecting in every way, and both men stood tall in the end. Sometimes, wrestling matches are so good that the winner is irrelevant, even if the consequences matter. On that night, everything clicked. It was a war.

A few days before the aforementioned world beater took place, the WWE Cruiserweight Classic ended the first round of its tournament with a meeting between tag team partners. Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano have both had a nice year, and the match was enticing as soon as the bracket was released. The finished product was much different than Ishii and Okada, as the story was about two friends that knew each other's tricks. It was all about competition for the purpose of advancing to the second round. It wasn't hatred, but it was rivalry and determination. It was Phelps/Lochte, where each guy wanted the bragging rights.

The moves were strong, but spots often don't make a match. Instead, it's the chemistry and the overall ability between the two participants. Gargano and Ciampa worked with precision, but it was the way the two gelled that made that waltz memorable and important.

Then came last night.

The Cruiserweight Classic will only continue to get better as the tournament progresses and the matches become more competitive. It's going to take real effort to put forth a piece of business as outstanding as the one we saw just a few hours ago between Cedric Alexander and Kota Ibushi. On paper, it looked like a good mix, but the workers still had to step into the squared circle and execute. What we got was a smoke show of a wrestling match, one that built in intrigue as well as fluidity and raw emotion. It was ridiculous.

Move for move, spot for spot, near fall for near fall, and second by second, Alexander and Ibushi had that "it" that can be hard to describe, but easy to detect. Think of Jacobellis v. Ohio and Justice Potter Stewart's explanation for obscenity, but apply it to something universally awesome. That's what this match was, from start to finish. Even without what took place after the bell, it was emotionally draining in the best kind of way. It was an easy slow clap, but one where that private accolade behind the curtain wasn't sufficient.

We often find ways to disagree with each other, almost like it's a badge of honor. We look at WWE or TNA, ROH or NJPW, EVOLVE or PWG, Lucha Underground or RPW, and try to pick it apart. Who deserves a push and isn't getting one? Did this match destroy the business? What booker doesn't know what he or she is doing? Why did they go with that finish? How bad was that? I mean really!

All of those things have their place, but I've just found too much to enjoy in the pro wrestling world this week to tread back into the darkness just yet. Cedric Alexander and Kota Ibushi was what pushed me over the top. It left me thrilled with the present, and thinking of the past, pondering those go-to matches or promos that I still go back and watch when I need a pick-me-up.

Our lists won't be the same, nor should they be. I imagine I'm one of the only people who would point to the Starrcade 1992 tag team match of Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas against Barry Windham and Brian Pillman, but the shine and the heat in that bout are otherworldly to me, and the finish is all-time great.

That same show then immediately goes to an excellent bout between Sting and Big Van Vader. I adore those two matches, as I do the Hart Foundation/Brainbusters SummerSlam 1989 opener and even the occasionally comical Thunderdome cage match from Halloween Havoc that same year. I find Steve Austin's ECW, "There's nobody here who can stop me," promo and watch it several times a year. It's still the finest interview segment I've ever seen.

I could go on and on about my favorites, but after such a great match last night and such a fine week to be a fan of many different promotions, I thought I'd ask you for portions of your own list. In the comments below, or via Twitter directly to me @GuyNamedJason, I'd love to know your go-to bouts or what some of the foundations of your fandom might be. The benefits aren't just for you, because your list might add to someone else's.

I know I'll be reading your opinions, and taking notes on those things I missed or maybe never even knew existed. I trust your judgment. You and me, we've been through a lot together. I feel like we've known each other forever.

As many times as you might find yourself in disagreement with me, or anyone else in our circle, what we can all come together around and appreciate are exhibitions like we've seen recently from Ishii/Okada, Gargano/Ciampa, and most recently Alexander/Ibushi. We're still in early August, with pairings like Nakamura/Joe, Styles/Cena, and Balor/Rollins all guaranteed before we even reach September.

We've still got some outstanding G1 matches left, and of course the remainder of the Cruiserweight Classic. We've got Jay Lethal killing it amidst a fantastic angle in ROH, and we just learned of Will Ospreay's debut date for that promotion. We've got a batshit crazy Lucha Underground Season 3 trailer. We've got an absurdly stacked Battle of Los Angeles a little further down the road. We're inching closer to Bayley's permanent main roster debut in WWE. We've got new titles, new superstars, and new beginnings.

And, yes Geno, we've also got Eva Marie.

We've got it all.

I'm so thankful that I get to share it with you.

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