Filmmaker Max Landis once said a lot of wrestling sucks, but when it's good, it's fucking great. This is indisputably true. And though it doesn't seem like it on the surface, there's a lot of good in wrestling in 2015.
Last weekend, we asked you, the Cagesiders of the world, to come up with the best things going in wrestling right now. I figured you guys would struggle to come up with ten. Not only did you NOT struggle, you came up with such a big list, we're expanding the countdown this week. Because you know, there really is a lot of good in the wrestling world. Before we get to the countdown, here are...
Ten honorable mentions. Actually, make that eleven. Naah... make it twelve. Twelve honorable mentions. Twelve really good things about wrestling right now.
1. Steve Austin, Jim Ross, Colt Cabana, Chris Jericho, Taz, Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, Pro Wrestling Torch, Cheap Heat, and countless other wrestlers and entities have their own wrestling podcasts, making it easier for any fan to keep up on the wrestling world or just hear road stories and backstage gossip and the like without the need to be in front of a computer. In fact, there was one just two nights ago that will probably be available for download in a few days featuring Steve Austin and Paul Heyman.
2. I know many wrestling fans don't like them, but then again, many fans do. Once a gathering of wrestling shooters headed by Prince Devitt, their evolution—or de-evolution depending on who's telling the story—of the Bullet Club have made the nWo ripoff group one of the best acts in wrestling. TOO SWEET ME! (gif via giantbomb.com)
3. Lucha Underground has been a revelation on the pro wrestling world. It may not last much longer (a second season is in the works, but has not been officially been renewed), but while it's around, it's done a number on a long-tired wrestling trope: the heel authority figure. You can have your McMahons, McMahons by marriage, Carters, Bischoffs, and Russos. Give me Dario Cueto any day of the week. He fucks with everyone because fuck you, that's why. He's about two things: money and violence, and as long as he's getting both, he's good. He is unquestionably the best authority figure in wrestling right now.
4. And #1a would probably go to everyone's favorite wrestling mom, Stephanie McMahon. Not surprising since she's cut from the same cloth as the her father (with seemingly modern sensibilities to boot). And unlike her husband, Triple H, she often says what she has to say in a fraction of the time. There is the screechy voice thing, but not nearly as bad as it was when was Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley.
5. He nearly won the most recent Top Prospect Tournament, but his persona has put Dalton Castle on the map in Ring of Honor. I could not tell you what this is exactly, but it's awesome to watch. And yes, he is leaning on one guy while using another as an arm rest. Those wings are majestic though.
6. It will take some time for me to get used to, but I see good things for heel Alexa Bliss, who seemingly is playing Maria to the NXT Tag Team Champions Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy, aka the Jobber Dubstep Cowboys as The Kingdom. That's just my name for them. Until about three months ago, they couldn't win to save their lives. Now they get beautiful valets. I'm clearly in the wrong business. Quite a few of you are making parallels to Trish Stratus' heel run in 2004 and 2005. If she's half as good as that Trish, prepare the Hall of Fame bio.
7. Later this month, Ring of Honor's Best in the World PPV will be headlined by a winner-take-all match between the two singles champions of Ring of Honor: ROH world champion Jay Briscoe and ROH television champion Jay Lethal. Why would these two even feud, you ask? Lethal claims he's the greatest champion in ROH history (debatable, though he has by far the longest reign and most defenses of the title ever at 425+ days and 30 successful defenses, so there's a case there). Jay Briscoe, one of only two men to hold the ROH world title more than once (Austin Aries is the other), does not take kindly to such claims. It's made for some interesting television, and will make for an interesting battle later in the month.
8. With TNA teetering on extinction for more than a year, Japan's top wrestling company has stepped in and in the minds of many, has taken over the #2 spot for world's best wrestling promotion. In some minds, it's #1, and they just rolled out a new set of episodes on AXS TV. Oh, and they happen to have a streaming services that's about $1.50 less per month. Despite the language barrier, New Japan Pro Wrestling is definitely worth a look.
9. Remember Maria Kanellis? She finished fourth in the first RAW Diva Search, and parlayed that to a moderately successful WWE career. Granted most of that time, she was, for lack of a better word, a ditz.
Here's Maria Kanellis now. Leader of her "Kingdom", which includes her real-life hubby Michael Bennett, former ROH world champion Adam Cole, and general tool Matt Taven. Though some people would like to tell you it's about the group and their successes, let there be no mistake who the Kingdom is about: its builder, which, as if you needed a reminder...
Is the former ditz of the WWE. You damn right you built that shit.
10. Though I'm still in the minority (and always will be), it seems that Nikki Bella, once (and probably still is) the bane of existence in the WWE's divas division has in the minds of many, has become somewhat competent. Maybe it's because the majority of talent around her is markedly worse, thereby making her better by default. I'm not gonna turn up my nose at the idea of her against any of the NXT Four, but the idea she's capable of a four-star match is laughable. But hey, I've been proven wrong before. She's competent, and that's what matters. (photo via wwe.com)
11. The Silent Bob of J&J Security, Joey Mercury's facial expressions have become a hidden gem on WWE programming as of late. I kinda popped when Joey nearly got a word out a few weeks ago. One day Joey. One day.
12. Forced together for no reason other than Dario Cueto's personal amusement, the trio/love triangle of Ivellise, her on-again, off-again boyfriend Son of Havoc, and third man in the middle/playboy Angelico have become a cohesive unit and one of the most compelling stories in Lucha Underground. (photo via luchatemple.com)
See? You're smiling. You didn't realize there was this much good in wrestling right now, did ya? Well, strap in, and get ready for...
The 21 best things in wrestling right now. (As voted by you, the Cagesiders)
Remember, this was done in a community vote, so blame yourself if your favorite didn't make it, not me.
21. The depth of talent in wrestling.
I'll let Cagesider The Boss Ain't Ratchet (yes she is) take this one:
WWE may not use their wrestlers well, but most of them are darn good when given the chance. ROH, LU, NJPW and the rest of the indies just have crazy amounts of talent right now and it really is a great time to be a fan of wrestling.
Oh, and WWE just signed a guy named Kevin and a guy named Joe to full time deals in the last week. Unthinkable a year ago, both realities.
20. ROH world champions getting their Wrestlemania moments.
Bryan Danielson and Colby Lopez once were Ring of Honor world champions. Just by looking at them, they're not the ideal size for what Vince McMahon sees as the face of the WWE. Yet, two Wrestlemanias running, they've both proven—albeit through very different means—that size doesn't matter. Sometimes all you need's the opportunity, and you too can celebrate with thousands cheering as fireworks go off. They may not be the faces of the WWE, but they may be the faces of an evolving WWE.
19. Enzo Amore & Colin "Big Cass" Cassidy.
I'd explain the awesomeness that is the New Age Outlaws adjace of Enzo and Big Cass. But that would be sawft. So let this video...spellitoutforya!
That level of charisma...you can't teach that.
18. EVIL Emma.
New theme music aside (sorry, I think it's awful), the dark side of Emma may have saved her from getting future endeavored. Emma was ruined almost from minute one of her main roster promotion by being paired with Santino Marella. Then it wasn't helped by her arrest (and brief subsequent release) on sixth degree larceny charges. The former Lance Storm trainee has struggled since leaving NXT, but she's come home recently and has seen her stock rise a bit. Here's hoping it's not too little, too late to salvage the former clueless bubbly dancer.
17. NXT breathing life into WWE.
The emergence of WWE's developmental program has breathed some life into WWE not seen in quite sometime. They've made the occasional cameo appearance on RAW, Smackdown, Superstars, and Main Event, and recently, their exploits in Orlando have been written into main roster WWE canon. More on that later.
16. The New Day.
When Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, and Big E Langston first got together last year, there was talk that they would be the genesis of a rebooted Nation of Domination. Then real life happened. What would become of this group of "smart athletic superfriends"?
Of course, they were turned into caricatures, a trio of dancing, smiling African-Americans without a care in the world. Needless to say, people did not respond to this well. At all. Not even a little bit. In fact, despite the fact they were faces, they were booed out of the building. I mean, they were a beacon of positivity in a world filled with hate.
But that world of hate does have its advantages. One of them: it weeds out the bullshit. The trio were forced to lean heel, whether they wanted to or not. And as it happens sometimes, it worked. All they had to do was be overly obnoxiously positive to the point you want them to one day embrace the hate and become what they were truly meant to be. It'll happen if we just chant NEW... DAY SUCKS enough.
15. The Red Arrow.
Technically, it's known as a corkscrew shooting star press. The first time you saw it, you probably called it HOLYSHITIVENEVERSEENANYTHINGLIKETHATEVERINMYLIFE-WHATISTHATOMGDIDYOUSEETHATYOUGUYSDIDIYOUSEEDIDYOUSEEDIDYOUSEE. I know that's what I called it. The signature move of the artist formerly known as PAC and Adrian Neville is an instant crowd pleaser. How can it not be? It's a CORKSCREW SHOOTING STAR PRESS. Take the corkscrew out of it, and it's still one of the most awesome moves ever in wrestling. With the corkscrew: HOLYSHITIVENEVERSEENANYTHINGLIKETHATEVERINMYLIFE-WHATISTHATOMGDIDYOUSEETHATYOUGUYSDIDIYOUSEEDIDYOUSEEDIDYOUSEE.
14. Paul Heyman.
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Known as the advocate for the conqueror of the Undertaker's undefeated streak at Wrestlemania XXX and one of the greatest WWE Champions ever--actually, make that two--Paul Heyman is one of the most brilliant minds in all of professional wrestling. Even not in the context of the wrestling business, he's a master motivator and knows what it takes to succeed. And when the voice of the voice of the voiceless speaks, people listen.
13. Finn Balor.
Those familiar with his work as Prince Devitt in New Japan Pro Wrestling and on the independent circuit know of his penchant for changing forms for big matches. He was The Joker, The Punisher, and Venom to name a few of his forms. Of course, all of said forms are copyrighted, so how's he gonna facepaint himself when he got to WWE? It didn't take long and... HOLYSHITWHATINTHEACTUALFUCKISTHAT?
Meet his new form, THEDEMONFINN. Irish mythology, meet NXT creativity. Oh... and THEDEMONFINN just so happens to be really, really, really good in the ring. Some argue these days Finn's little more than a pretty cool entrance. Hey, it worked out for The Undertaker.
12. Cageside Seats.
This little corner of the Internet has certainly grown by leaps and bounds in the last couple years, hasn't it? It's become one of the go-to sources for wrestling news and information and thought-provoking opinions. To Geno, Sean, Keith, and all the Cagesiders around the world from this one right here, cheers.
11. The abundance of wrestling on the internet.
It's 2015, and quite honestly, the amount of wrestling available at our fingertips is absurd. And it's pretty awesome. If you are a wrestling fan, you don't have to go out of your way to find something that interests you. Independent promotions have a bigger presence than ever thanks to the Internet. Hell, even big promotions have a bigger presence than ever before thanks to the Internet. Old, new, borrowed, or blue, whatever wrestling piques your interest, it's out there. All you have to do is look for it. And maybe even give them a few of your hard-earned dollars if they've earned it.
10. Shinsuke Nakamura
Don't let the packaging fool you. Yeah, he may dance to the beat of his own drum...whatever that beat is. Yeah, he dances a little bit weird at first. Yeah, he looks a little off to the untrained eye. But the "King of Strong Style" Shinsuke Nakamura can absolutely GO in the ring. Plus he is the possessor of an absolutely killer knee strike he can hit from anywhere in the building. Though Nakamura these days is known for his runs as the IWGP Intercontinental Champion (four runs totaling 781 days, far more than anyone ever, covering more than half of the life of the championship), he is also a former three-time IWGP heavyweight champion and won the 2011 G1 Climax tournament. Oh, and he can legit kick your ass: he's 3-1 in MMA fights.
9. Lucha Underground.
Set in a dingy warehouse on the seedy side of Los Angeles, Lucha Underground mixes lucha libre tradition, Aztec mythology, and telenovela-style storytelling. And they have pretty much invented the wrestling show. It feels gritty and violent because it is gritty and violent. The show's many plots actually have continuity! CONTINUITY! That's something lost in wrestling today. Oh, and the matches are awesome as hell too. If you have the means, I highly recommend you check it out.
8. Tyler Breeze.
A vain model/wrestler gimmick. Stop me if you've heard that one before. The second NXT gimmick of Canadian Mattias Clement (his first was "local athlete" Mike Dalton) probably had a low ceiling. But he had to come up with something that worked or be sent on his future endeavors. Enter vain model/wrestler/professional selfier (yup, totally made that word up. Nope, don't care.) Tyler Breeze. It was an instant hit. Though it hasn't gotten him championship gold, it's gotten him on the map and will keep him there for quite a long time... or at least as long as selfies and selfie sticks are a thing.
7. Dean Ambrose.
Words alone cannot describe the awesomeness that is the WWE Heavyweight Champion of the world. So here's a video.
6. The United States Championship Open.
The plan in the runup to and following Wrestlemania 31 was to restore the Intercontinental and United States championships to its former glory. One step in that plan was having former Wrestlemania main event winners John Cena and Daniel Bryan hold the respective titles. While the Daniel Bryan plan hasn't worked out, the John Cena as United States Champion has done wonders for the fading star--and the championship he holds. Some will argue that Cena's expanding his graveyard of victims with his weekly open challenge. The more sensible opinion is that in making him a fighting champion against challengers he has no control over, he's made the red, white, and blue belt matter. And it is the United States Championship Open that introduced Sami Zayn and Cena's antagonist of the moment, Kevin Owens, to the main roster, with the latter making such an impression, he got himself a full-time promotion less than a year after his debut in NXT.
They don't get a lot right with the Cena character. The US Open is a thing they got right. And down to a science. And quite honestly, I'll be sad to see it go whenever it does.
5. WWE Network.
It had its hiccups in the beginning. Hell, it still has its flaws nearly a year and a half later. But WWE Network has been a godsend for fans. The hook when the service was first introduced was its vast PPV catalog, with nearly every significant show of significance ever plus ever major show going forward. But it's come into its own with more original programming and the emergence of NXT. The Network has done a number on WWE financials, but give the company credit: they're committed to making their big investment work come hell or high water.
4. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are both in WWE.
Kevin Steen and Rami Sebei are far from your typical preferred WWE wrestler. Steen has a "dadbod" with a scruffy beard. Sebei barely cracks the 200-pound mark and would be a better fit for WCW's cruiserweight division. If it were still around of course.
It's hard to imagine, but the two longtime friends from Montreal both are working in the WWE in 2015. It isn't because they changed who they were, the wrestling world around them changed. A WWE that once upon a time wasn't accepting of their kind (you know, "indy geeks that do flippy shit") is now a WWE that has these two men as featured performers.
Sebei, aka Sami Zayn, was introduced to the main roster in his hometown of Montreal to a rousing ovation and gave WWE United States Champion John Cena all he could handle. Steen, known now as Kevin Owens, is the man that not only succeeded Zayn as NXT champion, but succeeded him in the US Open Challenge. He made such an impression in his short time, they almost immediately made him a permanent main roster fixture, at least for the foreseeable future. And Owens has something few men in the world can claim: a clean singles win over John Cena. He's the uncrowned United States Champion, but I have a feeling a bigger prize may be coming his way in the not too distant future.
And to think, all they needed was an opportunity to take the ball and run with it.
3. Brass Ring Club.
Cesaro and Nattie's husband were probably paired together for no reason other than, hey, give these guys something to do so the Internet can get off our backs. I'm pretty sure that's how the conversation went. After all, you don't let two talented wrestlers just sit on the bench and do nothing. But a funny thing happened on their way to what was surely wrestling purgatory: they clicked. The Brass Ring Club as they are unofficially known has breathed life to an otherwise stale and corpse-like tag team division. But the joy is short-lived, it seems. Earlier this week, Tyson Kidd was injured during a Superstars taping in a match against Samoa Joe. Best wishes to Tyson for a speedy recovery.
2. Kevin Owens' heeling ability.
Some would argue that Kevin Owens isn't actually a heel at all. After all, he always justifies his actions as that of a man who is simply trying to provide a better life for his family. Failure isn't an option in his world. If he fails, he fails his family, and that's a pain far worse than defeat in a wrestling ring. Maybe in the mouth of another person, you wouldn't believe it.
And that is what makes Kevin Owens so convincing. Everything, no matter how big or small, has a purpose, whether it's during a match or during an interview. It's the kinds of things you can only learn with experience. He doesn't have to yell to get his point across. His in-ring trash talk is understated, yet impactful. And his actions... well, probably some of the biggest heels in the business would probably tell him to tone it down a bit.
That's what makes the NXT champion a master class heel. Even though you love him deep down for being a family man, there's always that part of you-even if it''s a tiny bit-that thinks... yeah. This dude's pretty scummy.
1. NXT Womens Division.
One major negative of the WWE over the last decade has been the precipitous decline of it's women's--Divas--division. Lingerie models, Diva Search contestants, and generally women without a clue bottomed out in 2013 with the advent of Total Divas. Thankfully, an upswing is coming. Maybe. Hopefully. Probably. And they're hanging out in Orlando, and if there is any justice in this world, ladies like Becky Lynch, Bayley, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks, along with the half-dozen or so others down the line, will replace the last remnants of a division gone horribly, horribly wrong. While the Divas are lucky to get three minutes on RAW, the ladies of NXT tear down the house, often putting on the best performances of the night. I see some of you are skeptical of this. Do yourself a favor: get WWE Network (it's free this month), watch NXT Takeover: Unstoppable, and watch the NXT women's title match between Sasha and Becky Lynch. If that doesn't change your mind about the future of women's wrestling in the WWE, probably nothing will. That's why you, the Cagesiders, have named it the best thing going in wrestling today.
See something we missed? What's good in wrestling that we need to know about?