The world of wrestling is one that the phrase over the top isn’t quite big enough for. It’s bright, shiny and packed with characters that would be mocked if you wrote them into any other universe. Take a second and try to imagine explaining Juice Robinson to someone who isn’t in the know? More than one person has compared it to drag, and while I can’t claim to be an expert, on the surface, the similarities are evident.
Has any tag team ever generated as much conversation as The Young Bucks? For some, they are an example of what wrestling can be. Two men who without the help of WWE have created an empire for themselves. An empire that allows them to live outside the machine while travelling the world putting on a show. To others, they are the worst of modern-day pro-wrestling. Spot monkeys who destroy a business that was once built on hard men doing hard things. If you’re looking for that take, then you’re reading the wrong article.
Wrestle Kingdom 11 was the show that turned me into a New Japan fan. Before that, I’d watched the previous Wrestle Kingdom while it was hard not to be up to date on The Bullet Club. However, it was that show at the Tokyo Dome that hooked me and, to be specific, it was Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada.
All In and its success is brilliant for professional wrestling. There is no debating that point. A group of wrestlers have put together a show independent of any promotion and sold 10,000 tickets in under half an hour. I don’t care if they’re known to many because they worked for WWE, ROH or NJPW. I really don’t care if some of those tickets went to touts (they wouldn’t go to touts if the demand didn’t exist). And I certainly don’t care what people think of the ability of the wrestlers involved.
I have a confession for you all, I feel bad every time I spend a few thousand words moaning about WWE. In the past few years, I’ve seen my wrestling taste change. Moving away from that company, I’ve discovered a world of new things to watch. Therefore, it often feels like I’m going out of my way to go back and bash something I hate. Rather than spending an afternoon watching New Japan or wXw, I’ve chosen to put my hours into WWE, well aware that it will probably piss me off. I don’t listen to pop music and then moan that it’s not for me, so why do it with wrestling?
WrestleMania may still be two and a half months away, but we are getting ready to hit that build-up hard. Which means it’s probably not ideal for WWE to have their star man being caught up in stories of an illegal nature. That’s never going to look good. And whether it turns out Roman has been taking steroids or not, it is awful timing. Because if the worst comes to past, what does WWE do if something happens to Roman?
Wrestling is my safety blanket. When I’m feeling down or when life is a bit too scary, I turn to my imaginary world of superheroes. Of giants and champions. I feel safe there. All of which is why I get sad when I see shit begin to leak out of that world. I want to bury my head in the sand when accusations of abuse or manipulation run rampant on Twitter. I genuinely hate it when the discussion turns to the horrible deeds rather than the fantastic matches.
“All of which leads us to January 4th and Okada vs Naito. The golden boy vs the rebel. There’s only one way this should go and it’s with the rebel getting the win.”
The words of, well, me. In the build-up to Wrestle Kingdom, I was so sure that Naito would beat Okada that I’d have bet your life on it. It seemed like a foregone conclusion. The pretty pink bow on Naito’s long story. Honestly, I still think it should have been, but the evils have popped out of Pandora’s box, and they ain’t going back in. So, we’re left with Okada and time to ponder whether this was the right story to tell.
It couldn’t really be anyone else, could it?
Twenty albums, ten films and three matches. Why? Nobody knows, and it is certainly not from a lack of options. This has been a hell of a year for wrestling. Sure, the big boy has been a bit shit, but the rest of the world is stepping up, and even WWE had a few crackers. Wrestling is on top form right now, and it’s a joy to watch.
Alongside all my usual disclaimers I would like to point out that I am one person and I can only watch so many promotions. This list is slanted in a certain direction because of that. I hope to get into even more promotions in the future, but there are only so many hours in the day. Anyway, let’s get on with it.