|Pictured: A fookin' legend|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Sheamus - Rumors are flying around that Sheamus is battling spinal stenosis. For those who don't know, it's the condition that caused Edge to retire. It would be both a crushing end but the most appropriate one for the least appreciated modern WWE main event guy, perhaps ever. He finally found a niche where he's not only surviving, but thriving and fate had to do it to him like Vince McMahon and the writers have done to him all these years ever since he came up from WWECW like a bat out of the otherworld. It's cliche to say guys deserve or don't deserve things that happen to them throughout their careers, but Sheamus has always been a dude that worked hard and tried to stand out. His repayment for years of excellent work and striving to find a niche among a class of wrestlers that were either too bland and unambitious to try and find theirs or a group of guys who were made because they stood out "elsewhere" was constant shitting on from the crowd. It's like, McMahon talked and still talks about the fucking brass ring like it actually does exist, and people like to say Daniel Bryan or Sheamus' tag partner Cesaro tried grabbing it without notice, but fucking look at Sheamus. You say he was "given" opportunities like all you need to do to survive in the main event is be pushed there. I mean, the creative team plopped him in big spots with no help in the most backlash-able positions, and even though he still gave more of an effort in a random night during any point in his career than Randy Orton has in his entire life, it didn't work. Sheamus had the brass ring put in front of him, and every time he tried to grab it, McMahon yanked it away from him and laughed. Fuck that. Sheamus is a goddamn legend, and even though the only time before now where he was anywhere close to his potential that he had in him was the beginning of the Hall of Pain, I never stopped appreciating him as such.
Filthy Tom Lawlor - Wrestling needs comedy, even if you're an edgy ex-MMA dude, especially if you're one of those guys. Lawlor doesn't really go full Kikutaro, and honestly, few people should. But he proves that you can wrestle with condom and diaper ads on your shorts and still be taken seriously between the bells.
The Iconic Duo - Whenever an act I like heads from NXT to the main roster, I get a bit skittish for reasons. The Iconic Duo wasn't great just because they worked great matches (Billie Kay is... eeennnnnhhh in the ring anyway) or they did canned promos with life. The interplay between each other and with Master Regal is one thing, but man, those backstage hand-cams at the Performance Center which either led into a simple match on NXT television or were accidental segues into bigger angles? They were goddamn brilliant and made them as much a part of the NXT continuum as anyone regardless of how else people got their characters over. I love when someone takes something different and excels at it.
Aiden English - Imagine you're Aiden English, stuck in a tag team with a fuckass who wants to fight everyone backstage and with a gimmick that can only be described as "made more for Chikara." That aforementioned fuckass gets released, and now you're biting your nails because you're probably next. No one in creative wants to deal with the dude who sings like an olde-tyme dude, no matter how goddamn talented he is overall. So what happens? Oh you only get paired with Rusev and the two of you turn a nothing, throwaway gimmick segment into the most grassroots-popular thing on your show. That shit is amazing and couldn't have happened to a better dude who needed it more.
Elias - I love Elias, but not like an obtuse douchebag who thinks no heels in WWE do anything wrong and now want to root for them to make statements. I think Elias is another guy who took kind of a nothing gimmick and turned it into gold. But when I'm in the moment, after he's done singing and clowning the crowd, I want to see him get his ass beaten by whomever he's wrestling, granted it's not like Randy Orton or some shit. I like when the bad guy makes me want to see him get vanquished in a heroic battle. It's why I love Darth Vader, not because I want to festoon myself in Empire colors and pretend fascism is cool or whatever. I love him because he's so formidable and his defeat will be satisfying. It's a high compliment for fictional characters.
Bianca Belair - She's wrestled like what, a dozen matches so far, and she's already good? That's crazy. I love uniqueness, and she's great not because she can work a formula match in an excellent manner, but because she's found a different path and is doing it with electricity. I hope she whips her hair back and forth for a long, long time.
Kota Ibushi - I hope he never signs with WWE and that his Ibushi Wrestling Institute raises enough money so he can wrestle Kenny Omega on the moon one day.
Kassius Ohno - I'll admit that I don't always get Ohno in the ring. Sometimes he works a style that is a bit too, I don't know how to describe it except soaked in the backsplash from UWFi or even early UFC (and that's probably a really fucking bad analogy, so I apologize in advance), and it loses me. But when he hits that sweet spot, no one in wrestling has a higher ceiling. He's not always my favorite guy to watch, but I have few people in wrestling I respect more just for the amount of care he puts into it, the time he's spent curating it. If wrestling were The Force, Kassius Ohno would be its Anakin Skywalker, at least before he turned all evil and shit.
The Young Bucks - I can't believe people don't see that the Bucks act perverse and combative because those same people keep jabbing them with the same tired complaints over and over again. They're fucking smartasses, and they love sticking it back to those who not only don't get them, but whine and complain that because they don't get them that they should retire.
Maria Kanellis - That look in her eyes when she did her big speech during her entrance with Mike was everything. She got so into that character, and whether it stopped because Mike went into rehab, she got pregnant, or creative had nothing for them, it's a damn, damn shame.
Akira Tozawa - It's a testament that even now, Tozawa keeps getting crowds to loudly go AH AH AH with him even as 205 Live drifts further and further into a wasteland in WWE importance. He's so good. He's always been so good. I want to see him with the big boys.
Dick Togo - Zack Sabre, Jr. is considered the leftist wrestler's wrestler, but I could never see him riding into battle on horseback leading a leftist coup in a random nation around the globe. I'm personally shocked Togo hasn't done so already. Someday, he'll be a head of state, and he'll have won his revolution with a diving senton off a Che Guevara statue.
Alexander Wolfe - Honestly, this dude won me over with how goddamn crazy he was over the last year. I'm not just talking "wild-eyed, acting all buggy like WWE thinks crazy people are" crazy, like I mean aiming to get the Ziggler Scale renamed in his honor crazy. SANitY is one of many things NXT got right, but it's amazing how right the group has been, not only in wrestling or angles, but in tone and body language. Wolfe is a HUGE part of that.
Timothy Thatcher - I hate that the name "Trashy Tim" is so catchy, because Thatcher is legitimately the opposite of trashy. If all you knew him by was that EVOLVE title reign, which not coincidentally picked up as soon as Stokely Hathaway became his manager and things started happening around them, then you're missing out. He doesn't wrestle bad matches, and he's just got the right aesthetic for a company, any company really, that wants edgy, human-type characters.
Lars Sullivan - You say "Lars Sullivan looks like they gave a baby three overdoses of HGH an hour every hour for 20 years and looks weird," and I say "that's not a negative." The dude totally translates his look into a style that is completely and totally pro wrestling. Like, if you asked me what his gimmick was just by looking at him, I'd say it was "roid rage," and not only is it "roid rage," he's fucking perfect at it.
Juice Robinson - I will be the first to admit I pretty much wrote him off even though I thought he was promising in NXT in his gimmick, but he went to New Japan and transformed. Now he's probably the best non-Kenny Omega gaijin the company has, and it's totally different. His main role is so simple, heroic underdog, but he provides so many layers through his post-match pressers or even the way he throws that palm.
Cedric Alexander - Again, Alexander would be so much better with the big boys, him and Tozawa and Gran Metalik, but you can see he's still bursting through the seams, making every minute between the purple ropes try to matter.
Satoshi Kojima - I wish to be as pure as the man who only roams the earth in search of friends to eat bread with.
Mustafa Ali - It's rare to find someone in entertainment or sports who's a solid dude, but Ali continues to walk the walk all the time. It's easy to root for him because he at least shows he cares about people in real life, and then you realize he's actually really goddamn good at wrestling too, and you wonder why WWE isn't putting him at the vanguard. Then you realize the reason why, and well, he's far too better for WWE or really any wrestling promotion on earth outside of maybe his first homebase of Freelance.
Bryce Remsburg - BRYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYCE has always been a solid dude to me, but again, I gotta thank him for letting me get up in front of a live camera and basically do a verbal shitpost streaming over Powerbomb TV.
And the Rest: Abbey Laith, ACH, Aerostar, AJ Gray, Alexa Bliss, Alicia Fox, Andrade "Cien" Almas, Angelus Layne, AR Fox, Barretta, Bayley, Becky Lynch, Candice LeRae, Cassandra Miyagi, Catrina, Cesaro, Chad Gable, Chris Jericho, Chuck Taylor, Corey Graves, Dakota Kai, Dalton Castle, Daniel Bryan, Danny Burch/Martin Stone, Darby Allin, Dario Cueto, Dasher Hatfield, DeSean Pratt, Drago, Dragon Lee, EVIL, Fire Ant, Frightmare, Gran Metalik, Heath Slater, Hiromu Takahashi, Jay Freddie, Jazzy Gabert, Jeff Cobb, John Silver, Johnny Gargano, Johnny Mundo, Jonathan Gresham, Jordynne Grace, Jushin Thunder Liger, Kairi Sane, Keith Lee, Kenny Omega, Killian Dain, Mark Andrews, Mark Henry, Maryse, Meiko Satomura, Mercedes Martinez, Mia Yim, MJF, New Day, Nick Gage, Nicole Matthews, Oney Lorcan, Orange Cassidy, Renee Young, Rey Fenix, Rhyno, Ricochet, Rocky Romero, Ruby Riott, Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe, Sarah Logan, Sasha Banks, Sonya Deville, Taya Valkyrie, Tenille Dashwood, Tetsuya Naito, The Ascension, THE BOYS, The Miz, The Revival, The Ugly Ducklings, Tim Donst, Tommaso Ciampa, Toni Storm, Tucker Knight, Tye Dillinger, UltraMantis Black, Velveteen Dream, War Machine, Willie Mack, Xia Li, Xyberhawx 2000, Zack Ryder, Zack Sabre, Jr.