When I click the “Publish” button to post this column and share it with the world, it will be exactly one week away from Christmas. The holiday season is already in full swing, and our calendars are set to make the change from 2023 to 2024.
When it comes to the holidays, this time of year means a lot of things to a lot of people. In my real life, I’m a great gift giver. If I’m tasked with getting you something, it’s going to be something fun, and chances are, it’s going to be exactly what you wanted/needed. On the flip side to that coin, though… I hate asking for gifts, or making lists, and things of that nature.
The exception I make is when it comes to wrestling. Every year, I do a column like this, where I essentially write a letter to Santa Claus and give him a list of wrestling-related items that I would like to see/have as we head into the new year. It’s a very simple premise.
These will be listed in no particular order, and some may be much more likely to happen than others, but they’re all things I want. Let’s rock and roll.
Tony Khan “Old Yellers” Ring Of Honor: Longtime RoH fans have seen plenty of ups and downs from the company through the years. Before Tony Khan came along and bought RoH from the Sinclair Broadcast Group last year, there were plenty of rumors that the promotion was on its last legs. The COVID pandemic was a major hurdle to deal with for a gazillion-dollar company like WWE, so you can imagine what it did to smaller companies like this. 2020 saw RoH hold one pay-per-view event, and before 2021 would come to an end, it was announced that RoH was going on a “hiatus” with a tentative return time frame of “April 2022.” The roster would be released from their contracts, with promises of a “reimagined” company when they did return. Many people were reading between the lines, assuming that the company’s announcement was merely them stalling the inevitable, and that it was officially the beginning of the end for Ring Of Honor.
That’s when Tony Khan stepped in with one of his MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENTS on AEW television, revealing that he purchased RoH and had plans to run it separately from AEW. Fans were thrilled. Khan is a mega wrestling fan with super deep pockets. Surely, that would come in handy when it comes to righting a lot of the wrongs that had plagued RoH in recent years, right?
Not so much.
The list of problems with RoH today are extensive. Khan’s plan to run RoH separately didn’t last very long at all, with “RoH wrestlers” wrestling on AEW, and “AEW wrestlers” wrestling on RoH. RoH shows are on the Honor Club streaming service, instead of on television or on YouTube, which would’ve made things better for the notoriously lazy and cheap wrestling fan base. Taping those Honor Club episodes after Dynamite or Collision go off the air means that you’re going to be dealing with tired fans who have already been sitting there for hours, and that’s not even counting the large amount of people who leave after the AEW show, either because they aren’t aware of the tapings or because they don’t want to stick around any longer. Ticket sales for the standalone RoH shows have been atrocious, with events like last week’s Final Battle struggling to reach 2,000 tickets sold until a few days before the show. Terrible booking decisions led to Final Battle not featuring the RoH World Championship (Eddie Kingston can’t defend the title because he put it on the line in the AEW Continental Classic), a defending RoH Television Champion (Samoa Joe literally threw the title down and vacated it because he wanted to focus on becoming the AEW World Title, although a match to crown a new champion was on the card), the RoH Tag Team Champions (Adam Cole is still injured and MJF is too busy), or, initially, the RoH Six-Man Tag Team Champions (Mogul Embassy). The RoH Pure Champion (Wheeler Yuta) wasn’t added to the card until there were less than 24 hours before showtime, and it was announced via a Tony Khan tweet. A random Six-Man Tag Team Title match was thrown together at the last minute, as was an Eddie Kingston match that didn’t feature his titles. You’ll also notice that almost every wrestler listed in those last few sentences are “AEW guys.”
On multiple occasions, Tony Khan has made public comments about how he would never “take it out on the staff” by releasing them, even if he were to be “punched in the face with circumstances.” On the surface, that’s cool and all, but that’s also how you have 16,000 fucking employees and nowhere near enough time and resources to handle them all properly. Under Tony Khan, Ring Of Honor has been a failure under almost every sort of measurable metric. It’s time to cut losses and get rid of a bunch of people. If Tony wants to keep being everyone’s friend and not “taking things out” on anyone, he can set them free from whatever contracts they have, while still sending them checks every week. Buy them gift cards to grocery stores. Pay for their kids to go to school. Whatever. By not “taking things out” on the staff, he’s “taking things out” on the fans, who he is giving a subpar, AT BEST, product to and expecting them to continue supporting it.
I’ve already spent way too much time talking about Ring Of Honor here.
The Return Of The “Paul Heyman Guy”: The Bloodline has been an insanely important part of the WWE product for three-plus years. Conventional wisdom says that Roman Reigns’ grip on the top spot in WWE is set to come to an end at WrestleMania 40, where he finally loses to someone (take your pick from Cody Rhodes, CM Punk, Randy Orton, LA Knight, or anyone else you feel will make for the best story).
A lot of the rumors we’ve seen and heard say that Roman could be taking an extended leave of absence after Mania. Hollywood will come calling, and he will have a lot of opportunities there. Even if he isn’t going to leave wrestling to make movies and television shows, he could use several months off to refresh his character.
If/when The Bloodline completely crumbles and falls apart, someone like Paul Heyman is too talented and beneficial to the overall product to go away, too. I would love to see Heyman stick around and get back to managing another act, making them a new “Paul Heyman Guy/Girl” for 2024. Heyman is still one of the best “talkers” in the business today, and can be used to get an act over, or to help them reach the next level. I think someone like Bron Breakker would be a perfect fit for a spot like that whenever he finally gets called up to the main roster. I’ve seen names like Chad Gable, The Creed Brothers, Zoey Stark, Butch, Tyler Bate, Cedric Alexander, Apollo Crews, Ilja Dragunov, and many others thrown around online as people who would make for a good pairing with Heyman.
No matter who it is, I just want to see Heyman continuing to do what he does best, while helping to build the best Raw and/or Smackdown that he can.
Brock Lesnar vs Gunther: Give. Me. What. I. Want.
I’ve seen other people on other sites say that Lesnar should be the one who finally defeats Gunther, and that WrestleMania would be the best place for it to happen.
Not if you’re trying to create a new star, it isn’t.
Gunther’s Intercontinental Title reign has been so lengthy, and so epic, that WWE has a great opportunity to create a new “made man” in knocking Gunther from his throne. Take a look at many of the names that Gunther has been feuding with recently… Chad Gable, Bronson Reed, Tommaso Ciampa, Matt Riddle, Mustafa Ali, Xavier Woods, Ricochet, and so on. All of those men are people who would instantly reach new levels if they were to defeat Gunther and become the new Intercontinental Champion. Needless to say, Brock Lesnar isn’t quite in the same category as those men.
Does that mean Lesnar gets the WrestleMania match and loses to Gunther? Perhaps it means it would be a non-title match? Does it mean that Gunther loses the title before WrestleMania? What about the match taking place further down the road, after Gunther has already lost the title? Personally, I don’t care. I just want to see the match. It probably makes more sense for the title to be on the line, though. At some point on the build to Mania, all it would take is Gunther cutting a promo on Raw where he talks about how everyone has tried to beat him, but all have failed. Then, the familiar guitar riff to start Brock’s entrance music is heard, and you have yourself a big-time WrestleMania match. That works for me.
Major Free Agent Surprises: I’ve said this in several columns through the years, but I really love seeing some major free agency shakeups in wrestling. I don’t need every free agent to leave and go elsewhere, but it’s a lot of fun seeing some big names “jump ship” and go to another company.
Right now, it has nothing to do with “WWE is better than AEW” or “AEW is better than WWE.” I’m a fan of both places, and I watch them both all the time. I just find myself wanting to see fresh matches and feuds. MJF, for example, has been very vocal about his contract coming to an end at the beginning of 2024. I would love to see him in WWE, not because I feel it would be a critical blow to AEW, but because there would be so many new things for him to do in WWE. If you look at the entire WWE roster and subtract names that were once in AEW, the only people MJF has ever shared a ring with are Axiom (as A-Kid), Wes Lee (as Dezmond Xavier), Austin Theory, Drew Gulak, Josh Briggs, Mia Yim, MVP, and Cameron Grimes (as Trevor Lee). By the way, as is the case whenever Cameron Grimes comes up in conversation, I am legally and contractually obligated to mention the fact that he nearly broke my leg at an independent wrestling show a few years back.
Sheamus to AEW?
Drew McIntyre to AEW?
Seth Rollins to AEW?
Those would all be a ton of fun, for various reasons.
How about Kazuchika Okada to WWE? Yes, he would be a much better fit in AEW, but again, I’m all about the fresh matches. Because of AEW’s relationship with New Japan, there are currently 36 names under AEW contract that have shared a wrestling ring with Okada at one point or another. On the WWE roster, there are only 13 names that Okada has shared a ring with.
Like I said, I don’t want to see every name go elsewhere. That’s TOO crazy. Give me something other than the “safe” outcomes every now and then, though.
Bryan Danielson Stays Healthy As He Approaches The Finish Line: Danielson has already gone on record saying that 2024 will be the final full-time year of his wrestling career. We’ve also heard that he has no desire to be a top-tier champion in AEW, and instead, seems to be more interested in checking things from whatever “bucket list” he has left, having matches and feuds against people he has never faced before, or at least hasn’t faced in a long, long time.
Unfortunately, it also seems like he has been getting injured a lot more frequently in recent years. He’s getting older, and his body is carrying a ton of mileage on it, but he is also working an incredibly tough and taxing style of training and wrestling. He’s the single greatest in-ring performer that the sport has ever seen, and we’ve already witnessed him being forced to walk away from wrestling once. It would be nice if he is able to walk away on his own terms this time around. His final full-time year should be as packed with as much as he could possibly want and need. Fingers crossed.
Dominik Mysterio As The Women’s World Champion: Let me explain, as I’m only half-serious, and maybe not even that much. I don’t even remember when the idea popped into my head, but I was thinking of different scenarios that could continue the entertainment factor that Dom provides to the WWE product.
That’s when it hit me… since we’re already leaning into the nudge, nudge, wink, wink father-and-son relationship of Dom and Eddie Guerrero, why not try to recreate one of Eddie’s funniest and most memorable moments with the company?
The year was 2000. Eddie Guerrero was in the middle of his “Latino Heat” character, and his on-screen “Mamacita” was Chyna, who was making history in her second reign as the Intercontinental Champion. On the September 4th, 2000 episode of Raw, we saw a Triple Threat Match for the title featuring Chyna, Eddie, and Kurt Angle. The end of the match saw Kurt knock Chyna out with the title belt, only to be taken out by Eddie and sent out of the ring. Eddie sees Chyna out cold, and he goes to cradle her fallen body on the ground, soap opera style, before leaning down to hug her… straight into a one, two, three. Just like that, Eddie “accidentally” wins the Intercontinental Title.
For my example, I’m just going to throw random names in, so follow along. Let’s say Rhea Ripley is in possession of the Women’s World Title. Now, let’s say Tyler Bate is the NXT North American Champion. Next, let’s say Rhea is feuding with Nikki Cross, and Bate is feuding with Dom. Time to book one of those wonky tag matches where multiple champions are involved, but the only title that gets to be on the line is the one that sees the champion involved in the fall. Dominik Mysterio & Rhea Ripley vs Tyler Bate & Nikki Cross. It’ll take place on an episode of NXT or at an NXT pay-per-view.
During the match, Nikki can hit Rhea with whatever finishing move she wants, but because of the toll the match has taken on her, she is unable to go for the pin. At the same time, Dom can be hit with something like a Superkick, as Tyler’s finishers don’t really work in this scenario. An exhausted Tyler collapses after hitting the move, while Dom’s “unconscious” body falls on top of Rhea. The Referee, confused for a moment, counts the pin, and three seconds later… Dominik Mysterio is apparently the new Women’s World Champion.
I know that some of you are going to be sticklers for the rules and regulations, but look here… this wouldn’t be anywhere near the first time that a wrestling company decided to make up or change rules on the fly to fit a match or a storyline. I’m just looking for something entertaining, even if it doesn’t last long. You’re lying to yourselves if you don’t think Dom could take something silly like this and make it memorable.
A Better Viewing Option For AEW Pay-Per-Views: For a long time, my computer was placed in a spot that allowed me a direct line of sight at the gigantic television in my living room, and that television was connected to a DirecTV dish and my PS4, which then became my PS5. That made things super easy for me. I could fire up Peacock and watch WWE pay-per-views while working on my review columns at the same time. It also meant I could order traditional pay-per-views for companies like AEW and still get to work on my review columns at the same time.
Eventually, it was time to set up my office and move the computer in there. Instead of adding a second DirecTV box in the office, I just decided to put a smart TV on the desk next to my monitor. I would still be able to watch Peacock and write columns at the same time, but instead of ordering pay-per-views, I got a Roku streaming player to go with the TV and downloaded the Bleacher Report app. I figured that would make things easy peasy.
Boy, was I wrong.
I don’t think I’ve gone through one AEW pay-per-view without some sort of major issues, and I’ve looked all over social media to know that I’m far from the only one with those issues. Sometimes, the video quality will be spotty as all hell. Other times, the show won’t even load right away, and I’ll find myself starting a few minutes behind the live feed. Beyond that, there was often issues with the syncing of the audio and video, so you’d see someone get slammed to the mat, but the sound of the bump wouldn’t be heard for at least a full second. I would find myself having to go to the Bleacher Report site on my computer, open up two browser windows, and put them side-by-side so that I could watch and write. The problem there, of course, is that I’m spending $50 to order a pay-per-view and I have to watch it on a media player that is now smaller than the screen of my phone because Bleacher Report is a six-pack of ass.
For far too long, we have seen rumors and reports that AEW could move to a streaming service like Max. Those rumors talk about AEW pay-per-views airing on Max like WWE’s do on Peacock, but also that AEW’s catalog would be available to watch, as well. Selfishly, that would be perfect for me, and would make watching the company’s biggest shows easier. Hey, this is my own personal wish list, after all.
CM Punk To Be On His Best Behavior: Some people love him, and some people hate him. No matter where you stand on the subject, I think one thing is true above all else… the sport of professional wrestling is a more interesting place with CM Punk in it.
Are we all in agreement that this is Punk’s last chance to be in the spotlight of a major wrestling promotion? If things go awry in this run, he’ll be forced to be the “big fish in a small pond” at some independent company, if he even remains in the business at all.
There is SO MUCH money to be made with Punk and the current roster in WWE. So many matches to be had, and so many stories to be told. Years worth, if he wants to stick around that long.
I’m not completely sold that he’ll be able to remain Company Man Punk for his entire duration with the company. I am, however, more sold on the WWE locker room not tolerating any of his bullshit if he decides he wants to get froggy and jump. Tony Khan wants to be everyone’s best friend, and he let Punk (and The Young Bucks, Jack Perry, and so on) get away with way too much because he didn’t want anybody to be mad at him. Triple H, on the other hand… shit, I’m not even sure that he likes Phil Brooks. He’d probably trip all over himself to kick Punk to the curb if he was given a reason to do so.
There are a lot of things I want to do see Punk do now that he’s back with WWE. For him to be able to get those things done, he needs to work within the system, as Vince McMahon asked “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to do back in 1997.
Jacob Fatu In WWE: I already know this isn’t likely, for multiple reasons. First and foremost, he is reportedly under contract to Major League Wrestling until “late-2025.” Yes, the same Major League Wrestling that, until very recently, was tangled up in a heated lawsuit against WWE, accusing them of pressuring third-party entities to end their business relationships with MLW. After all that, I don’t exactly see MLW letting “The Samoan Werewolf” walk out the door to join WWE. Of course, stranger things have happened in wrestling, and will continue to happen for the rest of time, no matter what happens here.
I just want to see him tear shit up on a larger stage. Nothing more, nothing less. His impact would’ve been a lot stronger if he showed up during the height of the Bloodline story, but I’d take what I can get.
Your Continued Support: Every single year, I do one of these lists, and every single year, I close it out by adding this entry. There would be no point in me writing anything if you weren’t reading it, commenting on it, messaging me about it, tweeting my links, and sharing my posts on Facebook.
I’m about to hit my 17th anniversary when it comes to doing this. In that span, I’ve produced thousands of written pieces that have garnered a total of well over 10 million views. Whether you’ve been there from the beginning of the journey, or if this is the first thing you’ve ever seen from me, I just want to thank you for making me even a tiny part of your lives. As we stare 2024 in the face, let’s do what we can to make it the best year yet, shall we?
I’ll flip it around on you now. What would be on YOUR Christmas wish list for pro wrestling in 2024? As always, you can hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Now, let’s go ahead and talk about my Weekly Power Rankings, before we finish things up with the playlist of the music I was listening to when I wrote this column.
Weekly Power Rankings
Athena vs Billie Starkz: If the follow-up is right, this should be a star-making performance for Starkz, the 19-year-old prodigy. A lot of people are concerned that the post-match stuff with both women made it seem like the match itself was for nothing, and that they’re back to the exact same spot they were before the feud began. I understand those concerns, but we’ll see what happens. I’m hoping for the best, and also hoping that both women make their way to AEW programming soon.
Bryan Danielson vs Brody King: If you’re not a fan of the Continental Classic so far, I simply do not know what to tell you. It is becoming one of the best tournaments in pro wrestling history if we’re strictly talking about match quality. New Japan does a great job with the G1 Climax tournament every year, but there are always some stinkers there, as there are just too many overall matches not to have something fail every now and then. The CC was a great idea, and has been one of the best things AEW has given us.
Swerve Strickland vs Jon Moxley: If you’re going to nitpick about something, you’d probably say that the “wrong” man won here based on who should’ve had their momentum capitalized on, but that’s the joy of a round robin tournament and not having a single loss lead to an elimination at this stage.
CM Punk & Seth Rollins: First, we got Punk’s best promo since he returned to WWE. Then, we got Rollins to come out and cut a passionate promo on Punk. You could feel the realism in every word Rollins said. Luckily, we didn’t get too much of a rebuttal from Punk, as it would be smart to save that for the future. As of now, this pairing is the betting favorite to be the main event on the first night of WrestleMania 40, and the build is off to a tremendous start already.
Andrade El Idolo vs Brody King: I’ll preface things by saying that I’m a huge fan of Malakai Black, but am I crazy in thinking that the Continental Classic has helped Brody King look like the biggest star in the House Of Black? Win or lose, he looks like an absolute superstar in his tournament matches, and he already has people talking about a possible split from Black and Buddy Matthews at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Andrade El Idolo vs Claudio Castagnoli: Like Brody King, Andrade is also someone who looks like a million bucks in the Continental Classic. It comes as a time when the rumor mill was working overtime with him, with different reports saying that he not only wanted to leave AEW when his contract expires at some point in 2024, but that he wanted to make a return to WWE to be able to travel with his wife, Charlotte Flair. All we can do now is enjoy his performances, even if they might be part of the last stretch that he has with AEW.
“Hangman” Adam Page vs Roderick Strong: There’s no way Roddy wins the Continental Classic, but it would be great to see him rewarded for the work he has been putting in recently. He continues to find a great balance of comedic character work and really good in-ring work. There aren’t many people on the AEW roster that are more consistently entertaining these days.
Mark Briscoe & FTR vs Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley & Claudio Castagnoli: As I say all the time, this style of wrestling isn’t for everyone. Hell, it isn’t for me if an entire show is full of matches like it. As a tribute to the late, great Jay Briscoe, though, this worked really well. It was exactly the type of match Jay would’ve shined in, and all six men involved busted their asses.
Dragon Lee vs Tyler Bate: There continues to be some sort of weird cap on Dragon Lee’s matches when it comes to time. It seems they all run at about the exact same length, like he is told that he needs X amount of minutes to show the world what he can do, but that anything more will wear out whatever welcome he has. He continues to look good in his matches. I’m just interested to see if the company loosens the reigns a bit.
AJ Styles: He made his return after a kayfabe injury put him on the shelf for three months, and it looks like he spent that entire three-month window working out and chugging protein shakes. The man is JACKED, similar to how Randy Orton returned with a noticeable difference in muscle mass than we’re used to seeing from him. AJ returned as a face, then seemingly turned heel mere moments later, attacking LA Knight. It was Knight that ended up replacing Styles as John Cena’s tag partner in a match at Fastlane against Solo Sikoa and Jey Uso, so expect that to be brought up and used somehow. Either way, I’m glad to see AJ back.
Cody Rhodes vs Shinsuke Nakamura: The match was really good, but it was clearly used to set up another match between them in the future. In this instance, not only does it make sense, but it’s welcomed. The build has been entertaining, and the video packages for Nakamura have all been really well done. Yes, it’s just going to end up being another major feud that Nakamura is on the losing end of, but at least the journey reaching that destination will be an enjoyable one.
Penta El Zero Miedo, El Hijo Del Vikingo & Komander vs Dante Martin, Darius Martin & Action Andretti: If you open your third eye and really focus, I’m pretty sure you can still see these guys flying around to this day. As expected, it was a non-stop action, and AEW continues to excel at putting these types of matches together on a regular basis.
El Hijo Del Vikingo vs Black Taurus: Another ridiculously fun Lucha match, albeit with a wrestler in Taurus that is juuuuust a bit different than Vikingo’s opponents in the match from the last entry. I would say that I’d love to see Taurus get an AEW contract, but the last thing the company needs right now is to bring in even more talent on a roster that already has DOZENS of names who don’t have the opportunities for steady appearances on television.
Komander vs Dalton Castle vs Kyle Fletcher vs Bryan Keith vs Lee Moriarty vs Lee Johnson: It was a pretty weird lineup of wrestlers, but the match really worked, anyway. Things seemed to pick up the longer the match went, and it allowed for multiple names to come out looking great. Fletcher, of course, looks impressive, winning the match and becoming the new RoH Television Champion. Moriarty showed that he absolutely deserves to be used more, and in bigger situations. Komander always looks like he’s capable of defying everything we’ve ever learned about gravity. Keith showed why he is one of the most popular names on the independent scene and is more than worthy of being a star on a much bigger stage. Lots to like here.
Orange Cassidy vs Bryan Keith: Oh, hey, another entry for Bryan Keith, who continues to build buzz and momentum, having people calling for AEW to sign him to a full-time deal. As I said in the previous entry, he is worthy of being a star on a stage like AEW. However, as I said in the entry before that, the last thing AEW needs right now is to keep adding names to their already bloated roster. Quite the conundrum.
This Week’s Playlist: “Mr. McAdams” by Lil Dicky… “Separate Ways” by Exit Eden… “Where Do We Stand?” by CANTERVICE… “Doomsday” by CANTERVICE… “When Doves Cry” by Nonpoint… “Bullet With A Name” by Nonpoint… “I’m A Playa” by Tech N9ne… “Took Her To The O” by King Von… “Let It Snow” by Boyz 2 Men & Brian McKnight… “When I’m Gone” by 3 Doors Down… “Here Without You” by 3 Doors Down… “Here By Me” by 3 Doors Down… “life waster” by CORPSE… “Ohio Is For Lovers” by Hawthorne Heights… “It Would Take A Strong Strong Man” by Rick Astley… “She Don’t Love Nobody” by Chaka Demus & Pliers… “Country Grammar (Hot Shit)” by Nelly… “E.I.” by Nelly… “Tho Dem Wraps” by Nelly… “Luven Me” by Nelly… “Adrenaline Rush” by Twista & Buk… “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” by Pete Rock & CL Smooth… “Teenage Love” by Slick Rick… “Off The Books” by The Beatnuts, Big Pun & Cuban Link… “Break Ya Neck” by Busta Rhymes