Pro wrestling, at its most simplistic core, is all about one thing.
Wrestlers are putting their minds, bodies, and souls into everything they do in an effort to get emotion out of us, the fans. I’m talking about all wrestlers, too. The rookies having their first match in an elementary school gym down the road from your house. The stars that have transcended the wrestling business and have been on the biggest stages imaginable. All of them.
All of us has had our fair share of moments as a wrestling fan when our emotions poured out of us. We’ve laughed at funny promos, cried when wrestlers lost their lives far too soon, felt proud when our favorite independent names signed to a “big time” company, and just about everything in between. The most fun we can have as wrestling fans is when we’re invested in something, truly entertained and free to be taken on a ride with our emotions.
What about the other side of this particular coin, though?
Longtime readers of mine know that one of my favorite things in wrestling is when the wrestlers themselves are able to showcase real emotions. I’m talking about those feelings that aren’t able to be held back or defined by what side of the heel/face fence they’re on.
The best example I have of that last point is Edge at the Unforgiven pay-per-view in 2006. This was the show where he defended the WWE Title against John Cena in a TLC Match at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The match itself was great, but the thing I remember most about it, almost 17 years later, is how Edge was during the pre-match introductions. As Lilian Garcia is introducing Edge, she says that he is from Toronto, and you can see that he’s getting emotional. Tears are welling up in his eyes and his lip is quivering, even though he’s biting it and trying to hide it. We would eventually come to find out that the pre-match introduction at Unforgiven 2006 saw Adam Copeland live out a lifelong dream. He said that one of his biggest dreams growing up was to get introduced in his hometown as the WWF Champion one day. There he was, all grown up, in his hometown and being introduced as the WWE Champion. It was such a cool thing to witness, and even cooler once the story behind his emotion was revealed.
I love that kind of thing.
Edge is actually responsible for another one of my favorite “real emotion” moments in pro wrestling history. When he returned at the 2020 Royal Rumble, fans all over the world exploded with joy, excitement, and happiness. Not just for Edge, but for the man behind the character, as well. His story has been told a million times. We watched him as he was forced to retire from in-ring competition in 2011 due to spinal stenosis, and nobody ever expected to see him wrestle again, especially with all those years having gone by. When his music hit at the 2020 Rumble, it was such a memorable moment. However, as much as we were overwhelmed with emotions at that minute, nobody was as overwhelmed as he was. I will never, ever forget the look on his face when he stepped out from the smoke and the fog during his entrance. He was completely wide-eyed, almost as if he was in shock, still trying to process the fact that this moment was real and was actually happening. After taking a few moments to gaze out into the sea of humanity in Minute Maid Park, he snapped out of his “trance” and went from being Adam Copeland to Edge again.
I was browsing through some clips on YouTube last night, and I stumbled across another one of my favorite examples of wrestlers showing real emotions. Back in 2018, Roman Reigns shocked the wrestling world by revealing that he had to step away from the sport because of a returning bout with leukemia. When he made his announcement, you could hear the wind get sucked out of the room. After his speech, he was walking back up the ramp, and that’s when Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, his brothers in The Shield, made their way out. As soon as he saw them, he dropped his head and the waterworks began. Rollins was already sobbing, and Ambrose looked stunned. Their embrace at the top of the ramp was a special moment, albeit one that wasn’t under the best of circumstances.
Another time that you’ll see wrestlers with tears in their eyes is when they win titles. Some people find it silly because all of this wrestling stuff is predetermined, but I hate that line of thinking. As I mentioned with Edge, we’re still talking about some people who are living out lifelong dreams. Even wrestlers who didn’t necessarily grow up as wrestling fans are seeing their time and hard work pay off with championship victories. Chris Benoit winning the World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania 20. Eddie Guerrero winning the WWE Title at No Way Out 2004. Shawn Michaels winning the WWF Title at WrestleMania 12. Daniel Bryan winning the WWE Title at WrestleMania 30. Christian winning the World Heavyweight Title at Extreme Rules 2011. Kofi Kingston winning the WWE Title at WrestleMania 35. Terry Funk winning the ECW Title at Barely Legal 1997. Rey Mysterio winning the World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania 22. The list goes on and on and on and on and on, but tears were shed by the wrestlers and fans alike with all of those moments.
When “emotion” comes up in these types of discussions, it’s almost always about what I’ve already mentioned… tears, either of sadness or of joy. What about other emotions? How about wrestlers breaking character and letting out laughs? I was recently watching Chris Van Vliet interviewing Santino Marella, and they discussed Santino getting John Cena to laugh during a backstage promo. All it took was pronouncing John’s last name as “Chay-na” for Cena to let that one laugh slip out before he caught himself. I’m a big “blooper” guy. I enjoy watching compilations of bloopers from various television shows and movies through the years, but I also love seeing them happen in the wonderful world of pro wrestling. A favorite “character breaking” moment of mine also involved Santino, and that was on an episode of Monday Night Raw in 2010. Raw was taking place in England, so Santino and Vladimir Kozlov decided to invite Sheamus to a tea party in an attempt to “make peace” after pissing off Beaker’s kin in the weeks prior. After several accidental jokes about Sheamus’ hair and skin pigmentation, you could see that the Celtic Warrior was hanging on for dear life trying not to laugh.
When it comes to my favorite moments of comedic “character breaking” in wrestling history, most of them are probably what you would immediately think of. Sami Zayn creating the term “ucey” and making every Samoan within a five-mile radius laugh was an all-time classic segment. So was R-Truth getting Brock Lesnar to laugh during a segment on Raw in 2020. Another one of my favorites is a backstage segment with Matt Riddle and MVP from November 2020. Riddle is pitching all sorts of money-making ideas (pizza-flavored yogurt, protein powder packed yogurt called Brogurt, etc.) and trying to get financial investments. After his pitches, MVP makes sure to tell Riddle that they aren’t “bros” and Riddle responds with the saddest sounding “awww” you’ve ever heard in your life. MVP fights off a laugh, then tries to get back on track, only to seemingly forget his line before finding it again a moment later.
Then, of course, there’s another strong emotion that we’ve all seen in wrestling. Anger. Maybe you’ve seen it when a match goes from a total work to a complete shoot because someone got pissed off. Act Yasukawa vs Yoshiko at a Stardom show in 2015. Perry Saturn vs Mike Bell on WWF Metal in 2001. Goldberg vs Steven (aka William) Regal on WCW Nitro in 1998. New Jack vs Gypsy Joe at an independent show in 2003. There have been so many work-turned-shoot incidents throughout wrestling history, but honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened more often, especially back when drugs, steroids, and alcohol were a bigger part of the business.
Sometimes, anger and frustration bubble to the surface, but everything stops just short of breaking out in a full-fledged shoot. A famous example of that is Randy Orton repeatedly screaming at Kofi Kingston and calling him “stupid” on an episode of Raw in 2010. As the story goes, Kofi botched the ending of the match, forgetting that the match was supposed to end with a Punt Kick, and he kept getting up whenever Orton would knock him down. Eventually, Orton would change it up and finally hit him with an RKO before unleashing his verbal tirade.
There is nothing like this wonderful sport we love so much when it’s done right. That’s why this entire storyline with The Bloodline has been so well received. That’s why AEW has struck gold with CM Punk vs MJF, CM Punk vs Eddie Kingston, “Hangman” Adam Page vs Jon Moxley, and numerous other feuds. We’re seeing promos, segments, matches, and moments that are zeroing in on particular emotions and feelings that we have inside of us, and they’re excelling at getting us to react. Every single week, we’re able to turn our televisions on and cry, laugh, get angry, feel relieved, cheer, boo, and anything else you can think of. Sometimes, if we’re really lucky, we’ll get to do all of it.
Your turn, folks. I want to know your favorite moments of emotion in wrestling history. Wrestlers crying, wrestlers getting pissed off, wrestlers breaking character to laugh, and everything in between. While we’re at it, what moments made those emotions come out of you? This is a safe space. Don’t be afraid of admitting that wrestling has made you cry or legitimately made you angry. We’ve all been there. As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
The House Of Black vs Jericho Appreciation Society vs The Elite: The in-ring portion of the match was expectedly incredible. These Trios matches in AEW continue to hit the mark time and time again, but this time, a third team was added to the mix, making things even more exciting. The crowd in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada was molten hot for everything, but especially for their two favorite sons, Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho. So much fun here.
Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens: We knew it was coming. We’ve known it was coming for weeks and weeks now. With that said, it finally happened, and it was still every bit as good as we hoped it would be. I’m so glad that this was stretched out over a few weeks. Again, we all knew it was coming, and WWE knew that we all knew it was coming. They could’ve given this to us weeks ago, and it would’ve been fine. There’s something to be said about not always needing to rush things, though.
Kenny Omega vs El Hijo del Vikingo Being Announced: Holy shit. If you’ve never seen El Hijo del Vikingo wrestle, you need to understand that he regularly does things in his matches that shouldn’t be physically possible for a human being to do. He will be making his AEW debut on this week’s episode of Dynamite, facing a man that many feel is the best in-ring performer in the wrestling business today. These two were supposed to have a match for the Lucha Libre AAA promotion in 2021, but it was shelved when Omega needed to take time off due to a bevy of injuries. If they are given a good amount of time to work with… and based on everything we’ve seen in AEW, there’s no reason to think that they won’t… this has “Match Of The Year candidate” written all over it. Argue amongst yourselves about whether or not AEW should be “introducing” new wrestlers to the audience, though. I’ve done a column on that topic already.
Powerhouse Hobbs vs Rey Fenix: There are a lot of fans who aren’t really feeling this new pairing between Hobbs and QT Marshall. Like it or not, it came out of nowhere, and Marshall was already a very polarizing figure in AEW. That puts more pressure on Hobbs to go out there and deliver during his matches. So far, so good. This was such a good “power vs speed” matchup, with both men getting to look great, no matter the outcome.
Taya Valkyrie: If there was one thing you could really complain about when it comes to how AEW has been booking Jade Cargill, it’s the level of her opponents. Almost exclusively, they were too small, not that impressive in the ring (a problem considering that Jade is still learning the sport), or some combination of both. That’s where Taya Valkyrie can potentially change everything. She isn’t going to be physically intimidated by the TBS Champion’s size, and she is more than capable of putting on some entertaining performances in the ring. People have been calling for Kris Statlander (myself being one of them) to be the one who eventually dethrones the champion, but if we’re being honest, Taya is a great choice for that, as well, especially if Stat isn’t going to be ready for a return to the ring at any point in the near future.
Rey & Dominik Mysterio’s Promo Battle: Hey, more emotion! Even though this was clearly not an actual shoot promo, what made it work was that it was a shoot promo, if you catch what I’m saying. Wrestlers from Rey’s generation and before that have spent so much time on the road that they really have been absentee parents for years. They have missed birthdays and sporting events and graduations and proms and holidays and so on. Their kids have had to deal with mom or dad not being there for many of the biggest and most important events of their childhood. There was A LOT of truth in what both Rey and Dom were saying here, and you could feel that as they were speaking to each other. Like I said with Zayn and Owens, I’m really glad that WWE is drawing this out. Live crowds are eagerly anticipating the moment when Rey has finally had enough and punches his son in the mouth, which is a strange sentence to type out. When Rey finally does it, that’s going to get a major pop.
Forbidden Door 2 Being Announced: It wasn’t exactly a secret that Forbidden Door 2 was going to happen at some point, but we’ve finally received official confirmation. June 25th. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. AEW and New Japan Pro Wrestling team up once again to deliver what should be a fantastic night of wrestling. Start getting your fantasy booking goggles ready to go. I’ll put my goggles on real quick and say, for the millionth time, that I need to see Bryan Danielson vs Kazuchika Okada at some point in my life.
Cody Rhodes: Another week, another great promo from Cody. He is on fire right now, and he’s completely tapped in to what the WWE Universe wants and needs. He’s building momentum at the perfect time, and his involvement in the Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens story has been fun, too.
Kevin Owens vs Solo Sikoa: These two had a physical wrestling match the last time they faced off. Putting them in a Street Fight this time around was a really good idea, as they got to be even more physical. It will also be remembered as the match that helped Kevin Owens finally realize that he isn’t going to be able to take The Bloodline down all by himself, advancing the storyline to the next logical level.
Orange Cassidy vs Jeff Jarrett: Another week where Orange Cassidy had a good match. Another week where his title, no matter what name it has, still doesn’t mean anything. Let’s just copy and paste that every week.
Drew McIntyre vs Sheamus: These two are going to beat the shit out of each other whenever they face off, and that’s what we got here. Having them compete for an Intercontinental Title shot at WrestleMania only made them bring it even more. We figured it wouldn’t get a clean ending, which would give us the rumored Triple Threat Match at WrestleMania, but I’m just not a fan with how they made it happen. Far too often, we’ll see this exact scenario play out in wrestling. Face Wrestler A and Face Wrestler B are facing each other for a shot at Heel Wrestler A’s title. Heel Wrestler A interferes in the match, thinking that both Face Wrestler A and Face Wrestler B will head to the back of the line because neither of them won the match. Face Authority Figure A then says Heel Wrestler A now has to defend their title against both Face Wrestler A and Face Wrestler B. Heel Wrestler A’s mind is blown. This does nothing but make Heel Wrestler A look like an idiot every single time. Please stop doing this, wrestling promotions.
“Hangman” Adam Page, Evil Uno & Stu Grayson vs Blackpool Combat Club: The match was good. I don’t have any complaints there. It’s just everything else that I’m not a fan of. There was a brief period after Brodie Lee passed away that The Dark Order could’ve been made to look like something special on television. That period came and went, and eventually, people weren’t given any reason to care about the group. The fact that they’re still around, even with a much smaller roster, is amazing. On top of that, there is ZERO reason for Adam Page and Jon Moxley to still be facing each other, no matter the scenario. Their match at Revolution should’ve been the last time they crossed paths for a long time. This was good, but completely unnecessary on a lot of levels.
The Great Muta: He was rumored to be entering the WWE Hall Of Fame this year, but it’s official now. That’s great. He remains one of the most influential wrestlers that the business has ever seen, as well as one of the most successful wrestlers in the history of puroresu.
Charlotte Flair & Rhea Ripley: While I don’t have many doubts that their match is going to end up being good, I haven’t exactly been a huge fan of the build for the match… until this. They needed some physicality, and that’s what we got on Smackdown. A good pull apart brawl that saw both women looking strong.
Johnny Gargano & Dexter Lumis vs Damian Priest & Dominik Mysterio: I wasn’t expecting a ton out of this match, but it ended up being pretty good. Lumis had his working boots on here, delivering the best performance of his WWE/NXT career. He really impressed me here. Do I want to see him winning titles and tournaments now? No. It was a good start, though, showing that he could be more than one-dimensional should WWE want him to be.
Brody King vs Daniel Garcia: I was a fan of Brody King’s work before he joined AEW, but damn, he has looked so good with the company. He is someone that has everything, from the look to the promos to the in-ring skills, to become a major singles star in AEW one day. Right now, he is the perfect piece in The House Of Black, and is doing great work there. This was another good performance for him.
Santos Escobar & Zelina Vega vs Dominik Mysterio & Rhea Ripley: I would really like to see Santos Escobar receive a push on Smackdown. In this instance, I get why his team needed to take the loss, with Rhea Ripley needing to look strong ahead of her big WrestleMania match. At least Escobar got to look strong here. Even Zelina Vega, the “weakest” link in the match, had her best match since she faced Asuka for the Raw Women’s Title at Clash Of Champions 2020. I could’ve used a few more minutes of this one, as a matter of fact.
Apollo Crews vs Dabba Kato: I continue to be baffled by how Apollo Crews has been booked since signing a WWE contract at the very end of 2014. He loses a lot. Now, as we know, someone has to lose matches, and some wrestlers lose far more often than they win. That’s fine. However, there is such a huge disconnect between Apollo’s win/loss record and the way he is praised and talked about on commentary. Let’s use someone like Elias for example. If he loses, even if it’s in a competitive match that he looks good in, he doesn’t get praised up and down on commentary, even if he’s a face. You haven’t seen an Apollo Crews match in the last eight years that didn’t see someone on commentary praising him as a “blue chip” talent, raving about his world class combination of size, speed, strength, and athletic ability. There are main event wrestlers who don’t get the levels of praise Apollo gets. I just find it strange that the company seems to go out of his way to make sure we, the viewers, know how great Apollo Crews is, only for them to show us that, by having him lose, he apparently isn’t as good as anyone he’s facing. He hasn’t won a televised singles match in over four months. It has been a full calendar year since he wrestled on television as a main roster talent. The last time he won a televised singles match on the main roster was June 4th, 2021. He keeps having good matches in NXT, even against someone like Dabba Kato, who doesn’t exactly have a track record of anything memorable in the ring, but it hasn’t led anywhere. I just don’t get it.
WWE Having Big Shows Around The World: Whether we like the relationship or not, WWE has had several major shows in Saudi Arabia over the last few years. 2018’s Super Showdown event took place in Australia. They went to Wales for last year’s Clash At The Castle show. They’ve already announced that this year’s edition of Money In The Bank will take place in England. Now, they revealed that Backlash, the next pay-per-view after WrestleMania, will take place in Puerto Rico, as will the go-home episode of Smackdown before it. I dig it. It’s fun to see big shows taking place in new venues in new (or at least fresh) destinations, and it will be interesting to see if that continues on. It will also be interesting to see if AEW can continue to expand. They’ve been doing more shows in different parts of the United States, and now seem to be working on a great relationship with Canada, so it might only be a matter of time before they’re branching out beyond North America, too.
Gallus vs Pretty Deadly: Gallus hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with their reign as NXT Tag Team Champions. To be fair to them, it’s not their fault. They won the titles six weeks ago, and have wrestled on television twice since then, with this match being the second one. Pretty Deadly has been doing such an entertaining job as heels that they’re starting to get more and more face pops, and everyone seemed pretty sure they were going to win the titles back here. They didn’t, and now, the speculation of a main roster jump is getting out of control. I like Gallus, and I would like to see them do more on NXT programming. Perhaps they’ll get the chance now.
This Week’s Playlist: “Forget Me” by Lewis Capaldi… “A Change Is Gonna Come” by T-Pain… “Sharing The Night Together” by T-Pain… “Skeletons” by Pop Evil… “Watch Me Burn” by Atreyu… “Medusa (Stone)” by Theory Of A Deadman… “Hate Me Too” by From Ashes To New… “Begin Again” by Bury Tomorrow… “Deadwood” by Sylosis… “Virtue and Regret” by In Fear… “Sakura” by Nobody Has Heart… “Out There” by Project Pat… “Whatever Ho” by Project Pat & Hypnotize Camp Posse… “Up There” by Project Pat & Krayzie Bone… “We’re Gonna Rumble” by Project Pat… “Gold Shine” by Project Pat & Three 6 Mafia… “Stabbers” by Project Pat & Crucial Conflict… “Cheese and Dope” by Project Pat… “Don’t Save Her” by Project Pat & Crunchy Black… “Gorilla Pimp” by Project Pat & Namond Lumpkin… “Break Da Law 2001” by Project Pat & Three 6 Mafia… “Fuckin’ With The Best” by Project Pat & Hypnotize Camp Posse… “Still Ridin’ Clean” by Project Pat & Juicy J… “Choose U” by Project Pat… “Don’t Turn Around” by Project Pat… “Tell Tell Tell (Stop Snitchin’)” by Project Pat, Young Jeezy, Lyfe Jennings & Mr. Bigg… “Crack A Head” by Project Pat… “Good Googly Moogly” by Project Pat & Three 6 Mafia… “Be A G (Remix)” by Project Pat, Juicy J & Doe B… “CheezNDope” by Project Pat, Young Dolph & Key Glock