The title says it all.
As passionate fans of something as vast as pro wrestling, we have the habit of getting frustrated and angry on many occasions when things don’t go just the way they think they should. Maybe I shouldn’t say “we”, as in all fans. Most fans – hell, I know I do. I’ve found myself on many occasions angrily tweeting about a dumb ending to a pay-per-view, or bitching about the result of a match, or just groaning about a lackluster episode of weekly television. It happens. Because sometimes, wrestling can be annoying, frustrating, and kind of stupid.
But it can also be good. It can be so, SO good, and when it is, we’re reminded why we are wrestling fans in the first place.
This weekend was one of those for me. It wasn’t quite at the level that Royal Rumble 2016 was for me, but it was pretty high up there. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the third tapings – the quarter-finals – of the Cruiserweight Classic on Friday, and then a live NXT show on Saturday. It was a stacked weekend of wrestling shows, just how I like it.
I’m not going to go into spoilers for the CWC, just in case you don’t want to read those before the shows air, but let me tell you this – I have never seen live wrestling quite like I have seen at these CWC shows. The talent is on another level. Last month, when I went to the second round tapings and saw matches like Ibushi vs Alexander, or Gargano vs Perkins, or Kendrick vs Nese, I was absolutely floored. And the first round, watching something like Ciampa vs Gargano and the two of them practically murder one another…it’s so strange that something so brutal could also be seen as an art form, but it seriously is. When I watched the second round of tapings, I said to my friends, this is the best live wrestling I’ve ever witnessed. I didn’t think it could happen again, and yet, it did. We only saw four matches for the actual show, but we saw dark matches in between with guys that had been eliminated already, like Nese and Davari and Alexander, and some NXT talent like Hideo Itami and Oney Lorcan, and though they weren’t taped, it was still some absolutely incredible wrestling. I was screaming, jumping, smacking my friends. At one point, I stood on my seat with my hands on my head shouting, “is this a work or a shoot, I don’t know what to believe anymore?!”
Wrestling. Is. Fucking. Awesome.
After coming home from Orlando, I knew that Saturday night would be more low-key, but still fun. You see, the last few months that the NXT armory tours have come to Jacksonville, we have had the lower card, while the higher level NXT talent went on the bigger tours across the country. It wasn’t that bad, though. We would get a few bigger names while getting to see what would be the future of the NXT brand, people that would probably be the stars in a years time. To me, that was cool. The Sasha Banks’ and Bayley’s and Sami Zayn’s and Enzo and Cass’ had to start somewhere, right? Plus, with the influx of indie talent that the WWE was bringing in for their “developmental” brand, even though the more casual fans didn’t know their names, we were still getting to see some top tier talent in an armory that holds less than four hundred people.
This Saturday, though, we were in for a treat. A glorious, glorious treat. Because one match after another was something special. We watched an already established indie darling in Rich Swann wow the crowd by being one of the most over guys that night, and a guy like Steve Cutler really show his heel chops to the crowd. Daria Berenato, of Tough Enough fame, showed us once again that she’s a future star, and Billie Kay reaffirmed that she is about to be one. And then, in the pop of the night, we got an Asuka run in, and adorable promo by the Women’s Champion. One by one, the matches got better. An Olympian from Brazil was in a tag team against two fantastic heels in Wolfe and Fulton – the latter of which is my mortal enemy, and I will fight with every single time he’s there, it’s fantastic – and we got to see an incredible match between Oney Lorcan (two times this weekend!) and Andrade “Cien” Almas, who showed some character by playing the heel. One of the biggest highlights and treats of the show was getting to see the (two time!) Tag Team Champions, The Revival, against the team newly known as #DIY, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. It was no Takeover: Brooklyn II, but it was great.
And when I tell you that the crowd lost it’s ever loving mind as the opening chords of “Glorious Domination” played, that is an understatement, because I never heard Jacksonville quite like that, and we’re always a very vocal crowd. The first two minutes of the match was mostly two guys teasing the crowd by taking their robe/vests off, and we ate it up. Bobby Roode is a glorious son of a bitch, but to his credit, Riddick Moss (who was his opponent for the night) is a fantastic heel. The second women’s match of the night was Ember Moon vs Nikki Glencross, and I think that was the second or third time that night I turned to my friends and said, “this is going to be an amazing match”. We had a promo from a recent signee in Macey Estrella, who blew me away with her promo skills and solidified that she will soon be a force to be reckoned with in the women’s division, and finally, the main event, which was something else. Austin Aries vs Hideo Itami. It wasn’t Shinsuke Nakamura like we were hoping, but it was still an awesome main event. Getting to see the GTS for the second night in a row was something special. I am not worthy.
Oh, and I almost forgot. By the miracle that is the NXT gods, I was chosen as Fan of the Night for totally overusing the #NXTJacksonville hashtag on Twitter with my photos and commentary, and though I was joking that last night was my night, I definitely didn’t expect it. But Charly Carusso – and getting my last name pronunciation right! – called my name, and it was so flipping cool. I received an NXT bag, hat, and a signed seat cushion, as well as two general admission tickets to the next show, AND I got the chance to meet Ciampa and Gargano. THAT was surreal, because what I love when I get a chance to meet the wrestlers is a chance to say a few things to them, really let them know that I’m a fan, that I love what they’re doing, whatever I can think of off the top of my head without sounding really creepy (and I do not always succeed) or like an idiot (that happens, sometimes). So I told the guys that their CWC match was incredible and that their match at Brooklyn was my favorite of the year, and they really seemed to appreciate that. They were super nice guys, so I wish them all of the best and all of the belts in their future.
Getting to share those moments with the wrestlers, and not feeling like they’re completely untouchable and we’ll never be able to meet or talk to them, is really cool. NXT is awesome with that, by doing meet and greets before the smaller shows. We’ve gotten to meet a lot of the talents, bigger names and small; just hours before I got to meet #DIY, we also had a chance to chat and take pictures with Daria, Ember, and TM61’s Shane Thorne. They were all really cool, easy to talk to and make jokes with. Shane got a Karate Kid joke Jen made, Ember explained to my sister Judy why she does the pose with the three fingers by her eye, and Daria joked about yelling at cheesecakes with us, being Italian, and also being made out to be the bad guy on Tough Enough. (Also, Shane reminds me that I’m also a red-blooded female fan and I can’t help myself around attractive men with accents…man did I swoon.)
So, long story short, wrestling is GREAT. Weekends like this remind me why I love being a wrestling fan, why I spend so much time watching it and reading about it and talking about it. And it’s not even just the matches and the talent and meeting people. It’s the friends that we hang out with at the shows. It’s sharing something that can be so special with people. It’s getting to experience all of that with the chosen few you’ve decided to be your friends. Wrestling is awesome.
Until next time; wrestling, please don’t change. (Except, for the better, on just a few things, thanks.)