Interesting to re-read this from six months ago and see how appalled I was with WWE/McMahon booking at the time. While I stand by all of it, and do think their approach to wrestling is kinda scorching the earth for everyone else, I am happy that I started the Viaje del Parties thread and set out to watch a bunch of stuff that isn’t just RAW. Because yes, RAW continues to suck, but RAW is so not the world. There is way more fun, unique, worthwhile stuff to watch every week. I’m much more positive about wrestling now than I was in that first week of 2016, because even my hunt-and-peck approach has caused me to see a good variety of companies, catch lots of new workers for the first time, and enjoy the ongoing footage revolution more proactively. In ten years time, 2016 would (will?) make for a perfectly solid Yearbook, with gems all over the world. The twists and turns of who’s working where alone have made 2016 a compelling year, and those shifts have produced some fantastic matches.
We had that other thread where we made 2016 predictions at the start of the year. Did anyone guess that in the first half we’d have Styles and Nakamura come to WWE and shake up everything, a new brand split causing a sudden raid of the indies complete with WWE putting on a fully blown international cruiserweight tournament, the WWE-EVOLVE union, Panteras vs. Navarros, the renaissances of Samoa Joe and Shibata, “Das Wunderkind” Matt Riddle, Anderson and Gallows going from being my least favorite team to one of the best, Galloway’s continued rise as wrestling’s Jon Stark, WOTY contenders Chris Hero and Hechicero, numerous MOTYC from CMLL, Naito inexplicably becoming a fun heel with a great faction, Lucha Underground improving, and a very intriguing crop of young/new guys (Yehi, Tracy Williams, Lio Rush, Darby Allin, the sons of Blue Panther and Felino, Team Tremendous, etc)?
Because the death of kayfabe was mentioned: I truly don’t understand why more companies/workers don’t work harder at preserving it. There seems to be this “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle” idea that justifies even guys in EVOLVE and Lucha Underground doing a bunch of nudge-nudge fourth wall breaking idiocy that would have gotten Russo fired again from TNA. Workers seem so afraid right now to look dumber than the fans, without understanding that if you’re a compelling character, no one’s going to join in with the one mark in the third row making fun of your vest and chanting “You fucked up.” You could maintain kayfabe today with Bill Watts-level scrutiny, yet still do genuinely funny comedy and remain entirely sports-minded, as evidenced by pretty much every wrestling company pre-1991. Re: all that, one thing I still stand behind six months later is that fans would love a company booked like mid-to-late 80s WWF right now. Especially if you had better workers. On a good day, that’s kind of what NXT is, but not often. You’d need better skits, more non-wrestling entities, more character. I’ve said as much during the GWE polling, but I think even with work-class technicians and other straight-laced workers, we underestimate how much persona and character play into what we consider a “great match”.