I’m thankful for C.M. Punk. When Punk debuted in WWE, who would’ve ever thought he’d end up reigning as WWE champion for over one consecutive year. Though Punk has always been super talented, it seems like he really hit his stride this year and is doing the best work, in and out of the ring, of his career. His championship reign has bought a level of prestige back to the belt that was desperately lacking for the last few years.
I’m thankful for Paul Heyman. After the way he left WWE in the aftermath of the disastrous December to Dismember PPV in 2006, I never thought I’d see him working in WWE again (except as a talking head on video releases). Therefore, I was as shocked as anyone to see him return to television in the role of an advisor to Brock Lesnar. It was an even bigger shock when he began managing Punk. At first I was curious as to how he would enhance Punk’s character. After all, it’s not like Punk ever needed anyone to do the talking for him. However, within a few weeks of their alliance, it was obvious they were onto something big. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but Heyman brings an entirely new element to Punk and their interaction reminds me of the very best wrestler/manager pairings in history. Heyman was always great, but this latest run has really cemented his legacy for me. He is among the best talkers, managers and creative minds the business has ever seen.
I’m thankful for John Cena. This year, I found myself more drawn to him as an overall performer than any other period I can recall. His feuds against Rock, Lesnar and Punk were captivating and produced some of the most memorable matches of the year. His tireless work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation makes him a class act in my view. Cena is already a living legend and we should all appreciate his contributions to the business as such.
I’m thankful for Hiroshi Tanahashi and the entire New Japan Pro Wrestling promotion. A strong argument can be made that NJPW is the best promotion in the world today. Their top star, current IWGP heavyweight champion Tanahashi, is probably the best all around performer in the business. The guy has it all, the look, the charisma, the incredible working ability, and not just athletically, but his ability to understand when to do what is equal to anyone in wrestling. Other key guys such as Yugi Nagata, Hirooki Goto, Minoru Suzuki, Low Ki, Prince Devitt, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tetsuya Naito and Kazuchika Okada are all excellent performers in their own right. Perhaps the biggest strength of the promotion is that everyone has their own distinct character and working style which makes for a consistently great product.
I’m thankful for Dolph Ziggler. This man is so close to touching the brass ring that I can almost taste it. He has been one of WWE’s most outstanding performers for quite some time and never fails to produce anything less than great television. Whether he’s taking bumps like the second coming of Shawn Michaels and Curt Hennig, or cutting cocky promos that remind us of the late Rick Rude, Ziggler is amazing.
I’m thankful for Kurt Angle. I don’t watch TNA regularly, but the one thing I can always expect to see whenever I tune in or read their latest PPV card coverage is that Angle will just about always be in the best match of any show he’s on. Though it’s debatable as to whether he should still be wrestling, there is no way you can deny his greatness. Only the very elite have been able to compete at such a high level past the age of 40. Of those select few, I don’t think any had the extensive list of injuries as Angle. I’m not sure how much longer his body will be able to hold out, but I’m going to enjoy him for as long as he’s here.
I’m thankful for AJ Lee. Over the past year, this little firecracker has become one of most interesting women to ever compete in WWE. While Trish Stratus was the best women’s wrestler in company history and the late Elizabeth Hulette was better known to a generation of fans, neither had anything on AJ when it came to being such a prominent part of the main event scene. She’s been in high profile angles with Daniel Bryan, Punk and Cena, not to mention her stint as general manager of Raw. AJ is a stark contrast to the silicone-induced blondes that have proliferated WWE over the last decade. More important, she has the geek chic charm that makes her seem like the girl next door.
Last but not least, I’m thankful for Chris Jericho. I’m not sure about the current status of his contract negotiations with WWE, but one thing I do know is that I was very glad to see him return after a year plus hiatus. Jericho’s career is an example I wish more veterans would take after. Having long since accomplished everything he set out to do in a successful 20 year career, he came back with the singular intent to help elevate young talent. He was in one of the better endings ever to a Royal Rumble against Sheamus and then went on to face Punk in two stellar PPV matches. His opener against Ziggler at Summerslam was the best match of the show and in true fashion he lost to him the following night on Raw. In fact, he lost just about every major match he was in. The business will always need people like Jericho. The 6x world champion, 2x winner of the Lou Thesz/Ric Flair Wrestler of the Year award and 2008 Superstar of the Year will always put the needs of the business ahead of his ego. For that reason alone, he will always be one of my favorites.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Feel free to leave feedback at the above address. Have a happy Turkey Day!