by Victor Parenza (@ParenzaBooks)
A huge smile came across my faced when I opened up WWE.com. A picture of Nigel McGuinness being announced as cohost of the new UK Championship tournament was right there for the whole world to see. I’m sure anyone reading this is well aware of McGuinness, so I don’t need to list his credentials. But I will point out that he was one of my all-time favorites in the squared circle.
Since Nigel retired in 2011, I was convinced that he was the best wrestler of his generation to never be employed by WWE in some form or fashion. Now, if for only two shows, he gets to have his name taken of that list. And I couldn’t be happier for him. I mean look at this ringing endorsement from WWE.com:
Widely considered to be one of the greatest competitors to never have a major run in WWE, McGuinness was a contemporary of Superstars like Daniel Bryan, Cesaro and Samoa Joe, and shared the same global path through the wrestling world as those men. A swaggering London native with peroxide hair and a Johnny Rotten attitude, McGuinness entered the ring to a blistering Oasis anthem and attacked his opponents with the recklessness of a soccer hooligan after a losing game. His series of bouts against Bryan in the mid-2000s were so unrelentingly physical that you watch them and wonder why the cops didn’t intervene mid-match.
Outside of his in-ring physicality, McGuinness also possessed great intelligence and ring acumen, which he used to his benefit in retirement as he transitioned to the announce booth. He’ll bring those skills to the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament on January 14 & 15, 2017, live on WWE Network, and the WWE Universe will finally be introduced to one of England’s — and sports-entertainment’s — greats.
In the words of Nigel himself, “cheers mate!”
With this outstanding news, it nailed home a point I was already thinking about. How awesome is WWE’s roster right now? Seriously it’s as close to a dream roster for me personally that could possibly happen.
If you were to ask me a few years back to name some of my favorite wrestlers from non-WWE companies, it would look something like this:
TNA: AJ Styles, Austin Aries
ROH: Roderick Strong, El Generico
Japan: KENTA, Akira Tozawa
All six of those guys are now in WWE! I also really like Kota Ibushi. Hey guess what? He stole the show in the CWC, and remains on good terms with WWE. Hell even Tajiri is coming back full-time, and he’s a guy I loved since I saw him 15 years ago. Internet rumors are even speculating Chris Hero is making a WWE return. Wow. Just wow.
Now if you want to nitpick, Bryan and Punk would round out this amazing roster. They were the ones that made this all possible. But are we really going to complain when the company’s two main champions are Kevin Steen and AJ Styles? In the words of Steve Austin, “OH HELL NO!”
And with all this talent, we have consistently great wrestling matches. Sure Raw can be absolutely brutal at times, but every PPV has more or less delivered the entire year of 2016. There have been a couple that have been somewhat weak, but when compared to late ’14 and most of ’15, it is light-years ahead. (Which is made even more impressive considering that there is now a PPV roughly every two weeks since the brand split.) Royal Rumble ’15 is one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen. If you take out the triple threat title match, it is easily the worst show of the decade. With this current roster I don’t think that is possible to sink that low again. (Unless of course they put all the belts on Roman…. Hold that thought.) And I haven’t even mentioned the NXT shows. The NXT Takeovers this year have been incredible. Every show has had at least one match of the year candidate in my opinion. (More on that in the upcoming weeks.) Dallas is one of my favorite wrestling shows ever, period.
I remember last year at this time when the “AJ Styles to WWE” rumors started floating around heavily. Even though his counterpart Samoa Joe had successfully made the transition earlier that year, I still couldn’t believe it. Just two years prior AJ was a free agent, and no attempt to sign him was made. I thought for political reasons that a guy who was truly the heart and soul of TNA could never have a place in WWE. Still I kept scouring the internet. And scouring and scouring. I bet I googled “AJ Styles” at least five times a day from late December until the Royal Rumble. I wasn’t going to believe it until I saw it, but damn I wanted to believe it. The day before the Rumble I remembering reading that Austin Aries made his NXT debut. Wow that was a pretty good consolation prize if AJ didn’t show up. (Remember he was one of the two TNA guys I wanted to see in WWE!)
When the clock for entrant three in the 2016 Rumble wore down, I was anxious. Could he really be there? When will he come out? After an uncomfortable amount of time staring at Roman Reigns’ face (like we hadn’t seen enough of it already) there he was. My daughters were sleeping so I couldn’t scream, but you bet your ass I was pumping my fists. I’m sure you could have made a viral video of my reaction, like they did for so many others. If I really sit and think about it, it may be my favorite moment in wrestling history. And I’m not ashamed to tell you I had a tear in my eye as he made his way to the ring, all the while the Orlando crowd went bananas. Little did I know, this would open the floodgates for 2016 WWE to accumulate the greatest roster in recent memory.
I recently just had my 31st birthday along with Christmas. I have a lot to be thankful for. But since this is a wrestling site, I’m going to keep it wrestling related. Be thankful for WWE housing all this great talent. It’s creating and will create dream matches that we may not have seen otherwise. If you have the Network, you can so easily access your favorite grapplers that may have once required you to buy a DVD or search YouTube for a video that may or may not have been taken down due to copyright issues. And don’t feed me the “WWE is killing the indies” nonsense. WWE is going out of their way to promote the bigger groups. And any talent that signs with WWE will be replaced by a new guy that you may end up liking even more than the original. There is no shortage of wrestlers I promise you.
In the most heartbreaking moment of the year, Daniel Bryan left us with the phrase “grateful.” And like so many others, I’m going to copy him and leave you with “thankful.” Don’t let a few shitty Raws or Smackdowns (but probably Raws) get in the way of the big picture. (I will have to remind myself of this repeatedly when Roman is a double champion) Enjoy these talented guys and gals getting a chance that 5-10 years ago wouldn’t have happened in a million years. Be thankful.