December 18, 2018

Q Marshall Blogathon Classic 2018

It feels like it's been a pretty good year for wrestling.

I say that with an casual air, but now as I'm beginning to collect my thoughts on the subject, I'm realizing that it's been an amazing year.  I'm thinking about my favorite matches, my favorite experiences, my favorite characters, and also just some shit that went down which seems significant.  In previous year-end episodes, I've sorted these concerns into "best-of" categories, and who knows, maybe by the end of writing the post, I'll have started doing that, but here at the outset I'm planning on slapping together a freeform list of personal favorites and cultural notables.

That being said, the most pure silly fun I've had all year, wrestling or otherwise, was watching Wrestlemania in Eugene.  With Poncho next to me, and Rusty live on our phones, we were cracking jokes the whole time, and I'm pretty sure I haven't yelled or laughed so much since.  Moments that come to mind: when Nakamura knocked AJ in the nuts, I yelled "take that motherfucker" as loud as I could, over and over and over again, even as I watched the chicken particles in my teeth grossly spray at the screen with each repeated "eff" sound.  Also, when DBD won his tag match or whatever it was, I spilled ass over teakettle backward yelling "Jag Thindh" which made Poncho laugh his ass off.  The live commentary we did over the Rousey debut was a ppv highlight, and of course "Hello, Paige here" has been permanently etched into the membrane of our collective nightmare web.  More than anything, I remember you guys cracking me up consistently throughout the show.  I used to shrug off watching Mania socially, but now I look forward to always being in touch with you guys when it's on, even if it means getting the Network one month per year.

Years ago, I wrote a year-end review which opined that Zack Ryder's YouTube show would have a longer-lasting legacy than CM Punk's pipebomb.  At this point, I wouldn't draw a direct line between 'Z True Hollywood Story' and 'Being the Elite', but neither would I draw a direct line between 'The Art of Wrestling' and a weekly podcast of a fat Alabaman moneylender prodding Tony Schiavonne into making self-deprecating dick jokes for the exact duration of a Monday Night Nitro.  I guess my point is that when it's freshly recognized that someone is doing something groundbreaking, there's no way to tell what's going to come next.  There's been a ton of buzz in that past 6 weeks or so about Cody and the Bucks starting their own promotion with funding from the dude who owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, which is a football team (I had to look it up).  Whether this "promotion" takes the shape of doing seasonal supershows/conventions, or seeking TV distribution, or establishing a touring brand, or some combination, who knows.  Maybe it will all be ashes come February, but with the success of All In, and the proven marketability of its main players (reference: Hot Topic), it doesn't feel like too great a leap of faith to see these guys surpass yet another perceived ceiling of precedence.

There are two great wrestling moments which I'd like to etch in stone this year.  Firstly, the reunion of the Golden Lovers.  It happened in January, and I wouldn't say that it's really paid off, but there was/is such a deep well of potential, along with a rich history to appreciate.  Omega's singles run got in the way (not a bad thing), and Ibushi also had a great singles story this year, setting him up to approach the upmost level of New Japan stardom.  But when they reunited against adversity after a long and troubled schism, it was wildly exciting because not only did they represent a kind of progressively ambiguous duo, which makes them awesome goodguys to me, but they could also be counted on to provide innovative wrestling entertainment in the heavyweight tag division, which is probably the weakest link in the current-day wrestle-scape.  With the rest of their year in focus, now seeing that they only had a handful of tag matches, and didn't even compete in the G1 Tag League, I'm disappointed that they didn't meet the potential I saw in them eleven months ago.  At least together they didn't... individually they each had amazing years... but that moment in January when they hugged... it was perfect.

The second great wrestling moment, and this is somewhat less of a "moment", even though its announcement could be attributed to a specific time and place, but the moment was a long time coming, and then it took a long time to get to where that moment felt rightfully situated, and that is the return to the ring of my favorite wrestler of all-time, Daniel Bryan.  He came back to a forgettable Mania tag match (I think Shane was involved, but I don't remember if they were on the same team or on opposite sides), followed by a prolonged feud with the since-canned Big Cass.  Talk about a lame return.  But with hindsight, it seems fine, because now he's heading into 2019 as the heel champion of Smackdown, his bad-guy temperament being all the more plausible with those preceding months of lackluster programs.  DBD is back on top!

So, while Bryan vs Lesnar might be my favorite WWE match of 2018 (off the top of my head), the rest of my top ten matches are probably all New Japan (with maybe a sprinkle from NXT Takeovers).  And this is indicative of my viewing habits throughout 2018.  Continuing the trend of previous year-end posts, this year's will reflect a further narrowing scope, as now I've even stopped following PWG, I only tuned in for a few of the bigger ROH shows, haven't seen a lick of TNA or Lucha Underground, only select segments of Raw/Smackdown here and there, infrequent check-ins with NXT, and very few other items.  But what I do still watch, I'm emotionally invested (as evidenced by my drawerful of crisply unworn New Japan graphic tees).  Even so, I couldn't think of a singular match that would stand out as my favorite.  The G1 was my favorite wrestling event, but that's like cheating because it's a freakin hundred matches, of course it's awesome.  There were standout matches in that for sure, Ishii-Ibushi, Ishii-Omega, Okada-Tanahashi, Sabre-Sanada, and the list goes on.  I suppose the easy answer for MOTY would be the 2/3 falls Omega-Okada from Dominion when Kenny won the title, but we had some great Okada defenses in the earlier months, including another classic against Tanahashi.  Jericho and Suzuki continued to cement their legacies with some truly great performances.  Gargano and Ciampa might've had the most heated rivalry with the best extended series of matches.  I dunno, there isn't an individual match which stands out to me as being a major personal favorite the way Okada-Shibata did last year, but there was a ton of great material to enjoy... gun to my head I'd go with Omega-Okada.  But Tanahashi-Ibushi from the G1 Finals is a major contender... I dunno I just love wrestling man!  I'm just along for the ride man!  I dunno I don't remember man!  We cool man?

We so cool.

*picture unrelated