Happy Thanksgiving! This is a day that has transcended its historical origins and become a more generalized time of stating what you’re thankful for.
In the world of pro wrestling, there are many ups and downs throughout the year. WWE and AEW are far from infallible. Many times, fans can walk away from an event feeling like it was a dumpster fire, or get frustrated in some terrible booking ideas or even a sense of “what are they going to screw up this week?”—but we continue to be fans because overall, we enjoy sports entertainment.
And for every instance of Cody Rhodes failing to beat Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39 or the struggles of AEW’s women’s division over many months, there are also many positives worth celebrating in both companies.
Toward the true end of the year at the tail end of December, I’ll be doing my usual hits and misses list of various pros and cons, but another tradition that has been going on for a while is to hone in on what is happening right now come Thanksgiving.
With a focus of the current product of just the past few weeks or so, and the very immediate future of what is soon to be appearing on the horizon, what is there to be thankful for at the moment in AEW and WWE?
With all that being said, here are some of the things I’m personally thankful for (and I invite you to chime in with your own suggestions in the comments!)
WWE – The Pushes of Numerous Talent
Shinsuke Nakamura hasn’t just fallen by the wayside after failing to beat Seth Rollins for the World Heavyweight Championship. He continues to be prominently featured, and for all we know, might even have a big surprise in store for Survivor Series this weekend.
Chad Gable is in a similar position. He had a huge boost with his Gunther program. Now, many fans are still hoping he turns the ship around and gets back on track to winning the Intercontinental Championship. Even if that isn’t the case, he’s doing more lately than he had done in full years combined at different times in his career.
Ivar’s getting more to do and being treated more seriously. Bronson Reed keeps having great showings. Dragon Lee is becoming a star on SmackDown. Trick Williams is in the highest peak of his career so far on NXT. The Creed Brothers and Ivy Nile are showing up on Raw in more ways than one. Even The Miz’s face turn has been more of a success this month than I would have imagined (and that’s coming from a staunch supporter of his, who still had his doubts).
That doesn’t even include LA Knight’s huge presence as a babyface, or how Solo Sikoa defeated John Cena at the last event, or how Xia Li finally has a spot on the roster other than sitting on the sidelines.
It’s great to see so many people either flat out flourishing, or at least receiving a considerable upgrade to what they had been doing sometimes even a few months prior to now.
AEW – General Praise Grab Bag
- How great is Christian Cage? He’s stealing the show and having one of the most important runs of his entire career. A genuine highlight.
- How great is Orange Cassidy? I’ve been a fan of the guy from the first show, and it’s SO good to see him not only achieving success with the International Championship, but consistently rising on the totem pole. He’s one of the most consistent performers and it took way too long for him to start getting his flowers.
- Julia Hart just won her first title. Awesome. She’s doing great work.
- Skye Blue is leveling up, too. Quite a bit, as of late.
- Have The Gunns looked better at any point than they look now? I don’t think so.
- Powerhouse Hobbs just slammed Paul Wight. Check that off the to-do list.
- Samoa Joe is killing it. No surprises there.
- Your mileage may vary, but outside of a few bumps in the road, I’m enjoying MJF’s current run and how he’s freshened up his formula as a babyface instead of just running the same heel “fight a bunch of people before you get to me” gimmick. He’s still my overall favorite person on the roster.
WWE – Kairi Sane’s Return and Asuka Joining Damage CTRL
How great is Kairi Sane? For that matter, how great is Asuka? How awesome is it to see those three uniting for the first time to create a super talented trio—especially with the idea in mind that Bayley and Dakota Kai are also there, and not only are they both great in their own rights, but that we’re likely looking at a fun split down the road, too?
I’m anticipating Bayley, at least, to be excommunicated from this group soon enough. It might not happen at Survivor Series or the SmackDown after, necessarily, but I do think her spot in this faction is on borrowed time. That could be one of the most influential splits of 2023, particularly if she ends up inadvertently (or even purposely) costing Iyo Sky her championship in the process.
We’ve seen Iyo and Kairi together, as well as Asuka and Kairi. Now, let’s see what the trifecta can do. WarGames is going to be our first true sight of that potential and I’m excited to see it go down.
AEW – The Continental Classic
Admittedly, I’m a little on the fence about how this is all going to work out with the title situation. It sounds convoluted and, frankly, like it’ll be an overall bad idea to forego the ROH World Championship in particular. However, I’m willing to admit that I’m confused enough about how this all is supposed to work that maybe I’m not seeing the big picture or that I could just be flat out wrong about its potential going in the opposite direction.
At the very least, even if that ends up being the case, we’re going to get a good tournament out of it.
Bryan Danielson is fired up. Some of the names announced will have some great matches with the others. I’m sure there will be a surprise or two. And for all we know, this succeeds well enough that it becomes AEW’s version of the G1 and can become a tradition highly regarded. We could be just about to start something that becomes an AEW staple.
WWE – Santos Escobar’s Heel Turn
At first, Escobar was in a good spot as the second-in-command of the new Latino World Order, following Rey Mysterio’s leadership. There were some really solid things with this group this year. But eventually, he started to fall victim to the curse of being the stepping stone for others to get to Rey, and it began hurting his overall value.
Once Carlito came into the fold, that was in danger of becoming even more of a reality. Even more so when you factor in Dragon Lee as a pseudo-member of the faction. Escobar was heading toward a supporting player position fast, and this heel turn has prevented that from happening.
Now, he’s at the forefront again. I’m sure he’ll score a victory over Carlito at Survivor Series, which will only further boost his stock. Then, whether he reforms Legado del Fantasma, recruits a new posse with people like Angel Garza and Humberto Carrillo, or just sticks it out solo, it seems a feud against his mentor is in his future. That might even be a WrestleMania match, which would be the peak of his career so far. Very cool.
AEW – Will Ospreay Signs
Will Ospreay is arguably the best wrestler in the world right now. The guy’s had an amazing 2023 and next year is poised to be just as great, if not better.
Any company would be lucky to have him on their roster. So goes it that AEW was able to pull the right strings and entice him enough to sign with them, rather than to stick with New Japan, go to TNA or even WWE.
I’m sure anywhere he would have gone, he would have succeeded. There are certainly matches I was hoping to see him have with WWE talent like Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, Johnny Gargano and more. But just the same, look at the treasure trove he has in front of him in AEW. Matches with Sammy Guevara, Adam Copeland, MJF, Ricky Starks? Bryan Danielson?! C’mon.
While he isn’t immediately jumping into that, the announcement is already something to be thankful for, knowing what is to come in a few months.
WWE – Randy Orton is Returning to Action
WarGames is already fun as it is, but how much better is it that we’re going to see the return of The Viper to coincide with it?
There aren’t many who have been in the company as long as he has. Actually, off the top of my head, I can’t think of anyone other than Rey Mysterio who would have him beaten out for that honor.
To think that it’s been a year and change (since May 2022) that he’s been out of action, and that there was supposedly a very good chance he might have had to hang up his boots, it’s a blessing he’s stepping back between the ropes and continuing to wrestle.
For all we know, Orton’s going to be the key factor in that match. Maybe he turns heel and costs his team the win by giving an RKO to Cody Rhodes. Or he starts a program with The Judgment Day coming out of this, to give them a fresh opponent to work opposite.
Whatever WWE has up its sleeves, it’s great to see that one of the first-ballot future Hall of Famers on the roster is back in the fold and no longer benched.
AEW – Swerve Strickland at Full Gear’s Texas Death Match
Not only was the Texas Death Match a show-stealer in and of itself, it was also the absolute best that I’ve ever considered Swerve Strickland to look so far in terms of his position on the roster.
He, like many others before him, came into AEW with an aura that maybe he would be a bigger deal than he had achieved by then in WWE, only to be in exactly the same position. While some others, like Keith Lee and Shawn Spears, haven’t been able to turn things around, Strickland recently got a huge shot of adrenaline.
Now, I buy into him as a potential main-eventer. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say he’s the dude to beat MJF or anything like that, but if he were to win the TNT Championship or International Championship, or even the Continental Classic, I wouldn’t scoff at it. It wouldn’t come across to me as AEW giving a guy a belt to try to make him seem like a promotion he’s not yet achieved, but, rather, someone actually being worthy of that level, if not higher.
A bad ass showing in a bad ass match. Nice job.
WWE – It’s Almost WrestleMania Season
This one is a bit of a cop out—or, maybe a catch-22. Yes, right exactly now isn’t WrestleMania. However, we’re going to see some major seeds planted that will be growing over the coming months heading into that show.
The key is whether or not WWE gets lazy. There have certainly been years where the end of the year has resulted in WWE coasting, not wanting to do anything important or noteworthy until January, saving meaningful storyline beats for closer to Royal Rumble. But there have also been years where Survivor Series in and of itself is the best indicator of what we’re going to get at The Showcase of the Immortals.
Any NXT call-ups, new signings, returns, heel or face turns, teams becoming forged, character tweaks or title changes are much more important now and over the next few months than they are at any other time in the year. For instance, if Gunther drops that Intercontinental Championship, he instantly becomes a favorite to win the Royal Rumble and challenge Seth Rollins for the World Heavyweight Championship. On the contrary, if he doesn’t, and he’s booked against opponents that seem like he will retain against (like The Miz), it starts creating speculation that he’s walking into Mania with his title. Could we see an IC title match between Gunther and Brock Lesnar?? Who will end up fighting Logan Paul for the United States Championship? What’s going on with someone like Jade Cargill?
Now is an interesting time, as speculation can run wild with all the potential amazing things that could happen, before some of the reality sinks in and we have to taper our expectations and come back down to Earth.
AEW – Sting’s Sendoff Tour
While you’re not going to hear me say my favorite match of the year was his fights with The Righteous and Lance Archer or The Outrunners, the overall idea of Sting getting a retirement stretch is a positive one.
He wanted Ric Flair to be a part of this, and he’s got it. That probably means a lot to him, and it’s cool all parties were able to work that out.
Sting’s had a few potential retirements in the past, and his WWE one was an abrupt injury out of nowhere. That would have been a terrible way to actually end his career. Now, he gets an opportunity to do it on his own terms leading into Revolution.
What they have in store for that, I don’t know. Maybe it’ll be underwhelming. But if it’s what he wants, and he gets it, that’s all we, as fans, can ask for. And if what he’s doing right now is what he also wants to do with the remaining time left on his bump card, so be it. Good for him.
What are you thankful for in WWE and AEW right now? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!