In the Lords of Pain Columns Forum we are currently hosting a single elimination column writing tournament, The King of the Columnists, and I am taking part in it. Alongside me is a group of Columns Forum vets, some main pagers such as ‘Plan and Imp and some new writers looking to upset us all. I will be posting my columns from it on the main page but there are a host of other great pieces that won’t make it up here.
For the first round me and my opponent JacobWrestledGod were given the topic ‘momentum’ and a 1500 word limit. Below is what I came up with.
If you would like to have a look at what is going on or write a column yourself you can click the link here to sign up. There is no better wrestling community on the internet than the one you will find down there.
It was about this time in 2014 that I started watching wrestling again.
Having not seen anything beyond the odd piece of news since 2010, hearing about the rise of Daniel Bryan and sudden departure of CM Punk piqued my interest enough that I thought I might check it out.
At the time my life was busy being turned upside down. I had moved cities for my wife’s mental health which for a year had been on the decline and hit rock bottom towards the end of 2013 when she told me she wanted to commit suicide but was scared to die.
Throughout 2013 as my wife’s health has slowly deteriorated and as hospital visits increased a nagging feeling had been growing inside me that something would have to give. Change is tough though, I had a life I was living, a community of friends I was involved in, a fairly new job in a career I was looking forward to exploring. I thought we had momentum behind us and I hoped we would be able to stay the course.
To paraphrase something Triple H once said, “in life and in this business change is inevitable” and when someone you love says that they are sleeping with a knife under the bed it plants a pretty huge roadblock in your life. You have no choice but to truly stop what you are doing and change course in a pretty radical way. Other priorities fade into the background and you scramble to put everything into place, find a new job, find a new house, find new support, start to build things back up. When you look back on it you can see how it all fell in place but at that moment it feels like you’ve opened a pandora’s box and everything and anything could happen.
I had stopped watching wrestling in the second half of 2010 when what was happening on TV just felt utterly directionless. Turns out I tuned back into the WWE at the right time, I picked up as the Yes Movement was starting to truly gain the irresistible momentum that forced Vince McMahon’s hand into changing everything he had mapped out.
Vince had his plans of course: a grand main event between the WWE’s latest Hollywood export done good, Batista, and their long time golden child Randy Orton to celebrate the thirtieth iteration of his greatest brainchild, Wrestlemania. For the longest time it looked like he was going to stick to those plans. The pairing of a Hollywood box office name and company main eventer was a strategy that had made his previous two Wrestlemanias two of his most successful ever. Changing course would mean going against the roadmap that had built a dynasty. Ten years ago he had taken a punt on a short technical wrestler instead of just going with his two biggest stars and look how that had ended.
But still the crowds kept chanting for one man and one man only. The groundswell behind Bryan was intoxicating, an everyday man fighting tooth and nail against the historic precedent of an entire dynasty. How could you not get lost in that? How could you not get carried along by it all?
The forces of McMahon’s vision and the crowd’s passion smashed against each other and the momentum that the crowd put behind Daniel Bryan meant he won out.
And so just as the crowd was chanting YES! YES! YES! Vince McMahon had to say yes to change. Scripts were torn up, promises were broken and Daniel Bryan was given the nod to not only main event Wrestlemania but become the focal point of the entire night, taking on Triple H in the first match and winning the WWE Heavyweight Title in the main event. It is a storyline we will remember for many years to come, a story that wrapped us fans in a fervour that has rarely been seen since, a story that had a deep impact on me.
I came back to wrestling looking for an escape but took the lesson of Daniel Bryan’s story into my real life. I said YES! I believed a little nugget who wasn’t supposed to be a champion could become one and as I cheered him on, I cheered myself and my struggling family as we tried to kick start our lives again. I fed off the momentum of Daniel Bryan as I went to work, I was inspired by him when I pulled an extra shift to pay for my wife’s counsellor’s appointments. We had huge problems to overcome but once we got rolling nothing could stop us.
And for a while things were great, five years later my life has turned around substantially. My wife’s life has been saved, we now have a daughter, a new community of friends, this year we hope to buy our first home and I have achieved success in my career that I simply would not have if I had never moved and never had to struggle the way we did.
However just a few weeks ago my wife had her first panic attack in years. She admitted she was not dealing well with the pressures of being a mum and just like that so much of the momentum I thought we had gained was gone.
Unfortunately Vince was very quick to forget the lesson of Wrestlemania 30 too. For a number of years now he has been fighting a growing tide of fan frustration by obstinately sticking to his own narrow minded idea of what stories and characters the WWE should invest in. Sadly it has always been most obvious at this time of the year, the time when our passion as fans is highest. Instead of riding the momentum generated by wrestlers like Bryan again in 2015, Dean Ambrose in 2016 or AJ Styles in 2017 he has said NO! to fan sentiment and stuck with wrestlers that simply do not compel the kind of upswell that helped change my life in 2014.
But things may just be starting to turn the corner. There were baby steps last year but this year, for the first time since Wrestlemania 30, it feels like the WWE is wholeheartedly saying YES! to hitching their wagon to performers that have some steam built up.
Both Becky Lynch and Seth Rollins spent last year building the kind of momentum in the ring and on the mic that has made them undeniable. The WWE’s recognition of that at The Royal Rumble is a great sign that they may be finally heading in the right direction. It takes courage to change things up though. It took courage back in 2014 for them to hand the reins over to Bryan and only a few cowardly, ‘safe,’ decisions could derail this entire train. It would be particularly easy for them to justify Ronda Rousey taking a win at Wrestlemania, she is the mainstream star after all and has run roughshod over every other wrestler she has faced. However watch the crowd reaction to their promos on Raw this week and try to convince me that the crowd want to see that.
No, the time for turning back is over. Mr McMahon, like you did to Daniel Bryan it is time to say YES!
And once again I need you to say YES! As I fight for my family I need to feed off the momentum of Seth Rollins as he fights to finish his redemption by finally slaying The Beast. I need to feel the energy of The Man as she railes against Rousey as I rail against the anxiety that threatens to consume my wife.
And as a fan I implore you to say YES too, allow yourself to be swept away by the momentum of these two performers. We’ve been hurt before, particularly at this time of year. Expectations have gone unfulfilled and we have been frustrated so we have built up a defence mechanism and decided to hold the product at arms length.
I know changing course, taking a ride in a new direction and leaving yourself vulnerable can hurt. However think back to your favorite memory as a wrestling fan, I guarantee you it wasn’t when you were coldly observing but was when you let yourself get swept up in the momentum of it all.
Say yes to pain!
Say yes to being hurt!
Say yes to never letting out fandom’s flame!Say yes to new!
Say yes to change!
Say yes to those banging on the door!
Say yes to letting go of those who have reached their range!
Say yes to Becky!
Say yes to Seth!
Say yes to boldly going all in!
Say yes to letting us cheer them until our last breath!
Say yes to stories!
Say yes to the magic still being real!
Say yes to letting go!
Say yes and Wrestlemania may heal.