Wrestling was on last night. I was sitting down in front of my tv, eagerly anticipating one match: the rematch between Nyla Rose and Riho. You may remember back in October when I got mad as hell at Nyla’s loss, because she didn’t just lose, but she lost via stupidity, which I thought was bullshit. On top of that, hot take: I don’t think Riho is any good. She has a terrible look, like a child pageant contestant walked down the wrong hallway and wound up in a wrestling ring, and her look of constant confusion doesn’t help. She botches all the time, maybe not on the level of Sin Cara at his peak, but she’s definitely not a smooth wrestler. She even fucked up the finish of the women’s four-way match in a spot with Hikaru Shida who is 1) really good and 2) speaks Japanese, just like Riho, so you can’t blame it on the language barrier. Riho has go-away heat with me. I understand that I’m in the minority on that, but that’s how I feel. Her and Britt Baker I cannot stand. All these great women on the AEW roster, and the faces of it are a 98-pounder who looks like a child and sucks in the ring, and the other looks like she would rather be in NXT and murdering promos in ways Ken Patera could only dream of.
Anyways. Rematch. Nyla won.
I literally screamed so loud that my neighbors had to come and check on me. I was in a Discord call, getting ready to record a new episode of Book of Megadrive, and I’m sure I killed my co-hosts hearing. I was so fucking pumped, dude. The match was great, and Nyla carried Riho to her best match in AEW.
This was an historic moment. A transgender woman of color won a title in a major American wrestling company. That’s fucking cool as shit. WWE will never do this. They would rather find a way to bury Baron Corbin alive with both world titles in his hands than let a trans person even get a whiff of the belt’s leather.
I realized not too long ago that I don’t like to talk about trans shit anymore. Talking about the feelings of powerlessness and misery don’t help me so much as they help shitheads “allies” jerk off to my inspiration porn. The only people I want jerking off to me are the dudes who call my phone sex line (or, you know, people I’m dating). Representation matters if you’re a child, but I’m 33 years old, that ship has long since sailed for me. That being said, holy fucking shit dude a trans woman won the title!
It’s a feel-good moment for someone like myself. To rub it in the face of every clown online telling me that Nyla isn’t ready, brother, as though Britt Baker is ready with her meandering promos where she spends more time talking about Tony Schiavone working at Starbucks instead of, you know, the wrestlers she is actively feuding with. It’s good to know that we don’t all have to suffer for our art. Every “successful” trans artist I know is flat broke and is only a star’s misalignment away from trying to kill themselves. I don’t know what Nyla’s contract gives her, or how big her payday was for working that episode of Dynamite, but it was certainly more than a $25 pittance from a guy who wants to look at her feet. I consider professional wrestling to be an art, and I consider art to be emotionally, but not financially, fulfilling. That Nyla gets to have both of those is fucking great. She absolutely deserves it.
Now to keep my fingers crossed that AEW doesn’t then proceed to book Nyla with a Rey Mysterio-level title reign. Nobody wants that.
I was originally planning on doing a happier post, probably something about video games. But uhh, given my last post, the tonal whiplash would probably be too much.
So instead, I’m going to talk about CM Punk.
When I last did a post about Sports Entertainment (when I got worked into a shoot over Nyla Rose losing on the first episode of AEW Dynamite), I mentioned that I was a HUGE Punk fan. Ever since his infamous “pipe bomb” promo which, in a single night, got me back into wrestling after a years-long hiatus. Quite possibly one of the most captivating moments a wrestler has ever had on the microphone.
And I would watch every show, every week. I would watch streams of the pay per views. I would hate most of it. Despite Punk, this was still the tail end of the “Guest Host” era, where a random selection of celebrities would “host” Monday Night Raw, obviously not wrestling fans, and could not give a fuck. Weird booking decisions that made no sense other than to piss off the fans: such as the infamous Daniel Bryan-Shamus match at Wrestlemania 28, or the petty, childish burial of Zack Ryder. A smarter person would have stopped watching. But I kept on, despite constantly complaining. Yeah, the storylines sucked, talent was being held down, Vince McMahon showed open contempt for the audience, and everything positive about the shows was overshadowed by the haunting specter of John Cena vs Randy Orton part 849. BUT! Despite the talent being held down, they were still, you know, talented. I might have hated the finishes, the badly scripted promos, and hearing fucking Nickelback and Green Day every goddamned week to open the shows, but I could least count on the matches being good despite all that.
Keep in mind, this was before New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, or the recent rise of every indie promotion worth their salt had easier access to their shows. Streaming services for wrestling was still in its infancy. Either you bought DVD’s by the truckload, or you sat there and watched whatever crap you saw on TV. And seeing how the closest competition WWE had was TNA (a company that is only just now starting to shed it’s nearly twenty year reputation as an industry punchline), there was a lot of crap.
But back to Punk. He became a symbol for fans. He was a representation of what fans wanted, and what WWE didn’t. Punk didn’t have the gross bodybuilder physique that Vince can’t keep from being Horny On Main over. His tattoos weren’t a series of generic tribal designs that every fucking wrestler of that era (and even now, really) absolutely had to have. He was a scraggly, dirty looking man who didn’t try to make himself “kid-friendly.” He was a wrestler, in a time when leaked WWE memos literally banned wrestlers from calling themselves that (you’re a Superstar, dammit!). His rise to the top was in spite of WWE plan’s, not because of it. CM Punk made it cool to like wrestling again, for better and for worse.
Then he walked out.
We all listened to his obscenity-laden appearance on The Art of Wrestling podcast. We heard how horribly he had been treated: working with an untreated staph infection for months, with WWE’s quack doctor opting to pump him full of z-paks until Punk finally shit his pants in the middle of a match. Getting fired on his wedding day, with his wife’s contribution to WWE’s current women’s division being completely erased from history. Punk very well could have literally died wrestling for WWE, becoming yet another name among the staggering list of casualties that company has claimed. He was treated like shit on and off screen, so he left. He had my support, and the support of a lot of other fans.
The name “CM Punk” became a rallying cry of sorts. If you didn’t like the bullshit WWE was trotting out in front of you, simply chant his name and watch the McMahon family visibly wince. His departure, and the subsequent lawsuits and count-lawsuits he won clearly hurt them more than they let on. While I’m no fan of millionaires, I tend to be a bit more lenient with athletes. You put your body on the line for years for the benefit of soulless billionaires who don’t give a fuck if you live or die? Fuck it dude, get that money. Punk got out with his health, his partner, and the knowledge that he got even more money by suing the shit out of a racist asshole. He could have spent the rest of his life never wrestling again, going to hockey games, writing for Marvel, and getting his ass kicked in the UFC, and I still would have been a fan.
Then this bullshit happened:
There’s always talk of wrestlers destroying their legacy. Obvious names like Chris Benoit and Jimmy Snuka come to mind. Then you have guys like The Undertaker, once the single-most respected man in wrestling, undoing a twenty year career by constantly coming out of retirement solely to work WWE’s Saudi Blood Money shows.
CM Punk destroyed his legacy in under a minute. Do I think he’s a “sell out?” Yes, I do. Let me explain why.
Aside from the obvious “they literally nearly killed you” and “keeping you tied up in lawsuits as recently as last year, with Vince McMahon openly bragging on national television his attempt to bankrupt you,” there’s the politics. Punk claims to be a left-winger. He hates Republicans. He was one of the first people to publicly support Laura Jane Grace’s transition, and routinely shit talks bigoted fans on Twitter. And then here he comes, walking back into WWE. Not even WWE, but a WWE-brand talk show that airs after midnight on a network known for low ratings because nobody can ever fucking find it. WWE, the same entity that spent 114 times more money on Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign than Trump himself did. As I mentioned earlier, they’re currently in a ten year deal to provide propaganda for the Saudi Royal Family. There are entire books and documentaries on the horrific treatment of their talent going all the way back to the 80’s. Why go back? At least when Mauro Ranallo went back, it was understandable. Mauro is a guy who works three different commentary jobs so he can afford to spend most of 2019 in a mental hospital to avoid killing himself. A mentally ill man not wanting to be sued into oblivion by a notoriously petty wrestling promoter is a situation that deserves sympathy for Mauro, and outrage at Vince. CM Punk got paid five million dollars to get his ass handed to him by Mickey Gaul in about a minute, what excuse does he have?
This isn’t 2011 anymore. WWE is no longer the only game in town. And if Punk didn’t want to go to AEW, maybe he could’ve gone to New Japan Pro Wrestling! Maybe he could’ve gone back to Ring of Honor! But instead, he went back to the alt-right assholes that tried to kill him. Fuck him.
Punk destroyed his legacy, and it doesn’t really matter. When WWE fucks up, people don’t chant “CM Punk,” they chant “AEW.” If we really want to cheer for a rich white guy that stands for everything WWE doesn’t, Cody Rhodes is right there. Speaking of, a new episode of Dynamite is tomorrow. And while AEW is far from a perfect example of inclusion, at least they’re not funding fascism or making fucking blackface t-shirts. That’s the kind of place that Punk so clearly wanted to return to. He himself admitted that his attempt to “make change” while under WWE’s Independent Contract didn’t work, so who he is trying to fool here?
I can’t help but take this personally just a little bit. The thing about enjoying pop culture and getting behind a performer when you exist in some sort of societal margin is that little fear in the back of your mind. Does this person see me as a human? Am I going to cheer and buy this guy’s merch, only for him to turn around and have a problem with people like me? Or other people who aren’t white dudes? Until now, Punk never gave me that impression. But with his return, he has told me, without saying a word, that money is more important. For all his constant jabs at the McMahons being out of touch, he can go ahead and put that label on himself. But hey, it’s okay, because he might say that a storyline is bad! On a WWE talk show that nobody watches. How rebellious.
Last night was the first episode of All Elite Wrestling’s television show, Wednesday Night Dynamite. Pretty much everyone in my social circles knew how pumped I was for this show. I was excited because holy shit, there was a reason to care about wrestling again. I quit watching WWE well over a year ago due to a combination of the Trump shit, the Saudi Arabia shit, and the JBL-Mauro Ranallo shit. And I don’t really have the time or the money to keep tabs on New Japan, as much as I would like to. So now here’s this new company, full of good wrestlers I like, going out of their way to appeal to people like me, having a new TV show on TNT, which hasn’t aired wrestling since 2001.
I was pumped for this match in particular:
Riho vs Nyla Rose to crown the first ever AEW Women’s champion. Now the deal with Nyla, if you weren’t already aware, is that Nyla Rose is a Native American transgender woman. While I may not be Native (I am extremely white), I am a trans woman, so you better believe I was ready to cheer my fucking lungs out for her. Plus, the booking gave me every reason to believe she would win: AEW has spent the past year going out of their way to court an LGBT audience, hiring Sonny Kiss, an openly gay Black man, in addition to Nyla. Cody Rhodes constantly saying “wrestling is for everybody,” banning Vince Russo, a homophobic wrestling writer, from their events, in addition to removing fans that chant queer/transphobic shit during their events. Cody and the Young Bucks may as well have broken through my TV glass and grabbed by the collar and yelled “we want you, specifically, Ramona, to watch this television show!”
So I did. And it was a really great show! Then the semi-main event for the Women’s title was gearing up, and I was gearing up. I was ready to fucking run around the house, cheering and yelling and annoying the shit out of everybody with my enthusiasm. I was ready to see Nyla kick some ass.
And then…she lost.
To say my energy was sapped and the air was taking out of me would be an understatement. I was crushed. I was angry. AEW had worked me into a shoot, brother. The main event of Dynamite may as well have been Cody Rhodes emptying a bag of money into a garbage can, and setting it on fire.
This wasn’t some Daniel Bryan “the guy I like lost” bullshit. Nyla not only lost, but was booked like a fucking fool the whole time. Why would you try to use a steel chair in full view of the referee, knowing that this is not a no-disqualification match, and that you will lose if you hit Riho with the chair? The entire match, she keeps pulling out chairs from under the ring, Fire Pro style, while the commentators keep asking “why is she doing this?” Nevermind the fact that Nyla outweighs Riho by almost 100 pounds, and could simply use her size instead of relying on a weapon. Why is Nyla going for a Senton Bomb to the outside of the ring? What I was told last night was not that Nyla Rose couldn’t get the job done against Riho because Riho was the better opponent, it was that Nyla Rose could not get the job done against Riho because she is a fucking moron. But hey, thanks for the ratings, queers! We might consider telling Jim Ross to quit making snide “she’s not being man-handled, she’s being woman-handled” remarks next time!
I turned the show off after that. I didn’t care anymore.
Like, you spend a year appealing to the LGBT wrestling fans. You book Nyla to win a women’s battle royale from the #1 spot. You keep wink-wink-nudge-nudge promoting the women’s match as “history in the making,” which is definitely not meant to be taken as a loaded statement. Riho doesn’t even work for AEW full-time! You all but said “Nyla Rose will be our first women’s champion.” And while they may have banned Vince Russo from their shows, it’s clear they didn’t ban his booking philosophy with that ridiculous swerve. Great representation, to watch someone just like you compete in the big leagues, then look like a total jabroni and literally fall flat on their ass. Great representation to see Nyla get punked out by Kenny Omega, a man who kayfabes his sexuality worse than Dolph Ziggler kayfabes his politics.
I was originally going to have a section here about the people who have told me that Nyla “isn’t ready yet, brother” or how she’s suddenly a bad wrestler who botches all her moves in ways Sin Cara can only imagine. I won’t entertain that shit. It’s all cis white dudes saying that anyway, and it’s just another example of the wrestling double standard where even if Nyla was the drizzling shits in the ring, what would set her apart from the staggering number of shitty white guys who couldn’t work to save their lives winning titles and main eventing shows? What’s the difference between this hypothetical sloppy Nyla and like, Ryback? Like, I’m as big a CM Punk as you’ll ever meet, but I won’t pretend for a second that he didn’t have quite possibly the worst elbow drop in the history of the business, or that his career defining match at Money in the Bank 2011 didn’t have him falling over and fucking up constantly. Well, nevermind, I guess I did entertain that shit.
I’m mad about this. I really am. I understand that it’s asinine to care about a TV show, but like, I want to like AEW. I want to support AEW. I’m not here on my blog complaining because I hate the company and want to see it burn and end up in Vince McMahon’s tape library. But fuck me, man, you can’t spend all this time and money to reach out to a leftist queer audience, then pull the rug out from under everyone like that. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the idea of Nyla Rose losing matches; I don’t think she should have a Goldberg-like undefeated streak or anything like that. Everyone has to lose some time. But this match was the big one. This was your first impression to a massive audience, the chance to set yourself apart from the competition, your chance to put your best foot forward, and you fucking stepped on everyone’s Nikes. Will I be watching the show again next week? I don’t know yet.