Currently we are in the midst of an epic feud that has literally been building every week since early 2016.
They were a sweetheart tag team, best of buds. Last year one betrayed the other in a shock twist and has spent his time since then becoming ever more dastardly. Just when you think he can't escalate it any further, he does something even more dickish. He's a totally hateable character. But it's not as simple as that, because now their feud has gotten so heated that the face has started to become consumed by it, to the point where he's started losing control and is acting heelish himself.
Our dear sweet Johnny Gargano is falling apart! Oh, whatever shall we do? The story is far from over at this point. Will Johnny turn heel himself, destroyed by his anger? Will he finally remember his morals, pull himself together and give Tommaso Ciampa the beatdown every fan is hoping for? Will there be a double turn - notoriously one of the most difficult plotlines to set up - where the baddie turns good and the goodie turns bad in the same episode? Add in some title belt drama and other bit characters getting drawn into the stand-off and it's seriously compelling television.
And that's just one side of it! Over in the women's division, Shayna Baszler - an ex-UFC fighter - is proving to be a delightfully evil foil too. Most of the people who come up from UFC or other sports kind of suck at professional wrestling because they can't act worth a damn. Professional wrestling is more than just about being an athlete, it's also about getting the fans invested in your storyline. Fortunately, Shayna is full of anti-charisma. Like Ciampa, she is also a heel, and she leans on her UFC background to create a character that is just a straight-up, no-nonsense ass-kicker. She doesn't care about anything except for kicking ass. The fact we all know that in real life she would easily kick anyone's ass in that locker room helps to sell her kayfabe cockiness.
But nobody likes a braggart. So the one we are really rooting for right now is Kairi Sane - a woman who was hailed as one of the greatest professional wrestlers in the world before leaving the Japanese and Mexican circuits to come wrestle in NXT... She looks petite next to Shayna, but that helps to sell her as an underdog face, and she plays it up with a totes adorbs kawaii pirate gimmick. In the ring she's as tough as anyone. Throw in my current wrestling girlfriend Nikki Cross - who plays a completely unhinged Scot - plus a solid locker room of up-and-comers and that division is the best it's been since Bayley left to work on Raw.
Meanwhile. The Velveteen Dream. Dear Lord, this guy is absolutely everything. He started with a paper-thin Prince gimmick, but he's worked it into something profound. He's not just flamboyant, he's electrically so. The way he whispers and gazes and snaps his fingers during promos, the way he writhes and pouts in the ring - everything he does is magic. It's still not clear if he's a face or a heel, but you can't help but mark for him. He's a great entertainer and really epitomizes what makes wrestling unique in the performing arts.
Velveteen Dream promises to shine at TakeOver: Brooklyn
Plus there's Adam Cole and his stable of total douchebags that are giving Johnny Mundo and his gang over in Lucha Underground a run for their money as the biggest douchebags in wrestling. EC3, who is some generic boring big guy who somehow manages to cut a funny promo whenever he opens his mouth. Moustache Mountain - two Brits who are dynamite in the ring. There is just so much great packed into one hour a week of soapy drama and fisticuffs. It is tons of fun and has really become the highlight of my week during the summer down-season.
Anyway, done gushing.
On a side note, I read this interesting article the other day about how the industry is starting to embrace more honest gay storylines: https://melmagazine.com/weve-entered-the-era-of-sexually-fluid-professional-wrestlers-d5f29282f890 I suspect it'll be a while before the WWE lets its talent be out and proud without it being a tacky gimmick, but we can always hope something in NXT slips under the radar. Meanwhile, here is XO Lishus from Lucha Underground...
XO Lishus’ “An Ode to Flashdance” (feat. Ricky Mundo and Jack Evans)