The 3-Count is a regular feature in which your distinguished digit of an author muses on a trio of related items around the world of pro wrestling. Questions following a big event, examples of a landmark style or move – it could be anything! But there’ll be three and, hopefully, there’ll be intrigue!
The wrestling world is still buzzing with the announcement of the AEW/NJPW joint supercard, Forbidden Door, which will hit Chicago, IL this summer. Anticipation is at all-time high already and is sure to grow as the date approaches and matchups are announced. Having such excitement is a great feeling and part of why we follow this crazy business in the first place. But, what else is on the horizon that we should be looking forward to? What might shape the way we remember the rest of the year? It’s time to look at:
3 Things I’m Most Looking Forward To In Wrestling Before Year’s End
The Return Of Bayley
It has been nearly a year since we have seen everyone’s favorite doorbell lover. Rumors of a WrestleMania appearance proved untrue, but her most recent rival Bianca Belair claimed the RAW Women’s title during that same event, perhaps the set up to an amazing comeback right into the main event scene. The title picture all throughout the women’s landscape in WWE has become a bit stale since Belair settled her long score with Becky Lynch, as top names like Sasha Banks and (until recently) Rhea Ripley were occupied with tag team feuds. More recently, Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey committed to lock up again, meaning things are practically screaming for a shakeup. Prior to her injury, Bayley had proven herself one of WWE’s most purely compelling performers during the pandemic, her trash talk and attitude coming through clearly to the TV audience without the noise of a crowd. Combine that with her always stellar in-ring work, and we’re talking must-watch stuff. “Must-watch” is something WWE desperately needs more of in the main roster women’s action at the moment.
Bayley could walk onto either show and ride the wave of a huge positive reaction from grateful fans eager to see her go to work, keeping her current character but tearing down heels rather than faces to build herself back up. Or, she could just as easily jump Belair after a ho-hum champion squash on RAW and launch a high-profile, high-stakes feud of a kind that just doesn’t exist enough on the red brand at the moment. Her heavily storied past with Flair, Banks, and Lynch of course leaves myriad opportunities for stories. I’ll be keeping popcorn ready for whatever story Bayley is ready to plant on us once she hits the ring.
Growth Of The Pure Division
Prior to the purchase of Ring Of Honor by Tony Khan, ROH had made an effort to stand out in the crowded wrestling landscape by bringing back its Pure division with its own rules and championship. Dormant since 2006 (when Bryan Danielson unified it with the ROH world championship), the Pure division placed a focus on modern striking, grappling and fighting to a finish, with rules including: no closed fists, only 3 rope breaks per competitor, and a 20-count outside the ring. In January 2020, this seemed like a ripe area in which ROH could push the boundaries in directions towards which non-WWE wrestling was already trending. However, less than a month after its return COVID-19 struck and the company shut down for months before eventually being bought out. Jonathan Gresham (who won the tournament to become the first holder of the revived title) had some extremely worthy defenses, but without the full planning and machinery behind them that they would have originally had.
The new champ, Wheeler Yuta, had challenged Gresham previously before toppling Josh Woods at Supercard Of Honor. Yuta looks primed to write the book on how Tony Khan wants to use ROH to build up stars who would have a hard time getting feature time on AEW. He has shown skill, grit, and more character over time but has mostly been used to valiantly come close to upsets before putting over vets who have big matches coming up. The talent is undeniable, though, and his new affiliation with the man who retired the division way back when can only help. He now has a chance to stretch his match time, mic skills, and potentially several new opponents in this new spotlight. With him as the anchor, the Pure division should be a great landing spot for other up and coming mat-based masters to prime them for an AEW crowd that has reacted intently to folks like Danielson, Serena Deeb, and FTR. Even outside the title picture itself, just seeing who decides to go Pure, how they change up their game, and what they end up doing to each other is a mystery I can’t wait to be revealed.
A Weapon Re-Loads A Title Picture
IMPACT Wrestling’s recent Rebellion pay-per-view capped off one of the best long-form wrestling stories told this side of Hangman/Omega. It had been six months since Moose cashed in his rights to a championship match on Josh Alexander at Bound For Glory, mere moments after Alexander triumphed over Christian Cage in a tremendous but gruelling bout, and left with the World Championship. The bookers stretched things out until ready to snap, with Moose dodging like a classic chickenshit heel and Alexander even being kayfabe suspended for trying to get at him.
Once the bell finally rang and Alexander got his shot at vengeance, there were no mistakes. The Walking Weapon even kicked out of Moose’s spear finisher during a back-and-forth battle that saw him reclaim his spot as IMPACT’s World Champion, topped off with an emotional celebration. Alexander has consistently proven that he can stand up to main event feuds and matches both in the ring and, these past months, purely as a character. The next phase will see him continuing to elevate his game as IMPACT’s standard bearer. And who will come first to try to take his spot?
With the Alexander/Moose payoff finally achieved, there are many candidates emerging as possible contenders but no clear cut sure things:
- With Trey Miguel’s impressive X-Division reign ending at Rebellion he could be primed to move up and go for the big belt.
- NWA kingpin Matt Cardona could challenge Alexander, Champ vs Champ (even if it’s not winner-take-all).
- Newly minted X-Division champ Ace Austin could pull the ol’ “Option C” and try to hang with the big boys on the biggest stage.
- Another former X-Division champ, Chris Bey, has been IMPACT’s next big thing for at least a year and now has the Bullet Club backing to leverage a shot and maybe pull chicanery in claiming the belt.
Rather than murkiness, all these possibilities are making things feel exciting and unpredictable in IMPACT these days. Just who the first contender will be, and if any can knock the new king off his perch, will be a can’t miss sight.