For one moment on this past week’s SmackDown Live, I remembered how great pro wrestling can be. I can’t remember the last time the current WWE product made me think that, to be honest. All it took was for the Denver crowd to believe that the unbelievable was about to occur.
One superkick from James Ellsworth and the crowd thought that he was about to be the new WWE World Champion. Even though everyone knew going in that there was no chance in hell that the belt would be put on him, they still thought during the 2.9 count from referee Dan Engler that AJ Styles was beat.
How did this happen? Well, this happened because it was pro wrestling done right. The story was pretty good going into the match. The crowd loved Ellsworth, they played up the Rocky underdog vibe, and it was layered nicely with prior matches and segments. Also, and most importantly, the story continued and advanced during the match. There was no flippy-floppy circus spots. There wasn’t two similar looking guys speeding out of control. Styles dominated the match as the best in the world, Ellsworth sold it beautifully as somebody who was in over his head, and Dean Ambrose added to the story with his outside of the ring antics.
All of this put together had the crowd emotionally invested in the match to the point where they forgot that Ellsworth had no chance. The cheers on the superkick, the excitement during the count, and the gasps when Styles kicked out is what wrestling is missing. The crowd was hooked, the crowd suspended their disbelief, and the athletes in the ring had the crowd in the palm of their hands.
For one night, WWE remembered what amazing pro wrestling is. Here’s hoping to more.
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