You may have noticed recently that we have been reviewing classic wrestlers based on the idea that there are three categories by which you can break down a talent (Bret Hart said so!). But were you aware that wrestling didn’t end at, say, 2009?!
It turns out it didn’t, so we thought we’d do a separate column on the Bret Hart categories for the modern talent out there plying their trade in WWE, AEW, NJPW, and more.
You know what’s more fun about the modern era? There are so many more worthwhile women to rank than we have in the Classic articles! I really love women’s wrestling from the past half-decade or so; I think it’s become my favorite part of wrestling in general. AEW excels at tag team wrestling–and, to be fair, some of my favorite matches from the last few years have involved The New Day and/or The Usos–but women’s wrestling (specifically in WWE/NXT and Impact) usually just amazes me. I keep meaning to get into Stardom, but I am lazy and busy and just… don’t. Anyone got any specific recommendations that I can look up?
Honestly though, you know what I’ve noticed that is starting to driving me nuts? WWE women’s matches REALLY tend to overdo the “competitor hits the back of her head on the bottom/second turnbuckle” spot. I never see that in men’s matches, but with the ladies? At least once per show. What is that spot, and why are only women seemingly susceptible to it? It doesn’t kill my enjoyment, but it’s feeling very tropes-y to me. But… what a weird trope.
Oh well… moving on…
PENTAGON JR / PENTA EL CERO MIEDO
THOUGHTS: I am a big fan of Pentagon and his hundred names (Look, I can never keep track of what he is going by, so for the sake of ease, I’m just referring to him as Pentagon. I clearly mean the guy in AEW currently and formerly a Lucha Underground champion). I gave him the same score I previously gave BRET HART, for god’s sake. But he does have a great look; his whole get-up is very striking, and it even allows for subterfuge, with guys like Jericho wearing it on occasion to get the jump on others. His stature and build scream “average”, but you dress him up like that? Yeah, great look.
Pentagon has a really powerful innate charisma–and a tremendous catchphrase–without really being a strong “promo guy”. I honestly, as a fan of LU and AEW, can’t really recall any specific speaking moment he’s ever had. But his physical charisma is powerful, and he really comes off as a vicious monster as a heel.
Ringwork is obviously a strength of Penta’s, and I think he is one of the very best in a company that has Kenny Omega and others. He can do really talented lucha shit, or he can get in there and just have a nauseatingly brutal hardcore match. He really puts his body on the line however he needs to to sell his matches. He is remarkably crisp, too.
So all in all… 22/30 feels high for Penta, but he is a well-rounded talent who I don’t see as even an 8.5 in any single regard. Everything about him is good, if not amazing.
THOUGHTS: What to say about the single GREATEST PRO WRESTLER IN THE BUSINESS? I’ll be honest, Penta is my favorite current wrestler on the planet, so I’m probably biased but I’m trying to rein it in a little bit.
As far as look goes, he’s basically a typical 00’s AAA luchador: good build, not as ripped as most American audiences seem to want; smaller but still fairly stocky. But those masks, baby. Especially when he breaks out the special ones, like the Venom inspired ones.
Very few catch phrases that originated in the wacky world of pro wrestling can escape that vacuum and become a fixture in “legitimate” sports, but like the next guy on the list, Penta’s catchphrase “Cero Miedo” (No Fear), complete with hand signals has invaded professional football. Watch George Kittles of the 49ers. Every time he gets the first down conversion, he throws up the Cero Miedo, an ode to his friend and favorite wrestler. Penta’s slinky movements around the ring, the theatrical removal of his glove and tossing it to the ref before a corner chop, and *OF COURSE* Cero Miedo have combined to make him a larger than life presence in the ring.
Here’s your homework: find me a Pentagon botch. Just one. I’m not talking about a Lucha Bros botch (which are always caused by his spot-fest brother Fenix; whom I love, but his style definitely leads to botches especially with opponents unfamiliar with their style). I’m betting you can’t. Pentagon and Fenix are both incredible innovators, possibly contributing moreso to double team maneuvers than even the Young Bucks. Penta’s more grounded style lends itself to innovative chain maneuvers and submissions that you won’t see anywhere else. If you want to see great television, get on Netflix and watch his run on Lucha Underground. The dude had the entire roster terrified of what he would do next. After Covid (if there ever is an “after Covid”), I plan on traveling to his gym in Moreles, Mexico, where we will become best friends traveling the world together and breaking arms left and right. Skelton Ninja Zombie 4 Life. Pentagon is the PentaGOD.
THOUGHTS: It really is just the Look that holds Bryan down, as it’s a strange guy who makes Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit look like goliaths. Still, I can’t go any lower than a 3 because full bearded Bryan is so memorable, and his beard even became such a part of who he is. But man, Ring of Honor Bryan Danielson? Early WWE DB? That guy was a solid 1/10 in Look. Thankfully he found an appearance he could hang his hat on.
I feel INCREDIBLY BIASED giving D-Bry a 10 in Charisma–Bryan is my favorite wrestler ever–but if he hadn’t been injured in the wake of Wrestlemania 30, he was genuinely bordering on Hogan/Austin/Rock/Cena levels of recognizability. He could have been one of the true all-time greats if he hadn’t lost so many prime years. As it is, you still have a guy who can pull of being truly despicable as a heel OR a beloved underdog babyface. Think about it: the guy who was universally adored and whose return to action was so heart-warming, took LESS THAN A YEAR from his return to go villainous, and fans bought it!
As for in-ring talent, Bryan is one of the true elite ever. He has the perfect blend of selling, story-telling, and athleticism. He has some fierce moves that look absolutely fantastic, and he just has the kind of built-in How To Make A Match Work ability that is unteachable. He is very much like Bret Hart himself in that he is a guy to whom wrestling is second nature. Or, hell, first nature.
That puts the former American Dragon at 23/30, which feels completely appropriate for a guy who should have been a bigger deal if not for tragic luck, and who is basically a 10+ in two separate categories.
LOOK: 6. Clean-shaven baby doll Bryan was vanilla as a step-dad eating mayonnaise. Bearded baby doll and bearded bad boy Bryan are much more memorable
CHARISMA: 7.5. Bryan is incredibly over with smarks and hardcore fans, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a non fan who even knows who he is. On the other hand, there have been very few catchphrases to be over both in wrestling and out as “YES”. Although on the other other hand, I can guarantee a good majority of the football etc fans yelling it and throwing their fingers up had no idea where it came from
RINGWORK: 10. Along with Rollins and AJ, one of the few indie darlings who was able to adapt his indie style to the toned down big leagues, and attain the heights he deserves and was destined for
THOUGHTS: 23.5. Im tempted to add an extra point for bagging the objectively better Bella twin, but I won’t
THOUGHTS: It’s always so damn hard to judge women’s wrestlers on Look because, honestly, so much of it comes down to beauty, which feels pig-ish to rate. That said, Alex Bliss is absolutely beautiful. She looks like she was birthed in a lab somewhere to be the perfect pixie of a woman. She genuinely has no flaws. Add to that some really inspired ring attire and hair/makeup choices that just make her even more memorable (her classic Freddy Krueger get-up, or her Harley Quinn hair colors), and she feels like she’s so close to a high score. Why just a 7.5 then? Because even in the women’s ranks, Bliss is unbelievably petite, and her beating anyone without dirty tactics is hard to swallow.
Charisma has always been Alexa’s strong suit, and it’s what kept her relevant in the Women’s Revolution era where so many of her contemporaries were objectively better wrestlers. Alexa is a natural heel, and her diminutive appearance gives her the feeling of an aggressively yapping dog who swears it can take down a doberman. Alexa’s promos have BITE to them, and she can honestly come across as this awful person who doesn’t recognize her own short-comings, but will blister everyone else with theirs. And when she had a slow burn babyface turn by teaming with Nikki Cross, she believably came across as rehabilitated and sweet.
A 4 in Ringwork might be a bit low for Alexa, but I wanted to keep her out of the 20’s overall because we seem to be flooding that range with characters. Bliss is O-K in the ring, but it’s clearly her weakest area. She sells well, but doesn’t wrestle to her size. She lacks the fluidity that others in modern women’s wrestling have.
So that puts Little Miss Bliss at a 19.5 out of 30, a highly respectable score for a woman who has, deservedly, anchored entire women’s divisions as the hateable heel who needs to get her comeuppance.
LOOK: 9. Not to be an oink oink, but Alexa is one of the most gorgeous women in wrestling history. Beyond that, she has a rare understanding of her look and how to capitalize on it with her various ring attires and get ups
CHARISMA: 8. Great face, fantastic heel
RINGWORK: 6.5. She’s a perfectly serviceable hand, and does a great job of mixing her charisma with her ringwork to elevate both
THOUGHTS: 0. She’s marrying Ryan Cabrera
So that knocks out Wyntyr’s current top guy, my favorite top guy, and the wonderful Alexa. I probably should have saved either Bryan or Pentagon for later, but… I didn’t, and it’s too late now! There are whole companies full of people to get through, though, so we have fodder for days!
Who would YOU like to see us review? Let us know in the comments, and I’ll add them to the list.
Until next time… take care!