The Fantasy Book on Starting New – Part 1 (John Cena, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Van Halen?)

Greetings. A few weeks ago we went over who we thought would be on the Mount Rushmore of professional wrestling. Another common discussion on sports-talk radio during the summer months is choosing someone current with whom to start a new team, organization, or league. For example, if you are starting a new professional basketball league, would you get LeBron James as your first star? Or would you pick Steph Curry? Maybe you would look towards the Australian market and pick Ben Simmons? Are you more interested in it being a defensive league? Do you want a lot of scoring? Should it be a guard-driven league or a big-man focused league? There are a lot of things that go into a pick like that.

The same thing goes for professional wrestling. Think about all the current professional wrestlers out there right now. If you were going to start a new wrestling company, who would you choose? Maybe you would say John Cena, since he has been the main man in the biggest company in the world for over a decade now. He has the most mainstream cred at the moment and would seem like an easy choice. But he is 39 years old and how much longer do you think he can go? Especially as the top draw?

A few wrestlers pop into my head at first thought. There are also several good candidates that I am going to dismiss out of hand, just like the John Cena example above. Among those I wouldn’t consider are some of the best wrestlers/sports entertainers in the world. Among those I wouldn’t consider are some of my favorite wrestlers out there. Among those I wouldn’t consider as the person to build a new company around include due to their age are: Brock Lesnar (39 years old), AJ Styles (39 years old), Bobby Roode (39 years old), and Christopher Daniels (46 years old. Wait, what? Daniels is 46 years old? Good Lord…).

There are three wrestlers who I would love to have as the cornerstone of my new wrestling promotion, but I have enough concerns about each of them to not pick them. These people are: Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Finn Balor.

First, Samoa Joe. Joe is incredible and I have no doubt that I could build a tough-nosed company around him. His attitude and demeanor would be the focal point and everyone else would have to keep their energy level high. While some would say that Joe doesn’t “look” like a top star, I’d counter that he doesn’t care what you think and will kick your ass all the same. The only concern is that Joe has been doing this a long time (he is 37 years old) and I am just not sure that I could count on him being the main focus for more than 5 years or so. He might be around longer, but he couldn’t be THE star a lot longer than that, in my mind.

Second, Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura is incredibly charismatic. He shows more personality in the ring and during his matches than anyone I’ve seen in a long, long time. He is a former mixed martial arts fighter and has taken the crown of King of Strong Style. His hard hitting kicks and strikes are top shelf. While some would say that since English is not his first language, that would be a negative. I’d counter that his English is just fine and he communicates better through his matches than anyone else in the world for my money (with the possible exception of Sami Zayn). He is also trending towards the sunset of his career at age 36, but my bigger concern would be his style. While Nakamura’s strong style is visually striking, I am not sure how many others are out there who could hang with Nakamura without getting hurt.

Third, Finn Balor. Of these three, I think Finn Balor is the most interesting case. He is the youngest of the three at 35 years old. He has wrestled in big markets before. He reached the top of NXT and then won the biggest title on Raw straight away. He has shown he can cut a good promo. He changes up his entrances into dramatic spectacles for big matches. He has a marketable look and could be a merchandise machine with his “Demon King” persona. He started his own promotion in Ireland. He led the biggest heel faction in New Japan. He’s won titles all over. He “gets” it. He has “it.” Balor just seems like someone who really, truly gets the emotional and psychological connections under the professional wrestling sheen. He seems to have the mind for the sport. The biggest concern for me is his stature. While his abilities make him incredible to watch, Balor is not the biggest guy. Too often, he looks overshadowed by his bigger opponents, coming across as an underdog instead of the lead dog. For that reason, I would have to pass on Finn Balor.

But there are lots of wrestlers left. I will go through some of those options next week before giving my choice. I’d love to hear your choices in the comments.


Before I go, I am just going to put this here. If someone wants to move it over to the Music area of Inside Pulse, that’s cool too. This Fantasy Booking is fun for everything, not only professional wrestling. The other night while insomnia was scratching at my brain with some sort of medieval torture device, I decided to fantasy book a fantasy concert festival. Since Van Halen is my favorite band, of course they would be the headliners. With David Lee Roth of course. But why not make the whole festival a Van Halen Fest?

I’d start the festival off with a 30 minute set by Tremonti, the band founded by former Creed and Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti. Why start with Tremonti? Well, since 2012, Wolfgang Van Halen has handled the bass guitar duties for the band. An opening set by this metal band would get the festival off to a strong start.

Following Tremonti on stage would be the David Lee Roth Eat ‘Em and Smile Band. This band features superstar guitarist Steve Vai, world-dominant bassist Billy Sheehan, and very competent drummer Greg Bissonette. This trio would be a big deal to trot out, but with Roth fronting the main act, we’d have to choose a different lead singer. So let’s bring in Mr. Mitch Malloy. Why Malloy? Well, some people may not know this, but for a very, very brief time, Mitch Malloy was the lead singer of Van Halen. After Sammy Hagar left and right before the botched reunion with Roth on MTV, Mitch Malloy spent some time with the band in the studio and even recorded a live to tape version of Panama as an “interview” per se. Eddie let him know he was going to be the new singer. But after the media confusion with Roth, the band went with Gary Cherone. But, to honor this very brief moment in Van Halen history, I say let’s have Mitch Malloy front this band.

The third band on the stage would have the chance to steal the show, in my mind. The third Van Halen singer (on record) was Gary Cherone. Of course, Cherone was previously the lead singer of the band Extreme. Cherone and the band have reunited and are still active. For those who don’t know of Extreme beyond the uber-hit More Than Words, you really need to educate yourself. Nuno Bettencourt is in a league of his own on guitar and songwriting ability. Pat Badger is much more than just “the poor man’s Michael Anthony” who also has very impressive pipes and a very funky bass style. And drummer Kevin Figueiredo is easily the equal of original drummer Paul Geary (although maybe a step behind Geary’s replacement Mike Mangini). This band can groove as well as rock. And while their style is more theatrical (think more Queen than Black Sabbath), they are a great live act.

The next act would be the supergroup Chickenfoot. Chickenfoot, of course, includes the former singer and bassist of Van Halen in Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony, respectively. And while a band with half of the members of Van Halen at one time is interesting enough, you also have the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith and a guitar legend in his own right, Joe Satriani. While I might like Extreme’s music better, given the long history of Hagar and Anthony with Van Halen, this just seems to be the right spot.

And finally, the greatest band in the land, Van Halen would be the closer for the festival. David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, and Wolf Van Halen would rock the crowd into the wee hours with one of the best live shows you will ever see. Roth’s voice might crack once or twice, but it won’t matter. The party will wrap up the way it should, with everyone in attendance singing along and screaming at the top of their lungs.

And the festival couldn’t just be a one day thing. It would have to be a world tour. Think about this, even if you don’t love Van Halen, you get to see four of the best guitarists of all time in Steve Vai, Nuno Bettencourt, Joe Satriani, and Edward Van Halen. Not only that, but the connections between these men is very interesting and could create a lot of fun moments. Remember, Joe Satriani was Steve Vai’s guitar instructor at one point. Also, Steve Vai and Nuno Bettencourt played together in the Generation Axe tour this year.

Plus, with all the former members of Van Halen on the same grounds, there is always a possibility of some guest spots on stage for some memories. Gary Cherone has joined Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony on stage before. What if Eddie Van Halen decided to join Chickenfoot on stage to blast through something from the old catalog? Or even just Michael Anthony hitting the stage during Van Halen’s set to do background vocals one more time? What if everyone had a huge jam session at the end of a show? The possibilities are just staggering.

Of course, there are issues with this fantasy booking. There are so many hurt feelings here. And everyone is a star in their own right. Not to mention the egos. Endless, gigantic egos. But, at this moment, all of these people are alive. And all of them are able to perform still. Surprisingly, there is a very small window where this could actually happen.

So I figure it comes down to this. Money. We probably need around 2 billion dollars to put this together. So anyone out there with the money and the love of rock want to throw the world’s biggest backyard party?


Until next week…



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