You’re starting a new wrestling promotion. You can pick any current wrestler on any current roster to build your new brand around. Who do you choose? And why do you choose that person?
This is the scenario we have been mulling over the past two weeks. We eliminated a few great choices due to their age (e.g. AJ Styles, Brock Lesnar, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, etc.). Last week we cut the potentials down even further through various nit-picking techniques (e.g. Kyle O’Reilly still feeling more like a tag team wrestler, Kenny Omega not showing enough of his serious wrestler side yet, etc.) So, now, finally, here are the final four wrestlers on my short list to start a promotion.
But first… (ooo, I’m such a tease) To truly pick the right person to start my promotion, I need to think what kind of a promotion do I want? Is it going to be a crazy deathmatch / backyard kind of promotion? Is it going to be a local territory not interested in branching out? Is it going to be a promotion with a dream of being worldwide? What kind of fans am I looking for here? Families with children? Hardcore diehards who follow the promotion anywhere they set up? Complete mainstream acceptance? So, with each of the four wrestlers on my short list, I will include a thought about the type of promotion I would be starting with that person at the head of it.
4) Donovan Dijak
Starting right out of the gate, I am sure most of you are saying, “Really? Dijak?” Or more likely you are saying, “Who? Dijak?” Yes, Donovan Dijak. Here is what you need to know about Donovan Dijak. He is 29 years old. He is 6’7″ and weights 266 pounds. He is from Massachusetts. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school and college. He is strong and he is quick and he is athletic as all get out. And his face just screams “entitled d-bag.” Wait… what? Yep, and that is the reason he is on my short list.
Here’s the idea. The promotion I am beginning brand new is based largely on athletic competition. We will bring in the best collegiate wrestlers, ex-football players, gymnasts, track athletes, etc. We will make the company the place to “go against the best.” Wrestlers like Kurt Angle, Jack Swagger, Sheldon Benjamin, and Brock Lesnar will all wish to be part of this company. But the one to start it all is going to be the one we all hate the most – the arrogant jerk who has always gotten by because he was good at sport.
All it would take is to work in a few little promotional pieces showing Dijak partying with Rob Gronkowski or Tom Brady. We could have him show up to a Yankees game in a Red Sox jersey. Anything to really play to that cocky, holier-than-thou New England fan base. We could introduce an old-school valet to accompany him to the ring, and of course she will be a supermodel/prom queen type. We could also have a “coach” or “agent” to accompany him to the ring, acting mainly as his manager/mouthpiece.
And everyone would want a piece of him. He’d become the most hated person in professional wrestling if booked properly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWyehLqnjPM
And that is why I would consider Donovan Dijak.
3) Sasha Banks
To some people, picking a woman wrestler as the main focus of a new company just doesn’t make sense. Unless, of course, you were wishing to start a woman’s professional wrestling company. Because if not it is hard to see how having a female wrestler as your foundation would help the male wrestlers that most wrestling fans would come to see.
But right there is the issue. This new company would not only acknowledge the “revolution” that has been happening in professional wrestling, but it would celebrate it. This new company would have a women’s division that was on an even playing field as the men. The women would main event shows, even pay-per-views. They would have solid and believable storylines. They would get the time commitment to make their matches the best on the card.
This new company would condition its audience that the women matches are not bathroom break times, because if you miss them, you’ll miss probably the best match of the night. This new company will condition its audience that a woman’s match is not just something you “sit through” until you get to the main event. In fact, the woman’s match is very likely the main event. Or the one that steals the show. And you will not want to miss it. The women wrestlers in this new promotion will be the baddest of the bad asses and both men and women will love them for it.
So, if I were to start a new promotion with this in mind, I would need someone who has the look, the ability, and the drive to do it. Who better to start with than Sasha Banks? Sure, I love Bayley and Asuka is all sorts of awesome and there are at least a dozen more women wrestlers who are deserving. But Sasha Banks has the character down perfectly and is ready to showcase it to the world. The spotlight should be on the Boss, not only because she deserves it, but because I, for one, can not wait to see what she is going to develop into. Sasha is only 24 years old and already has a backpack filled with classic matches. She inhabits professional wrestling and every time she steps in front of a crowd she gets better. She is definitely deserving of a spot on my short list.
Just watch the boss – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oV1Kg1N7AM
2) Kazuchika Okada
If there is one man in professional wrestling today that, to me, most reminds me of Hulk Hogan coming out of the AWA just before the start of Hulkamania in 1983. What I mean is this – Back in 1983, Hogan was a huge figure. He had a role in a Rocky movie. He was strong and muscular and he could talk. He could talk a lot. He had charisma coming out his ears. When you saw Hulk Hogan, you wanted to see more. You wanted to watch him. You wanted to cheer for him. He was undeniable. Hulkamania was coming whether you were on board or not.
Kazuchika Okada is not an over-inflated physique like Hogan. He isn’t the mainstream media sensation Hogan was. But he is also at least 14 times the wrestler Hulk Hogan ever was. He is charismatic in his own way. And even though he has Gedo to act as his mouthpiece, he draws people into his matches without fail. Plus, he is only 28 years old. His best days are arguably in front of him.
The pops for Okada are just astounding. Whether he is working as a face or as a heel, the crowd always goes nuts for him. He has a simple, yet hard-hitting and effective finisher. He can sell very believably while still maintaining his offensive firepower. His Rainmaker character comes across as knowing he is the best, but he backs it up. When you watch an Okada match, you are drained at the end of it because you get so invested in it.
I could go on, but if you don’t know why I have Kazuchika Okada on my short list, stop what you are doing and go watch this – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly_ToWK1BuQ
The only, I repeat, the ONLY concern I would have would be that Okada is not a native English speaker. And I mention that only because their would be a majority of business here in the United States. However, with someone like Okada as the main draw, it would definitely be a worldwide promotion.
1) Jay Lethal
There is only one person I would choose over Okada to begin a promotion and that is Jay Lethal. Anyone who has read me here or any of my ROH 10 Thoughts columns already knows that I think the world of Jay Lethal. He can wrestle (and outwrestle) anyone. He comes across as strong and vulnerable to be beaten at the same time. He sells like crazy. He is athletic and fast and doesn’t rely on flippy-floppy moves to get him over. His offensive attacks always look like precision strikes and he almost always looks like he is in control, even in matches where he is getting beat.
Lethal can talk the big game as well. I think his skills on the mic are extremely underrated. He gets across the important points in his promos with insensity, not just volume. He doesn’t diminish his opponents in his promos, instead opting to showcase how good he is by going over ones he speaks highly of. He is also pretty darn funny. He can stand toe-to-toe with anyone on the mic. Don’t believe me, watch Lethal and Flair during his TNA stint. Flair can barely hold it together because Lethal is doing him so well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVU0MW-IGrM
Even though Lethal is the oldest wrestler on my short list (at age 31), but he continues to impress with every outing. He has shown that he can lead a company in Ring of Honor. He made his mark in TNA as a must-see portion of their show. He has held his own against all comers in New Japan. And I can not wait to see what he does next. Quite simply, Jay Lethal is the best all around professional wrestler out there today, which is why he would be THE man in any new promotion I started.
Still not sure? Watch this – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SERNvgfDsdc
And there you have it. What do you think of this short list? Am I way off on anyone? Let me know in the comments. Next week, I’m going to fantasy book a murder… well, maybe not a murder, but a firing. Join me.
Tags: Asuka, bayley, Brock Lesnar, Donovan Dijak, Hulk Hogan, Jack Swagger, Jay Lethal, kazuchika okada, Kurt Angle, Ric Flair, sasha banks, Sheldon Benjamin