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On The Apron: The Good Times

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Every Tuesday, features editor Dominick Suzanne-Mayer talks about the latest developments in and around WWE.

These are the good times, people. These really are.

Over the past three weeks, WWE has put together an excellent spread of Raw episodes. And this isn’t just in reference to the whole part of the show in which Daniel Bryan is finally the A-lister he deserves to be, but all around. The good segments are great, the bad ones are improving, and all the terrible stuff on last night’s show was quarantined in an inept MizTV segment that barely ran five minutes.

It’s times like this that you remember why you get into pro wrestling. There’s something singularly exhilarating about it that’s unique to wrestling alone. It incorporates the pride of seeing a favored prospect getting called up to the big leagues in any other spot, the underdog stories, the monsters desperately needing to be felled, and delivers them all on command and in their purest, most distilled forms. Wrestling fandom at its core is a synthesis of every kind of sports fandom, filtered through pop cultural geekery and evolved into its own ever-changing concept. And when you see great shows, especially with the sometimes overwhelming volumes of chaff which surround them, you get to point at your TV to a non-believer and go “See? It’s not always loud monologues and stiff ring work.”

Savor this. Savor a period in which buildings are collapsing upon themselves to cheer for a 5’8 man with a Grizzly Adams beard. Savor that you can watch some of the best independent wrestlers of the past decade rub elbows with guys in the traditional WWE muscle-bound mold. Savor that even those guys are stepping their game up, Sheamus continuing his run as a seriously underrated member of the roster and even Randy Orton looking like he’s trying again. Savor that long-running stables are being broken up with more than an indifferent shrug, and having logical, organic feuds grow from them. These are the good times.

And, as is sadly the tendency with many a wrestling fan, while trying to enjoy this current run, the natural inclination is to wonder when the other shoe drops, when McMahon Family Theatre will make its ignoble return to humiliate another on-camera personality with an in-ring job review and it all goes to hell. But it might not. Maligned as he is (for the most part deservedly so) for his conduct during his wrestling career, Paul Levesque deserves serious credit for not only embracing the wrestling aspect of WWE in a way it hasn’t been in years, but for trying to bridge the gap between all eras while being the first higher-up in any televised American wrestling company to realize that the Attitude Era was a fun time, but it’s over and it’s time to create another one instead of trying to re-light the few lingering scraps in order to ignite a time when The Rock’s cloying words were gospel.

Besides, what’s the fun in wondering when the collapse comes, when there’s so much to appreciate? There is none. And for new fans, though I know if you’re reading this column you’re likelier a devotee than a window shopper, have a look. This is the wrestling people get excited about. There are no family members having heart attack or demonic rituals or rampant misogyny, but there’s some damned great wrestling to be had, and some fascinating characters to boot. If you’ve never understood why people get so into fake fighting, now’s as good a time as any to start. And for the people who haven’t come around since the late 1990s, come on back. Goldberg’s gone and we’re all better off for it.