With all due respect to Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Glenn Hall, and a host of other names that have come before and after Gretzky, he is the best. No other player has had their number retired by every team in their sport in recognition of their greatness. (Jackie Robinson has number 42 retired by all 30 Baseball clubs, but for a different, and more important reason)
There will never be another player like Gretzky. It is impossible in today’s game. With goaltenders becoming bigger, faster, stronger, and more agile than ever before, goal scoring is tougher. With defensemen and defensive strategies becoming tougher and limiting time and space on stars in the NHL, we may never see someone eclipse the 150 point plateau. Gretzky did this a whopping nine times. If he were to never score a goal, he would still be the leading scorer in NHL history. He was a transcendent talent that is largely responsible for the growth of hockey in the Southwest United States.
While the big names of today, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Clayton Kershaw, have a chance of eclipsing Pujols, it is a tough mountain to climb. Injuries have plagued both Trout and Harper in their careers thus far. Kershaw is a pitcher, albeit the most dominating one we have seen in quite some time, but will always have the stigmata that playing every fifth day pales in comparison than 162 in 200 days.
So rip it apart. Tell me that Miguel Cabrera, Cal Ripken, Pete Rose, or anyone else is, or was, better than Albert. I encourage you to do so. However, when it is all said and done, it cannot be argued that Pujols is a once in a generation megastar that may not be seen again.
Was he the benefactor of the Tuck Rule? Yes. Can he thank Adam Vinatieri’s leg for a Super Bowl? Yes. Was he suspended over a cheating scandal that rocked the football world for much longer than it should have? Yes. Was he at the helm of a team that won a game against the biggest choke artists in Super Bowl History? Yes. If you are focusing on the negatives in these sentences, you are missing the biggest point of all. He won those games.
While football may be the sport that has plays live on forever, whether famous or infamous, it also has another thing that lives on forever. Diamonds. No, not the kind you will find in Fenway Park, the kind that you will find in the 5 Super Bowl rings that Brady has.
He will go down as having one of the best seasons a QB has ever had (2007), and one of the best careers a QB has ever had.
While the G.O.A.T. player in the NFL is one of the toughest to decipher, it becomes easier to do so, once you remove team bias and use logic. Other than the center, the quarterback touches the football on virtually every offensive play. Not only that, they are solely responsible for managing the personnel on the field in a manner to score.
When a team loses a game, the blame does not fall solely on the shoulders of the left cornerback, the defensive tackle, or the fullback. It almost always falls on the shoulders of the man under center. The QB is the face of the team, whether good or bad. When a receiver runs the wrong route on a timing pattern, the incompletion, or interception, goes against the QB. When the offensive line misses a block and the QB is sacked, the yardage counts against the QB’s passing yards. When a running back goes the opposite way on a pitch and the ball is fumbled, the fumble goes against the QB. It is the most important position on the field, and thusly, the best at that position should be recognized as the best of the sport.
In the history of the NFL, no QB has had the success of Brady. Additionally, no QB has come close to winning as much, or having the statistics, as Brady has with less around him (Drew Brees is almost in the conversation). Whether we want to believe it or not, whether we admit it or not, Tom Brady is the best ever at the most important position ever.
Most of the major stars in the WWE (save five), were built in the nontraditional WWE style. AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, and a host of others made names for themselves outside of the WWE. Now, with more names in either NXT or rumored to be on their way to the Performance Center, the WWE is heading more in an indie direction.
WWE through and through
Roman Reigns, while young, at the present time, does not earn an exemption. The thing about Reigns is he is the personification of what the fans dislike about the WWE. He is a big, muscle bound man who is being shoved so far down our throats he can tell what we ate at dinner last night. Roman, despite being portrayed as a babyface for almost his entire singles run, is booed unmercifully. Now, some of that is intentional. Boos were especially loud the night after he retired the Undertaker. In large part, he is meant to be cheered.
The WWE has done this once before. Back in the early 1990’s, the WWE debuted a man fresh out of the WBF. He was big. He was chiselled. He was a favorite of Vince McMahon. The fans, not so much. The WWE went as far as giving him a tour bus to travel the country. It failed, miserably. He was built to be Hulk Hogan 2.0. All they built was a wrestler the fans resented and rejected so bad that he was the big name debuting on the very first episode of Monday Nitro. That man was Lex Luger.
The WWE is in a unique spot with Reigns. All it takes is a turn and Roman will be in his right spot. We almost saw that at the first ever Great Balls of Fire PPV on July 9th, 2017. Roman loaded his opponent into an ambulance and smashed the emergency vehicle, in reverse, into a semi-trailer. It riled the fans to the point a petition on change.org was created to have Reigns charged with Attempted Murder. At last check, the petition was over 2300 signatures.
Who needs it worse?
It would not take Roman much to turn. We have seen flashes of the bad guy. His "this is my yard now" promo, the night after retiring The Undertaker, showed no remorse for ending one of the greatest careers in the history of wrestling. He showed no respect for the death of the Dead Man.
The vehicle incident is another prime example. The following night on Raw, we could have seen Roman come out and be the bad guy. Instead, he came out and cracked jokes on Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe. His opportunity to lay waste to them both and take the helm of top heel was put to waste when Joe and Brock were the two having the stare down in the middle of the ring, and Roman was just, kind of there.
Just do it!
With Cena, Brock, and Orton on the back nine of their careers, and Roman struggling to get out of the bunker, the last of the mega WWE stars will die with them.
What I mean by that is, the last of the WWE’s home grown talent, who have spent their ENTIRE careers of the bright lights of the WWE, who have risen to the top of the card and stayed there early in their time in the ring, will die. With the WWE looking to places like ROH, PWG, New Japan, and Impact for their next big things, the WWE talent fields are drying up.
It may not be this year, or next, or even in a decade, but as time marches on and the industry evolves, more and more of the big names in the WWE will be from the indie scene. If NXT is the “minor leagues” of the WWE, and the way talent is “brought up” from there, it seems fitting, examine that roster. Bobby Roode, Hideo Itami, Kassius Ohno, Roderick Strong, Aleister Black, Tomasso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, and Asuka were all huge names on the indie scene before being snatched up by the WWE. If NXT is the future of the WWE, then the future looks a lot like Independent stars in the WWE Universe.
In wrestling, the days of the mega star being the only name on the card and people showing up are drawing to a close. Fans want more than just one match. Now more than ever, the entire card is important, not just the two guys going on last who could bench press a Volkswagen. When Cena, Orton, and Lesnar retire, and the fans finally say enough is enough with Roman, the mega WWE-only star will go. It’s not a mystery, it's evolution. And that, is pretty cool. Is the era of the mega star over in the WWE - or in all sports? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!