10 Amazing Wrestling Callbacks You Totally Missed

Wrestlers don't just work the house in 2023: starring MJF, Kenny Omega and Shawn Michaels...

MJF Samoa Joe

Dave Meltzer has a theory, and it's very true to a point, with which he addresses criticism of his controversial star rating system.

When people accuse him of inflating the system, he counters by saying that wrestling tends to date poorly, and, if anything, he'd sooner lower historical ratings in retrospect than rein in his enthusiasm about the modern scene. He points out, rightfully, that the wrestlers of yore worked for a different crowd in a different time and place with no knowledge - or care - about how future generations would receive their work.

This annoys people, who believe that - rather than being fooled by nostalgia - a sensibility is missing from today's wrestling. It's difficult to watch, as an example, the greatest work of Terry Funk and not feel as though a certain grit, animosity and agony would not go amiss.

If Meltzer's theory was true then, it isn't true now.

In this age of accessibility through technology and the episodic TV model, the best modern wrestlers actively want their fans to watch their entire body of work intently. They aren't working for the house anymore: they want fans to recall story beats planted years ago to deepen their enjoyment of what is to follow.

That, or, knowing the past exists and has been documented all over social media, they mine it to add more credibility to their work through continuity...

10. Samoa Joe Barges Past MJF

MJF Samoa Joe

Back when he was in NXT Champion, when making his entrance at TakeOver: Brooklyn II, Samoa Joe cruelly pushed a member of his security detail against a wall, all while wearing a smug expression on his face.

That person was MJF, who at the time was an aspiring unknown doing extra work to get his face out there.

Now, because he's a genius, MJF pays attention to everything. The man exists in character at all times in order to maintain the illusion that he is a "real" person in whom you can actually invest. Even before the events of AEW All Out 2023, MJF curated this tiny morsel of WWE storytelling. Upon Samoa Joe's first release from WWE, on April 15, 2021, the usual thing happened: fans petitioned for AEW to sign him. MJF, never letting even a small, theoretical narrative opportunity slip through his fingers, tweeted "Stop posting the gif".

It has at last been revisited in AEW canon when, at All Out, Joe opted to make his ring entrance immediately following Better Than You Bay-Bay's successful defence of the ROH World Tag Team titles. Joe, with a callback, brushed MJF aside before later applying a standing guillotine choke.

Building interest in their match, MJF has created the impression that he never got over the slight - reflecting his Rejection Sensitivity Disorder character arc in the process.

Just sublime depths of character work.


Michael Sidgwick is an editor, writer and podcaster for WhatCulture Wrestling. With over seven years of experience in wrestling analysis, Michael was published in the influential institution that was Power Slam magazine, and specialises in providing insights into All Elite Wrestling - so much so that he wrote a book about the subject. You can order Becoming All Elite: The Rise Of AEW on Amazon. Possessing a deep knowledge also of WWE, WCW, ECW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Michael’s work has been publicly praised by former AEW World Champion Kenny Omega, present AEW World Champion MJF, and surefire Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Cody Rhodes. When he isn’t putting your finger on why things are the way they are in the endlessly fascinating world of professional wrestling, Michael wraps his own around a hand grinder to explore the world of specialty coffee. Follow Michael on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MSidgwick for more!