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WWE SummerSlam: Logan Paul Is Really Good at Pro Wrestling

Commentary: Logan Paul could be something special -- if WWE leans into the fact that people hate him.

Logan Paul poses on the turnbuckle at WWE SummerSlam.

It was about as pro wrestling as it gets. With his opponent sprawled out on the ringside announcer's desk, Logan Paul scaled the ring ropes. Basking for a moment in the crowd's anticipation, he leapt from the turnbuckle and crashed through the table, downing his opponent in the process. A crowd that had been decidedly indifferent to the controversial YouTuber came off their feet with adulation. 

That was the scene on Saturday at WWE SummerSlam. It was Paul's second match in the WWE, but his first singles contest. In his first bout, at WrestleMania 38, he had a tag team partner in the Miz to lean on. At SummerSlam, it was Paul vs. Miz, one on one. We got a hint of it at WrestleMania, but at SummerSlam it was confirmed: Logan Paul is really good at pro wrestling.

At over 15 minutes, his match was at the longer end of the spectrum. That makes it a huge accomplishment that Paul, with so little experience, didn't embarrass himself in any way. There were no accidental tumbles, there were no botched moves and there was no conspicuous awkwardness. A lot of credit goes to the Miz, who was able to sherpa Paul through the perilous journey that is wrestling in front of 40,000 people. But Paul's knack can't be denied.

Logan Paul was more than just not bad. All of his offense was sharp enough to allow viewers to suspend their disbelief in the simulated combat of WWE. It wasn't just the spectacular Frog Splash through the table; Paul's strikes, slams and general movement are all precociously tight. Paul is in tremendous shape, is a good athlete and has extensive boxing training, all of which aid his performance immensely.  

What's far more important, though, is his superstar poise. Moves in wrestling are important, but character means even more. Paul is a natural at exuding the aura of a somebody -- a characteristic that's increasingly rare in pro wrestling -- and using body language to tell a story. There was a moment at WrestleMania where Paul's smug smirk to the camera arguably did more than any cool move could to communicate that Paul is a star.

But therein lies a problem. As evidenced by his polarizing effect, Logan Paul is so easy to hate. He has over 23 million YouTube subscribers, but Paul's immense popularity is accompanied with considerable infamy. Paul offended many in 2017 when he uploaded a video featuring a suicide victim in Japan's Aokigahara forest, and more recently has been criticized as being an NFT shyster. Beyond any particular transgressions, people resent Paul for being an obnoxious YouTube celebrity. Yet in spite of that fact, Paul has recently been cast as a babyface (good guy) on WWE TV. 

He thrived as a villainous heel at WrestleMania, but the Miz turning on him at the end of their tag team match precipitated both their SummerSlam bout and Paul's transition to a hero. It's possible to get people to cheer Logan Paul, as seen by the ovation he received after the Frog Splash spot at SummerSlam, but it would be far easier to have him booed. As the contemptible villain who people pay to see knocked down, Paul is incontestably effective. Over 1 million people paid to see him be pummeled by Floyd Mayweather in a boxing ring.

The big question is who's next for Paul. The Miz deserves compliments for being capable enough to lead the rookie Paul through to a good match but, in 2022, it's hard to get excited about a Miz match. Paul's contract with WWE will reportedly see him wrestle several times between now and 2024. If he's allowed to be the villain, and he's not overexposed, Paul could have some legitimately remarkable matches in WWE.

WWE shouldn't deny the hatred many fans have for Logan Paul. But also, no one should deny the YouTube star has found something he's really good at.