“Man, every year, everybody’s like: “Yeah, these kids out here, they’re a new breed. I ain’t never seen nothing like this before. This the end of the world now.” -Poot, The Wire, Season 3, Episode 2

Generation Z. Zoomers. Now I am one of those damn Millennials who apparently ruined everything, but Gen Z is rising to the point where I can feel myself becoming an old man. I am no expert in the defining traits and qualities of   Zoomers, Boomers, Gen Z, Gen X, Gen Y (is there even a Gen Y?), or Millennials. But I can see the difference starting to emerge in “the youths”—and being a pro wrestling dork, that difference is most clearly illuminated by the example that is HOOK.

Everything about the presentation with Hook just feels a little different.

Now, plenty of other wrestlers in AEW and beyond are young and technically Generation Z, being born roughly between 1995 and 2012. This includes wrestlers such as Jungle Boy (born 1997), Dante Martin (born 2001), MJF (born 1996),  Tay Conti (born 1995), and Anna Jay (born 1998).

However, all those listed still present themselves like wrestlers of the last few generations. Their in-ring style may have some new innovative moves, breathtaking high flying, or incorporation of Judo technique – but it is all based on modern pro wrestling training. They would all be able to find and fit into many different pro wrestling companies from the 90s onward, and maybe even the late 80s.

Now that’s not a knock on any of those listed. Many of them are great pro wrestlers. And while technically they are wrestlers from Generation Z, they aren’t Generation Z Wrestlers. Their wrestling, promos, and aura don’t exude Generation Z like Hook.

What exactly about Hook makes him give off this Gen Z mood?

First and foremost is the appearance—the style. The big, fluffy, messy-but-on-purpose hair. The short shorts.  The bright white boots. These things jump out the most to me, because when I see young people, especially young men, out in the world today – this is the style that I notice. They don’t wear wrestling boots obviously- but shorts with white sneakers and big bulky bunched-up white athletic socks is a look that is common and draws the Hook comparison in my mind. It’s definitely a preppy look, which makes sense given Hook’s past as a collegiate lacrosse player. It’s also a far cry from the baggy jeans and shorts look of a previous era. It’s not that they are wearing short shorts in the Larry Bird sense, just shorter than had been the style previously.

Even here in the cold Midwest winter, these Zoomers may throw on a sweatshirt—but they continue to wear their shorts and show off their leg day accomplishments.

The devil-may-care attitude is also a huge part of the Hook appeal. The way he walks to the ring. The way he leans his hands and head on the corner turnbuckle – not even acknowledging his opponent or the crowd. But it isn’t done in a Gen X, grunge way that we’ve seen before with wrestlers like Raven who would slump down into the corner with a similar, but distinctively different attitude. Hook doesn’t seem to be saying “whatever man, I don’t care” in a sneering sort of way, like many in previous generations have. He gives off the impression that he is cool, calm, and collected. He gives off the impression that he doesn’t care, but in a much less aggressive way. In earlier generations, these types of mannerisms had more of an angry, “fuck you” edge to them – which in reality seemed to show that these wrestlers really do care. Hook isn’t aggrieved or pissed off at the world, he’s just not letting himself get worked up. He’s staying chill as the NXT 2.0 announcers would say.

The obvious comparisons to Hook’s “chill” attitude are the modern superstars  Orange Cassidy and Tetsuya Naito. Given the popularity of both of those characters in the US and Japan, it becomes clear that while this type of character is not unique to Hook and Gen Z, it resonates with the wrestling audience.

Being older than Hook gives Naito and Orange Cassidy a slightly different feel though. Notably, they both use their attitude and gimmicks during matches in order to frustrate their opponents. For Hook, when the bell rings it’s pure action and intensity until the bell rings again to end the match. Then it’s immediately back to the cool, nonchalant attitude as he walks to the back before the ref can even raise his hand. Hook isn’t laying his head on the corner turnbuckle in between suplexes the way OC puts his hands in his pockets or Naito does the fake dive into his LIJ “tranquilo” pose.

The aesthetic is also quite different.

Orange Cassidy gives off much more a 90s and Gen X vibe with his denim and aviators, while Naito’s elaborate suits and coats don’t quite fit in with the Gen Z look. Looking at the rest of Naito’s LIJ stablemates, it’s probably Hiromu who is the most Gen Z of them all. The way he expresses himself with bright-colored gear, punk rock patches, and stuffed animal cats fits into the Gen Z mindset of not holding back who you are and embracing some of your quirks that may get disapproval from the older generation.

Hook also scores points for Gen Z representation as being a “meme wrestler.” The availability and use of the internet and social media is a huge part of defining the different generations and Hook’s Gen Z charisma made him an Internet favorite way before he even stepped in the ring. Nearly every little thing he did, or even what other people (especially CM Punk) said about him became fodder for tweets, memes, posts, and the like for the growing “stans” online. Having a “standom” like this is another check in the plus column for the Gen Z aspects of Hook.

Now, we can’t go too much further talking about Gen Z without bringing up Dragongate. This is a company that recently had a year of “Generational Warfare” and in the past had a “Millennials” stable whose stated purpose was to take down the older generations. The current top heel unit, Z-Brats, is a nod to the past Millennials unit and a clear reference to the Zoomers that make up major parts of the stable. I’m not a expert on Dragongate expert like Mike Spears or Case Lowe (hosts of Open the Voice Gate on the VOW Podcast Network), so I can’t go into the intricacies and the connection between Z-Brats and Gen-Z. However, from my limited viewing , the young sensation SB KENTo is the obvious candidate for Gen Z superstar. He has similar “shoot style wrestler with amazing charisma” vibes that we see in Hook. And since SBK debuted first, maybe he is the true first Gen Z superstar.

Ultimately with Hook it will be very interesting to see how he progresses as a wrestler. Right now his Gen Z attitude and presentation is a huge part of his appeal, but eventually, he will need to have longer, more competitive matches and microphone time. If this happens, will he start to pick up the classic wrestling tendencies and lose some of his Gen Z edge?

It reminds a bit of Anthony Ogogo’s short run in AEW proper. In his feud alongside The Factory with Cody Rhodes, Ogogo made a similar impact with a unique, hard-hitting in-ring style. Being a former boxer he of course, focused on his punches and his gut/kidney shot punches that would lay wrestlers out with a single blow were a very different and exciting thing to see in a wrestling match. In my head I compared it to Goldberg or Brock Lesnar’s modern style – short, impactful, and unpredictable. But then the feud got bogged down in Cody’s patriotism and they ended up having a good, but standard wrestling match at Double or Nothing 2021, rather than Ogogo squashing Cody with his deadly fists. Since then, Ogogo has more or less disappeared, as the eye injuries and surgeries that derailed his boxing career continued to cause issues. He was out nearly the remainder of 2021 after surgery and has only been seen on Dark since his return in late 2021. Hopefully, he can come back to Dynamite or Rampage and bring that aura he has once before with him.

Until then, we have the aura of Hook. An aura that is distinctly Gen Z, and that has the ability to give him a resonance and connection with the younger generation of wrestling fans.

In fact, Hook’s Gen Z demeanor could even connect with people outside of the wrestling fandom bubble and lead him to being the next transcendent wrestling superstar.

It’s a long shot, of course, but if Hook can continue to hone his character, he may be able to tap into the zeitgeist and current culture in a way that we have not seen pro wrestling do for a long time.