As Bix discussed yesterday, 2010 may have been by and large a boring year onscreen for professional wrestling, but it was hardly a boring year offscreen, with tons of major news stories over the past year. So what were the ten biggest news stories covered by Cageside Seats in 2010? You may disagree, but here's mine.
- Linda McMahon spends $50 million in a losing Connecticut Senate campaign, that given her political evasiveness and ignorance she was almost certainly doomed to fail in. Moreover, her campaign led to the Connecticut media belatedly shining a spotlight on the McMahon family and the questionable business practices that they used to amass their near billion dollar fortune. All their dirty laundry was aired at least once in public including George Zahorian, Tom Cole, Chris Benoit's double murder suicide, Owen Hart's death and the mistreatment of his widow, premature wrestler deaths in general due to the passing during the campaign of Lance Cade, Chris Kanyon, Luna Vachon, Umaga and Tony "Ludvig Borga" Halme, independent contractor misclassification and putting profits before people by laying off 10% of their workforce in 2009 while taking advantage of tax breaks in Barack Obama's stimulus package. It even affected the onscreen product, as Vince McMahon hilariously attempted to turn himself babyface for political reasons in his WrestleMania main event with Bret Hart, likely led to Daniel Bryan's shortlived firing for choking out Justin Roberts with his tie in the NXT Invasion angle and saw Vince desprately push down the fans throats a "Stand Up For WWE/Setting The Record Straight" campaign as a Hail Mary to save Linda's struggling campaign. Check out our podcast with Irv Muchnick for the most in depth postmortem on the campaign to be found online.
- Chael Sonnen brings the best and worst of professional wrestling to UFC. In the months before UFC 117, Sonnen did a tremendous one man job of hyping his fight with Anderson Silva, cutting some of the best promos ever seen in MMA history, but the week of the fight the wheels started to fall off the runaway train. Sonnen's interviews had "snowballed into a perfect storm of attention-whoring weirdness" going off on racist, xenophobic and homophobic tangents. His denials that he had ever talked about Lance Armstrong to Larry Pepe after he had accused Armstrong of giving himself cancer through juicing made him come across like a pro wrestling conman. Sonnen seemed to correct his course by surprisingly dominating the fight itself for four and half rounds before tapping out to Silva's triangle choke, but then came the news that the PPV didn't draw as well as trending numbers initially suggested and he had failed his post fight drug test. Before his California State Athletic Commission hearing, news leaked that Sonnen's expected defence was that he had been medically prescribed testosterone replacement therapy for over a year, which Keith Kizer rebutted by telling us that Sonnen had never applied or was approved for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in Nevada. That proved prescient, as Sonnen, despite having his suspension cut in half during a farcical hearing, ended up in even more hot water, this time with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, after he claimed that Keith Kizer had approved his use of TRT in Nevada, something that Kizer had already denied.
- Vince McMahon and Dana White pretend that they are not in competition with one another, actions and evidence suggests otherwise. Actions like Vince seeking to get UFC banned in key European countries and Dana White kicking Vince McMahon's ass on PPV in North America on WrestleMania weekend. The latter was symbolic of how Dana White has stolen Vince McMahon's crown of being the King of monthly PPV over the last five year's and how that trend was accentuated in 2010. UFC had a banner year on PPV with an amazing TEN PPVs outdrawing WrestleMania in North America, while WWE hit rock bottom with SIX PPVs being in their bottom ten least bought shows ever domestically.
- The Hardy brothers make laughing stocks of themselves, embarrasses the promotions they are with. The year started ominously with Jeff Hardy's return to TNA in one of the most horrible segments of the year, which, in excellent timing, concurred exactly with his indictment on drug charges. Being way ahead of the curve, I proclaimed that 2010 was the year that Matt Hardy finally needed to learn to shut the f*** up in, after he complained on Twitter about not getting his own cover of the WrestleMania issue of WWE magazine unlike most other top WWE stars, and he posted on YouTube a drunken narcissistic love letter to himself at 4:00am in the morning. Six months later, the sh*t hit the fan, as Matt's Twitter and YouTube craziness got out of control and WWE publicly benched him for turning up to house shows in the UK in no condition to perform. WWE was so concerned about his strange behaviour that they even immediately banned their performers from using somas. In a desperate and transparent act to get fired by WWE Matt even pretended to have dissociative identity disorder. After over a month's worth of silliness, Matt finally got his wish and WWE released him with the straw that broke the camel's back surprisingly being his breach of kayfabe by publishing on YouTube an old video of Rey Mysterio unmasked in a public restaurant. Karma struck soon after when The Hardys were embarrassed again when an old video of themselves shooting on CM Punk turned up on YouTube, both appearing intoxicated, with Jeff even speaking in positive tones about his own drug use. A fitting end to the year, was Jeff Hardy being allowed to work TNA's Final Resolution PPV despite showing up in no condition to perform, Bill Behrens claiming that this wasn't the first time TNA had sent Hardy into the ring impaired before TNA forced him to clumsily retract that story, and the angel on the Christmas tree was Jeff Hardy finally deciding to plead guilty to the drug charges that he was indicted on at the start of the year. I can't wait for Matt to join TNA in 2011!
- Brain injuries, concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in professional wrestling and MMA. Unfortunately this was a reoccurring theme in 2010, due to Ricky Steamboat's burst brain capillary shortly after being involved in a Nexus beatdown angle, Mike Benoit claiming that Chavo Guerrero had himself suffered bleeding on the brain in the past, chair shot to the head punishment angles giving credence to the idea that both Chris Kanyon and Lance Cade suffered from CTE at the time of their deaths, Raven claiming that "chairshots to the head should only be banned if you don't know how to throw one properly", credible rumours that Desmond Wolfe failed a TNA physical due to his longstanding concussion issues, Mick Foley's admission that he thinks he has suffered permanent brain damage from his career in pro wrestling due to suffering "dozens to up to 100 concussions" during it, the brutal KOs of Matt Lindland and Scott Smith coming the day after former MMA fighter Chad Saunders committed suicide, TNA's inept handling of Mr Anderson's concussion and obliviously congratulating themselves for it on Impact, and Jerry McDevitt still refusing to concede that Chris Benoit had CTE to Irv Muchnick.
- Vye details TNA's appalling mistreatment of talent. From poor pay of TNA Knockouts and other lower card talent, to failing to pay for their talent's medical bills, to Rob Terry's unnecessary unprotected chair shot, to snapping up drug addicts at a moment's notice, to refusing to pay wrestlers for tryouts, Vye did a great job of chronicling Dixie Carter's cost cutting in all the wrong areas and her most erroneous decisions that put the health and wellbeing of her performers at risk. Well done! I also chipped in with the not at all surprising news that TNA's drug testing is a complete farce.
- Brock Lesnar continues to be the most controversial top draw in all of combat entertainment. Finding "miracle cures", being outspoken about Canadian health care, having Octagon related death threats from Frank Mir, hypocritically calling the UFC Interim Heavyweight Title "a make believe belt", shockingly coming back from behind to submit Shane Carwin at UFC 116, his Catch Wrestling and size advantage being futile against Cain Velasquez's superior skill before doing a worked confrontation angle with WWE's The Undertaker on his way back to the locker room at UFC 121, causing speculation that he's going to bail on UFC and holding out hope that he can appear at WrestleMania 27, it was quite the topsy turvy year for the biggest star in the business.
- TNA overspends to bring in Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Ric Flair, Jeff Hardy and later Rob Van Dam, leads to record ratings for their three hour January 4th Monday Night special, fools them into moving head to head with Raw "permanently", only to be humiliated in a Monday Night Massacre and for buy rates to plummet, which leads to an embarrassing return to their old Thursday night time slot and immediate pressure to implement major cutbacks.
- Paul Heyman has a remarkable resurrection of fortunes in 2010. Heavily courted by both TNA and Strikeforce, his decision to instead stay on the sidelines where he can safely gloat about the poor state of WWE's business without him and lie to the MMA media about encouraging Vince McMahon to nix the first season of the Ultimate Fighter airing after Raw was hugely influential. Moreover, the influence he has in his role as Brock Lesnar's business confidante, autobiography writer, mouthpiece and best friend may be the best kept secret in all of MMA (despite some pretty remarkable coincidences that are obviously not coincidences). It also allowed him the time to produce a mixed bag of adverts for EA Sports MMA game featuring Strikeforce stars Nick Diaz, Frank Shamrock, Fabricio Werdum, Cung Le and Gilbert Melendez.
- Weak card, boring fights, lengthy overrun, silly post fight brawl and rock bottom ratings create a perfect storm for Strikeforce on CBS.
WWE Wrestlemania 26 Live Blog w/ Full Results: The Undertaker retires Shawn Michaels in a great match, John Cena wins the WWE Title from Batista in a very good one, Edge comes up empty against Chris Jericho, and Bret Hart destroys Vince McMahon
Eric Bischoff and Bubba The Love Sponge get worked by person claiming to be a disgruntled TNA wrestler into linking into fake Hulk Hogan Twitter account, cause stir when "Hogan" says he and Bischoff have left TNA