So much has happened. WWE, as we know it, changed forever this year as it continues traveling down this wild, winding, and bumpy road. We're not even halfway through 2014 but before another major event occurs -- and if history is any indication, that should be coming soon -- let's look back on what's gone down so far.
Jan. 6: After many years away battling personal demons, Jake "The Snake" Roberts makes a surprise return on the "Old School" edition of Monday Night Raw for an angle in the night's main event.
Jan. 8: WWE holds a press conference to announce the launch of its Network, an over-the-top service that would be expected to change the industry and, if successful, make the company has profitable as it has ever been.
Jan. 13: It's announced that Ultimate Warrior, after many years at odds with the company, including lawsuits and a huge falling out with Vince McMahon, will headline this year's Hall of Fame class.
Jan. 13: Daniel Bryan turns on Bray Wyatt, leaving The Wyatt Family just weeks after joining. The crowd in Providence, Rhode Island at Raw treats him like a star on the level of Stone Cold Steve Austin in his prime.
Jan. 14: One of the longest tenured and most well respected female wrestlers of all time, Mae Young, dies at 90-years-old.
Jan. 20: After a four year absence, Batista makes his return on Monday Night Raw to establish himself as the next contender to the WWE championship.
Jan. 26: Batista wins the Royal Rumble and fans in Pittsburgh boo him out of the building. The paying crowd boos everyone not named Daniel Bryan once it becomes clear Bryan wouldn't be entering the Royal Rumble match, famously dogging number 30 entrant Rey Mysterio, a career babyface. The negative reaction to Batista would carry on to the point he would have to be turned heel later on.
Jan. 27: Although news wouldn't break until days later, CM Punk walks out on WWE after a meeting with Triple H and Vince McMahon. Details of exactly what went down at said meeting are still unclear, though various problems were reported, including injury, fatigure, burnout, lack of interest, creative unhappiness, and just generally being pissed off about his lot in life professionally. This would have wide ranging implications on future plans within the company.
Feb. 21: It's announced Hulk Hogan re-signed with WWE and will be the host of WrestleMania 30.
Feb. 23: Elimination Chamber takes place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, featuring Randy Orton retaining the WWE world heavyweight title, setting up a match with Batista in the main event of WrestleMania. Elsewhere, John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt is firmly established and Daniel Bryan continues feuding with The Authority.
Feb. 24: The WWE Network launches to great fanfare, with the site crashing for a period of time but generally holding up rather well to high demand. Early reviews were are positive and most expect it to be a big success for the company.
Feb. 24: Hulk Hogan officially returns to WWE on Monday Night Raw, botching his lines but drawing a good reaction from the paying crowd in Green Bay.
Feb. 24: Undertaker returns and sets up a match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30 in a brilliantly performed segment.
Feb. 27: WWE runs its first major Network exclusive event, NXT ArRIVAL. The show is generally considered a smashing success featuring no less than three incredible matches and one "Match of the Year" candidate from Sami Zayn and Cesaro.
Mar. 3: Despite reports to the contrary, CM Punk fails to make his return to WWE on Monday Night Raw in his hometown of Chicago. Paul Heyman cuts a brilliant promo, one of his best, and completely shuts the crowd down. This marks the first public acknowledgement, at least on television, of Punk's absence from WWE.
Mar. 10: Daniel Bryan is booked to wrestle Triple H at WrestleMania 30 and granted a title shot in the main event the very same night if he wins. CM Punk's departure is said to have paved the way for this booking.
Mar. 24: Scott Hall is announced as the final inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame 2014 class. This is a testament to his cleaning his life up enough that WWE would trust enough to announce this, depend on him to make the appearance, and not embarrass the company along the way.
April 5: The WWE Hall of Fame ceremony takes place in New Orleans. It's a memorable evening, with Ultimate Warrior giving an interesting although somewhat rambling and reserved speech. Mr. T steals the show by thanking his mother 678 times in 30 minutes before he is booted off the stage by Kane to save time. Undertaker makes an appearance during Paul Bearer's induction, keeping kayfabe the whole way. Scott Hall gives a brief but emotional speech while looking well.
April 6: WrestleMania 30 takes place in New Orleans and sees Daniel Bryan win the WWE world heavyweight championship. The much bigger story, however, is Undertaker's undefeated streak coming to an end after a third F-5 from Brock Lesnar. It's revealed later that Undertaker suffered a concussion during the match and it remains up in the air whether or not this was his last match in WWE.
April 7: WWE reveals its initial subscriber numbers for the Network (667,287) and its a hugely disappointing announcement the company tries its best to spin to cast it in a more positive light. This effort fails and the stock immediately drops because of it.
April 7: Paul Heyman cuts one of the greatest heel promos of all time on Monday Night Raw following Brock Lesnar breaking Undertaker's WrestleMania streak. Later in the evening, he's treated like a babyface when it's announced Cesaro is the next Paul Heyman Guy.
April 7: Rob Van Dam returns to little fanfare.
April 7: Paige debuts on the main roster and immediately wins the Divas championship by pinning AJ Lee after just 30 seconds. This is AJ's last television appearance before going on hiatus. She would go on to marry CM Punk in June. As of this writing, she has yet to return and there is no word on when exactly that will happen.
April 7: Ultimate Warrior makes an appearance on Monday Night Raw for the first time in over a decade. He cuts a promo thanking the fans and saying his spirit would run forever within them. He does not look particularly well, as he is noticeably out of breath and red in the face.
April 8: Ultimate Warrior dies of a heart attack in Arizona after flying home with his family.
April 14: WWE pays tribute to Ultimate Warrior on Monday Night Raw with a touching video and a look back at his career.
April 14: Evolution reforms on Monday Night Raw.
April 29: Magneto confronts Wolverine on Monday Night Raw.
May 4: The Extreme Rules PPV takes place in New Jersey and features an awesome Shield vs. Evolution match, as well as Daniel Bryan successfully defending the WWE world heavyweight championship against Kane.
May 12: Daniel Bryan confirms on Monday Night Raw that he is suffering from a neck injury and will need surgery. The WWE world heavyweight title is put in a holding pattern as everyone waits for results later in the week.
May 15: Daniel Bryan has surgery on his neck and by all accounts it goes wonderfully and optimism abounds that he will recover quickly and never have to relinquish the WWE title.
May 15: WWE signs a new deal with NBCUniversal to keep Monday Night Raw on USA and Friday Night SmackDown on SyFy. Terms of the deal are disclosed but it's later revealed that internal company projections of doubling its television rights fees were way off and the increase turns out to be nowhere near what Vince McMahon had originally told investors to expect. In response to this, the WWE stock plunges and McMahon loses around $800 million.
May 20: Mick Foley announces he will be returning to rocking the fanny pack.
May 26: Beautiful Brad Maddox is fired as General Manager of Monday Night Raw.
May 29: NXT Takeover takes place at Full Sail in Florida and tears the house down for another successful WWE Network exclusive. Triple H earns widespread praise for turning the WWE developmental program into its own bona fide brand.
June 1: Payback takes place in Chicago and is likely the best show of the year with John Cena and Bray Wyatt setting the standard for Last Man Standing matches going forward, The Shield and Evolution once again tearing the house down, and an all time great angle with Brie Bella quitting the company before slapping Stephanie McMahon in the face. Brie quit in storyline, by the way, so Daniel Bryan could keep the WWE world heavyweight title while waiting to see if he would recover in time to make the next PPV.
June 2: Batista quits WWE on Monday Night Raw in a storyline to explain his pending hiatus to promote the upcoming release of his Guardians of the Galaxy film.
June 2: Seth Rollins turns on Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, breaking up The Shield, one of the most successfully, well-booked stables in WWE history.
June 9: Daniel Bryan is officially stripped of the WWE world heavyweight title after news breaks that he cannot make the Money in the Bank PPV, and maybe even the Battleground show in July. His recovery from neck surgery is said to be going much slower than expected and not only is he not regaining strength in his arms but apparently he's losing it. After such a long, hard fought road to get his title victory in the main event at WrestleMania, Bryan's run ends not with a bang but a whimper.
June 12: WWE releases 10 wrestlers and one referee, leading to this day being dubbed "Black Thursday". Most of the cuts were wrestlers who either weren't being used (Evan Bourne, Curt Hawkins), were dependable but expendable (Drew McIntyre, Jinder Mahal), were thought to have little upside (Brodus Clay, Aksana), or were long in the tooth (Teddy Long). Even JTG lost his job. Either way, this was the first mass layoff of talent in a number of years.
We're certainly not complaining that it's been such a busy year -- business is booming around these parts -- but if we could get more of the good and less of that bad, that would be great.
Also, we're going to need those TPS reports ASAP. Thaaaanks.