The rest of the series is worth your time if you're just jumping into it. Or if you want to look back again. I won't judge.
2009 may have been one of the more depressing years in professional wrestling history. Hell, 2009 may have been one of the more depressing years in the history of ever. The economy went into a global depression-errrrrrrr-recession, the political climate got even more toxic despite the United States having elected an African-American president for the first time ever, and professional wrestling was a drug-addled, guest-hosting, home-wrecking mess. Worst year in wrestling ever? When I voted early on, it was 50/50, but in the end...
Nope. Not the worst year ever. Thank the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy, and CM Punk for keeping it out of the red. Send in the next patient.
There's always next year. Fans of baseball's Chicago Cubs know these words all too well. In fact, if you're a fan of any sports franchise that didn't finish with a championship, you probably say those words right after the season ends-usually in heartbreak, but sometimes in relief. After all, hope springs eternal. The very thought of something better on the horizon keeps many of us, maybe even you reading this, going from one day to the next.
Then next year happens. And it's the same as the last. And it just depresses you. Since some of you were interested, I hope you're safely braced in. We're traveling back in time to 2010.
THE CASE FOR 2010 BEING THE WORST YEAR EVER
(photo via kayfabenews.com)
I'm not starting with WWE this time. I'm starting with their "competition". I'm talking about the reanimated corpse of WCW known as TNA.
On January 4, TNA, encouraged by bringing in Hulk Hogan, the most recognizable name in professional wrestling history, decided it would be a good time to bring '98 back (more accurately, '96) by moving Impact to Monday night opposite RAW. And they spared no expense. Any Hogan buddy available, they got on that show. Were you in WCW at the height of the nWo? Come on in. Coming off a better than decent run in WWE, but need a place to go where you can have your scary, scary drugs? Get in! Wrestling legend? You're welcome too! Needless to say, it didn't take long for the Hogan-Bischoff regime to have their imprints all over TNA. The six-sided ring was ditched in favor of the more traditional four-sided ring. Rob Van Dam made his debut in the company, beat Sting in short order, and was buried beneath the dirt by the end of the hour. And by the end of the year, Hogan and Bischoff would be the top heels in the company to the surprise of no one.
Bubba the Love Sponge got work. Speaking of Bubba, he got knocked the fuck out, man. Twice. Deservedly so. The first came in the hands of Kia Stevens, aka Amazing Kong, aka Awesome Kong. Sponge basically said "Fuck Haiti!" (his words, not mine) in reference to the earthquake that devastated the country that year. Kong was raising funds for Haiti earthquake relief, and as it usually happens with 272 3/8 pounders with killer "U WOT M8" looks, it got back to her, and Kong killed him dead. Or about as dead as one person could kill another without killing them dead. Some wrestlers called it one of the most one-side beatdowns they've ever seen. And in the most TNA fashion, Kong gets suspended. KONG. GETS SUSPENDED. Eventually, Kong had enough of TNA's shit and got herself released. As for Bubba, he would get released, but not until two months later when an ambush interview with Kong went viral. And just to complete the circle, Bubba in his last TNA appearance would be falcon punched in the nose by Mick Foley.
And in perhaps the least shocking twist of 2010, Bischoff and Hogan turned heel and formed this year's nWo knockoff, Immortal. Admittedly, Jeff Hardy turning heel was a bit of a shock. After all, wrestling fans have more or less known him as a babyface for his entire run in both WWE and TNA. But other than that, this is TNA going full TNA again. And if you thought the nWo 2010 reboot at Bound for Glory was bad, the show after it was HIDEOUS. The show, while admittedly one of the most watched in company history, featured six total minutes of wrestling in two hours. SIX. Say what you will about RAW these days; you're more than likely to get at least one match that goes six minutes a week. If you count the post-show ReACTION, the total climbs to 16 minutes in 3 hours. 16 minutes. In 3 hours. Speaking of ReACTION, after a couple of one-offs in April, the show debuted in August (after it was delayed three times)...only to be cancelled by December because the show was killing the ratings boost Impact gave.
In 2005, WWE put one a one-time reunion of ECW talent at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. The show was called One Night Stand, and it was meant to be just that: a one-shot deal. But then WWE saw money in the eyes of longtime ECW fans, and the next year it got a full-on reboot starting with a SECOND One Night Stand. Almost immediately, it was a shell of what the original ECW was, and by the end, ECW basically became WWE Tuesday Night Developmental. I'll tell you later what WWE did with it.
For now, here's what TNA did with it: they reunited the ousted (in the case of some, ousted for years) crew in Orlando for Hardcore Justice, aka YET ANOTHER ECW REUNION SHOW. And it was at this point you realized WWE at least had people that knew what they were doing, as Hardcore Justice was seen as the far inferior reunion show (blue lighting, anyone?). But TNA could have had one of those people: Paul Heyman was in talks to join the company, but he wanted to more or less clean house and restructure creative. Spike TV liked it, TNA management liked it, Dixie Carter did not like it. And this, boys and girls, is why TNA sits at a distant second to WWE. TNA's loss is WWE's gain, and now he gets to pal around with some guy who did something or other at Wrestlemania. Can't quite remember though. Meh, couldn't have been that important if I don't remember.
Yeah, I just had to share this. TNA 2010 in a single picture. Bro, do you even spell check?
Oh, so how did the Monday Night Wars reboot go? After a very successful January 4 outing (a record 2.2 million viewers), the show never cracked a 1.0 rating in their brief run on Monday night, even going as low as a 0.5 before being chased back to Thursday night. In fact, it wouldn't be until the summer the show got back to a 1.0.
And this. Yes, that is Angelina Love, TNA Knockouts champion. That's not the problem. She won the title without actually pinning the champion for it. She won it in a luck-based challenge. That's a problem. This is part of TNA canon, everyone.
Now, I turn to you, WWE.
As if you needed to be told, the scumbaggery of WWE knows no bounds. Case in point, one Linda McMahon. See, in 2010, Linda ran for US Senate. Linda's qualifications: well, she ran WWE. Needless to say, the media ran with this "qualification" and went to point out all the ills associated with the wrestling business. You know, lack of insurance, are they or are they not independent contractors, drugs, questionable content, higher than usual mortality rate. Of course, none of this was helped by WWE wrestler Lance Cade...died...of heart failure due in part to an accidental drug overdose...at age 29. You know, everything wrong with wrestling in one sentence. In response to the mudslinging WWE was getting, they created a campaign of their own. Funny thing is you can bullshit the people some of the time, but you can't bullshit everyone all the time. Many saw through it, especially the people of Connecticut. And despite Linda spending $50 million American of her own money, Linda was crushed in the polls on Election Day by Richard Blumenthal.
And speaking of crushed, eight men who looked to be the future of WWE were crushed under the weight of one man. That man was not Triple H. It was John Cena, this generation's Hulk Hogan. The eight men, the cast of NXT Volume 1, wrecked shop at the end of RAW the Monday after their volume ended. One of the eight, Daniel Bryan, wrecked a little too much shop. He choked ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own tie on camera, a questionable offense at best in the old WWE, a fireable offense at worst in the new WWE. Bryan got himself an unexpected summer vacation; upon his return, D-Bry played a significant part in WWE's win over Nexus in the elimination tag match. But not as significant as John's part. His quick victories over Justin Gabriel and Wade Barrett in the tag bout basically burned their destiny and sealed their fate. The loss by the group ended them being a credible threat and any chance of them being significant players in WWE. As for D-Bry, needless to say, he recovered splendidly from choking a guy with a tie.
2010 saw WWE lose three of their biggest performers to retirement. In a span of six months, Shawn Michaels, Dave Batista, and Chris Jericho all hung up their boots, with Shawn calling it quits for good. And the crazy thing: all three were doing some of the best stuff before heading out. Batista was finally allowed to embrace his douchebaggery (though in the minds of many, it came too little, too late as he was seen by many as Yet Another Cena CloneTM), while Jericho had his No Country for Old Men run that included a couple world titles, a record ninth Intercontinental title and a tag run with the Big Show (ok, I didn't say it was ALL good), and Shawn Michaels capped off his second act with a pair of matches for the ages with The Undertaker. While Jericho and Batista both came back (Jericho more once), Shawn to his credit has stayed retired. However, their losses would create a huge hole at the top of the card in WWE, in part leading to...
Jack Swagger and Mike Mizanin, both world champions, leading to perhaps the greatest reaction face in the history of man. Oh, and Sheamus and John Morrison, main eventers. It could be worse, I suppose.
Captial Punishment was chosen as the name of a future PPV.
Heel play-by-play announcer/Mike Mizanin d*ck rider Michael Cole. Also acceptable, Michael Cole.
When Bret Hart returned on January 4, it finally opened the door to the conclusion to one of the great unfinished stories in professional wrestling: the Montreal Screwjob. That night, Bret shook hands with Shawn Michaels, something many thought wouldn't have happened if they were the last men on Earth. Many tears were shed. It would take nearly three months, but he closed the door with Vince McMahon too. And many tears were shed. Just not happy tears. The Hart-McMahon affair at Wrestlemania XXVI exposed what we all knew: the stroke Bret suffered a few years back aged him real quick. And it was pretty sad to watch.
THE CASE AGAINST 2010 BEING THE WORST YEAR EVER
Show of hands if you had Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart shaking hands and hugging it out ever again after the Montreal Screwjob. Put your hands down because you are lying.
Shawn and Bret hated each other towards the end of their initial runs in the company. HATED. Like not enough grains in the Sahara Desert hate. You know the story, but I'll sum it up for you again anyway: in November 1997, Shawn Michaels was part of a conspiracy to pry the WWF Championship from Bret Hart. I mean, this was like Cold War-esque espionage we're talking about here. Anyways, Bret gets screwed out of the title is kicked to WCW (more or less), while Shawn lives out the remainder of his WWF career without his biggest rival...which turned out to be all of six months due to a back injury. Bret floundered in WCW before being kicked into retirement by Goldberg in 1999, while Shawn gets a second act starting in 2002, and puts on classic matches into his 40s. Bret gets inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006, but the red ink between he and Shawn remained.
And then, on one night in Dayton, Ohio, Bret and Shawn did what most wrestling fans assumed deep in their heart would never happened: they buried the hatchet. No matter what side of the Bret-Shawn rivalry you sat on, that was a pretty damn cool moment. It was the closing of a book to one of the most unfinished rivalries in wrestling history.
Little did we know, two other books were on the verge of closing beginning with that handshake. And they both ended on the same night. While Bret finally got his physical revenge on Vince McMahon in a match that admittedly is hard to watch (the combined age of the two performers at the time of the match is 118, the oldest ever for a one-on-one Mania match), Shawn went out with a bang-in the main event of Wrestlemania XXVI against The Undertaker. While some (myself included) prefer the original over the sequel, this match is no less a classic than its predecessor a year earlier. And that leaping tombstone at the end after Shawn slapped the absolute shit out of Undertaker was pure awesome. And to Shawn's credit, he's stayed retired. That in and of itself is a rarity in a business that not only spits people out the second they're of no use, but continues to trot out said people that were of no use for years due to personal issues, tarnishing their legacies.
One groin kick, one chairshot. That's all it took to set off what would be the premiere rivalry not just in Ring of Honor, but on the independent circuit. Hell, in all of wrestling for that matter. It won Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Feud of the Year award for 2010 in a runaway. Kevin Steen and El Generico. Friends, allies, tag team partners. Tag team champions. But Steen's desire to become a world champion clouded his judgment and drove him to do the unthinkable: turn on his best friend. Over the course of the year, Steen would dare the nice guy Generico to throw hands, to strike at the man that suddenly had so much hate for him. But time and time again, Generico refused, much like in early 1998 when Undertaker refused to do the same to Kane, his thought-to-be-dead storyline brother. Eventually, like Undertaker, Generico had enough, and the feeling of heartbreak was overtaken by the feeling of revenge. The two men split one-on-one bouts, so an absolute conclusion was necessary.
On this night in New York City, often called the crossroads of the world, the two men who were once upon a time best friends came at a crossroads and fought as if their careers depended on it. That's because they did. For El Generico, a loss meant the loss of his mask. For a luchador, an unmasking is career suicide. No one is ever the same once they lose the mask. It's like a superhero losing his powers, his identity. For Kevin Steen, defeat meant a forced exile from Ring of Honor. No world championship future. A career cut down before his 30th birthday. For just over a half hour, the two men exhibited an aggression not seen in some time for one, and never before for another. Even Steen's late plea for mercy when he held out the stolen mask were of no use. The Generic Luchador went to his dark place and did what was necessary to achieve absolute victory. It was a fitting cap to one of the great rivalries in professional wrestling history. Or was it?
Ok, it's a generally accepted fact that tag team wrestling isn't what it used to be. That's inarguable. Do not even attempt to fight this. However, for a few weeks in TNA in 2010, tag team wrestling was everything we thought it could be. The Motor City Machine Guns and Beer Money's best-of-five series for the TNA World Tag Team Championship was among the best tag team wrestling on mainstream programming that year. Such a shame it got overshadowed by the drama that was THEY.
Randy Orton, legend killer, powerbombed David Arquette for you. FOR YOU.
The Miz's lone WWE Championship run was largely disappointing (when one of your feuds as world champion was a 61-year old Jerry Lawler, your run was disappointing), the reaction of when Mizanin won was priceless, especially one from a nine-year old girl.
She was having none of his shit that night. (GIF via knowyourmeme.com)
Okay, I made my case; now it's up to you. Is 2010 the worst year ever? Vote in the poll below and discuss.
Up next, could a year from the Attitude Era really be the worst ever?