The wrestling universe had a lot of big stories this year. We had disgruntled superstars, young wrestlers grabbing the spotlight, and risky business decisions. For fans, the year held a lot of excitement and stories that fueled arguments and discussions all over the internet about what was happening and the future of the business.
So, without further introduction, let’s start with the biggest story of the year (besides our own Travis “T-Rav” Giles being features on Wrestlecrap.com) involving The Best in the World and our favorite Cult of Personality.
CM Punk’s Side of the Story
CM Punk left the WWE on January 27th of this year. He didn’t say why or when, if ever, he would return. That was all it took for the fire of uncertainty to be stoked into full-on internet flames.
Some fans were angry for Punk “betraying” them, while others were praising him for leaving on his own terms. Through all the speculation, Punk just sat quietly aside. Waiting to tell his side of the story and to set the record straight while watching Stephanie McMahon call him a quitter on live television.
But when his time came to tell why he left, he didn’t hold back.
In an interview on The Art of Wrestling Podcast, hosted by Punk’s best friend Colt Cabana, Punk told his story of neglect by WWE’s medical department, Vince’s broken promises, his ideas taken and used with other wrestlers, and getting fired, surprisingly and with no warning, on his wedding day. Some took his interview as bitter (which Punk admitted he was, but had now gotten over), while others believed he was just sticking up for himself. Punk’s story was one of an employee that tried to be a company guy and was looked over and used by a company that seemingly had no appreciation for what he had done for them. I’m not going to go over everything here. You can read about it here and, be warned, if you listen to the interview be ready for some very colorful language.
All I will say is this, Punk is my favorite wrestler, not just for his ability in the ring and on the microphone, but because his life and career have been done on his own terms. He can be a jerk, and admits to being one to people that are one to him, but in this interview I have no reason to not believe him. Punk is a lot of things, but he doesn’t strike me as someone who would be a liar. He may come across as disgruntled and a bit bitter, again he admitted he was still working through the bitterness, but nothing he said isn’t something that I’ve not heard before. Vince being out of touch, HHH playing politics, and WWE looking out for themselves instead of their talent. It’s the same story, just a different voice.
Will Punk ever come back to WWE? I don’t know, but if you told me Bret Hart would ever show up on RAW again after the “Montreal Screw-Job,” I would have laughed at you. In other words, bridges are never burned to ashes in wrestling, leaving them to be rebuilt at a later date.
Speaking of WWE wrestlers bolting without leaving a holiday fruit basket…
Alberto Del Rio Leaves WWE With Accusations of Racism Inside of the Company
Alberto Del Rio was fired from the WWE earlier this year for striking a WWE employee from the companies social media department. Del Rio showed up at Mexico promotion AAA, breaking his 90-day no-compete clause, and telling the crowd in attendance that he was treated in a racist manner during his time with the company. He later said in a shoot interview that the reason he struck the employee was due to a racist comment. Del Rio took WWE to court and won, granting him release from 90-day no compete clause.
Racist accusations have been made by more than one minority, most notably by Bobby Lashley and Ahmed Johnson. Not to mention Michael “P.S” Hayes has been known to use racial slurs to talents, even being suspended for it after using one to WWE superstar Mark Henry (an African American) in 2008 when Hayes was head writer for Smackdown!, WWE’s Friday night show. Former WWE Superstar Booker T said in an interview that Hayes used racial slurs all the time, but he didn’t take it personally because he knew Hayes didn’t have any “malice behind it.” Grantland’s David Shoemaker, AKA The Masked Man, did a great piece on the long history of racism in both WWE and wrestling in general.
Regardless, Del Rio had every right to smack the guy for what he said and, with past accusations on the record, WWE didn’t come out looking like a great company to work for if your a minority.
Sting (Finally) Arrives in WWE at Survivor Series
Sting is the last of the big 1990’s wrestlers to never have a run in WWE. Every year around Wrestlemania, the rumors of him finally coming to WWE for one final run are rampant. So when the rumors of him showing up at Survivor Series was being thrown around, the little kid in me was jumping up and down, but my cynical wrestling fan sighed and said “We’ve heard this before” while he watched old re-runs of Monday Night Nitro.
But this time he showed up. And the stunned look on my wife’s face as I marked out like I was back in 1997, on Monday night, watching as the Stinger descended from the rafters and served the NWO a butt whooping. It was a great moment in wrestling history and I’m glad to say I saw it live. To hear the crowd give him a big ovation and genuinely glad to see him make his debut was great to see for this old school Sting fan. Sting’s popularity was built outside of WWE, and the pop the crowd gave him showed he is a true wrestling superstar, even without WWE’s help.
With his debut hinting at a possible match with HHH, probably at Wrestlemania, Sting is ready to ride into the sunset on his own terms.
Brock Lesnar and the Absence of the WWE Title
When Brock Lesnar dominated John Cena at Summerslam to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion, the reaction was a bit mixed. Some thought it was great to have the strap on a true monster heel, while others lamented that the belt not being on RAW every Monday devalued the title. Not to mention, I can’t remember something like this, the champ not on television every Monday and not defending on every pay-per-view, ever happening in wrestling since I’ve been watching.
That debate is why it’s on the list.
I can see both sides of the argument, but it did force WWE to push younger guys to the top of the card. Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, and Seth Rollins have all came into their own and are on their way to becoming the next generation of WWE Superstars. I don’t know if that would have happen without Lesnar having the belt. I don’t like the title not being the center of storylines, but if the elevation of young talent is the end result, and it’s been this successful, it’s hard to say it has been a completely bad idea.
The Launch of WWE Network
WWE finally launched it’s long awaited network, just not through the means we all thought they would.
Instead of doing their own channel to launch on cable and satellite providers, the WWE decided to release its network as a streaming service. On top of having the ability to watch pretty much all of WWE’s video library, they also offered all of their pay-per-views basically for free. That’s right. For $9.99 a month you get to watch all of WWE’s big monthly events, including Wrestlemania.
It’s a great idea on paper, but the jury is still out at this point. It didn’t get the initial numbers WWE thought it would, and let’s just say that television providers hasn’t been too happy with the company offering pay-per-views basically for free. The company has already seen DirecTV not offer all of their monthly events. Not to mention a botched launch of the network in Great Britain, and the network hasn’t lived up to the financial expectations.
The WWE Network is a great idea, but the initial execution has been less than successful. We will see in the coming year if WWE can make up the money that are losing on the venture and make it a profit-turning success.
Indie and International Stars Signing to WWE
WWE has long stayed away from the smaller indie and international guys. You know, the guys that can actually wrestle.
But this year saw WWE sign a ton of stellar indie and international wrestlers that is bringing wrestling back to sports entertainment.
International and indie stars KENTA, Kevin Steen, Prince Devitt, and Sami Zayn (the former El Generico) all made their debuts in 2014 under different names. They are all putting on tremendous matches and showing that all the years toiling away in the indies paid off. When you watch them in the ring on NXT, each talent is infusing the WWE style with they indy and international flair. Their moves are smoother, they tell stories better, and they are just better.
I’m happy to say that I’ve had the privilege to watch all of the talent above in the indies, mostly in Ring of Honor, besides Devitt, and what I’ve seen of him so far impresses me. And with guys like Adrian Neville and Tyler Breeze are cut from that same indy vain, WWE is planning for the future, and with these guys on the roster, the future is bright for wrestling fans.