Heading into 2018, I thought it would be a good idea to take a guess at what the top wrestling stories of the year would be. As we’re at the end of 2018, I figure now is a good time to take a look back & see if I was right, wrong or in the middle.
Today, we look at my Top 5 Non-WWE Stories of 2018, originally published on December 12 of 2017, see if they actually were stories or not.
5. Lucha Underground Season 4
“We were unsure about the future of Lucha Underground. Would there be a Season 4? Last month we finally found out that the answer was “yes” & tapings would start “sometime soon”. February is the current rumor.
Lucha Underground started off really hot, but the buzz has died down over the last couple of seasons. There were plenty of high points in Season 3, but the length of time between taping & airing gave the show a lame duck kind of feel that had been lacking in previous seasons. Also, folks like Prince Puma & Rey Mysterio leaving don’t exactly help the buzz factor. We’ll see what rabbits LU can pull out of their hats for a Season 4 expected to come in somewhere half as long as Season 3. We’ll also see how long it takes to air the finished product, and if that saps the buzz out of the show.”
What Happened: Season 4 aired in full on the El Rey Network from June to November. The buzz, as I suspected, wasn’t there. With all sorts of LU talent appearing in Impact Wrestling, and guys like Fenix & Pentagon wrestling all over the world for any company that will have them, the promotion/TV show doesn’t have the wrestling hook going for it. Even their far out & wacky ideas aren’t quite as far out & wacky as they used to be. The Hardys have done some stuff on WWE & Impact comparable to Lucha Underground at its craziest. Impact has done some really weird stuff, including having Scarlett Bordeaux teleport & Eddie Kingston try to kill a kid with a car. Both are the kinds of things you would expect to see on an LU episode.
Lucha Underground’s effect on pro wrestling will outlive its existence, which of course is in question for 2019.
4. Aro Lucha: Southern Style Lucha Libre?
“It was only a matter of time before Konnan found another lucha libre company to work with after he lost the AAA political battles. He carries a lot of influence with certain people & always finds a way to rise to the top somewhere. Enter Aro Lucha, a startup lucha company based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Ron & Don Harris, longtime wrestlers & former TNA financial backers, are among the co-founders, Konnan is the head writer & Vince Russo is a script consultant. Which, given Vince’s past with luchadores, seems like an interesting choice.
The pilot tapings, held at the former TNA Asylum in Nashville, featured many recognizable names. Rey Mysterio, Johnny Mundo/Impact, Hurricane Helms, James Storm, MVP & Pentagon Jr./Dark/Penta 0M among many others. Heck, my old friend Rebecca Hardy was on the show, I should ask her what’s going on with these folks. Probably not.
The taping was received well by the crowd, which was larger than Aro Lucha was expecting. Will this early success lead to more?’
What Happened: For most of 2018, not much. It seemed like the major players here moved on to other things. Konnan has been all over Impact & MLW, while Rey Mysterio worked everywhere before eventually returning to WWE. I think Konnan’s also back with AAA, but it’s always tough to tell who has the power there.
We’d forgotten about Aro Lucha until they had some commercials air during recent episodes of Impact. This was confusing. It said Aro Lucha was coming in 2019, which many took to mean that an Aro Lucha TV show was coming to Pop. Which would have made sense, but that’s not the case. The commercials were provided by Impact Wrestling, not Pop. Does Aro Lucha have a deal with Anthem? Was it a favor to Konnan?
I have no idea. All I know for sure is that Aro Lucha had little to no effect on 2018.
3. The NWA Rebuild
“William Corgan & David Lagana have a twenty-year plan for the return of the National Wrestling Alliance into the hearts & minds of all wrestling fans. This plan will likely face some bumps in the road, but they’ve already shown some gains early on in their stewardship of the company.
Tim Storm was a name that nobody except people that looked up the NWA Championship on Wikipedia knew. He’s 52 years old & has wrestled for a long time…but not all that much outside of the Texas independent scene. Once Corgan purchased the NWA, he & Lagana began the work of building Tim Storm into a champion that people outside of Texas cared about. They got him into new environments & gave him a forum to express himself. The Ten Pounds of Gold YouTube series followed Storm to Los Angeles, Nashville, his high school & finally Philadelphia, where his title reign came to an end at the hands of Nick Aldis…managed by Memphis wrestling legend Austin Idol?
We’ll see where the NWA goes in 2018, but the rise of Tim Storm in the latter months of 2017 has to be considered a good sign of things to come.”
What Happened: The NWA threw itself behind Nick Aldis in 2018, trying to use his Crusade across continents defending the Worlds Championship to make it a big deal once again. Undoubtedly, the highlight was seeing the championship defended at All In, and won by the son of a former NWA Champion. Cody’s reign was short and they’ve gone right back to Nick Aldis. The NWA doesn’t mind getting the rub from Cody & the Elite, but they’re not going to cede control to them. Former NWA promoters have made that mistake in the past, so it seems like Corgan & Lagana have learned that lesson.
It’s a twenty-year plan. They’re not at the top of the mountain yet, but they are further along than they were a year ago.
2. Dalton Castle: Ring of Honor Champion
“Since his arrival in 2015, the Party Peacock has established himself as the most charismatic wrestler to set foot in Ring of Honor since anybody can remember. Back when ROH started in 2002, an androgynous character like Dalton likely would have been booed out of the building by wrestling fans conditioned to dislike anybody that didn’t come off like a real man, brother. Times have changed, and Castle’s antics were tremendously popular from the start. His Freddy Mercuryesque persona was fresher than anything else ROH was doing that wasn’t borrowed from New Japan Pro Wrestling.
The ROH World Championship has recently been dominated by wrestlers better known outside the company. Jay Lethal & Christopher Daniels got their start in ROH, but made their names in TNA. Cody brought name value from his time in WWE, along with his famous family that he can’t mention but everybody knows about. Dalton Castle is something that Ring of Honor can call their own. He’s very much in the tradition of Gorgeous George, “Exotic” Adrian Street & Goldust. Those men were big draws in their time, but their companies never made them the focal point.
Dalton Castle is now the focal point of Ring of Honor, outside whoever might be in from New Japan, of course. It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to his new role, and what it might mean for the future of major singles championships. Can a character like Dalton Castle work as a top babyface? We’re about to find out.”
What Happened: Like most ROH World Championship reigns, Castle’s didn’t live up to the promise. It had nothing to do with his persona & everything to do with injuries. Several matches had to be cancelled during Castle’s reign due to nagging injuries, which also had the effect of making him less capable in the ring than normal. Fans that were wanting Castle to be champion were happy to see his title reign come to an end, if for no other reason than he could get some rest.
Even if Dalton hadn’t been injured, one had the feeling that he would still be second fiddle to Bullet Club/Elite shenanigans. That’s something ROH will need to address in 2019, when they won’t be able to focus their shows around the likes of Cody & the Young Bucks.
Honorable Mention: The Continued Saga of Impact Wrestling
“You know that Impact Wrestling is going to have more ups & downs than the coaching career of Marvin Lewis in 2018. It’s like that every single year with this company. Wrestlers will come & go. New creative forces will come in, then depart. New ownership might show up. New TV deals might be made. The show could change networks and/or time slots.
You never really know what’s going to happen next with Impact Wrestling…you just know that it’s going to be unexpected, and the company isn’t going to die. It’s always interesting to watch from the sidelines.”
What Happened: More crazy ups & downs! The ownership stayed the same, and creative mainly stayed the same, but wrestlers came & went as they usually do. The timeslot moved two hours later into Thursday night, and later in the year it was announced that Impact will be moving to the Pursuit Channel in 2019. Friday night at 10 PM if you’re scoring at home, or even if you’re alone.
Which you are if you’re watching Impact Wrestling at 10 PM on a Friday night.
Honorable Mention: Cody Rhodes & The Young Bucks going “All-In”
.@CodyRhodes confirms he and the Young Bucks are self-financing the 10k seat "All In" show, says they want @ringofhonor involved and that he wants to put the ROH World Title on the line against @WWEDanielBryan in the main event: https://t.co/Ih7QtzkA5g pic.twitter.com/8kJX3ZHYWr
— SiriusXM Busted Open (@BustedOpenRadio) November 28, 2017
“Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks are set on a course to present their own wrestling show, currently dubbed “All In” and are planning to draw 10,000 fans to an arena in North America. This started out as a Dave Meltzer pseudo-challenge, but it’s turned into it’s own little circus with rumors of names from CM Punk to Daniel Bryan and New Japan to Ring Of Honor. Going to be a very interesting one, for sure.”
What Happened: All In drew over 10,000 fans to the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. CM Punk & Daniel Bryan weren’t there, but there was more than a little bit of New Japan & Ring of Honor influence. All Elite Wrestling will debut in 2019 & will be the top non-WWE story without question.
1. New Japan’s American Future
“It’s no secret that New Japan Pro Wrestling is targeting the North American marketplace. Bringing in Chris Jericho for Wrestle Kingdom 12 is a sure-fire way to get attention over here. Bullet Club merchandise has taken over Hot Topic, & you almost see as many of their t-shirts at WWE events as anybody else’s these days. Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks & Cody Rhodes are proving that you don’t need WWE to make big money in this market.
Mark Cuban, whose AXS TV network carries NJPW programming, says that New Japan isn’t true competition to WWE due to the language barrier. I don’t think anybody that isn’t a hardcore puroresu fan will sit here and tell you that NJPW World is going to get more subscribers than WWE Network. However, New Japan continues to gain more American interest with each Bullet Club t-shirt sale & each Tweet on social media. Jericho may not be back in New Japan after January 4, but his presence will bring new eyeballs that might return even if he’s gone.
Whether New Japan is “competitive” with WWE or not, they want their piece of American pie.”
What Happened: New Japan ran several shows on the West Coast in 2018. They opened a dojo in Los Angeles. Chris Jericho worked a number of shows for the company as its Intercontinental Champion. More is planned for 2019, including a co-promoted event with Ring of Honor in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. New Japan is playing this thing slowly, which is the right move.
It’ll be interesting to see what the exit of the Elite does to New Japan’s standing in America. One’s tempted to think it could be a major setback. Then again, New Japan saw WWE sign away AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson a couple of years ago, and that didn’t seem to hurt too much. Granted, Styles especially would be a great talent for New Japan to have at its disposal right now. Either way, New Japan doesn’t seem to have problems creating stars that appeal to their fanbase. Barring WWE signing every single person on the roster, I don’t see talent being an issue anytime soon.
Later this week, we look at what I thought would be the top 5 WWE stories!
AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.
With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.
1. Johnny Gargano
Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?
WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.
2. James Storm
This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.
Watch your Money and your Alcohol.
Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”
3. Big Cass
Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.
Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.
4. Bronson Reed
The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.
Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?
5. Bray Wyatt
And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.
To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.
– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!
King’s Greatest Hits Of Jeff Hardy
As he battles his demons, Chris King looks at some more positive moments in Jeff Hardy’s career!
I’m sure by now you’ve heard the disturbing news that former WWE superstar and recent AEW signee Jeff Hardy, was arrested again for multiple charges including a DUI. Hardy has had a hard and tragic road of recovery throughout the years in multiple wrestling promotions.
Not too long ago, Hardy walked out on WWE after they were rumored to have offered the former world champion to go to treatment for his substance abuse issues. Hardy refused and said that he was better but, as we saw the demons are still lurking and got the best of him again.
I have seen some nasty comments and even some distasteful memes about the AEW superstar and felt compelled to go against the grain. Instead of kicking a man when he’s down, I’m going to put together a greatest hits for the “Charismatic Enigma.”
Jeff Hardy & The TLC Match
Everyone can say that Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon helped innovate the iconic ladder match and you are right, but Jeff Hardy and his death-defying stunts changed the concept of the match forever. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian and their iconic TLC match should have their wing in the Hall of Fame. The risks all six superstars took for the adoration of the crowd could have ended all of their illustrious careers. In the words of Vince McMahon, It’s such good shit!
Jeff Hardy Earns The Undertaker’s Respect
On the July 1st, 2002 episode of Monday Night Raw, Hardy delivered the performance of a lifetime nearly winning the WWE Undisputed Championship from The Undertaker in an incredible ladder match. The young up-and-comer was faced with his greatest task yet, challenging for the most prestigious title in sports entertainment. Hardy showed that without a shadow of a doubt he deserved to be in the main event scene, but came within minutes of defeating Taker. At the time of the match, Hardy was still finding his footing as a singles competitor and earned the respect of the champion and legend.
Swanton Bomb From The Heavens
When I think of the daredevil Jeff Hardy, I can’t help but think of this one crazy-as-hell stunt. At WWE One Night Stand 2008, Hardy faced off against the juggernaut Umaga in a falls count anywhere match. This match was so insane as both superstars fought into the parking lot. Hardy is one of the craziest and bravest superstars, hit a Swanton Bomb off a damn stage truck onto Umaga. It’s one of the wildest things you’ll ever see.
Hardy Wins The WWE Championship
In 2008, Hardy finally made his way to the main event title picture alongside partner Triple H. HHH was Hardy’s mentor in some sort of way which led to the daredevil achieving his lifelong dream of becoming WWE champion. At the 2008 Armageddon pay-per-view, Hardy would face HHH and longtime rival Edge in a triple-threat match for the title. In what was a great match between all three superstars, Hardy delivered a Swanton Bomb to Edge to win the illustrious championship.
Straight Edge Problems For Hardy
The following year, Hardy found himself in the way of young-up-and-comer CM Punk who is looking to make an example out of him. Punk had won the Money in the Bank briefcase for the second year in a row and took advantage of Hardy to win the world title. What started as mutual respect between both superstars changed drastically, when Punk started throwing jabs at Hardy for his drug and substance abuse real-life issues. Punk would form his infamous stable known as the Straight Edge Society. This is a very underrated feud and you should go back and watch it in its entirety. The promos are gold.
The Hardy Boyz Return To WWE
Both Matt and Jeff Hardy found success in multiple other wrestling promotions including Ring of Honor, and TNA during their time away from WWE. Both brothers were struggling with their vices and made poor life choices but straightened up their act over the years. In 2017, the Hardy Boyz would face longtime rivals The Young Bucks in ROH. The following night the adored tag team would make their incredible return to WWE at WrestleMania 33. Matt and Jeff would be named the final team in the Fatal 4-way ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Championships. The pop these two received was insane and very much deserved. They would go on to win the match and win the titles to capitalize on their momentum.
Jeffery Nero Hardy Makes AEW Debut
From 2017-to 2022 Jeff Hardy would find himself pigeonholed in the mid-card title picture. He would have feuds with a plethora of superstars including Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton. Orton and Hardy had a nasty Hell in a Cell match back in 2018. Earlier this year, Hardy was seen running around after the 24/7 Championship, which was disappointing to see. After being genuinely unhappy in WWE, Hardy would make his AEW debut on the March 9th episode of AEW Dynamite. Hardy would come to the aid of his brother and longtime partner.
This week news broke that Hardy had been arrested for multiple charges including a DUI. While it’s easy to beat a man while he’s down, how about we uplift and try to encourage him to get the help he needs.
As a longtime wrestling fan, I have the utmost respect for Hardy and wish him the best of luck in his battle with addiction.
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