Steve Cook travels to 2013, looking at happenings including Shawn Michaels, CM Punk, Adam Cole, and so much more!
My 30th Anniversary Celebration has led to 2013, which was a complicated year for me. My employment status changed in the middle of the year, and it changed a couple of times after that. All of this drama in my work life led to me taking less work in the wrestling writing field, along with my lack of interest in much except a few things that grabbed my attention.
Here are my Top 5 Wrestling Memories from 2013!
5. Paul Bearer’s death leads to Undertaker/CM Punk feud
The best manager of all time will always be Bobby Heenan. Paul Heyman has worked his way into the conversation, and Jim Cornette isn’t going to let us forget about him anytime soon. As great as those men are at their craft, I can’t think of a better wrestler & manager combination than The Undertaker & Paul Bearer. Paul’s promos & urn were a key part of making Undertaker in his early years. Behind the scenes, Paul was pretty much a shoot manager for Undertaker, making all of the travel arrangements and taking care of things on the road that the Undertaker shouldn’t be seen doing. They would eventually split up, get back together, split up, and so on. Paul’s status as Kane’s father led to all sorts of drama that one needed a scorecard to keep track of. Bearer still made occasional appearances with Undertaker or Kane years after his regular work with WWE ended, and his death on March 5, 2013 was a sad day for wrestling fans.
Sometimes, wrestling promotions work the death of a wrestler or a wrestling personality into the show and it seems crass. However, in the case of Paul Bearer’s death being used in the storyline between CM Punk & Undertaker heading into WrestleMania, it felt right. Paul Bearer was a mortician in real life, and his two passions in life were the funeral business & the wrestling business. He also loved being the center of attention, so there’s no doubt in my mind that everything Punk did in the feud that some saw as disrespectful would have been more than all right with him. And at the end of the day, Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak continued and he avenged the honor of Paul Bearer. What wasn’t to love?
4. Adam Cole wins his first ROH World Championship
Greg DeMarco would have been pissed off if I didn’t include ADAM COLE BAY BAY in this thing at some point, so here’s one of the biggest moments of his career! Ring of Honor had been having some issues with their internet pay per view service, so as a make-good, they offered Death Before Dishonor XI for free! You all know my life mantra: “If it’s free, it’s for me!”. So I watched the show, and there were only a few technical glitches, nothing worth getting too worked up about. Especially since it was free.99.
The main draw of the event was the conclusion of a tournament to determine a new Ring of Honor Champion, which was necessary due to Jay Briscoe being injured. Adam Cole overcame Tommaso Ciampa in the semi-finals and Michael Elgin in the finals to become the new ROH World Champion. Everybody was happy at first, as Adam Cole seemed like a good guy. Then he attacked the injured Jay Briscoe after winning, and showed a side of himself that we’ve seen on display pretty much ever since.
Cole went on to great success as ROH World Champion, and is the only man to have three reigns as champion. That Ciampa guy went on to big things too, as did Kevin Steen, who was also in that tournament. Michael Elgin…well…he’s not around right now.
3. Dolph cashes in
I could be wrong. I have been on occasion in the past. But I don’t think a Money in the Bank cash-in ever got more over with a live audience than this one was. Dolph Ziggler was a man that the hardcore fans got behind a couple of years prior to this point due to his insane ability to sell moves. His offensive work was always something that kept me from fully getting behind him, but he was one of those chosen few by the IWC during this time period.
April 8, 2013 was a big day for me. According to the NCAA, that day no longer exists, since it’s when the Louisville Cardinals won the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship. Later got vacated since some of the players got some hookers from an assistant coach, and obviously schools can’t pay players or pay people giving services to players. I was trying to keep an eye on the Raw After Mania, but it was tough to do with my college team going for a championship. Two things drew my attention: Dolph cashing in, and the fans Fandangoing. I even let that Fandango song play during the later parts of the basketball game to get that mojo going.
Unfortunately, Dolph’s title run got derailed by a concussion. WWE never went back to him in a main role after that, though they’ll gladly keep him under contract and he’ll gladly take their money.
2. Paige becomes the first NXT Women’s Champion
WWE taking women’s wrestling seriously was a little difficult to believe. They hadn’t done that for the twenty-three years we’ve covered previously, unless you consider Sable serious business, or Stephanie McMahon’s reign, or Finlay randomly training people, or the transition from the Women’s Championship to the Divas Championship taking women’s wrestling seriously. WWE never did…up until NXT in 2013!
WWE’s previous developmental territory, FCW, had a Divas Championship and the Queen of FCW crown. When you have people fighting for a “Divas Championship” and/or a crown, that pretty much tells you what the talent scouts were looking for at the time. Once that changed, they needed something more serious. Once Paige got over in a positive way as the Anti-Diva and certain people got what that meant, NXT’s women’s division became more serious business.
After FCW bit the dust, NXT crowned a Women’s Champion after an eight-woman tournament featuring 4 NXT talents & 4 main roster talents. It led to Paige & Emma in the finals, and they had a great match as one would expect from those two. NXT’s women’s division kept raising the bar for WWE’s main roster, which led to everything that has happened since then.
1. HBK shows a little of the old HBK
2013 was a big year for Daniel Bryan. It was when he graduated from being a good hand, or a B+ player as The Authority kept calling him, to an A+ player, a guy that the majority of fans were willing to pay to see. The Team Hell No thing with Kane helped out, as did John Cena booking himself against Bryan at SummerSlam, while the fans were telling him to do it. The fans made their choice. WWE got there eventually. Part of that road included a series of matches with Bryan & Randy Orton, which culminated with Shawn Michaels, one of Bryan’s trainers, screwing him over at Hell in a Cell as the special guest referee.
Shawn called Bryan out the night after and tried to apologize. The fans weren’t hearing it, and neither was Bryan. This was pretty amazing, as Shawn had tried to turn heel in the past against Hulk Hogan, retired Ric Flair, and worked a tweener role against Undertaker, and people wouldn’t boo him during any of that. Once he screwed Daniel Bryan over, WWE fans finally saw fit to boo that man. We finally see a little glimpse of that true heel Shawn Michaels from back in the day, Bryan makes him tap, and everybody celebrates.
This segment led to a lot of us hoping that HBK would come out of retirement to face Daniel Bryan. Maybe at WrestleMania XXX. What ended up happening there worked out better for Bryan. Sadly, Shawn wasted his return from retirement match many years later against other washed up people in Saudi Arabia. I’m sure the payday was nice, but the fans that watched it wished he’d done the Bryan thing instead. Or anything else at all.