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Opinion

Cook’s Top 5: 2020 Wrestling Memories

Steve Cook finishes up his wrestling memories in 2020, a look back at one of the oddest years any of us have ever experienced.

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WWE WrestleMania 36 Stage

Steve Cook finishes up his wrestling memories in 2020, a look back at one of the oddest years any of us have ever experienced.

I haven’t looked forward to the conclusion of my celebration of thirty years as a wrestling fan. We’ll certainly remember 2020, but mostly for not so great reasons. Let’s go ahead and count then down. 2020! Some of you had a decent year, but for most of us it was the WORST YEAR WE’VE EVER LIVED IN!

Let’s break it down.

5. Undertaker Gets His Ending

One of the most interesting productions of 2020 was The Last Ride, a WWE Network documentary chronicling the last few years of Undertaker’s career. Undertaker had always been careful about protecting his gimmick, this was the first time he really took fans behind the curtain. We saw a man looking to end his career with a good performance that kept having bad ones. It’s a story that many of us can identify with: the desire to go out on top, and the ability to know when you should go out.

Undertaker finally got that chance. The Boneyard Match with AJ Styles was easily one of the most entertaining matches of 2020 and the perfect note to go out on. He had a farewell at Survivor Series with a Paul Bearer hologram and rode off into the sunset. Sure, he could still come back because everybody comes back, but at the moment I’m writing this, it feels good.

4. Ratings

TV ratings talk has always been one of those things that I’ve loved and hated at the same time. I wish people would focus more on the content of the shows and which one is better from a critical perspective. At the same time, I look at the ratings when they come out just like everybody else does. I can’t help it.

I’m at least smart enough to know how fractured viewership habits are now compared to back in the day. Back when Raw & Nitro were facing off every Monday night, they were on two of seventy channels on my cable system. Which was a drastic upgrade from what kids my age ten years prior had to choose from, and kids my age ten years prior to that. The further we move along, the more choices we have.

There was a school of thought that mainstream wrestling could benefit off of a pandemic because more people would be home watching TV. That didn’t happen, at least not as much as some hoped. There’s a vast amount of content to consume, even during a pandemic where production on certain types of programming is limited.

It needs to be emphasized that Raw & SmackDown still do wonderful numbers compared to other options on cable & satellite systems in demos & viewership. In the case of Raw, historically down from its peak back in the 1990s, but compared to other options not named “Monday Night Football” in 2020, not bad. AEW Dynamite has been killing it in those prime demos that TV people look at. And as much as we knock NXT for being far behind AEW in those demos, they’re doing more than well enough to justify their existence.

As much as I’m not a fan of these metrics, there’s not much else we can use in 2020. Not like people are going to shows!

3. Death

I’m not really sure where to start with this one. Pro wrestling has seen some really bad years when it comes to death, but 2020 might have been the worst. I may even have missed some in the timeline here:

  • January 9 – Pampero Firpo
  • January 11 – La Parka II
  • Janurary 15 – Rocky Johnson
  • January 25 – Justice Pain
  • March 5- Rip Oliver
  • April 12 – Joe Pedicino
  • April 16 – Howard Finkel
  • May 17 – Shad Gaspard
  • May 18 – Larry Csonka
  • May 23 – Hana Kimura
  • May 31- Danny Havoc
  • June 4 – Chris Hyatte
  • June 10 – Mr. Wrestling II
  • June 30 – Tim Brooks
  • July 31- Mark “Rollerball” Rocco
  • August 9 – Kamala
  • August 16 – Xavier
  • August 27 – “Bullet” Bob Armstrong
  • September 2- Casey Michael
  • September 10 – Barry Scott
  • September 22 – Road Warrior Animal
  • October 15 – Karsten Beck
  • October 28 – Tracy Smothers
  • November 25 – Bob Ryder
  • December 2 – Pat Patterson
  • December 10 – Zeus
  • December 21 – Kevin Greene
  • December 24 – Danny Hodge
  • December 26 – Brodie Lee

It’s an overwhelming list of names with so many people that had some sort of an effect on my wrestling fandom over the years. I don’t even know where to start talking about the accolades of these folks. We also lost some people that paved the way for people like me to write about wrestling on the Internet, including one of my closest associates over the past fifteen years or so. Larry was one of the few people I could always rely on to have my back through thick & thin. That list got shorter.

It’s part of the circle of life, of course. People you grew up watching will pass away. Some of your friends will leave before you do. Unfortunately, that circle started moving a little faster in 2020.

2. #SpeakingOut

It was something many years in the making that needed to be done long ago. We can’t fault people for being afraid to come out. We live in a patriarchal society where women are afraid to speak their truth for fear of a backlash from the non-believers. Especially in pro wrestling, where women’s wrestling only got taken seriously (outside of Japan) in the last couple of years or so. Believe me, as a long time supporter of women’s wrestling I was a minority voice in the IWC for many years. Most people within the wrestling business were men that did not take women seriously.

It started with somebody calling out independent wrestling star David Starr. Starr denied it, but he pretty much got drummed out of the business right away, since apparently nobody believed him. Further accusations would follow, many involving wrestlers based in the United Kingdom but some in other areas of the world.

The UK took the brunt of it though. Jimmy Havoc was finally starting to get over in AEW when he got accused, and those issues along with other issues he had with substances led to his dismissal. Audio surfaced from years earlier of Sammy Guevara joking about how he wanted to rape Sasha Banks, which led to productive discussion, an apology and Sammy being sidelined for a minute while completing training. Sasha got a lot of respect for how she accepted Sammy’s shortcomings at that time & worked with him through the issue. Most folks wouldn’t have been as generous as Sasha was. Justin Roberts got accused of things too, he’s still around even though everybody that filled in for him was better at the job.

CHIKARA was seen as a viable alternative where women were treated as equal to men. As it turned out, we learned of multiple cases of sexual harassment & abuse, which hurt CHIKARA more than most promotions since they had a better reputation than most feds. CZW could survive such allegations because people expect less from them, CHIKARA couldn’t. Mike Quackenbush was initially very apologetic, then later on tried to put himself over in order to keep running shows. As much as I’m a mark for Quack’s in-ring work and found him to be a decent person in previous years, I, and most people, saw through his attempts of spinning the narrative.

David Lagana got drummed out of NWA. Marty Scrull isn’t involved with ROH or anybody else anymore. Joey Ryan got cancelled from Impact Wrestling and everywhere else, which didn’t surprise anybody because his character was that of a ridiculous pervert. Impact also got rid of Michael Elgin & Dave Crist after previous allegations surrounding them resurfaced. Will Ospreay got accused of blacklisting people to protect perverts he was friends with, but his employers protected him. WWE protected Matt Riddle & some other NXT UK folks that denied allegations. They did fire Jack Gallagher after he admitted to allegations. As long as WWE independent contractors denied allegations, WWE was happy to defend & push them. Velveteen Dream continues to be a featured act in NXT and a reason why I don’t watch the full show. What can I say, I try not to watch known sex perverts.

It might be impossible to get rid of all the sex perverts in the wrestling business. At least the #SpeakingOut Movement got rid of a good chunk of them.

1. COVID-19

Pro wrestling as a whole seemed to be in a good place heading into 2020. WWE was doing their thing. AEW was solidifying itself as a competitor on some level with widespread availability. New Japan was making noise about expanding their reach. Perhaps more importantly than all that, the independent wrestling scene was looking very healthy. Multiple feds were getting buzz. It was easier to access various brands of pro wrestling than it ever had been. For the first time in a long time, being a talented independent wrestler could provide a solid living if you knew how to work it.

Then, a global pandemic happened. Everything shut down, including most of pro wrestling. Non-American talent have a tough time getting here now. Non-Japanese talent has a tough time getting to Japan. WWE & AEW took their shows into empty facilities. Impact followed course not too long after. Feds like CMLL & ROH would do so later on. GCW & some other indy feds would run some socially distanced events with varying levels of success, but the demand for tickets isn’t what it was 12 months ago. Mexico had tons of lucha promotions running shows, now they don’t. Rinse & repeat for other countries.

We can talk about WWE’s product this year. We can talk about what AEW’s been doing. There’s so much that hasn’t been able to happen this year due to the coronavirus. It’s a minor concern compared to the deaths and possible future health problems we’ll be facing, but since we’re talking about wrestling it’s what we’re addressing here. We can hope that people will be in the right place at the right time to capitalize once we get to a point where we can have large attendances for wrestling shows again.

The game changed in 2020. All we can hope is that it hasn’t changed for too long, because it’s a game that many of us are losing. Hopefully we can make it a win in 2021.

 


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Opinion

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?

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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!


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Opinion

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!

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Jeff Hardy WWE Smackdown

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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