Aloha, cats and kittens, and welcome to a special Thursday edition of Sunday Supplements, with your dazzling, incorrigible, and entirely resplendent host, Victor Von Cewshenstein. You may be wondering what has prompted such an unusual act of a Supplement being posted in place of a review, though more realistically you may really be wondering how a Supplement got posted at all. Touche there, smart aleck, but the gist is this. We, the captains of the S.S. Cewsh Reviews, are occasionally kind of dumb. In this instance we were so absolutely certain that this was, in fact, already the second week of September, that we have been left entirely unprepared for this week’s review. Shameful, I know, but it has provided a unique opportunity for this Supplement to actually see the light of day and not sit wallowing in captive obscurity until the end of time.
So begging your pardon, I hope you will bear with us and enjoy this supplement. It should be pretty self explanatory. I have rounded up what I feel are the ten biggest surprises in wrestling history. These are things that not only shocked us at the time, but were also total unforeseeable and left an impact on the wrestling business that reverberated throughout every aspect of it for years, and even generations, afterward. These are the what the fuck moments that have defined the past 20 years.
And believe me, these don’t even begin to cover it.
So when Wrestlemania XX rolled around and we learned out of nowhere that he had decided that he didn’t like wrestling anymore and instead wanted to live out his dream of becoming a professional football player, people were shocked. Sure guys like Hulk Hogan and the Rock had gone into movies, but that was a connection people could make. Lesnar was willing to give up being the biggest star in professional wrestling to be a walk on on an NFL team with practically no football experience? People were livid. Considering that you’re dealing with an audience that will call you a sell out for just trying to make a decent living half the time, this behavior was met with outright scorn from every corner of the wrestling world. The result was Lesnar’s last match in WWE turning into this:
So with that debacle behind him, he went to the NFL and, well, he didn’t make it. He briefly returned to wrestling, in Japan, but it was a disaster also and he soon left there too. Lately he’s been doing some sort or fighting thing I hear? I’m sure it’s just a fad though, and that he’s not too good at it. Probably looks something like this.
(I’m joking, good god Vice would murder me for even suggesting such a thing).
In the end, the sudden departure of Brock Lesnar led to the rise of John Cena and Batista to fill the void he left, and initiated a restructuring of the WWE that still goes on today. Not only that, but his fame and status there helped him become the biggest name in Mixed Martial Arts, and the UFC in particular, a sport that is now routinely kicking the WWE’s dick in the dirt. The departure was sudden, the effects were widespread, and the man….well, i’ll let you decide that one for yourself.
Total Nonstop Action opened it’s doors on May 10, 2002. By May 11th, people were certain that it was about to go bankrupt and close. Now here, over eight years later, you still hear the same thing on a nearly daily basis. So what makes this surprise stack up against the others on this list? Simple. Those fans are right.
In the eight years that TNA has been an active promotion they have made incredible leaps of progress, going from a weekly PPV model to a television show and monthly international PPVs, but they have also had hideous failures. The move to Monday nights, the booking regimes of Vince Russo (the first time) and Dusty Rhodes, and the family feud between Jeff and Jerry Jarrett that nearly buried TNA before it even got started. Somehow it has persevered through all of this to continue existing and being the lightning bolt of controversy it is today.
So we know that it’s surprising that it has lasted in a wrestling world post Monday Night Wars where nothing is thriving, even the WWE, but why is it impactful also? Simple. If TNA didn’t make it, if one single thing had gone wrong at the wrong time, then the second biggest wrestling promotion in the United States as of today, would be Wrestlicious.
Think about that next time you root for them to fail.
It’s hard to believe that any wrestling fan could possibly have not heard the story of what happened nearly 13 years ago now in the city of Montreal, but i’ll summarize. Bret Hart, the WWE champion at the time, signed a contract to go to WCW. The trouble for the WWE (WWF at the time) was that he refused to lose it to one single man on the entire roster, and it was the only guy they wanted to put it on. Bret Hart hated Shawn Michaels, and the feeling was very much mutual, so they worked out a plan to have them have a match right before Bret left, but to have Bret lose the belt on Raw the next night before he left instead of losing it to Shawn. Especially central to this was the idea that Bret Hart desperately did not want to lose the title in Montreal, where he was hailed as a goddamn national hero. Like fucking Marmaduke.
Handshakes were made, promises were promised, and they went out to have their match. Shawn and Bret had a good little match for awhile, until finally Shawn put Bret into Bret’s own Sharpshooter submission move. Within seconds of him applying it Earl Hebner called for the bell, awarded the match and the title to Shawn, and they named him the new champion. Only one problem.
Bret Hart hadn’t tapped out.
Then fucking chaos erupted. Shawn looked incredibly confused by all of it (which was later revealed to be an act since he had known about it all along) and Bret immediately spit in Vince McMahon’s face, knowing that he was behind it. After the match Bret punched Vince directly in the face, left for WCW, and never stepped foot in a WWE ring until this very year.
Was it surprising? Fuck, for some people this was the first time that wrestling had truly broken kayfabe and been part of real life. No casual fan could possibly have expected what they saw that night, or that Bret Hart, a hero to many for over a decade, would disappear without a trace immediately after. It was so confusing and shocking that people would not let it go, talking about it in every corner or the wrestling world right up until Bret and Vince’s tearful reunion on Raw.
So aside from being surprising, what came of all this? Well for starters this:
Which led to this:
Which led to a great deal of this:
Welcome to the saddest entry in this article.
All throughout his career, Eddie Guerrero had a stigma attached to him. He was widely recognized as one of the greatest wrestlers in the world, maybe one of the best of all time, but a combination of drug and alcohol issues and a lack of personality kept him from ever truly reaching the big time. He was the straight man in Los Gringos Locos with Art Barr, he toiled in the midcard in WCW, and when he made it to WWE and started to show some life as “Latino Heat” he got busted for drugs and fired. Along the way he had marital issues, survived a hellacious car accident, and fought his demons within and without, somehow managing to make a reputation as one of the kindest and best men in the wrestling business in the process. Nobody had a harder road to make it to the top than Eddie Guerrero. Nobody seemed like a longer shot to achieve the highest honors in the wrestling business. Nobody thought that this would ever happen.
His reign didn’t last too long, but it didn’t matter. Eddie had made it, and he was a main eventer finally after all of his struggle, and the fans embraced him like they had rarely done for anyone in wrestling history. They let Eddie Guerrero into their hearts, and made him their hero. He was on a roll, and about to enter into the storyline that would grant him his second World title, when on November 13th, 2005, Chavo found him unconscious in his hotel room. Eddie was taken to the hospital but could not be revived. And just like that, Eddie Guerrero was gone.
A lot of wrestlers have died over the years, many of them due to drugs or other kinds of drugs, but nobody who was this beloved had ever died while in their prime and at the top of the wrestling business, and the shock of it sent waves throughout the wrestling business as a whole. From the advent of the Wellness policy, to the mainstream media’s greater focus on wrestling in a negative light, from the main event push of Rey Mysterio to the birth of one of the greatest heels of our generation in Vickie Guerrero, Eddie Guerrero’s death impacted a lot of things that would come later in the future (including another entry later on this list). But ultimately none of that is what is important. The truth is that when Eduardo “Eddie Guerrero” Llanes died, he took something magical with him, that can never be replaced. And to this day whenever the fans hear the name “Eddie Guerrero” they will spontaneously, and passionately, chant the name of their hero.
Hulk Hogan. A name synonymous with wrestling and synonymous with the WWE, he was the man who really put the whole deal on the map. Hulkamania in the 80s was a period of unparalleled success and prosperity as Hogan almost singlehandedly carried professional wrestling into the mainstream on his back, putting his red and yellow mark on the heart of every little boy in this country. It was a great time, he was a great babyface, and he was the biggest star in the world. But that was the 80s.
The 90s saw ever diminishing returns for Hulk Hogan, as made movies like Suburban Commando and Santa With Muscles that were not only reviled by anyone with a pulse, but which left him nothing outside of wrestling to really pursue. That was also a problem because wrestling wasn’t going so hot for him. Hulkamania had run it’s course and time was passing him by. He was on the outs with WWE and Vince McMahon, and WCW wasn’t even an option at the time for anyone who wanted to make actual money. He retired and swore off of the business forever. That is, until he got a phone call from WCW’s new executive producer. An enterprising young genius named Eric Bischoff. Bisch, with liberal doses of Ric Flair’s persuading, convinced Hulk Hogan to sign with WCW, and all was well again for a little while. But eventually even this new fanbase tired of Hulkmania, and interest dipped again. Faced with the decision to change with the times or become irrelevant, Hulk Hogan did the only thing he could do.
He turned heel.
After Vince McMahon took over control of the then WWWF from his father Vince Sr, there weren’t a whole lot of people who were hugely pleased with the development. The new Vince was a brash young man with new ideas about shaking up the way that the entire country, nay, the world saw professional wrestling. Namely he wanted them to see it through him. He bought up all the best talent from all of the top territories, he convinced regional television markets to replace the territory’s shows with his nicer and glitzier ones, and he started experimenting with cable and television on a national level as a means to grow his business greater. But despite his successes towards making the newly christened WWF a national product, he still needed one big punch to send it into mainstream awareness and to put him definitively ahead and above of the competition.
That punch, he decided, would be Wrestlemania. The first true wrestling PPV.
PPV, as a concept had been flirted with before, but nobody, especially nobody in the wrestling world, had ever attempted to do anything with it on so grand a scale as this would be. Vince McMahon put all of his eggs in one basket and gambled the future of the WWF, and perhaps of wrestling itself, on the success of one incredible supershow. He rolled the dice, and he won. Now, coming up on Wrestlemania XXVII, it’s safe to say that Wrestlemania has been professional wrestling biggest, and most enduring, success story. But way back before March 31st, 1985 nobody could have expected something with so many questions to have even the slightest chance of succeeding. Would PPV reach enough homes to make it worth while? Would people come to the stadiums to watch it on closed circuit television? Would a main event featuring Mr. T, a nonwrestler, have any hope to draw wrestling fans? Could this concept actually succeed in the long term?
Well here’s a picture from just two years later. You tell me.
It was a sight that nobody ever could have dreamed of. Actually, that’s not quite right, because nearly everyone had dreamed of it, but nobody could possibly have expected it to actually happen. But on March 21st, 2001 the impossible happened. Shane McMahon stepped out into the live arena, live on the final episode of WCW Monday Nitro and announced that the company now belonged to him, and they were declaring war on the WWE. And from that point on, wrestling shifted forever.
To understand what made this a big deal, you have to understand the outlook of wrestling in the United States in the 80s and 90s. It was a two horse show, all the way throw wrestling’s two biggest boom period as first the NWA and the WWF and then WCW and the WWF butted heads in a never ending feud over supremacy of the wrestling business, and boy was it tense. Attempts to sabotage one another were common, and their lawyers must have sent Christmas cards to one another after all of the time they spent together. But throughout it all, the fans are the ones who prospered, having two wrestling promotions competing and bringing out the best (and raunchiest) in one another. All throughout that time, also, fans of each promotion dreamed to the matches that may be. Steve Austin vs. Goldberg, The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan, DX vs. The Outsiders. Entire magazines stayed afloat simply by eternally perpetuating these fantasies, and as WCW fans watched their product slowly slide into oblivion as 2000 slipped into 2001, those dreams seemed about as far away as The Orion Nebula.
But oh how fast things can change. Vince bought WCW, and within months the dreamed of invasion was on in force, followed by a metric fuckton of new talent, which then prompted the brand split, which brought about the new generation getting a healthy push which led to…you get the idea. If you want to find to one branching point from which all of WWE, and perhaps all of professional wrestling, have grown in the 21st, look no further. No modern act has had such a profound impact on the wrestling business as this one…
Because seriously. What HASN’T it survived so far?
A century of everything from World Wars to economic recessions. From steroid scandals to the revelations that the matches were fixed. From the territories to MMA, and from drugs to backyard wrestling, professional wrestling has weathered every storm imaginable. As time goes on and wrestling continues to…well…continue, it becomes more and more clear that there may very well be nothing that could put a definitive end to this sport/hobby/homoerotic touching of ours, and that will ever remain the hope. That one day we will be able to sit grandchildren on our knee (our own, hopefully) and introduce them to wrestling the way we were.
The never ending tradition, of men in their underwear pretending to fight.
We hope you liked our countdown of the 10 Biggest Surprises in Wrestling History, and indeed, it’s almost certain that you are fuming and full of things I left out and things I let in. Naturally since i’ve got the blog here it would be easy for me to thumb my nose and say “Na na na na na” with associated tongue sticking outtedness. But hey, let your voice be heard, send us an email, and maybe, just maybe, you can make it into the upcoming mailbag, where we will be answering question submitted by you, our dear readers. Our Cewsh Contemporaries, our Vice Villains and our Ms. Cewsh Super Cutes. God help us, the comments are moderated but the emails wont be. So send them in and get on with your day. Oh, and like the Master Chief here, enjoy your Labor Day Night and chilllllllllll.