Over the course of the last month a number of stories have broken in the wrestling world. They were tied to WWE, ROH and TNA, and managed to once again capture fans’ attention. In what we hope to have as a monthly feature, we explore the 10 biggest stories to break in wrestling over the course of the month of November. These stories usually have traction built by social media, so when we explore these stories we are looking at just that, popularity as reflected in social media. While in the past, the deaths of wrestlers have been a major story because of their impact on the sport, that isn’t the case this month. Some stories are tied to wrestlers, while others pertain to the passing of legendary wrestlers, or stories about potential threats of terrorism to those attending a major annual event.
These items include: someone of significance being injured; a subsequent tournament to determine the injured wrestler’s championship successor; the appearance of an iconic Phenom on a late night talk show; the passing of a legendary wrestler; a storyline that crossed the line and became personal; two separate promotions changing the networks that they will appear on; and an annual event with incredible results. While a number of stories may have also taken place, these 10 stood out because of their trending nature on Twitter, publicity through wrestling news aggregators, and their impact on wrestling today. These items earned a significant amount of attention outside the ring, though little has been made of most of them inside.
10. Former AWA Heavyweight Champion Nick Bockwinkel passes away at the age of 80
On November 14th the wrestling world mourned a pioneer, as former four-time AWA Heavyweight champion and one half of the former AWA Tag Team champions, Nick Bockwinkel passed away at the age of 80. Bockwinkel’s career spanned over three decades, something unheard of in today’s wrestling. He was known for being as technically savvy on the microphone as he was in the ring. Bockwinkel was managed by former WWE manager and WCW commentator Bobby The Brain Heenen during Heenan’s time in the AWA. Bockwinkel’s had matches against legendary opponents such as Verne Gagne, Billy Robinson and Greg Gagne.
His feuds with the likes of Hulk Hogan and Jerry The King Lawler are notable for today’s wrestling fan. In 2007, Bockwinkel was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, despite never actively competing with the company, though he had previously worked as a road agent for the company. His articulate and intelligent nature was rare in the business, and would often get under the skin of fans who assumed he thought he was better than them. There will never be another one like him. Bockwinkel is just one of a number of wrestling legends that have left us this year.
9. The Undertaker Appears on Jimmy Fallon, tombstones a Turkey
Some of the mystique about The Undertaker is how his character is shrouded in darkness. He is rarely seen in public, let alone as The Undertaker. On an episode of Jimmy Fallon‘s The Tonight Show, The Undertaker appeared virtually unannounced. During the suggestion box segment of the program, Fallon read a suggestion that said “Dear Jimmy, you should have The Undertaker from the WWE came out and tombstone a guy in a turkey outfit on your show.”
Fallon quickly stated that he wouldn’t know how to make that happen, and that he wouldn’t even know how to contact The Undertaker, stating that it would be late notice. Sure enough, static hit the airways and The Undertaker’s infamous gong struck. The Undertaker came out from behind the curtain to pyro and smoke, much to the chagrin of the guy on stage in the turkey costume (in fact it was recently released WWE wrestler Brad Maddox, who was released days later, but his identity wasn’t a focal point.) As the guy flapped his wings around The Undertaker, Taker picked him up and hit him with a tombstone pile driver on the stage. The moment went viral.
8. Lucha Underground Begins Filming Season 2
With the announcement this past September of a new season of Lucha Underground, the return to the temple was upon us, and this month the wrestling fans present at the TV tapings became introduced once again to the various talent on the roster. While the tapings did reveal some of the talent that will be a part of the new season, we won’t divulge who they are. What fans can be grateful for is that a number of the performers that made the show a success in its inaugural season will return in the second season. The shows taped so far will not air until the new year, and thus will undergo editing and have backstage segments added to maintain quality and continuity within the show’s storylines.
In an interview I conducted with Executive Producer Eric Van Wagenen this past October, it was clear that fans will be treated to the same quality and intrigue in the new storylines that they saw last season. We won’t divulge what took place in these particular tapings because what takes place will not necessarily go to air, and items that were filmed may in fact be out of sequence. However, the fact that the season is under way is exciting both for those who became fans last year and prospective fans that have heard the buzz about the show.
7. WWE Divas Contract Signing Controversy
On the November 16th edition of Monday Night Raw, a segment that was intended to build the hype for the Divas Championship match between Charlotte and Paige went in an unexpected direction. As is typical for most contract signings, tension mounted between the opponents. But on this night, an insensitive decision was made taking the confrontation in a questionable direction Paige took a personal shot at Charlotte that involved the latter’s late brother Reid. For anyone that is unfamiliar with Reid’s story, he was an aspiring wrestler who unfortunately passed away from a drug overdose a few years ago. During the in-ring promo, Paige stated to Charlotte, “You know what Charlotte, you’re wrong sweetheart, because your little baby brother – he didn’t have much fight in him did he?”
While we are aware that wrestling promos are intended to get a reaction and incite an audience, this one managed to upset those directly affected by Reid’s unfortunate death. His mother, Elizabeth Fleihr, was quite public with her displeasure, tweeting that the writing was “lazy” and expressing disbelief that WWE went there. Reid and Charlotte’s father, sixteen-time World Champion Ric Flair, stated he was unaware of the decision to use the family tragedy as part of the storyline between the two women wrestlers.
6. Ring of Honor Leaves Destination America for Comet Network
On November 16th, Ring of Honor announced that it will be leaving Destination America before their 26-week deal was set to expire. The move expands ROH’s relationship with its owner Sinclair Broadcasting by changing its national cable partner from Destination America to Sinclair-owned Comet Network. ROH aired its last broadcast on Destination America on November 25th. In the interim, the program will continue to be available in syndication, through Sinclair affiliates, and online. What is interesting is the move has the show airing at midnight central and 11 pm eastern.
Ring of Honor COO Joe Koff spoke to Busted Open Radio, discussing the company’s new television deal, the move to Comet, and the network’s availability throughout the United States. Koff stated “We thought that Ring of Honor would be the perfect companion for some of that programming, which is why we made the move to Comet…. Comet is one of our owned platforms…in partnership with MGM so we saw it as a natural place to go for our Ring of Honor weekly television show.” Koff also stated “Comet reaches more homes than Destination America in its initial launch footprint. We’re in New York, Chicago, LA, those markets, automatically. We’re getting those markets – Philadelphia, Seattle, Denver. We’re getting those markets so you’re really not losing Ring of Honor in those markets…We‘ve really done a good job in ‘expanding our brand.”
5. TNA Impact Wrestling Moving to Pop TV
On November 20th, TNA President Dixie Carter and Pop TV President Brad Schwartz confirmed the new multi-year deal between the promotion and the network, after it was announced the day before. TNA is anticipating it will record more television, as well as tour in the coming year, with the program now airing on Tuesday nights. The change in the night is believed to benefit the company and the viewing audience since it is a less competitive evening. TNA personnel were made aware about the move and the multi-year deal this week. The first episode will be a live broadcast on Tuesday, January 5th.
The move marks the third network on which TNA has aired over the past few years, after parting ways with Spike TV and Destination America. For all the criticism of the move, TNA should be commended for continuing to diversify and build exposure to their product. The company’s constant search for a better opportunity for them and their brand is certainly something that TNA fans can appreciate. While the details of the multi-year deal have yet to be released, TNA fans can rest assured that the promotion appears dedicated to growing on Pop TV.
4. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins Injured Out of Action for 6-9 Months
On Wednesday November 4th, it was reported that WWE World Heavyweight champion Seth Rollins was injured in Ireland during a match against “The Demon” Kane. The initial reports were scattered, suggesting the injury may not have been as bad as first perceived. However, when video of the injury was made available by those in attendance, it was clear that the manner in which Rollins knee buckled was more severe than first assumed. The injury will leave Rollins out of action for six to nine months. The move wasn’t anything he hasn’t attempted before. The difference this time around is that he landed awkwardly, causing his knee to buckle, in the process tearing his ACL and meniscus.
The injury couldn’t have come a worse time for Rollins, as his ascent to being “The Man” (as Triple H puts it) has come crashing down. The injury ended Rollins’ six month reign as champion. During his time as champion, Rollins has defeated the likes of Kane, Sting, Randy Orton, and Dean Ambrose. Whether he would have held on to the title after this month’s Survivor Series will never be known. What is certain is that Rollins’ injury has immediately caused a stir to the WWE World Heavyweight title picture.
3. WWE World Heavyweight Title Tournament to Crown a New Champion
Upon the announcement of the vacant WWE World Heavyweight Title, a tournament was assembled to determine a champion. It’s a different approach than what the WWE has had to use in recent years when a title has been made vacant. The most coveted title in the WWE was awarded after a series of matches that led to the culminating semi-final and final match ups at Survivor Series. The sequence of matches helped to alleviate the stress of having a single match to determine the champion. Prior to the tournament even taking place, Triple H publicly approached Roman Reigns, making him an offer to be “his man.” While this seemed to be an incredible offer to accept, Reigns refused, and was thrust into the title tournament.
The tournament consisted of eight initial qualifying matches, four quarterfinals match, two semifinals and the finals. The tournament itself did have some surprising finishes; Kalisto defeating Ryback and advancing past the former Intercontinental champion into the quarterfinals was something most fans would never have seen coming. The Neville/Barrett match was something of a surprise as well, as consecutive losses by Neville leading up to the tournament left fans questioning if he would advance. The final four of Dean Ambrose, Alberto Del Rio, Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns were all considered favorites going into the tournament.
2. Reported ISIS Threat Against Survivor Series
On November 21st, The International Business Times reported that Anonymous, the international group of hacker activists, uncovered information about potential upcoming attacks planned by the terrorist group ISIS. The only city in the U.S. that was listed was Atlanta, Georgia, which was the home of this year’s Survivor Series in the Philips Arena. While it wasn’t confirmed by law enforcement authorities, Anonymous stated “The Islamic State group is planning an assault at the WWE Survivor Series event scheduled to take place in the Philips Arena in Atlanta Sunday (November 22nd) at 7.30 p.m. EST, as well as attacks at multiple events in Paris.”
Anonymous gave the following justification for why they are making these statements: “The goal is to make sure the whole world, or at least the people going to these events, know that there have been threats and that there is possibility of an attack to happen.” The WWE was quick to make a statement in regard to reported attacks. “WWE Survivor Series is currently scheduled as planned while we investigate the matter with federal, state and local authorities.” The threats were not taken lightly, based on a report by Atlanta news that cited the FBI’s awareness and preparation in light of the Anonymous statement.
1. Roman Reigns Wins the WWE World Heavyweight Title Only to Have Sheamus Cash in Money in the Bank and Capture it From Him
As the 2015 Survivor Series drew to a close, Roman Reigns defeated Dean Ambrose to capture the WWE World Heavyweight championship. The exhausted Reigns’ long pursuit of the title had finally met with success. Reigns had seen his efforts thwarted several times, so to see him finally succeed was quite the sight. Over the past year, he has had to deal with injury, a fan base that was not receptive, and attempts to win public support by using other prominent stars such as The Rock and Daniel Bryan to help his cause. Reigns has previously lost a championship challenge at WrestleMania when Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract during the main event.
It finally appeared as though he would walk away the champion, as Rollins’ injury prior to the event left Reigns as the favorite to win the tournament. After Reigns’ victory, Triple H attempted to congratulate Reigns. The result was Reigns spearing Triple H, which left him wide open for Sheamus to hit him with a brogue kick, in an attempt to cash in his Money in the Bank contract. Though he kicked out of one brogue kick, Reigns couldn’t come back from a second kick which ended the 5 minute reign of Reigns.