Over the course of the last month a number of stories have broken in the wrestling world. They were tied to WWE, ROH, Lucha Underground 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.
These stories usually have a social media built traction to them, 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. The month of October brought with it several items that filled newswires across the web. Some stories are tied to wrestlers, while others pertain to former wrestlers, or stories about athletes in different sports that cross over with wrestling.
These items included someone signing with a promotion, criticism towards a charitable foundation, monumental achievements, the breaking of a story line, a return to and a departure from a company, an event that caught the attention of fans and wrestlers alike, and trademark rights being earned by someone for whom it holds great value. Each one of these stories held great significance. While a number of interviews may have been conducted and other stories broke, these particular ten stood above others at the time. These items earned a significant amount of attention outside the ring, though little has been made of most of them inside.
10 John Cena To Take Time Off From The Ring
It has been reported that former United States Champion John Cena will be taking an extended absence from the WWE. He hasn't divulged why he is taking the time off, with the only explanation reported being personal reasons. Whenever a vague explanation like personal reasons is given, fans like to speculate on what they might be. The announcement of the leave was initially tied into the finale of the most recent Total Divas season, when Nikki Bella was approached by former boyfriend Dolph Ziggler with an admittance of unresolved love for her. This led to speculation of a break up between Cena and Nikki Bella, or that there was a legitimate issue between him and Ziggler.
What has been reported by The Wrestling Observer's Bryan Alvarez is that Cena will be filming something during his break from the ring, perhaps a reality based show for the FOX Network. His loss will unquestionably be felt regardless of the reason. Whether it has been merchandise sales, notable matches or great promos, Cena has been key to the company. It seems the love or hate by fans for all things Cena will be given a break for the time being. One hopes that his personal reasons will be quickly resolved and he could return to the ring sooner rather than later. It has been predicted that Cena's return isn't expected to happen until the day after Christmas. Cena had been advertised for a number of events previously, but has since been removed from the publicity for those upcoming house shows.
9 The Young Bucks Announce Signing With A Major Promotion
Matt and Nick Jackson are two of the most clever self-promoters in wrestling. So it was no surprise when, leading up to this announcement, they heavily promoted this upcoming signing. In tweets sent out by Matt Jackson, they mentioned NXT, Lucha Underground, WWE, TNA and ROH. They eventually announced that the brothers had signed the most lucrative deal in Ring of Honor history. While the details of the deals have yet to be announced, speculation that other promotions were reaching out to the Bucks has been reported. At 30 and 25 years of age, the Young Bucks are one of the most popular tag teams in wrestling, garnering a huge following via social media. They are also part of the popular New Japan Pro Wrestling faction The Bullet Club. Regardless of how the deal is structured, one of the factors that had to come into play was allowance for flexibility.
Ring of Honor does a great deal of work with New Japan Pro Wrestling, so the Young Bucks' ability to move around between the promotions, along with potentially picking up independent bookings, works very well in their favor. This type of deal may not necessarily have been an option for a promotion such as the WWE because of the success the team would carry with them into the company. Other members of the Bullet Club faction that also have competed for both Ring of Honor and New Japan include; AJ Styles, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows. Congratulations to the Young Bucks and all the best is wished to them for their continued success.
8 CM Punk’s comments on the Susan G Komen Foundation
On the October 5th edition of Raw, the WWE once again began to show their support for the Susan G Komen Foundation. As October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, the company's annual promotion was met with a great deal of support by fans in attendance, and the cause is of great significance. But it was also met with some initial criticism. The criticism wasn't directed towards the company, but rather the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Former WWE World Champion CM Punk tweeted out this statement on that particular evening:
If you're going to give money to a company that claims to raise money for finding a cure for cancer, please do some research. Komen is a scam.
The reaction brought about a firestorm of criticism towards Punk, who clarified what he meant by his statements:
I'm talking about people collecting money for themselves in the name of breast cancer and you're talking about fake wrestling.
Punk felt that there was more focus on wrestling by fans rather than the support of a cause. Among all the organizations that support cancer research, none direct 100% of proceeds towards research; rather, a portion of proceeds is allocated. The reason for this is that a portion of the donation goes towards paying employees who work for the foundation, among other fees. Punk's comments are based on information stating that Komen applies only 15% of the money raised to finding a cure. The public outcry by fans was that they believed he was bashing the cause, when in fact he wants a higher percentage of proceeds to go to the cause.
7 Lana and Rusev Announce Their Engagement
One of the biggest stories to hit the WWE was TMZ's breaking of the announcement of Lana and Rusev's engagement. There normally wouldn't be an issue with it, much like Nikki Bella's real-life relationship with John Cena, but an on-screen story line hadn't already been developed pitting Lana and Rusev against one another. The story becomes even more peculiar because as soon as it was reported that same night where Rusev lost clean in a couple of minutes to Ryback. Afterwards, there was an in-ring promo by Summer Rae, where she slapped Rusev and went on about the engagement announcement. She then proceeded to leave him there, completely dumbfounded and screaming back at her.
There was even a pre-taped segment where Dolph Ziggler was asked about the announcement, to which he responded he wished them well and wanted to move on. It just seemed odd to go to these lengths and tell fans "it is official, this story line is over." An argument that has surfaced is that Rusev was being "punished" for his part in this becoming very public. Since Lana isn't currently on screen while recovering from an injury, the belief is that Rusev has become the fall guy in this. While I don't necessarily believe this will be the beginning of Rusev losing consistently, I do believe it could have easily been ignored by the WWE. There is no mention of Nikki Bella and John Cena's relationship on either Raw or Smackdown, so why make a fuss here? But perhaps had to come clean about the relationship since TMZ is often a source they promote, as well that use to break stories.
6 Harry Smith Gains Rights To Use The British Bulldog Name
Former WWE tag team champion Harry Smith announced that he has gained the exclusive rights to use the British Bulldog name which was made popular by his late father, Davey Boy Smith: “A big announcement to be made! Ownership and trademark of the name British Bulldog has been granted, won and paid by me. Now going forward in Pro Wrestling NOAH, I will be known as the British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith Jr.”
The British Bulldog name was originally made famous by Smith's father, Davey Boy Smith, and his partner and cousin “The Dynamite Kid” Tommy Billington, when they competed as a tag team in the mid to late 1980s. The trademark is a huge win against his former employer, as normally the WWE purchases the name rights of their talent once they are with the promotion. This is why you will see talents re-branded with different names upon their arrival. Finn Balor, Hideo Itami and Asuka are three notable names that have been re-branded by the WWE due to trademarking rights.
As a third generation wrestler and member of the legendary Hart family, Smith's popularity and name has grown while competing alongside Lance Hoyt as one half of the GWF tag team champion Killer Elite Squad. It is not simply based on his family lineage. Several wrestlers have shared how Smith has improved and changed his style of wrestling over the years. His time in Japan has been a major factor in the change and maturation of his in-ring style.
5 NXT Takeover: Respect
On Wednesday, Oct 7th, NXT Takeover: Respect took place in front of a capacity crowd at Full Sail University. The event was memorable for a number of different reasons. First, and foremost, the 30 Minute Iron Man match between Sasha Banks and Bayley for the NXT Women's title managed to top their last match at the previous NXT Takeover event, this past August in front of a capacity crowd at the Barclay's Center. The match up went down to the wire, with Bayley coming out victorious three wins to two at the last possible second, as Sasha tapped out before the time expired.
Throughout the years, women generally haven't been given quality time to compete in a match and tell a compelling story. On this particular night, there were spots, wearing down of body parts, and storytelling that drew in the audience. Once the match was complete the entire NXT locker room stood at the top of the ramp-way, applauding the efforts of both women. With bouquets of flowers in hand, both Bayley and Sasha stood with tears streaming down their face. Both women had arrived, and unquestionably put the NXT women's division to the forefront of the brand.
The other prominent occurrence that took place was the Dusty Rhodes Invitational Tag Team Tournament. While Finn Balor and Samoa Joe were ultimately victorious, it was the performance of Chad Gable and Jason Jordan that really stole the show, in their semi-final match against Baron Corbin and Rhyno. The night was a huge success, and fans certainly showed their approval of the event throughout the evening.
4 Cowboy James Storm debuts in NXT
While it had been speculated for some time, it finally came to fruition: Former TNA World Heavyweight and Tag Team Champion ‘Cowboy' James Storm made his debut for the WWE's NXT brand, in a taped edition of the program that aired Wednesday, Oct 21st. Fans were elated by his arrival. Rumors had circulated leading up to his debut that he had signed with the company, but they were quickly denied. With all due respect to Storm and the WWE, it would be easier to deny a signing and debut if it wasn't true. Social media was abuzz about Storm's arrival, and it was met with a great reception. Storm had been with TNA since the promotion's inception, and to see him now with the WWE means that he is opening a new chapter in his career.
Whether or not he has signed, or was simply appearing as an independent contract, is for Storm and the company to officially announce at their discretion. Storm is just one of a number of independent or former TNA talents that have appeared with the brand. Storm's growth and development as a talent throughout the years will only help the younger talent within the promotion. Storm, along with Samoa Joe, Rhyno and The Dudley Boyz will all look to make an impact on the promotion with their sights set on the prize. The growth of the NXT brand, with the inclusion of such highly regarded and known talent, is allowing the brand to compete as a stand-alone promotion.
3 Alberto Del Rio Returns To The WWE
On Sunday, October 25th, Alberto Del Rio, much to the surprise of WWE fans, returned to the promotion and challenged John Cena for the United States Championship. What was equally surprising was that Zeb Colter also made his return TV as an ally of Del Rio. Rumors had circulated that day that he may be returning to challenge Cena for the title. Other names, such as Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan and Tyler Breeze were among those that were rumored to be competing for the title as well. Del Rio's return also answered questions as to whether or not he would return to Lucha Underground for the upcoming season.
His return to the WWE also aids the promotions in its plans to once again have Latin representation, and connect with Hispanic American fans. It is representation that has sadly been missed since both Del Rio and Rey Mysterio left the promotion over a year prior. The welcome addition of Del Rio also sets up a number of new potential rivalries moving forward, and using the United States title in the process helps achieve this. It's a very inclusive use of the Del Rio character, by having him encompass the melting pot that North America has become. It's forward thinking on the company's part and a welcomed change from the evil foreigner gimmick that took place before with Del Rio.
2 Roderick Strong Defeats Jay Lethal For The ROH Television Title, Ending 18 Month Reign
Since April 4th, 2014 Jay Lethal had been the Ring of Honor television champion. As of April 2015, a year after capturing the title, Lethal began to refer to himself as the Ring of Honor ‘World Television Champion;' because he had held the title for such a long time, it in fact had greater prestige than the ROH World Title. Lethal was the current ROH World Champion and the ROH ‘World' Television champion simultaneously, a status that hadn't been achieved before and one which truly marked how unprecedented his reign had been. Mr. ROH, Roderick Strong, is no stranger to ROH championships either. He also challenged Lethal this past summer for the ROH World title, but was unsuccessful as the match resulted in a time limit draw.
After losing to Lethal on several occasions after that, Strong asked for one more match for the World title. ROH matchmaker Nigel McGuiness didn't grant his request, saying that others are now in line for an opportunity. He did, however, say that Strong would be the #1 contender for the ROH Television championship. On October 23rd, Strong defeated Lethal for the Television belt. The loss ends an 18 month reign for Lethal, who was dominant as champion, taking on all challengers in the process. The list of names Lethal defeated to maintain the title include: Caprice Coleman, ACH, Matt Sydal, Alberto El Patron (Del Rio), Matt Taven and Bobby Fish, just to name a few. This unquestionably has to be the longest title reign of professional wrestling's modern era and one that Lethal should unquestionably be proud of.
1 UFC Champion Ronda Rousey Wants to Be Divas Champion
Current UFC Champion, and arguably the current face of MMA, Ronda Rousey shared what her future career aspirations and goals are recently. Among them were competing for the WWE and capturing the Diva's championship.
“What I would love to do: I got an Olympic medal, I would want to retire from MMA as one of the greatest of all time, I would love to have the chance to be the boxing world champion, and I would love to have the chance to be a jiu-jitsu world champion. I'd love to have the chance to be the Divas world champion and just be the best of everything at one point.”
The idea was further encouraged via social media, as current champion Charlotte welcomed the challenge for the title stating on twitter.
Come get it… Anytime. Anywhere. @RondaRousey @ufc @UFCONFOX #DivasChampion
You are always welcomed...I'll leave the light @WWEPerformCtr on for you!!!
Will this come to fruition eventually? The idea of Rousey leaving the UFC and joining the WWE is not new, and while UFC President Dana White continued to deny Rousey's departure, or a working relationship with the WWE, it certainly could be a potential crossover for Rousey, whose star power would cement the Divas division and its success moving forward. It will be interesting to see what develops with this story moving into 2016