The Top Stories of 2008 - 2010 was an article published in January of 2010 by esteemed Pro Wrestling Hits Magazine.
The Second City Strikes Gold at the Windy City ClassicEditIt was a case of extreme paradox in Chicago this mild March night as CM Punk, the reigning WCW champion was jeered mercilessly by his hometown crowd as he put that championship on the line and lost it to Chris Hero at Windy City Wrestling's biggest event of the year. The crowd took delight in the fact that the bitter, and arrogant Punk had lost WCW's top prize to one of their favourite stars in Hero. However, as the show went on and approached the night's much anticipated Main Event of the evening, an NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship match that pitted reigning champion PAC against LOW-KI, things got strange. Moments prior to the start of the bout, Ace Steel took to the microphone and announced that travel issues had prevented LOW-KI from making it to the arena, and he wouldn't be able to receive his shot. There would however still be a title defence, Steel promised, and PAC's opponent turned out to be none other than "The Straight-Edge Savoir" himself, CM Punk. As the match waged on, the crowd grew louder, and louder, until seemingly the entire occupancy of the arena was on the side of the man whom they'd just nearly jeered out of the building earlier in the show. Chicago had reclaimed CM Punk, and wanted nothing more than to see one of their own win world championship gold. And that he did, as a missed 450 splash from the champion was enough of an opening to allow Punk to scoop PAC onto his shoulders and finish him off with the GTS to win the World Junior Heavyweight Title. In a rare occurrence, Punk celebrated with the fans afterward.
Vancouver Championship Wrestling Owner Involved in Drug RingEdit
The wrestling industry was shocked when news broke in May of 2008 that Vancouver Championship Wrestling owner Dave Teixeira (Dave Republic) was arrested (and later indicted) by Canadian law enforcement agencies on grounds of involvement with a British Columbian drug ring. Republic, who had been involved with the National Wrestling Alliance in some way, shape, and form since the late 90's had been distributing hard drugs including cocaine and heroin alongside many of the owners of the night clubs that the VCW promotion had regularly performed shows out of. The whole fiasco would lead to the closing of the touted "Land of the Junior Heavyweights," and the former VCW talent finding work elsewhere within the NWA.
Some Promotions Feel Pressure of Failing US Economy, Others CrumbleEdit
Even the wrestling industry wasn't spared by the crippling effects of the slumping US Economy in 2008, and no promotions were hit harder than those who operated independently - with the California based Golden West Wrestling, and New York's Empire State Pro-Wrestling finding themselves six feet under before the calendar had even flipped over the first six months of the year. After over ten years in business, lowering gate totals and the failing health of Paul Orndorff would also bring an end to Championship Wrestling UNLEASHED who held their final event in December. Even NWA affiliation couldn't get a "get out of jail free card" for a wrestling organization. Big Time Wrestling, Art Barr's Lucha Libre in USA attempt was written off as a failure shortly after 2008 ended, and Barr returned to Mexico's Imperio De Lucha Azteca where he resumed his booking position.
Xtreme Fight Club, Dana White's NWA sanctioned "Wrestling Meets MMA" organization finished up its run in October of the year. Continuing pressure from an unhappy ZUFFA (UFC's parent company), and MMA fans world-wide who voiced their displeasure in the UFC President being involved in a pro wrestling company finally lead to some of the UFC's main sponsors threatening to pull out of the company. That was the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back" for the XFC with White putting the company to bed for good. British import Paul Burchill would be the last XFC champion, and signed on with RFP shortly thereafter.
NWA: Motor City, though still hanging in, was dealt devastating blow after devastating blow as top talents such as The Murder City Machine Guns, Chris Candido, Bobby Roode, Revolution X, and Raven left the promotion over payment disputes. Even Sabu's best friend, Rob Van Dam would leave the company for greener pastures, and a bigger pay day in Memphis Championship Wrestling.
SMW and AWA MergeEditIn an effort to conserve independent wrestling, two of the oldest operating "indies" joined forces in early 2009 as Jim Cornette's Smoky Mountain Wrestling was absorbed into the American Wrestling Association. The "All-New AWA" boasted that it had the only other legitimate claim at a "World Title" in North America, and one of the most talented rosters of veteran stars and young up and comers. Their most impressive up and comer of all seems to be a former Oklahoma State Collegiate All-American by the name of Jake Hager who defeated Jerry Lynn for the AWA World Title in August of '09 and has dubbed himself "The Face of the New AWA."
Real Life Drama Shakes Up LAEdit
French novelist and playwright Honore de Balzac once quipped, "Love is a game in which one always cheats." Ever controversial, NWA: Los Angeles had a "wild" 2008 - and that's just putting it mildly. Forget about the disturbing death matches, crude storylines and scantily clad women - 2008 for NWA: LA will always be remembered for the real life soap opera that transcribed during the year. John Cena was just a fresh faced newcomer who had only been wrestling a year or two in non televised matches for some of the National Wrestling Alliance's bigger promotions when he was discovered by Rob Black outside of a bar in California. Black, the notorious pornographer and owner of NWA: LA liked the looks of the muscled up newcomer, but knew he had something when he witnessed Cena "battle rap" with another guy outside of the club. That instance sparked a gimmick that the Los Angeles crowd would despise as John Cena - the rapping, wanna-be-black, white guy hit the ring for the company some few weeks later. The crowd proverbially "shit" all over Cena as he got under their skin with intentionally terrible rhymes, but some how and some way - perhaps it was his willingness to absorb increasing amounts of violence, Cena evolved and won the notoriously hard LA crowd over. Turning face in 2006, the crowd cheered him on as one of their own as he defeated Booker T for the Los Angeles Heavyweight Title. The former rapping white guy had become the serious, battle tested LA Hero who had worked his way to the top from the very bottom.Not only did Cena defend his title, he took on all comers from death match specialist Supreme, to grizzled veteran Tracy Smothers and even rising star Matt "M-Dogg 20" Cross. But, an announcement made in April would rock the company. Rob Black had filed for divorce from his long-time wife Lizzy Borden. The reason? She had been having an affair with none other than NWA Los Angeles Heavyweight Champion himself, John Cena. With the majority of Los Angeles' crowd support coming from the internet "smart mark" crowd, there was little Cena could do about his real life love affair becoming public knowledge and with the crowd taking Black's side on the matter he had become LA's most hated man overnight. As Black distanced himself from the company, Borden - who also owned a share of the promotion remained onscreen in an active role. At the "Devil May Care" event in May of 2008, John Cena and Lizzy Borden officially joined together on screen after she helped him retain the Los Angeles Heavyweight Title over Jeff Hardy. The two cut a vicious promo ripping on Rob Black, and the entire NWA:LA locker room before declaring themselves the "Power Couple" of the company.
Ironic it seemed, that the first Los Angeles show to feature an NWA World Heavyweight Title defence (Brock Lesnar defeated NWA:LA's Booker T) would be the last in the company's history, because after Devil May Care ended, NWA Los Angeles went dark for two months. As things between Borden and Black heated up in the divorce hearings, some of the promotion's biggest names began to feel that the company was a "sinking ship" and left for greener pastures. Those names included Homicide, Booker T and Jeff Hardy who had already informed the office that he'd signed with Titan Wrestling Entertainment prior to Devil May Care.
Come August, it became clear just what was in store for the promotion when it was announced that Borden had come out of the divorce not only with her half of the company, but a large share of Black's Extreme Associates Company as well. Black, wanting to "wash his hands" of professional wrestling would sell his remaining share of NWA:LA to long time booker Kevin Kleinrock. Rob Black was out of NWA: LA, but he wouldn't be alone. With him went the NWA:Los Angeles name as well.
In August of 2008. NWA:LA was left behind, and the promotion was relaunched as the brand new Project X. Separating itself from the gritty, underground image the NWA:LA thrived on, Project X claimed to be the "cutting edge" of professional wrestling. Out of the immediate future were the blood laden death matches, and the King of the Deathmatch Title belt - instead the company would focus on a once a year death match tournament, making it a special attraction. Hype videos began to air promising that the promotion's relaunch would come not with a whimper, but a bang.
And a "bang" indeed came as "Regeneration," Project X's return event saw Project X Heavyweight Champion John Cena with Lizzy Borden in his corner defeated Ron Killings in a match that saw Kaos run in and lend Cena a helping hand. However, the real shocker came when former NWA World Tag Team Champions The Dudley Boys made their Project X debut, helping Cena retain his title and put Killings through a table. Afterwards, Cena, Borden, Kaos and The Dudley's joined hands forming a union that would become known as "Club X," ushering in a new era of wrestling in Los Angeles.
Controversy at World War IIIEdit
In October of 2008 a sixty man, two ring battle royal would decide who would receive an NWA World Heavyweight Title shot at Starrcade against Brock Lesnar at the newly relaunched NWA Supershow, World War III. After nearly an hour and a half, the final four was reached with WCCW's Superstar Steve Austin and Mean Mark Callus alongside TWE's Jean Paul Levesque and in a bit of a surprise, RFP's up and coming star, Randy Orton. In the next fifteen minutes, Callus would be eliminated by JPL and Austin countered a Pedigree attempt by JPL with an elimination over the top rope via back body drop. That meant the match was down to Steve Austin, and Randy Orton who had spent the entire match ducking opponents and laying low. Surely Austin, the only logical challenger to Lesnar and the man who rightfully should receive the rematch would win right? Not exactly. To surprise of many (or perhaps, despise) Orton charged Austin with a running lariat that sent both men over the top rope and out to the floor. The question was, whose feet hit the floor first? That was a question left unanswered as the WWIII Pay Per View left the air in chaos. That chaos would be settled over the course of the next month as Austin, Lesnar, and Orton made cross promotional appearances in both WCCW and RFP until NWA President J.J. Dillion decreed that both men were eliminated at the same time - and both would receive the title shot, making Starrcade's Main Event of 2008 Austin vs. Orton vs. Lesnar for the NWA Title.
Battle of the Macho Men at Clash of the Titans '08EditWhen Titan Wrestling Entertainment's Matt Morgan began calling himself "Macho" Matt Morgan, and using many of the former NWA World Heavyweight Champion and TWE commentator's trademark mannerisms, it was mildly sarcastic, but truthfully a bit amusing. When he invaded the home of "The Macho Man," and stole some of Savage's trademark costumes, it seemed as though Morgan may have been a bit disturbed or obsessed. When he revealed that he had taken Savage's wife, Miss Jackie, who outted her husband in favour of Morgan and "done the dirty," it meant war. A high profile feud with a wrestling legend like Savage was obviously used by TWE staff as a way to get Morgan over and into the limelight. The highly "soap opera" feel of the feud was by far and away one of the more entertaining in the company as it built to its biggest show of the year, Clash of the Titans. It was there that "The Battle of the Macho Men" came to a close with Miss Jackie inadvertently slapping the taste out of Morgan's mouth with a shot meant for her estranged husband, leading to the legendary Savage Piledriving Morgan into defeat in a feel good moment for everyone (not named Matt Morgan or Miss Jackie.)
Sting Retires, Passes Torch to JerichoEditFor years, "When is Sting going to hang up the boots for good?," has been the question on many a mind. Well, that question was answered at Starrcade when "The Icon" wrestled what he promised would be his final bout against Chris Jericho for the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship. Jericho, who had defeated Sting for the title back in November of 2007 at the NWA Anniversary Show (before losing it to Lord Steven Regal in February, and winning it back from Mr. Anderson in August) had been hand picked by Sting in the lead up to Starrcade, and put over by the legendary competitor as the future NWA World Champion. When the two met in the center of the ring at "The Grandaddy of' em all," the crowd reaction was phenomenal. In the end, after each man had taken one another's finishing manoeuvres a number of times each, Jericho countered a final Scorpion Death Drop attempt and delivered a running enziguri to the head of the legendary star. Before connecting with The Lionsault off of the ropes, Jericho seemed to be conflicted as Sting lied on the mat, as if he didn't want to put Sting away - but connect with the move, Jericho did - and it was lights out in the career of "The Stinger." After the match, Sting presented Jericho with the Mid-Atlantic Title, and the two embraced in the center of the ring before Jericho insisted that Sting take possession of the title belt, and walked away giving "The Icon" one last interaction with the fans who had followed his career and adored him for years. Shortly after Starrcade, Ric Flair Promotions announced that they had retired the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title - and named Sting as the "Immortal Holder" of the belt.
Mr. Anderson Becomes Inaugural RFP Heavyweight ChampionEditWith the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title, and top prize in all of Ric Flair Promotions having been retired following Starrcade, a brand new title was created in the RFP Heavyweight Championship to be claimed as the top prize in all of RFP. A tournament to crown its first champion was announced in the weeks leading up to the Bunkhouse Stampede '09 where in one night, eight men vied for the coveted new belt. In the first round, Finlay made his last RFP appearance before heading overseas as he put over then United States Champion Brent Albright who forced the "Fighting Irishman" into submission with an armbar. The cocky Mr. Anderson, who had a cup of coffee as Mid-Atlantic Champion in the past, a mere two weeks as champion before dropping the belt to Jericho was successful in his bout against Marcus Bagwell. Chris Jericho, fresh off of his victory over Sting at Starrcade pinned Lord Steven Regal in one of his final RFP appearances as well. Lastly, Playas Club members Montel Vontavious Porter and Elijah Burke faced off, with Burke getting the best of his tag team partner and former United States Champion.
In the second round of the tournament, Mr. Anderson used brass knuckles to knock out Brent Albright, and Jericho forced Elijah Burke to submit to the Lion Tamer. With Jericho vs. Anderson lined up for the finals of the tournament, many expected a great bout to cap off the evening. What they got instead was the brash Anderson attacking Jericho brutally with a steel chair before he could even make his entrance into the ring. With the match not even having started, Mr. Anderson performed a near eight minute beating with a chair to Jericho before rolling him into the ring. Once both men stepped foot in the squared circle, the bell rang and much to Mr. Anderson's surprise, Jericho had fight left in him. But it wouldn't be enough, as Anderson's attack proved to be too much and Mr. Anderson hit his trademark "Mic-Check" on Jericho to pin him and become RFP's first Heavyweight Champion.
Austin Tops Lesnar and Orton at StarrcadeEdit
In the year 2000 no one star in professional wrestling shined brighter than "Superstar" Steve Austin. First rising to stardom in the early '90s as a NWA World Tag Team Champion alongside Brian Pillman, by 2000 Austin had landed a few roles in Hollywood movies and television shows that saw him change his on-screen persona from a brash redneck, to an overconfident wanna be movie star. His act and star power became so popular that by December he topped Paul Wight to become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Austin's reign lasted nearly a year before tragedy struck in October of 2001 when he was involved in a head on collision while travelling home. Many thought it was the end of the road for "The Superstar."
Nearly seven years later, after spending almost three away from the wrestling industry to recover from his injuries, Austin once again found himself as one of the hottest acts in all of the NWA. Wanting the title back that he rightfully had never lost would be a huge task however - as it was held by the undefeated Brock Lesnar.
In their first encounter in March 2008, at World Class Championship Wrestling's "WrestleWar" pay per view, Austin took Lesnar to the limit - literally like no man had ever done before. Austin, in many's eyes even had the behemoth Lesnar pinned following his Lights, Camera, Action! finishing manoeuvre, but the referee was down and unable to make the count. Following mis-communication between the referee and Austin, Lesnar was able to nail "The Superstar" with the F-5 and retain his championship. However, Lesnar knew full well how much of a threat Austin truly presented to his reign atop the NWA.
In order to receive another shot at the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, Austin found himself with the monumental task of winning an NWA-wide inter-promotional sixty man (two ring) Battle Royal at the NWA World War III Pay Per View in October. Had it not been for RFP's Randy Orton, that mission would have been a complete success. In a way it was, as Orton charged at "The Superstar" with a lariat that sent both men tumbling over the top ropes, and out to the arena floor. Surrounded in controversy over the next few weeks as to just who won the match, President J.J. Dillon decreed that both Austin and Orton were eliminated at the same time, and therefore both would receive the title shot at Starrcade.
To many fans, Orton's sudden push, and involvement in the Austin/Lesnar feud was frustrating. Not only for the fact that Orton had been a troubled member of the Ric Flair Promotions roster who had a chequered past with drug abuse, but for the fact that many saw Starrcade as the ultimate place for Austin to finally unseat the monstrous Lesnar for the title - without anyone else in the match (much less someone deemed unworthy of the push to begin with.)
The fans may not have liked it, but Starrcade went ahead with the Triple Threat Main Event for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Orton worked much of the match as a weasel heel, moving in and outside of the ring "choosing" the time to get involved when it was to his benefit. Austin and Lesnar on the other hand chose to tear into one another, with their near year long rivalry coming to a head. In the end, the fans got what they paid to see - A Lights, Camera, Action! to both Orton and eventually Lesnar, who Austin pinned (giving him his first pinfall loss in the process) to complete his seven year journey back to the top of the mountain as NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
A Rough 2008 For ECW Marks The Return of The FranchiseEditComparing the impact Taz and The Dudley Boys have had on Eastern Championship Wrestling is like comparing the impact the television has had on the family room. Undoubtedly three of the biggest icons the promotion ever produced - with over twenty championships combined. Many of those are WORLD Championships as it pertains to The Dudleys. Needless to say, the loss of three of their biggest icons has impacted the promotion. Taz, who was the reigning ECW Heavyweight Champion informed Paul Heyman that he would be leaving the promotion for Honolulu. It was apparent that Taz's body wasn't in the greatest shape anymore, and after receiving an offer from Abdullah The Butcher to join Honolulu Championship Wrestling to work a lighter schedule with more pay, and the fact that Taz and his family wanted to retire on the island anyway, the deal was pretty much set. The Human Suplex Machine's last appearance in ECW would see him drop the ECW Heavyweight Title to Baldo The Destroyer and end their six month long feud. Baldo's rise to the top was most likely a thank you from Heyman as he had recently turned down lucrative offers from New Japan, World Class and Titan Wrestling to stay in ECW.
The Dudleys began 2008 as heels, with "The Queen of Extreme" Francine at their side. However, after Francine began to get in their way "by mistake" a number of times and cost them their matches - the half brothers from Dudleyville began to get annoyed. Soon a video of Francine talking on her cell phone and discussing how she was costing The Dudley's their matches on purpose aired, unbeknownst to The Queen herself. The Dudleys answered back by powerbombing Francine through a table (and out of her top) enroute to defeating Delirious and El Generico to recapture the ECW Tag Team Titles. Vowing revenge, Francine then introduced her new clients (and the men she'd been speaking to on her phone in the notorious video evidence) at Know Your Enemy when Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black arrived. 'The two emo drag queens' as Shane Douglas would soon dub them, attacked Bubba and D-Von using steel spikes - causing sever bleeding from the foreheads of the legendary tag team. The feud would come to an end at HeatWave where Jacobs and Black (who had been dubbed D.I.F.H., or "Do It For Her" by ECW's mutants) defeated The Dudley Boyz in a 'Loser Leaves Town Tables and Spike's' match. This match would indeed mark the end of Heyman's relationship with The Dudleys as Bubba Ray and D-Von apparently held Heyman up for an extra $5000 each to put over Black and Jacobs on their way out. A week later, The Dudleys arrived in Project X helping John Cena retain the NWA Los Angeles Championship.
One of the most controversial matches of 2008 would take place in the company with LuFisto and Mad Man Pondo taking part in a "Intergender Taipei Death Match". The rules of the match were that both competitors would tape their fists, dip them into glue, broken and crushed glass, allowing shards to stick to their fists. The match was met with outrage from ECW's Pay Per View Providers (namely In-Demand) who threatened to cancel the show. The NWA Board was not to keen on the idea either, and were going to pull the plug immediately but eventually caved when Heyman plead that both wrestlers had put a monumental effort into building for the match, and that if the NWA pulled the plug it wouldn't only hurt LuFisto and Pondo, but the entire company as well. Showing that there is indeed unity in the NWA, prominent members such as Sabu, Dusty Rhodes, Jerry Lawler and The Jarretts stood up for ECW against the PPV providers, giving the ultimatum that if they pulled ECW off of PPV, then the other companies would pull their shows as well. Finally, the show was allowed to go as scheduled with a main event that saw Baldo defeat Shane Douglas to retain the ECW Heavyweight Championship.
No, you didn't read that wrong - Shane Douglas was in an ECW Heavyweight Championship match and headlined a Pay Per View in 2008. Many saw the reformation of The Triple Threat (Now Douglas, Candido, and Sytch) and Douglas' returning into the ring after a four year absence as a sign of desperation from Heyman who felt that the former franchise player of ECW in Douglas would be the guy to get Baldo over as a heartless killing machine. The event was scheduled in Pittsburgh, likely to capitalize on The Franchise's return to the ring. The match was seen as nothing more than an average affair, with Douglas wearing a shirt during the match to cover his body. He had apparently lost 20 pounds leading up to the bout, but was still unhappy with his physique, and looked blown up half way into the match. Baldo won the match with a Baldo Bomb through a table. Luckily for ECW, things would turn around in 2009.
Angle vs. Hart at Starrcade '08Edit
In a press conference shortly before Kurt Angle joined Calgary Stampede, the multiple time former NWA World Heavyweight Champion and Olympic Gold Medallist promised he had something big in store for the one year contract he'd signed. Most thought that Angle was referring to a run as NWA Canadian Heavyweight Champion. They were they wrong.
For the first few months of Angles tenure in Stampede, it seemed he could care less about competing for the Canadian Heavyweight Title, even having walked out of a contender's match against Andrew Martin. The "something big" Angle had in mind, became clear at The Calgary Classic where the former NWA World Heavyweight Champion challenged the retired Bret Hart] to a match. Much to Angle's chagrin, Bret declined Kurt's challenge, citing that he was retired for good.
Kurt Angle doesn't like the word no. Over the course of the next couple of months, Kurt acted upon a personal vendetta against the Hart Family, injuring Teddy Hart, and attacking The Calgary Bulldogs. The attack on The Bulldogs wasn't enough to get Bret to promise Kurt a match, but it did get the former Olympian a match with Davey Boy Smith who had been serving as a trainer in Stampede's developmental league. In their pay per view match at November's "Season's Beatings," Angle defeated Smith with his Ankle Lock submission manoeuvre and refused to break the hold after the bell. Jim Neidhart, who serves as Stampede's head agent rushed out to stop the attack but he would be stretchered out of the arena before Angle was done.
The following week on ShockWave, an emotional Nattie Neidhart called Kurt Angle out to the ring and confronted him for his brutal attack on her family members, and father in particular. Angle answered back by putting Nattie in the Ankle Lock as well! With Angle threatening to break the young Woman's ankle, Bret Hart ran out to the ring, as did The Bulldogs and Teddy Hart who came to Nattie's aid. In a rageful promo, "The Hitman" finally accepted the match with Kurt Angle - at the biggest show of them all, Starrcade - with No Disqualifications.
Kurt Angle was undoubtedly the most hated man in all of Canada as Starrcade rolled around, with two of the NWA's most legendary World Champions meeting head to head for the first time in their careers. Not the technical classic that you'd expect from these two legends in their prime, this Starrcade match was more of a street fight, as it should have been with everything angle had done leading up to the night. With no disqualifications in effect, all of the Hart Family got involved, enabling Bret to lock on The Sharpshooter one last time and force Angle into submission as the entire family celebrated in the ring afterwards to finish up one of the biggest storylines to come out of Stampede in a long time.
The Americanization of ILAEdit"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," has long since been a tradition in the world of professional wrestling. Just ask Vince McMahon whose failed effort to go national with the WWF and WrestleMania saw him buy into the NWA with the creation of Titan Wrestling Entertainment. For Konnan, promoter of Mexico's Imperio De Lucha Azteca promotion, he has always contended that race has played an integral part in the reason that no ILA star to date has ever won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Controversy came in 2002 however when at Starrcade, NWA World Champion Kurt Angle successfully defended the championship against ILA's Eddy Guerrero. Konnan claimed that the NWA had promised to put the title on Eddy, and it was only a last minute decision just before the Main Event to change the outcome. Konnan called the NWA Board a bunch of racists, and in turn cut off the border, preventing ILA talents from appearing in the states, and American based talents from appearing in ILA. The blockade was later lifted when ILA worked out working agreements with Calgary Stampede and the ill fated Big Time Wrestling promotions.
Thought later changed that it may not have been race that was the factor in the NWA's hesitance to put the top strap on one of ILA's stars, but perhaps the problem lied in ILA's actual product - the traditional Lucha Libre so popular in Mexico that seemed so different from what was being produced in the states. Changes in the product had begun to appear in 2007 as Los Titanes de New York, a trios group consisting of foreign workers Mark Jindrak, Matt Striker, and Sean Morley received pushes over ILA's luchadors. But the real changes came in 2008, and 2009 as the company would further focus on American talent in an invasion storyline, and even change their logo from traditional Aztec imagery to a logotype more fitting of an American baseball team.
La Legión Extranjera (The Foreign Legion) a group consisting of former NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles, Kenzo Suzuki, Jack Evans (who had been working in ILA as Blitzkreig II), and Torrie Wilson debuted in November of 2009, and promised to change the landscape of ILA forever. The group grew to include Los Titanes de New York, and ILA turncoats Mr. Aguila and La Luchagora. Konnan, who at first played the babyface boss lead his ILA stars to battle against the legion of foreigners, but a twist would later reveal that it was in fact Konnan who had been behind the La Legión Extranjera from day one.
In October of 2009, at ILA's El Día de los Muertos pay per view event, AJ Styles defeated Eddy Guerrero for the ILA Heavyweight Title in a sure sign that a more American based product was here to stay (for the time being at least.)
The Ultimate ReturnEdit
"I don't believe it! It's him! IT'S... THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR!" Cold chills rang down the spines of long-time Titan Wrestling Entertainment fans as Vince McMahon's words echoed through television monitors around the country, and to everyone's surprise (an truthfully older looking) Ultimate Warrior raced down the ramp and into TWE's annual Royal Rumble Match in 2009. After a near thirteen year absence from the wrestling industry (due to his erratic, and nearly insane behavior), the inaugural TWE Heavyweight Champion returned to the company and made short work of Mike Mizanan, Maven, and the monstrous Samoan Savage Fatu before jumping over the top rope and eliminating himself from the bout, in typical maniacal and seemingly senseless Warrior antics.
In the weeks following The Royal Rumble pay per view, everyone was asking just why The Warrior had returned, or if his appearance at the pay per view was just a one night only occurrence. Fans got their answers a week before TWE's February In Your House event when The Warrior appeared on the debut edition of TWE Mania and made his intentions clear. In a tongue that only The Ultimate Warrior could understand, it seemed that the gods had apparently called out to "The Ultimate One," to seek out a new Warrior - one which would receive the power of the gods that he had possessed. He found that new Warrior, in the man they called Batista, and challenged him to a match at the Showcase of the Immortals, TWE's Clash of the Titans, where those powers would be transferred should Batista defeat him. Batista answered back, not quite sure of the Warrior's of all the crazies Warrior had just spewed, but asked the fans if they wanted to see the match. An astounding yes ensued, and a dream match was set.
In the weeks leading up to Clash of the Titans, Warrior made short work of Fatu, who alongside many other members of The First Family of Fear would find themselves out of TWE in the proceeding weeks, deeming their push and storyline a flop. Warrior also came to the aid of Batista, rescuing "The Animal" from an attempted beat down by the new Planet Hollywood, Joey Malibu and John Hennigan. However, it was aid that Batista didn't appreciate, and for his efforts, The Warrior found himself on the receiving end of a Demon Bomb! But, much to many a surprise, Warrior jumped back to his feet shortly after and began pounding his chest and shaking the ring ropes - "Vintage Warrior!" in the words of Michael Cole. Warrior fought back, knocking Batista down with a pair of running clotheslines, and then splashing him with the Big Splash! As Warrior shook the ring ropes again, Batista jumped back to his feet and shook the ropes much the same as The Ultimate Warrior had just done. Both men stared each other down in the center of the ring with Warrior looking as if he was right in finding the man he was looking for.
At Clash of the Titans, Batista and The Warrior wrestled what wasn't a pretty bout, but one that was fun for nostalgia's sake. It took two Demon Bombs to do it, but Batista put The Warrior down for the count. Following the match, Batista celebrated in the ring with The Warrior, with both men doing their trademark rope shaking, and Batista looking as if some sort of power had been transferred into him after all.
Everything Is Bigger (And Better) In TexasEdit
World Class Championship Wrestling broadened their talent scouting horizons in 2008, making Hawaii a prime target. Specifically Honolulu Championship Wrestling's favorite son, Rocky Johnson, Jr. For over ten years some of the biggest promotions in the National Wrestling Alliance had attempted to secure a deal with Johnson who by 2000 was widely considered Hawaii's best kept secret. However, out of loyalty to the promotion and its ties with his family, Johnson continued to call Honolulu his home through thick and thin. Dusty Rhodes had been at the top of the list of those who were trying to secure Johnson's services and to be honest - he probably thought it would never happen. That is, until he received a phone call from "The Soul Man" in mid May telling him that he was ready to pack his bags and head to the main land. It seemed that the changes Honolulu was receiving after Abdullah The Butcher took over weren't to the liking of the promotion's top star. Upon his arrival in World Class, Johnson dropped the 'Jr.' from his name and immediately was pushed towards the top of the cards culminating in a sound victory over Adam Pearce for the WCCW Heritage Championship. That was only the beginning for "The Soul Man," who would later take that WCCW Heavyweight Championship as well in 2009 and establish himself as one of the promotions top prospects.
The island wasn't the only target of WCCW's search for new blood. The New Freebirds - a stable consisting of second generation star Terry Ray Gordy, K.C. James and Ryan Reeves where signed from Smoky Mountain Wrestling and officially endorsed by Michael Hayes on their Monday Night Ignition debut. Terry Ray wasn't the only second generation star to find himself with a WCCW deal either, as Curt Hennig's children Amy and Joe where offered developmental deals, and furthered their training at Texas Championship Wrestling with the legendary Dory Funk, Jr. The company also made huge waves internationally when hype videos began airing in December for the impending 2009 debut of Mexican Icon El Hijo del Santo. Santo was signed to a big money deal in hopes that he would provide WCCW with a great connection to the Latin audience.
2008 was also about comebacks as Kevin Vegas returned to the top of the mountain. Vegas, after the last few years of his career being riddled with injuries - said he was going to "give it one last shot" and video's aired on Monday Night Ignition of Vegas' strict training methods in the gym leading to his return in April. His first match back in action saw him soundly put away Mr. Texas after "The World's Largest Luchador" had been calling him out in the weeks leading to his return. Too bad for Mr. Texas, as the bout was a mask vs career match, which forced him to unmask for good. Proving that he was indeed back and in top form, "The Sin City Sinner" defeated Big Van Vader, Dustin Rhodes and Justin Hawk Bradshaw in a Fatal Four Way Elimination match to get his shot at 'Mean' Mark Callous and the WCCW Heavyweight Championship at The Super Summer Bash '08.
On the next Monday Night Ignition, Callous took shots at Vegas claiming he was a "worn-out has-been who couldn't lace his boots" and that he "was a disgrace to World Class." "Big Kev" didn't take this too lightly as he came out and the two took part in a wild brawl that saw the Ignition set get torn apart. Vegas would wrestle and defeat Sid Justice a week later. On his way to the back he was almost run down by Callous on his motorcycle. This again led to yet another brawl between the two behemoths with Vegas coming out on top, and rolling Callous' pricey Harley Davidson off of the ten foot stage to a nasty crash. With things between the two men becoming dangerous, Dustin Rhodes - who had taken over the lead of the company since defeating his father at Starrcade '07, had no other choice than to ban both men from coming within 10 feet of each other before their heavyweight title showdown. During a series of videos hyping the showdown, Vegas was quoted saying "there is no way in hell I'm letting Callous walk out of Oklahoma with that title, there's no way… I've worked way to hard to get back to this spot, I have to win" At The Super Summer Bash, Kevin Vegas did just that and Jackknife Powerbombed himself back to the top of the World, defeating Callous and securing one last run with a top regional title before calling it a career.
With the closure of the Vancouver Championship Wrestling project, Mike Quackenbush returned to the US and decided to open his own junior heavyweight based promotion, only his vision of what that promotion would be was rather, well - wacky? Yeah that's a good word for it. Inspired by the Lucha Libre, and Super Junior styles of Mexico and Japan, CHIKARA debuted in May of 2009 and presented a product unlike anything seen before. With a mix of over the top characters and masked luchadors played mostly by Quackenbush's Wrestle Factory graduates, CHIKARA has gained a unique cult following.
The Formation of FMLLEdit
With ILA stepping away from the traditional Lucha Libre style so beloved to Mexico, news broke in late December of 2009 that legendary luchador Blue Demon, Jr. and Vampiro were set to launch a new promotion dubbed "FMLL," or "Federación Mexicana de Lucha Libre." The company will use a touring schedule with events taking place in the months of March, June, July, August, October, and November. As of yet, Blue Demon, Jr. and Vampiro are the only names signed onto the project, with more names expected to be announced in January. This marks the first time in over twenty years that another large promotion has operated alongside ILA in Mexico.
Nero Makes an Impact in TWEEditWhen Jeff Hardy left NWA: Los Angeles at the conclusion of their Devil May Care event with Titan Wrestling Entertainment as his destination, few would have predicted just how big that move would actually be for the younger Hardy brother, who had been a fixture in Los Angeles' main event scene for the better part of four years. Often regarded as the land of the big men, few expected that Hardy would get the same type of push in the east coast's biggest promotion. After all, the last time Hardy had competed in TWE was alongside his brother Matt in the late 90's and was used as little more than cannon fodder to teams like The Nasty Boys. Why would this run be any different?
But different, it was. In June, viral videos began airing on TWE television hyping the debut of "Nero," asking those who viewed it if they were ready to "know the unknown." As weeks progressed, the viral videos moved from airing during commercial breaks, to airing on the "Titan Tron" during TWE matches, particularly those involving the company's top heel and Heavyweight Champion, Jean Paul Levesque. Making his official debut during September's "In Your House: Breaking Point" pay per view, Hardy (as Nero) would have a significant outcome in the TWE Heavyweight Title match.
With the referee knocked down during the bout that saw JPL defending his title in a triple threat match against Shawn Michaels and Chris Mordetzky, JPL looked to the aid of his trusty sledge hammer to batter his foes. However, as the lights went out and the viral video played, only this time reading "Meet the Unknown," a surprised JPL was "treated" to a first hand encounter with TWE's newest, face painted star - courtesy of a chair shot from Nero, and a top rope Swanton Bomb! As Nero left through the crowd, HBK "tuned up the band," and planted JPL with some Sweet Chin Music as he returned to his feet. However, the crowd's hopes for an HBK title win were put to rest as Mr. Wonderful returned to the ring, ripped Michaels out of the cover and forced HBK into unconsciousness with his "Wonderlock" Full Nelson to fulfil his promise of becoming TWE Heavyweight Champion.
The JPL - Nero feud continued throughout the remainder of 2008, where at "In Your House: Armageddon," Nero bested the blue blooded JPL in a hellacious Three Stages of Hell Match (first fall: standard singles match, second fall: ladder match, third fall: cage match) to end the feud and propel the mysterious face painted star to the top of the card for good. Who would have guessed?
GLAM! Begins promoting unsanctioned "REAL" World Women's ChampionshipEdit
For nearly three years Rena Mero had taken what started as an embarrassing venture by the NWA in GLAM! (then Gorgeous Ladies for the American Male) and moulded it into what would become the only all women organization in the NWA, and the top place for females to hone their craft in America in what we've all come to know as Gorgeous Ladies of the American Mat!. Gorgeous Ladies for the American Male launched with a debut show featuring half naked women, a "pudding" match involving a performer with a nymphomaniac gimmick, a segment where Tylene Buck interviewed the show's male sponsor while licking a banana suggestively, and a one that made an embarrassment out of the legendary Fabulous Moolah (and the NWA as a whole.) Realizing their mistake, the NWA soon sought to salvage the operation by replacing the established group of leaders in the organization with Rena Mero. A long supporter of equal rights for women in the business, Rena had made a statement when in 2002 she filed lawsuit with Titan Wrestling Entertainment for sexual harassment. Over the next three years with Rena at the helm of the promotion, the organization evolved from a sleazy joke of a promotion to a group with one of the most interesting products in all of the NWA, male or female. After three years of hard work, all Mero asked for from the NWA in return was a match to showcase the GLAM! competitors at the biggest show of the year, Starrcade When the NWA ignored her request, Mero fired back.
Kicking off their first event of the year, "Sound of the Underground," Rena Mero took center stage. She was fully aware of the risks about what she planned to do. President J.J. Dillon himself had strongly advised Rena to think at least twice, before rocking the boat.
But Rena had built, or rebuilt her reputation, by being a troublemaker. By being a pain in the ass. By refusing to roll over and let the power-hungry men of the National Wrestling Alliance screw her over. She stood up to one of the most powerful men in the Alliance. Her former employer. And she forced him to admit that he was wrong, that he had exploited her, that he had crossed a line. It was by rocking the boat, that she gained the moral, and the economic capital to be seen as an equal, a colleague, a businesswoman. She was a peer, an equal, of men such as Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, and especially, Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
Rocking the boat had got her this far. And now she and her company stood at a crossroads. The honeymoon period was over. The novelty had worn off. GLAM's popularity had plateaued. It could all to easily fall by the wayside. It was time to move ahead. To rise above...
Rena took one last look at the paper in her hand and allowed a wry smile to play across her beautiful face. She then looked ahead, and, without looking back, stepped into the limelight. Before continuing with the following:
"For the past three and a half-years, we have been on one hell of a roller coaster. From the second I stepped in to salvage this company from the mess that had been made of its debut, I have worked tirelessly to see this promotion survive, to thrive, and to challenge the prejudices and preconceptions which thrive in this business. It has been hard. I've had sleepless nights; I've shouted myself hoarse trying to drive hard bargains and on more than one occasion, I've had to have to lay the Smackdown on certain members of the NWA to earn the respect that these Gorgeous Ladies of the American Mat truly deserve. I've sacrificed a lot to achieve that goal, to break that glass ceiling. I've lost sleep, I've lost my youth and, I'm not so vain to admit, that I've probably lost my looks.
But make no mistake, it has ALL been worth it. I am NOT standing in this ring tonight, on our final show of the year to look for sympathy. I am extending my gratitude, on behalf of every woman in this company to all of you for keeping this pipedream alive. Every sacrifice I have ever had to make in this company is worth it just to see all of you here tonight!
But the reason I wanted to come out here tonight; the reason I wanted to step into this ring; the reason I want to have the last word on GLAM's 2007 is to tell all of you that the battle is not over. The war has not been won. To quote a certain 'stud' from Cuba, it's survey time! How many of you were looking forward to see the women athletes of GLAM! at Starrcade?
I thought so. And rightly so. It's the superbowl of the NWA. We saw Brock Lesnar defend the NWA championship against Chris Benoit. Starrcade went down as one of the finest shows ever put together by the National Wrestling Alliance. And it is all thanks to the hard work and dedication of the NWA board of directors and, of course, the president, J.J. Dillon. But we all know that something was missing from that show. So I hope that I speak for everyone in this building, every woman in the back, everyone supports or works hard to make this company what it is, when I say to J.J. Dillon and the NWA board...
Fuck you, J.J. And I hope that if you ware watching me say this, it's because you've got up off your ass and put on the DVD which I am personally going to gift-wrap and send to you. I want the satisfaction of knowing that you will be looking into my eyes as I say this. I am NOT a woman who thrives on airing her dirty laundry in public. When I made a stand against the sexism and harassment rife in the highest levels in this business, I made a vow to conduct that fight with dignity. But now, J.J., the gloves are off. I asked you for ONE match. I asked you for less than 10 minutes to show to the world what we had built. What we could do. I asked for one chance to put us on the map. But above all I asked for you to put your money where your mouth is. I asked you to show that the NWA affiliation of this company wasn't just political correctness. I asked for one match.
And do you know what our esteemed president said to me? Do you know what I was told in THIS nicely worded letter from the NWA? That whilst he respected GLAM!s input, it wouldn't be "a good political move" to put GLAM! on the card.
I repeat again. FUCK YOU!
For years, I have had to endure the patronizing looks every time I step into the offices of the NWA. Every time I come face to face with J.J. Dillon. Because, J.J., despite your words. Despite your reassurances. You don't really have faith in this company, do you? Because if you did, J.J., you wouldn't have SOLD the NWA Women's championship to Vince McMahon. You wouldn't tolerate talentless, untrained, weak girls getting their name in the history books, on the honour roll of NWA Women's champions, at the expense of REAL women. Women like Nora Greenwald, women like Alexis Laree, women like Lisa Moretti and, dare I say it, women like Jazz. Three years ago you let Vince McMahon once again patronize the women of this business by letting him STEAL that belt from around Jazz' waist.
And now, after three years of proving the world wrong. After three years of survival, of growth, of the BEST women's wrestling in the USA today, we STILL haven't won the war, have we J.J.? Vince McMahon's sexist, petty and money grabbing politics STILL gets further in the NWA than the blood, sweat and tears of the beautiful, hard-working, ass-kicking women of GLAM! Huh?! We aren't even worth 5 minutes of your time. We're not even worth a dark match!?
I am putting the NWA on notice. Myself and the women of this company will be overlooked no longer. You refuse to acknowledge the hard work myself and these ladies have put into this company? You refuse to acknowledge us? Well let me tell you something J.J., we don't need your support, and we don't need to blindly acknowledge the NWA World Women's Title - Vince's high dollar trophy - as the pinacle of this sport. Because J.J., we certainly know that's not the case! So here tonight - at Sound of the Underground - I am presenting all of you this"...
Retrieving a red bag from the mat, Mero pulls out a championship title belt - one looking oddly familiar to the "Big Gold" that represents the NWA World Heavyweight Title, only replacing the NWA logo is the term "REAL."
"Say hello to the REAL Women's World Championship - the true pinnacle of our profession for these fine young women who work their asses off in this GLAM! ring night in and night out. And there's no woman more deserving of this honor than "The Bitch that Beat Katrina" herself, Jazz! So J.J. in words that you can wrap your head around, I'll repeat myself. We don't need your approval, we don't need the NWA's approval, and we certainly don't need your title belt.
J.J. Dillon, FUCK YOU!"
With that, The controversial REAL World Women's Championship was born.
CM Punk, ECW Savior?Edit
After winning the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship, and leaving his home territory of Windy City Wrestling, many expected big things for the self proclaimed "Straight Edge Superstar." For years prior, Punk had been all the rage of internet fans who voiced their opinions of the Chicago native who had been putting on spectacular bouts in WCW. Once his run as NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion came to a close, CM Punk had found himself one of the hottest unsigned acts in all of the NWA. When he revealed that he had signed with Eastern Championship Wrestling, who were going through a reinvention of sorts, many thought Punk didn't fit in. He didn't to be truthful, and he used that to his full advantage.
In the weeks leading to his debut, video promos aired hyping his "Straight Edge" lifestyle, much to the dismay of ECW's drunken band of fans that many had often dubbed as "The Mutants." Claiming that his only addiction was "competition," Punk debuted in ECW and made it known that he was there to stay - and to play with the big boys as he called out The Sandman - the living, breathing, drunken example of the lifestyle Punk so feverishly rejected. With Punk coming out on the winning end of the feud with The Sandman, he soon became ECW's most hated act, and in turn its most marketable star - finally giving the company a new face they could build the future of the company around.