2014 was quite a big year for the world of professional wrestling. You can easily pin-point nine or ten big stories that happened throughout the year, all of which had a big impact.
I personally had eight listed which in my opinion were the most impactful of the year. Some may argue the choices, some may not. All the news from 2014 will be published in an upcoming e-book which will go on sale in January 2015 titled 2014: Pro Wrestling Year In News featuring over 600 pages and well over 1,000 stories that made up 2014.
The launch of the WWE Network
On January 8, 2014, every WWE fan’s dream came true. Vince McMahon announced the launch of the WWE Network, the company’s over-the-top streaming service that was eventually going to replace pay-per-views. All for just $9.99 a month.
The service launched in the United States on February 24, with over 1,000 hours of archived footage and WrestleMania XXX was going to be the first pay-per-view event to be streamed live. Everything went great, Wall Street was optimistic, driving the WWE stocks to record highs…until the company released the first subscriber numbers the day after WrestleMania: 667,000.
Wall Street hated it. The target of 1 million subscribers by the end of 2014 was a long way away and investors hit the company hard by driving down the stock 50%. WWE sacrificed their pay-per-view revenue and put everything on the line with the WWE Network.
By the end of July, the company had 700,000 subscribers, and in mid August, the WWE Network went global in 170 countries but it was missing from countries such as Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, China, Thailand, and other important WWE targets. At the end of October, WWE dropped the 6 month commitment and gave the month of November for free for new subscribers. By October 30, 731,000 subscribers were getting the Network, 269,000 subs away from the 1 million target with two months to go.
The WWE Network is a great service. All the pay-per-views from WWE, WCW, and ECW are archived along with tons of other shows available. By the end of the year, WWE had converted over 2,500 hours for the Network. All for just $9.99!
Daniel Bryan’s journey to WrestleMania XXX
No wrestler was more over with the crowd in 2014 than Daniel Bryan. It was ridiculous. The sea of people with their hands up chanting ‘yes, yes, yes’ was a pretty impressive visual. It’s funny to think that Daniel Bryan wasn’t even figured in the main event of WrestleMania until the fans made their voices heard.
Remember when at the Royal Rumble, Rey Mysterio came out at #30 and fans realized Bryan was not in the Rumble? It was a bad day to be Rey Mysterio. And it wasn’t even his fault, mind you. I doubt he heard so many boos in his wrestling career. Fans didn’t appreciate the Daniel Bryan snub and eventually WWE listened.
His feud with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon was molded somewhat from the Austin and McMahon feud. A rising star trying to get to the top with the powers that be putting every obstacle in the way. The pay off was a big one, Daniel Bryan got his hands on Triple H at WrestleMania, won, and went on to the main event later that night, submitting Batista to become the new WWE World Heavyweight champion.
The 75,167 fans inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, gave Daniel Bryan his most memorable wrestling moment ever, one that he will never forget. Two titles, fireworks, confetti, and 75,167 pair of hands in the air. And a lot of ‘Yes’ chants.
Unfortunately for Daniel Bryan, his dream run was cut short due to an injury. He only managed to defend his WWE title once since winning it at WrestleMania XXX and then had to surrender the title since it was pretty obvious he wouldn’t be able to wrestle for quite a long time. As 2014 ended, there was still no definite date on Bryan’s return.
Brock Lesnar ends The Undertaker’s streak
It was the holy grail of professional wrestling. For 21 different WrestleManias, the Undertaker destroyed his opponents.
His ‘victims’ include Jimmy Snuka at WrestleMania VII, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts at WrestleMania VIII, Giant Gonzales at WrestleMania IX, King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania XI, Diesel at WrestleMania XII, Sycho Sid at WrestleMania XIII, Kane at WrestleMania XIV, Big Boss Man at WrestleMania XV, Triple H at WrestleMania XVII, Ric Flair at WrestleMania XVIII, Big Show and A-Train and WrestleMania XIX, Kane at WrestleMania XX, Randy Orton at WrestleMania XXI, Mark Henry at WrestleMania XXII, Batista at WrestleMania XXIII, Edge at WrestleMania XXIV, Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25 and XXVI, Triple H at WrestleMania XXVII and XXVIII, and CM Punk at WrestleMania 29.
Perhaps his biggest challenge would come at WrestleMania XXX, facing an old nemesis, Brock Lesnar. Lesnar and Taker fought a few times years ago and Taker never managed to get a win over the former UFC Heavyweight champion.
Rumors of a WrestleMania match between the two started when Taker showed up at the UFC 121 event in 2010, an event headlined by Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez. Lesnar lost the UFC title that night and while being interviewed cage side by Ariel Helwani, the Undertaker and Lesnar got into an exchange of words. “It’s kind of a personal thing,” Taker said at the time. The Internet wrestling community quickly started making up theories but obviously nothing happened back then.
The Undertaker’s matches at WrestleMania are just as important as the main event simply because of the streak. With a 21-0 record, no one thought Lesnar was going to be the one who ends it. No one ever thought the streak would be defeated. But oh man, we were in for a big surprise.
Three F5’s later and the referee counted 1, 2, and 3. Silence fell over the Mercedez-Benz Superdome with fans shocked at the sight of 21-1 projected on the big screens inside the stadium. The Undertaker’s streak was over. And perhaps, so was the Undertaker himself. The shocking result made it on several mainstream media news sites, showing how legendary this streak was.
The return, and death, of the Ultimate Warrior
A lot of Superstars left WWE on a bad note. Maybe no one worse than the Ultimate Warrior. Warrior and WWE had a very bad relationship for several years with lawsuits filed against each other and no end in sight.
But as Vince McMahon often said, in the wrestling business, never say never.
In January, the WWE announced that the Ultimate Warrior would be inducted into the Hall of Fame, headlining the event during WrestleMania XXX weekend. The two parties patched up their relationship and signed an agreement that was going to bring back Warrior to WWE, not as a wrestler, but as someone who can represent the company.
The long awaited return of the Warrior happened at the Hall of Fame, his first WWE event since 1996. Many thought he would eventually slam the company in his speech, but Warrior was respectful, gave credit where its due, and left all the dirty laundry out. The next night at WrestleMania, fans welcomed back Warrior as he came out at the Superdome to his iconic music, saluting the fans.
On Monday Night Raw the night after WrestleMania, Warrior came out to talk to the fans during a live televised segment.
“Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat, his lungs breathe their final breath and if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them believe deeper in than something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit will be immortalized.”
The next day, the Ultimate Warrior, aged 54, passed away due to a heart attack while walking with his wife. The news shocked the pro wrestling world to its core. His speech from Raw the day before raised several eyebrows with the choice of words, with many suggesting that Warrior somehow knew he was going to die.
WWE made a promise to Dana Warrior, his wife, that they would take care of them. And they kept their promise, even sending two officials to live with the Warrior family until they get settled back into everyday routine. To this day, Dana and her two daughters, Indiana and Mattigan, are very much part of the WWE family.
The WWE and the Ultimate Warrior had their reunion cut short. But the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will live on forever.
Sting debuts at the Survivor Series
Ever since WWE bought out WCW back in March 2001, fans drew up fantasy matches between WWE and former WCW stars. Most made the jump. The nWo, Goldberg, Rey Mysterio, Diamond Dallas Page, Booker T, and others. But one didn’t. And that man was Sting.
Sting was pretty much the last big name Superstar to have never worked for Vince McMahon. Even those who didn’t like McMahon or had a bad history with the company, they all went or eventually returned. But not Sting. He avoided WWE throughout his career, admitting he came close to sign a deal a couple of times but never pulling the trigger.
After WCW closed up shop, Sting decided to join TNA. It was simply the only other alternative for someone to be wrestling on national television. It wasn’t as successful as WWE, but Sting didn’t care. He was not interested in joining WWE and despite the offers he remained loyal to TNA.
The rumors of Sting jumping ship to WWE usually always start when WrestleMania season starts. The big dream match of Undertaker vs Sting has been a fantasy for thousands of fans. The Phenom vs The Icon. WWE’s backbone vs WCW’s backbone. It came close to reality a few years ago but Sting pulled out late in negotiations.
Then this year, Mattel, the toy company, made the first move and managed to get Sting on their WWE lineup. Talks continued and Sting signed a Legends deal, allowing WWE to sell his likeness on clothing, toys, etc. Sting then showed up at a Mattel/WWE event at Comic Con and that’s when the world of professional wrestling started buzzing that it’s now really, really close!
Joining Hulk Hogan, Paul Heyman, Daniel Bryan, and others, the former WCW champion then appeared at a panel at SummerSlam weekend. And that was the last time we saw him. Until the Survivor Series.
On November 23, the man known as Sting finally made his WWE debut. Coming out to help Dolph Ziggler and Team Cena, Sting went face to face with Triple H. Triple H took the first shot but missed and Sting then hit the Scorpion Death Drop on HHH and pulled Ziggler onto Seth Rollins for the cover.
Now known as “the vigilante,” Sting has yet to appear on WWE television again but with WrestleMania season soon starting, the rumors can start again. This time though, it can really happen.
CM Punk’s “break the internet” podcast
Kim Kardashian didn’t break the internet. CM Punk did.
Podcasts are a dime a dozen. Everybody and their mother has one. Hosts compete to get the biggest interview but sometimes it really helps when you’re best friends with possibly the most explosive interviewee of the year.
Colt Cabana and his podcast The Art of Wrestling landed the big one in 2014, CM Punk. Punk and Cabana are close friends so it was no surprise that Punk chose his friend’s podcast to set the record straight. It was a big, explosive interview that shed some light on Punk’s final few years in WWE leading up to his departure and beyond.
Punk revealed a lot in the two-part interview, the mess backstage at WWE, his thoughts on the doctors who take care of the wrestlers, the frequent prescribing of the antibiotic Zithromax Z-Pak, his constant battles with Triple H, quitting the day after the Rumble, getting suspended, and receiving his termination papers on the day of his wedding. The former WWE champion also dropped the F-bomb and a variation of it probably 3 million times during the two podcasts and he was trending worldwide for like a week or so.
It was the interview of all the interviews in 2014 and nothing came even close. WWE tried to fire back by putting Vince McMahon on the Steve Austin podcast live on the WWE Network a few days later. Austin asked some good questions and it was entertaining but there was nothing earth-shattering about it. McMahon did eventually apologize to Punk for the miscommunication about his termination on his wedding day, calling it a coincidence but Punk and Cabana take the honors of the most shocking, entertaining, F-bomb-filling interview of the whole year.
TNA leaves Spike and joins Destination America
Did TNA leave Spike or did Spike leave TNA? Either way you look at it, the 9 year relationship between the two parties came to a close in December.
Rumors of Spike not renewing TNA’s deal had been ramping up for months and then one fine day TMZ broke the news that Spike pulled the plug on TNA. Both sides denied the TMZ story and said that negotiations were still ongoing. Eventually TMZ were proven to be on the right side of the story as TNA later announced that they were signing on with Destination America. Destination what?
A wrestling company without a television deal can never survive. At least not if you’re a wrestling company the size of WWE or TNA. That’s where they make their money from. Television rights. Many predicted the demise of TNA if they wouldn’t have found another network and they might have been right. Some said it would be the best thing to happen, but no, in reality, a wrestling company closing up shop is not what’s best for business. True, they’re not on the level of WWE, but it’s an alternative workplace for the wrestlers and production to earn their livelihood.
Spike were nice enough to extend TNA’s deal for three months until they got their stuff sorted out and agreed to carry Impact until the day before Christmas. TNA then announced in the beginning of December that Discovery Communications came to their rescue by offering to host their television shows on Destination America.
It wasn’t the best choice for TNA. They went from airing in almost 100 million homes to half of that and went from a decent Wednesday time slot to Friday night, considered to be the death slot in the television industry. But hey, at least they’re on television and hopefully they will be able to survive for a couple of more years.
CM Punk signs with the UFC
Two top CM Punk stories in a year? Damn right. How do you get back into the spotlight after the furor of the podcast interview? Announce that you are signing with the UFC!
It was never a secret that Punk was a big MMA and UFC fan. He’s been spotted several times cage-side at UFC events sitting next to UFC President Dana White. Punk was even once going to walk out with Chael Sonnen in Chicago for a pay-per-view until Vince McMahon thought it was a stupid idea.
But fresh off the dynamite interview, CM Punk appeared during the UFC 181 pay-per-view and announced to the world that he has signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC and would be making his debut in 2015! Say what?
The news once again took the Internet by storm. Another “fake” professional wrestler trying out his luck in mixed martial arts. Let’s face it, CM Punk is not the athlete that Brock Lesnar is. But CM Punk is an athlete regardless and you should never count anyone out. He goes in the UFC with a 0-0 record, a dangerous precedent for the MMA company, but a move that will surely bring in millions of dollars and eyeballs, at least for his first fight.
Punk took on the press on his own after the UFC 181 event and was very respectful and grateful for the opportunity. The odds are surely stacked against him but he seemed determined to make the most out of his dream.
He won’t try his GTS finisher in the Octagon for sure, but can you imagine if he ever wins a fight with the Anaconda Vise?
2014: Pro Wrestling Year In News is an e-book coming out in January 2015 featuring over 600 pages of all the wrestling news that happened in 2014 as covered by Wrestling-Online.com. It will be available for iOS through the iBooks store or Android and Kindle devices on Amazon. Stay tuned for more information.