One of the best things about tapping into wrestling history is that there’s so much of it. For better or for worse, the legacy of today is shaped in the past; whether it be a long time ago or much more recent. Every day we’re finding and sharing new stories across our Facebook and Twitter account, so to keep fully up to date make sure you’re checking those out. But some stories require a little more, so each week we’re going to bring to you a few either important or our favourite moments in time and delve a little deeper.
January 16th 2000 – Chris Benoit wins The WCW World Title Then Leaves
From a talent perspective, the four men that would later be dubbed The Radikalz represent the absolute biggest steal in moving from WCW to the then WWF at the time. That’s without even factoring in that one of those men was last seen winning the top prize in the company. Much like his days in the WWE, Benoit was overlooked in terms of being at the top of the card, something it was widely acknowledged even by this point his talent had proven him worthy. This was perhaps the height of the ills of all the backstage politics and a further sign of what direction the company was going in, given that the title was being offered to Benoit as something of a lure to prevent him from leaving. The world title in WCW – especially around this point – was so secondary, so lacking in importance. There is a bittersweet irony here in the sense that someone like a Benoit might have been able to bring a long lost prestige to the title at this point. But no, instead there are on screen allusions to the backstage power struggles and a title reign that began with a screwy finish (of course they booked it so that if Benoit left they could sheer all it’s credibility) would end just as unceremoniously.
January 13th 2001 – Extreme No More
It’s really difficult to grasp this for some but there was a time where you didn’t have access to seventy thousand hours of wrestling from across the globe every week to consume. Even something of the stature of ECW still took some going to stay on top of everything that was happening. The idea that a wrestling promotion of it’s size could have such a reputation – even set in motion events that we are still feeling to this day – all without the kind of internet access and social media that we have today is absolutely unthinkable. Which is to say it’s hard to fully illustrate the loss of a company like this in the moment. By all accounts, those that were there felt and knew what was coming. To some it will even have been an inevitability. Nobody could have known for sure in that building that it would be the last time they’d compete under the ECW name (what other company?) but everybody coming out to share a few drinks with The Sandman is one hell of a fitting way to go.
January 14th 2001 – Goldberg Wrestles His Last WCW Match
Nobody ever said WCW lacked ideas. The problem – if anything – was they had too many. Bad ones at that. Goldberg was the one latter day success story they had, someone who had come through their ranks and become a legit megastar in the industry at a time where everyone was shining brightest. The problem became how to book him post streak and it was one they never really solved. This whole redoing the streak angle was the best of a bad attempts but even then it felt like they were simply trying to recapture magic that had already gone and also letting themselves off the hook creatively by going back to an old formula. This was an attempt at shock value and it worked to some degree; Buff Bagwell and Lex Luger (who at this point in spite of being over were a little bit of a joke) get to be the ones that finish off Goldberg in WCW? Surely not. As always there’s a little more to it than that, with DeWayne “Sarge” Bruce evening up the odds on the night in what was seen as a formality.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Buff or Lex would have pinned Sarge. Goldberg’s friend and former trainer was not exactly a regular on Nitro, nor was he he kind of household name that could get some extra heat. Instead it was Goldberg that was pinned, snapping his duplicate streak at the mid thirties and effectively ending his WCW career. The finish to the match itself is something of a mess too. Goldberg holds onto the ropes just long enough for Luger to momentarily find his balance so that Buff can deliver the Blockbuster quickly before both men fall down regardless. Neither one of them goes for the cover to the point where Lex has even exited the ring, he then realizes, makes the pin and in spite of their being a good few seconds pass it’s enough to pin Goldberg. Suddenly his initial run on Raw doesn’t seem too bad.
WCW was still on the air for some two months after this. The final Nitro was broadcast on March 26th. Yet this was to be the last we saw of Goldberg in the company he had made his name.
January 14th 2013 – CM Punk & The Rock Close Out Raw’s 20th Anniversary
If you’ve not heard our wrestling podcast before (click here to change that), whenever this period of time gets brought up it can be quite contentious. Long story short; it’s always good to see The Rock, but is it? The 20th anniversary of Raw ending with one of it’s biggest current stars building up to a match with one of the all time greats, this should go down as a much bigger moment than it does. Part of the reason why it isn’t (potentially) is down to the fact that while CM Punk hasn’t exactly been whitewashed out of WWE history, they’re not exactly championing his back catalogue. Secondly, the foregone conclusion to this particular part of the build to WrestleMania leaves more than a sour taste in the mouth. There will no doubt be people who still feel a certain amount of electricity (no pun intended) when seeing these two go face to face and given Rock’s interactions with most of the current generation Punk certainly comes off on the better end of that scale. As with most of what was going on and what was to follow this very much felt like sacrificing the longer term for a short term pop.
January 13th 2014 – Daniel Bryan Turns On Bray Wyatt
Talking of building toward Mania, this is an instance of how something can become a lot more memorable after the fact. That’s not to say that everyone – both at home and watching it live – didn’t go crazy for something as simple as Bryan shrugging off an attempted Sister Abigail. There’s been a lot of talk about crowd reaction these days and how the volume levels don’t seem to match up to a certain bygone era. This moment proves to be a full throated exception to that with the crowd all chanting “Yes” at the top of their lungs and cheering for Bryan for minutes on end during this segment. It became iconic for what came after, along with the potential retconning of history that the WWE were always intending on Daniel going to WrestleMania to fight for the title. A short lived two week stint as a member of the Wyatt Family would say otherwise, we know they live for short term booking but even that’s a little extreme. In the end it doesn’t matter. The visual of D-Bry sitting atop the cage conducting the crowd along with him is one of the most engaging feel good snapshots in time the WWE has produced this century, possibly of all time. It doesn’t matter how we got there, what matters is that we got it.