If you would have asked me a decade ago what I’d be doing on a typical Monday Night in ten years, I probably would tell you I’d be flipping back and forth between WWF Monday Night RAW and WCW Monday Nitro. Then I’d be looking forward to WCW Thunder on Wednesday and WWF SmackDown on Thursday, then ECW on TNN Friday night.
On December 31, 1999, I couldn’t fathom a world without WCW. That company was Ted Turner’s pride and joy, there was no way it would ever end as long as the man was still breathing. Somewhere along the way, Turner Broadcasting became a part of AOL/Time Warner, and a programming executive named Jamie Kellner (who, incidentally, killed off Pinky and the Brain, the cartoon where my band’s name comes from) decided that the company’s networks would be a lot better without professional wrestling cluttering up the airwaves.
Paul Heyman’s pride and joy, the original ECW was also alive and well in 1999. The company had just begun airing on TNN in August, had aired successful Pay Per View events, and was gearing up for the release of the ECW Hardcore Revolution video game. TNN decided that they didn’t like the ECW product, and aired the final edition of ECW on TNN in October 2000.
Both of these companies assets were snatched up by World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. in 2001. After the invasion storyline, WCW was only brought up for historical purposes and the Monday Night Wars and Rise and Fall of WCW DVDs. ECW was given new life following a successful DVD entitled The Rise and Fall of ECW and a subsequent WWE-produced Pay Per View event called ECW: One Night Stand in 2005, and resurrected as a third WWE brand the following year.
Speaking of WWE, in 2002, the company that had been known for decades as the World Wrestling Federation was forced to change it’s name, thanks to a lawsuit by the World Wildlife Fund. The company changed it’s name to World Wrestling Entertainment and it’s initials to WWE, with an ad campaign promoting the change encouraging viewers to “Get the F out!”
The biggest stars ten years ago were Goldberg, Bret Hart, Sting, and the nWo for WCW, and WWF’s “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, and D-Generation X. Today, Goldberg hosts a show about cars, Bret Hart had his career ended by Goldberg, had a stroke, and is making a shocking return to the WWE next Monday night, Sting is MIA from a new company called Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, or TNA for short, and the nWo is mostly over in that company as well. As far as the WWF’s guys, Austin and The Rock have retired from professional wrestling and are now plying their trade as actors, while DX has returned to it’s original lineup of Shawn Michaels and Triple H, along with their mascot, the Leprechaun Hornswoggle.
This coming Monday Night, there will be head to head wrestling events for the first time on a Monday since that fateful day in 2001 when the World Wrestling Federation purchased the assets of World Championship Wrestling, when TNA airs their flagship program, iMPACT, against the WWE’s RAW, which is still on the air after all these years. Hulk Hogan will headline iMPACT, while Bret Hart will host RAW.
Wrestling has had it’s fair share of tragedies over the past decade. We’ve lost several of our favorite stars. Gordon Solie and Yokozuna in 2000, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy and “Gentleman” Chris Adams in 2001, Lou Thez, “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, and Mr. Wrestling Tim Woods in 2002, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, “Sailor” Art Thomas, Miss Elizabeth, “Pitbull #2” Anthony Durante. “Classy” Freddie Blassie, Stu Hart, Mike “Crash Holly” Lockwood and Jerry “The Wall” Tuite (also known as Sgt. AWOL) in 2003, “The Big Boss Man” Ray Traylor, “Bomber” Pat Roach and Ray “Hercules Hernandez” Fernandez in 2004, Pez Whatley, Chris Candito, Maurice “The Matador” Catarcio, Lord Alfred Hayes, Ed “Sailor” White (BKA Moondog King), Chri$ Ca$h, and Reggie “The Crusher” Lisowski in 2005, Lord Humongous, Johnny Grunge, “Crazy” Luke Graham, “Earthquake” John Tenta, Bob Orton Sr., and Sputnik Monroe in 2006, Bam Bam Bigelow, Mike Awesome, Arnold Skaaland, “The Big Cat” Ernie Ladd, Bad News Brown, “Sensational” Sherri Martel, Karl Gotch, John Kronus, The Missing Link, Brian “Crush” Adams, and The Fabulous Moolah in 2007, Gary Hart, Killer Kowalksi, and S.D. Jones in 2008, Cousin Junior, Steve Doll (AKA Steve Dunn), Abismo Negro, Andrew “Test” Martin, “Playboy” Buddy Rose, “The Golden Greek” John Tolos (known to some of us younger fans as “Coach,” who managed Mr. Perfect in the WWF), Billy Red Lyons, Mitsuharu Misawa, Waldo Von Erich, women’s wrestling pioneer Gladys “Killem” Gillem, Captain Lou Albano, Eddie “Umaga” Fatu, and just yesterday, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams in 2009.
Now, obviously, that’s a less than comprehensive list as I’m fairly certain that there were more people who belong on that list. I omitted three names myself, as the deaths made up two of the decade’s biggest stories.
The first name I omitted from the list is Eddie Guerrero, who passed away on mine and JT’s birthday, November 13, 2005. Eddie’s death was shocking, as he was in the prime of his career and one of the top stars on the WWE roster. Eddie was the definition of “People’s Champion.” When Guerrero bested Brock Lesnar at No Way Out in 2004 to win the WWE Championship, Eddie didn’t just win the title for himself – it felt like he’d won it for all of us. The day Eddie passed away from heart failure, the WWE was set to run a Supershow, featuring the RAW and SmackDown brands television tapings for the week. Rumor has it that Guerrero was scheduled to win the World Heavyweight Championship during that night’s SmackDown tapings. Instead, both RAW and SmackDown became emotional tribute shows dedicated to the life of Eddie Guerrero. Eddie was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the night before WrestleMania 21.
At WrestleMania XX, Guerrero retained the WWE Championship against Kurt Angle, while one of his best friends won the World Heavyweight Championship later in the night. The celebration following his friend’s match, where Eddie as the WWE Champion came out to the ring to celebrate with his friend, the new World Heavyweight Champion, is something that will be forever ingrained in the minds of professional wrestling fans.
That friend’s name was Chris Benoit.
Chris Benoit followed a similar career path to Guerrero’s, particularly in the United States. Both made their mark in ECW before moving to WCW. Benoit won the WCW Championship the night he walked out of the company. Both men debuted in the WWF at the same time, along with Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn, as part of a stable called The Radicalz. Both were loved by the fans, and both won their first World Championships in the WWE in 2004. But in June 2007, Benoit murdered his wife, former wrestling valet Nancy “Woman” Benoit, and their seven year old son Daniel, before hanging himself in his gym. WWE has completely distanced themselves from Benoit, and most references to him here at BoredWrestlingFan.com had called him, “You Know Who.”
This last decade has had a lot of surprises for us as wrestling fans, and next Monday, this next decade will kick off in grand fashion. Stay tuned!
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