By Eric Cohen
2010 was a year of change for World Wrestling Entertainment as several major stars retired and new stars were created to take their place. TNA's changes took place behind the scenes as Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff joined the company.
Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff legitimately gained some backstage power earlier in the year and they spun that into a storyline which saw them take over the company from Dixie Carter. As part of their plan, they helped Jeff Hardy become the TNA World Heavyweight Champion and in the process he became the in-ring leader of their group. This was a very questionable booking decision as Jeff has had a very public battle with drugs and was facing some major drug charges at the time he became champion. In December, stories flew around the Internet that Jeff was almost stripped of the title before his PPV title defense because he was not in condition to wrestle. The year ended with the announcement that Jeff plans to plead guilty to the major drug charges that were filed against him in 2009.
2010 began with relative newcomer Sheamus as the WWE Champion. In 2010, Jack Swagger and the Miz became first-time WWE/World Champions. Despite not winning the WWE Championship, the most dominant faction in the company was the Nexus, a group of rookies that wrecked havoc throughout the company. On RAW they were responsible for firing John Cena and on SmackDown they helped to bury the Undertaker. All of these newcomers to the main event scene were necessary due to a bunch of retirements (Shawn Michaels, Batista, and Chris Jericho) and injuries (Triple H and the Undertaker) in 2010.
The globalization of World Wrestling Entertainment took a major leap forward in 2010 as the company held their first-ever event in China. With over a 1.3 billion citizens in China, it is the most populated country in the world. The expansion to new markets will continue in 2011 as John Cena told me in an interview I did with him that the company plans on going to Russia for the first time in 2011.
The eruption of this volcano in Iceland had impacts for both WWE and TNA. The eruption took place while the RAW Superstars were in Europe and forced them to be stranded on that continent when they were supposed to be filming a live episode of Monday Night RAW in the United States. Because of that issue, the stars of SmackDown took over Monday Night RAW for the evening. Over in TNA, the eruption forced TNA X Division Champion Douglas Williams to miss LockDown and as a result, he was stripped of the title.
During his feud with the Nexus, John Cena was forced to be the referee for a WWE Championship Match between Randy Orton and Wade Barrett. If Barrett lost that match, he vowed to fire John Cena. At Survivor Series 2010, John Cena did the right thing and made the three count on Wade Barrett. Keeping true to his word, Barrett fired Cena. Cena wasn't gone for long as over the next few weeks he used his new-found free time to wreck havoc in the lives of the Nexus. The group forced Wade Barrett to hire Cena back a few weeks later. During the few weeks that Cena was gone, a new wrestler appeared on WWE house shows. His name was Juan Cena and he happened to be the Mexican cousin of John Cena and wore a luchadore mask. After Cena was rehired, the masked Juan Cena was never seen again.
The Nexus made their debut by brutally attacking John Cena and destroying everything and anyone they could get their hands on. During that attack, Daniel Bryan choked the ring announcer with his own tie. That incident was the unofficial-official reason for his release. The release was legitimate as Daniel was gone from the company and appeared on many independent shows over the next few weeks. However, I believe that the release was part of a plan as the horrible incident cited was shown several times on replay and John Cena immediately took to his Twitter account trying to get him rehired. Danielson returned to World Wrestling Entertainment few weeks later as the mystery partner for John Cena's team at SummerSlam.
When 2010 began, ECW was a television show on SyFy that was a glorified developmental territory for World Wrestling Entertainment. In February, WWE canceled the program and replaced it NXT. Because the ECW spirit refuses to die, TNA took advantage of the fans still infatuated with the company and in August created a one-night event called Hardcore Justice to give the company the ending it deserved. That one night stand eventually led to several of the old stars from ECW getting back together and feuding with Ric Flair's stable called Fortune. Due to legal reason, the group of former ECW wrestlers were referred to as EV2.
Back in 1998, Shawn Michaels was forced to retire following a back injury he suffered in a Casket Match against the Undertaker. He returned to the ring in 2002 and amazingly his second run was even better than his first. Ironically, this run was also ended at the hands of the Undertaker as Shawn was forced to retire after losing to him at WrestleMania XXVI.
The year began with a bang on January 4 for wrestling fans as Impact! and RAW ran live against each other. TNA's show featured Hulk Hogan's first appearance in TNA and the surprising debut of Jeff Hardy. On RAW, WWE countered by having Bret Hart step inside of a WWE arena for the first-time since the Montreal Screwjob in 1997. Bret made peace with Shawn Michaels bit his attempts to reconcile with Mr. McMahon ended with a kick to the groin. Due to the success of this evening, TNA decided to move their programming to Monday nights. That plan didn't work out too well for TNA and they moved back to Thursday nights a few weeks later.
Linda McMahon resigned from World Wrestling Entertainment last year to run for US Senate. Basing her campaign on her experience running WWE, the company was put in the line of fire by the media. Questions about the high rate of deaths for their former wrestlers, lack of insurance provided to them, and questions about their classification as independent contractors instead of employees became a part of the political campaign fodder. Things got really bad for the campaign after Lance Cade, a former tag team champion for the company, died at the age of 29. In response to the criticism the company received, WWE created a campaign called Stand Up for WWE, which I still can't figure out what the point of it was. Wrestling fans were subjected to many videos featuring employees of the company saying how much they loved working for WWE. That campaign did nothing to help Linda's election bid as she lost to Richard Blumenthal in the general election.