After the nightmare of 2007
, the wrestling world regained all of the luster it lost. From a public relations standpoint, politicians realized that wrestling fans actually vote in elections. As far as the people that mock wrestlers as being fake athletes that couldn't cut it in a real sport, they had to eat some humble pie as a former WWE Champion became the world champion of a "legitimate" sport.
1. Ric Flair Retires
For over 30 years, Ric Flair
has been "The Man" in the wrestling business. In a sport where most wrestlers don't get a proper send-off, Ric Flair got the greatest retirement send-off in wrestling history. The night before WrestleMania 24
, Ric was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The next day, he had a classic match with Shawn Michaels. The following night, Ric's peers gave him a surprise in-ring retirement party that saw a ring full of grown men with tears in their eyes. "The Nature Boy" will be missed but his legacy will always live on.
2008 was a bad year for Hulk Hogan
. As if a messy and public divorce wasn't bad enough, he also had to deal with his son going to jail for an accident that left a friend of the family with permanent brain damage. While all this was going on, Hulk became involved in three new television shows. He was a host of the NBC show American Gladiators
, made frequent appearance on Brooke Knows Best
, and had celebrities battle it out for the right to win a championship belt on Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling
Former WWE Champion Brock Lesnar
made a successful transition from being a championship pro wrestler to becoming a championship MMA fighter. In only his fourth MMA match, Brock Lesnar beat UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship, the most prestigious title in the business.
4. WWE Gets a Presidential Seal of ApprovalAfter the Benoit tragedy, several politicians thought they found an easy way to make political points and went after the WWE. In a shocking turn of events, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain all appeared on an episode of RAW with video greeting explaining why fans should vote for them. In November, it turned out that the fans smelled what Ba Rock was cooking as he beat the McCainiacs. However, before Barack could take the honor of being the first President to appear on WWE programming, President Bush stole that honor when he appeared via a video message during the Tribute to the Troops event thanking the company for their annual visits to the war zones to deliver a show for the troops.
5. Floyd Mayweather Jr. - The $20 Million ManAs part of WrestleMania 24, the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in boxing fought the Big Show. In addition to this spectacle of such a match, the media went crazy when it was announced that Floyd would be getting $20 million for his appearance. While Floyd didn't actually receive that much money for his victory over the Big Show, the reporting of that figure garnered the WWE a tremendous amount of press for the event.
The year started with it appearing that Jeff Hardy
would finally break through the proverbial glass ceiling and finally win a major championship. Just when it appeared Jeff was on his way to something special, the demons from Jeff's past came back and he was suspended 60 days for his second violation of the WWE Wellness Policy. While serving that suspension, Jeff's house burned down and he lost all of his possessions in the fire, including his dog. Jeff was able to recover from both the professional setback and personal tragedy to finally win the WWE Championship in December at Armageddon
7. Mr. McMahon's Million Dollar Mania
To attract attention for the WWE, Vince McMahon
literally gave millions of dollars away to the viewers of Monday Night RAW
from his personal stash of cash. Over the course of three weeks, Vince gave away $3 million in some of the strangest segments shown on WWE television. My personal favorite was watching Vince get Rick-Rolled in the first call he made to a fan. The contest ended when the set collapsed on Vince.
8. Wrestling Goes HDChanges in technology brought a change to the way fans viewed wrestling in 2008. Both the WWE and TNA began broadcasting their programming in HD this year. To mark the occasion, the WWE unveiled a brand-new Titantron that cost approximately $20 million (or the fake cost of Floyd Mayweather). A few months after the WWE went to HD, TNA followed suit. TNA reconfigured the iMPACT! Zone and went from having separate tunnels for the heels and the faces to having one entranceway for all of their wrestlers.
9. The Economic Collapse of 2008
While politicians spent the past few years wasting our tax dollars dealing with steroids in sports, they were letting a far graver travesty occur. In the wake of their pathetic oversight of the mortgage and securities markets, the economy suffered a significant and nearly catastrophic blow. The wrestling world was not immune to the damage this collapse wrought. In recent weeks, the WWE has announced a change to their television taping schedule
that will save the company some significant amounts of money as well as releasing quite a few wrestlers over the past few weeks.
10. 2 Stage Accidents
One of the things that wrestling fans have taken for granted is the tremendous amount of work and danger that goes into producing a televised wrestling program. It is not something we think about unless something goes wrong. This year, both the WWE and TNA had a bad accident happen. WrestleMania 24 ended in a scary scene
for some fans as a cable containing fireworks showered a section of the Citrus Bowl with fireworks. 40 fans were injured in that accident but thankfully no one was seriously hurt. Tragically, another accident cost someone their life. Kevin Sinex, a worker taking apart a TNA set after their Slammiversary
PPV, lost his life in a scaffolding accident
. That accident also resulted in another worker losing his thumb.