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The Top 15 of '06
By SLAM! Wrestling Staff


Kurt Angle at TNA Bound For Glory. Where did he rank on our list?
Photo by Mike Mastandrea

2006 will go down history as one of the most pivotal years for the wrestling world. We saw new champions crowned, the rebirth of favourite factions and organizations and impressive work on the independent scene.

Oh yeah, and we also had the biggest wrestler move since the takeover of WCW.

All in all, it's been a heck of a year. Let's now look back on 2006.


15> DX is reborn

What Happened: Almost since Shawn Michaels returned to action with the nWo a few years back we heard rumours of a D-Generation X reunion. We were teased with it soon after, but that ended in a swerve and a feud between the founding fathers. Soon after Backlash, the seeds for Triple H and Shawn Michaels coming together were planted and it wasn't long before the black and green attack was back, focusing their early energy on the McMahons before going after Randy Orton and Edge.

What Lies Ahead: What was rumoured to only be a short-term tandem is now looking more and more like a permanent fixture in the Fed. Ultimately, time (and more importantly, revenue) will tell now long DX redux will last.


14>The Endless Guerrero death story continues endlessly

What Happened: Once the armbands came off for most wrestlers, Rey Mysterio Jr. continued to wear his and dedicated a series of matches to Eddie Guerrero's memory, including his WrestleMania and Royal Rumble victories. Chavo Guerrero, meanwhile, tried the same trick but could not win. Eventually he snapped on Rey and beat him literally into submission for desecrating the Guerrero name and the memory of Uncle Eddie. With Mysterio on the shelf, a returning Chris Benoit began a new feud with Chavito and his now business partner Vicki (Eddie's widow), this time over Eddie's estate.

What Lies Ahead: With Benoit still battling Chavo, the feud looks to continue well into 2007.


13> Ring of Honor and Combat Zone Wrestling do battle

What Happened: What WWE failed to do with the InVasion angle, RoH and CZW did to perfection. Not only did both companies gain victories on enemy territory, but both were professional enough to realize a lot of money could be made. The results were some incredibly amazing matches and blood feuds between the Philly franchises. The result is a larger profile for both companies.

What Lies Ahead: While the feud has died down, the workers in both companies now have an opportunity to go into a different territory and earn bigger pay. With Claudio Castagnoli headed to WWE, more could be recruited to either the Fed or TNA in the near future, thanks to the increased spotlight this feud had on the two companies. We could also see further wars develop on the indie scene.


12> Piper's battle with Cancer

What Happened: Shortly after winning the World Tag Team Titles with Ric Flair at Cyber Sunday, Piper was forced to miss a show in the United Kingdom due to illness, and would later be replaced by Ron Simmons in the Survivor Series. Soon after, it was revealed that "The Rowdy One" had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Strains of the disease were discovered, as the Canadian Press reported, while Piper was undergoing back surgery. Piper is now undergoing treatment for the form of cancer.

What Lies Ahead: Because the disease was caught early, the outlook for Piper is recovery from the cancer. At this point, however, it is way too early to speculate as to whether or not Hot Rod will return to the ring.


11> The Rise and Fall of RVD

What Happened: The year 2006 began with a promising outlook for Rob Van Dam, who was returning from an injury that kept him out for much of 2005. Though he did not win the Royal Rumble, he came back to a massive crowd reaction. At WrestleMania XXII, RVD won the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, and soon after captured the Intercontinental Title. Over this time, RVD made allusions to an "extreme title match", which came to fruition at ECW: One Night Stand. There, RVD finally won the WWE Heavyweight Title, a moment WWE fans had been begging for since RVD first came to the Fed. At the same time, RVD was anointed the first ECW World Champion.

What happened next, however, was the kind of story that is seen far too often on E! True Hollywood Story. On the weekend of July 1, RVD and fellow ECW wrestler Sabu, were pulled over and found to have marijuana, pain killers and paraphernalia. The story quickly spread and just as fast, RVD lost both of his titles and was suspended.

What Lies Ahead: Though RVD has returned to action and has contended for the ECW Title, rumours persist that he won't be in WWE much longer, potentially heading to TNA when his contract expires. While it's impossible to say if RVD will hold WWE again, it would come to the surprise of no one if he didn't wear WWE gold again.


10> Antonio Pena passes away

What Happened: Pena, one of the most influential men in lucha libre over the last number of years, Pena founded AAA, giving lighter superstars like Rey Mysterio Jr. and Psichosis their start with events like When Worlds Collide. He was still the company's booker when he passed.

What Lies Ahead: Konnan confirmed on Live Audio Wrestling that he, along with other AAA officials, would take over the book. Needless to say, the months ahead will be very telling for the Mexican wrestling league.


9> So long, farewell

What Happened: Rather than the "traditional" way for a wrestler to leave WWE in either a loser-leaves-town match or burial on TV (literally or figuratively), two superstars left with an official retirement announcement. Trish Stratus had her last match at WWE Unforgiven having announced weeks before that her title bout with Lita would be her last, while the woman known outside the ring as Amy Dumas had a briefer but still to-the-point final confrontation with Mickie James at Survivor Series. While retirements in wrestling usually last as long as a Toronto Maple Leafs winning streak, these two appear to be permanent.

What Lies Ahead: Stratus got married shortly after her last match and is now set to appear on a new reality series among other projects, while Lita will be focusing her time on her band The Luchagores. Dumas has also made herself open for indie bookings. Meanwhile, the WWE Women's division soldiers on without its two biggest stars of the last decade.


8> TNA goes Primetime

What Happened: Thanks to some impressive numbers and urges from TNA, SpikeTV moved Impact to a TV hotspot: Thursday night in prime time. The new timeslot kicked off with a two-hour special, featuring Kurt Angle's in-ring debut.

What Lies Ahead: Though the numbers haven't drastically changed, TNA is now lobbying for a two-hour timeslot for Impact. The increase, as many wrestling pundits have said, would allow the company more time to showcase its best and brightest. Until that happens, however, TNA can only work with what they have.


7> Raw knows The Score

What Happened: TSN, home to WWE programming for over a decade, parted ways with the Fed, allowing The Score to pick up the coveted flagship show. Though no longer live (there is a one-hour broadcast delay to appease The Score's CRTC regulations on the amount of live footage it shows), Raw is now on the same network as Smackdown. In an interview with SLAM!, TSN President Phil King said that the channel's new contract with NFL Monday Night Football was the primary factor in the move, not a ratings decline.

What Lies Ahead: The acquisition of Raw gives The Score a boost as a destination sports channel, but the WWE, try as it might, cannot spin it any other way -- the move is a huge step down, especially in available homes. An American comparison would be ESPN dropping the NHL, and being picked up by OLN / Versus; yes, they are both TV stations, but they aren't at the same level. Since the acquisition, The Score has also added its own WWE recap show, hosted by Ryan Paton.


6> UFC vs. WWE

What Happened: In a pay-per-view universe that is now seemingly hosting a different event every weekend, Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) has been giving WWE a run for its money. With big-name battles, such as those involving Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock, the Fed's reign as the top sports genre draw on PPV has legitimately been challenged, and in some instances overtaken. In response to the rise of mixed martial arts (MMA), there have been whispers about WWE branching out into the shootfighting world.

What Lies Ahead: Saturday's UFC event, which featured Chuck Liddell vs. Ortiz, had been predicted to draw a buyrate over one million viewers, which would put it at levels above WrestleMania. The WWE/MMA rumours will likely persist through the year, especially if there are more meetings with the likes of Pride FC in the future.


5> TNA hits the road for PPV

What Happened: After years of holding free shows in the friendly confines of Universal Studios, Total Nonstop Action finally hit the road for a broadcast, settling down in Detroit for Bound For Glory. While revenue from the event is unknown, it marked an important step in TNA's development as a truly national company and a contender to WWE's throne.

What Lies Ahead: Though TNA has not gone back on the road since Bound For Glory, there are persistent rumours that the company will be leaving Universal again for a PPV in 2007. The house show circuit, meanwhile, continues.


4> ECW is reborn

What Happened: At ECW One Night Stand, the much rumoured return of the rebel organization was made a reality with the announcement that ECW would begin a new era with a champion, RVD, and a new TV show on American cable channel SciFi. Later, it was announced that the new show would air in Canada on a major national network, Global TV, in a late-night slot. Through this time, WWE brought in a number of "ECW Originals" such as Sabu and Sandman while moving former ECW talent like Tommy Dreamer to the show. As well, several WWE stars like Big Show, Kurt Angle, Rene Dupree and Hardcore Holly found a new home, while up-and-comers like Mike Knox and CM Punk made their WWE debuts with the brand.

Reaction to the new show was less than enthusiastic, as many labelled the new entity as WWECW. The "extreme rules" matches started to disappear in favour of traditional WWE matches, while wrestlers from Raw and Smackdown, such as The Hardy Boyz, Ric Flair and DX, would often make special appearances on the show. Following the second ECW PPV, December to Dismember, Paul Heyman, who had been heavily involved in the resurrected ECW both on television and behind the scenes, was sent home by WWE in a worked shoot that was made public through WWE's website.

What Lies Ahead: Depending on who you speak to, the future of ECW either looks firm or flat. ECW now tours with Smackdown or Raw, rather than having its own house shows, while there have not been any more ECW PPVs announced. The year ahead will undoubtedly be a pivotal year for the new brand.


3> Hitman in the Hall

What Happened: The tagline says, "anything can happen in WWE," and that was proven true in April when Bret "Hitman" Hart returned to WWE TV (more specifically PPV) to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hart, true to his word, appeared at the banquet and delivered an acceptance speech, but did not attend WrestleMania XXII, which took place the next night. He was also inducted into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall Of Fame in July, an honour which he told the banquet crowd he appreciated more than the WWE HOF.

What Lies Ahead: Hart has returned to the stage for another go with the Aladdin crew and his autobiography looks to release this year. Fans looking to catch The Hitman on free WWE TV, however, will most likely not see it happen. Then again, we never expected Hart to do anything with WWE ever again...


2> Edge wins the WWE Title...twice!

What Happened: Can you say Wrestler of the Year? Edge, a.k.a. Adam Copeland, kept a firm grip on his title of being the top heel in WWE in 2006. Along the way, he earned another moniker - WWE Champion. The Ontario native picked up two title runs in 2006, becoming the first Canadian to hold a major title since Chris Benoit in 2004 and the first to hold a World belt on multiple occasions in the Fed since Chris Jericho (or Bret Hart, depending on which side of the WWE history book you read).

Edge spent the majority of '06 battling John Cena, but also fended off D-Generation X and Mick Foley. Along with Randy Orton, Edge now holds the World Tag Team Titles.

What Lies Ahead: The Rated R Superstar looks to be going into 2007 on a high. Though he and Orton are scheduled to face DX at New Year's Revolution, two recent bouts against Cena have kept Edge's singles stardom in the minds of WWE fans. Don't be surprised if Edge holds the gold again.


1> Kurt Angle jumps to TNA

What Happened: If you had told wrestling fans one year ago that WWE would be losing one of their top stars to TNA, a number of names would've been bandied about. It's a surefire bet, however, that Kurt Angle's name would not be among those discussed.

Sure enough, however, Angle found himself in Orlando, Florida just a few weeks after he and WWE parted ways. Angle, who held virtually every WWE title in his tenure up north, made an immediate impact on his new league, giving fans a series of dream matches against the company's seemingly unbeatable machine, Samoa Joe.

What Lies Ahead: The Olympic gold medallist seems destined to hold the NWA World Heavyweight Title in 2007, which would make him the first former WWE Champion to hold the belt since it became the near-exclusive property of the TNA territory.

Think we missed out on a major story? Do you think that one event was more important than another listed? E-mail SLAM! Wrestling with your thoughts on the biggest story of 2006.


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- compiled by Jon Waldman