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2008: The stories of the year
By SLAM! Wrestling Staff


Goodbye, Nature Boy. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea


Usually when we do our year-end story of the year surveys, there's one or two stories that get consideration as the top news item of the year. Last year bucked that trend in a horrid fashion after the Benoit family double-murder-suicide. In 2008, we get the same undisputed winner, but for a much more pleasant reason.

Really, there was no other story that came close, and it was reflected in staff voting with no other story getting multiple votes. All other news pieces from 2008 that flashed across the SLAM! Wrestling home page and N&R board were small by comparison.

Ladies and gentlemen, here are the top news stories of 2008.

Story of the Year: Thank you, Naitch

What Happened: We knew it was coming from about mid-2007. After a drawn-out storyline, in which Ric Flair's next loss would be his last WWE match, Naitch wrestled his last bout at WrestleMania XXIV in a match for the ages. Voted as SLAM! Wrestling's Match of the Year, the bout closed the book on one of the greatest careers in the history of the squared circle. One night later, on Raw, Flair was feted in a celebration that happens far too seldom in wrestling. It was an emotional two days, preceded one day earlier by a memorable induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.

What Will Happen: Flair's retirement from active ring competition looks to be firm (as hard as it is to believe after, what, 100 previous ones?), but his participation in wrestling may not be. For now, at least, Flair is helping his son, Reid, break into the business, while also doing the legends convention circuit. A return to WWE in one capacity or another is always possible.

The Youth of the Federation

What Happened: 2008 was the year that a new generation was truly ushered in for WWE. Natalya Neidhart, Ted Dibiase Jr. and Afa Jr. (aka. Manu) were all introduced to WWE fans, while Cody Rhodes and Jimmy Snuka Jr. were given a next generation feel as part of Legacy.

What Will Happen: The official debut of the Next Generation Hart Foundation seems imminent now, with membership including Stampede Kid T.J. Wilson, Neidhart and D.H. Smith.

A Knockout Success

What Happened: The momentum that TNA's women had from 2007 carried through 2008, with Taylor Wilde upsetting Awesome Kong for the title mid-year. Kong regained her form and held the Knockout Championship at year's end. Meanwhile, The Beautiful People continued their impressive run, Christy Hemme returned to active competition, Rhaka Khan gained valuable experience, Roxxi Levaux paved her way as the hardcore icon of the ladies ranks and ODB was... well... ODB.


Go Wilde with Taylor! Photo courtesy TNAwrestling.com
What Will Happen: Overshadowing the success by TNA's women this year was the departure of Gail Kim, supposedly over pay issues. Kim left TNA to return to WWE, and depending on the validity of the rumour that the women are upset about being paid less than the guys, she may not have been the last to head north. TNA will need to continue building stars in the Knockouts ranks, lest they lose another top star.

TN...?

What Happened: Despite getting a decent run going towards the end of the year, TNA still has not managed to catch on with the large wrestling fanbase or mainstream entertainment. There may not have been any bigger indicator of this than the TNA Impact video game, which, according to sales-tracking website vgchartz.com, sold less than 200,000 through its first 10 weeks on the shelves.

What Will Happen: As stated, TNA seems to have gained a bit of momentum with the Main Event Mafia vs. Frontline feud drawing in more viewers, so there is hope, no matter how faint those hopes are.

A fake attack

What Happened: Prior to Survivor Series, WWE posted a story on WWE.com that Jeff Hardy was found unconscious in his hotel as part of an angle, rather than as a legitimate news story. The story hit too close to reality for many fans who have feared for the Charismatic Enigma's health over the years, especially in light of his two suspensions due to Wellness Policy violations and a recent intoxication story at an airport.

What Will Happen: It's unlikely that WWE won't use its website to advance a storyline while also using it to post legitimate health-related stories concerning its roster.

WWE, have a nice day

What Happened: After seemingly returning to WWE TV for good, Mick Foley, amid frustrations in his new broadcasting career, leaves WWE for TNA, taking on a prominent on-screen role.

What Will Happen: Foley will return to active competition at the Genesis pay-per-view, but it's anyone's guess as to how frequently he will appear in the ring and how long his tenure in TNA will be.

The Rainbow-haired Warrior takes the gold

What Happened: After years of questions as to whether Jeff Hardy will ever make it to the top rung of the WWE ladder, the Charismatic Enigma becomes WWE Champion at Armageddon.

What Will Happen: It remains to be seen whether WWE has full confidence in Hardy's ability to be the top dog on Smackdown. Some are speculating that this will be an abbreviated run a la CM Punk, while others speculate that Hardy will hold the belt through WrestleMania. Only time will tell.

In memory of...


Gary Hart. Photo by Greg Oliver
What Happened: Wrestling lost one of its all-time greats this year with the passing of Killer Kowalski. Other deaths included Penny Banner, Johnny Weaver, Don Curtis, Leo Garibaldi, Gary Hart, Special Delivery Jones, Rudy Kay, Yvon Robert Jr.,, and Mike Bell.

What Will Happen: Unfortunately, this is the story that will be on this list year-in and year-out. May the memories of our fallen heroes live on for years to come.

Gabe Sapolsky gone from Ring of Honor

What Happened: Probably the most surprising story of the year was the firing of Gabe Sapolsky, who had been with Ring of Honor since its inception. Adam Pearce, reportedly, has taken over the booking duties in the highly popular indie promotion.

What Will Happen: RoH continues to roll forward, but there will always be questions of how long their talent will stay before being head-hunted by WWE and TNA. Sapolsky, meanwhile, could return to wrestling in the new year, given the number of independent leagues that are gaining prominence in North America.

RELATED LINK

  • Dec. 30, 2008: The best and worst of 2008