Shane McMahon's Scrapped WWE Return & The New Day Make History: The Cultaholic Time Capsule - December 2016
Hop in our DeLorean...
For this week's instalment of the Time Capsule, we're not going to go *too* far back into the past, only five years to 2016.
On the one hand, December's generally a down month in wrestling, where things fall into a holding pattern before business shores up in January, so really, picking a December week from any year will do the trick.
But in this case, 2016 made a good pick due to the lead story in that week's Wrestling Observer. For one thing, it's a fairly prescient tale, given how newsworthy the power structure is in WWE, particularly how the "succession plan" appears to be set up for future days. Always melodrama when the McMahons are involved.
And honestly, I barely remember this story when it first ran, so reading it for this feature was quite eye-opening.
Otherwise, what lay ahead is a fairly straightforward look at life in wrestling as the "busy season" has wound down. As usual, I plucked some of the more interesting notes from a Wrestling Observer Newsletter, in this case from this week in December 2016. And as you'll see, it's quite fascinating how things in wrestling can change in just five years.
Away we go.
1. Vice publishes a written expose of an ill-fated 2012 meeting in which Shane McMahon (gone from WWE since 2009) returned to make a major creative pitch, much to the chagrin of sister Stephanie and brother-in-law Triple H
The expose states, "When Stephanie found out Shane was going to be there, she went white in the face. And Paul (Levesque) freaked out.” Whether it was due to family tension, or the fact that Shane's return meeting was facilitated by Kevin Dunn (who is said to be at odds with Triple H and Stephanie) is unclear.
In fact, the expose goes on to say, “Kevin Dunn is very close to Shane. And there’s tremendous tension between Kevin and Paul and Stephanie. They feel like the company is theirs, but they don’t have the power to control Kevin.” Contrast this story to who seems to be calling the shots in 2021, and, uh, yeah.
2. The Vice article also details the hellish creative process of WWE
It's about what contemporary horror stories have said: 16 segments get pitched to Vince on a Thursday or Friday, Vince gives feedback, segments are changed over the weekend, writers often stay past midnight, and plans could very well change come Monday.
One anonymous ex-WWE executive said, "All Vince cares about is that night’s show - not 15 weeks later, like how all other television shows work. That’s why you see astute followers pulling their hair out. There’s no guiding principle other than Vince is carnival barker – a promoter of a live event product." So when I wrote earlier about how much things change, I wasn't referring to this.
3. The forthcoming IWGP Heavyweight title match at Wrestle Kingdom 11 pitting Kazuchika Okada against Kenny Omega will air on NJPW's AXS show on January 13
The title match will be the only bout that airs during the hour-long broadcast, which telegraphs how long Okada and Omega were planning to go. Indeed, Okada manages to retain the title after 47 minutes of action.
This was the first one on one battle between Okada and Omega, and Dave Meltzer awarded it a six star rating. Over the next year and a half, they'd face off three more times in singles bouts, earning ratings equal or greater than that six. It's all subjective, but Meltzer was hardly the only one captivated by their matches.
4. The ROH title will be on the line at Wrestle Kingdom, as Kyle O'Reilly defends against Adam Cole
Cole ended up winning the title in what turned out to be the only ROH title change outside North America.
Talk about things changing in five years - the two would become stablemates in NXT later in 2017, split in 2021, one would leave for AEW later in the year after losing to the other, and the other guy is possibly about to jump to the same place. Meanwhile, ROH is facing uncertain times with a planned shutdown coming up. That's a lot of change, no?
5. The New Day set the all time WWE record for longest Tag Team title reign, surpassing Demolition's 1988-89 reign
They ended up losing the belts to Sheamus and Cesaro a week after setting the record. Some have posited that that WWE decided to have New Day break the record out of spite, due to Ax and Smash's participation in a class action concussion lawsuit against WWE earlier that year, but that's a little hard to prove.
Though weirdly, the Demolition record had previously been ignored, and WWE claimed that New Day set the all-time record once they passed Brian Kendrick and Paul London's 2006-07 reign earlier that summer (which was well shorter than Demolition's).
6. A set of rules for WWE road agents to follow at house shows is discovered at a Massachusetts live event, and gets leaked
Some of the stuff listed therein is common sense, like stricter protocol in the event of an injury, not diluting the use of weapons, etc. But some of the rules were pretty specialized, like John Cena being the only one allowed to do the "yay/boo" punch spot, and the disallowing of wrestlers to climb the ropes during their entrances. Don't really get that one.
Much of the rules listed are about preserving the credibility of wrestling referees, which sounds pretty tricky, given they're referees in a scripted sport where rules prove to be highly flexible.
7. Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma win New Japan's World Tag League
The two also won the 2015 tournament, making them the first duo to repeat as winners since Hiroshi Hase and Keiji Muto in 1994. They defeat Guerrillas of Destiny in the overall final.
The field was quite an interesting one, with Kenny Omega teaming with Chase Owens, Hangman Page with Yujiro Takahashi, War Machine in better times, and my favorite: Billy Gunn and Yoshitatsu. It just sounds amazing.
8. Booker T announces he's running for mayor of Houston in 2019
Nothing much really came from the announcement, as Booker did not appear on the 2019 ballot. Incumbent mayor Sylvester Turner ends up getting re-elected.
9. Alberto Del Rio gets into an altercation at an independent show in Mexico, after accusing a wrestler of touching his then-fiancée Paige
The wrestler claimed innocence in the matter, and cooler heads prevailed after the fight. However, many fans witnessed the incident.
There was a report that a number of wrestlers were livid with Alberto for instigating the fight, and an already volatile scene almost became worse. Del Rio, Paige, and Del Rio's brother all left the venue without further incident.
10. WWE has apparent interest in bringing back Eli Drake
By this time, Drake was well into his best career run to date in Impact Wrestling. It wouldn't be until 2021 that Drake would turn back up in WWE, renamed LA Knight.
11. Shad Gaspard of Cryme Tyme foils a possible armed robbery at a convenience store in Florida
Following an independent show in the area, Gaspard stopped at the store, where a drunk individual briefly accosted him. The man allegedly pulled a gun from his pants and declared his intentions to rob the place. Gaspard managed to overpower the man, as surveillance footage showed Gaspard slamming the man on the ground, seemingly knocking him out.
If we didn't already know that Shad Gaspard was a stand-up guy, here's a little more proof.
12. Zack Ryder blows out his knee in the final stages of a tag team battle royal that he and Mojo Rawley win on Smackdown
Ryder and Rawley were intended to feud with The Wyatt Family over the SmackDown Tag Team titles with the win, but the injury ends up shelving Ryder for close to six months. Talk about bad luck.
13. A payment plan is set up for Hulk Hogan to receive $31 million from Gawker as part of an out of court settlement
The trial itself was one for the ages, between Hogan's assertions that Hulk and Terry Bollea are "different people", and the Gawker side apparently coming off less than likable on the witness stand, so much so that the jury pretty much sided against them on principle.
14. Nigel McGuinness is removed from his matchmaker role in Ring of Honor, ahead of his leaving the company
Days after this story comes out, it's announced that McGuinness has signed with WWE as an announcer. He'll go on to make his debut at the United Kingdom championship tournament in January. In the five years since, McGuinness has called matches on NXT, NXT UK, 205 Live, and Main Event.
15. The December 12, 2016 episode of Monday Night Raw averaged 2,753,000 viewers, which at the time is the sixth lowest audience in show history.
Today, if they manage 1,900,000 for a Raw broadcast, they hold a ticker tape parade in downtown Stamford.