There is never a shortage of strange stories in the carnival-like world of professional wrestling but 2016 was an exception. The abundance of wacky true pro wrestling stories that took place outside of the ring in 2016 was more compelling than their fictional counterparts that played out in front of the camera.
There are always those one or two big weird pro wrestling stories that go down within a year but even with a couple of weeks left to go in 2016, this year has been arguably the strangest. From true-life courtroom battles for company control like something out of a poorly written television angle to the trial of a pro wrestling legend for a murder committed almost 40 years ago, here is a rundown of the crazy and fascinating outside of the ring pro wrestling stories of 2016.
Billy Corgan vs. Dixie Carter for True Control of TNA Wrestling.
In my opinion, this is the craziest story of the entire year and the inspiration for this blog. What makes this one so incredibly ironic is that it played out off-camera just like it would in front of the cameras as a television angle. Mark my words, you will see an angle on television in some company based on this true-life pro wrestling drama.
Here is the cliff notes version of the story as I see it. Dixie Carter had been mismanaging TNA for well over a decade but the train went off of the rails in 2016. Dixie and Billy made a financial arrangement, which has been interpreted differently by each party. After years of borrowing “Peter to pay Paul” Dixie was facing a television taping without the money to fund it. Enter Smashing Pumpkins singer and new sucker, Billy Corgan.
Corgan invested money over $1 million in the company in exchange for what he believed to be stock. Corgan made an agreement according to him which would make him majority owner of the company if the company became insolvent (more debt than equity) and the money would go towards a down payment. Corgan accused Carter of lying to him and boxing him out of deals (more or less fraud). Corgan also claimed that he was lied to about how much debt the company was in and took her to court claiming that he has seen enough evidence that pointed to the company being insolvent and thus he should be the majority owner.
The two wound up in court with Corgan seeking an injunction against TNA. TNA claimed that Corgan was nothing more than a predatory lender. The judge ruled in TNA’s favor but not because Corgan was a predatory lender or the company was solvent but because a law in Nashville prevented the judge from enforcing the sale. TNA would had to pay Billy back his money plus interest. But it didn’t end there. Corgan claimed that he was owed 36 percent stock and if he didn’t get it, hinted he would sell it to the WWE.
This is truly the best storyline of the year and if they didn’t get in front of a judge, I would have sworn it was a work. It’s not but if it was, I may have actually started to watch TNA Wrestling. In the end there was a settlement reached between Corgan and TNA. Corgan tweeted that he would reveal the tru story later, yet he has remained mum up to press time.
Hulk Hogan Drops the Leg on Gawker for $115 Million
The biggest out-of-the-ring pro wrestling story of 2015 concluded in a big way in 2016. Arguably the biggest pro wrestling star of all-time Hulk Hogan won a judgment awarding him $115 million against gossip website Gawker, sending the website into bankruptcy.
Last year the story was Hogan being essentially blackballed from the wrestling business over a leaked video tape. This year that same video made Hogan a rich man and may have changed the face of online tabloid-journalism forever. Unfortunately for the Hulkster he won’t receive the full $115 million from Gawker. But don’t feel too sorry for him. He will reportedly walk away with $31 million in cash and plenty of rumors of a return to the WWE.
The Jimmy Snuka Murder Indictment Heats Up.
Like the TNA-Corgan lawsuit, this story also inspired this blog because of how it outrageous it is. Jimmy Snuka was one of the biggest stars in the WWE, close to Hulk Hogan’s level when I was a kid. To many from that era, he is an endearing legend. To many of his former colleagues, he was one of the craziest dudes to ever travel with. That is why those in the know weren’t so shocked when he was indicted on murder.
To be clear, Snuka was arrested in 2015 but the story heated up in 2016. Snuka was ruled incompetent to stand trial yet the judge refused to dismiss the charges even after the prosecutor recommended doing so. Snuka gave what was reported as confused testimony in May but when the judge would not dismiss the charges, she put the case on hold indefinitely in August.
What made this story even stranger was that after Snuka gave his “confused” testimony, he was added to the 2017 WrestleCon convention in a move that sickened many.
Scott Steiner Witnesses an Attempted Murder at Shoney’s.
It wouldn’t be a strange wrestling stories blog without an appearance by Scott Steiner. Yet interestingly enough, Steiner winds up in this blog as a hero as opposed to a villain. A reporter in Acworth, Georgia stopped several witnesses who saw an attempted murder. One of those witnesses was Scott Steiner. Steiner was interviewed on the local news and even more stranger is that his pro wrestling career went unnoticed nor mentioned.
Jamie Noble is Stabbed Inside of a Trailer Park.
I will readily admit that when I saw this story pop up in social media I thought it was a WWE angle. While Noble wasn’t on television in any capacity at the time, the idea of him being stabbed in a trailer park had to be an angle right? Nope, it was and is a true story.
Pro Wrestling Sheet had the dirty on the story which goes something like this. Noble came home in West Virginia after a SmackDown taping. He left his home to go get something to eat and got into some sort of a road rage incident. A driver got out of his car and accused Noble of cutting him off. Noble apologized but the incident got physical with a second man getting out of the car. Noble was handling the situation before being stabbed once in the upper back and once in the mid-back/spine area. Noble suffered a collapsed lung as a result of the stabbing. The perpetrators are still unknown and charges have not been fired.
Alberto Del Rio Misses Booking Because He Says He Was Stabbed.
In an absolutely crazy coincidence, a few days later Alberto Del Rio missed a Triple A booking and claimed he was stabbed. Even stranger, Del Rio says the stabbing was a result of a road rage incident. Del Rio posted pictures of a stab wound to his head on social media. But that is just the half of it.
Del Rio claimed that he was stabbed outside of a restaurant in San Antonio, Texas and police were called. Several reporters including Dave Meltzer and Ryan Satin both called the local police department who claimed they had no reports on a stabbing in that area or anything involving Del Rio. Del Rio changed his story several times, claiming his girlfriend Paige was not there and then she was. Del Rio also never called anyone at Triple A to let them know he had an issue.
This is a real strange story and one that hasn’t been solved to this day. What exactly happened that night? Where did that stab wound come from that Del Rio posted on social media? Was Paige there or not there? I have a feeling we haven’t heard the end of this one.
The Paige-Alberto Del Rio-WWE Saga.
It is funny to me that the WWE had one of its craziest relationships taking place off camera yet did nothing to bring it to the RAW or SmackDown screens. Paige and Alberto Del Rio found love in the WWE which resulted in Alberto leaving the company, Paige receiving 2 Wellness Policy violations and a marriage proposal at a WWC show.
I would say that if Corgan and Dixie didn’t wind up in court, this story would have a real good shot at topping the list. Paige and Del Rio began posting photos on social media which showed the two as a couple. Reports and rumors started popping up shortly thereafter that the company was actively trying to break them up. One rumor indicated that a high-ranking WWE office member told Paige to break up with Del Rio. Del Rio wound up leaving the company, a year after he returned. Paige has now been out of action for months with injuries and two policy violations and is one violation away from getting fired. Better yet, Paige got down on one knee at a WWC show and proposed to Del Rio who many claim is still legally married. Paige’s family posted on Facebook with her father vehemently coming out against the marriage and relationship. Whether Paige ever wrestles another match in a WWE ring still remains a mystery.
CM Punk Gets Massacred in UFC Debut while Brock Lesnar Returns and Leaves amidst Controversy.
CM Punk signing a contract to fight in the UFC is not a 2016 story. CM Punk actually fighting in the UFC is. Almost two years after signing with the company, Punk had his very first MMA fight in a UFC octagon. Yes you read that right, his first MMA fight was against a UFC fighter. Punk fought Mickey Gall who is a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu in a fight that was essentially a white belt amateur against a brown belt professional.
The fight went about as well you could have expected. Punk had little to no offense and was mauled for a little over two minutes. Punk initially received a lot of props until his salary was revealed, sparking an outcry from other fighters. Punk’s fight helped draw a nice buyrate yet the UFC has remained non-committal to giving him another fight. No matter how you cut it, seeing one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling of this generation get slaughtered on a UFC event is one of the strangest events of the year.
With little notice, former UFC champion Brock Lesnar returned to the UFC to fight at UFC 200. Lesnar’s appearance was so secretive that even UFC color commentator Joe Rogan was stunned when Lesnar’s promo played for the first time. Lesnar had not fought since 2011 and was returning to fight ranked heavyweight and hard hitter Mark Hunt.
Lesnar won the fight, dominating Hunt for three rounds. Lesnar received high-praise for his impressive performance with some declaring him ready for a heavyweight title fight. That was until test results came back and Lesnar was popped for using PEDs prior to the fight. Lesnar continues to fight those charges and has not had his day in court at press time.
What may or may not have been an even bigger story was how badly the WWE Wellness Policy was exposed. The WWE refused to punish Lesnar and it was revealed that most part-time performer, including Lesnar are exempt from testing. The policy… “is applicable to and binding upon all WWE Talent under contract to WWE who regularly perform in-ring services as a professional sports entertainer (“WWE Talent”).
The Sudden WWE Retirement of Daniel Bryan.
Daniel Bryan had not wrestled a match since shortly after WrestleMania 31. Like his title win at WrestleMania 30, Bryan had to forfeit the intercontinental title he won at 32. While most who read the news sites and social media knew that Bryan was out of action due to concussion, nobody ever realized how much danger his career was truly in until he retired in February.
Bryan was advertised for a big announcement and the fans were shocked when he said he was retiring. Just weeks earlier word leaked out that Bryan found another doctor who cleared him to return. Later it was reported that Vince McMahon forced him into giving the speech on RAW, a speech many claim he felt very uncomfortable giving. Bryan disappeared shortly thereafter, cancelling out on Daniel Bryan Appreciation Nights only to reappear several months later as a G.M.
I will be completely honest with you here. This was not on the original list. I had Goldberg re-signing with the WWE in this spot but after careful consideration, this one just had to get one here. A story of the WWE world champion getting popped for a Wellness violation is big in itself, but the fallout and circumstances in and out of the ring following the story is where the real juice is.
The WWE had invested a ton of resources over the last two years into making Roman Reigns the next face of the company. Reigns was finally given that big push at WrestleMania 32 and won the WWE world championship. This was to be Reigns’ year and Vince McMahon would be damned if Reigns would not succeed as champion. Even the most casual fan could tune into WWE television and watch Reigns getting booed out of the building on a nightly basis to know it wasn’t working, yet Vince remained steadfast in the face of criticism to the point of ignorance. Yet it after approximately two years it all came to an end and it wasn’t the fans that broke Vince’s will, it was Roman himself whose misstep cost him more than just a 30-day suspension.
Just a couple of months after winning the title, Reigns dropped the title at Money in the Bank in a strange twist of circumstances. The quick pin seemed odd until it was revealed a couple of days later that Reigns failed a Wellness test. After two years of a fierce commitment by Vince McMahon to make Roman “the guy”, even he was done with his pet project.
What makes this story even bigger is that Reigns hasn’t fully recovered since returning from his suspension. Some suspected that Reigns would be hot shot right back into the title picture. Not only was he kept away from the world title, he was drafted “sixth” on RAW at a time where he would have easily been cast as the number-one pick a month prior, pre-suspension. Again this was a guy that the company committed to making “the guy” for two years, and he didn’t even crack the top-five of their scripted draft.
Whether Reigns ever truly regains the trust and commitment of the promotion is yet to be seen. Where Reigns stands a year from now will indicate how truly monumental this story really is.