10 'Doomsdays' from WWE History
Today is Dec. 21, 2012—the day that the ancient Mayan calendar comes to an end and some have hypothesized as a possible doomsday.
Whether or not the world does come to an end today—or if the Mayans had even meant for the day to be interpreted as such—the truth is that wrestling history is full of many "doomsdays." Events that spelled the end of the wrestling world as we knew it.
Here is a recap of the 10 earth-shattering WWE events from years gone by.
Jan. 18, 1971: Champion No More
The World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) crowned its first champion in the legendary heel "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers in 1963. A few weeks later, Rogers was defeated for the belt by the babyface Bruno Sammartino.
Sammartino went on to hold that title for the following seven-and-a-half years, besting some of the top competitors of the 1960s and '70s.
In fact, Sammartino's 2,803-day reign was the longest of any wrestling world heavyweight champion ever, in WWE or otherwise.
All that ended on Jan. 18, 1971 when Sammartino finally lost to "The Russian Bear" Ivan Koloff.
In truth, Koloff was only a transitional champion, as bookers wanted to put the belt on another fan favorite, Pedro Morales. The heel Koloff held the belt for only three weeks before Morales took the belt.
Nearly two years later, Morales would himself drop the belt to another transitional heel champ, Stan Stasiak, in order to put the belt back on Sammartino nine days later.
Dec. 26, 1983: The Camel Clutch
After the reign of the great "Superstar" Billy Graham, WWE crowned another longtime babyface champion—Bob Backlund.
From February 1978 to December 1983, Backlund defended the title against some of the most despicable villains of the era.
In an unbelievable surprise, however, Backlund was finally defeated on Dec. 26, 1983 and WWE crowned the most unbelievable heel champion thinkable—the Iron Sheik.
Truth be told, Backlund never submitted to the Sheik's camel clutch. The match only ended after Backlund's manager, Arnold Skaaland, threw in the towel.
Just like Ivan Koloff and Stan Stasiak of years prior, the Iron Sheik merely served the purpose of being a transitional champion so that Hulk Hogan could become WWE champion four weeks later.
As such, had the Iron Sheik never defeated Backlund on the day after Christmas 1983, Hulkamania could not have begun in the same explosive, dramatic fashion.
July 14, 1984: Black Saturday
When Vince McMahon Jr. decided to bring the World Wrestling Federation national in the mid-1980's, nothing looked more attractive than a program called "World Championship Wrestling."
At the time, "World Championship Wrestling" was a weekly program put on by Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW). Since the 1970's, the show aired weekly on the cable television station WTBS.
Since McMahon realized that he could use the show to put the World Wrestling Federation in the national spotlight, he purchased GCW. On July 14, 1984, wrestling fans tuned into WTBS only to find McMahon standing in front of the words "World Championship Wrestling."
Unfortunately for McMahon, fans of GCW did not enjoy the cartoonish, unfamiliar new program on their televisions. They soon dubbed the unexpected takeover "Black Saturday."
As such, months later McMahon sold the "World Championship Wrestling" television show to Jim Crockett Promotions.
Years later, when Ted Turner purchased Jim Crockett Promotions, he renamed the company World Championship Wrestling (WCW) after that television program.
Sept. 4, 1995: The Monday Night Wars
Over the 1980s, the World Wrestling Federation steamrolled their competition.
Promotion after promotion found themselves unable to compete, from Fritz Von Erich's WCCW to Verne Gagne's AWA.
The one exception was Ted Turner's WCW. And on Sept. 4, 1995, WCW brought the fight to McMahon by running a new television show, Monday Nitro, against WWE's flagship show, Raw. Additionally, the show even ended with a major surprise, as WWE Superstar Lex Luger showed up during the show.
What then ensued were five-and-a-half explosive years called the Monday Night Wars, a period that encompassed top WWE stars coming to WCW, the birth of the nWo, and the creation of the Attitude Era.
All of this created remarkable interest in the industry, as pro wrestling became "cool" again.
March 26, 2001: The Last Nitro
There was a time between 1996 and 1997 that it might have seemed as though WCW might win the Monday Night Wars and actually put Vince McMahon out of business.
The Attitude Era changed all that, however. With edgy, cool self-awareness, the World Wrestling Federation came back from the brink in the late '90s and soon had WCW on the ropes.
After a couple years of struggling and failing, WCW was bought up by Vince McMahon.
Thus, much like the Black Saturday of 1984, fans tuned into World Championship Wrestling on March 26, 2001 and saw the face of Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
WCW was given the dignity of putting on this one last show, having every title belt defended and closing with a match between WCW's two biggest icons, Ric Flair and Sting.
The last Nitro did end, however, with a confrontation between Vince and Shane McMahon.
July 22, 2001: Invasion
With the Monday Night Wars over and ECW declaring bankruptcy, bookers had little choice but to have a full-fledged WCW/ECW invasion of the World Wrestling Federation.
In a storyline where Shane McMahon's WCW and Stephanie McMahon's ECW sought to put their father's company out of business, a pay-per-view on July 22, 2001, pitted WCW and ECW stars (known as "The Alliance") against World Wrestling Federation Superstars.
Highlights of the evening included Rob Van Dam winning the Hardcore Title and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin betraying the World Wrestling Federation and joining The Alliance.
Feb. 17, 2002: New World Order
One of the major reasons that WCW overtook the World Wrestling Federation in 1996 was the nWo—the New World Order.
After WCW went out of business and the WCW/ECW invasion storyline came to an end, Ric Flair announced that he was now a co-owner of WWE with Vince McMahon.
This led to a storyline where a maddened McMahon brought the nWo into the World Wrestling Federation at No Way Out 2002. The nWo was going to show up and rule over the company just as they had done in WCW.
Unfortunately, things didn't happen that way.
After much buildup, the nWo storyline quickly fell apart in WWE. Though Hogan had an epic match with The Rock at WrestleMania X8, he then left the group. Other members joined, including Shawn Michaels and Booker T, but the group lacked the momentum it had in previous years.
The gimmick ended a few months later with Vince McMahon coming to the ring to the nWo's music and telling fans that was the last time they were ever going to hear that song.
May 6, 2002: "Get the 'F' Out"
The word came over the wire during the weekend of May 5.
After taking on and defeating the "good old boy" territory system, surviving a federal steroid inquiry, and coming back from almost being put out of business by Ted Turner, the World Wrestling Federation finally was handed a huge defeat.
After years of litigation, the World Wildlife Fund won the rights to the initials "WWF."
As such, fans in Hartford, Conn. were a little taken back when they arrived in at the Civic Center and realized that they were now fans of a company called WWE.
No, the company did not revert back to its old World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) name. Nor did it adopt the name of the recently-purchased Goliath World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Nor did they work with the idea of the ongoing nWo takeover to become New World Order Wrestling.
Instead, that day "World Wrestling Entertainment" became the biggest wrestling promotion in the world.
And while over a decade has passed since that day, many people still wonder: Why is there no "E" in the logo?
June 7, 2010: The Next Generation Takes Over
By the spring of 2010, the PG Era was in full swing. Leaving the adult-oriented themes of years prior, WWE had embraced a new family-friendly image.
Epitomizing the new era more than anyone else was the clean-cut babyface John Cena. Having established himself over the past eight years, Cena was now the top dog in WWE.
As such, that made Cena the perfect target for a group of up-and-coming rookies to attack.
The faction, known as Nexus, encompassed all the "contestants" on WWE's show NXT. Their goal was simple: to dominate WWE.
The Nexus was a very popular idea and, months later, CM Punk became the new leader of the group.
Which arguably may have led to the final "doomsday" on the list...
July 17, 2011: Breaking the Fourth Wall
Though the Nexus saga showed some of the cracks in the PG Era, it eventually became co-opted and fell back into line with the rest of the program.
It wasn't until June 27, 2011, that the deep fissures in the modern product became clear.
During a promo on Raw, CM Punk "broke the fourth wall" and the PG mold by: swearing, attacking John Cena, insulting the USA Network, criticizing WWE fans, and mentioning Hulk Hogan, Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar, Colt Cabana, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Ring of Honor by name.
The storyline continued towards the Money in the Bank pay-per-view on July 17. On that night, CM Punk defeated Cena for the WWE Title in a match that was universally praised by critics. After beating Cena, Punk supposedly left the company with the belt—an ultimate doomsday scenario.
CM Punk's promo and title win made wrestling history and catapulted him into the upper echelon of WWE.
What made CM Punk's promo so earth-shattering is that it reintroduced self-awareness to WWE, something that was common in the Attitude years and absent in the PG Era. It brought back some level of reality in the product, a certain degree of intellectual honesty that shows respect for the fans.
For that reason, Punk's promo and title victory were together the most recent "doomsday" to rock WWE.