One of the main reasons wrestling fans tune in each week is because they love to be surprised. And because of its scripted nature, professional wrestling can offer those big, shocking moments in a much more strategic way that most other sports programs. Cliffhangers you can’t miss? Good guy/bad guy turns? Dramatic run-ins and historic battles? They’re all a piece of the squared-circle fabric. While the internet made genuine surprises much harder to pull off in 2013, than, say, decades prior, a handful of moments still kept us on the edge of our seats.
2013 Biggest Surprise of the Year
Brian Fritz: Mark Henry Fake Retirement
Everyone bought in when the rumors started surfacing on the internet that Mark Henry was going to announce his retirement that night on Raw. Even while he was giving his farewell speech, he did it with such sincerity that there was no reason not to believe what he was saying. Even Mick Foley went on Twitter and congratulated Henry for his career accomplishments. But in the end, it turned out to be a fantastic swerve when Henry, still with a tear in his eye when he told his daughter that daddy was coming home, turned on then-WWE Champion John Cena and laid him out with the World’s Strongest Slam. And no one saw it coming.
Michael A. Wiseman: Rob Van Dam Returns to WWE
The nature of contract negotiations, wrestling press, and an endless parade of people in-between the front office and final product make surprise returns a rare breed these days. But WWE still managed to pull it off. In late July, at the Payback Pay-Per-View, the company delivered a surprise announcement that Mr. Monday Night himself was coming back. Perhaps more impressively, WWE gave Van Dam a lot of hype – everybody in the company really put it over as a big deal. He didn’t win Money in the Bank, and he didn’t win a championship. Still, the excitement of witnessing a legend return after such a long hiatus is one of the more crowd-pleasing moments of 2013.
Steven Muehlhausen: AJ Styles Leaving TNA
Styles has been the staple for TNA since the company debuted in 2002, having been there since their first event in June of that year. He has been the most consistent performer in the company. But rumblings have been running rampant that TNA has been losing money at a rapid pace. The company has went off the road doing live editions of Impact and are back at Universal Studios in Orlando. Talent has been let go as the likes of Hulk Hogan, Mickie James and Devon have been let go. Rumors were that Styles would be next, but he had signed a three month extension with the company with hopes of re-signing with them.
Styles won the TNA world heavyweight title from Bully Ray at Bound For Glory in October. TNA did an angle a few days later with Styles leaving ala CM Punk in 2011. Styles has wrestled on a couple international shows since then and had been still negotiating with TNA. Then Styles released a statement this month stating that he hadn’t reached an agreement with TNA and was now a free agent.
Which moments surprised you the most in 2013? Let us know in the comments below! And catch up with every category in the Best of 2013: Professional Wrestling as we ring in the new year.