POLLOCK’S NEWS UPDATE: 2020 Hindsight, Final Update of the Year

Photo courtesy: CBS Sports

2020 HINDSIGHT

It’s become cliché to note the craziness and chaos that permeated 2020 and while most are relieved to see the calendar change at midnight, many of the problems and issues hatched in 2020 will grow in 2021. We are not out of the woods in containing the virus but there is a path with the hope that stubbornness will turn into understanding, and we can all sprint to the light at the end of the tunnel instead of debating whether we’re even inside one.

On a specific level, this was a year the professional wrestling industry was rocked to its core and forced to adapt. COVID-19, Speaking Out, Black Lives Matter, all issues of great importance and placing fans in a corner to decide what they could support, what this industry represents, and how to move forward.

On the COVID-19 front, there were grave concerns when companies forged ahead not skipping a beat and getting a show out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. WWE is in a much better state than they were before its first breakout where testing was limited to temperature checks, questionnaires and met with great criticism. There was uneasiness watching AEW knowing the travel involved, those in the company that may be at greater risk, and processing that other sports leagues had shut down, but pro wrestling did not.

Wrestling was not removed from the same push-and-pull struggle that many are experiencing – placing health ahead of income. Independent wrestlers had to balance the uncertainty of worrying when their next payday would occur while also seeing shows run that did not have the capabilities of instituting proper COVID testing. It begs the question of needing certain oversight to ensure shows are conducted in the safest way possible, understanding that in this period, no show is risk exempt and the threat of spreading and contracting COVID is very real no matter who you are and where you are.

The Speaking Out movement was the toughest stretch of stories I have ever covered and it pales to those directly affected. This is a movement and conversation that cannot end with this year. Promotions will return, fans will return, and with that, a protocol and culture change is necessary. In the absence of third-party oversight, there is a need for internal leadership in every locker room and the clear understanding that inappropriate actions, abuse, treatments, etc. do not and cannot fly in this, or any other locker room. Ignoring the real-life effects and trauma cannot be tolerated, minimizing lurid stories and tales as “the boys being the boys” ends now, and above all, the need for channels of communication for those intimidated to step forth with their stories to eliminate the fear of reprisals.

It was a year where it felt like a constant pattern of internal struggle and debate, confronting complexities while in literal isolation.

This past year, I experienced a loss in my family while also welcoming my second child. Days before her birth, it was unknown if I would even be able to be present for the birth due to the pandemic. It was the greatest gift when I was given the go-ahead that I could enter the hospital and be there for that moment. That is what I will choose to remember this year.

The world’s problems don’t magically disappear tomorrow. That is too large a task for a calendar to solve. We can learn and we can adapt.

Let’s move on to the new year but hopefully, the lessons taught are not forgotten, no matter how uncomfortable.

WRESTLING NEWS

AEW produced one of the most memorable episodes of wrestling television with their tribute to Jon Huber a.k.a. Brodie Lee. It was as emotional as any show I’ve watched, and I think every viewer sitting down on Wednesday knew it would be tough but cathartic viewing. For the AEW staff, production, and talent involved, they produced a show that will be a permanent record for Huber’s children, Brodie and Nolan, to see the impact their father had on so many. There were so many moments that will provide a lasting image, for me, it will be the smile on Brodie Jr’s face after the spot with MJF.

In an era where the tools exist for those most affected to share their memories and experience their grief in real-time, this loss was felt at a different level. What continually rang true from each testimonial and posting, was Jon Huber’s love for his family and the role he took as a father to his two children. While he had ambitions and goals as a pro wrestler, that was his job and his family was his life. It is in that order that his priorities should be remembered.

It’s very hard to understand the loss that so many active wrestlers have experienced because the numbers are staggering. For those that were mainstays of locker rooms in the ‘90s and 2000s, it is an unbelievable amount of loss to deal with. Today, performers have the means to grieve among fans online and have an outlet to share what they are battling internally. For the last generation, it begs the question of how they grieved, or if they grieved? They lived in a world where it was on to the next town, the next show, and the train kept moving.

The passing of Jon Huber showcased the very best of online connectivity. Most of all, those hurting had a place to grieve and be among peers and fans.

Chris Jericho compared Jon Huber to Owen Hart and Eddy Guerrero as a beloved figure by all. All three were mourned on television with episodes solely dedicated to their memory.

In May 1999, I was a high school student and it hit me in such a way as Hart was one wrestler that I actually had the chance to meet by pure fluke a few years earlier. It was coupled with the surreal nature of watching that pay-per-view and the announcement made later by Jim Ross that will always stick with me. In November 2005, the news of Guerrero’s passing came on a Sunday morning and by this time, I was working at The LAW and knew right away that the show that night would be the most important one I had ever been a part of. But this one hit me in such a different manner as a husband with two children.

**WWE has released a video remembering Jon Huber with memories and comments from Xavier Woods, Keith Lee, Kofi Kingston, John Morrison, TJ Wilson, and Adam Pearce. The final story from Jason Jordan is heartbreaking as he shared that Huber was the first one besides him and his wife to hold their daughter:

**In less than four hours, the Brodie Lee tribute shirt on Pro Wrestling Tees has become the outlet’s best-selling shirt of 2020 with the contributions going to the Huber family.

**AEW president Tony Khan added that they have purchased the rights “Ol’ 55” by Tom Waits in perpetuity, so the show-closing tribute video for Jon Huber will never be altered.

**Natalya wrote about Brodie Lee in her column for the Calgary Sun.

**The New Year’s Day edition of Friday Night SmackDown will be a live show with the company announcing the following for this week’s episode:
*Intercontinental Championship: Big E (champion) vs. King Corbin
*Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair vs. Bayley & Carmella
*Roman Reigns makes a special request for WWE management

**Ben Carter makes his NXT UK debut on next Thursday’s episode as a guest on Noam Dar’s Sprnva Sessions.

**All television ratings are delayed due to the backlog from the holidays. The Wednesday numbers for AEW and NXT are expected to be released on Monday, according to Showbuzz Daily.

**IMPACT Wrestling’s “Best of 2020” show from this past Tuesday was not listed among the top 150 cable programs this past week. The cut-off point for the 18-49 demographic that night was 0.03.

**Variety reports that beginning with UFC 257 next month, ESPN+ will be raising the price of UFC pay-per-view events from $64.99 to $69.99. The price increase coincides with the annual subscription rate for the streaming service going from $49.99 to $59.99 per year with those under the existing annual rate having until March 2, 2021, to renew at the cheaper rate. It’s the second year in a row that ESPN+ has hiked up the price of UFC pay-per-views as they did the same last year at this time prior to the Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone fight moving the price from $59.99 to $64.99 per event. Ultimately, this will likely have no impact on the January 23rd fight between McGregor and Dustin Poirier, which has the potential to be the most-purchased fight in ESPN+ history. Earlier this month, Disney revealed the latest subscription numbers for ESPN+ have hit 11.5 million as the service has benefited from being bundled with Disney Plus and Hulu, and the services flourishing throughout the pandemic while the UFC provided several big cards on the platform this past year to drive subscription numbers.

It is another reminder of the value of content that fans are willing to spend money for, and their value to streaming platforms. WWE appeared on the doorstep to sell their pay-per-view rights for the monthly specials on the WWE Network. This was prior to the pandemic and seems like an area that will be revisited if the right price is met as a service sees WWE as a destination to increase its foundation. This would also seem a natural avenue for AEW at some point to have a streaming platform whether it be within WarnerMedia or selling their pay-per-views to another service for distribution.

There is an inherent advantage with pro wrestling and MMA fans that are trained to spend money on the big cards. In Hollywood, the average consumer doesn’t appear willing to spend a significant fee for the ability to stream a new release. In time, that may be the new way we watch movies if the theatre experience is diminished, it’s going to be a long road until it’s a habit to spend $30 on Disney Plus or Netflix for a new release. For WWE and UFC, it’s a far easier bridge to cross for their fanbase given its history, although WWE would see some resistance if they attempted to move back into the pay-per-view model where an event was suddenly going to cost $50-60 after seven years of the WWE Network model.

**The Pro Wrestling Torch has ceased ties with long time columnist Bruce Mitchell over an editorial posted this past Sunday after the passing of Jon Huber. The column, which was roundly criticized for its tone and messaging, argued that AEW and the Huber family had not been forthcoming regarding Huber’s health in the previous months and he questioned whether COVID was a factor. This, despite Amanda Huber’s statement on Saturday evening stating Huber, passed away due to a “non-COVID related lung issue”. The column circulated to the extent that Amanda Huber did issue a follow-up statement referring to it and stating her late husband repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19. The Torch has since removed the column with an editor’s note that it did not meet the site’s standards and fell through the cracks of the regular editorial approval process. Mitchell stated that he stood by the piece and has since posted it elsewhere while denying that he feels he was disrespectful to the family. The Torch made the announcement Tuesday that Mitchell was no longer working for the outlet, where he had written since 1990, with editor Wade Keller apologizing to the Huber family.

**Game Changer Wrestling closes out the year with “Good Riddance” tonight at 9 pm Eastern on FITE TV. There will be a one-hour bonus show at 8 featuring three matches from Hybrid Wrestling. The main show will be headlined by an I Quit Match between G-Raver and Jimmy Lloyd. They will also run a card on New Year’s Day at 7 pm Eastern. Both cards are $13.99 or $19.99 for the combo.

**Rita Reis wrestled on NXT under her name of Valentina Feroz. The WWE performer has since changed her social media handle to reflect the name change.

**Renee Paquette is a guest on the Sports Media Podcast with Richard Deitsch discussing her recent pregnancy announcement, the launch of her podcast “Oral Sessions”, and discussed the passing of Jon Huber.

**Tully Blanchard was a guest on The Arn Show discussing his exit from the business in 1989 when a pending deal with WCW was pulled at the last minute. After Blanchard and Arn Anderson had given their notice to WWF, they had a big offer waiting to return to JCP/WCW, and then, it was revealed that Blanchard failed a drug test after his final set of television tapings for the WWF. It was a really bad deal because Herd not only reneged on the offer to Blanchard but also lowballed Anderson because he’d be coming back without Blanchard. So, you had Anderson giving notice to WWF and suddenly, your landing spot is coming with a much lower figure through zero faults of his own.

**Our friends at Voices of Wrestling have released their annual NJPW Year-in-Review, which always features excellent writing and a comprehensive summary of the past year. This year, the foreword to the book was written by Jon Moxley.

**I just received a copy of Master of the Ring: The Biography of Nature Boy Buddy Rogers by historian Tim Hornbaker. I’ve only skimmed through it, but this looks like the be-all account of Rogers’ life with Hornbaker conducting incredible levels of research, speaking with family members, and close confidants of Rogers. It’s available through Crowbar Press and we’ll hopefully have Hornbaker drop by the site to discuss the book at some point in the new year.

**Speaking of wrestling historians, I want to wish Pat Laprade a Happy Birthday. Along with Bertrand Hebert, the two put out their latest book The Eighth Wonder of the World – The True Story of Andre the Giant, which is the best material produced covering Andre’s life and career. There were some incredible books that came out this year and I’d place this one and Jonathan Snowden’s book, Shamrock, at the top of the list in terms of recommendations.

**There is also a new release called The Saturday Afternoon War: British Wrestling in the 1980s by Tony Earnshaw.

**On Monday, Mikey Rukus who does the music production coordinator for AEW will be releasing a music video called “Ghost Town”. The video stars Matt Hardy and was directed by Reby Hardy.

2020 IN MEMORY OF

Pampero Firpo, Rocky Johnson, Hercules Ayala, Howard Finkel, Hana Kimura, Shad Gaspard, Joe Pedicino, Bob Ryder, Larry Csonka, Casey Michael, Justice Pain, Kendo Nagasaki (Kazuo Sakurada), Rip Oliver, “Killer” Tim Brooks, Mark “Rollerball” Rocco (Mark Hussey), Herodes (Víctor Manuel Góngora Cisneros) Dick Steinborn, Sexy Baby Jamie Jackson, Karsten Beck, Bobby Lee, Black Demon, Supreme, Matematico II, Espantito, Adam Bueller, Ares el Guerrero, Winona Littleheart, Mike Somaini, Kat LeRoux, Discovery (Antonio Corona), Puppet the Psycho Dwarf (Stevie Lee), Wayne Bridges, Mr. Wrestling II, Sylvano Sousa, Tony Russo, Z-Barr (Tom Hirshmann), Big Slam, Bob Armstrong, James “Kamala” Harris, Road Warrior Animal (Joe Laurinaitis), Principe Aereo, Tracy Smothers, Pat Patterson, La Parka II, Ryan Smile, Danie Brits, “Marvelous” Mitch Ryder, Steve Gillespie, Danny Havoc, Xavier, Danny Hodge, Zeus (Tiny Lister), Kevin Greene, Jon Huber a.k.a. Brodie Lee.

POST SCHEDULE

Today: POST Wrestling’s Best of 2020 Show [FREE]
Friday: NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15 Primer with John, Wai & WH Park [FREE]
Saturday: Rewind-A-SmackDown [PATREON]
Monday: Wrestle Kingdom Night One POST Show with John & Wai [PATREON]
Monday: Rewind-A-Raw – Legend’s Night
Tuesday: Wrestle Kingdom Night Two POST Show [PATREON]

*****
POST Wrestling’s Best of 2020 Show
POST Wrestling’s John Pollock & Wai Ting are joined by upNXT’s Braden Herrington & Davie Portman to discuss the high points of a low year in our Best of 2020 Show. Plus, your Zoom calls!
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/12/31/post-wrestlings-best-of-2020-show/
*****
upNXT 12/30/20: “The Curse” + Best/Worst of NXT 2020
Braden Herrington and Davie Portman review the final WWE NXT of the year headlined by Johnny Gargano vs Leon Ruff for the North American Championship. Plus, The Best and Worst of NXT 2020.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/12/31/upnxt-12-30-20-the-curse-best-worst-of-nxt-2020/
*****
REWIND-A-DYNAMITE 12/30/20: In Memory of Jon Huber a.k.a. Brodie Lee
John Pollock and Wai Ting review the Brodie Lee Tribute edition of AEW Dynamite.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/12/31/rewind-a-dynamite-12-30-20-in-memory-of-jon-huber-a-k-a-brodie-lee/
*****
REWIND-A-RAW 12/28/29: “Alexaonfire”
John Pollock & Wai Ting review WWE Raw with a hot ending, the wrestling world continues to mourn Brodie Lee, AEW announces a tribute card for Wednesday and more.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/12/29/rewind-a-raw-12-28-20-alexaonfire/
*****
POST NEWS: Brodie Lee & Danny Hodge Remembered
John Pollock and Wai Ting discuss the unfortunate passings of Jon Huber a.k.a. “Brodie Lee” at age 41, and Danny Hodge at age 88.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/12/27/brodie-lee-danny-hodge-remembered-post-news-12-27/
*****
REWIND-A-SMACKDOWN 12/26/20: The Christmas Edition
John Pollock and Wai Ting review the Christmas Edition of WWE SmackDown featuring three title matches, including a big title change to cap off the program.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/12/26/rewind-a-smackdown-12-26-20-the-christmas-edition/
*****

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About John Pollock 2303 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling.He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.