Annually, around this time, we take a look back at the biggest stories in professional wrestling over the previous calendar year.  The past few times, given the major landscape shifts in the business that have occurred, these introductory paragraphs have talked about how the previous year might have been the most significant, game-changing year ever.

And then the next year comes along and says “hold my beer.”

Indeed, it hasn’t even been a full month, and 2024 has already seen monumental developments with the news of Vince McMahon’s resignation in disgrace, and – in happier news – the news that RAW will be moving to Netflix beginning in 2025, revolutionizing the way people will watch wrestling for years to come (and maybe even forever).

Still, 2023 certainly wasn’t no slouch in the big news department, and in that light, we remember some of the notable news and major milestones of the year.

WWE sale finalized, Vince marginalized, Triple H lionized

In January 2023, Vince McMahon came back to WWE after a hiatus in order to help do something no one would have guessed — to help sell WWE. Then, in April, Endeavor Holding Group acquired WWE, and was set to merge with UFC to create a brand new company. Endeavour was already the parent company of the UFC (which it bought back in 2016) and pushed to purchase the WWE in order to make TKO Group Holdings. After the sale was finalized in September 2023, Endeavor combined the companies and their value, making TKO a $21.4 billion company. The merger saw the WWE get 49% of the shares of TKO, while Endeavor took 51%. There was a mixed reaction, as fans were not sure what the merger meant for the future of the WWE, like would someone hired by Endeavor for TKO be the new boss? Or would they let Vince keep running the company?


Well, when the companies merged, McMahon was given the title of Executive Chairman of TKO, and just after the merger announced that he would be selling roughly 8.4 million of his shares in the company, yet had no intention of leaving his position within TKO. With that being said, Vince’s power within the WWE had certainly been diminished as he was no longer majority shareholder in the company, and the CEO Ari Emmanuel was the be-all and end-all voice for WWE.

Paul Levesque saw his spot on the board of WWE disappear, as he was not added to the board at TKO. That being said, after the merger he kept the job of Head of Creative for the WWE, meaning all bookings and storylines on Smackdown and Raw were going through him. Many fans have been thoroughly enjoying the product that Levesque is putting out, as the storylines have been praised as very entertaining and engaging, with no drop off in quality evident. Levesque also had plans to completely revamp NXT, however due to some health issues, he gave the responsibility to his buddy Shawn Michaels, which has brought NXT more eyeballs and popularity. Levesque has taken the opportunity given to him and ran with it, and it has been advantageous for both the brand and the fans; we get to see intriguing storylines and compelling matches and the WWE gets to enjoy having fans buy tickets, merch and pay-per-view events to see what Levesque cooks up for us next. Or, perhaps in light of news that broke in January, what The Rock is cookin’ with him.

— Adam Bazzana

TNA looking to make an “Impact” with re-re-branding

Impact! Wrestling suffered from Sins of the Father. No matter how good or bad the company was doing, people would not give Impact! Wrestling a chance due to previous management and booking decisions.

Company President Scott D’Amore had strong ambitions and goals of bringing TNA back when he was hired in 2018 by Anthem, but he needed to remove the stigma surrounding some of the company’s oft-criticized history. Over the next five years D’Amore and his management team worked endlessly to produce and deliver a quality wrestling program week over week along with strong PPV’s and special events.

Despite their efforts to elevate the product and deliver a consistently-good wrestling product, many people would still not give it a chance. Still, the company remained steadfast in its mission – as did the roster, which might be the company’s most talented ensemble since the days when Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe headlined the card. But still people seemed to dismiss the show, having given up on the product during its leaner years during one of its many previous ownership/management eras (*cough* Dixie Carter *cough* Vince Russo*).

Something needed to change, and that change came at Bound for Glory.

On October 21, 2023, after Alex Shelley and Josh Alexander delivered a match of the year contender, D’Amore stood in the middle of the ring as a promo aired.


The promo announced that on Saturday January 13, 2024 at the Hard to Kill Pay-Per-View, Impact! Wrestling would be no more and Total Nonstop Action would return. With the promo ended, D’Amore stood in the middle of the ring and delivered a passionate speech about the fans never giving up on the promotion and on those three letters, and proudly declared “TNA Wrestling – We’re F*****g BACK!”

Online chatter began instantly, and the wrestling world was talking about Impact! Wrestling again – but this time, for all the right reasons. With TNA back and the eyes of the wrestling world back on them it is now entirely up to TNA to win the fans back. 2024 is one of the, if not the most important year for the company and time will tell whether the rebrand and borrowing from the past is the Impact that they needed.

— Boris Roberto Aguilar

AEW has a jolly good time in England, not so much everywhere else

There were massive live events for both the WWE and AEW in 2023, with WrestleMania having 134,856 attending the event over both days (67,303 on day 1 and 67,553 on day 2) and All In London having either 81,305 or 72,265 in attendance, depending on whether you believe AEW about the numbers or if you believe the turnstile attendance numbers (the number that AEW reported was the larger one, obviously). Regardless of what number you believe to be true, All In was certainly a success for AEW and its popularity… but all was not sunshine and roses for AEW.

At the end of the year, there were reports that the company’s estimated revenue was going to be right around $154 million and the expenses of the company to be right around $188 million, giving AEW an overall loss of around $34 million. The revenue of the company did increase $54 million from the estimated $100 million profit from 2022. On top of the financial losses, AEW also saw losses in the TV rating and viewership side of things, with a 10% decrease in the amount of viewers in the month of December from 2022 to 2023, with December 2022 seeing 906,000 fans view the show whereas December 2023 only had 817,000 viewers.

Then there was the roster shake-up, both for better and worse. First, on the positive, AEW managed to sign some huge names from both WWE and New Japan. Tony Khan signed some big names such as Will Ospreay from NJPW, and capitalized on older stars like The Rated “R” Superstar Adam Copeland (aka Edge), fresh out of WWE, and The Nature Boy Ric Flair, fresh out of the bar. However, it also lost some wrestlers, most notably CM Punk who made a quick return to the WWE after being fired from AEW. Jungle Boy Jack Perry, who was the other half of the backstage incident that lead to the firing of Punk and Perry’s indefinite suspension, seems ready to leave the promotion as well, as he recently appeared on NJPW and ripped what looked to be an AEW contract in half. The loss of Punk is a massive one as he is still one of the most popular wrestlers in the sports entertainment business.

Tony Khan has got some work to do to get AEW over the hump and be profitable — and less chaotic — in 2024.

— Adam Bazzana


Card (contracts) subject to change

In April 2023, a PSA graded 2022 Panini WWE Black Prizm card featuring The Rock sold at auction for over $126,000, and overtook the distinction as the most valuable wrestling card of all-time, dethroning a previous $52,840 sale of a BGS graded 1982 Wrestling All-Stars Hulk Hogan. Despite this massive wrestling card sale, WWE was apparently less than satisfied with Panini, the manufacturer of this card and sole license holder of WWE trading cards, because it was shared on September 20, 2023, that WWE had terminated Panini for breach of contract, with over two years left of their contract.

In reaction to its termination, Panini sued WWE. What resulted was WWE sought an injunction against Panini, to prevent Panini from selling and marketing WWE cards, even those Panini already created. Regardless of how wrestling card collectors felt about Panini’s WWE cards, WWE was dissatisfied, primarily with Panini’s lack of digital trading cards, like Topps had previously created with the Topps SLAM app.

Many wrestling card collectors’ primary source of information for this matter has been Paul Lesko (@Paul_Lesko), a litigator who has been able to disseminate the court documents for lay people with an interest in the matter. On November 15, 2023, it was announced that “discussions between the parties and their counsel have resulted in an agreement in principle. The parties are in the process of memorializing that agreement in a signed writing.”

As for the terms of said “agreement,” and what this means for the future of WWE and Panini wrestling cards, these events raise a few questions: Will Panini continue to make WWE cards? Will the license go to Fanatics or Topps? All of that remains to be seen.

But after CM Punk made his shocking return to WWE at Survivor Series on November 25, 2023, Panini posted a new WWE card for sale, its first in months, in its print-on-demand Panini Instant line, commemorating Punk’s return, which has some collectors speculating that it’s possible that Panini didn’t “lose” the agreement with WWE, and wrestling card collectors might see new Panini WWE trading cards in early 2024.

— Josh Olson

“I’m not afraid of death. I’m not afraid of anything.”

In his 36 years of life, Windham Rotundo was blessed with the power of reinvention. He was, of course, most famously Bray Wyatt in WWE, the strange cult leader that emerged from the Florida swamps of NXT … but even as Bray he remade himself into The Fiend or a twisted children’s show host. Then he had returned to the ring after an absence, only to leave again. We all figured he’d be back, anew, like he’d ditched Husky Harris in the past. But no, illness led to unexpected death — that was his quote, once, in the ring, “I’m not afraid of death. I’m not afraid of anything,” and nothing prepared the WWE Universe for his death on August 24.

Rotundo was the rare current headliner to die, but there were dozens of other headliners who passed in 2023. (We archive all the obituaries here.)

Where to start?

At the top, with former World champion Terry Funk, who died on August 23, 2023. Those who knew him know he never got over the death of his wife, Vicki, in 2019. Former WWWF World champ “Superstar” Billy Graham seemingly kicked out of death so many times it felt almost a surprise when he finally did pass on May 17, 2023. The Iron Sheik (Khosrow Vaziri) may have been a transitional WWF World champion, but he was a star then and right up until his death on June 7, 2023.

Headliners don’t get there on their own, and need people like Kenny Jay, Lanny Poffo, Abe Jacobs and Billy White Wolf / Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissy to put them over. Memorable characters like “Exotic” Adrian Street, Billy Two Rivers, Butch Miller / Bushwacker Butch and Darren “Droz” Drozdov filled out the cards, and veteran women wrestlers like Beverly Shade, Peggy Lee Leather, Joyce Grable all lived long enough to see women headline WrestleMania. lost some friends too. Marshall Ward was the youngest of the list, just 52, but he left us with quite the archive of articles. Don Luce was an unparalleled researcher, Terrance R. Machalek was a photographer, writer and influential publisher of the Canadian Championship Wrestling newsletter, and Brian Bukantis was a long-time Detroit fixture who owned the Wrestling Revue archives for years, and had a fascinating life in the music writing business too.

— Greg Oliver

CM Punk all out of AEW, back in WWE

“Never Say Never” and “Hell has frozen over” are just two phrases that come to mind when describing what transpired on November 25, 2023 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago Illinois. As Downstait’s hit song “kingdom” ran through the arena and Michael Cole signed off on what was an already eventful Survivor Series, the entire wrestling world watched in disbelief as “Cult of Personality” began to play through the arena.

The events that took us to this moment all started with what could only be described as a tumultuous summer for CM Punk and AEW. Their entire relationship came to a boiling point during AEW’s biggest show ever in London’s Wembley Stadium when CM Punk and “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry came to blows with President and CEO Tony Khan getting involved in the backstage altercation. On September 2, 2023, two weeks after “Brawl In, Tony Khan went in front of the audience and announced the firing of CM Punk to the audience.

“Today, I had to make one of the toughest decisions of my professional career,” he told the fans in attendance and the viewers watching the show. “Today, I terminated Phil Brooks, CM Punk, for cause. This stems from a backstage incident at AEW All In last Sunday. The incident was regrettable and it endangered people backstage. That includes the production staff, the people who help put the show on every week — innocent people who had nothing to do with it. I’ve been going to wrestling shows for over 30 years. I’ve been producing them on this network for nearly four years. Never in all that time have I ever felt until last Sunday that my security, my safety, my life, was in danger at a wrestling show.”

And just like that, CM Punk’s rollercoaster relationship with AEW and its fans ended. The future of CM Punk was uncertain. No one but CM Punk knew what his next move would be, but with WWE holding Survivor Series in his hometown of Chicago, the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) began fantasy booking him against their biggest stars with him possibly heading back to WWE.

CM Punk is back and he has a lot to get off his chest on the debut of AEW Collision.

From guest announcing for MMA events and visiting friends backstage at Impact! Wrestling tapings, every time CM Punk appeared at an event, the internet buzzed. For the next several months, wrestling news sites went back and forth in speculating on CM Punk’s future and where he would end up. Some reports had him not being in favour with certain executives at WWE, thus making his comeback less than a certainty. As a result, as November 25th drew closer, the buzz of CM Punk appearing at Survivor Series didn’t feel like the talk of the town. But, for the hopeful, the possibility remained.

It was 3,592 days since CM Punk walked out on WWE and after almost a decade away, he came back to WWE at the very end of Survivor Series – just about the same time people began to accept the fact that he wouldn’t appear, as the show’s ending logo and credits appeared on-screen before his music hit. Indeed, his return was so late in the show that it was missed by the entire media group that would attend the post-show scrum since they were being ushered off to the media room.

Two days later, Punk appeared on the November 27th edition of RAW and declared that he is back “home.” And this time, it looks like he means it.

— Boris Roberto Aguilar

Sting’s no Joker when crowing about retirement

Can superheroes hang up their capes for good?

On the October 18, 2023 episode of AEW Dynamite, Sting – or as Tony Schiavone would say, Stiiiiiiing! – came to the ring cut a reflective promo about his career, honouring and thanking many of the legends that he said influenced his career. After listing people like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, Sting turned contemplative, telling the fans “we used to wonder what more do they have to prove? And I have to tell you – here I am all those years later.”

Reminding the crowd that he had retired once already, Sting noted that the circumstances that resulted in that retirement never felt quite right to him. And with the dropping of the “R-word”, Sting told the crowd that he was going to have his last match in 2024 at Revolution, the same show at which he made his AEW debut in 2022.

During a press conference that took place a couple of months before the announcement, AEW owner Tony Khan had said that he would never push Sting out the door or even go as far as to suggest to Sting that it was time to call it a day. In talking about Sting, Khan’s reverence and fandom for him- both as a performer and a person – were evident.

In that spirit, Khan has pulled out all the stops to make Sting’s retirement tour a special one for Sting, including booking Sting’s final match in Charlotte, North Carolina – a town with a lot of significance to Sting given his past in WCW – and signing a deal with Sting’s friend, mentor, and greatest opponent, Ric Flair that will see the “Nature Boy” accompany Sting to the ring for that last hurrah.

Although anything can happen in the world of professional wrestling and there’s an old adage to “never say ‘never'”, there was a definite sense of finality in Sting’s promo, and in every appearance he’s made since the announcement. Come March, when Sting hangs up his boots, there will be one less superhero to cheer for. But until then, it’s showtime.

– – Bob Kapur

Other Notable Stories

  • In September, it was announced that WWE Smackdown would be leaving the FOX television network as of October 2024, and would be moving to NBC Universal’s USA Network. The five-year deal with NBCU also includes four primetime specials per year to air on the NBC network. Meanwhile, WWE’s NXT developmental brand will be moving to the CW Network. In other words, you’ve got about nine months to finally figure out where the CW Network is.
  • In November, just days before her 51st birthday, WWE Hall of Famer Tammy “Sunny” Sytch was sentenced to 17 years in prison for causing the death of Julien “Fran” Lassiter, the driver of a vehicle that Sytch crashed her car into while driving drunk. The conviction marked the culmination of years of legal trouble for Sytch, who had faced several arrests in the past, including for other DUI incidents.
  • It’s time to play the game! That is, unless your name is Becky Lynch and the game in question is Jeopardy. Appearing on the celebrity version of the quiz show in November, Lynch set an  an ignominious record for any Jeopardy program when she became the first contestant in history to answer zero questions correctly in the first 60 questions. She did kind of redeem herself (but not really) when she got a handful of questions correct in the 3rd round, which is used in the celebrity games, but her score was still in the negative. They let her play Final Jeopardy anyway, but she apparently found that question as hard as a Nia Jax punch to the nose, and she got that one wrong, too. Maybe stick to wrestling, Becky? Because when it comes to trivia, “The Man” you ain’t.
  • Professional wrestling often crosses the line. And speaking of lines, that’s what James Mitchell was apparently doing with his entourage during the NWA Samhain PPV event. A running segment during the show saw Mitchell and friends having a private party while show was going on. At one point, the camera cut to Mitchell who was snorting a white powdery substance out of a spoon while others snorted lines off the table they surrounded. While the commentators never specifically said the word “cocaine”, the implication was clear. There was speculation that the edgy content may have cost NWA a TV deal with the CW, though the company’s show Powerrr (though, perhaps the name should be Powderrr)is carried on the networks’ CW App.
  • In November, the question “Will Ospreay sign with AEW?” was answered “Will Ospreay signs with AEW”. Considered by some to be the best professional wrestler in the world, the 30-year old star, who has been a favourite in Japan, the UK, and the pages of the Wrestling Observer newsletter, signed a long-term deal with AEW. Now the question is “Will Ospreay be a game-changer?” Look for that answer next year in this section.
  • We never like to see anyone get hurt – especially someone like our pal Don Callis. And we never condone anyone attacking or otherwise getting physically involved with a professional wrestler. But sometimes funny is funny. So we’re just going to leave these clips here of some dumb mark taking down Callis in attempt to protect Kenny Omega from a sneak-attack beatdown by Callis and Konosuke Takeshita during a post-show media scrum at AAA’s TripleMania XXXI event. Callis’ cry out to promoter Konnan – a mix of bafflement about the ludicrousness of what was going on, anger about being attacked with no help from security, and frustration about the angle being interrupted by the aforementioned dumb mark – is simply classic and we’ve actually made it our new ringtone. Words can’t do it full justice, so check out these videos of the altercation.