What in the world happened where 2001 is suddenly fifteen years ago? It's true. It feels like yesterday. Some of you reading this may barely remember 2001 if you're young enough. It was a notable year in many respects. For me personally, the year had been ingrained in my head since 1987 when I was in pre-school. That is where I first remember hearing that my group would be the "high school graduating class of 2001." Who knew that the year would end up housing one of the most infamous days in world history? No, I'm not referring to the day that Shane McMahon showed up on Nitro, although that is the direction in which we're heading. We're about to dive into the WrestleAmerica 2001 Annual that features "Your Guide To Professional Wrestling."
If you had any interest at all in wrestling in 2001, you needed this magazine. Sure, the Internet had plenty of info, but here were 125 American wrestling promotions bundled in one
place with a generous profile included for each. Sure, most were small
independent promotions that shared similar rosters and "name" wrestlers
doing one-shots, but this was
wrestling fifteen years ago. In many respects, it's the same today. The cover may say "Unraveling WWF/WCW/ECW," but in reality they were all one at this point. And who does that cover feature? Shane and Stephanie McMahon, the stars of Smackdown and Raw. In 2001. And 2016.
It's a lot of fun to look through the pages just to see who "made it" and who didn't. In 2001 if you were talking independent wrestling and proverbial "Internet darlings," you had to be talking Reckless Youth. Nicknamed "The King of the Indies," Reckless Youth had quite the following and seemed destined to be a name that went down in wrestling history. Despite much press and a stint in WWE Developmental, Youth is now long out of professional wrestling. He is featured in several promotion profiles in the magazine along with names like Samoa Joe, Alexis Laree, Low-Ki, Michael Shane, Colt Cabana, and Phoenix who all would go on to some degrees of fame.
There are also legends like Jerry Lawler, Brian Blair, Honky Tonk Man, Jimmy Snuka, and Jacques Rougeau who were still plying their trade on the indy scene. In the case of those cousins from Tennessee, they're still at in 2016! Lastly, there are those who look like they stumbled out of the nearest bar to play "champion" in their nearest indy on weekends. I won't name any names, as they all deserve respect for at least getting into the ring at some level. And how about this Prince Justice guy shown as the champion of NWA Wildside? Guys like him often disappeared into a veritable abyss, never to be seen again.
The magazine also features "The Indy 30: The Top Prospects In Wrestling." Shall I list them? Air Paris, Scoot Andrews, Chad Collyer, Nova, Qenaan Creed, Christopher Daniels, The Island Boys (later Umaga and Rosey), Billy Fives, Russ and Charlie Haas, Tony Kozina, Randy Orton, Michael Modest, Donovan Morgan, Onyx, Brock Lesnar, Nick Dinsmore, Hotstuff Hernandez, Horseshu (later Luther Reigns), Adam Pearce, The Prototype, Jason Rumble, Mike and Todd Shane, Damien Steele, Trent Acid, Shelton Benjamin, Rico Constantino, Minoru Fujita, Dalip Singh (later The Great Khali), Lance Cade, and Jayson Reign. I guess teams count as one. What an interesting list full of highs, lows, fame, and tragedy looking back on it all these years later.
We end with a Book of Lists. "Wrestling's 10 Most Powerful People" is really the only one interesting enough to explore. We have Vince McMahon, Linda McMahon, Antonio Inoki, Stephanie McMahon, Shane McMahon, Motoko Baba, Jim Ross, Triple H, Steve Austin, and Paul Heyman. In 2016, the McMahon's are still in power, though Linda has taken a step back. Inoki, long out of New Japan Pro Wrestling, barely makes a ripple. Motoko, widow of Giant Baba, doesn't seem to be involved in much anymore, at least to the extent of puroresu that comes to my attention. Ross, Austin, and Heyman all have their own ventures but their voices are still heard loudly either in or regarding the business. As for Triple H? Some would say that he is more powerful than Vince, others would disagree. If you look at the changes in WWE over the past several years you could make a pretty good argument that in 2016, HHH tops this list.
There's too much fun stuff in this issue to show it all here. It isn't a rare magazine by any means and can be found for under $20. It's definitely a time capsule of a time when the business, and the world, was changing. Will we do this again in 2031? There may not be a magazine to show us exactly where the business was, but I fully believe that there will still be a wrestling business to showcase. I'll see you there.