wrestling / Columns

Hamilton’s 2020 In Review: Brodie Lee’s Passing, #SpeakingOut, COVID-19, More

January 1, 2021 | Posted by Ian Hamilton
AEW Double or Nothing Brodie Lee

It’s been a long, weird year, has 2020. A year that’s not gone as expected. A year that’s seen us lose people throughout wrestling, and unfortunately the wider world as we all came to terms with the global pandemic.

I’ve stopped, deleted and restarted writing this column multiple times – so as to not go into excruciating detail in a year that started out with promise, but ended up being one that a lot of us would probably want to forget.

2020 was the year where we all had “plans change” on us. It was the year where life changed. The year where staying at home became the new going out, and where we all had to find “a new normal.” Zoom became something other than a mocking catchphrase from Bob’s Burgers. Masks became mandatory outside of Hallowe’en. Keeping your distance from others was something you had to do for reasons other than smell.

2020 was the year where wrestling was forced to at least slow down. Fans no longer allowed at arenas. Some promotions took time off, others kept trucking – basing themselves at what became makeshift TV studios (in the form of WWE’s Performance Center, wherever-the-ThunderDome is), or in Impact’s case, real studios. Fans of wrestling from outside of America had to occupy themselves differently, with most of Europe grinding to a halt, while Japanese promotions slowed down, running in front of crowds of “just wrestlers” before spinning up again in the summer.

2020 was the year where AEW pivoted Dark from “before Dynamite matches” to a show that had over 400 matches on it. That’s more than some promotions run in a regular year!

2020 was the year where contracts were flowing freely. With WWE, AEW, ROH, Impact, MLW (and if you’re generous, the NWA) signing wrestlers to contracts, 2020 was the year where companies continued to stockpile talent. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – if they’re being used, and for the most part, at least WWE’s finally starting to use names they’re plucking from the indies, rather than keeping them locked away in a warehouse.

2020 was the year where a lot of wrestlers’ dark secrets came to light. Speaking Out brought out a litany of allegations which shocked wrestling – particularly in and around the European scene. Stories of abuse from wrestlers to fans, trainers to trainees. The same names appearing time and again. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there was just so many stories. For days, it seemed like every time you refreshed Twitter, there were new stories and new names coming up, with stories that had some had handwaved as salacious rumours of the past were confirmed as horrific truths. In the mix came the inevitable apologies – mostly done via screenshots of Note apps. Then came the repercussions as promotions began to publicly sever ties and distance themselves from the accused. Then came the work of those trying to recover and rebuild the scene, for when shows can resume with fans. Press releases, manifestos, policies, codes of conduct, and eventually, an All Party Parliamentary Group within the House of Commons in London, all set up to try and diagnose and repair the broken landscape that led to so much of these abuses from occurring. While nothing can ever fix what happened in the past, the bravery of those coming forward this past summer should – at the very least – start building a foundation that ensures this never happens again.

2020 was the year that saw fans, adjusting to changes in their hobby, were hit by a series of body blows. January started with the passing of La Parka, months after a bad landing to a dive injured his neck, then the loss of Rocky Johnson. April saw the voice of generations of WWF fans leave us, as Howard Finkel passed away. May saw even more tragedy as Shad Gaspard and Hana Kimura were taken from us. Before the year was out, more high-profile names from all sections of wrestling would be mourned: Danny Havoc, Xavier, Kamala, Bob Armstrong, Rollerball Rocco, Animal, Tracy Smothers, Karsten Beck, Danny Hodge, and Pat Patterson.

2020 was the year that gave us one final gut punch at the end of the year, with the passing of Brodie Lee. To almost everyone in and around wrestling, the reasons behind Brodie being off of AEW television since October were kept a secret, to the point where outlets were surmising that an ankle injury was perhaps the reason why he’d been off of television since losing the TNT title back to Cody. The outpouring of grief from all in wrestling only served to underscore just how tragic the loss was – in the hours and days after the news broke, every single anecdote told a story of a family man, of a selfless man, of someone who lived to help others.

2020 was the year where New Japan fell in love with tournaments. If you count the NJPW Strong strand, we’ve had 9 – the New Japan Cup, the New Japan Cup USA, the G1 Climax, the KOPW title tournament, the NEVER Openweight Six Man title tournament, the junior tag title tournament, the Super J-Cup, the Best of the Super Juniors, World Tag League, and Lion’s Break: Crown. Not bad going given the company had four months off…

2020 was the year where, for some, WWE deviated further away than ever from “traditional wrestling.” Seriously, when the last month of the year saw Raw’s main storyline revolve around people becoming human torches, you can perhaps begin to understand why people are looking elsewhere for their escapism.

2020 was also the year where we lost one of the best to ever tap away at a keyboard while watching wrestling shows. While many have stepped in to try and plug the gaps, May’s passing of Larry Csonka left a hole much larger than a name on the by-line of just about every show review on this website. As wrestling fans, we lost a cornerstone of a community, a man whose name was synonymous with covering anything that made tape, to the point where a recommendation could lead to something wondrous in your future – particularly if it came as part of a hectic WrestleMania weekend. Not to be diminished, also this year we lost Scott Bowden and Casey Michael – cornerstones of their own niches of “wrestling media”.

2020 was a year that’s been a year that’s forced a lot of wrestling fans to take a step back and look at just what this hobby actually entails. A year where, for a variety of reasons, what was meant to be a break from reality proved to be almost as painful as the real world. Hopefully 2021 is the start of a recovery, not just in wrestling, but for the world as a whole. “Nature is healing,” has been a meme throughout this year – hopefully the coming months will turn that into a reality.

article topics :

2020, Brodie Lee, SpeakingOut, Ian Hamilton