Whited: 16 Things 2016 Taught Me

Wrestledelphia founder Mark Whited shares what 2016 has taught him.
Credit: Images found on Wikimedia.org.

We are only a few days away from completing the worst year that many of us ever had. From the death of childhood heros, to President-elect Donald Trump, to The Club, this year was one to forget. Amid the few ups and many downs, I learned a thing or two about professional wrestling and life itself.

Here’s 16 takeaways from 2016:

16) Attitude Era Mentality Cannot Exist Anymore

While it was far from wrestling’s most excellent period, the Attitude Era mentality that swept the professional wrestling world in the late 1990s was an entertaining one. It broke down walls and exposed fans to the extreme side of things. More importantly, it paved the road for the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and others to travel towards wrestling immortality. Known for its raunchiness, violence, and other now-dubious adjectives, it was the era that revolutionized the fandom.

But the blood, bras, and panties are just a memory in this PG world—which isn’t a terrible thing. But the political correctness that comes with it slowly erodes the memory of the once seemingly censor-free world.

Joey Styles, the voice of ECW, lost his job with EVOLVE, Beyond Wrestling, and Chikara in 2016 for making a reference to a Trump quote at an EVOLVE show. The no-holds-barred narrator of one of professional wrestling’s most important periods had his voice silenced, and outside of an open letter apology, the outspoken commentator hasn’t been heard from since.

15) The Heroin Epidemic Holds No Prejudice

While it feels like a bold prediction, it truly isn’t far off: we will all know someone who died from a heroin overdose.

It has taken so many people of all ages, races, financial status, and other defining factors that its hard to identify who can/will be effected in the future. In a feature earlier this year, we looked at the rise of Trent Acid and how the drug took his life before he could showcase his one-of-a-kind talent to the world. To add to the concern, Philadelphia’s chief medical examiner told the Philadelphia Inquirer that 35 people may have died from heroin overdoses over a 5-day period.

It’s hard to understand that a drug with such a devastating outcome continues to see a rise in users, but as more members of society chase the high, we can’t ignore it as the single-biggest threat to our citizens.

14) Joey Janela Is A Fucking Maniac

Exhibit WTF:

13) Shlak Cuts The Best Promos

Exhibit SHLAK(!):

12) This Year Was All About Women’s Wrestling

Perhaps my favorite part of the year was the rise of Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and women’s wrestling as a whole. While the Bra & Panties matches dominated much of what the mainstream audience knew about women’s wrestling, its true colors were broadcasted for the world to see this year: it’s just as good as what the men can produce.

For most of the year, we were treated to epic showdowns between Charlotte and Banks, most notably a Hell in a Cell main-event bout for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship. These matchups were emotional-investment worthy and was the highlight of everything that went right in WWE this year.

11) Old Eagle Tavern Is The Best Bar In Philadelphia

As rough as 2016 was, the Old Eagle Tavern in Manayunk became my favorite watering hole to drown my sorrows, but at the same time, lift my spirits.

My best friend and Wrestledelphia Radio co-host Mark Macyk moved up there this past summer — a summer change of scenery has almost become a theme for the real Philly guy from Long Island. After enjoying many walks through West Philadelphia in 2014, and the vibrant nature of late-night strolls down Snyder Avenue in 2015, his latest move to Manayunk was kind of what we both needed.

It’s been hard to walk freely in the open world for me this year (more on that later). But the long walks up and down the steep hills of Manayunk were liberating, enlightening, expensive (the Dragon Amulet was my worst purchase ever), and almost always ended at the Old Eagle Tavern.

It’s there where we both broke out of shells and spoke to people we never met. We met poets, juggalos, inspiring rappers, and a whole host of other characters that were more than happy to share their thoughts on life and engage us like human beings — a far cry from anything else you’d experience at other bars in Philadelphia (you can’t even say “Fuck” in Coco’s Craftsman Row Saloon anymore).

It’s a bar where everybody truly does know your name, which is a great feeling.

10) #ThankYouGulak

The hardest thing I ever had to do was give up on a broken dream: to be someone at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

I spent two years among great people, who I now call friends, as we battled each night to make the seemingly impossible happen: put out a world-class high school sports section. Every night, though, we delivered. You can thank one of 46 people that the company laid off for that.

After losing the best boss and mentor I could ever have — after we started to drop like flies slamming into the writing on the wall — it was time for me to bid farewell and come to terms that this newspaper did not give a fuck about me and would never reward my hard work with calling me one of their own. The same could be said for all of us “Minions.”

On my last night with the paper, Drew Gulak was set to interview with Philly.com about his entrance in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic and made time for me to interview him for Wrestledelphia on the subject. That night was one of the hardest nights of my life and Drew was there to walk out of the building with me. It meant a lot to me, as he gave me words of encouragement and has since been a great friend in the business. I owe him a lot and couldn’t be happier to see the success he’s had.

9) A Best Friend Can Stab You In The Back

No matter what great lengths one may go to help out a best friend, they can always turn around and hit you where it hurts the most. No worries, Kyle. You will be fine and you’re better off. I’ll always have your back, bro.

8) Maxwell Jacob Feinstein Is Better Than You

7) Three Mooks Can Conquer A Radio Station

While we opted out early due to non-disclosed scheduling conflicts (i.e. not airing our fucking show), John Corrigan, Evan Cross, and I brought back wrestling talk radio to the Philadelphia airwaves (even if you couldn’t hear it). Each week, we produced a one-hour show complete with advertisers we brought on board for WNJC 1360 AM. We shared our opinions, interviewed some of wrestling’s biggest stars, and fell only $400 short from breaking even on our investment. That’s an achievement in itself.

6) I Was A Dick To Jack Goodwillie

Admission is the first step. I’m sorry, Jack. Enjoy Pasadena. I’m proud of you.

5) Commentary Is A Hell Of A Drug

As tough as 2016 has been for me, the saving grace is getting to sit alongside John to call the action at CZW’s Dojo Wars.

Each week, we get to narrate the early matches in the careers of many talented individuals. It’s really something that has me counting down the hours each week in anticipation of the opening bell. I couldn’t be more honored to have such a great opportunity. Thank you, Emil Jay, for letting us live a dream each week.

4) We Are Doomed

3) Shinsuke Nakamura Is The Future

Whether it’s his Wrestle Kingdom 10 epic against AJ Styles, his multiple NXT Championship wins, or his general swagger, The King of Strong Style is the real deal. I’ve said this for many years, but after the year he had, it’s hard to deny that Nakamura is well on his way to reaching legendary status.

One could only hope that WWE does right by him, which if you take his NJPW brethren Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson as an example, they could fuck it up. Nonetheless, Nakamura possesses the ability to get over with just about any fan, and if the crowd gets behind him, it’ll be enough support for him to ride to the promise land.

2) Almost Getting Murdered Sucks, But It Is Enlightening

On January 3, my life changed forever.

My manhood was challenged, my sense of security was stripped away. I was held up at gunpoint and stabbed multiple times for my iPhone and a cheap ring. As permanent as the scars on my lower-right torso, I’ll never be the same person. I will never walk with a true sense of freedom to do so. I’ll always look over my shoulder. I’ll always sit awake some nights and think about what had happened, remembering the blood pouring down my face and the look of terror on my mother’s as she tried to bring herself to dial 9-1-1. That’s forever.

While I’m set to send these two men to prison for a long, long time, I’ll never be who I once was. And that’s okay.

Before I ran home for my life, I didn’t truly value it. I’ve been shit on by everyone my whole life, looked at as less then because of the clothes that I wear, the length of my beard, my preference of music. Everything. It’s easy to let that beat you up and lose your will to live. But try getting stabbed almost to the point that you die. You’ll see life for how beautiful it is when you fight to keep it.

1) Wrestling Can Sustain You

Through the little ups and many downs, professional wrestling kept me going this year. Whether it was seeing friends achieve in the WWE Cruiserweight Classics, collecting what’s left of my jaw during the Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg shocker at Survivor Series, holding out hope that CM Punk will return, or just simply watching, wrestling helped me escape it all. It has not always been kind, but it’s always been there when I needed it the most.

This year alone, the business has evolved greatly. Independent promotions are gaining new eyes and there is professional wrestling excellence being spewed all throughout the world. While WWE looks to monopolize the business, a saving grace is that the talent pool for the industry’s staple has never been better. Let’s hope that we keep moving in a positive direction and that the stars of tomorrow aren’t forgotten upon arrival. I’ll need them to get through these next four years. We all will.

To paraphrase Carrie Fisher’s iconic line as Princess Leia: “Help me, Triple H. You’re our only hope.”

Mark Whited
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Mark Whited

Founder / Editor-In-Chief at Wrestledelphia.com
An avid writer and fan of wrestling since he was eight years old, Mark Whited founded Wrestledelphia.com in May 2014. While hoping to one day step foot in a wrestling ring, he also writes for a number of outlets, including The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Mark Whited
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