Best For The Business—WrestleZone’s annual celebration of the people in the wrestling business that have made the “one true sport” a little better this year. This year was a completely different year that no one expected, and so much has radically changed in the past twelve months and still does each day in 2020.
COVID-19 affected the entire world—individuals, countries, industries—and it certainly took its toll on the professional wrestling world. All of the attention and buzz the independent scene created was gone, and many major promotions elected to halt tapings altogether as a precaution. Despite all of the setbacks, cancellations, and everything that went along with this year, we’re highlighting some of the names on-air and behind the scenes that helped make an unprecedented and uncertain year in the wrestling business a little better.
“Best For The Business” is Wrestlezone’s look back at some of the most influential people, promotions and brands that changed the wrestling business in a positive way in the past year.
Stay tuned for feature interviews with the people included in this year’s list, premiering soon on WrestleZone!
Based out of Nashville’s Skyway Studios for the majority of the year, IMPACT Wrestling was very successful in using humor and working within the constraints they were forced into. The company has been touted as a ‘free agent’ destination in years past, but 2020 truly felt like a promise delivered with signings like Deonna Purrazzo, the Good Brothers, Brian Myers and Eric Young, to name a few.
Forced to deal with issues after Tessa Blanchard’s abrupt departure, as well as outside issues related to Joey Ryan and Michael Elgin’s involvement in the Speaking Out movement, IMPACT pressed on and made the most of a bad year for professional wrestling by providing great in-ring work along with fun and quirky backstage segments. With the reintroduction of the Knockouts Tag Team Championship and a renewed focus, along with a steady television home with AXS, IMPACT looks to have their biggest year yet.
Denise is a name that some of you may know already, but she’s well on her way to becoming one that you won’t be able to ignore. Salcedo has worked incredibly hard the past few years to establish her own brand, Instinct Culture by Denise Salcedo, and made some big moves in the pro wrestling world in 2020. You could even say she keeps cruising and can’t stop, won’t stop moving as she carves her own path in the wrestling business…
Denise initially got her start outside of wrestling, but soon found a role with the X-Pac 1,2,360 podcast. Now creating content for and appearing on Fightful, Pro Wrestling Sheet, F4WOnline, WrestleTalk and SportsKeeda, Denise has been steadily climbing the ranks of the professional wrestling media world and doing it on her own terms. This year was certainly her biggest yet, but she’s not done rising to the top by any means.
Major League Wrestling
Major League Wrestling did a lot of things right by not doing anything at all. MLW shut all live events and television tapings down at the start of the pandemic and continued to keep a presence online, finally returning in November with “The Restart”, their first show with new content in nearly nine months. The tagline about the world of MLW never stopping rings true, continuing to air content while they added new broadcast homes, and added some fresh faces that will bolster an impressively diverse lineup.
Lio Rush, ACH and Calvin Tankman join mainstays Tom Lawlor, Alex Hammerstone and World Champion Jacob Fatu on the roster, and MLW Fusion is making a big splash in the OTT and digital market, thanks to several distribution agreements made by owner Court Bauer. Now airing on YouTube, DAZN, beIN, Fubo and Roku, in addition to apps around the world, MLW is ensuring there’s no shortage of ways fans can get their eyes on their show in the new year.
Lucha Masks – Pro Wrestling Revolution
Pro Wrestling Revolution is a San Jose, California based wrestling promotion that also runs a training school. Operating since 2008, owner Gabriel Ramirez was forced to find a new way to bring Lucha libre culture to local fans due to the pandemic. In response, Lucha-Masks.com was born, creating custom, high quality facemasks featuring the same designs as popular luchadores around the world. Officially licensed and handmade, the masks were an instant hit, and became a conversation piece as well as a way to protect yourself during the pandemic.
Cain Velasquez also teamed up with Lucha-Masks.com for a mask, with all profits going to Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, a local food bank that helps anyone in need of a healthy meal get one. To date, profits from the Velasquez mask have resulted in providing hundreds of meals to local residents in need.
Titus O’Neil’s greatest work happens outside of the ring, not in it. The longtime WWE Superstar has used his position to make a positive impact on people around the world, including those in his community in Tampa.
From gifting a new car to a middle school cafeteria worker for Christmas to hosting upscale dinners for teachers to donating more than $100,000 to charity, Titus works to help at-risk populations and provide them with some relief and opportunities. Through his Bullard Family Foundation charity, O’Neil has worked with a number of local and national charities, including Metropolitan Ministries, Boys & Girls Club of America, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Florida Sheriff Youths Ranches, an organization that he credits for helping to get him out of trouble and set him on the right path.
Titus was a finalist for the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award earlier this year, and he recently told Pro Wrestling Sheet that fans can expect to see more of him on WWE TV in the new year. Noting that he didn’t want to get into too much detail, Titus says he looks forward to 2021 being a really good year for him.
Most of his life, Tommy Fierro has been part of the wrestling business as a promoter in some way and more recently brought the “Golden Era” back to prominence with his ’80s Wrestling Con. Fierro hosted two separate “80s” events in 2019, but the pandemic delayed and ultimately canceled plans for a third in April. Not letting the current circumstances halt his momentum, Fierro started a new Virtual Signing Series boasting names like Demolition, Ted DiBiase, Sgt. Slaughter and more.
Finding a safe way for fans to meet their heroes, the Virtual Signing Series was successful enough to expand to multiple events a month, as well as making the addition of 1990s and 2000s era events under a new banner. Fierro also made a career change, leaving a job in marketing due to the pandemic, and now has plans for more wrestling-related ventures and the continued expansion of the ’80s Wrestling Con brand.
On-screen bad guy, real-life good guy, Sami Zayn has made a world of difference by bringing his Sami For Syria Mobile Medical Clinic to vulnerable populations in northwest Syria. Partnering with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) Foundation over the past few three years, the campaign has helped bring proper medical care to Syrians who might not otherwise have access to it.
In June 2020, SAMS launched the SAMI FOR SYRIA Mobile Medical Clinic, and can now travel from community to community to treat people more effectively and quickly. Staffed by a medical team, the vehicle features exam rooms and proper medical equipment where they’ve been able to treat many more people, and Sami has helped raise more than $86,000 for the mobile clinic to date.
In addition to all of the goodwill he’s done internationally, Sami continues to be one of the most entertaining Superstars in WWE. Zayn’s year also included three separate Intercontinental Championship reigns, the third of which just ended on a show that aired this past Friday. While the initial run ended due to Sami’s choice to refrain from competing during the early months of the pandemic, the second and third provided some great comedic moments and matches with Jeff Hardy and Big E on SmackDown.
The Chicago-area independent promotion is in a unique position in that the promoter, Steve Tortorello, is also the head principal of the school that hosts their events. Warrior Wrestling not only had a find a way to continue to operate in the confines of the pro wrestling world, but had to contend with local and educational parameters.
Tortorello found a safe way for families to enjoy live events, and Warrior had the honor of hosting the first live pro wrestling event with fans in the COVID era. Introducing the Stadium Series this fall, Warrior Wrestling hosted three events in September that followed strict social distancing guidelines on the football field at Marian Catholic High School. Not only does Warrior provide entertaining “dream match” level events, but they all proceeds from their shows go towards fundraising and providing scholarships for local students in need so they can attend the school.