Pro Wrestling’s Top Ten Worst List of 2013: CM Punk drama, Rollins tops PWI 500, Impact returns to TNA name, NXT to The CW, AEW hires Ric Flair, Vince McMahon’s coup, more

By Zach Barber, PWTorch contributor

Details emerge on CM Punk altercation with The Elite at All Out
C.M. Punk and Tony Khan (image Denise Salcedo YouTube Channel)


For AEW, 2023 was a year of some pretty high highs and some equally low lows. As we prepare to enter a new year, it’s time to look back at the year that was – the best and the worst. This will be done in two parts. This first part will cover the worst of the year from a straight edge flame out to a megalomaniac’s latest machination.


10. Seth Rollins Tops PWI 500

The internet went crazy (and rightfully so) in September when Seth Rollins topped Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s annual list of the top 500 wrestlers in the world.

A lot of fans, myself included, didn’t feel that Rollins deserved that honor and even more were aghast that Will Ospreay, the favorite to top the list, didn’t even make the Top 10.

9. Jimmy Uso Turns on Jey at Summerslam

Like Fonzie on that fateful episode of “Happy Days,” this was the moment that the Bloodline story officially jumped the shark. There was simply no plausible, satisfactory way to explain Jimmy superkicking his brother and helping Roman Reigns retain the title, especially because Roman and Solo Sikoa had viciously attacked Jimmy just weeks earlier.

It was a transparent attempt to keep the vaunted Bloodline story going and keep the title on Reigns. Reigns remains the champion, but the Bloodline story has never really regained its once lofty status.

8. Impact Changes It Name

In company with a history full of truly baffling decisions, this one might take the cake. At the company’s biggest event of the year, Bound for Glory, Impact Wrestling announced that as of January’s Hard to Kill PPV, the company’s name would change back to TNA. The name TNA was conceived as a juvenile attempt to be clever by the former “head writer” for both WCW and TNA whose name I will not use, a play on T&A.

Also it’s associated with some pretty terrible booking decisions and the monumental incompetence of Dixie Carter. There’s a reason LOLTNA is a hashtag and a reason why the company changed its name in the first place. That’s why this move makes literally no sense.

7. NXT to The CW

In October WWE announced that beginning next October, NXT would be moving from its current home on USA Network to The CW broadcast network. The problem is The CW is the bottom of the barrel of broadcast stations. It’s under new management, with a lineup that leaves a lot to be desired and drawing average ratings lower than what NXT is drawing now.

Nexstar, the new majority owner of The CW, is desperately trying to redefine the 19-year-old network, but it feels like this deal is more to their benefit than it is for WWE and its developmental brand.

6. Ric Flair Hired by AEW

Tony Khan was looking to bring Ric Flair in back in 2021 but then Vice aired an episode of its “Dark Side of the Ring” series on the “Plane Ride from Hell” and everything changed. In the episode, a flight attendant credibly accused Flair, already a well-documented womanizer, of sexual assault. Suddenly the former 16-time champion was justifiably considered radioactive. Fast-forward to October and Flair was brought in by Tony Khan as a surprise gift for Sting after Sting announced his impending retirement.

A one-off appearance was one thing, but 24 hours later it was announced that Flair had signed a multi-year deal with the company. At this stage of his career, Flair has little to offer. He’s beyond the age where can wrestle a match. His legendary promo skills have significantly diminished. Most importantly, he’s still a credibly accused sex pest. Nothing’s changed and he brings nothing to the table to even remotely offset the ick of him being on TV, which has thankfully been sparse. It’s a bad choice even if AEW isn’t actually paying his check.

5. Cody Rhodes Loses at WrestleMania

WWE went to great lengths to set up a Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns WrestleMania main event. Cody won the Royal Rumble from the number 30 spot. They rushed the conclusion of an arguably stronger story with a hotter babyface in Sami Zayn. They used the memory of Dusty Rhodes to an extreme degree to put sympathy on Cody.

In the end, he wound up being just another schmuck who fell victim to the Bloodline’s cheating tactics and Roman walked out of WrestleMania as champion. Given all the energy put into the match, the sacrifices made, and the fact that Roman had been champion for so long and had largely done everything he could do with the title, Cody losing at Mania remains WWE’s most head-scratching booking decision of 2023.

4. Vince McMahon’s Coup

It seems like a lifetime ago, but in January Vince McMahon executed a coup on what was, at the time, still his company. After being forced to resign in disgrace last summer following multiple allegations covering years of sexual misconduct through hush money, McMahon tried to force his way back in December. The board, which included his daughter, son-in-law, and one-time right hand man Nick Khan, unanimously voted against allowing his return.

In response, McMahon along with two cronies that he’d fired only three years ago executed a coup, removing two board members followed by the immediate resignation of another. McMahon was reinstated to the board and his role as Chairman, ousting his own daughter. Days later, Stephanie McMahon resigned her from her position as co-CEO. Bulldozing his way back into the company and causing all of the corporate and personal upheaval that resulted was just another disgusting move from a disgusting person.

3. AEW Creative Woes

AEW has had an up and down year creatively. Sure, ill-timed injuries have led to some of those problems, but they can’t all be blamed on that. For a while it felt like AEW was in the midst of an identity crisis as TK leaned a little too far into the sports-entertainment realm.

Thankfully, the last six weeks have seen a return to form with AEW leaning on superior wrestling quality and building the stories out of that. Even the oft-problematic Women’s Division has received a renewed focus. Hopefully this the direction things will continue to go as we ease into 2024.

2. The Deaths of Jay Briscoe and Bray Wyatt

Every year the wrestling community loses some of their own. The deaths of stars like Terry Funk or “Superstar” Billy Graham, legends who’ve meant so much to the industry, are sad, but these men had long successful careers and lives. Jay Briscoe’s tragic passing on January 17 in a car accident and the August death of Bray Wyatt from a heart attack are something else entirely.

Both men, 38 and 36 respectively, were not only cut down in the primes of their careers but in the primes of their lives. Both men left behind small children. Their deaths brought an outpouring of love and support from friends and fans alike. Even writing this now, it’s still surreal. Jay Briscoe and Bray Wyatt both left behind indelible legacies in this business and their contributions won’t be forgotten.

1. C.M. Punk: At number one, the absolute dirt worst person or event of this year is one Phillip Jack Brooks a/k/a C.M. Punk. Punk proved one can be a full-grown adult and yet still a complete child. He also proved that it’s possible to self-immolate twice.

Already out of action due to a triceps injury and a suspension stemming from unprofessional fight-inciting meltdown following All Out 2022, Punk started stirring things up as soon as rumors of a return to AEW surfaced. Despite this, Tony Khan was determined to make things work. In cooperation with WBD, he created Collision as a way to keep Punk and the Elite apart. Punk returned on the debut episode to cautious optimism. Within weeks that cautious optimism was gone as reports emerged that Punk was throwing his weight around, banning everyone from borderline enhancement talent to the head of talent relations from “his” show.

The final straw came at All In in August. Jack Perry made a smart aleck comment to the camera during his pre-show match in reference to a previous incident between him and Punk. Punk was once again unable to be an adult and initiated another fight, this one putting Khan himself in the line of fire. Punk opened the main show against Samoa Joe. Six days later he was gone, fired at the recommendation of a discipline committee headed by Bryan Danielson. What an ignominious end to a heavily-hyped comeback all brought on by a lack maturity and self-control.

His actions severely tarnished his legacy maybe beyond repair and created headaches for AEW. In the months since, Punk has gone crawling back to WWE, a company he excoriated for a decade. Regardless of what he does moving forward, he will always be the same immature, surly jerk who spent two years revealing his true self. Now you can add hypocrite to that list too.

(Zach Barber contributes the weekly “AEW Feud Tracker” column to each week. You are welcome to submit a guest editorial to for consideration of being published.)

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