For those of us who watch it, we all know that professional wrestling has never really had an off-season like other TV shows or sports. There is no real gap in the product or time away where fans don’t have access to anything happening inside the squared circle… But that doesn’t mean there aren’t periods when wrestling takes a break from being its serious self.
Usually, the holiday season is a period where wrestling fans are given a bit of a breather from the week-to-week progression that wrestling tends to follow. Storyline progression isn’t as important, matches embrace the goofier holiday spirit the season welcomes in, and while nothing of great importance tends to happen, there is a lot of fun to be had the closer we draw to the holidays.
With that, comes some fun and contained moments we likely wouldn’t see outside this time of year, something that will be showcased here. A quick spotlight of some wild, and underrated wrestling moments from the holiday season.
Tribute to the Troops
Let’s start with what many, including myself, would consider the definitive wrestling holiday experience. The original Tribute to the Troops event stemmed from the mind of John Bradshaw Layfield as an appreciation of the United States military and one hailed at the time by many as one of the most important under the company’s calendar.
Being aired from an American Base in Iraq of all places created a unique setting and feel to the show, far removed from the standard arenas the show has transitioned towards today. The addition of an audience of American personnel, held in broad daylight helped this show possess a holiday feeling that many would need at that time of the year. It was aimed to be feel-good, escapist wrestling that aims to make us smile in excitement, and succeeded in doing so.
In the years since, the show has moved in and out of the more traditional format it was known for, emanating from venues like Fort Hood, Balad Air Base, and Naval Bases in the United States. Despite this, is targeted to be a show attended by military personnel, their families, and friends, to honor thousands who sacrifice their lives to serve both in and out of the country. While it doesn’t maintain the same level of importance it did in the mid-2000s, it remains a show that is consistently spotlighted on WWE’s yearly calendar.
Alberto Del Rio ruins Christmas (December 24th, 2012)
The Christmas Eve edition of Monday Night RAW in 2012 provided a moment that is engrained into many fans’ heads as one of the most memorable holiday segments the company ever put out. Opening up the show with the image of Alberto Del Rio running over Santa Claus while ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez stood by in a state of absolute awe is the kind of silliness shows like these need to work off of.
It wasn’t just ridiculous, it set the stage for what was to be a fun main event, pitting the evil-doer Alberto Del Rio against WWE’s all-time leading babyface John Cena for the match to save Christmas. Nothing about the main event is your Meltzer-certified 5-star classic filled with flips and tricks. It was just good old-fashioned holiday carnage.
John Cena plays the role of the hero fighting off the evil-doer who essentially committed a federal crime against Santa Claus on public television to a tee. The match was about as good as you’d expect considering the occasion… Christmas trees, fire extinguishers, wrapped gifts, teddy bears, and a cameo from Mick Foley disguised as Santa Claus made this a holiday episode to remember.
The Tale of Ebeneezer Piper (Tuesday Night Titans – December 20th, 1985)
Roddy Piper is, and always will be one of wrestling’s greatest heels. A shining example of a villain people hated, and equally loved through his magnetic charisma displayed every single time his mouth opened on the screen.
Unlike most memorable holiday moments which occur on either RAW or SmackDown, this time we shift focus over to the now defunct Tuesday Night Titans. On a December 20th episode from 1985, Piper once again created a segment we’ll forever remember.
Taking inspiration from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. A key takeaway of Dickens’ work, was that the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge. He learns his lessons after being visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, thus becoming a better person. Roddy Piper, on the other hand, stayed true to his always cocky, arrogant persona. Calling away those ghosts from the past, to remain the devilish heel audiences would remain known for until the late 1980’s.
It might be a segment that is more a product of its time as opposed to others in this article. But it’s one that possesses a timeless feel that defines characters like Roddy Piper and how charming wrestling can truly be.
The Rock’s Twelve Days of Christmas (December 20th, 2001)
Do you know what The Rock was cookin’ in December of 2001? This masterful little Christmas Carol.
Anyone who celebrates Christmas knows the Twelve Days of Christmas is a staple of the holiday. Whether you sing it, listen to it, or come across it in the hundreds of Christmas movies that are thrown out every single year, it’s inevitable.
Similar to so many times the man picks up a microphone, The Rock’s take on this timeless holiday tune is still as iconic today as it was back in 2001. Before a match against Test on the same show, The Rock took to the microphone to provide his remix of the Twelve Days of Christmas, with a wrestling twist added on top.
On the night Test faced the Great One, this is what he’ll see:
12 Sharpshooters stinging,
11 Eyebrows raising,
9 Noggins knocking,
7 Punches punching,
6 Suplex smashing,
5 Seconds of the people chanting The Rock’s name.
4 Rock Bottoms,
3 People Elbows on your
2 Buck teeth
and an a**-kicking all over New Orleans.
Whether it was written by The Rock, or the writing team at the time, it’s an iconic holiday segment that anyone should go out of their way to find.
Stone Cold stuns Santa Claus (December 22nd, 1997)
In all honesty, the Attitude Era was home to so many more holiday moments. This is a moment, however, that seems to stick with many watching the product from back in the day.
On the RAW before Christmas in 1997, Santa Claus came out to the ring, hopefully to spread Christmas cheer. However, this Santa turned out to be quite the antagonist, mocking fans at ringside relentlessly and riling up the ever-hot Attitude Era audience. This didn’t sit well with Stone Cold Steve Austin
, on the trajectory to becoming the hottest star in the company, even in industry history. After verbally beating down Santa as he does to almost anyone else, he followed that up with an all-time classic stunner that sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy.
It was a segment that summarized the absolute chaos that comes along with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Even if you’re Santa himself, a stunner is the most likely outcome the second you step between those ropes with The Texas Rattlesnake.
TNA’s Incredible Christmas Show (December 20th, 2007)
WWE naturally draws more attention than any other brand in the wrestling world. But this by no means takes away from the fact that arguably the most entertaining holiday episode ever produced by a wrestling brand belongs to TNA. In 2007, the company hosted a holiday-themed edition of Impact. It was crammed with all holiday shenanigans that outdid the competition by a country mile.
As opposed to the odd stipulation match centered around the holidays, TNA catered to every minute of its show to be Christmas-related in some fashion. A show that wasn’t just themed, but featured an array of talent duking it out in matches that embodied the holiday of Christmas, with some bizarre twists to boot. The card consisted of:
- Rock N’ Rave Infection, James Storm & Bobby Roode vs. LAX, Scott Steiner & Booker T in a Christmas Chaos Cage Match
- Team 3D & Johnny Devine vs. Motor City Machine Guns & Jay Lethal in a Double North Pole Match
- A Santa’s Workshop Street Fight containing virtually every relevant TNA Knockout available
- Abyss vs. Black Reign vs. Relik vs. Shark Boy in a Silent Night, Bloody Night Monsters Ball-Style Match containing barbed-wire Christmas Ornaments
- AJ Styles vs. Kazarian in a Ladder Match where the loser had to don a reindeer costume
Alongside all of this were several comedic sketches, some of which worked better than others. But they always embraced the absurdity of the show for what it was aiming to be. Professional wrestling is at its best when it’s at its craziest. It’s a sport that doesn’t require insanity, yet manages to be the most memorable when the stories and matches make your jaw drop the most, something this show accomplishes in spades. Not just stacked with talent from top to bottom, it unquestionably succeeds in the in-ring department too. It combined the wackiness wrestling tends to bring in with something like Christmas, and enhancing that with TNA’s original brand of hardcore, over-the-top wrestling.
WWE may have a larger collection of holiday-seasoned memories, but few manage to reach the heights this show does in its entirety.
What is your favorite holiday wresting moment? Let us know in the comments below.