Mother Brain’s WWE Year End Review 2012
By Mother Brain
I’ve been a lifelong wrestling fan since 1994. Before that, I only knew of WWF/WWE through the video games, toys, and my neighbor who occasionally invited me to his house to watch Wrestlemania. I grew up with the audience that looked up to larger-than-life superhero Hulk Hogan as a kid, found a sense of ‘attitude’ through Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, and witnessed the business go from rival organizations competing with one another to only one company with all the golden eggs in their basket (I won’t even get started with TNA aka Impact Wrestling). Since then, WWE has portrayed itself as the ultimate in entertainment hypocrisy. On one hand, they try to push new stars in their family friendly direction aimed mostly to the kids. On the other hand, they continue to dig out the big money draws from the past so they can get their ratings and PPV buys up. At 29 years of age, if I had to sum up my thoughts in one sentence about WWE in the year 2012, I state it as a question: Why in the hell am I still watching this shit?
2012 opened with what I thought represented a bright future for WWE. Former Ring of Honor mega-talents CM Punk and Daniel Bryan held the WWE Championship and WWE World Heavyweight Championship respectfully. Fan favorite and Long Island’s own Zack Ryder was the US Champion after using his internet show to win support without the backstage politics holding him back. But within the first four months, WWE chose to not cater to real wrestling fans anymore. Ryder lost his title and his momentum thanks to a throwaway love angle with Eve Torres followed by a number of beatings from a rebooted Kane, reducing Ryder to jobber status. Bryan turns heel despite being incredibly over with the fans thanks to the “yes” chants. WWE, however, thought they could kill his buzz with an 18 second title loss to Sheamus in the opening moments of Wrestlemania 28 (additional time left over was used for a Brodus Clay performance). Punk is another story to dive into later.
So if the true fans can’t get what they want, WWE shoves down their own favorites down our throats. This was the year when Sheamus was incredibly pushed to the main event level as a babyface. After winning the Royal Rumble and the Wrestlemania win against Bryan, Sheamus went on a long summer run as World Heavyweight Champion. He continued to establish himself by scoring victories over Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, and David Otunga before engaging in a lengthy feud with Alberto Del Rio. As a worker, Sheamus is decent in the ring. As a character, however, he’s nothing more than a John Cena wannabe with corny jokes. How popular is he after all this time? His entrance music is louder than his crowd reaction. Nuff said.
There were plenty of other regressions this year. Randy Orton, a top babyface, got stuck in several second-rate feuds and violated the Wellness Program policies by the end of the summer. Only one strike left to future endeavor him. So now Orton walks a thin line as far as management is concerned and only a heel turn can spark new life in his otherwise boring character. Even the return of Chris Jericho fell flat despite his mystifying promos leading to his comeback. Despite good matches with CM Punk, Y2J got lost in the shuffle again. The same was true for The Miz and Alberto Del Rio as their heel runs ran their course which led to their babyface turns that they are currently struggling with.
As for the new superstars, it was a mixed bag. For every Funkasarus Brodus Clay or Lord Tensai, there was Damien Sandow and The Shield. Then of course there’s Ryberg (cough cough excuse me) Ryback. Yes, Skip Sheffield of the Nexus adopted a Bill Goldberg gimmick, roughed up binders full of jobbers, and won the crowd over with “feed me more.” His rise to the top came prematurely thanks to half-assed booking and if the Brooklyn reaction from TLC says anything it’s that he’s needs more than a physique and a catchphrase to stick around for the long haul.
Tag Teams were finally getting attention again thanks to the pairing of Daniel Bryan and Kane as Team Hell No. What started out as a series of SNL-style series segments evolved into a legit and unique paring. Bryan became more popular than ever and Kane became more relevant than he was in the last nine years. This resulted in many new team formations such as Rhodes Scholars, Primo and Epico, The Prime Time Players, etc. 2013 should be even better for the division thanks to the inclusion of The Shield.
The Divas division was nothing spectacular this year. Only one breakout star led the pack and that was AJ Lee. She could have easily got lost in the shuffle early on as a prop for Bryan to cling on to. But she stood out increasingly with her crazy chick gimmick which won over big with fans. Her presence, while physically flawless, has also been a mixed bag because of her complicated romance angles with Punk, Bryan, Kane, and John Cena. Then to make her Raw GM was a downright terrible booking decision when she could have improved the floundering Divas division as the champion.
The year was not without controversy. Even with Linda McMahon running for senate again while keeping distant from her husband’s business, WWE could not “be a star” in the eyes of mainstream media. Abraham Washington makes a Kobe Bryant rape joke that gets him fired. CM Punk strikes a fan during a promo where he rushed into the crowd without security present. Nothing compared to Jerry Lawler’s heart attack which brought back terrible memories of the Owen Hart freak accident in 1999. Lawler miraculously survived. But the use of the footage showing him being resuscitated left an even bigger disgusting taste in my mouth than the Punk/Paul Heyman promo that followed it.
Now speaking of Punk, his promises of 2011 fell almost completely flat during the first half of the year. No ice cream bars and no Punk eclipsing Cena as the top babyface in the company. Without the title around his waist, Cena is still perceived as the company champion by out performing The Rock in promos leading to Wrestlemania followed by his bloody victory over a returning Brock Lesnar which made the Mania loss to Rocky irrelevant. Meanwhile, Punk gets treated like a mid-card champion with less-than-stellar feuds with Y2J, Bryan, and Kane. The picture became clear that Punk was not PG friendly material for the kids, the troops, or the Make-a-Wish Foundation. So turning him heel and aligning himself with Paul Heyman was the only solution to make him hot again. Even after eclipsing most contemporary superstars’ title runs by over 390 days at this time, Punk still remains the guy we as fans deserve as our top guy even though management still doesn’t see it that way.
As happy as I was to see The Rock return earlier this year, I felt he wasn’t exactly the same guy like he was in ’98-’99. That Rocky would have chewed up and sh*t out Cena in promos. This Rocky got neutered and left his manhood home so he would be forced to treat Cena with kid gloves. He managed to get the win over Cena. But that doesn’t change the fact that they’ll meet again next year under totally different circumstances.
Lastly, we witnessed the “end of an era” for the Undertaker and Triple H. Their hell in a cell match at Wrestlemania was arguably match of the year and a million times better than their previous bout. They truly are the last of a breed of superstars I miss every day in wrestling. Although the Game will continue to make his presence known as a performer and as the future owner of WWE, Undertaker has reached his career twilight after 20-0 at Wrestlemania. Anything after that will be less than memorable in my eyes.
And so I feel that as a fan, I’m reaching my twilight with wrestling period. I still got my ticket ready for MetLife Stadium for Wrestlemania 29 on April 7, 2013 and look forward to the experience. Yet, it still does not change my complicated relationship with the current state of the business. I compare it to the way I used to love The Simpsons so much as a kid that I cried whenever I missed a new episode. Then one day I grew up and the show became stale and gimmicky. Us Generation X-ers and I guess Y-ers are no longer WWE’s target audience. We are now the parents who take our kids to see a G-rated animated movie while we’re sound asleep for an hour and a half.