Match of the Year:
John Cena Vs Daniel Bryan – WWE title match at SummerSlam: Out of all the great Daniel Bryan matches this year, this one was certainly not the technical masterpiece that the others were. However, I thought this one told the best story while being very good as a wrestling match. Leading up to it Daniel Bryan had expressed what we the die hards (IWC, “net fans”, whatever you want to call us) have been expressing all these years and that was simply that John Cena was a joke. He represents everything we hate about the wrestling business and more specifically WWE. Its corporate, safe, and shallow. This match much like Cena’s now legendary match with Punk at Money in the Bank 2011 seemed like it was going to be the start of another uprising. Cena was injured and needed a break so who better than Daniel Bryan who with a win could not only cement himself as our hero, but the new hero of the entire fan base. Bryan dazzled Cena with his array of submissions while Cena showed his resilient champion side with the legit elbow injury coming into play adding another great subplot to the proceedings. Towards the end they traded finishers/holds and Cena was getting frustrated much like he did going up against Punk. Cena doesn’t come off as arrogant on TV, but he certainly gives off that “how’d he kick out, I’m John Cena” attitude. Finally, Bryan breaks out a new finisher, the flying running knee and knocks Cena down for the 3. Bryan had finally won the title. Yes, it was all gone in five minutes thanks to typical WWE politics (giving Orton another chance despite being a constant screw up just because he has the chiseled good looks WWE CRAVES), but it won’t take away from that moment of glory when HHH’s hand struck the mat for the third time.
Wrestler of the Year:
Best – Daniel Bryan. Not only did Bryan perhaps have the best year of matches that anyone has ever had, but he has done it in every kind of match without holding the top belt. He started the year as Kane’s tag team partner and whether it was two on two, three on three, ten on ten, three on two it never seemed to matter. Match of the night every time. The guy can deliver better than anyone and he has found a deep connection with the crowd because on his underdog status. Maybe that is the reason why WWE has not given him the belt is because he doesn’t seem to need it. He seems to get more popular when people are watching him get held back or get cheated out of the belt. Remember when he lost the World Heavyweight Championship in eighteen seconds to Sheamus? He became twenty times more popular after he had dropped the title than he was with it. It is unique and remarkable how Bryan has gotten to this point and to me that makes him far and away the wrestler of the year.
I don’t typically go for the easy lay up here. Yea, I could pick Santino or Khali and move on, but I’d rather pick someone who WWE loves and yet contributes so little to the benefit of the product. This year it has to be Big Show. This guy is an eighteen year vet and still cannot do many of the basics that make a great wrestler. His promos, his wrestling, everything about him is one dimensional and yet he is constantly pushed. The worst had to be after SummerSlam when he became one of the Authority’s main targets and every week they would make him do something horrible and he would cry. I know Show doesn’t write the scripts, but I’m sure he has a voice or he can get in someone’s ear and tell them that it doesn’t make sense for a seven foot giant with an iron clad contract (great consistency there) to just cry and do what he’s told. We’re all subservient to someone, but there comes a point when it obvious you don’t care enough to walk up to somebody and make a suggestion because you’re just happy to be there and don’t want to rock the boat. Then the worst part of his involvement with the Authority was him hijacking Bryan’s “YES!” catch phrase. Who does that? That’s not right to steal someone else’s creation. I remember the days when Shawn would go berserk if anyone used anything remotely close to a super kick. Now you can just mooch of someone else’s popularity by stealing his catch phrase? I expect that shit from rookies, but not an eighteen year vet.
Female Wrestler of the Year:
Best – A.J. Lee. No contest. Reality skanks need not apply. She got to where she is because of all the time she put in honing her character with her ex-male counterparts and she has stayed there because she’s the total package. She’s cute, she’s crazy, she can wrestle and cut a promo that doesn’t sound like she had a lobotomy in the gorilla position on the way out the curtain. That promo she cut on the total divas was amazing and showed how she truly is in a class of her own.
Eva Marie. Not since the halcyon days of Jackie Gayda has there been such a monumental mountain of fail in a wrestling ring. It’s one thing to know that WWE trots these whores out strictly based on looks, but to have it rubbed in our faces is flat out insulting. Yes, most of the total diva cast is a train wreck waiting to happen in (and out of) the ring, but Eva is by far the worst of the bunch. To even use the term “wrestler” when describing her makes my stomach turn.
Feud of the Year:
Best – C.M. Punk Vs Paul Heyman: I really wanted to pick the Daniel Bryan Vs The Authority feud, but looking back on it there really was never a solid conclusion there. It was more like a “to be continued” or an incomplete because Orton never pinned Bryan clean and then moved onto a feud with Big Show. I’m giving it to Punk and Heyman who started the year paired together and then ever so slowly came apart. The turn was easy to see coming, but the lead up to it was great regardless. Heyman would show up to help Punk and end up costing him or Heyman’s new client Curtis Axel would steal a pinfall from Punk. Finally at Money in the Bank, Heyman slammed a ladder on Punk’s head and the feud was jump started. Brock Lesnar showed up the next night on RAW and destroyed Punk, but Punk kept coming back. This would be the hallmark of the feud. No matter what Heyman or his cronies did, Punk kept coming back for more. Finally he beat Heyman’s guys (Ryback and Axel) at Hell in a Cell and beat Heyman down on top of the Cell. Was it everything I ever dreamed of from these two? No, but it came damn close. The Lesnar-Punk match was one of the top matches of the year and the promos were phenomenal and deeply personal. The best one being the promo where Heyman went over the top talking about the Punk volcano that was going to erupt (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EscFy7mX2Iw). It was classic Heyman – over the top, but it made sense because of the underlying truth.
Alberto Del Rio Vs Jack Swagger: Thanks to the failures/injuries of Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio, Vince was without a hero for the Latino audience. His solution? Turning a mediocre Mexican heel into a terrible Mexican face, giving him the World title and putting him in a feud centered around America’s immigration policies. Who would play foil to such a yawn inducing hero? Why All American Jack Swagger of course. Yea cause that’s totally the guy everyone wanted. To top it off Vince added wrestling business vet/icon “Dirty” Dutch Mantel now repackaged as Zeb Colter as Swagger’s right wing extremist manager/mouthpiece. Not only was this feud in poor taste, but it wasn’t even executed with any kind of proper build up. The promos were long, drawn out debates about how Mexican people are constantly “sneaking across the border”. It was like listening to a five year old give a speech about immigration. Just so dubbed down with stereotypes flying out everywhere. The worst part was this was supposed to be about the World Heavyweight title at WrestleMania and no one seemed to care. By the way for anyone who is missing the World title right now, I present exhibit A for keeping it right where it is.
Tag Team of the Year:
The Shield – Yes, I know technically their a faction, but we don’t really need a “best faction” category considering there were only two worth noting. Besides, these guys saw weekly six man tag team action as well as the Rollins/Reigns two man combo. Now that I’m done keeping the trolls away, the Shield should need no explanation. They’re awesome at everything they do. Promo’s, run-ins, wrestling. Every move, every moment is calculated and that’s what is most impressive for a group of guys who haven’t been in the business as long as some of their peers. Their future is bright whether they are together or apart, but this year was great for them as a two or a three man team.
Bray Wyatt – Unlike WWE, I don’t consider Bray a rookie. He was on the main roster once upon a time as Husky Harris (as the “smart” fan in Baltimore will tell you), but it didn’t last. He was reborn in April 2012 in FCW as Bray Wyatt – a southern cult leader with a Hawaiian shirt and fedora straight out of Cape Fear. It’s not easy going from FCW/NXT wanna be to full fledged WWE superstar, but Wyatt has made the transition perfectly. His entrances are eerie and haunting. His minds games and promos are creepy and mysterious and he’s very crisp and agile in the ring for a heavy guy. It’s like someone took the Undertaker, Jake the Snake and Bam Bam Bigelow, mixed them together and made this guy. Considering he started out as a guy named Husky Harris and now could be on his way to being the next Undertaker or Jake the Snake is a pretty big improvement.
Rookie of the Year:
Roman Reigns – This guys is good. Scary good. The strength and intensity that Reigns brings every night is a rare thing. His personality and mics skills are raw, but they are developing and soon enough he will be the entire package. He’s not my favorite Shield member, but WWE seems to be he highest on him and I can’t say I blame them. He’s got size and the look that WWE goes gaga for. If his long tag title reign, almost weekly RAW main events and Survivor Series opponent demolishing are any indication of where he’s headed then this will not be a wasted choice.
The Rock – I blame us. All of us seemed to be giddy with excitement when the Rock showed up on RAW for the first time in seven years in February 2011. We were even more excited when he showed up at WrestleMania XXVIII and beat the anti-attitude era John Cena. However, the buck was supposed to stop at C.M. Punk our hero, our 434 day and counting, reigning, defending WWE champion, but it didn’t. The Rock return train ran right through our champion and took a steaming stinking Rocky crap all over the place. Yes, Rock could still move well for a guy in his forties who had just one match prior to dethroning Punk, but still to have that reign end to a guy who was essentially now an actor (and never a great wrestler to begin with) was just a crime of epic proportions that can’t be overlooked or forgiven.
Damien Sandow – Talk about a guy who was screwed by rushing into the title unification match. Sandow’s cash in on Cena was yet another one of those missed opportunities to make a new star. The worst part is while WWE was applauding Sandow’s efforts on screen, backstage it returned to the same old politics because Sandow is right back in the mid-card. I know WWE couldn’t wait to pull the unification trigger, but that’s no reason to send a talented guy like Sandow back to obscurity. His match with Cena on RAW the night after Hell in a Cell win or lose should have been a launching point for people to start taking this guy more seriously and working him right near the top of the card. It is mind boggling the way WWE continues to mishandle their young talent.
The Wyatt Family – Bray makes the gimmick work with his promos, but Eric Rowan and Luke Harper help amp up the creep factor. Rowan wears a sheep mask to the ring and wrestles in a garbage man jumpsuit while Harper has big bug eyes and dresses like an out of work mechanic. Add in the creepy entrance (including a lantern and a rocking chair for Bray) with the eerie tune by Mark Crozer and you have a gimmick that really sticks out. They all play their role well and are vastly different from any faction we’ve ever seen.
Los Matadores – El Torito? Really? Really? REALLY? Can anyone in this company think beyond stereotypes? Not only is this gimmick unoriginal and racist, the guys playing the Matadores are Puerto Rican. Granted Primo and Epico needed a gimmick change (mostly because they had no gimmick to speak of before), but this is the best WWE can do? This gimmick was terrible back in 1992 when Tito Santana did it and he was a true Mexican. I just don’t how in 2013 with how sensitive everyone is they can get away with doing something like this. WWE shouldn’t want to gain more popularity because anyone outside their main fan base would be outraged.
Goldust – He’ll never again be able to make homosexual suggestions or moves on other wrestlers, but the guy is a hell of a wrestler and has made a hell of a comeback. Goldust has once again gotten himself in the good graces of the McMahons and looks better than ever having classic tag teams matches with his brother Cody. I think the best part about it has been that no one saw this coming. RVD was promoted weeks ahead, Brock and Rock’s return’s were academic, but no one saw Goldy coming. He just showed up on RAW after his brother had been wrongfully “fired” by HHH. He had a great match with WWE champion Randy Orton followed by a series of classic tag matches with the shield one of which resulted in the Rhodes brother capturing the tag team gold (bronze). Hopefully all his hard work will finally result in the long awaited dream match between him and Cody at WrestleMania.