2013 was a pretty good year for many in WWE. There are a number of superstars and tag teams that can look back on the year as their launching pad to bigger things, the year where they were put on a stage that they hadn't seen before. The MVP of the WWE in 2013 was The Shield, who made their début at the arse-end of 2012. Barely a Raw went by without Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns putting on a great match either individually or as a team. The Wyatt Family made their bow, and immediately became the best thing on WWE TV. Cody Rhodes broke out as a baby face, and his big brother Goldust returned to some sort of redemption. Michael McGillicutty became Curtis Axel and won the IC title on Father's Day. He would eventually lose the title to Big E. Langston, another who had a storming year. 2013 was a great year for many on the roster.
This can't be said of everyone unfortunately. There are many on the roster who stagnated, but some of these have stagnated for years. (I'm looking at you there, Mr. Kingston). There are those however, who started the year brightly only to end-up in a whole-lot-of nothing, who ended up in far worse positions than they had been the year previous. John Cena went on and on about how 2012 was a terrible year for him, but when it comes to 2013, a few wrestlers may genuinely view it as their Annus Horribilis.
On New Years Eve 2012, Wade Barrett defeated Kofi Kingston to win his second Intercontinental Championship. He'd had a bad injury earlier in the year when he was rumoured to be winning the Money in the Bank ladder match, and he's always been someone that those who decide had big plans for. He was without doubt everyone's first choice when asked who from the Nexus would be a World Champion. As 2012 bled into 2013 however, things started to go a little bit sour for the Preston-born brawler.
The Royal Rumble saw him eliminated by Bo Dallas of all people, which led to a nothing sort of feud where Dallas shocked Barrett a couple of times and nothing came of it. This sort of story if done properly can lead to better things for both involved, but this did nothing but make Barrett look weak as a main roster superstar and a mid card champion. An equally poor feud ensued with The Miz over the IC title, leading to a match on the WrestleMania pre-show which Barrett would lose. Sure, he'd win the title back the next night in Bizarro-World on Raw, gaining a pretty big pop in the process as he Bulhammered Miz into further mediocrity, but this was as good as it got for Wadey boy.
He proceeded to lose pretty much every single non-title match that he was put in. This is a staple for most midcard champions (and tag champions), but Barrett seemed to make losing non-title matches his entire gimmick. Wrestler after wrestler after wrestler would step up to challenge the Bare Knuckle Brawler, and wrestler after wrestler after wrestler would defeat him when nothing was on the line except a possible maybe potential IC title shot. All of this built towards a triple threat match at Payback. Originally scheduled to be against The Miz and Fandango, a concussion for Fandango led to Curtis Axel taking his place and taking Barrett's title in the process. His depressing run as Intercontinental Champion was over.
Wade Barrette lost pretty much every match he was in on TV this year from his third IC reign onwards. The latter half of 2013 saw him struggle with work-visa issues and total irrelevancy on television. He returned in the last month of the year as Bad News Barrett. This entails him banging a gavel on a platform and informing the crowd that he has some bad news. Now, I enjoy the gimmick, and Barrett looks like he's having fun portraying it, but where is it going to go? I have a terrible feeling it'll lead to R-Truth and Xavier Woods telling him to cheer up, before dancing in the ring as Brodus Clay cries in the corner. When it comes to bad news, Wade needs to realise that 2013 for him was a very, very bad year.
Many, myself included, bristled with anger whenever John Cena referred to 2012 as his Annus Horribilis. He main-evented pretty much pay-per-view that year, and made Dolph Ziggler look ridiculous in the process. How is that a bad year? Well, now I'm going to try and tell you that someone who main-evented two PPVs in 2013 himself had a terrible year. Oddly enough, those three matches came against Cena himself. I'm talking, of course, about the Corn-Fed Meathead himself, Ryback.
The former Skip Sheffield ended 2012 as CM Punk's main challenger for the WWE Championship, and on the first Raw of the year he would be screwed out of the title once again by The Shield. He was the last man eliminated in the Royal Rumble, and was positioned as the number two or three babyface on the entire roster. He was always going to be involved in some sort of hyped WrestleMania match, rumoured to be against Big Show. It ended up being Mark Henry, who would come out of the match victorious. Things would start to go south for Ryback from here. Sure, he Shellshocked Henry after the match, but by now he had lost six pay-per-view matches in a row. He turned heel the next night on Raw by attacking Cena, and their two month feud would see no elevation for the Big Guy. He couldn't get a PPV win either. A couple more of unsuccessful PPV matches would be added to his resume, before he finally got the W against Chris Jericho at Money in the Bank.
Things started looking up again as he took on his Bully gimmick. He played the part brilliantly, and his maltreatment of backstage workers was surely going to lead to a plucky babyface standing up to the Big Guy with Big Traps? Nope, it led to him crying out of a match against The Miz because his leg hurt. The bully gimmick had promise, and Ryback's troubles since first challenging CM Punk gave it a depth that could have been explored for the benefit or Ryback and the viewing public. Instead, the whole thing stopped and started and stopped and started. He seemed back on track by attacking Punk and allying himself with Paul Heyman, but this just led to losing more and more matches and looking weaker and weaker.
Where do we stand now? Ryback is in something of a nothing tag team with Curtis Axel, two guys whose year was a peak or two and a trough or eight. Whispers of a WrestleMania showdown with Goldberg still abound, but some serious restoration work will have to be done first, and quickly. Ryback is treading water like never before.
All of which brings us to the man who more than most will look back at 2013 and think 'what the hell happened?'. Again, it's a man who started the year in a good place, peaked on the night after WrestleMania and fell dramatically downhill afterwards. Dolph Ziggler, this has not been your year.
Oh Dolph. Sure 2012 ended with you being made to look silly by Cena most of the time, but you still held a Blue Briefcase and most tipped you smash the glass ceiling in 2013. Heck, you cashed that case in on Alberto Del Rio the night after WrestleMania and gained quite possibly the biggest pop of the year. You were finally World Champion, notwithstanding that 11 minute reign back in the Vickie days. It seemed like your time had come, it was time for Dolph Ziggler to become the modern Shawn Michaels. Then what happened? Well, big clunky Jack Swagger punted you in the face, and you got a concussion, and that was that. You turned to the good side, Del Rio took the title back, and you slowly but surely slipped towards the middle of the card.
And there you stayed. You sort of came out on top in your feud against your former chums Big E. Langston and AJ Lee, but as they both ended the year as champions you ended it losing at Christmas Present on a Pole match to Fandango. Ziggler has boomeranged wins and losses for the latter half of the year, competing in ridiculous gimmick match after ridiculous gimmick match. Word is that he said the wrong thing at the wrong time, and doesn't have much support backstage, and his treatment for the last few months of 2013 would suggest as much. No one has fallen further from their plateau in 2013 than Dolph Ziggler.
Unlike Barrett and Ryback however, I feel Ziggler is more than salvageable. He is still pretty popular with the crowd, and he is still putting on good matches however throwaway they may seem. Dolph Ziggler can make 2014 his own, but there's no denying that 2013 was something of a non-event for him, For someone who won a World Championship during it, that is quite a depressing statement., Either way, all three will be looking to bounce back from years that saw them hit heights and subsequently hit the dirt.
That'll do for now. What do you think? Why did these guys have such a bad year? Can they recover in 2014? Is that team really called RybAxel? Drop a comment in the lonely comment box below, and we'll duke it out. December is now over so I can return to fairly consistent posting, as well as returning to twitter to post inane rubbish. Find me with the handle @pingvinorkestra. Happy New Year to you all.