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Welcome to the 2012 WWE Johnny Awards. These are the awards where we honor the hard working employees of World Wrestling Entertainment based on their work over the last twelve months. I come to you today to present the very “prestigious” awards that I call the fourth annual 2012 WWE Johnny Awards! They're like the Slammy Awards except with better writing. It’s worth pointing out that this is World Wrestling Entertainment stuff ONLY. It says it in the title, but I want you to remember that when you ask why there's no TNA or ROH in here. It's WWE only.
These awards are based on my own personal choice. There were no polls or write-in votes. My name is on the awards, so I get to pick the winners. I don't expect anybody reading this to agree with every single thing I write below, but I will do my best to justify all of my choices. The awards are based on performance. It doesn't necessarily matter if a person wins all their matches on television or is pushed the most on television. It's about the performance more than anything.
THE 25 MAJOR JOHNNY AWARDS
There will be 25 major awards. Each one will have a description of what the award is, the previous winners of the award (if the award existed in the last three years), the winner of the award, the runners-up for the award, and then my extended thoughts on the award. Some write-ups are longer than others. There are some "worst" awards too because some things deserve to be remembered too. Last year this column was 14,000 words and that was too much, so I've condensed it a bit this time around. Let's get to it.
1. BEST WRESTLER
To be given to the person that best combines workrate, character, mic work and everything else into one. This is similar to WWE's Superstar of the Year award. Past winners - 2011: CM Punk, 2010: Randy Orton, 2009: Chris Jericho
Winner: CM Punk (Runners-Up: Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler)
It's back to back wins for the only man to hold the WWE Championship in 2012. If you read my full WWE roster evaluation in October the order I ranked these three was Bryan in first, Punk in second and Ziggler in third. For this award I'm giving it to Punk just ahead of Bryan due to his consistency in performances all year long and for his ability to bring out the best in everybody he worked with.
I really enjoyed this year of CM Punk dominating the WWE Title scene. We've seen him grow as a performer in a lot of ways because in the first half of the year he was a fighting babyface that beat everybody thrown in front of him and then he turned into a cocky heel in the second half of the year. He had that feud with John Laurinaitis and a good match with Dolph Ziggler at the Royal Rumble. From there he had a lengthy feud with Chris Jericho that produced a lot of very good moments that elevated Punk as an even bigger star. Then there was the Daniel Bryan feud in the spring that I absolutely loved. In the summer he turned heel by attacking The Rock on July 23 in a moment we won't soon forget. His heel promos put him on another level, in my eyes. I just think he's better at them and nobody else on the roster can get a crowd riled up the way he can. He's a throwback heel in a lot of ways. The match with John Cena at Night of Champions was excellent. Then Cena got hurt, so Punk had to feud with a "new" main eventer in Ryback and in my opinion Punk did a wonderful job of making people care more about Ryback. That's where Punk is valuable. You get so invested in what he does because of his ability to talk or make a guy look like a star. I didn't think his matches with Ryback would be any good, but Punk worked his ass off to make it happen. His performance in making Ryback look like a legitimate threat was incredible.
In the first half of the year Bryan was amazing. His heel turn was great due to his ego growing as the World Champion by beating Big Show & Mark Henry at the Royal Rumble and then his feud with Sheamus was very good even though people only seem to remember their 18 second match at WrestleMania 28. I'll never forget how loud it was to be in that stadium in Miami that night with all of the "yes" chants. Their match at Extreme Rules was probably a top ten match this year. He spent the next three months feuding with CM Punk, which was outstanding especially their Over The Limit match. From there it went to the Kane storyline where he became a comedy character, beat Kane at Summerslam and then was mostly a tag team wrestler in the last four months. His performance in the awesome TLC match this past Sunday was amazing, as expected. I just think his decreased role in the big picture, due to being in a tag team, has hurt him a bit. Like I said, though, it's been amazing to see him rise as a top guy in WWE this year. I'm excited about his future as a babyface as well.
If you look at Dolph Ziggler's year, he's definitely in a better place right now than he was a year ago. He started the year getting a WWE Title shot against CM Punk at the Royal Rumble, but I don't think anybody believed he was going to win. It's a shame he didn't get a bigger role at WrestleMania (part of Team Johnny), but things picked up in the summer when he won the Money in the Bank briefcase. From there he had a feud with Randy Orton (full of losses) and ended the year with this storyline against John Cena. I think it's fair to see he's one of the better in-ring performers in the company and is always delivering quality matches on television. What I've liked about Ziggler this year is he's been given the opportunity to deliver more meaningful promos. It's making him stand out more. I'm all for it.
I think some other guys not listed had some very good years, but those three are the biggest standouts to me. As long as these three guys are healthy and given prominent television time I think they're always going to be contenders for this award.
2. BEST FEUD
To be given to the best rivalry between two or more performers. Past winners - 2011: Randy Orton vs. Christian, 2010: The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan, 2009: CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy
Winner: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan (Runners-Up: Triple H vs. Undertaker, CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho, Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan, CM Punk vs. John Cena, John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, The Rock vs. John Cena)
I think it's a no-brainer to say that Punk vs. Bryan was the best feud this year. Not only are they clearly the best two performers in WWE this year, but they had a classic match at Over The Limit and two other pay-per-view matches as well. Bryan was phenomenal as the cowardly heel while Punk was the fighting babyface champion that took on all comers. The feud also involved AJ Lee, so in addition to giving us incredible matches it had that soap opera element to it as well.
As for the runners up, there were so many of them. I think a feud needs more than one match to be considered a true rivalry, so that's why some of them couldn't win, but I felt like I needed to list them as nominees.
3. BEST MATCH
To be given to the best match. Past winners - 2011: CM Punk vs. John Cena @ Money in the Bank, 2010 winner: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 26, 2009 winner: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 25
Winner: The Undertaker vs. Triple H (Shawn Michaels as ref) @ WrestleMania 28 (Runners-Up: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan @ Over The Limit, John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar @ Extreme Rules, CM Punk vs. John Cena @ Night of Champions, The Shield vs. Ryback, Kane & Daniel Bryan @ TLC, CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho @ Extreme Rules, Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan @ Extreme Rules)
This is always a tough category to pick just one match, but I'm going with an Undertaker match for the third time in four years. It's weird to give him the award again considering how little he wrestles yet this is not a case of me favoring a particular wrestler. It's a case of his match deserving it once again. Maybe the fact that I was at the match made it more special to me. I don't know. But I absolutely loved it. The match went about 30 minutes, it took place in Hell in a Cell, Shawn Michaels was there as the referee and it was the kind of old school battle that fans love to watch. There were so many spots in the match that I enjoyed, but the one that I liked the most was when HBK gave Undertaker a Superkick and then he walked into a Pedigree. Michaels counted the pin and Undertaker kicked out. Everybody was stunned even though we knew Undertaker was going to win and go 20-0 at WrestleMania. I liked the finish with Undertaker literally beating him down and winning in dominant fashion just like he did against Michaels in 2010. It was a better match and story than the Undertaker/Triple H match in 2011. Loudest crowd reaction I've ever been a part of. For those that care about star ratings, I rated it five stars out of five. Best match of the year. (Match Review)
I think the clear number two match was Punk/Bryan at Over The Limit. It was for Punk's WWE Title, they got 25 minutes, it was a back and forth match and they had a creative finish to it as well. Bryan applied the Yes Lock on Punk, it looked like the champion was going to tap out and then he ended up rolling over so that Bryan's shoulders were down for the three count. Right after the three count, Punk tapped out. It was after the match, though, so Punk outsmarted the challenger and it allowed them to have two more PPV matches against eachother. Wonderfully booked match with outstanding in-ring work. (Match Review)
All of the other matches listed they were excellent. I think it was a strong year for matches in WWE. At the end of the year or early next year I may do a column listing the top 20 matches of the year and write about them more in-depth. No promises, but I'll do my best to make it happen. Nearly every PPV had a great match and some of them had many great matches, which brings us to the next award.
4. BEST PAY-PER-VIEW
To be given to the best pay-per-view. Past winners - 2011: Money in the Bank, 2010 winner: WrestleMania 26, 2009 winner: Summerslam
Winner: Extreme Rules (Runners-Up: TLC, Night of Champions, WrestleMania 28)
The winner of this award is very obvious. Three matches carried Extreme Rules: Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan in a 2/3 Falls Match, CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho in a Street Fight and John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar in an Extreme Rules match. All three matches were rated four stars (out of five) and above from me. That's another way of saying they were excellent. When I re-watched the PPV I enjoyed it more on the replay because I appreciated the work in those three matches so much. As a fourth best match there was a solid Randy Orton vs. Kane Falls Count Anywhere Match that started off the show on the right foot. Extreme Rules was clearly the best WWE PPV of the year and it's one of the better shows in company history too. (Show Review)
My three runners up were all very good shows that were not at the same level as Extreme Rules, but they did feature strong matches. The most recent one was TLC, which was carried by the TLC match involving The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan, Kane & Ryback plus the awesome ladder match main event where Dolph Ziggler beat John Cena. Night of Champions saw CM Punk wrestle John Cena in an exciting match that ended up being a draw and then we also got a terrific Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler contest that helped carry that show. As for WrestleMania 28, the previously mentioned Undertaker/Triple H match carried that event while the CM Punk/Chris Jericho and Rock/John Cena matches were memorable as well.
5. BEST FEMALE PERFORMER
To be given to the best female performer. Past winners - 2011: Beth Phoenix, 2010 winner: Natalya, 2009 winner: Mickie James
Winner: Eve (Runner-Up: AJ Lee)
I think it's a two woman race and I'm going with Eve. Just because AJ Lee was the most pushed female performer on television does not mean I'm going to give her the award. Eve improved so much this year in terms of being a better talker, having matches that were pretty solid with a number of different opponents and in the first half of the year she was heavily pushed as well.
There was nothing wrong with AJ as a performer. I just think she needed to do more than kissing a handful of dudes and making crazy faces. By the end of this year I've started to get sick of her due to being overexposed.
The sad state of the divas division also saw the departures of Beth Phoenix, Kelly Kelly, Kharma and Nikki & Brie Bella. Four of them left by choice while Kharma was released. Of the five I will miss Beth Phoenix the most and I think it's a shame that we never got to see what Kharma could really do in WWE.
6. BEST TELEVISION SHOW
To be given to the best television show. Past winners - 2011: Friday Night Smackdown, 2010 winner: Friday Night Smackdown, 2009 winner: Friday Night Smackdown
Winner: Monday Night Raw (Runners-Up: Friday Night Smackdown, Main Event, NXT)
As you can see, I gave Smackdown the award for the better show the previous three years. This year I give it to Raw because I feel like Smackdown got knocked down a peg. What I liked about Smackdown in the other years was that they had a lot of original content and it had a fresh feel to it. Not anymore. I think because of Raw going to three hours the focus on Smackdown has gone way down, they spend way too much time showing Raw recap videos and it has hurt what Smackdown was. The good thing about Smackdown is that it typically has better in-ring action, but due to Raw going to three hours there has been better wrestling on Raw. Basically, Raw gets the award even though I wish it was two hours long because three hours is too damn long for a wrestling television show.
They show NXT here in Canada, so I DVR it every week and it's an enjoyable show. I have to watch Main Event online since it's not shown in Canada. I like the idea of having a long match as the feature of the show and they also air a lot of video packages, which are good although you can always fast forward through them too.
7. WORST FEUD
To be given to the worst rivalry between two or more performers. Formerly known as the Katie Vick award. RIP Katie. Past winners - 2011: Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler & Jim Ross, 2010 winner: Kane vs. Edge, 2009 winner: Triple H vs. Randy Orton
Winner: Kane vs. Zack Ryder/John Cena (Runners-Up: John Laurinaitis vs. Teddy Long)
The dreaded "embrace the hate" feud between Cena and Kane was so bad to begin this year. If you'll recall the story really was between Kane vs. Ryder, but then they involved Cena as a way to make Cena more likable heading into the feud with The Rock. The promos were so stupid. They ended up doing Cena vs. Kane at the Rumble and then again at Elimination Chamber in an Ambulance Match, which was one of the most boring matches of the year. As for Ryder, he didn't have that many matches against Kane and when he did he got his ass kicked. The only thing that could have salvaged this feud was if Ryder actually got a big win over Kane especially in a PPV match. That didn't happen, of course. Ryder is in an even worse spot on the roster this year too.
The same can be said about the Laurinaitis vs. Long feud that had such short term planning and so much nonsense on both shows. They feuded about power on both shows, yet after Laurinaitis' team won at WrestleMania he was only in power for about two more months. It was silly.
I'm sure there are other feuds out there that were bad, but these two jumped out at me the most.
8. WORST PAY-PER-VIEW
To be given to the worst PPV. They wanted us to pay money for this? Past winners - 2011: Over The Limit
Winner: Hell in a Cell (Runner-Up: Royal Rumble)
Hell in a Cell just felt like a flat show. The best match on the card was Big Show beating Sheamus for the World Title, which was a good match, but you wouldn't expect those two to have a match of the night considering how deep the WWE roster is. It was main evented by CM Punk vs. Ryback with Brad Maddox costing Ryback the title with a low blow. Every other match on the card was either average or below average. When you watch a PPV you expect it to be a little more special. Hell in a Cell was a disappointment.
I was very underwhelmed by the Royal Rumble this year. Sheamus won the Rumble match itself and he got to wrestle in the first match at WrestleMania just like Alberto Del Rio did the year before. Chris Jericho got second and he had a much bigger match at WrestleMania. So why should we care about who wins the match? It used to mean more. The rest of the show was underwhelming even with a CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler match because they weren't allowed to go all out and the story was more about Punk having to deal with then interim GM John Laurinaitis. Plus that John Cena vs. Kane match wasn't very good either.
9. WORST MATCH
To be given to the worst match. Past winners - 2011: Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler @ WrestleMania 27, 2010 winner: Kaitlyn vs. Maxine from NXT3, 2009 winner: Divas battle royal @ WrestleMania 25
Winner: John Cena vs. Michael Cole @ Raw June 4 (Runners-Up: Brodus Clay vs. David Otunga - No Way Out Pre-Show, Ricardo Rodriguez vs. Santino - No Way Out Tuxedo Match, John Laurinaitis vs. John Cena - Over The Limit)
Congrats to Michael Cole for being a part of the worst match of the year for the second year in a row! Remember John Cena vs. Michael Cole on Raw back in June? John Laurinaitis let Cena pick anybody to have a match with other than Big Show or himself, so Cena picked Cole. The "match" got the main event slot on Raw and it was given nine minutes. Cena ended up pouring BBQ sauce on Cole and then after Tensai attacked Cena (remember when Tensai actually had big matches?), Cena ended up pinning Cole to win. Brutal match. I wish I could forget it.
As for the runners-up, they were all bad. I'm sure if I really sat here for a while I could come up with dozens of other bad matches, but I'd rather forget about the bad matches. It's better for my sanity.
10. BEST TALKER
To be given to the best person at delivering promos. Past winners - 2011: CM Punk, 2010 winner: CM Punk, 2009 winner: Chris Jericho
Winner: CM Punk (Runners-Up: Daniel Bryan, Chris Jericho, The Rock)
That's three in a row for CM Punk as the best talker. I think it's a no brainer to put his name down as the best talker in the business and it's time to start thinking of him as one of the best promo men in the history of the business. This year he was able to show it all off as a confident babyface that threw in a joke every once in a while and then later in the year as an old school heel who ripped on the fans every chance he could. He's a master of the microphone.
I think if you told Daniel Bryan that he'd turn into one of the best talkers in the business you might have surprised him. He did it all this year on the microphone as a cocky heel, a comedic heel, a fighting babyface and so many awesome jerk promos in the direction of his girlfriend AJ.
I included Jericho and Rock in there even as part timers. Think of it is a lifetime tribute.
11. THE "NEXT BIG THING" AWARD
To be given to the wrestler that is most likely to be the "next big thing" in 2013. Past winners - 2011: Cody Rhodes, 2010 winner: Alberto Del Rio, 2009 winner: John Morrison
Winner: Dolph Ziggler (Runners-Up: Wade Barrett, Antonio Cesaro, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins)
I know that's the obvious answer, but I don't care. I think Ziggler's going to be a guy that raises his game in the next year as long as he is given the opportunity to prove just how good he is. It happened in the second half of this year as he won Money in the Bank, Vickie Guerrero was removed as his manager, he beat John Cena at TLC and now he's being paired with AJ Lee. The reason he's not there yet is because he lost to guys like Sheamus and Randy Orton way too often. Ziggler's the guy that puts on a great show in the ring, but he lost a lot of matches to the guys that are a level above him. What will be key in 2013 is to book him in a way where he's seen as an equal to the top guys. That's when he'll truly be considered a main eventer.
You can see I got it right in 2010 while my choices in 2009 and 2011 weren't the right choices. As for the runners up, they're all heels right now. I think they all might break through at some point. The roster is a bit crowded right now, so we'll see what happens.
12. THE "KTFO" AWARD
To be given to the person that deserves to be KNOCKED THE f*** OUT~! Past winners - 2011: Michael Cole, 2010 winner: The anonymous GM angle, 2009 winner: Michael Cole
Winner: Teddy Long (Runners-Up: Brodus Clay)
My favorite thing about the Teddy Long/John Laurinaitis feud was that I thought it would be the end of Long's boring career as an on-screen character. No. Even after he lost he was on screen nearly every week being humiliated by Laurinaitis and Eve while we were supposed to care about how Long was being treated. Guess what? We didn't care! He's in his late 60s. Let him retire. Then when Booker became the GM they brought him back as his adviser. Now on television they know the internet makes fun of his propensity for making tag matches, so they had him change a tag match into a four way match as a way to swerve people, I guess. I'm sure Teddy is a nice man. I'm not questioning that. It's just that this character needs to go away.
Remember all the hype for the Brodus Clay character at the end of last year? Most of us thought he would be a monster heel character that would be an ally of John Laurinaitis. Nope. He was a real life cartoon character that had boring matches. I guess the little kids like him, but that doesn't mean I ever want to see him in a match.
This year we found out that Hornswoggle was the anonymous Raw GM as well. Obviously that was WWE's way of being funny and showing us they didn't plan to reveal somebody credible. It was a joke from the beginning. That makes me feel better about giving this award to the stupid anonymous Raw GM angle in 2010.
13. BEST BABYFACE
To be given to the performer that is the best at receiving the adulation of the audience. Past winners - 2011: Randy Orton. Award began in 2011.
Winner: John Cena (Runners-Up: Sheamus, Randy Orton, CM Punk)
This award is pretty tough for me to pick because it hasn't been a great year for babyfaces. There are unlikable qualities about Cena, Sheamus and Orton because quite frankly they can be jerks a lot of the time.
John Cena wins in large part due to the feuds he had with The Rock, Brock Lesnar, CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler. All four of those feuds were excellent and they would be feuds that I would consider to be major, which makes me value them a lot more than others. His feuds with Kane, John Laurinaitis and Big Show were disappointing, but they were not bad enough for me to not give him the praise he deserves. You can't deny how valuable Cena's role was in his feud with Rock where he delivered a lot of good promos plus a solid match. The Lesnar battle was fantastic in terms of how real it felt. Lesnar bloodied him, he destroyed him in their match and Cena showed the heart of a babyface in fighting back to get the win. While I don't agree with Lesnar losing that match, if you look at it from the story/match perspective they did a phenomenal job. At the end of the year he put over Dolph Ziggler too. It wasn't a clean finish, but that's how heel wins are. I know the Cena haters will point out the fact that he gets booed a bit. That doesn't make him a bad babyface. He's a babyface as much as anybody in the history of the company based on the way he's booked.
I thought Sheamus had a really good year in terms of his matches. He really developed as a babyface as the year went on and it seems like he wrestled in more television matches than anybody in the company. I think some of his promos are pretty lame and the jokes they have him tell usually fall flat, but when it comes to his matches he does a really good job as a fighting babyface.
Randy Orton was better last year as a babyface largely because his in-ring work was superior. This year he had some good matches especially on pay-per-view, but I think he's gone as far as he can go as a babyface. It wouldn't shock me to see him turning heel in the very near future.
CM Punk deserves recognition because for the first six months of the year he was arguably the biggest babyface in the company. I don't feel like I can give him the award because he turned heel later in the year, but his work as a babyface was excellent.
14. BEST HEEL
To be given to the performer that is the best at drawing the ire of the audience. Past winners - 2011: Christian. Award began in 2011.
Winner: Daniel Bryan (Runners-Up: Dolph Ziggler, Big Show, CM Punk)
Even though Bryan isn't a heel right now, he was a heavily pushed heel from the beginning of the year with the heel turn that also involved the "yes" chant that turned into a phenomenon. I'll never forget how much of a jerk he was when AJ was telling him how much she loved him and he would reply by saying things like "I like you too." Brilliant. Early in the year on Smackdown, there were several instances where they would give him the microphone, put him in the ring and he'd deliver these fantastic five minute promos ripping on the fans. Then the "yes" chants grew, became a phenomenon and it allowed Bryan to become an even bigger star. While it's hard to pinpoint the exact moment he turned babyface (it was at some point in the fall season), it's his heel run in 2012 that I enjoyed as much as anything this year.
The character of Dolph Ziggler grew this year in terms of how he was perceived by the audience. He wasn't just a really good in-ring performer hanging around in the midcard. He moved up to that main event level, was given more opportunity to deliver promos and carried himself like a true superstar. He's somebody to keep your eye on in 2013 and beyond.
I've really enjoyed the heel run of Big Show. He was so boring in the first half of this year. In my opinion he should always be a heel. He's way better in that role and he's matches are much more enjoyable when he's the angry giant beating on people as opposed to being the big guy that's selling the moves of his opponents too much.
You'll notice that CM Punk earned a runners-up nod in both the best babyface and best heel category. That's because he was a face for nearly seven months and a heel for the rest of the year. I couldn't give him either award based on length, but his work in both roles needs to be commended.
15. BEST PHRASE
To be given to the best WWE word/phrase of the year. Past winners - 2011: "I don't hate you John Cena. I hate this idea that you're the best...I am the best wrestler in the world." - CM Punk, 2010 winner: "Let's hear it for friendship!" - The Flame/Jon Heder, 2009 winner: "Summerfest" - Jeremy Piven
Winner: "YES! YES! YES!" - Daniel Bryan (Runner-Up: "You're Welcome." - Damien Sandow)
This is one of the sillier awards, but still fun to write about. I think when I remember 2012 one of my fondest memories will be from WrestleMania 28 during the entrance of Daniel Bryan because that was when 70,000 people were chanting "yes" for his entire entrance. Then the next night at Raw, which I wasn't at, the chants seemed to be even louder and lasted for many more parts of the show. We've even heard the Spanish version of the chant as some fans will yell "Si! Si! Si!" at him. The "yes" chant is similar to the "What?" of Steve Austin that you'll still hear during promos in WWE whenever somebody is trying to get through a speech. I think the "yes" chants will stay with Daniel Bryan during his entire WWE run. It's one of the goofiest things I've been a part of at a wrestling show, yet it's damn fun too.
I could pick a lot of things as runners-up, but only wanted to list one as a runner up. That goes to the "you're welcome" that Damien Sandow says when he finishes up a speech. It's another basic phrase used by a heel to upset the fans and it works so well.
16. BEST DVD/BLU-RAY
To be given to the best WWE produced DVD/Blu-Ray that was released in the 2012 calendar year. Past winners - 2011: WWE Greatest Rivalries: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart. Award began in 2011.
Winner: CM Punk - Best in the World (Runner-Up: ECW Unreleased Vol. 1)
This one was a no brainer for me. The CM Punk DVD had a lot of hype all year and when it was released in October it did very well in terms of sales as well. The documentary portion of the disc was nearly two hours long and told the Punk story in a very honest way. We heard from a lot of Punk's closest friends from in and out of the wrestling business. The match selection is excellent as well. I thought they left out some of the better matches, but for the most part the choices did a good job of covering the different parts of his successful career. In case you haven't read it, you can read my CM Punk DVD review here.
I liked the ECW Unreleased DVD because it reminded me of what made ECW fun from the hard working talents to the passionate fans and the variety of matches. It wasn't just about hardcore matches like Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven, but there were also technical wrestling classics like Dean Malenko vs. Eddie Guerrero. The DVD is worth a look for ECW fans and for those that didn't follow it, but may be curious as to what it was all about.
17. BEST CROWD
To be given to the city that had the best fans for a particular WWE event. Past winners - 2011: Chicago for Money in the Bank. Award began in 2011.
Winner: Miami for WrestleMania 28 & Raw (Runner-Up: Chicago for Extreme Rules)
I was there for WrestleMania. I'm probably a little biased in picking Miami as the winner, but I think it's deserved. Then I thought about the crowd the next night at Raw and they might have been even better. I wasn't at Raw that night, but a lot of the fans that were at WrestleMania were also at Raw, so it was largely the same group of people that made a lot of noise in that city. I'll never forget standing up for 90% of the Undertaker vs. Triple H match or the noise when The Rock pinned Cena. Of course the other highlight were all the "yes" chants not only at WrestleMania, but also on Raw where they may have been even louder.
I'm sure other crowds were good that I'm not including here, but I remember Chicago being excellent as usual for Extreme Rules. Other consistently good crowds include New York City, Boston, Dallas and London, England. I would include Toronto except WWE didn't hold a TV taping or PPV there this year, which is very surprising to me. Why do you hate Toronto, WWE? Why?
18. MOST IMPROVED PERFORMER
To be given to the performer that has shown the most improvement in the last year. Past winners - 2011: Zack Ryder, 2010 winner: Cody Rhodes, 2009: Kofi Kingston
Winner: Ryback (Runners-Up: Eve, AJ Lee)
My basis for this award is to give it to somebody that went from struggling in their career to improving so much that they are a valuable part of WWE programming today. That's Ryback for me. Skip Sheffield was a bad gimmick with "yup yup what it do" as a catchphrase. Earlier this year when he returned to WWE TV as Ryback it was a major improvement because he was billed as a monster that could destroy anybody in his path. He went from being just another guy on the roster to being a main event player at Hell in a Cell against the WWE Champion CM Punk. His performance there was good, his performance at Survivor Series was even better and then his performance at TLC was fantastic.
The other performer that jumped out at me as improved were both women: Eve and AJ Lee. Eve went from being a boring babyface without a personality to a cocky heel that people grew to hate. AJ was a minor character at the end of last year and now she's turning heel in PPV main events. She's there because of her awesome screen presence.
19. BEST TURN
To be given to the best babyface or heel turn that benefitted the performer the most. Past winners - 2011: Mark Henry, 2010 winner: Kane, 2009: CM Punk
Winner: Big Show (Runners-Up: CM Punk, Eve)
This was a tough one to pick. For this award I don't necessarily give it to the best performer out of everybody that turned. What I do is award the person that became a significantly better on-air character because they went heel to face or face to heel. That's why the award goes to Big Show. His babyface run was boring. I thought his feud earlier in the year with Cody Rhodes was silly and pointless. Then the obvious heel turn happened as helped John Laurinaitis beat John Cena at Over The Limit. Since then Show has been booked stronger than any heel in the company on the way to becoming the World Champion.
I like Punk more as a heel in general because he reminds me of every great old school heel I grew up watching. However, I don't think the heel turn necessarily made him significantly better because he was already the wrestler of the year last year. I've already mentioned Eve several times. The heel turn benefitted her so much.
20. BEST VIDEO PACKAGE
To be given to the best video package that highlights a feud, performer or other event. Past winners - 2011: The "Macho Man" Randy Savage tribute video, 2010 winner: Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Winner: Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena @ Extreme Rules (Runners-Up: Raw history video @ Raw 1000 July 23, Undertaker vs. Triple H @ WrestleMania 28, The Rock vs. John Cena @ WrestleMania 28, CM Punk vs. John Cena @ Night of Champions)
Remember that Brock Lesnar promo video they aired on Raw prior to his match with John Cena at Extreme Rules? "I'm not a superstar. I'm an ass kicker." That was it. It explained exactly what Brock Lesnar was about and why he had made such an impact in WWE during his career. The first half of the promo was about Lesnar talking about his intentions: "I don't care about anybody but Brock Lesnar." Then they showed the promo on Raw when Edge told Cena he needed to wake up. It set up the Lesnar/Cena showdown so well. I absolutely loved that video. Here's that video unless it gets taken down because WWE saw that I linked to it, which has happened many times before haha.
As for the others, they were all awesome. It goes without saying that WWE's video production team is outstanding and those three minute promo videos they put together to set up these matches are really appreciated by the fans. The Raw 1000 video on July 23 was more of a nostalgic look at the history of Raw, so that one stood out in my mind a lot. The other three mentioned dealt with some of the bigger matches of the year.
21. FUNNIEST PERFORMER
To be given to the performer that makes you laugh the most. Past winners - 2011: R-Truth, 2010 winner: Santino, 2009 winner: Santino
Winner(s): Daniel Bryan & Kane (Runner-Up: Santino, Ricardo Rodriguez)
I don't like cheating and giving two people one award, but in this case I had to do it. Bryan's been funny for most of the year as a neurotic heel that played up the "goat face" act very well. Kane wasn't funny at the start of the year in that awful feud with Cena & Ryder, but once the "Team Hell No" thing fell into place in the summer it was comedic gold. Most of the "Anger Management" skits they did were fantastic especially the therapy sessions that also featured Dr. Shelby, Harold ("Shut Up Harold!) and others. Kudos to the performers as well as the writing team for that.
Santino is consistently funny when he's given good material to work with. The problem is that sometimes the comedy is really bad and even he can't make it work like that Tuxedo Match with Ricardo Rodriguez. A lot of the stuff they did was hilarious, but that was brutal. Santino's comedy is mostly awesome. It's just that this year he was topped by Team Hell No.
22. BEST PROMOTIONAL MOVE
To be given to WWE for the best move they made as a company. Past winners - 2011: The return of The Rock. Award began in 2011.
Winners: Promoting The Undertaker vs. Triple H as "End of an Era" (CM Punk's title run that is over one year long, Bringing back Brock Lesnar)
This was tough. I went with the presentation of the Undertaker/Triple H match because I thought it was brilliant. They did the match at WrestleMania 27 in 2011 and they couldn't just do a rematch because that would be too repetitive. This time around they added the Hell in a Cell stipulation¸ which promised a more violent match, and they also added Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. I think calling it an "End of an Era" match was also brilliant in the sense that they were telling fans that these guys were key figures in WWE's past, so enjoy it while it's here because it's the last time you'll see them against eachother. The way the match was presented made it feel that much more special.
I've liked the CM Punk year long title reign (it will pass 400 days soon) a lot. I think it's a smart move because it raises the credibility of Punk and also the title he's holding. It's certainly better than having eight title changes in a year like we had a few years ago. As for the return of Lesnar, both of his PPV matches (Extreme Rules & Summerslam) led to an increase in buyrates for both events. He's worth every penny. It would have been nice to see him more, but he negotiated the limited dates deal, so more power to him.
23. BEST TAG TEAM
To be given to the two men that function best as a tag team. Past winners - 2011: Air Boom (Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston), 2010 winner: The Hart Dynasty, 2009 winner: Chris Jericho and The Big Show
Winners: Team Hell No (Kane & Daniel Bryan) (Runners-Up: Team Rhodes Scholars - Damien Sandow & Cody Rhodes, The Primetime Players - Titus O'Neil & Darren Young)
It's been a year of tag team resurgence in WWE. I've enjoyed it immensely. While the winners of this award are an odd couple team, the rest of the division is really strong right now too. It's weird giving the award to a couple of guys that have only been teaming up for about four months, but they're clearly the most successful team in WWE this year. It's not just about the wins of Kane & Bryan, but it's the reaction they get. The crowd is heavily invested in everything they do whether it's having a match or making us laugh during some in-ring promo or backstage vignette. I don't know if the creative team planned for this team to be together or if they just went with it because their chemistry was there. It doesn't matter why they did it. I'm just glad it happened.
I think when you look at Team Rhodes Scholars and The Primetime Players you have two heel teams that you can build the division around. I don't think Team Rhodes Scholars will be a team as long as TPP is, but at least for the first half of 2013 they're going to be tag wrestlers for the most part. In addition to them you have Primo & Epico, The Usos, Rey Mysterio & Sin Cara, Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd and likely The Shield as tag teams that can be the focal point of the division. I'm excited about the future of the tag division.
24. BEST INDIVIDUAL PROMO
To be given to the one speech that was the best in the last year. It's the first year for this award.
This is a new award I just created this year to replace the "Summerfest" award for unintentional comedy because I wanted to give an award to the mouse on Raw last year. If I did this award last year it would have gone to CM Punk's June speech in Las Vegas. I could have picked so many things for this award, but I went with one winner and two runners-up.
Winner: Kane's Speech at Anger Management @ Raw August 27 (Runners-Up: John Cena's rap @ Raw March 12, Degeneration X return @ Raw July 23)
The Kane speech was comedy gold. It's rare that WWE can have a comedy segment where I'll legitimately laugh for a few minutes, but this was one of those segments where you went back to watch it again a few times just because of how awesome it was. Here it is in full.
"I grew up locked in a basement suffering severe psychological and emotional scarring when my brother set my parents on fire. From there I shifted around a series of mental institutions until I was grown at which point I buried my brother alive...twice. Since then I've set a couple of people on fire and abducted various co-workers. Oh and once I electrocuted a man's testicles. Years ago I had a girlfriend named Katie, but let's just say that didn't turn out so well. My real father is a guy named Paul Bearer who I recently trapped in a meat locker. I've been married, divorced. Broke up my ex-wife's wedding and Tombstoned a priest. And for reasons never quite explained I have an unhealthy obsession with torturing Pete Rose." Here's the video with memes!
The runner up was John Cena's rap against The Rock on the March 12 edition of Raw. It was old school Cena as he walked out to his "Basic Thuganomics" music, had on a retro Mark Price basketball jersey, a backwards hat, the chain around the neck and a lot of authority during his promo. It wasn't very PG either. And the crowd absolutely loved every second of it. I did too. (Video)
My last mention goes to the DX reunion on the July 23rd edition of Raw. It was a fun nostalgia moment that also involved Damien Sandow, who got his ass kicked by the group. Good times. (Video)
25. MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT
To be given to the most memorable moment of the year. Past winners - 2011: CM Punk's Promo on Raw June 27, 2010 winner: Bret & Shawn embrace in the ring, 2009 winner: The Undertaker/Michaels match
Winner: Brock Lesnar's return @ Raw April 2 (Runners up: CM Punk GTS to Rock @ Raw July 23, The Shield attacks Ryback @ Survivor Series)
For this award I don't try to give it to a match. I could obviously give it to Undertaker/Triple H, but there was already an award for that. I did give this award to match in 2009 simply because I thought Undertaker/Michaels was the greatest match in WWE history and it deserved it. This year I had to pick a moment.
This was a two horse race to me. It was either Lesnar's return or Punk's attack on Rock. Ultimately I went with Lesnar's return because I didn't know if we would ever see him in WWE again. The reports of him being in Miami during WrestleMania weekend had surfaced online, but we didn't know if we would see him at WM28 or at Raw. At the end of Raw, after Cena was putting over The Rock in promo, Lesnar showed up and he gave Cena an F5 to end the show. No words spoken. Statement made. Perfect.
I think CM Punk's heel turn on the 1000th episode of Raw was very memorable. I remember in the build up to the show there was a lot of hype about something big happening. Would it be a stable? The debut of a new performer? A return? It was the Punk heel turn. I guess the thinking was that the heel side of the roster needed a top guy and it's better for Punk to be the #1 heel than the #2 babyface since John Cena is entrenched in that role.
Finally, I included The Shield's surprise attack on Ryback at Survivor as a runner up because it was a moment that had a special feel to it. There has been so much hype about Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose, who have been a part of WWE developmental for more than a year. Along with Roman Reigns, they made their surprising debut as a group and absolutely destroyed Ryback that night to prevent him from winning the World Title. I think all three guys will have a huge impact in WWE not only in 2013, but in the next decade going forward.
THE MINOR AWARDS
These are other awards/random thoughts that I basically made up off the top of my head without going into full details. There are 10 of them. I could do more, but this is a long enough column as it is.
Biggest off screen news story - Jerry Lawler's heart attack
Even though it happened on Raw it was not a part of the show. When Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack on Raw in Montreal it was one of the scariest things that ever happened in WWE. Thankfully, WWE's medical team and the hospital in Montreal were able to save his life. Two months later he was back to doing commentary and it was great to see him on Raw again.
Best non-wrestler - Paul Heyman
One of the best returns to WWE this year involved Heyman coming back as the manager of Brock Lesnar. Call him the adviser if you want. Whatever term you want to use, seeing Heyman back was a wonderful thing. Then when Lesnar "quit" WWE in storyline, Heyman showed up as an associate as CM Punk and he has been great in the role. He talks a lot less than he used to because Punk doesn’t need a mouthpiece, but when Heyman does speak it's always interesting.
Best finishing move - Antonio Cesaro's Neutralizer
Huge fan of this guy. Love that move as a finisher. When he did it to Brodus Clay I was very impressed. Runner up would be Brock Lesnar's F5, which is one of my favorite moves ever although we obviously didn't see it often enough.
Most disappointing trend - The WWE Title not main eventing PPVs
I was disappointed with the actual main event of PPVs that involved John Cena matches rather than WWE Title matches featuring CM Punk. The first eight PPVs of 2012 did not feature the WWE Title as the last match. I don't think we'll ever see it again. The runner up for this was showing Tout videos on television, but I couldn't put that over the lack of WWE Title matches in PPV main events.
Best sign on WWE TV/PPV - "The John Report" at Over The Limit
I'm biased! This sign held by TJR reader Eric Thomas at Over The Limit was a classic. Plus the guy beside it had a giant CM Punk head sign as well, which makes it even better. This picture was actually in a photo gallery on WWE.com, so that's pretty cool too. Better than getting a screen cap of it. Here's a link to other TJR sign photos over the years.
The feud I want to see in 2013 - Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler
Last year I put CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler here. They did have a PPV match at the Royal Rumble, but it wasn't enough for me. I'm going with babyface Bryan vs. heel Ziggler for this one. Now that AJ has joined up with Ziggler the story is easy to write. They had a feud in late 2010 that provided us with a few awesome matchups. However, in 2013 both guys will be much bigger stars so I'd love to see what would happen if they got a chance to show what they can do.
Best announcer - John Bradshaw Layfield
This is an easy winner for me. He hasn't been at the job full time for the entire year, but it still goes to him. I'm glad he's renewed his interest in wanting to be a commentator because he's great at it. JBL is the kind of announcer that reminds me of the classic heels I grew up with in that role like Bobby Heenan, Jesse Ventura and Jerry Lawler. Keep up the good work, JBL.
Most disappointing injury - Christian
As a lifelong Christian fan (since his indy days) I had to pick him. He's been out for most of the year with injuries and we don't know when he'll be back. The other name that came to mind was Mark Henry. What's interesting is that both guys had World Title reigns in 2011 and in 2012 they missed most of the year. Maybe there was a World Title curse? Also a shout out to Evan Bourne who is recovering from a major foot injury. Remember him?
Most poorly used performer - Zack Ryder
I could have went with Jack Swagger again, but instead I'll give it to Ryder. A year ago he was holding the US Title. Then he lost it early in the year, was made to look like a weak jobber at the hands of Kane and was booked poorly despite the fans chanting his name as recently as this past Sunday. Why not give him a shot? I don't get it.
Personal favorite markout moment - Attending WrestleMania 28 live
I was at WrestleMania 27, but it wasn't a very good show and our seats were in the second level. It was hard to see anything. For WrestleMania 28, I got tickets in the $150 price range and then when we got there our view was blocked by the palm trees used on the corner of the ring. Despite all that, the show was a lot of fun to attend live with the "yes" chants, the "move the palm trees" chant and marking out for things like that Undertaker/Triple H match even though I had to watch most of it by looking at the video screens. Also the ovation for The Rock when he beat John Cena in the main event was one of the loudest ovations I've ever heard. I'll never forget it.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WWE IN 2012
Since I always like to rate the shows out of 10, how about a rating for the year? I rated 2009 a 5.5, 2010 a 5 and 2011 got a 7 out of 10. This year I give WWE a 7 out of 10 once again.
What I liked most about this year was that the two best performers were CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. You can put them in whatever order you want, but to me they were clearly better than everybody else. I love that because they're two guys who worked their asses off to get to WWE, then once they got there we weren't sure if they would ever get a big push and this year we saw both of them reach the top.
I also think it was a year for part time performers since The Rock, Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho, Undertaker and Triple H all made a huge impact on programming this year. I know some people don't like that the part-time performers get to main event PPVs or are given bigger roles at WrestleMania, but I don't mind it. They have paid their dues and they've earned it.
Looking ahead, the future is bright for WWE. There is so much talent on the roster. If you look at the heel side alone there are guys like Dolph Ziggler, Wade Barrett, Antonio Cesaro, Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and so many others that have main event level potential. That doesn't even count the babyface side or all of the talent in developmental.
Who will break through and be a star in 2013? I have no idea. That's what makes the wrestling business. It's what keeps me interested in watching all the shows as well as writing about them. The business never stops and that's what I love the most about it.
If you made it through this nearly 10,000 word article I thank you very much for that. I don't expect everybody to agree with all of my choices. I hope it creates some discussion, though, so be sure to send me your thoughts on the awards whether it's by commenting on the article itself, via email, Facebook, Twitter or however you want to get in touch with me. Your feedback means a lot to me. If you're one of those people that reads a lot of my work without writing this is one of those times where I'm asking for your thoughts because I want to know what you thought. Don't be shy. I reply to all emails.
Thank you to my good friend Steve Melo for the banner you saw at the top of this post and the banners in every one of my columns including the always fun "preferred" Raw Deal banners.
Thank you for all of the support of my work this year. I've enjoyed it and have no plans on slowing down anytime soon. I'm looking forward to 2013 and especially that CM Punk vs. The Rock match at Royal Rumble. See what I mean? The business never stops. There's always something to look forward to.
This isn't the last column of the year, but I'm still going to wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas if you celebrate it and a Happy New Year as well.
As I said, please don't hesitate to contact me. The info is below. Thanks so much for reading!
John Canton - email@example.com