The John Report Presents: The 2013 WWE Johnny Awards
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Welcome to the 2013 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 5th annual WWE Johnny Awards! They're like the Slammy Awards except with better writing! Sorry Vince. 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. It's about the performance more than anything. (This intro was basically the same as last year. You're welcome.)
Regarding NXT, I watch it most weeks. Sometimes I missed it. For the most part I'm not going to include it in these awards because it is its own entity in a lot of ways. Aside from the best NXT match that I'll mention below, I'm going to focus more on PPVs, Raw and Smackdown. I need to write something NXT related soon and I will in the new year.
THE 20 MAJOR JOHNNY AWARDS
There will be 20 major awards. In past years there were 25, but I decided to cut five out because it was too much. Each one will have a description of what the award is, the previous winners of the award (if the award existed in the last four 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 bad things deserve to be remembered too. I'll also include photos, videos and links to relevant content so be on the lookout for that throughout the column. Let's get to it.
1. BEST WRESTLER
To be given to the person that best combines workrate, character, microphone work and everything else into one. This is similar to WWE's Superstar of the Year award. Past winners - 2012: CM Punk, 2011: CM Punk, 2010: Randy Orton, 2009: Chris Jericho
Winner: Daniel Bryan (Runners-Up: CM Punk, John Cena, Randy Orton)
This was really close. It was the most difficult year for me to do this in the five years since I started this awards column. In 2009 it was definitely Jericho although CM Punk was close that year thanks to that money feud with Jeff Hardy. I just thought Jericho was more consistently great. I remember a year like 2010 where there really wasn't anybody that stood out and I don't even like my choice from that year. Those really weren't good years for WWE. In 2011 it was obviously CM Punk's year because he broke through. Last year was pretty close with Punk and Daniel Bryan, but ultimately I went with Punk. This year was even closer than last year.
My choice for Best Wrestler is Daniel Bryan because I think he encompassed everything that it takes to earn the most important award that there is. He's performed at a high level all year long without taking any breaks. Even though he was mostly a tag wrestler in the first half of the year, he made it work. The three guys in The Shield benefitted from working with him. I also feel like he had the most great matches considering all the matches he had seemingly every week on Raw, Smackdown and of course PPVs as well. He also didn't miss any time, which shows how durable he is. As a talker he continued his improvement from a year earlier. I loved his heel run in 2012, but I think he had more of a comfort level on the microphone this year as a babyface. Bryan could have been booked better. There's no doubt about that. That's out of his control, though. As a performer he was the best in 2013 to me.
CM Punk has won this award two years in a row and his performance didn't drop off this year at all. If you look at his best matches he has more top matches than anybody in the company. He's a big game wrestler so to speak. Obviously in terms of his promos he's as good as there is too. There were some feuds he had during the year that I didn't really care for (Curtis Axel and Ryback to name a few), but I think the great matches with different performers like Cena, Jericho, Undertaker and a high profile feud with Rock showed just how versatile he is. Maybe if he stayed heel all year he'd have won this because he's so great in that role, but for 2013 he falls to second place for me.
I put Cena and Orton in there as runners up because I think both had very good years as top guys in the promotion. Each performed well in most of the big matches they had. Not everything worked in part because of the booking, but they each had really strong years all things considered.WWE Wrestler of the Year 2013
2. BEST FEUD
To be given to the best rivalry between two or more performers. Past winners - 2012: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan, 2011: Randy Orton vs. Christian, 2010: The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan, 2009: CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy
Winner: CM Punk vs. Paul Heyman/Brock Lesnar (Runners-Up: Daniel Bryan/Kane vs. Roman Reigns/Seth Rollins, Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. The Authority)
I think the Punk vs. Heyman rivalry was the best one in WWE this year. It started around Payback when Punk came back after a couple of months off and basically told Heyman he didn't need him at ringside anymore. That upset Heyman, so when Punk was in the WWE Money in the Bank ladder match Heyman was there to cost him the victory. Then Brock Lesnar showed up to take out Punk and the rivalry was set. That led to an epic showdown at SummerSlam with Lesnar beating Punk in a No DQ match. It's a shame that Lesnar has a limited schedule because if he was around more we could have had two or three matches with him and Punk that would have been incredible. The Punk/Heyman rivalry continued through to TLC where Punk ultimately one by beating Ryback & Heyman at Hell in a Cell and then destroying Heyman on top of the cell. It wasn't a traditional wrestler vs. wrestler feud, but it was the best of the year.
My second favorite rivalry of the year was Daniel Bryan teaming up with Kane against The Shield. Remember, they dominated the tag team scene in the first half of the year. There were so many tag matches with them whether it was regular 2 on 2 format or six man tags. The feuded gave Kane some new life as a babyface teaming with a popular guy like Bryan and The Shield benefitted from working with top guys. In doing so, they became top guys themselves. That's a very successful feud in my opinion.
The Cody Rhodes/Goldust feud with The Authority that also involved Randy Orton and The Shield worked very well. Cody turned babyface after feuding with Damien Sandow and didn't really have any momentum. He was about to get married, so they put him in a match with Randy Orton with his job on the line. He lost, so they brought Goldust back to get him his job back and he lost to Orton too. They were given a try as a team against The Shield. Not only did they get their job back, but they won the tag titles as well. They also became one of the best tag teams as well.
It would have been nice if I could put the Bryan vs. Orton feud in here, but I don't think there were enough good things about it to warrant a mention. If it was booked better it could have been a contender that's for sure.
3. BEST MATCH
To be given to the best match. Past winners - 2012: The Undertaker vs. Triple H (Shawn Michaels as ref) @ WrestleMania 28, 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: Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk @ Summerslam Aug 18 (Runners-Up: John Cena vs. CM Punk @ Raw Feb 25, Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena @ Summerslam Aug 18, Antonio Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn @ NXT Aug 21, Undertaker vs. CM Punk @ WM29 Apr 7)
This is the hardest award for me to pick this year. I've listed five matches up above, but it's been such a strong year that I could add another ten and the quality would still be very high. One of the best things about WWE in 2013 is the number of great matches they had all year long on PPV, Raw, Smackdown, Main Event and NXT. It shows just how great their roster is. If you're reading this and thinking "what about this match" all I can say is I tried to narrow it down to five. These are the ones I liked the most.
My final decision came down to the top two: Lesnar/Punk and Cena/Punk. The Lesnar/Punk match was a violent No DQ battle that also involved Paul Heyman interfering to prevent Punk from winning. I'm sure some people don't like that, but it's part of the story. I don't mind it. Lesnar is incredible when he works with a smaller wrestler likes Punk because he comes off like such a bully and Punk showed so much heart as a babyface who wouldn't quit.
Most of the year I would have said Cena/Punk was the choice because it was a match contested under regular rules and they went 26 minutes in the main event of Raw to deliver one of the best televised matches in WWE history. Remember that Punk piledriver? Or Cena's hurricanrana? They tried everything as a way to tell the story that it was a must win match.
I re-watched both matches in the last week and I thought Lesnar/Punk was better. They're different types of matches, so it's up to what you prefer really. Obviously there are other matches to consider too. I'm just trying to share my thought process.
The other three matches I mentioned up above were all special in their own way too. Daniel Bryan beating Cena clean for the WWE Title at SummerSlam was one of my favorite moments of the year while I admire Cena for working so hard even with a torn triceps. Cesaro vs. Zayn on NXT was a special 2/3 falls match where they did some amazing things together and the crowd absolutely loved it. The finish to that match was especially great. Undertaker vs. Punk was another classic Taker match at WrestleMania where we knew who was going to win, but the action was so good that's all that really matters. Seeing Undertaker against a true heel was a welcome sight after the babyface battles with Michaels and Triple H in previous years.
I could mention others like Punk/Jericho at Payback for example, but there's more to this awards column than just matches. Like I said, it was a strong year for in-ring performances in WWE and that's why it was so hard to pick just one winner for this award.
4. BEST PAY-PER-VIEW
To be given to the best pay-per-view. Past winners - 2012:Extreme Rules, 2011: Money in the Bank, 2010 winner: WrestleMania 26, 2009 winner: Summerslam
Winner: SummerSlam (Runners-Up: Money in the Bank, Payback, Elimination Chamber)
This is easy for me to figure out because I rank them when I review them and SummerSlam got my highest score of the year with a 9 out of 10. It was one of the best WWE PPVs ever with two match of the year contender (Lesnar/Punk and Bryan/Cena), plus a solid Del Rio/Christian WHC match and the memorable heel turn of Randy Orton and Triple H to end the night. I had high expectations going into SummerSlam. It lived up to the hype. (Review)
The other PPVs I have listed there were all solid shows from top to bottom that I gave 8 out of 10. Money in the Bank is usually great because of two ladder matches that tend to get a lot of time. (Review)
Payback took place in Chicago with CM Punk making his big return against Chris Jericho, which was an awesome match. (Review)
I enjoyed Elimination Chamber with the EC match (won by Jack Swagger of all people), a solid Show/Del Rio match, a six man tag with The Shield winning against Cena/Sheamus/Ryback and Rock/Punk was solid too. (Review)
I always feel like WrestleMania should be mentioned in this category, but this year it just wasn't a special show. I hope that WrestleMania 30 brings it back to prominence.
5. BEST FEMALE PERFORMER
To be given to the best female performer. Past winners - 2012: Eve, 2011: Beth Phoenix, 2010 winner: Natalya, 2009 winner: Mickie James
Winner: AJ Lee (Runners-Up: Kaitlyn, Natalya, Brie Bella)
I think it's an easy choice this year. I almost gave it to AJ Lee last year, but didn't feel like I could because she was kept out of the ring for most of 2012. Eve deserved it more. This year, AJ Lee became more of an in-ring performer and it seems like she's the only women's wrestler that is allowed to cut promos too. That shows the confidence that management has in her. There are certain things she has to improve on like her offensive maneuvers, but part of the gimmick is that she's smaller than everybody so her offense isn't going to be that strong. Adding Tamina as her bodyguard helped as well. She can hide behind her. AJ's the most popular diva in WWE right now and it's really not that close.
I put Kaitlyn as the first runner up because she has really improved in the last year. I thought the feud with AJ was pretty good for the most part. Some of the booking was stupid with her crying all the time because WWE tends to book babyface women to cry since they have an inability to know what women are really like. It's just a shame that she basically disappeared in the second half of the year because she wasn't on Total Divas. Natalya was solid all year as usual while Brie has also improved in the ring.
What else did Kaitlyn and Brie have in common in 2013? Both got engaged. They also had exposed nipples on Raw. Congratulations!
6. BEST TALKER
To be given to the best person at delivering promos. Past winners - 2012: CM Punk, 2011: CM Punk, 2010 winner: CM Punk, 2009 winner: Chris Jericho
Winner: Paul Heyman (Runner-Up: CM Punk)
I'm only listing two people because I believe they're head and shoulders above everybody else. I hate picking ties, so I had to pick one person. They're not just the best two guys in WWE right, but I think both belong in the discussion for best talkers in wrestling history. They've both put in enough work to be a part of that discussion. Maybe that's another column for another time.
Picking a winner was hard. I think Heyman's awesome in terms of getting over the right type of emotion in his promos. He can be vengeful, funny, brutally honest, cruel and of course we know he can lie. I think he's at his best when he's trying to back his way out of something he said by lying to get out of it. He started the year by CM Punk's side, but he spent the summer and fall against his best friend cutting some of the best promos in the wrestling business. He's the rightful winner of this award.
As you can see, Punk has won this award three years in a row and it's not like he has dropped off at all. I thought his promos when he was feuding with The Rock and Undertaker were especially great. Maybe I just really like his heel promos more than the face ones. It's not like his promos as a face are bad. I just think he's an all-time great as a heel.
There are others worth mentioning here like John Cena, who can be fantastic when he does his serious promos in trying to build up to a big match. He's a great promoter in that sense. I think Daniel Bryan has grown as a talker to the point that he's one of the best there is too. If you look lower down the card, people like Damien Sandow and Dean Ambrose appear to be guys that can really stand out if they are given the opportunity to do so.
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 - 2012: Kane vs. Zack Ryder/John Cena, 2011: Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler & Jim Ross, 2010 winner: Kane vs. Edge, 2009 winner: Triple H vs. Randy Orton
Winner: Big Show vs. Triple H/Randy Orton (Runners-Up: Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger, Los Matadores vs. 3MB)
The winner of the worst feud is obviously fresh in my mind. I try to factor in the importance of the feud when picking the winner. That whole Big Show vs. HHH/Orton story was brutal in terms of logic with Big Show being fired, then he got his job back and was given a WWE Title shot even though he barely wrestled leading up to the match. He also dropped a lawsuit that apparently could have given him "control of the company" because one WWE Title match is better than owning a company. All I remember about the Orton/Show match is that the crowd didn't care about what they are doing. That's not a good sign for a PPV main event.
Looking back on WrestleMania now, I don't know what WWE was thinking in doing a face Del Rio vs. Swagger feud. It didn't work. They should have had Ziggler against Del Rio there. Los Matadores vs. 3MB makes it on here because I'm just so sick of seeing them work together.
8. WORST PAY-PER-VIEW
To be given to the worst PPV. They wanted us to pay money for this? Past winners - 2012: Hell in a Cell, 2011: Over The Limit
Winner: Battleground (Runners-Up: Night of Champions, Survivor Series)
I don't remember too much from Battleground in October because it was a forgettable show. The most memorable match was when Cody & Goldust beat The Shield to get their jobs back with WWE. The booking of the Orton/Bryan main event was brutal with Big Show interfering, which led to no winner being announced. It was one of the worst PPV endings in years. (Review)
I was at Night of Champions in Detroit. It was a very average show with a fast count ending that was completely unnecessary and led to some awful booking in major title matches at three PPVs in a row. (Review)
Survivor Series was a very forgettable show with a poorly built card and a main event in Randy Orton vs. Big Show that the fans absolutely didn't care about. I miss when Survivor Series was a big deal. It isn't even close anymore. (Review)
9. WORST MATCH
To be given to the worst match. Past winners - 2012: John Cena vs. Michael Cole @ Raw June 4, 2011: Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler @ WrestleMania 27, 2010 winner: Kaitlyn vs. Maxine from NXT3, 2009 winner: Divas battle royal @ WrestleMania 25
Winner: Santino vs. Heath Slater @ Smackdown September 27, 2013 "Snake Charmer" (Runners-Up: Divas tag match @ Survivor Series, Vickie Guerrero vs. AJ Lee @ Raw Nov 18)
I realize that the Santino/Slater match on Smackdown was done as a comedy bit. Santino brought out his cobra, then Jinder Mahal jumped on the apron trying to charm the cobra with an instrument and Khali did too while this fake music started to play over the taped broadcast. I know that some 8 year old at home probably thought it was the greatest thing ever, but I thought it was painfully bad. I'm sure that members of the creative thought it was hilarious because if they didn't why would it make it on TV? I just thought it was a waste of time. (Video)
The 7 on 7 Divas Elimination tag at Survivor Series was pretty bad. It showed that WWE had maybe eight women that should be wrestling regularly, but 14? That's too many. This is from my analysis of the match: "That was one of the most rushed elimination matches you're ever going to see. There were 12 eliminations in 12 minutes." The shocking thing is they actually did the match again the next night. It wasn't as bad the second time, but I really hope they re-think the idea of doing a match like that next year.
The Vickie/AJ "match" on Raw in November was done as a mockery of AJ fainting while WWE was on tour in England. They had Vickie pretend to faint during the match. Once again it was another attempt at comedy that failed. The end of the match saw AJ put Vickie in her deadly Black Widow submission that Vickie no sold immediately after tapping out. Stop putting Vickie in matches. (Video)
I'm sure there were other matches that I missed, but those are the three that I thought of the most. On the positive side, at least we didn't have to see Michael Cole in a match! See that? I'm always looking at the positives.
10. BEST TAG TEAM
To be given to the two men that function best as a tag team. Past winners - 2012: Team Hell No (Kane & Daniel Bryan), 2011: Air Boom (Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston), 2010 winner: The Hart Dynasty, 2009 winner: Chris Jericho and The Big Show
Winners: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns (Runners-Up: Cody Rhodes & Goldust, Kane & Daniel Bryan, Jimmy & Jey Uso, The Real Americans)
One of the best things about WWE in 2013 is that the tag team division is back to being a strength in the company. It also made this a difficult award to pick because there were two teams really worthy of this title. Since I don't like picking ties, I went with Rollins & Reigns over Goldust & Cody due to the fact that they teamed longer so there were more matches to think about with them. Both teams are excellent. Their match at Battleground when Goldust & Cody won the tag titles from them is one of the best tag matches of the year. I just think Rollins & Reigns are more worthy due to their longevity as a team.
The Kane/Daniel Bryan team almost lasted a full year since they started teaming up at the end of summer 2012 and tagged through the middle of 2013. I think the team benefitted both guys, but it was obviously time for Bryan to move on to singles. The Usos really grew a lot this year. I think they're a team to watch going forward. I'd be very surprised if they don't win the tag titles in 2014. The fans love them and they deserve a run with the gold. I'm really taking a liking to the Real Americans. There are rumors of an Antonio Cesaro face turn, but I hope he stays where he is for at least another six months. If he goes face he'll get lost in the shuffle. He has more value right now in a heel tag team.
I love tag team wrestling and I'm so happy that it's back to prominence in WWE.
11. THE "NEXT BIG THING" AWARD
To be given to the wrestler that is most likely to be the "next big thing" in the new year. Past winners - 2012: Dolph Ziggler, 2011: Cody Rhodes, 2010 winner: Alberto Del Rio, 2009 winner: John Morrison
Winner: Roman Reigns (Runners-Up: Big E Langston, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins)
The WWE roster is loaded with talent. A year ago would I have expected to pick Roman Reigns for this award? No. It's not as if he has come out of nowhere, but compared to his Shield brethren he definitely had less hype than them. He's grown so much this year as a performer. His size will certainly help him going forward. The Spear he does is as devastating as anybody that's ever done it except maybe Goldberg, who was the best at it. I've never been much of a Goldberg fan, but I give him props for that. Reigns could be a main eventer in 2014. It might happen in 2015, though, if they choose to use 2014 as a year to build him up. Keep an eye on him. He'll be a star.
The others I mentioned all deserve a lot of praise too. Langston has the size that we know WWE management loves. Wyatt has a gimmick that will allow him to stick out from the pack. Ambrose & Rollins have very bright futures as does Reigns, but I think Roman is going to get the bigger push before them. We saw it at Survivor Series. It will build from there.
12. BEST HEEL
To be given to the performer that is the best at drawing the ire of the audience. Past winners 2012: Daniel Bryan, 2011: Christian. Award began in 2011.
Winner: Paul Heyman (Runners-Up: The Shield, The Wyatt Family, CM Punk)
I really wanted to give this to CM Punk since he's an all-time great heel in my opinion, but his heel run didn't last long enough. It ended at WrestleMania because after he took a couple of months off, he came back as a babyface. Due to that, I have to give it to a non-wrestler in Paul Heyman.
Heyman is one of the best non-wrestling heels ever right up there with Bobby Heenan. The role of the manager is to talk for your client, help them when they need it and when the time is right take an ass kicking of your own as well. Heyman's not the kind of heel that wants to make jokes to make people laugh. The guy's an insensitive, selfish jerk that will tell it to your face and then hide behind whoever he is managing to avoid an ass-kicking that he knows he deserves.
I added The Shield in as runners up because they were main event heels as a tag team. You don't see that often. With their impending breakup happening likely in early 2014 their run will be over soon. I'm glad they were pushed the way they were because it was one of the best things about WWE in 2013. The Wyatt Family gets an honorable mention because they are creepy heels that allow them to stand out from the pack. Their future is very bright.
My last point regarding best heel is that I think if Brock Lesnar worked a full time schedule he would absolutely run away with this award. He's the epitome of a badass bully heel that can have great matches along the way.
13. BEST BABYFACE
To be given to the performer that is the best at receiving the adulation of the audience. Past winners - 2012: John Cena, 2011: Randy Orton. Award began in 2011.
Winner: Daniel Bryan (Runners-Up: CM Punk, John Cena)
This is a no contest really. Nobody connected with the crowd better in 2013 than Daniel Bryan. The fans absolutely love him as they chant "yes" for everything he does and when he gains momentum on offense they get behind him as well as anybody. I realize that a lot of the popularity is based on chanting something easy like "yes" and the kids in the crowd can get behind it pretty easily too. It's similar to the "what" thing that Steve Austin did. What's interesting is both of those chants started when each guy was a heel. Bryan's WWE Title win at SummerSlam was one of the happiest moments of the year because of how hard he fought to get there. It also made it all the more painful when he lost the title moments later. Not only is he a successful babyface, but he's also a sympathetic one due to his size as one of the smaller performers in the company. The great thing about Bryan's face run is we're still very early into it. He has years as a babyface ahead of him and he's in the prime of his career. The best could be yet to come for him.
The two runners-up are obviously Punk and Cena just because of who they are, how they are positioned as talents and the reactions they receive. Punk's not necessarily the most likable guy based on his persona, but he's been around long enough that he's going to get the big ovations from the audience. They know he can talk as well as anybody, make smartass remarks when necessary and of course back it up in the ring as well.
I know that Cena gets booed at various points, but he's the biggest babyface to the youngest WWE viewers. He's their Hogan, Austin or Rock. Like it or not that's how it is. And I don't see him turning heel any time soon or possibly ever.
14. BEST CROWD
To be given to the city that had the best fans for a particular WWE event. Past winners - 2012: Miami for WrestleMania 28 & Raw, 2011: Chicago for Money in the Bank. Award began in 2011.
Winner: East Rutherford, New Jersey @ Raw April 8 (Runner-Up: Chicago for Payback)
The night after WrestleMania has turned into the most memorable Raw of the year in a lot of ways because many of the people that attend the show were also at WrestleMania. They tend to be the "smart" fans that will chant insider references or support the heels instead of the faces. This year's crowd had a lot of fans from the UK that traveled for WM and stayed for Raw. They were boisterous all night. Remember how disinterested they were in Orton vs. Sheamus? They chanted random things to entertain themselves. I'll never forget it and I doubt either of those guys will forget it either. They also did an awesome job when Dolph Ziggler cashed in the Money in the Bank contract to win the World Title. It was also the night that "Fandago-ing" became a thing too.
Here's a youtube video that features some of the epic crowd chants from that night. It's 35 minutes long, so maybe check it out when I'm done this column.
The usual good cities like Chicago, Toronto, London (England) and Brooklyn deserve praise too. I just think the best one was the night after WrestleMania in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
15. BEST INDIVIDUAL PROMO
To be given to the one speech that was the best in the last year. 2012: Kane's Speech at Anger Management @ Raw August 27
Winner: Mark Henry @ Raw June 17 (Runner-Up: CM Punk & Paul Heyman @ Raw July 22, CM Punk tells The Rock his arms are too short to box with God @ Raw Jan 7)
This is a no brainer to me. Mark Henry's promo from Raw on June 17th was the most memorable one this year. Henry has gone through periods in the last year where he was inactive due to various injuries. That's the wrestling business. The guy is in his early 40s and he's been doing it for nearly 20 years at this point. Guys get hurt. We all know that's how it is. So when Henry was in the ring delivering this promo about how he had to retire we believed him. Part of me thought no way this is legit because John Cena was standing there on the apron, so I knew it was an angle. But then I heard Mark speak and it felt legit. Remember when he cried talking about his kids? The crowd cheered him because they bought it too. Henry said "baby I'm coming home." Cena held up his arm, then went in for a hug and Henry dropped him with the World's Strongest Slam. "I got a lot left in the tank!" It led to a WWE Title match for Henry, which Cena won of course, but that promo was the best of the year.
There were many Punk/Heyman dueling promos that I could mention here, but I'm picking the one from the July 22nd edition of Raw. One week earlier, Heyman turned on Punk at Money in the Bank and then the next night on Raw, Brock Lesnar showed up to destroy Punk. It was one of the best brawls of the year although it was mostly Brock having the advantage. That led to this promo with Punk showing a lot of emotion in talking about his former best friend Paul Heyman and Lesnar. Heyman, the cowardly heel that he is, only appeared on the video wall because he was too scared to face Punk in person. After Lesnar's attack and that promo I was all set for SummerSlam. That's how you sell a big match. (Video)
I originally left out CM Punk's first promo talking to The Rock. I don't know why I did. I guess I forgot how great it was. The big line that Punk uttered was this: "Your arms are just too short to box with God." Great work by both guys. Two of the best talkers ever. (Video)
There are plenty of others worth mentioning. It's hard to remember them all or write about them, so I'll just pick those three as ones that stood out to me. I'm sure there are dozens of others that you could recall that are worthy of consideration as well.
16. BEST TURN
To be given to the best babyface or heel turn that benefitted the performer the most. Past winners - 2012: Big Show, 2011: Mark Henry, 2010 winner: Kane, 2009: CM Punk
Winner: Randy Orton (Runners-Up: Cody Rhodes)
I was very bored with face Orton. See that crowd reaction at the Raw after WrestleMania where they completely crapped on his match with Sheamus? The fans were sick of face Orton too. I think he was too since he would mention it on Twitter once in a while. Ever since he turned face in 2010 there were always rumors of a heel turn because we all know he's better in that role. When he turned heel at SummerSlam it was the best thing for him. His performance on the most recent edition of Raw against Daniel Bryan was his best of the year. Why? Because it took him time to find his comfort zone. He's there now. I'm glad to see it.
The booking of Cody Rhodes in the second half of the year has been really good. He was part of the Rhodes Scholars team with Damien Sandow. There weren't too many signs of a split coming until the Money in the Bank match when Rhodes was ready to grab the briefcase and Sandow shoved him off the ladder. Sandow defended the move by saying he did what he had to do while Cody was pissed off that his "best friend" would do that. Sadly that feud didn't live up to its potential because of poor booking (in the old days they may have had a 20 minute cage match to settle it), but Cody's angle with The Authority helped him a lot. Then he started teaming with his brother Goldust and it showed that his turn was the right move for him.
17. THE "KTFO" AWARD
To be given to the person or thing that deserves to be KNOCKED THE F**K OUT~! Past winners - 2012: Teddy Long, 2011: Michael Cole, 2010 winner: The anonymous GM angle, 2009 winner: Michael Cole
Winner: The Great Khali (Runner Up: The WWE App)
I always feel bad about doing this award because I'm really not a violent person. I don't even say the word "hate" ever. I tend to go with dislike because I feel like hate is too strong of a word. The idea behind this award is giving it to the individual that makes me want to turn off the TV and not watch anymore because they're so bad as a performer or maybe they are booked poorly.
This year I'm going with The Great Khali because every time I hear that "ayayayaya" at the start of his song I just cringe watching him walk to the ring. I get why WWE puts him out there since they have fans in India and they probably get good money from their TV deal with them, so they feel obligated to do it. It's just that there's never a good Khali moment or match. The comedy stuff they do with him isn't even funny. Maybe it was 7 years ago, but not now.
The runner up is the WWE App. Yes WWE we know you have an App. Shut up about it, please.
I want to be positive, though. Let's celebrate that Teddy Long isn't on TV anymore! Holla holla holla tag match playa!
18. MOST IMPROVED PERFORMER
To be given to the performer that has shown the most improvement in the last year. Past winners - 2012: Ryback, 2011: Zack Ryder, 2010 winner: Cody Rhodes, 2009: Kofi Kingston
Winner: Roman Reigns (Runners-Up: Brie Bella)
When The Shield showed up at Survivor Series 2012 I knew a lot about Seth Rollins (aka Tyler Black) and Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley) from watching their matches in ROH or the indies. I remember an Ambrose/Punk match from NXT that was outstanding. When they first showed up Reigns was the guy we didn't know much about. He didn't wrestle a lot in the indies. He was a guy WWE signed as a former football player who had family ties in the wrestling business as part of that big Samoan wrestling family. As the year went on, Reigns really started to stand out. I can remember a singles match with Daniel Bryan on Raw that was as good as the matches that Rollins and Ambrose had with Bryan, or at least it was very close to that. Once he started using the Spear as a finisher it gave him an impactful move that he did better than anybody. It plays into his football background. As a talker he's not fully developed yet, but in terms of his in-ring performance the guy is very good at what he does. A year of working with Rollins & Ambrose and going against the likes of Bryan, Kane, Punk and others has made him better. His hard work is paying off. Going into 2014, he's truly a star on the rise.
It's hard to think of people for this award because the roster is so big. There are more people not being used than have improved as performers. I thought of Brie Bella because she went from a woman that sometimes looked lost in the ring in other years to somebody that is very confident with a good arsenal of moves. She's talked about how she learned a lot from her fiancée Daniel Bryan, which makes sense because he's the best in the world. As long as she keeps working at it and is dedicated to it she'll continue to improve as an in-ring performer.
19. BEST VIDEO PACKAGE
To be given to the best video package that highlights a feud, performer or other event. Past winners - 2012: Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena @ Extreme Rules, 2011: The "Macho Man" Randy Savage tribute video, 2010 winner: Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Winner: CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar @ SummerSlam (Runners-Up: John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan @ SummerSlam, CM Punk vs. The Rock @ Royal Rumble)
The WWE production team is outstanding. If you watch WWE programming than you know it. Watch the video building up to the Lesnar/Punk match and you can see why it's my choice for the winner of this award.
The video captured everything that made the feud so great. It covered CM Punk's genuine friendship with Paul Heyman, the attack by Heyman at Money in the Bank, Lesnar showing up to attack Punk, the great promos and Punk's heart in fighting back against his former best friend that had the bully by his side.
I loved the Cena/Bryan video for SummerSlam because it showed why Daniel Bryan is such a beloved performer. He has worked so hard to get where he is. The buildup saw Vince McMahon and Triple H get involved with Vince trying to change Bryan while Hunter showed his support for him even though he ended up going heel. The purpose of these videos is to get people excited for a match. This got the job done. (Video)
The Rock's return at the start of the year was a big deal although it was so obvious that he was going to win the matches he had with Punk that the rivalry lost some of its luster. With that said, the video they put together to build to the first showdown at Royal Rumble was memorable and that's why I had to mention it here. (Video)
20. MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT
To be given to the most memorable moment of the year. Past winners - 2012: Brock Lesnar's Return April 2 on Raw, 2011: CM Punk's Promo June 27 on Raw, 2010 winner: Bret & Shawn embrace in the ring, 2009 winner: The Undertaker/Michaels match
Winner: Daniel Bryan wins WWE Title leading to heel Triple H/Orton (Runners up: Dolph Ziggler wins World Title on Raw after WrestleMania, Chris Jericho's return at the Royal Rumble)
I already covered the greatness of SummerSlam earlier. I think for an award like this you have to pick the one moment that you'll remember the year by. For me it's the end of SummerSlam. Was it predictable that Bryan would beat Cena? Yes because we knew Cena had to take time off for triceps surgery. Was it predictable that Triple H would turn heel? Yes it was. Was it predictable that Randy Orton would leave as WWE Champion after cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase? Yep. That doesn't make it any less memorable, though. Within a few minutes the fans went from the joy of Bryan becoming WWE Champion for the first time to sadness after he was the victim of a heel turn. That's pro wrestling. The booking of the angle could have been better over the next couple of months, but that was the most memorable moment of 2013 to me.
The Dolph Ziggler World Title victory the night after WrestleMania was also a big deal. It was one of the loudest ovations in any WWE arena this year. This is another case of WWE failing to capitalize on momentum because Ziggler got a concussion, they had him lose the title when he was able to return and gave him a face turn that didn't really work. Now he's stuck in the midcard again and who knows what his future holds.
I didn't expect Chris Jericho at the Royal Rumble. It wasn't really rumored either. It came out of nowhere. The first entrant in the Rumble was Ziggler. Number two was Jericho. When his music hit I had a genuine reaction of joy because one of my favorite wrestlers ever was back "home" so to speak. I've read in interviews with Jericho this year where he said that ovation he received was one of the best moments of his career. He's right about that.
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 - The WWE Network still isn't here
The first WWE Network video aired at the end of 2011. In the video it said that the WWE Network is coming in 2012. Two years later it's still not here. The story goes that in early January they plan to announce details of the WWE Network and then at some point we'll get to see the Network in all its glory. It's a good thing that WWE is taking their time with it, but I still have no idea why they would air that video two years ago when they had no idea when it was going to launch.
Best non-wrestler - Paul Heyman
He wins this again. No brainer. I think Zeb Colter is very good too. I used to think highly of Vickie Guerrero, but the act is getting really stale now.
Best finishing move - Antonio Cesaro's Neutralizer
I love that move. I wish he did it more often. Of course, the Cesaro Swing is what gets him the biggest reaction these days and may end up turning him babyface soon.
Most disappointing trend - Awful PPV Main Event Finishes
There was the fast count finish at Night of Champions, the non-finish at Battleground, the overbooked finish at Hell in a Cell with plenty of people taking bumps and then the boring finish at Survivor Series that ended Big Show's main event run that shouldn't have happened. I don't know who came up with all those finishes, but they really didn't help anybody or get people over the way they should.
Best sign on WWE TV/PPV - "Don't hinder Jinder"
So random. So awesome. Plus, I didn't want to feel like an egomaniac and give it to another sign that said "The John Report" on it. There were several of those this year (here's a collection of them), but I felt like honoring the "Don't hinder Jinder" sign this year. I'm considerate like that.
Best comeback - Goldust
This is a no brainer. I didn't even have this award last year, but I had to include it to acknowledge the return of Goldust to WWE this year. He went from working indie shows to having that huge match with Randy Orton that impressed WWE officials so much they gave him a contract. Not only that, but he won the tag titles with his brother Cody. At 44 years old I don't know how much he has left. I'm just glad he had a chance to go on this current run he's on.
Best announcer - John Bradshaw Layfield
There aren't too many announcers in WWE anymore since Michael Cole & John Layfield are on both Raw and Smackdown. Jerry Lawler is way past his prime, but he's been there for over 20 years that I doubt he's going to just quit or be fired. I think JBL is the best of them because he's an old school heel announcer. He'll always defend the heels. That's what I like about him. I think he could do a better job of it, but I blame the producers because the announcers are only doing what they are told. It would be nice if the announcers called moves better because that's what helps to get moves over.
I'm so happy Renee Young has found a home in WWE. I knew her pretty well before she was in WWE and she's a big fan of the company that she now works for. Her future is very bright.
Best DVD/Blu-Ray - History of WWE
I watched the History of WWE DVD within the last week, so it's fresh in my mind. The documentary was over two hours long and did a tremendous job of providing insight into how WWE has grown over the 50 years of its existence. I also need to acknowledge the Triple H DVD because that was really well done too.
Most poorly used performer - Dolph Ziggler
He was in the main event of TLC a year ago. Four months later he won the World Title on Raw, which led to one of the biggest ovations of the year. Now? He has no feud or direction and he wrestled in the Kickoff Match at TLC. I'm not exactly sure why WWE management has downgraded him. The prevailing thought is that it was something he said in an interview, but I don't know how true that is.
Best WWE TV Show - NXT
The last award goes to NXT because it's a show I enjoy so much. I realize that what happens on NXT isn't as important as what happens on Raw or Smackdown, but in terms of the best show from week to week I think NXT beats them in terms of its consistency. Maybe I like it more because I don't write about it. That could help. I sit there every week writing 5,000+ words about 3 hour Raw week after week and it can get tiresome. NXT has an old school feel to it and is the WWE show I enjoy the most right now.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WWE IN 2013
Since I always like to rate the shows out of 10, how about a rating for the year? Here's how I rated the last five years.
This year? I'm going with a 6.5 out of 10.
There's a bit of a drop off from the last two years, but it's not much. The last four months have been tough to get through. There have been a lot of things that have frustrated me towards the end of the year. I think it's fair to say the hottest period was May through April. There were a lot of good things happening at that point. Once SummerSlam hit things started to go back down. I hope that WWE can find that consistency in the new year as we head to the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania and beyond. There will always be down time, but I hope things stay consistent all year round as opposed to what we got in 2013.
If you made it through this 8,500+ 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, 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.
I say this every year and I'm doing it again this year. This is my favorite column to write every year. 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. We went to a house show in September that didn't have a great lineup, but we sat row one dead center and it was one of the best WWE experiences of my life. Go see the WWE live. You'll enjoy it.
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