2012: The Year in Wrestling

michael dworkis gives us his top 10 wrestling moments of 2012…

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This year like last, I go through what I feel to be the Top 10 Highlights of Wrestling. Let us take a look back as some of the memorable (or not) moments of 2012.

10) RAW 1000 – Monday Night Raw certainly hit a milestone with the 1000th episode. This has been going on straight since 1993. If you are a longtime fan, then you know this really is a much longer streak, with years of episodes of WWF Prime Time Wrestling, which, guess what, was always on Monday nights. RAW 1000 featured many stars of the past, such as a DX reunion with all five members, and promised a small glimpse into the future. One of those glimpses being CM Punk turning heel again as John Cena lost his bid to become WWE Champion, becoming the first man failing to win the championship when “cashing in” the briefcase. This was thanks due to an interfering Big Show, but ultimately the highlight saw The Rock come to the aid of Cena only to get leveled by CM Punk to conclude the show, paving the way for the collision of Punk and Rock at Royal Rumble 2013. Check out Michael Dworkis’ review of Raw 1000

9) Daniel Bryan being Daniel Bryan – What on Earth did I just say? Nevermind. Daniel Bryan becomes the most over-former World Champion with two things. One, losing the title to Sheamus in 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28, and using the word “YES!” over and over. Somehow, losing a championship in embarrassingly extravagant fashion earns you the greatest respect from a WWE audience. Since then, the YES! YES! YES! chants by both Bryan and the WWE Universe surpassed the popularity of the “WHAT?” made famous by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Currently, the “Yes!” has become a “No!” but still cherished as a favored arena chant. Now, Daniel Bryan is co-holder of the WWE Tag Team Championships with Kane, dubbed as Team Hell No. Together they crush opponents, go to anger management Therapy, and scream nonsensically at each other until Ric Flair or Ron Simmons interrupts.

8) Divas earning Main Event attention – We have not seen stuff like this since the days of Lita and Trish Stratus. Reason, back during their day, female wrestlers knew how to entertain. These days we got stuck with Kelly Kelly and an array of bimbonic drones who did nothing but instill boredom in WWE programming. One would think women running around in underwear would be eye-catching, yet recent WWE Divas failed even at that simple task. Thankfully, that has seen a change in 2012. Eve found herself as the center of attention between John Cena, Zack Ryder, and her loyalties to John Laurinaitis. Currently the Diva Champion, Eve still has a great on-screen presence and earns the ire of the WWE Universe with her pompous antics. AJ Lee has risen through the ranks as being the Crazy Chick. Her constant mind-fluttering instability has earned even the disdain of Kane, who normally cherishes chaos. She recently had another personality shift, turning against John Cena and siding with Dolph Ziggler and NXT recruit Big E. Langston. All she wants is some attention.

7) Chris Jericho and his six-month something – Towards the end of 2011, promos hyping up a return aired, and on January 2, 2012, Chris Jericho returned to WWE, with a light-up glow-in-the-dark jacket. Pretty lights and all, but his return to WWE dimmed to burnout pretty fast. Losing a number of matches and feuds, Jericho set his sights on CM Punk, calling the WWE Champion a cheap Jericho impersonator with false claims of being “Best in the World.” The two would have an interesting build towards their WrestleMania match, with Jericho getting “personal” and revealing that the family of CM Punk is full of drunks, drug addicts, and failures. This led to rumors of Punk leaving his straight-edge style and becoming a drunk, which was quickly squashes when Punk faked failing an intoxication test on Raw to simply get close enough to beat the daylights out of Jericho. Following the loss at ‘Mania, Jericho continued the feud only to lose again. On May 24th, at a live-event in Brazil, Jericho nearly got himself arrested and WWE booted out of the country. How does one cause that much chaos? Jericho waved the Brazilian flag around the ring, then crumpled it up and kicked it. This led to police charging the ring, informing him that he just committed a serious crime. Jericho was suspended from WWE for some time. Returning in time to enter a Money in the Bank match, Jericho once again lost the match. After the PPV, he started a feud with Ziggler, only to get beaten in a MITB vs. Career Match on Monday Night Raw on August 20th, 2012, a day after defeating Ziggler at SummerSlam. In the span of six-months, Jericho came and went, this third run in WWE has all but been forgotten.

6) Rock vs. Cena at WrestleMania 28 – Truth is, the best part about this was the weekly banter where each man ridiculed the other in comedic fashion. One week Rock throws Cena merchandise in a river, Cena dresses up as his old rap-gang-member gimmick and throws one down, Rock does a sing-a-long, and it goes on. The match itself at ‘Mania was decent, not epic at all, but still good enough to go down as one of the most memorable confrontations of all-time.

5) NWA World Heavyweight Championship Vacated by Adam Pearce and Colt Cabana – How can two wrestlers vacate one championship? A little backstory, the NWA has been troubled with bad business decisions and a decline in membership. Partly due to the NWA being acquired by holding company International Wrestling Corp, LLC., the NWA went from their “membership model” where promotions could apply to be under the NWA into what they now call a “license-based promotion.” I am not sure the exact details, but that began a chain of events in their organization. Due to a license issue under their new rules, Pearce could not defend the NWA Title against Colt Cabana on October 27, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. The promoter there was not paid up on his “license” so the NWA Championship could not be defended. Cabana won their final in the best-of-seven series and should have won the title. Instead Pearce handed the title over to Cabana who talked about the NWA being the past, and wrestling being far in the future from its storied history. Cabana refused the title, as did Pearce. Both men then left the NWA promotion, clearly dissatisfied over recent management changes affecting the credibility and respect for the business.

4) The Undertaker goes 20-0 at WrestleMania 28 – The Deadman did it again. For the second year in a row, he defeated Triple H to go 20 wins and zero losses at WrestleMania. While the match was not their best, it was certainly brutal, taking place in a Hell in the Cell and guest referee for the carnage was Shawn Michaels. It is special because this was out of respect to the longtime stars who gave their all for WWE and the wrestling industry. Undertaker and Triple H are two of the few who remained. Kane and Mark Henry are up there, for current stars with the longest tenure in the company. Christian and Jericho are up there as well, and the recently retired Edge rounded out that elite club. Triple H recently announced on Raw, that we have not see the last of The Undertaker. Let the speculation fly! Read Michael Dworkis’ review of Wrestlemania 28.

3) Jerry Lawler’s Heart Attack – Yep, This is a highlight of the year. Something real, very real happened live on television. The effects of this incident are still felt. Michael Cole, close friend of Lawler broke down on live TV. There was no commentary for the rest of the night. Lawler, nearly died. He pushed his body more than it could handle. He got in the ring, again. I am certain he has hung up the wrestling boots and tights for the time being. Cole had an antagonistic gimmick, and now he is back to calling it down the middle, and frankly I like him better this way. Gimmicks aside, this was a serious incident which called a lot of things into question. Why should an aging former wrestler get back in the ring with younger stars who are faster paced? Lawler is certainly not in the shape he used to be in either. Yes, just a year ago one of the longer feuds featured WWE Champion The Miz and Jerry Lawler. Maybe something changed, or maybe age and his body finally caught up to him. It shook the world when Lawler almost died. It gave everyone a reminder that everyone is human, and more importantly, going forward, smarter decisions have to be made, not by WWE, but by the individual to be responsible for his or herself. That applies to outside of the wrestling ring. We hear stories of people collapsing a dying for no good reason. Bad health? Disease? Who knows the whys and hows. The reality check is that we are all human, and we have to be responsible for knowing our limits, and taking care of our health.

2) CM PUNK IS THE BEST IN THE WORLD – Winning the WWE Championship on November 20, 2011, CM Punk has established himself as the longest reigning WWE Champion in the past 25 years. Well, he, and the WWE Creative Team. Clearly CM Punk earned the right and respect to wear the coveted symbol of being the leader of WWE. The guy is everything he has always claimed to be, ever since his days in a little upstart promotion known as Ring of Honor. Entertaining, check. Exciting, check. The Best in the World? Double Check. Having run through the WWE roster, the popularity of CM Punk has earned him the spot to face off against one of the greats in WWE, at the 2013 Royal Rumble, his opponent and challenger for the WWE Championship will be, The Rock.

As of today (December 26, 2012) CM Punk has the WWE Championship for 402 days. 402. I will say that again. 402.

It is considered more than an honor to face The Rock, it is a sign that WWE has fully put their faith and back into CM Punk. He lived the story and accomplished the dream. From indy wrestling star to WWE Championship. One thing is for certain. One day Punk will have to lose the title to someone. It will not matter if it is to Ryback, Cena, Ziggler, or even Zack Ryder. The chances of seeing another reign like this, even longer than CM Punk… highly doubtful. Read Bill Bodkin’s review of CM Punk: The Best in the World DVD.

1) WWE brings up more newcomers to the roster –
Feed Ryback More – This guy is a monster, earning chants of “Goldberg!” during his… er… uhm… match… Wait. Goldberg? His name is Ryback? Or Skip Sheffield if you prefer his NXT moniker. Look at facts, the guy is a monster and he just barrels through everyone in his path. I wonder though, how many of the chanting “Goldberg” fans actually know who he is. Goldberg was famous until 2004, nearly a decade ago. Younger fans will not have any memory of who he is. Once again, thank you to the long-time veteran wrestling fans who educate young fans who simply want to mimic what is cool. Anyway, Ryback is a beast in the ring, and this young star certainly has a future as the next powerhouse of the business. He cuts short, but good promos, and there is no doubt about his ring performance being nothing short than intense.

Debut of Damien Sandow – Yep, this is a highlight. I do not know if anyone else has noticed, but there is a resurgence of gimmicks made popular during my childhood in the 80’s and 90’s. Sandow represents the best of an antagonistic gimmick. He is like The Genius and Mr. Perfect rolled together. His wit and banter riles fans and entertains in the ring.

The Shield – Sure this is another nWo-like gimmick, but it is a gold one. Three young stars making an impact. Taking out members of the WWE roster. Interfering in matches, cutting damn good promos. Their first match at WWE TLC was incredible. Another promising stable. Read Michael Dworkis’ review of WWE TLC 2012.

These three examples are perfect to describe this bold new direction WWE is going in. They are bringing up tons of new stars, paving the way for the future of WWE. NXT, FCW, and other talent areas have been goldmines lately getting former Ring of Honor stars and up-and-coming homegrown ones as well. This is what wrestling enthusiasts have been waiting for. Guys like Ziggler (although he has been around for sometime… think back to Spirit Squad) are getting their time to shine in the spotlight and they are owning it. Ziggler will be World Champion in 2013, Ryback might be WWE Champion too at some point. Wade Barret, Damien Sandow, Big E. Langston and The Shield will all see main event status this year. John Cena and Randy Orton will not be around forever, they each have been around for over a decade, and like Edge, retirement due to injury might be sooner than they think. WWE is planning for the future, and the investments are already paying back with big dividends.

Notable Mentions:

Ryback not winning the WWE Title at Hell in the Cell thanks to a guy named Brad Maddox – It certainly seemed that the long title reign of CM Punk would come to an end, however thanks to Brad Maddox, a guy who now gets beaten up more times than Barry Horowitz, cost Ryback the match at Hell in the Cell. As a referee, before anyone knew who this loser turned out to be, hit a low blow on Ryback, allowing Punk to capitalize and pin Ryback for the win. Ryback got revenge by decimating everyone.

My ONE and ONLY mention of TNA Impact Wrestling – TNA ImpactWrestling or whatever they call themselves these days has been so terrible, it lost a chance to make it into the top then this year. The only fathomable honorable mention of any sort I can make, is Austin Aries winning their Heavyweight Title. It is nice to see when someone new wins the belt, and even better when it is a guy from Ring of Honor who does it. Aries in incredibly talented and is one of the best athletes in wrestling today. Sadly, they quickly had him drop it to a returning Jeff Hardy, and thus TNA resumes its normal programming of suckage.

The Return of Brock Lesnar – This failed on so many levels. Had Brock beaten Cena, maybe it would have been a highlight. But the match was a disaster. Had Brock appeared on TV more than a handful of times, it might have been memorable. But he didn’t, so it was not. His ugly face is on the WrestleMania 29 poster, so we know he will be back, but we just do not care. Read Michael Dworkis’ column on Bringing Back Brock Lesnar.

Return of Ric Flair – I guess working for TNA snapped some sense back into Flair. Hopefully other former stars or hopeful future stars will see his example and follow it. Flair came back on the December 17th edition of Raw and beat up CM Punk. Flair vs. Punk in the future? Yes please.

Face turns by longtime heels – Miz and Alberto del Rio, people who were hated and booed constantly since their respective arrivals in WWE made abrupt decisions to become one with the forces of good. For these two individuals, this means a fresh start on a new path. We will see how long they can remain on the yellow brick road.