Best of 2014: The Year in Wrestling
I just had to go back and look at the 2013 column, there were way too many coincidences, gives me the creeps that someone at WWE might have been reading my column.
10. Last year we were talking about the potential for TNA being sold.
This year they narrowly escaped certain doom by finding a new television home with Discovery America. It might not be the best place for a wrestling show, but it is something. TNA has been on a never-ending rollercoaster, and I wonder how they will survive 2015. I felt as if 2014 was a test to see if they would finally sink, but somehow they are still treading water. Once again, talent-wise they have a solid roster, the programming itself needs to up its game in order to gain viewership. When their ratings sink lower than E! Total Divas? You know you are in a world of trouble.
9. Dolph Ziggler
The guy is a category all to himself. He went from World Champion to bottom-of-the barrel thanks to injuries, suddenly at the tail-end of the year he is being pushed, hard, even by our announce team as a future WWE Champion. Considering the likes of Brock Lesnar go for the big one, seeing Dolph in that category would be very nice. The guy is a workhorse. From bumps to promos, he does not shy away from any of it. Finally finally finally, he was compared to the likes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in his most recent marquee match, a ladder match against Luke Harper which saw Ziggles reclaim the Intercontinental Championship. 2015 will not be a “Year of Ziggler” but as long as he can remain healthy, he will be all over your television.
8. The Zero to Hero:
Keeping with this little tradition in the number nine spot, I highlighted Big E. Langston as the Zero to Hero. Well, judging by home that went, he’s back in the zero spot, where this year it seems a number of stars could fit the hero role. Damien Sandow wins it this year. The guy was floundering all over the place for a gimmick. His intellectual gimmick had run its course, or at least this is what WWE would have you believe as suddenly one week he was a buffoon and the next he teased doing his own CM Punk impersonation. His abrupt loss of the Money in the Bank cash-in was a complete waste and lowered his stock in the eyes of fans. Suddenly, the guy was coming out every week dressed as someone else and pulling it off fantastically. Fans realized there was more to Mr. Sandow than meets the eye, and WWE saw it too. The random pairing with The Miz has more than paid off, mostly at the expense of The Miz, where the now dubbed “Damien Mizdow” has surpassed the Direct-to-DVD film star and gets roaring crowd attention every time he is in the ring.
7. The Hero to Zero:
Cesaro wins this one. No question about it, and admitting this is the worst part of all. The guy had it all. All the airtime in the world. Championships, fans, a freakin’ trophy. Suddenly, he turns into a championship jobber. He loses in all attempts to regain either the Intercontinental and United States Championships. He puts on great matches, no question there, but suddenly he is the Barry Horowitz of title matches. What happened? What went wrong? I blame the overcrowded roster and the difficulty WWE has in a fair and balanced rotation of talent. Cesaro should still be on television, and right now I can’t remember the last time I saw him.
6. The Zero to Zero
Part of the best of, is also admitting when there is the best of the worst, and this is not a compliment. This year has seen way too many time wasters on television. Heath Slater seemed to have a shot, but he’s there for fodder. Same goes with Zack Ryder. He jobbed to Rusev seven consecutive times on RAW. That is an insane number. He shows up and you know it’s all Barry Horowitz from there. I get having jobbers. I grew up with jobbers during the 80’s and 90’s. You had some no-name local come out and take a thrashing from a known wrestler. Except this is not 1992 anymore. Zack Ryder is a former U.S. Champion. The guy is a workhorse too, show a little respect, please. Then you had The Great Khali, finally done with WWE, but there was WAY too much of him on television. Adam Rose and his Rosebuds are another prime example. This gimmick was terrible from the start, and has only annoyed fans and changed channels. Thankfully, even Kane realized this and Tombstoned the Bunny. JBL lost his mind, unable to process how happy we all were to see that. Speaking of whom…
5. CM Punk
Talk about a guy who can turn companies upside down and break the internet without hacking it. He’s off to UFC, which even admits might be a bad idea. However, he wants to try. He is not promising success or even a championship, he is out to do what he wants, life his life the way he wants to. Fair enough. Fans still cry about how he just packed up and went home. Let’s face it, he felt burned out. Most of us have been there, from work, responsibilities of life, you get to a point where the batteries run dry, and a recharge just does not do the trick. You need to step back and just do what you need to before any further damage is done. We know the deal with his physical injuries and how he would travel and perform with concussions and various other medical issues. The guy was King Workhorse, no doubt about it, but you saw the consequences. You could see it, even on TV how tired he looked, even my wife pointed out the guy appeared to drop weight on a weekly basis. He was sick, he was fading from exhaustion. CM Punk did what CM Punk had to do. Like it or not, it was his decision, and his alone to make.
4. The Streak Ended
Yeah, it still seems surreal to say it. All good things must come to an end. It had to end by way of Brock Lesnar. At the time I was furious. Not because it was over, but because it was Lesnar. I kept thinking, there could have been someone, anyone better than him. But later I realized it had to be him. It could not have been someone on the current roster. Imagine if it was CM Punk, Sheamus, Cesaro, Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, or Primus forbid, Randy Orton or John Cena. What if said wrestler suddenly found himself mid-carding? Could you imagine the guy beating Undertaker could potentially be a mid-card nobody in a year or two? A guy like Lesnar has reached the point where there is no worry about that. He will always be considered an attraction, a main event one at that.
He’s here! He made one appearance, but that is all which was needed. Watching Sting walk down the aisle, ascend the ring stairs, and then STEP into a WWE ring is a moment in history which I thought would never happen. The guy surfaced in TNA years after WCW folded. Sting was the WCW franchise. Sure, there are other wrestlers who never went from WCW to WWE, but we are talking Sting here. The guy has been around since the 80’s, and despite everything the wrestling business has been through, he never made any appearances for WWE. Sure, there was that one match with Ric Flair on the final WCW Nitro, even though it was in Vince McMahon’s hands, it was still a WCW event. Doesn’t count. That was history right there at Survivor Series, to watch Sting step into the ring, ironically knocking out Triple H, someone he defeated in WCW under the name Terra Ryzing or something WCW-like. Yes, an unwanted trip down memory lane folks, Triple H was once in WCW.
2. Ladies and Gentlemen… My name is Paul Heyman
He is The Rabbi of Wrestling. When was the last time you can recall a feud where neither wrestler was on television and it was solely carried by a man with a microphone. Heyman’s mastery over the past year, whether combining his meticulous words with those of CM Punk or as the frontman for Brock Lesnar. Granted, having Heyman around does not make everyone’s career, as evidenced by poor Curtis Axel. Then again, the comedy between those two was pretty good. In any case, Heyman has added a special element, one which only Lana seems to also garner from the crowd is the attentiveness from fans without having to get physical. The power of words can be so strong when wielded by a master. That master is Rabbi Paul Heyman.
If you have not been watching, then go find clips or just subscribe to the damn network. Some of these guys have already been called up to the main roster, but I firmly believe the best is yet to come. 2014 was the year of NXT. The shows are beyond incredible. Sure, some storylines, but the focus is on the athletic ability of each wrestler, and the ability of each to entertain the audience. Guys like Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville, the Vaudevillans, The Ascension, Tyler Breeze, and others put on shows with heart. It’s like going to a Ring of Honor show (where a lot of the current NXT roster is from) or an indie show where they want to entertain and get noticed. Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens) has joined up along with Price Devitt (Finn Balor) and KENTA (Hideo Itami). Sure, they go by new names but it doesn’t mean their talent is in any way changed. 2014 has shown if NXT is in fact, the future of WWE, then Vince McMahon can rest easy regarding the future longevity of his company. As long as he accept smaller guys as champions. He did it with Punk, Bryan, Jericho, Eddie, Rey, Angle…
Michael Dworkis is a man of vast talent and industry. A former writer and corporate assistant of World Wrestling Entertainment, “MSD” is the Wrestling Columnist for Pop-Break, as well as contributing columns related to comics, movies, pop-culture, and of course, anything Transformers. He recently completed and obtained his Masters degree in Mental Health in Counseling, and recently became licensed to practice as an LAC by the National Board of Certified Counselors. If you need either a therapist or your wrestling fix, come to this man. Michael also is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Media, and previously managed an internet retail company. He blames Bill for having so much wrestling on the site and pleads with his superiors to create a feature on his very own Transformer Collection and to subdue Michael Bay for a serious talk. Michael is still searching for a Japanese Grand Maximus or any Japanese Generation 1 exclusives. See more of Michael at MichaelDworkis.com and follow on Twitter @Omegax80.