Saturday, 22 December 2012
Duckman's Awards For 2012
I say this every time, but it’s true - it’s been too long since I’ve written something for WLH. Actually, to be more accurate - it’s been too long since I cobbled together some of my half baked opinions into a barely legible article for WLH. It’s cool to end the year back here and it’s excellent to see the place keeps going from strength to strength.
What makes WLH different from many other sites is Stu doesn’t have any kind of editorial vice grip on what people write here. You want to write in a comedy style? No problem. You want to review books or DVDs? Always welcome. You want to write about UFC? Go for it. There’s no pretentiousness or ‘you must write about indy wrestling’ attitude here. Stu simply offers a platform for opinionated dicks like me to shout our mouths off about wrestling.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m full of Christmas spirit or because I’m slightly drunk, but I’m feeling quite sentimental and soppy today. Don’t worry I’m not about to start crying or awkwardly trying to hug everyone (I’ll save that for Christmas Eve). But I do want to give a shout out to Stu and say Merry Christmas mate and here’s to another kick ass year for both WLH and The Indy Corner Podcast!
Right, now I’ve got the sentimental crap out of the way, it’s time to get down to what I really came back to write about – my personal best of 2012! That’s right people, it’s the end of the year and the old faithful ‘get out of jail free card’ of every lazy writer is being played. It’s list time and no one does lists better or more often than me. I’m serious, this is probably the third list/awards style article I’ve written this month.
What makes this list article different from the others? Well, I’m not using as many Hulk Hogan sex tape references in this one and I’m going to try and make some semi-serious points. I know, boo, you want the Hogan jokes. Everyone loves a Hogan sex tape joke, right? Ok, maybe I’ll squeeze one or two in. No promises though.
So, this is my personal best of 2012 and there’s only one place to start:
Wrestler of The Year.
There’s really only one candidate for my wrestler of 2012 and that’s CM Punk. He has carried WWE’s flagship programme Monday Night Raw during his one year plus WWE Title reign. Look around and tell me who is more important to their promotion than CM Punk. And don’t say Hogan, you sarcastic bastards. The way I look at it, if you’re the top guy, in the top promotion and you hold the top Title for over a year, you’re pretty much over qualified to be wrestler of the year!
On the mic Punk is untouchable. Granted, the whole ‘whining about respect’ thing did start to grate pretty quickly. But his heel work on the mic has been a rare highlight on the relentless and often soul crushingly boring three hour episodes of Raw. A couple of weeks back in North Carolina Punk let rip with one of the best mic performances of the year. He was up there with Ric Flair in his prime. Maybe because he was in North Carolina he was channelling his inner Nature Boy. Whatever the reason, it was a fantastic verbal performance. He had the crowd hanging on his every word and his delivery was absolutely spot on. When he’s energised, when he’s into what he’s doing and when he’s pissed off, there are none better on the mic than CM Punk.
Punk has also had a great year in the ring with a solid body of matches against the likes of Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan, John Cena and others. He deserves a separate award for being able to get semi decent matches out of the extremely limited and one dimensional Ryback. A few years back the ‘WWE brain trust’ used to constantly spout off about how Punk didn’t know how to work the ‘WWE style.’ This year Punk has changed what the ‘WWE style’ is while at the same time staying true to what makes a main event in WWE work (more drama, less crazy moves). No one in WWE has worked harder in the ring this year than CM Punk.
Granted there are other wrestlers who are more technically proficient than Punk. He does have a tendency to clown around when he doesn’t really buy into what he’s being asked to do (any time he interacts with The Miz) but that’s nitpicking. As an all round performer, on the biggest stage there is, this year CM Punk has truly lived up to his gimmick as the best in the world.
Honourable mentions: Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Okada, Tanahashi, El Generico.
Tag Team of the Year
Right, before anyone freaks out, I’m not picking Team Hell No or any other WWE tag team. Don’t get me wrong, Hell No are one of the most entertaining acts in WWE. The way WWE have slowly rebuilt their tag team division around them this year is both long overdue and encouraging. However when it comes to truly great tag team wrestling you don’t need to look any further than the independent scene and my pick for Tag Team of the Year – The Super Smash Bros.
I’m basing this purely off the matches I’ve seen them have in PWG this year. In particular their incredible performance in winning the DDT 4 tag tournament, as well as the INSANE ladder match they had with Future Shock and The Young Bucks at PWG’s anniversary show Threemendous.
The Super Smash Bros are the most entertaining tag team I’ve seen this year. I’d seen them around the indy scene over the past few years but their appearances in PWG seemed light years ahead of where they were as a team the last time I saw them. They appear to have worked hard on bringing their in-ring style up to the same level as their nerd friendly and super popular gimmick. It’s worked. Their matches are now even more entertaining with a perfect blend of double team moves, video game references and other comedic antics.
The Super Smash Bros are my tag team of the year for so many reasons. They’re funny, innovative, hard hitting and use a style of crowd interaction that has become a lost art in recent years. It always blows my mind that ROH did so little with them. Thankfully PWG recognised their skills and this year gave them the chance to shine. Here’s hoping in 2013 we see much more of the Super Smash Bros in PWG and elsewhere. A tag team that makes wrestling fun again.
Honourable mentions: Team Hell No, Daniels/Kazarian, The Young Bucks, The Rockness Monsters, The Briscoes.
Match of the Year
It’s safe to say it hasn’t been a great year for match quality in mainstream US wrestling. I’m struggling to remember any truly great matches in TNA this year. Joe vs. Aries from the UK Impact show was good. Aries against Bully Ray (not the most recent one, the one where Bully was the heel and Aries the face) was a lot of fun. So was Aries vs. Jeff Hardy in their Ladder match. James Storm and Bobby Roode had an intense and bloody brawl at Bound for Glory. Those were all good matches but nothing truly stands out as the best of the year in TNA this year.
In WWE they’ve faired better. CM Punk’s matches with Daniel Bryan were excellent. Sheamus and Bryan also tore the house down on multiple occasions (their 2 out of 3 falls match on PPV was the highlight of their series). It’s been a great year for Sheamus in the ring as he had one of the best matches of the year against Big Show at Hell in the Cell. He’s also been in good to great matches against a variety of opponents on TV each week. And who could forget that absolutely hellacious fight between Brock Lesnar and John Cena? One of the most intense, brutal and realistic matches of the PG era. Although obviously the wrong guy won.
I haven’t seen many great matches this year on the indy scene. Although that’s because I haven’t had the chance to watch as many shows this year as I have done in previous years. The PWG tag matches I’ve mentioned stand out. As does Davey Richards against Michael Elgin in ROH over Wrestlemania weekend. Kevin Steen and Richards also put on a great show at Border Wars. Steen and Elgin also tore the house down this year when they clashed for the ROH World Title. The Steen/Generico ladder war last weekend was fucking nuts. I’m going to make a concerted effort to watch more indy wrestling next year because I know there’s a lot of great matches I’ve not mentioned.
In New Japan the standard was set for world title main event matches with the two great IWGP World Title matches between Tanahashi and Okada. I loved the first match with Okada scoring the shock win but the rematch where Tanahashi reclaimed the Title was out of this world. In between those two matches Okada had a couple of classic Title defences including an unbelievable first defence against Naito and a brilliant clash later in the year with Goto. It has been a tremendous year for NJPW with Okada coming into his own as a young, fresh and exciting main eventer. Tanahshi continues to be the best heavyweight wrestler in Japan (and possibly the world) and their clash at the Tokyo Dome on 4th January will be a true must see match and the perfect way to kick off 2013.
It had to take something really special to top the second match between Tanahashi and Okada in June. When I was feverishly debating which match should top this list, all I could think about was which match did I emotionally invest in most strongly? Which match got me out of my seat? Which match had me marking out and thinking it was over when it wasn’t? Which match did I truly care about the outcome of? Which match left me feeling emotionally drained after watching it? After asking those questions there was only one choice for my match of the year – HHH vs. The Undertaker w/ HBK as guest referee at Wrestlemania.
Simply put this was sports entertainment perfection on the biggest show of the year. A 30 minute master class in ‘less is more’ by two of the best performers of their generation. That match literally had about ten moves in total but each one truly meant something. The use of facial expressions, body language and fantastic selling took this match out of the great category and into the best of the year. The strong storyline supporting the match was crucial and their match the previous year also played in well in building the match up. They had a crowd of 70,000 people in the palm of their hands from the moment they made their epic ring entrances, to the final scene of three legends at the top of the ramp saying their goodbyes to the fans in attendance. You can call me a sentimental old fool, you can call me a mark – I don’t give a shit. That match was everything I want from a Wrestlemania main event and then some.
Honourable mentions: Tanahashi vs. Okada 2, Richards vs. Elgin, Steen vs. Generico (ladder war), The Shield vs. Ryback and Team Hell No (TLC match).
Feud of the Year.
With the quality of storytelling being so disjointed in both WWE and TNA it makes coming up with a feud of the year in either company almost impossible. In WWE the roster of top line talent is so thin that any feud that starts off hot, ends up being stretched to breaking point with rematches (Orton vs. ADR, Sheamus vs. ADR, Punk vs. Cena, Sheamus vs. Show) that bring diminishing returns each time round. WWE’s over use of parity booking (guy wins one week, opponent wins the next) has meant no feuds have really had much heat or a must see feeling about them. I thought the build to HHH vs. Lesnar was solid but nothing that blew me away and too many arms got broken in that one for my liking.
In TNA James Storm and Bobby Roode’s feud went on so long and was so poorly booked that all the good work the guys did in the ring was completely undone by how poorly their story was told outside the ring. It’s also a feud that reached its natural conclusion about three times but TNA refused to let it die. Don’t get me started with Aces and Eights - I’ve wasted far too much time this year with that whole boring mess. Jeff Hardy and Austin Aries had a decent feud but Hardy’s lack of mic skills really took a lot of the heat out of that one. Hulk Hogan’s feud with reality has been fun to watch but he loses points for the fact that his daughter Brick is on my TV every week.
On the indy scene I can’t think of a feud that has really been at the level where you could consider it the best of the year. Steen vs. Richards, maybe…at a push? Personally there hasn’t been a feud on the indy scene this year that has made me sit up and take notice and more importantly – part with my money. I’m not saying there haven’t been any great series of matches on the indies. I know there’s been plenty. It’s just from a money drawing and interest grabbing point of view, nothing stands out for me.
Which is why this year my feud of the year comes from the UFC and is Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva. If you’re not a fan of UFC or don’t know the story behind Sonnen and Silva I would respectfully direct you to Google where you can find a plethora of articles, interviews and highlights of what was my favourite feud of 2012. This feud made me care. I was emotionally invested (there’s that phrase again) in both sides of the feud. I was thoroughly entertained by Chael Sonnen in the build up and when the fight did eventually happened Anderson Silva finally shut up the guy who had dogged him for over two years. Oh and they drew a shit load of PPV buys, around 900,000 plus.
Honourable mentions: UFC fans vs. Jon Jones (cancellation of UFC 151), Hogan vs. Gawker.com, CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan, Tanahashi vs. Okada.
Most Shocking Moment of The Year.
This is a tough one. Do I go with the comedic choice of Hogan’s sex tape, or do I stick with tradition and go with the much more serious moment of Jerry Lawler’s heart attack on Raw? Then again I was shocked at how poorly John Cena can kiss but was that enough for most shocking moment of the year? And the shock when Brock Lesnar came back to WWE after Wrestlemania nearly left me with soiled pants. So many choices. Given just how shocked I was when it happened, I’ve got to go with Lawler. It was shocking for all the wrong reasons. A horrifying moment of a man dying on live TV and the haunted look on Michael Cole’s face in the immediate aftermath really drove home how serious the situation was. The subsequent use of video footage of Lawler dead and receiving CPR backstage pretty much sickened me. I don’t tune in to wrestling to see real shit like that. Just tell me if he lived or died, don’t show me the video. It’s just good to see him make a quick and hopefully full recovery. I just wish they’d take him off commentary.
Honourable mentions: Brock Lesnar returns to WWE, Hogan’s sex tape, the fact Ryback hasn’t killed anyone yet.
Biggest Disappointment of the Year.
Given the fact I am both a sarcastic bastard and a snarky wrestling fan who spends far too much time online, the nominees for this award could take until next Christmas to go through. I’m followed around by a cloud of disappointment when it comes to wrestling, especially when it comes to WWE and TNA. A sad state of affairs I’m sure you’ll agree. However I’m going to throw something of a curve ball and say my biggest disappointment of 2012 has been Ring of Honor. The rest of this article will be written from the safety of my IWC backlash bunker.
I’ve been a fan of ROH for 7-8 years. In 2005 ROH saved me from giving up on wrestling completely. I have purchased hundreds of DVDs and other merchandise from the company. I was more than happy for my hard earned money to be spent on supporting ROH. Of course things have changed over the last few years and ROH’s repeated failed attempts to expand their fan base has resulted in changes in bookers and ownership.
I’m not one of those fans who bitches about the product value of the ROH TV show, although I can’t deny it looks like crap for a promotion owned by a TV network. Where ROH has really disappointed me this year is the way the promotion has been booked and the lack of interesting personalities on the roster.
ROH always felt cutting edge compared to WWE and TNA. It always felt like a company that was willing to push young talent and build them into stars of the future. ROH was a viable alternative to WWE’s campy, childish programming. But this year there’s only been one word I can use to describe ROH’s product and that’s boring.
ROH shifted from a cutting edge, modern presentation of wrestling and regressed back to what felt like a 80’s style wrestling tribute show with a few MMA inspired moments crow barred in. Kevin Steen and The Briscoes apart, no one in the promotion seemed to have much of a personality. They would go out, work hard, put on good matches but nothing really felt like it had any consequence. A lot of the guys on the roster seemed like replicas of each other, with similar looks, moves and promo styles. Those character who were a bit different came off like parody characters from a bygone era.
I’m assuming a lot of this will be resolved by Jim Cornette stepping away from the company and leaving the booking in the hands of Hunter Johnson. No more ether soaked rag spots and multiple time limit draws would be welcome. This isn’t a knock on Cornette who I admire and respect immensely but I don’t believe his vision of ROH in 2012 is what is going to help the company grow their fan base. I had high hopes for ROH this year but as the year progressed I found myself falling out of love with the promotion. My Christmas wish this year is simple – a good year of growth, interesting storylines and compelling characters in ROH. Here’s hoping.
Honourable mentions: The booking of James Storm, Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan at WM28, Three Hour Episodes of Monday Night Raw continue.
I don’t like ending on a low note, so let’s finish off with something positive:
I’m going to keep this short and sweet. You’ve all seen him Raw and now WWE PPV. He’s one of the most natural, compelling and believable performers in WWE today. His name is Dean Ambrose and if he stays healthy and walks the political tightrope of WWE carefully, he’s going to be huge. Trust me.
Honourable mentions: Antonio Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, Adam Cole.
I think we can agree that 2012 hasn’t been a classic year in pro wrestling. It’s not all been doom and gloom though. Hopefully this ramshackle collection of my highs and lows of the year has kept you entertained for a few minutes and reminded you of some of your best moments from 2012.
If you’d like to continue this charade of being entertained by me, you can follow me on Twitter which is @MFXDuckman. And don’t forgot to listen to me rabbit on about wrestling in a vaguely entertaining fashion every week on the Marks for Xcellence Wrestling podcast. Just head over to www.mfxpodcast.com
Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a cracking Christmas and New Year! See you all next years.