by Daniel Stockwell - January 02, 2014
Welcome to Talking Theatrics. My apologies for not posting a TLC Column – I had the article ready, but was postponed due to the site upgrade. Then (and admittedly, this is no excuse) I was lazy. On the positive side of things, I want to give a shout out to the designers of the new Wrestling Edge site, it looks excellent and I’m sure it’ll only get better as it expands over time. I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Years – mine was good, apart from finding myself in a 6 on 1 handicap match, courtesy of some lovely lads drunk on New Years Eve – but black eye aside, I’m actually pretty good – I have quite a hard head.
With that said, I want to jump into my end of year column. As usual, I’ll be focusing on the theatrical elements of the product and the categories themselves are tailored to consider this. For each section, I’ll discuss the winner and the runner up and in the some cases, I may discuss an honourable mention.
* Performer of The Year – Bray Wyatt
Runner Up: Paul Heyman
Honourable Mentions: Zeb Colter, CM Punk.
When the initial Bray Wyatt vignette aired, I felt as if I was witnessing history and with each passing week, I still firmly believe that Wyatt (however long his tenure in the company may be) will go down in the annals of wrestling history as one of the best performers to step inside the squared circle. The character of Bray Wyatt is refined down to the smallest details – from his capturing smile to his menacing grimace, his playful yet maniacal laugh, his posture and I suppose, most importantly his choice of words. Nothing about Bray Wyatt seems false – he doesn’t appear to be ‘acting’ if you will. The level of realism that is bought to the performance makes him absolutely horrifying and I firmly believe that whilst this man is with the company, no other will claim this title.
I chose Paul Heyman as my second because he was outstanding to watch this year. Had Bray Wyatt not debuted on the main roster this year – Heyman would have easily run away with this category. With Heyman, there is no such thing as a throwaway line – everything he does and says has a purpose and the conviction in how he approaches his performance is impeccable. The primary reason I chose Wyatt over Heyman was due to the higher level of difficulty involved in portraying such a character.
* Match of The Year – CM Punk vs. John Cena (Raw)
Runner Up: Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena (Summerslam)
Honourable Mentions: CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar (Summerslam), CM Punk vs. Undertaker (Wrestlemania), William Regal vs. Kassius Ohno (NXT).
2013 has been a wonderful year for CM Punk matches. His match against the Undertaker at Wrestlemania was a highly enjoyable encounter which saw the villainous straight edge star receive his just deserts for the weeks of physical abuse and appalling behaviour in the wake of Paul Bearer’s death. Fast forward to Summerslam and Punk had another amazing match against Brock Lesnar, this time as the babyface seeking vengeance against the close friend who betrayed him and the beast by his side, it was an uphill battle for the Chicago native and he played the underdog extremely well. However, my match of the year winner has to go to Punk’s match against John Cena from Raw, earlier in the year.
There is an expression that ‘timing is everything’ and I believe you can easily apply that saying to the following match and everything that it represented. For the two years prior, the careers of John Cena, CM Punk and The Rock were all intertwined and this match carried all the weight of the past two years on it’s shoulders. Cena needed the big win over a top opponent in the build towards his second match against The Rock. Who better then CM Punk? A competitor that has had Cena’s number for the last couple of years, a man who was at his peak and arguably, took said position from Cena himself. Coming off his historic reign as champion and still performing at an incredibly high level as a heel, Punk was the perfect opponent for a down in the dumps John Cena, who had failed to live up to expectations the year prior. Cena was seeking redemption, Punk wanted to reclaim his title and both had personal reasons for wanting The Rock standing opposite them one last time. Both men pulled out all the stops and in end, Cena emerged victorious. It was the perfect time for the star to go over the dominant Punk and Cena would ride that momentum all the way through Wrestlemania up until Summerslam, where he lost the belt to the rising Daniel Bryan, the runner up in this category.
Had Performer of The Year included their work and significance on the whole, Daniel Bryan would have easily won in that category. However, I did decide to focus on character portrayal. Regardless, Bryan had an amazing year. His work earlier in the year with Kane was memorable but a point had been reached whereby, Bryan needed to break away. He was becoming too popular to remain as part of the tag team and his assent towards Summerslam seemed inevitable – this was his moment, the moment he finally reached the pinnacle of the profession. The only person in his way was John Cena, a competitor arguably bigger than the titles themselves, the company’s prized possession who loses rarely and loses cleanly even less. It was a simply story of an up and comer going against the biggest star in the company. The spot light was on Daniel Bryan and his win. Whether he was cheated out of the championship afterwards is irrelevant, Bryan was a star on the rise and his match at Summerslam was his shining moment.
*Feud of The Year: Paul Heyman vs. CM Punk
Runner Up: Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena
Honourable Mentions: The Rhodes vs. The McMahons, Undertaker vs. CM Punk
At the start of 2013, CM Punk and Paul Heyman were perched firmly atop of the WWE mountain. Punk was performing some of the best work of his career and Heyman was proving why he is such a valuable asset to the promotion. After a hot little feud with The Rock to kick start their year, they moved onto Wrestlemania season and had their sights set on The Undertaker – another excellent feud this year. Upon losing, Punk took some time off, returned as a face and (to the disappointment of his former colleague) decided to go his separate way.
Then. The feud between really kicked into gear. Heyman betrayed his former friend at the Money in The Bank PPV and what followed was a month of tense rivalry between Punk and Heyman’s other prized asset, Brock Lesnar. Lesnar’s presence helped elevate it immensely and provided some of the years best promos and one of the best matches of the year. Whilst the feud fizzled out somewhat without the inclusion of The Beast, it still provided some of the best material on a show which was quite weak in the later part of the year. By the time we reached the Hell in a Cell PPV and received our pay off moment, it was time to end – but up until that point (and further than), Punk and Heyman always had us captivated.
Coming in second for this category is Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena. It was quite difficult to decide between this feud and the Punk/Taker feud as both were about the same in length and both only lasted one PPV. Whilst Punk and Taker was incredibly entertaining, it lacked the impact of the Bryan/Cena match as discussed prior.
* Monologue of The Year – Mark Henry’s Retirement Speech
Runner Up: Brock Lesnar’s Summerslam Promo
Honourable Mentions: CM Punk and The Undertaker’s Urn, Bray Wyatt tells us about Sister Abigail, AJ Lee’s Pipebomb.
Mark Henry didn’t just produce one of the finer promos of this year or his career, he arguably produced one of the best promos in WWE history. It seemed legit - that his long career was finally coming to an end and this was his speech to say thank you and goodbye, reminiscent of the legends that had retired in the years prior. His acknowledgement of his wife (not Mae Young) and his children made it seem the more real and overall, it was a very heart warming speech – a speech that any retiring star would be proud of. Before the crowd could chant “Thank You Mark”, the twist came swiftly. Mark Henry lifted John Cena and slammed him into the ground and then proclaimed the there is still fuel in the tank. It was a spectacular ruse and Henry deserves all the praise for providing such a moment.
As for the Runner Up. There was something incredibly unique about the Lesnar promo. It didn’t feel like a wrestling promo in any sense, on the contrary it felt like a promotional video more closely associated with MMA or boxing. This promo would never work with a wrestler; it requires somebody that is a legit bad arse – Brock Lesner. His cold monotone delivery was perfect and he made some great points about why he is a man to be feared. Simple and to the point.
* Dialogue of The Year – Daniel Bryan and John Cena
Runner Up: CM Punk and The Rock
Honourable Mentions: Daniel Bryan and HBK, Stephanie and B+ Bryan, Championship Ascension Ceremony.
When I think back to 2012 and my favourite promo of that year, one really stands out – the promo in question was the three way between CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and The Rock. Why do I hold this in such high regard? Simply because whilst it was comedic at times, it’s comedic aspects didn’t harm the tense moments of the promo itself, if anything it enhanced it. Those points allowed me to just relax, seat back and thoroughly enjoy what I was watching before being presented with the contrasting realisation that shit just got real. Most importantly, it served all it’s players and it had a purpose – The Rock was there to inform the roster that at the Royal Rumble, he will return once again to fight for the WWE Title, a title then held by CM Punk who was in the midst of his historic championship reign. Finally, there was Daniel Bryan – who despite being a heel was quickly becoming the hottest thing in professional wrestling and mixing it with two big stars. It was incredibly fun and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it – it was shown on the 1000th episode of Raw if you’re interested.
Fast forward a year a Bryan was standing opposite John Cena in preparation for their big match at Summerslam and once again, he was involved in one of my favourite promos of the year (second only to the awesomeness of Mark Henry). Daniel Bryan refusing to slap John Cena was amusing as it was but his smile as he refused to do so (particularly after being slapped himself) had me laughing quite loudly. Rather than having it’s moments of comedy, this promo built towards it. Cena and Bryan had both expressed themselves and made it quite known what they thought of the other, and whilst Bryan was offering nothing that CM Punk hasn’t in the past, it still had was relevant because John Cena was (is) still the same character that sat in the ring on June the 26th 2011. Credit to Cena has to be given too because he acknowledged such criticisms extremely well on the counter – but rather than this being another ‘I hate what you represent John’ speech – this was Daniel Bryan, mocking him on quite a large platform, a tactic not seen too often in the past. Beautifully, it worked and eventually got under the champion’s skin and he responded with a perfectly timed slap to the face. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering whether Bryan would retaliate – but instead, I found myself smiling with Bryan once again, still refusing to slap the non wrestler.
Coming in second are the other two men that featured in my favourite promo of 2012 – CM Punk and The Rock. Punk kicked off proceedings with an amazing monologue which mirrored his famous promo of 2011 but the big difference last January was that Punk had now reached the pinnacle of the profession and proven to everyone that he was capable of being ‘the man’. As his amazing run was coming to a close, Punk took centre stage once more and blasted the company for it’s investment in people he deemed not worthy – the famous line being how Little Jimmy gets more exposure than a workhorse like Tyson Kidd. Eventually, The Rock had heard enough and come to confront the WWE Champion. Whilst The Rock relied on his “tired, lame ass schtick” - he was still enjoyable to listen to, as he normally is. It was Punk however who kept the promo fresh, as he spoke to Dwanye about his schedule and his dates, as he constantly reminded Rock that he would kick his arse every time he came back to pay a visit, that his arms were to short to box with God. In my opinion, easily some of the best mic work in Punk’s career.
* Moment of The Year – Daniel Bryan’s WWE Title Win
Runner Up: The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family
Honourable Mentions: Dolph Ziggler Wins World Heavyweight Title, Cody Rhodes and Goldust Win and are Re-Employed, Punk and Lesnar Brawl.
I think it’s safe to assume that 2013 will be remembered as the year of Daniel Bryan and as I’ve said, regardless of what transpired afterwards, the image of him finally reaching the top of the company will be remembered for years to come.
2013 will also be remembered as the year that saw the rise of The Shield and the debut of The Wyatt Family – two incredible young trios. Whilst I’m sure that many (myself included) were clamouring to see the two factions go head to head, it now seems less likely due to the impending break up of The Shield. But. For that brief moment, we did get a glimpse into said match and it was quite incredible.
I was tempted to include Ziggler’s Win but opted not to because the win was floundered afterwards – granted, Ziggler had a concussion but his subsequent burial in the proceeding months was not particularly enjoyable – hopefully, he can bounce back in 2014.
*Comedic Moment of The Year: Damian Sandow sings his version of Voices
Runner Up: Daniel Bryan only Slaps Wrestlers.
Honourable Mentions: Damain Sandow Retrieving His Briefcase from The Gulf, Emma and Renee playing with bubbles.
Comedy in the WWE can be quite tiring at times and in fairness, but every now and then it does have a tendency to work. Sandow’s take on Mr Orton’s theme song Voices was one of those moments. It picked apart the laughable aspects of Orton’s character extremely well from his sometimes blank expression to his oiled body. More to the point, it was quite clever, which isn’t something I expect from WWE when it comes to comedy. I’ve embedded the video if you wish to rewatch it.
The Runner Up this year wasn’t typical WWE comedy but Daniel Bryan’s refusal to slap John Cena had me laughing quite a bit. Impressively, it didn’t hinder the intensity of the segment itself and Cena slapping Bryan was a tense moment. Great segment, as discussed above.
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That’s All Folks. I might expand next year and add a few more categories but these seemed to be a good start – I’d be interested to know your thoughts and some of your favourite moments of 2013. Leave a comment at the bottom of the Wrestling Edge site or contact me through the Talking Theatrics Facebook Page.
Once again, Happy New Year. Until NXT Time…..
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