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CCB Extra: Top 10 WWE Babyface Turns Podcast

March 18, 2014 By: Category: lists, Podcast, Podcasts, WWE | Pro Wrestling

The latest Camel Clutch Blog Extra podcast covers the recently published blog covering the top 10 babyface turns in WWE history. My old STRU podcast partner Jeff Peck and I go back in time and relive all of the excitement and impact surrounding these historic WWE moments.
Here is the list as it originally appeared on the CCB. Check out the blog for a more detailed description.

  • Sgt. Slaughter
  • Hulk Hogan
  • The Undertaker
  • Jimmy Snuka
  • Steve Austin
  • Batista
  • Lex Luger
  • Randy Savage
  • Roddy Piper
  • John Cena

You can listen to Jeff on “The Bower Show” every Monday – Friday from 3pm – 7pm ET on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, CT. You can listen online at www.979espn.com

You can follow Jeff on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TheJeffPeck

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Check out Jeff Peck’s wrestling podcast “The Still Real to Us show” which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and www.wrestlechat.net

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The Camel Clutch Blog WWE 2013 Year In Review

December 27, 2013 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

The World Wrestling Entertainment had an interesting 2013. The WWE saw the emergence of a new hero, old rivalries rekindled, & fascinating stories in and out of the ring. Rather than look back myself at the WWE 2013 in review, I am joined by a collection of pro wrestling writers from CamelClutchBlog.com.

WWE Wrestler of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Daniel Bryan. I try not to be cliché with these year-end blogs but I dare you to tell me with a straight face who had a better year inside of the WWE rings than Bryan. This guy has consistently had very good to great matches most of the year. Ironically his most disappointing series probably came when he was in the main-events against Randy Orton. His matches with The Shield, every one of them were just tremendous, and he did it on a weekly basis. For goodness sake he made Kane look great during his run with Team Hell No!

Brett Clendaniel – Daniel Bryan. I’ve been contributing to the CCB’s “Year in Review” for years now and I’m pretty sure that there has ever been a unanimous Wrestler of the Year award winner among this panel.  Should 2013 absolutely be the year that this all changes? YES! YES! YES!  Daniel Bryan was far and away the WWE Wrestler of the Year.  His immense popularity absolutely skyrocketed in 2013.  His year began as one half of the extremely successful Tag Team, Team Hell No.  Prior to losing the tag straps to The Shield at Extreme Rules, Bryan and Kane had held the belts for 245 days.  Bryan’s singles career than began.  On the June 14th Smackdown, Bryan submitted Seth Rollins to help his team become the first group to beat The Shield in a 6-man tag match.  After a successful string of matches against Randy Orton, Bryan was the hand-picked opponent by John Cena to face him in the main event for the WWE Title at SummerSlam. In that match, Bryan won the WWE Championship.  It was short-lived as Randy Orton cashed in his Money in the Bank, but Bryan then went on a 3-month long feud with Orton over who was the face of the company.  Even though ratings and buyrates proved to be subpar in John Cena’s absence, the fans had already made up their mind that Daniel Bryan was an instant fan-favorite.  His wrestling is always superb no matter whom he’s in the ring with and his personality as a little man who over-achieves resonates. Honorable Mention: John Cena, Randy Orton, CM Punk

Tom Clark – Daniel Bryan. Daniel didn’t exactly blossom, as we all knew he was more than capable; he was just given the opportunity to shine and he ran with it. The way the crowd fell in with him really says it all, they totally bought into what he was doing.  The fact that the ratings weren’t there does not diminish what he did in the ring, he was the most well rounded worker in my view

Dustin Nichols – Daniel Bryan. I have to go with Daniel Bryan. Bryan has always been a favorite of mine, and he had the year of his career in 2013. WWE finally pulled the trigger on making him a serious main eventer, and although his two WWE title reigns were short and filled with controversy, he proved to his doubters that he belongs in the elite of the company. WWE now have total faith in Bryan as a top-level performer, and I see big, big things for the man in 2014. And hey, even though they were short, he still snagged two WWE titles in PPV main events, making him a 3-time champion overall. Many past and present stars would give their right eye to be able to say that.

Seth Guttenplan – Daniel Bryan. Each week, I award the WWE Wrestler of the Week right here on Camel Clutch Blog, but this award in an annual one. The WWE Wrestler of the Year award belongs to someone who has received many WOW award this year. He is Daniel Bryan. At the beginning of the year he was rejuvenating the tag team division with Kane. That was until Bryan’s popularity got so out of control, WWE had no choice (with John Cena needing surgery) but to make Bryan the number one babyface of the company.

Jeff Peck – Daniel Bryan. Amazing that the guy I give the “WWE Wrestler of the Year” award to held the WWE Championship title twice this year over a span of maybe 24 ½ hours! Bryan was “the guy” this year and as a longtime fan of his dating back to the independent wrestling scene, it was great to watch his progression throughout the year. Whether it be on the microphone or in the ring, Daniel Bryan was the guy in WWE for 2013.

Eric Darsie – CM Punk. Even though he lost the WWE title to the Rock at the Royal Rumble, wasn’t able to retain the title at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, lost to the Undertaker at WrestleMania, and lost to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, CM Punk has to be the man in the WWE!  Granted he suffered several major loses to those guys, his stock doesn’t seem damaged.  Since he held the WWE title for 400 plus days that ended in January, there was nothing that could knock CM Punk from the top of the WWE Mountain.

Terri Bey – AJ Lee. For my contribution to this blog’s year-end review, I am declaring current WWE Diva’s Champion A.J. LEE the 2013 Wrestler of the year.
For the past six months as Diva’s Champion, A.J.Lee has been awesome. Lee is great with her promos, and her character development. Her crazy character has been a bit toned down, but she still uses it when needed. She reminds me of Edge, when he went nuts on Vickie Guerrero. Lee is also improving as a worker in the ring as well. I feel she has done very well as WWE Diva’s Champion.  A.J.Lee is my 2013 Wrestler of the year.

Dan Aleksander – Daniel Bryan. What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Daniel Bryan? A friend on Twitter said he’s developed the most organic following this side of Goldberg. He’ll shine through the burials and demotions and make WWE realize change is natural.

WWE Story of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Bruno Sammartino Enters the WWE Hall of Fame. I don’t think there was a bigger story than the end of a 20+ year grudge between Sammartino and the WWE. I have interviewed Sammartino a dozen times since 2000 and I can tell you that hiss anger towards Vince and the WWE was very real. When the rumors surfaced of Bruno coming back I didn’t believe there was any way that he would settle his differences at this stage of the game. I was wrong. Bruno is not only back but he is very happy to be back and let’s face it. He did the right thing. Now the WWE can rightfully acknowledge Bruno’s place in history and new generations of fans can learn about the great Living Legend. In or outside of the ring nothing will top the magnitude of this story in my opinion.

Brett Clendaniel – Darren Young Comes Out as First Openly Gay WWE Superstar. No story outside of the ring garnered WWE the mainstream attention more than Darren Young revealing that he is an openly gay pro wrestler.  Gay pro wrestlers have surely existed before, but none have been openly gay while actively competing in a masculine business on a stage this big.  For Darren Young, it was surely liberating and a ton of weight off of his shoulders.  For the WWE, it was a chance to face a hot-button issue head-on and embrace their “Be A Star” campaign even further.  Young eventually appeared on The Today Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, TMZ, late-night talk shows, and countless other local radio and TV appearances.   Darren Young’s brave declaration may have paved the way for future prospective gay pro wrestlers to make the jump to the WWE without fear of not fitting in.  It was a landmark move and I would not be shocked if other pro wrestlers come out as a result of this.  Honorable Mention: Some of the lowest ratings and buyrates in company history, Total Divas, Did The Rock walk out on the WWE?

Tom Clark – DDP working with Scott Hall and Jake Roberts. This is one of the more surprising stories of the year, mostly due to the fact that the buzz on Page has always been that he’s a big self-promoter.  In this case, it does seem that his heart is in the right place as he opened his doors to both Hall and Roberts.  Of course, I’m sure that he has sold quite a few of his DDP Yoga programs but that should not overshadow the work he did with both guys; Scott and Jake both look great and really appear to be turning their lives around.  Much respect to Page here; it’s nice to have a feel good story in the business instead of just more controversy.

Dustin Nichols – Daniel Bryan’s Ascension to the Main-Event. Hard to pick which one was the most important, but I’m going with the ascension of Daniel Bryan into the main event. The man has had his ups and downs since signing with WWE, but has never been unentertaining. He started the year as half of Team Hell No!, and by the end of the year, he had not only skyrocketed back to the main event, but he picked up two WWE titles in the process, knocking guys off such as the invincible duo of Randy Orton and John Cena on the way. Again, you could make a case for “The Authority”, but only recently has that angle gotten interesting, with the beginning serving no purpose other than making the entire roster look weak at the hands of Orton and the Shield. If it weren’t for Bryan being at the top of the angle in the beginning, I don’t know that anyone would have cared for it that much.

Jeff Peck – Will The Rock ever wrestle again? Since post-WrestleMania 29, everyone in the wrestling world has wondered whether or not we’ve seen the last of The Rock in a WWE ring. After he got injured in his match with John Cena reports started stating that The Rock left New Jersey without telling the WWE, that his plans to do a setup segment with Brock Lesnar for next year’s WrestleMania were scrapped and he was stating in interviews that it was “most likely” his last wrestling match. All of a sudden The Rock went from “I’m never leaving the WWE again” to “I’ll leave the WWE if I get injured.” It’s disappointing as a wrestling fan but I totally get it from a business standpoint as well, The Rock was in the top 10 for money grossed from the silver screen in 2013 and he needs to take care of what’s best for him & his family ultimately.

Eric Darsie – Stone Cold Steve Austin and Chris Jericho join Podcast One to debut the Steve Austin Show and Talk Is Jericho (respectfully). If you’re a podcast fan, listening to “the Steve Austin Show,” “the Steve Austin Show Unleashed,” and “Talk is Jericho,” are three podcasts that Steve Austin and Chris Jericho put out are worth your time!  With podcasts becoming more of a fan, it overjoys me to see that former pro wrestlers are embracing them as a new outlet to connect with their fan base.  Two stars from my childhood are doing that, and them doing so helps me pass time away at work!

WWE Match of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – CM Punk vs. The Undertaker WrestleMania 29. This one was tougher than in previous years. Right off the top of my head the Shield had so many great matches on television that they first came to mind. I watched a few back and watched the Punk vs. Taker match and none of them beat it for intensity and drama. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan from RAW back in the spring/summer was up there too. I am hardly the biggest Punk fan but he was at his best here. Nobody expected him to win but by the midway point he had me convinced that he had a shot. The only thing keeping this match from being an all-time Mania classic is the poor storyline. Stick a better story here and this one could have been a top five Mania match.

Brett Clendaniel – John Cena vs CM Punk, Monday Night Raw 2/25/2013. Since RAW has moved to 3 hours, I feel as if we get at least one PPV-quality match a night.  On February 25th of this year, RAW not only gave us the best Monday Night RAW match in a very long time, but it also gave us the 2013 Match of the Year in John Cena vs CM Punk.  The story going into the match was that these two men would face off with the winner being the one who would go on to WrestleMania 29 to face The Rock for the WWE Title.  Furthermore, John Cena was trying to get his career back on the right track following a “down” 2012.  The two ways for him to do that? – Beat his long-time nemesis, CM Punk, and finally beat The Rock.  Both men pulled out all the stops.  John Cena reached outside of his “5 Moves of Doom” arsenal to use a Powerbomb and a Hurricanrana while CM Punk used a banned Piledriver.  Cena eventually reigned supreme after an Attitude Adjustment.  Social media was on fire that night talking about the match and the finish.  The Cena-hating IWC spoke loudly about not wanting to see Rock-Cena II, but even they loudly praised the match between Punk and Cena.  I’m not sure if it’s better than their Money in the Bank classic, but it’s surely right up there with it.  Honorable Mention: Antonio Cesaro vs Sami Zayn “2 out of 3 Falls” Match at NXT 8/21/13, The Undertaker vs CM Punk at WrestleMania 29, Smackdown Money in the Bank Ladder Match at Money in the Bank 2013, CM Punk vs Brock Lesnar at Summerslam 2013, Daniel Bryan vs John Cena at SummerSlam 2013, Daniel Bryan’s RAW Gauntlet, AJ Lee vs Kaitlyn at WWE Payback, Damien Sandow vs John Cena Money in the Bank Cash-in Attempt on RAW
Tom Clark – Undertaker vs. CM Punk WrestleMania 29. Punk steps up his game against the better talent in WWE and this match was proof positive of that.  He brought everything he had to this one and Taker reciprocated. For me, this was old school pro wrestling storytelling at its finest; there was a great back-story, with 2 great talents, on a big money stage.  Put this match in any era and it holds up, which is the true test of how good it was.
Dustin Nichols – John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan SummerSlam 2013. Daniel Bryan once again picks up the award, this time for his match with John Cena at SummerSlam. Not only did Bryan wrestle like his life depended on it, but as he’s proven before, Cena can go when given the right opponents. He proved it with CM Punk in 2011, and did it once again with the similarly-styled Bryan. It certainly didn’t hurt that the build going into the match was great, with both guys looking strong. Plus, the fact that Bryan legitimately shocked a large portion of the audience by actually winning by pinning Cena in decisive fashion really helped the overall feel. The aftermath was a huge let down, but that was technically a new match, so I won’t let it damper the classic that Cena and Bryan had.Dan Aleksander - John Cena vs
Eric Darsie – CM Punk vs. The Undertaker WrestleMania 29.The rest of WrestleMania XXIX’s card I felt like didn’t live up to the hype or I simply don’t remember, Punk versus the Undertaker stole the card and stole the match of the year in my eyes.  The feud revolved around Paul Bearer’s death weeks before WrestleMania.  After Punk won the right to face the Dead Man at ‘the Granddaddy of the All,’ we all heard about the sad passing of the famous manager of the Undertaker.  So the Undertaker was going to pay tribute to Paul Bearer and have “his urn” in the ring, and moments later, Punk laid hands on the urn, and that was the gasoline on the Undertaker’s anger. The match between the Best in the World and the Dead Man can be described as the WWE Match of the Year.  Every year since WrestleMania 23, Undertaker’s WrestleMania match one-ups the year before.  Punk’s match did the same thing at Mania this year.
Seth Guttenplan – John Cena vs CM Punk, Monday Night Raw 2/25/2013. For someone who doesn’t normally write a lot about the quality of matches in WWE, there is one form this past year that really stands out to me. Surprisingly, it was not at WrestleMania 29. In fact, it was on Monday Night Raw back in February. John Cena and CM Punk squared off with the winner facing the Rock at WrestleMania for the WWE title. It was obvious who was going to win, but the number of close calls and suspenseful moments make it the match of the year.
Jeff Peck – John Cena vs CM Punk, Monday Night Raw 2/25/2013. To me, the best in WWE from 2013 wasn’t on a pay-per-view, had very little buildup and was on FREE television. John Cena vs. CM Punk, with the right to face The Rock at WrestleMania 29 for the WWE Championship, on Monday Night RAW back in February was the match of the year. Go back and watch the match again on YouTube to see how the fans were in it, how the announcers were in it and more importantly, how much CM Punk & John Cena were in it. Cena and Punk have had many great matches, but this one from Monday Night RAW may have been the best one yet.
Dan Aleksander – John Cena vs CM Punk, Monday Night Raw 2/25/2013Punk vs Cena on one the RAWs leading to WrestleMania. Not only did it have a piledriver, it was a wrestling spectacle that both wrestlers deserve 100% credit for. Best TV match in ten years.
 

WWE Angle of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Mark Henry swerves the WWE Universe. In reflecting back on the WWE in 2013 it becomes apparent quickly that there weren’t a whole lot of great angles and moments inside of the ring. Quite frankly it was one of the least creative years I can remember. However, the one bright shining moment for me was Mark Henry’s fake retirement swerve. I am not a big Henry fan but this angle was just brilliant. Henry was fantastic and convincing as he played on the emotions of the fans when he talked about his family only to turn around and attack Cena. Not only was this the WWE angle of the year, but it may be the best angle the WWE has pulled off in years.

Brett Clendaniel - CM Punk’s Quest for Retribution Against Paul Heyman. This category was easily the toughest one for me to decide simply because, well, I feel as if the WWE creatively has had one of its most subpar years in a long-time.  That’s a column for another time, but CM Punk’s program against Paul Heyman and all of his “Guys” was head-and-shoulders above all of the other options.  I simply couldn’t stomach to choose The Authority vs Daniel Bryan for the simple fact that it was the worst booked feud of the decade…and I mean that.  The feud between Punk and Heyman stretched many months that put Punk into programs with Brock Lesnar, Curtis Axel, and Ryback.  For all intents and purposes, JTG could have been one of the “Paul Heyman Guys” and it still would have been compelling simply because of the chemistry between Punk and Paul.  Every single one of their promo’s were gold and every episode of TV or PPV had fans wondering if that would be the night that CM Punk finally got his hands on Paul Heyman.  He eventually did, but Heyman’s recent RAW comments hint to him not being done with CM Punk.  Time will tell.  Honorable Mention: The Shield’s lengthy title reigns, The Rhodes Family vs The Authority, Anything not involving The Miz

Tom Clark – CM Punk vs. Paul Heyman. This takes the top spot for me because of just how incredibly good both guys are on the mic.  They absolutely killed it every time they were on the air, at the end of each promo it was obvious that we were seeing something special.  The angle led to the match with Lesnar, which only added to it, but for me the primary selling point was the mic work done by Paul and Punk.  It was compelling, dramatic storytelling and it worked on every level.

Dustin Nichols -Wyatt Family. While “The Authority” dominated TV for a good part of the year, I am actually going a different route and choosing the Wyatt Family and their reign of terror since their debut. Honestly, WWE has created one of the most intriguing angles/gimmicks in many years with the Wyatts, with no one ever knowing what they are going to do next, not to mention presenting them as backwoods people who are not only extremely intelligent, but almost a Manson Family-like cult. The gimmick is reminiscent of Waylon Mercy for obvious reasons, and I’ve have always maintained the Mercy gimmick was way ahead of its time. The Wyatts do nothing but back that claim up with fans who both cheer and boo them being hooked by the gimmick, especially Bray Wyatt’s masterful role as the leader. This guy is ridiculously good for his relative lack of experience.

Seth Guttenplan -The Authority vs. Daniel Bryan. Although it is a current angle, the Authority versus Daniel Bryan to me is the best throughout the year. CM Punk’s title monumental title reign ended in January and Bryan’s popularity was in the midst of getting out of control. WWE wouldn’t push Bryan to the top for a number of months. When WWE finally gave Bryan a shot, they incorporated their real life feelings towards Bryan into the storyline. When WWE writes stories dealing with how things really are, it makes the product so much better.

Jeff Peck – Triple H turns heel at SummerSlam 2013 and Randy Orton cashes in to become WWE Champion. It was the angle that all “hardcore” wrestling fans saw coming. The “dirtsheets” discussed heel turns for Triple H & Randy Orton all year long up to that point and the WWE executed the plan perfectly by taking the most beloved WWE wrestler at that time, Daniel Bryan, crowning him the WWE Champion then only to have it snatched away moments later by Triple H/Randy Orton. It was the biggest angle of the year for the WWE and appears to have catapulted the company into their WrestleMania 30 storyline.

Eric Darsie – The Undisputed WWE World Heavyweight Championship Unification. Yes, the build-up sucked and everyone wasn’t happy that the Undisputed title match was between Cena and Orton, but come on, WWE is known for not always pleasing the fans.  Let’s see how things turn out and let’s see how the storyline goes.  Will Orton walk out of WrestleMania XXX as WWE World Heavyweight Champion?  Who knows?  All I’m saying is I’m happy John Cena didn’t unify the titles.

Dan Aleksander – The Authority. The Authority, by default. Or should I say abeyance of anything else worthwhile? If debuts count as angles, the Wyatt Family. Follow the buzzards circling the bottleneck in WWE Creative’s finish room.

WWE Breakout Star of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Daniel Bryan. This category is generally reserved for a guy that either debuted and rose up the ranks or went from the curtain jerker to a respectable mid-card star. Daniel Bryan is not either one of those and you could debate whether he belongs here. That said I can’t think of any other wrestler in the business whose stock ascended at the level of Bryan’s. Maybe Roman Reigns but he is just starting to break out. I can’t think of anyone better who epitomizes breakout star than Bryan.

Brett Clendaniel - Daniel Bryan. First off, I feel really bad choosing Daniel Bryan here.  For starters, I already chose him as Wrestler of the Year.  To go along with that, many would say that 2012 was his breakout year.  Finally, I generally like to pick a newcomer for this category.  But since I am really struggling to differentiate the impact of the other people I consider nominees (Ambrose, Reigns, Langston, Sandow, Wyatt, and Colter), Bryan becomes the no-brainer for me.  Nobody else skyrocketed into a star like he did.  None of the other nominees used 2013 to cement themselves as definitive future stars, no matter how good they looked or how they were booked.  I’m not saying that any of them won’t be a future star (because I honestly think 2 or 3 of them have the potential), but we really just won’t know until we get there.  Bryan went from the mid-card to the WWE’s second most popular superstar in 2013.  That’s enough right there to give him this award.  PS – Zeb Colter will surely be overlooked because he’s not a performer, but he was one of the WWE’s brightest lights in 2013.  His promos, expressions, managerial work, and even the bit of mainstream attention that he helped them get earlier in the year cannot be overlooked.  Honorable Mention: Dean Ambrose, Big E Langston, Zeb Colter, Damien Sandow, Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns

Tom Clark – Goldust. He may be more of the Comeback Star of the Year but for me, Goldust is the obvious choice.  I don’t think there was ever any question as to whether or not he could still go but seeing is believing and Dustin Rhodes more than proved he is still very capable of getting it done in the ring.  As with any other successful Superstar this year, the story was definitely there for Goldust and he is perhaps the biggest sentimental favorite for fans.  Put him in the ring today against Orton for the belt and I guarantee the crowd would be 100% behind him, believing he can pull off the title win.

Dustin Nichols – Bray Wyatt. There were several talents that had great years and look to bigger and better things in the coming years. At the top of my list has to be Bray Wyatt, and I am boldly predicting he will be WWE World Champion within 2 years time. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns also put in strong showings throughout the year, with Reigns really coming into his own the last couple of months. At the same time, you can’t look past the Brotherhood, Cody Rhodes and Goldust. Goldust has looked better than ever since returning to WWE, and he makes a damn good team with his younger half-brother.

Jeff Peck – The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins). You can’t just pick one of these guys to be the breakout stars of 2013 because the entire group was breakout stars throughout the year. For the most part they were involved in major storylines throughout the year (Rock/Punk, The Authority, etc.) and all held gold (Tag Titles) or are still holding gold (United States Championship) in 2013. It’s hard for new superstars to make an impact in the WWE lately and yet these three superstars stayed atop the WWE “mountain” throughout all of 2013.

Seth Guttenplan – The Shield. While NXT has become the bridge from independent wrestling to WWE, the main roster has had an influx of new talent this year. From Big E Langston to the Wyatt Family, there are so many breakout stars to choose from. However, the star or stars that had the best year were the three members of the Shield. From the beginning, they were destroying and defeating WWE’s top stars, including John Cena. They all captured championships and Dean Ambrose is still riding high with his title. Their inevitable split is just as intriguing as their run as a team. I am looking forward to when one or more become World Champion in WWE.

Eric Darsie – Daniel Bryan. When 2013 came in, Daniel Bryan was WWE Tag Team Champions with Kane.  Who would of thought by WWE SummerSlam, he’d be the biggest star in the WWE?  The fans pushed and pushed for Daniel Bryan ever since he lost the World Heavyweight title to Sheamus at WrestleMania XXVIII in 18 seconds, when John Cena announced that he’ll defend the WWE title against Bryan at SummerSlam, which was his way into the main event scene.  Granted he got swerved out of the WWE Championship twice, but the fans are behind him more than ever and want him to recapture the title and hold it long term.

Dan Aleksander – Goldust. Yeah, he’s a vet. Yeah, he’s wrestling royalty. But I’d be damned if I could name a better comeback than this guy’s: even in unscripted sports. Plus, if you’re 9, he’s new to you.

Brett Clendaniel, Jr. is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of WrestleChat.net and a member of the CamelClutchBlog family since the first month it opened. Follow WrestleChat on Twitter at @WrestleChatNet.

Seth Guttenplan is the owner of GuTTWrenchPowerBlog. When Seth is not writing about wrestling, he is a Special Education teacher in New Jersey. To read more from Seth, follow him on twitter (@sethmikey) and visit http://guttwrenchpowerblog.com

Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan

You can listen to Jeff on “The Bower Show” every Monday – Friday from 3pm – 7pm ET on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, CT. You can listen online at www.979espn.com

You can follow Jeff on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JeffPeck979ESPN

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Check out Jeff Peck’s wrestling podcast “The Still Real to Us show” which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and www.wrestlechat.net

“LIKE” The Still Real to Us Show on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thestillrealtousshow

Dan Aleksander has every episode of “Covington Cross” on tape. To trade this for death matches involving syringes and beds of nails, follow him on Twitter @HaveTilFive.

Eric Darsie is known as a ‘common-man’ among his peers, at least he thinks so. He works hard with his hands in the heart of Minnesota and on his free time, he thugs and a bugs with his family and friends. Whenever he doesn’t do that, he’s found to be writing. Now more of a rare thing, he’s gems could be found here. If you would like to see more of Eric’s work outside of the professional world, check him out at http://vintagedarsie.wordpress.com/, http://www.writerscafe.org/Darsie/writing/, and on Twitter @IAmDarsie.

Dustin Nichols is a freelance writer, and you can keep track of all of his work on his Facebook page, which can be found at www.facebook.com/DustinNicholsWriter. Oh, and if you like bodybuilding, check out his mom’s official site by clicking the banner below:

The Camel Clutch Blog WWE 2012 Year In Review

December 27, 2012 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

The World Wrestling Entertainment certainly had an exciting 2012. The WWE saw the dominance of a champion, the breakout of new stars, & several surprises in and out of the ring. Rather than look back myself at the WWE 2012 in review, I am joined by a collection of pro wrestling writers from CamelClutchBlog.com.

WWE Wrestler of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – CM Punk: It is hard to argue with CM Punk in 2012 and this comes from someone who isn’t the biggest fan of Punk. If you are basing this on success in the ring, there was nobody better in the WWE. He went undefeated for the year as WWE champion. In the ring I think it was arguably his most solid year. Punk had tremendous matches with Ziggler, Cena, and Bryan specifically. On top of that he segued from babyface to heel without missing a beat! While I do think Ziggler had the best year inside of the ring I think Punk gets the edge as undefeated champion.

Jeff Peck – CM Punk: When you hold the WWE Championship for over a year in this current era of professional wrestling then there is no one else who should be honored as the WWE Wrestler of the Year. CM Punk was given the ball to run with heading into 2012 and I thought he has done a fantastic job of changing the landscape in the WWE throughout the year. This was a career year for Punk and he deserves the unanimous recognition as the WWE Wrestler of the Year.

Dustin Nichols – CM Punk: As much as I wanted to give the nod to another man this year (if for no other reason than the sake of variety), my vote once again goes to the current WWE Champion, CM Punk. Punk has been champion for over a year now, breaking several records in the process. In addition to that, he has had amazing matches with each and every single opponent he’s been given, knocking them all down in the process. When Punk returned from his two-week hiatus last year, one thing he stated was that he wanted to make the WWE title mean something again, and I think it’s safe to say he’s done just that. Despite some hiccups here and there, Punk has made the most of everything he’s been given, and has truly solidified his status as a main eventer and a star player in the process.

Thomas Holzerman – Daniel Bryan: This is easy. It’s Daniel Bryan. It always has been Daniel Bryan. Of course he brought it in the ring. That was never in question. Whether it was on pay-per-view against Mark Henry, Santino Marella (inside the Elimination Chamber), Big Show, Sheamus (except at WrestleMania), CM Punk, the Rhodes Scholars, or The Shield; or on free TV against those opponents plus John Cena or the Prime Time Players, Bryan went full-tilt week in and week out. Many had questions whether he could fully adapt to the WWE style, especially as he moved into the main event, but he’s kept a lot of the things that made him an independent favorite while integrating things that have endeared him to WWE fans. However, it’s out of the ring where he’s shown the most growth. His segments have become must-see, even if they might be death for anyone else. Segments where he had to meet with the shrink over his anger management issues were hilarious and engaging mainly because of what he brought to the table. He and Kane arguably carried RAW during the post-SummerSlam period out of the ring with their interactions with each other. He’s a success story, and most of it was by sheer force of his own will. If that doesn’t scream “Wrestler of the Year,” then I don’t know what does.

Seth Guttenplan – CM Punk: Last year CM Punk made a huge impact on WWE with his pipebomb promo that led to him winning the WWE Championship in July and again in November. Since November 2011, Punk has not lost the title. Punk has made history in 2012. He became the longest running WWE Champion in Raw history. 2012 was CM Punk’s year. He went from being the top face of WWE (alongside John Cena) to being the top heel of the company. He made history this year and therefore, he deserves to be WWE Wrestler of the Year.

Eric Darsie – Dolph Ziggler: I might get some heat for it but who had better matches than Dolph Ziggler in 2012 in the WWE?  CM Punk?  Dirt sheets and smart fans are pooping upon his title run.  John Cena?  It all depends on who he faces.  Triple H?  Undertaker?  Brock Lesnar?  The Rock?  Those four men haven’t had enough matches to place them anywhere near as “the Wrestler of the Year,” in my opinion.  Chris Jericho?  If he had a full year, he defiantly would have been in the running.  But for Ziggler, opening the year challenging CM Punk for the WWE title at the Royal Rumble and closing the year defeating John Cena in a Ladder match at TLC to retain his Money in the Bank contract, no one had a better 2012 than Dolph Ziggler.

Giri K – CM Punk: CM Punk! Is there anyone else? Don’t say Sheamus!

Steve Urena – CM Punk: No question about this here.  When you hold the World Championship for an entire Calendar year with matches that make the championship look like the ultimate prize, you get my vote. CM Punk had a stellar year and the matches speak for themselves.  Matches against Dolph Ziggler, Chris Jericho, Kane, Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Big Show, and Ryback all stand out as being very entertaining and physical. CM Punk had his breakthrough moment last year and he has definitely become a big star for WWE.

Martin Stezano – Daniel Bryan: After a small blip in the radar at WrestleMania, Bryan started his whole program with Kane, and the two formed Team Hell No and really reinvigorated the tag division. I mean look at how many solid tag teams there are now (Prime Time Players, Rhodes Scholars, Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio, etc). I hope that one day Bryan makes his way back into the WWE Title hunt, which will make his 2013 even better than his 2012.

WWE Story of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – RAW goes to three hours: I had a few different ideas on this one but to me nothing matches up against this one. The other story to me was WWE and TNA wrestlers appearing on each other’s shows (Flair at the HOF and Christian at TNA’s Slammiversary) but in the end neither had this kind of impact. RAW has had its flirtations with three hours but this is the first time the show was expanded on a regular basis. It completely changed the flow of the show with some weeks dragging and some producing the most solid television shows of the year. It is also a move that has the potential to do more impact to overall business than anything else in the WWE. It will be really interesting to see if three hours continues in 2013. I think it does.

Jeff Peck – CM Punk’s lengthy WWE championship reign: There was no bigger story in 2012 then CM Punk holding onto the WWE Championship for over a year. It is such a big story because the WWE just doesn’t do that type of length with a Champion anymore. It used to be a staple in professional wrestling for a Champion to hold onto the title for a long-time but as wrestling continued to evolve so do the length of title reigns. The WWE gave CM Punk the ball to run with the Championship belt for over a year and he did a really good job representing the company as it’s Champion.

Thomas Holzerman – Brock Lesnar returning to the WWE: This would be Brock Lesnar’s return to WWE for me. He left on somewhat acrimonious terms, but his return is proof that money can unburn any bridge. Lesnar’s return was notable in how much of a surprise it was, even up to the moment when he came back to F5 John Cena. Even more interesting has been his sparse use. Nary a mention of Lesnar has been made since his SummerSlam victory over Triple H. What kind of return is WWE getting on their investment? Are we going to get a heavy dose of Lesnar going into WrestleMania season? Will he re-up after Mania? These are all interesting questions as part of a story that has been, to me, far more intriguing than any appearances a certain movie star has or will make for them.

Dustin Nichols – CM Punk’s WWE championship reign: I think the story of the year is pretty easy, and that is CM Punk’s historic reign as WWE Champion. Yes, there were other big stories like Ryback’s rise and Brock Lesnar returning part-time to the WWE, but I don’t think either of those were as big as Punk’s run as champion. Not only has he had match after match that could be considered a MOTY while holding the WWE title, but he has also helped rebuild credibility to the championship while continuing to hold it for a length of time that is pretty much unheard of in this day and age. As of today, Punk has held the title during this reign for 404 days, making him the sixth-longest reigning champion in a single reign in company history, and the longest-reigning champion on the modern roster, beating John Cena’s longest reign by 24 days thus far. Plus, he clocks in at 10th place for most days as champion across his two reigns, putting him at 431 days. This is a feat we may not see for a very long time, and I doubt anyone on the current roster will bump him off his spot.

Seth Guttenplan – Jerry Lawler’s heart attack: While initially I was thinking CM Punk’s title reign, I am going to choose an out of the ring incident – Jerry Lawler’s heart attack. Although this story occurred on September 10th, it has had a lasting effect on WWE. Prior to this incident, Michael Cole was a heel announcer who at times was feuding with Jerry Lawler. This incident turned Cole face and aside from his botching lines recently, Cole is much more entertaining and respected as a face commentator. Jim Ross filled in for Lawler while he was recovering and JBL returned to commentary as well. The trio of Lawler, Cole and JBL has been on commentary for pay-per-views recently. This is a good thing as we continue to have our classic Cole and Lawler combo, but now with a true heel color commentator. Jerry Lawler’s heart attack showed how well WWE handles serious situations under pressure. Cole was a professional and WWE had the right people there to take care of Lawler and follow the correct protocol. Lawler’s heart attack was also used in a storyline to give Punk and Paul Heyman even more heat than they already had. While questionable, the segment was effective. Finally, Lawler’s heart attack will have effects on how older wrestlers. Ric Flair may be used differently after Lawler’s incident. While Lawler’s heart attack occurred towards the end of the year, it will have a lasting effect on the wrestling business.

Martin Stezano – The influx of new talent: I know I’m going to seem like I didn’t watch any wrestling before like November this year, but I think the story of the year is the new influx of talent we are seeing every week in the WWE. It started with Dolph’s win at MITB and the seemingly real commitment to take his character to the next level. The arrivals and pushes of Antonio Cesaro and Damien Sandow helped too. Ryback’s rise to WWE title contender has been fun to watch (even if he stole from Goldberg, who wasn’t an original character to begin with anyway), but the last few weeks have really surprised me.

Eric Darsie: CM Punk’s WWE championship reign: Though it hasn’t made the impact we thought we’d see, how often these days do we fans go crazy if someone holds a championship title for more than a few months?  I feel like Punk holding onto the WWE title for over 400 days has to be the WWE Story of the Year because it’s once story we cannot put the final touches on until after it is written.  Look at when Cena held the title for 380 days; look at Diesel when he held it for 358 days.  We can’t see how successful CM Punk’s title reign is until after we see the full stats of ratings, buy rates, etc., until he finally loses the title.

Steve Urena – Brock Lesnar returns to the WWE: After Brock Lesnar’s crushing defeat to Allistair Overeem , a lot of wrestling fans entertained the notion of a Brock Lesnar return to WWE. A lot of people thought it would never happen due to the lawsuit and the walkout of Brock Lesnar in 2004. Then it happened, the night after Wrestlemania.  John Cena calls out the Rock and all you hear is Terminator like music of Brock Lesnar. Everyone went crazy and it was great.  WWE’s homegrown ass kicker returned leaving many fans drooling over who his next opponents will be.

Terri Bey – Edge going into the WWE Hall of Fame: My selection for Story of the Year of 2012 for WWE happened the night before Wrestle Mania 28 at the WWE Hall of Fame at the American Airlines Arena. Eleven time World/WWE Champion Edge, who was forced to retire on April 11, 2011 due to spinal stenosis in his neck became the youngest inductee to the WWE Hall of a Fame at age 38. He joined Mil Mascaras, Mike Tyson, Ron Simmons, Yokozuna, and the Four Horsemen (Ric Flair, Tully Blandchard, Arn Anderson, Barry Windham, and J.J Dillon ). It is the story of the year, in my opinion, because even though it is a huge honor, and with his accomplishments, he certainly would get in anyway, but one gets a sense that he could have done more. Had he not gotten the neck condition, I think he really could have had a couple more productive years. It kind of reminds me of former 49ers QB Steve Young. Regardless, it is a great accomplishment for Edge to have had a 20 year career (he started at 17), and finally wind up in WWE, and end up in WWE’s Hall of Fame. That’s my pick for story of the year.

WWE Match of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena from Extreme Rules 2012: Triple H vs. The Undertaker will probably be the popular choice but this was my personal favorite. I don’t know if it was the hype, the intrigue, or just the excitement of seeing Brock back but this worked on every level. The match played out in the ring exactly as you’d expect a match between a former UFC fighter who knows how to wrestle would against an experienced WWE wrestler. It was one of the most brutal matches of either man’s careers and blew away Brock’s other match with Triple H. I know Cena won and I know that will tarnish the match for some, but for me it didn’t get better than this in 2012.

Jeff Peck – The Rock vs. John Cena WrestleMania 28: I know the match wasn’t pretty but there are very few matches nowadays that get fans actually excited to watch them. In the same sense there are very few matches nowadays that fans don’t know who will actually win. That was The Rock & John Cena from WrestleMania 28 and in my opinion it lived up to that “super bowl match” type of feel. When we look back at this match historically it will be up there with Rock vs. Hogan from WrestleMania 28 due to the sheer “dream match” moment that we strive for as wrestling fans.

Dustin Nichols -CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan No DQ from Money in the Bank 2012: Honestly, I could make a case for Sheamus/Ziggler on Smackdown! on June 19th. Although most people have forgotten about it, it was a brutal, fast-paced 15-minute match that saw Ziggler and Sheamus just pound the living hell out of each other, highlighted by Ziggler bumping like an absolute lunatic. However, as much as I enjoyed that match, I’m giving the nod to Punk/Bryan’s No DQ match at Money in the Bank (w/AJ as special referee). Although their Over the Limit match was tough to beat, Punk and Bryan took a look at it and said, “We can still do better”. Guess what? They did just that. In addition to the great love triangle story involving AJ that was on prominent display during the match, Punk and Bryan absolutely tore into each other for nearly a half-hour. Yes, there were plenty of weapons and whatnot used, but these two proved that this kind of match can be brutal without relying on weapons as a crutch. In addition to the brutal weapon shots, they traded countless holds and simply beat the living hell out of each other with their hands and fists for a bulk of the match. People had been dreaming about these two guys headlining a major PPV for a major title for years, and when Punk & Bryan were given that opportunity, they basically told everyone that doubted them, “THIS is why we’re here. We dare you to say we don’t deserve it now.” Although these two had fought in several amazing matches this year, the culmination of the feud was, in my opinion, their best outing.  Add in AJ playing the psychotic, love-torn referee who added just enough to the match without distracting from the competitors (a nearly impossible feat in guest referee matches), and everything clicked just right that night.

Thomas Holzerman – The Shield vs. Team Hell No and Ryback TLC Match from TLC 2012: I haven’t seen every WWE match I wanted to see this year yet, so this is a bit of an incomplete choice. However, of those I have seen, I have to go with the best match at the last pay-per-view event WWE put on this year, the six man match between the Shield and the freedom force consisting of Bryan, Kane, and Ryback. This was a pitch perfect brawl for what the tone of the Shield’s mission in WWE has been so far. It was chaotic, hardcore, and most-importantly, smart. If their aim was to make the Shield look like a trained force of strategic killers, they hit it with flying colors. Plus, the big bumps in this match were epic, especially Seth Rollins going from the ladder through the two tables.

Steve Urena – HHH vs The Undertaker w/HBK as referee WrestleMania 28: No other match this year had as much emotion and great storytelling as this match. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire thing and it suspended my disbelief and took me on an emotional roller coaster. Sure there were other great matches this year but this one had raw emotion.

Seth Guttenplan – The Rock vs. John Cena WrestleMania 28: While The Undertaker and Triple H’s end of an era match may have taken home the Slammy Award for Match of the Year, my WWE Match of the Year belongs to two different legends or future legends of wrestling – John Cena and the Rock. Plus, unlike the end of an era match, the once in a lifetime match was unpredictable. I never doubted for a minute that Triple H would defeat the Undertaker at WrestleMania 28. However, it was really difficult to predict the winner between John Cena and the Rock. If John Cena won, the Rock would disappear for some time and Cena could proudly brag about defeating the Great One. If the Rock won, where would it leave Cena? And how would the Rock follow up his win? Well, WWE provided us with answers. Brock Lesnar came back to feud with Cena. The Rock, on the other hand, stated his next goal was to become WWE Champion again. The Rock will have the opportunity to become WWE Champion in just a few weeks, while John Cena is still John Cena. Whenever you have two icons facing off at WrestleMania, and they deliver the way Cena and Rock did, you have the WWE Match of the Year.

Eric Darsie – WWE Championship match: CM Punk (champion) defeated Chris Jericho from WrestleMania 28: Even though this match was buried underneath the Undertaker versus Triple H inside the Hell in a Cell and the Rock taking on John Cena at WrestleMania, this match had to be one of the most underrated matches at ‘Mania.  If it wasn’t for the Rock’s return at WrestleMania and if something would of went wrong inside the Hell in a Cell, this match between Punk and Jericho would of stolen the show.  Watching it back, easily an overlooked classic.

Giri K – Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar SummerSlam 2012: Lesnar vs. Helmsley was not a traditional pro wrestling match. As one of my friends put it, Lesnar was like a dog that just won’t let go of the shin. He attacked Helmsley’s arm throughout the match (May I draw comparisons with Vader-Sting Slamboree 94?). Right from the start Lesnar had only one intent; break Helmsley’s arm and make him submit. As such, the match may not have crescendoed; it stayed flat, which was slightly disappointing. Only slightly. But then that’s how real fights are supposed to look right? You don’t suddenly get a second wind, hulk up, and pick up a victory. You hang on and stick to the basics. Lesnar – Helmsley did just that.

WWE Angle of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena: I think you can tell by this point how big of a fan I was of this angle and this match. I loved every part of this.  Starting the angle off with Lesnar F5’ing Cena and kicking his hat set a tremendous tone to the entire angle. The whole idea of Cena not  being afraid to admit he was scared and Brock coming back to beat up the illegitimate wrestler was gold. Both also cut the best promos of the year in my opinion on both sides of a feud. . It didn’t hurt that you started the angle off in front of the hottest RAW crowd of 2012 also didn’t hurt.

Jeff Peck – The return of Brock Lesnar: The night after WrestleMania 28 will go down as one of the best “night after WrestleMania RAW’s” for sometime. The crowd in Miami was one of the most historically classic wrestling crowds of all-time and the moment of Brock Lesnar returning to the WWE was just amazing. The best part about this moment is that a week before no one even knew about a potential Brock Lesnar return, it just sort of happened days leading up to WrestleMania 28. Lesnar’s music hit, the crowd went nuts and the rest was history.

Dustin Nichols – (Tie) AJ/Punk/Bryan love triangle & The Shield: Unfortunately, this one is harder to pick. Although we got some great matches and some great new stars this year, the angles themselves were mostly forgettable. However, there were two that really stood out for me. First is the aforementioned is the AJ/Punk/Bryan love triangle that also featured Kane on a few occasions. Everyone was excellent in their roles, and AJ really came into her own as a standout performer. The other one is the most recent invasion of The Shield. Although the angle is still in its infancy, I think it’s off to an excellent start and will only get better. The Shield features three men that fans have been clamoring to get their call-up to the main roster for some time now, and instead of just bringing them up as regular talents, they have immediately been thrust into the main angle on RAW involving WWE Champion CM Punk. Not many young, up-and-coming stars get such a major break so quickly, and Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns are all making the most of their time. Now, this obviously could change down the road (see: The Nexus), but for now, it’s a very intriguing storyline that has everyone talking, and that’s a good sign of things to come.

Thomas Holzerman – Daniel Bryan and Kane: Going from my choice of Wrestler of the Year, it’s gotta be Kane and Bryan going from enemies to frenemies to best of friends. There was not a dud segment between the two guys all year. They grew together to become a legitimately great tag team in the ring. Plus, there were a lot of great moments. No matter who you are, it tugged at your heartstrings when they hugged it out. In a company where storytelling isn’t much of a strong suit all the time, they got this angle right.

Seth Guttenplan – Team Hell No Go To Anger Management: What was one of the biggest criticisms of WWE over the last few years? The divas division and the tag team division. Well, WWE fixed one of those problems and it all started with anger management. After watching Daniel Bryan freak out and show off his anger as most frustrated wrestlers do, WWE sent him to anger management. However, he was not alone. WWE sent Kane as well. The anger management angle with Kane, Daniel Bryan, Dr. Shelby and others were by far the most entertaining, hilarious and creative segments on WWE TV this year.  There has yet to be another team capable of stopping Team Hell No, but the anger management, diner and overall harmony of Kane and Daniel Bryan give them the WWE Angle of the Year.

Steve Urena – The Rise of Ryback: Fans have been clamoring for a new star and this year we got one in the form of a hungry powerhouse named Ryback. Fans were skeptical of the big man due to his size and him fitting the mold of a stereotypical WWE superstar but he caught on. His catchphrase is as loud as ever and you can tell that he wants it. Ryback came into the fold and was not forced down our throats and in 2013 Ryback looks like he will be a big star and title holder for WWE. This was just one of my favorite storylines this year and the fans were into it.  Yes diehard wrestling fans may hate Santino Marella, but I am a fan. The guy is always entertaining, always gets a reaction, and works his ass off. So when Randy Orton couldn’t compete in the Elimination Chamber a lot of fans cried in anger that his replacement was Santino Marella, but I knew he would take advantage of the opportunity and deliver. The match was amazing and the fans were so loud hoping for Santino to win. He showed that he could hang with the main eventers and I hoped that this would mean a chance for Santino to be elevated. I was wrong but like Santino I won’t give up on the guy and I hope in 2013 he breaks through to the next level and gets back up there.

Honorable mention:  Santino Marella becomes the Milan Miracle at Elimination Chamber

Eric Darsie – CM Punk demanding respect: There weren’t that many angles I felt were memorable in 2012 and since the 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw, CM Punk has been on a rampage demanding respect.  Granted seeing the Rock back and having his match with John Cena at WrestleMania was huge but that match didn’t live up to what people expected.  For the second half of 2012, CM Punk gave us fans something to hate him for, him being a jerk for being the longest reigning champion in 20 years.  To me, this has to be the WWE Angle of the Year.

Martin Stezano – The Shield: For me, the best angle of the year, by far, was The Shield. I know it came on late, and it’s still in its infancy, but I haven’t been this interested in an angle since CM Punk’s MITB match against John Cena. That angle made me buy a PPV for the first time in years and years, and The Shield is really making me want to tune in to every show again.

WWE Breakout Star of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Dolph Ziggler: Now I know that Ziggler has been around for awhile and is even a former champion but I think that 2012 was really the year that made Ziggler. His record was nothing impressive but the guy hit on all cylinders every time he was in the ring. I can’t think of another guy who had very good-great matches every night as much as Ziggler had in 2012. Starting of 2012 he was perceived as just another guy. Ending the year he is seen as one of the big stars heading into 2013.

Jeff Peck – AJ Lee: AJ Lee was the breakout star nobody saw coming until she was directly in our face and when she was, we realized how good of a performer she truly is. The best thing about AJ Lee is that she also broke out without ever winning a Divas Championship this year; she didn’t need the title because she was that good of a wrestling persona. To me, the sky is the limit for year in 2013 and that in this coming year we will also be making comparisons of her being a “modern day Miss Elizabeth.”

Dustin Nichols – Dolph Ziggler: This one is going to be the hardest for me, as there are a lot of stars right now in WWE who are right on the verge of breaking out. My main choice has to be Dolph Ziggler. Although Ziggler has always been a great talent and seemingly on the cusp of breaking into the upper echelon of WWE, he’s always come so close, only to have his push put on the backburner. Now, however, there seems to be more intent than ever to get Ziggler solidified as a main eventer. He has been having the year of his career in 2012, headlining several PPVs, winning MITB and being the sole survivor in his match at this year’s Survivor Series, just to name a few of the highlights. Rumor has it WWE is very much behind him in making him one of the top heels in the company, and may have him successfully cash in his briefcase before the year is out. Other noteworthy talents have been both members of the Rhodes Scholars-Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow, as well as the returning Wade Barrett (who is another favorite behind-the-scenes, reportedly). Although Sandow is still in his infancy as far as his character goes, he’s a pet project of Triple H, and I have a feeling he is going to see some major success in 2013. As for Rhodes and Barrett, I honestly would not be surprised if either or even both were holding the main championships by the end of next year. I used to slag on Rhodes a lot, but he’s really grown on me over the last year or so, and has really come into his own as an excellent worker and a great all-around performer. He went from a generic heel to an intelligent, calculating narcissist over the last couple of years, and the transition was seemless. Sandow has been one of the most over heels from the very beginning, and I absolutely love his gimmick. Barrett had a rough start this year, spending most of the year out with an injury, but he has come back with a new demeanor (and thankfully, a new finisher), being repackaged as badass bare-knuckle fighter who not only wants to fight, but loves to do so. This is the exact kind of edge Barrett has needed for a while, and he’s really been coming into his own over the last few months.

Thomas Holzerman – Antonio Cesaro: Ryback might be the obvious choice to most, but really, he was given all the tools to succeed. My choice is Antonio Cesaro. He spent the first part of his WWE call-up as fodder between a NPC feud between Teddy Long and Aksana, but from there, he made us forget he was even attached to that story. He has pretty much made the Festivus Feats of Strength an all-year thing with his Neutralizer, and just when you start to admire him for the sheer spectacle of his deadlift finisher or at how he can shoehorn a spectacular European uppercut counter into a match, he plays the anti-American character with such an understated panache. It’s way too subtle for WWE, but it works because he’s so good.

Seth Guttenplan – (Tie) Ryback, Daniel Bryan and AJ Lee: Ryback re-debuted after WrestleMania and has not looked back. He spent a few months squashing jobbers and then was instantly pushed into the main event scene. When Mick Foley and CM Punk had a stare down that left the hardcore legend on the ground, Ryback inserted himself into the feud. Since then, Ryback has been feuding with Punk in the main event of the past few months, but unable to win the championship. Daniel Bryn began the year as World Heavyweight Champion until he lost the title in 18 seconds to Sheamus at WrestleMania 28. Since then, Bryan has become the most over superstar in WWE. He feuded with CM Punk over the WWE title in some of the best matches of the year. After the feud, he helped reignite the tag team division with Kane, as discussed earlier. Let’s also not forget about how he has the most popular catch phrase since Stone Cold Steve Austin’s “What!?” AJ Lee may be the dark horse in this competition, but think about where she was in April and where she is now. She began as Daniel Bryan’s girlfriend who he mistreated. Then, she began the whole crazy chick angle, which continues today. She left Bryan at the altar to become the Raw general manager. Most recently, she was associated with the top star of WWE in John Cena until she turned heel at WWE TLC 2012. AJ has certainly made strides this year and 2013 may be an even bigger year for her.

Steve Urena – AJ Lee/ Ryback/Daniel Bryan: Yes a three way tie. AJ Lee became the top diva for WWE this year after relative obscurity last year on NXT and Smackdown. She brought a new take on what a diva should be this year and fans were attracted to it. Ryback I already explained in the WWE angle of the year and Daniel Bryan was made this year. He held the World title for the first part of the year in great matches against giants like Mark Henry and The Big Show and after losing to Sheamus at Wrestlemania the entire WWE Universe took notice of Bryan.  Yes he was loved by the internet and hardcore wrestling fan faithful , but this year he became mainstream.  He turned everything he was in this year into gold and made himself  a true WWE superstar.

Martin Stezano – Dean Ambrose: All due respect to Dolph Ziggler, but the breakout star of this year, for me anyway, is Dean Ambrose. I’d heard a little bit about Ambrose during his FCW/NXT days, including catching a bit of his feud against William Regal (Steven? The Real Man’s Man?), but I never saw enough of him to truly see that star potential. I’m sure if I had tuned into FCW more, I soon would have seen what he has to offer.

Giri K – Antonio Cesaro: Antonio Cesaro has done something most other superstars have failed to do. He brings respectability to the WWE US Championship. He may not have had the fan fare associated with breakout stars, but he is firmly ensconced in our psyches. No squashes. No mindless pushes. But he looks strong and here to stay.

You can follow Jeff Peck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JeffPeck979ESPN. To listen to more Wrestling awards for 2012 tune into “The Still Real to Us Show’s” 2012 End of Year Wrestling Awards show available for download on Thursday December 27th at WrestleChat.Net & WheelhouseRadio.com

Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.

Martin Stezano is a lifelong wrestling and sports fan. You can read more from him at his sports blog, http://www.jobus-rum.com, and check out his lighthearted look at his corporate day job at http://www.iworkwithdumbasses.com.

Seth M. Guttenplan is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Reportand host of OH YOU DIDN’T KNOW!? PWPRadio’s weekly radio show covering all wrestling news and rumors. To read more from Seth follow him on twitter (@sethgutt) and check out guttwrenchpowerblog.com

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The Camel Clutch Blog MMA 2011 Year In Review

December 29, 2011 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

It is that time of the year again, time for the MMA Year End Awards. 2011 was certainly an interesting year in and out of the octagon for the UFC and MMA. A promotional acquisition and the emergence of a young prodigy are arguably the two biggest headlines of the year.

MMA Fighter of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Jon Jones: This was probably the easiest award to pick here and maybe any other year. I can’t remember an MMA fighter with as strong a year as Jon Jones. Four fights, a championship win, and two successful title defenses thrust Jones to the top of the list.

Hardcore MMA fans were well aware of Jones and his vicious elbows before he stepped into the octagon at UFC 128 and dismantled Shogun Rua. The potential was never in question, yet some wondered if the UFC were taking things too slowly with Bones. How would Bones do with ramped up competition? The answer is simple, he is even better than anyone thought.

Fighting four times in one year in the UFC is an accomplishment in itself. Handily winning three fights against the elite of the division is something else altogether. In a matter of eight months Jones has dominant wins over Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, and Lyoto Machida. Sure champions fight more than once a year in the UFC, but rarely is their competition as good as Jones’.

Jones finishes the year with a highlight finish over Machida. Entering 2012 he is looking at potential fights with Rashad Evans and most likely Dan Henderson. At this point I can’t imagine anyone picking against him. The end game here has to be Anderson Silva. Whether Silva takes the fight or not is another story. Without the Silva fight in 2012, at this current pace he could clean out the division by next year’s end.

He may not be your favorite, but I don’t think anyone would have a hard time with giving this guy his props for a phenomenal MMA year.

Honorable Mentions: Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson, and Junior Dos Santos.

Brett Clendaniel of WrestleChat.net- Jon “Bones” Jones: If you would have told Jon Jones at the beginning of the year that his opponents in 2011 would be Ryan “Darth” Bader, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, he probably would have settled for going 2-2 and getting a bit of experience under his belt. It was these 4 fighters, Jon Jones, and Rashad Evans that made up the Top 6 in the most stacked, competitive division that the UFC has to offer. Instead of backing down from the task at hand and wilting from the pressure, Jones rattled off four incredible victories that has many MMA pundits calling it the greatest single year for a fighter in MMA history. Not only were they four victories, but they were all dominating, decisive stoppages that earned Jones the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. He entered 2011 as a young, promising, up-and-comer who had the potential to be great one day. Instead, he proved to be a fighter who very well may dominate his weight class like Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre have. The only fighters that could potentially cause a problem for Jones are Rashad Evans (who he was set to fight twice over the course of the year), Phil Davis (whose tall, lanky frame and A+ wrestling ability could prove to be a threat), and Dan Henderson (who has never been stopped and can KO anybody). Those three fighters are almost definitely on the agenda for Bones in 2012. If Bones gets through those three, you might as well give him the 2012 Fighter of the Year Award as well.

Honorable Mention: Dan Henderson, Nick Diaz, Ben Henderson, and Junior dos Santos

Jay Perrone – Jon Jones: I will get right to the point: Jon Jones. It’s true that fighters like The Hendersons (Ben and Dan), Frankie Edgar and Donald Cerrone all had great 2011’s, but Jones was on another level. From LHW contender to champ to defending the belt twice within one calendar year, Jones finished all four of his opponents, three of whom were former champs (ok, Shogun actually WAS the champ, so he is now a former champ…again). Barring any injuries, I anticipate another dominant year for Jones in 2012.

Lee McGregor of Source4MMA.com Fighter of the Year: Jon “Bones” Jones: In my opinion, no one had a better year than Jones in 2011. What criteria would one use for judging a fighter of the year? Let’s see…. Wins? Jones had four of them, all over consensus Top 15 Fighters. Losses? Jones had none. Stoppages? All four of Bones’ wins came via stoppage (3 Submissions and 1 TKO.) Titles? Jones defeated Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in dominant fashion to win the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, then defended it twice. Most UFC Champions don’t fight more than twice in a year, Bones did it four times and dominated every fight that he was in.

MMA Fight of the Year

Eric G – Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber, July 2, 2011 (UFC 132): Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber will go down as one of the great main-event fights in UFC history. These two guys fought at a frenetic pace for 25 minutes, never slowing down for five full rounds of action. I think that at the end of the day this fight came down to a few takedowns in favor of Cruz.

These guys barely left their feet nor slowed down throughout the entire fight. I can’t remember seeing a five round fight with this much excitement in a long time or maybe even ever. Cruz went for takedowns but Faber popped right back up. Faber regularly connected on Cruz coming out of the clinch which I thought may have been a difference maker here. Both men were rocked a few times, yet I never got the impression that either man was close to being knocked out or tapped at any point of the fight.

In addition to delivering a classic, Cruz and Faber had a world of pressure on their shoulders and they delivered. As the first bantamweight fight to headline a UFC pay per view, anything less than a great fight would have set the entire division back. The UFC took a big risk here putting the smaller guys in the spotlight and it paid off. I think what Cruz and Faber did at UFC 132 has been understated. UFC fans now get just as excited to see the smaller guys fight in the top spot as they do the big boys.

Honorable Mentions: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Shogun Rua (UFC 139), Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley (Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley), Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler (Bellator 58), Nick Diaz vs. BJ Penn (UFC 137), Clay Guida vs. Ben Henderson (UFC on Fox), Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard (UFC 125), Mark Hominick vs. Jose Aldo (UFC 129)

Jay P – Chandler vs. Alvarez Bellator 58 & Shogun Rua vs. Dan Henderson UFC 139 (tie): Unlike Jones, who I truly believe is damned near impossible to argue against for Fighter of the Year (yes, I concede this is all subjective), there were two fights in 2011 that stood out. Michael Chandler versus Eddie Alvarez for the Bellator LW strap was a four round contest of awesome with fantastic back and forth boxing, several near finishes and an ending that saw Chandler get the upset win by rear naked choke. As great it was, however, Dan Henderson’s decision over Shogun at UFC 139 (which happened to occur several hours later on November 19, 2011) was nothing short of cinematic and, in my eyes, takes the honor for Fight Of The Year. Sure, the technical proficiency was not on par with the Chandler/Alvarez fight, but that is like saying Rocky vs. Ivan Drago in Rocky IV was less epic in the later rounds since it essentially became a street fight (yes, I know it was a movie, folks, but you see my point). Henderson landed some bombs in rounds one through three that would have put most men out. Shogun, bloodied, broken and bruised, pulls a Frankie Edgar-esque rabbit of his very short trunks and not only endures, but taps into his reserve gas tank and puts a two-round beating on Henderson to go the distance. It was the kind of war that goes down as one of the most memorable fights of all time and will be talked about for years to come.

Lee M – MMA Fight of the Year: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua – UFC 139: I went back and forth a lot between this bout and the Bellator Lightweight Championship bout between Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler. In the end what sealed the deal for me was that this fight went all five rounds and each round was a war jam packed with excitement. Where most fights usually have a lull in the action or a slow round this fight didn’t. These two warriors threw everything at one another and didn’t slow down and the fifth round is one of the most memorable in history. Knowing he needed a finish to taste victory, Shogun threw everything including the kitchen sink at Henderson, but Hendo was able to hang in there. Add in the fact that these were two storied veterans of the MMA game who were meeting for the first time in their respective careers, it was a very special fight. Throw in the post-fight photo at the hospital… win. http://cdn0.sbnation.com/entry_photo_images/2319846/shogun-hendo-injured_large.jpg

Brett C – Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (UFC 139): Going in to UFC 139, many people (myself included) really doubted the quality of the card as a whole. Henderson was in his first fight back in the UFC since 2009 and fresh off his stunning knockout of Fedor Emelianenko. Rua was coming off a pretty quick, easy victory over Forrest Griffin at UFC: Rio. Both of these PRIDE legends were on a roll heading into their matchup. It ended up being a fight that has already been heralded as one of the best fights in the history of mixed-martial arts. Even UFC honcho Dana White was comparing this fight to that of Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonner in the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. It was a brutal battle that saw both men out of breath and drenched in blood. Either fighter was thought to be “on-the-ropes” a few times over the course of the fight. I can recall four times off the top of my head where I thought this fight was over. Nonetheless, both of these warriors continued to battle back and just refused to quit. In the end, it was Dan Henderson who was awarded the decision. What’s next for either guy is anyone’s guess. Henderson is considered to be in the mix at both 185 and 205, but I think the big money for the UFC is an immediate rematch between Henderson and Rua.

Honorable Mention: Michael Chadler vs Eddie Alvarez (Bellator 58), Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard II (UFC 125), Nick Diaz vs Paul Daley(Strikeforce: Diaz vs Daley), Ben Henderson vs Clay Guida (UFC on Fox 1), Diego Sanchez vs Martin Kampmann (UFC on Versus 3), Cheick Kongo vs Pat Berry (UFC on Versus 3), and Jose Aldo vs Mark Hominick (UFC 129)

MMA Upset of the Year

Eric G – Tito Ortiz submits Ryan Bader at UFC 132: I had a real hard time with this award, real hard time. I went back and forth between this fight and Antonio Silva’s win over Fedor Emelianenko for quite a while. However, when I went back to look at the betting odds going into the fight, Tito was a bigger underdog than Silva so I went with Tito.

Now as much as I like Ortiz, I think there is a serious question that needs to be asked. Did Tito really pull off the upset or was Bader overrated? I tend to lean towards Bader being overrated and overhyped, however if you judge by the betting odds Ortiz pulled off the bigger upset.

I don’t want to minimize Ortiz’s win here. He had more pressure on him than in years. He was told flat out that a loss would send him out of the UFC. Ortiz had not won a fight against anyone not named Ken Shamrock since 2006. That is five years! Now he is going in there with a kid reputed to be faster, stronger, and comparable on the ground with him and he pulls off the choke in 1:56 of the first round? On top of that, Ortiz hadn’t finished a fight with a submission since cranking Yuki Kondo at UFC 29 eleven years prior. This win was huge.

Honorable Mentions: Antonio Silva defeats Fedor Emelianenko in the Strikeforce Grand Prix Opening Round, Dan Henderson defeats Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson), Charlie Brenneman defeats Rick Story (UFC Live 4), Joe Lauzon defeats Melvin Guillard (UFC 136), Clay Guida defeats Anthony Pettis (TUF 13 Finale), Dan Henderson defeats Rafael Cavalcante (Strikeforce: Fejiao vs. Henderson), Rick Story vs. Thiago Alves (UFC 130), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira defeats Brendan Schaub (UFC 134)

Lee M – MMA Upset of the Year: I’m going to go with Michael Chandler over Eddie Alvarez in Bellator for the Lightweight title. There were a couple of big upsets in 2011 Ortiz over Bader, Brenneman over Story and Joe Lauzon over Melvin Guillard all come to mind, but I’ve got to give props to Chandler. He may not have been the biggest betting underdog out of that list, but no one expected him to shed his prospect status and un-seat Alvarez as the Lightweight Champion of Bellator. You’ve got to consider the stakes of this fight and give Chandler a bit of a boost because of the championship status of the bout.

Brett C – Tito Ortiz defeats Ryan Bader at UFC 132: Tito Ortiz entered his match with Ryan Bader as a 5-to-1 underdog and was admittedly on the chopping block after five straight matches without a victory. In fact, Ortiz’s most recent win had come in 2006 against Ken Shamrock. A loss against Bader would have definitely been the end of his UFC (and, probably, MMA) career. With his back against the wall, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” got the break he was looking for. At little over a 1:30 into Round 1, Ortiz caught Bader with a right hand that sent him crashing to the mat. Ortiz quickly jumped on him with a flurry of punches before sinking in a guillotine choke which caused Bader to tap at just under two minutes in the first round. It was a stunning victory over a rising prospect for a guy that many had thought was done. This victory was enough to give Ortiz two more fights after it in 2011.

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Honorable Mention: Charlie Brenneman vs. Rick Story (UFC on Versus 4), Antonio “Big Foot” Silva over Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva), Daniel Cormier vs. Antonio “Big Foot Silva (Strikeforce: Grand Prix), Chan Sung Jung vs. Mark Hominick (UFC 140), Jake Ellenburger vs. Jake Shields (UFC Fight Night: Shields vs. Ellenberger)

MMA Story of the Year

Eric G – Zuffa, LLC purchases Strikeforce: It doesn’t get much bigger than this does it? The UFC for the second time in several years bought their only real competition. While I wouldn’t call Strikeforce competition at the time, they certainly had the most potential to give the UFC some headaches. That all ended this past March when news broke that the parent company of the UFC was now in possession of its rival.

A bigger part of this story may be the slow dismantling of the company since Zuffa took it over in March. Since the acquisition, Strikeforce has lost three of its champions to the UFC. Strikeforce’s two biggest draws in Nick Diaz and Fedor are gone. While rumors of a new television deal to keep Strikeforce on Showtime are running wild, nothing has been confirmed. Additionally, many of the key staff including the fight maker has been replaced.

“Business as usual”, according to Dana White.

Honorable Mentions: Nick Diaz returning to the UFC, Randy Couture retiring, the emergence of Jon Jones, the rash of injuries and match changes in the UFC, five-round non-title UFC main-events, Miguel Torres firing, The UFC-Fox network deal, Brazil TUF, Chael Sonnen’s return, the UFC canceling Diaz vs. GSP UFC 137 over Diaz not showing up for a press conference, GSP’s injury, the signing of Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem, Bellator moving to Spike TV, Fedor Emelianenko not fighting for a major United States promotion

Jay P – Zuffa LLC purchases Strikeforce & UFC on Fox (tie): Standing tall above the many news-worthy MMA stories this year were the UFC’s two huge announcements: its purchase of Strikeforce back in March and their network debut on Fox in November with Velasquez/dos Santos for the HW belt. While it was certainly not the first time an MMA promotion had been aired on broadcast TV (see: Elite XC hastily crossing the network finish line first a few years back on CBS), the Strikeforce deal gets the silver medal and here’s why: market share. Strikeforce, in my eyes, was never going to be bigger than the UFC, simply because the Zuffa machine was so far out ahead of the competition with superior talent (the few exceptions are now slowly trickling over to the Mother Ship), production value and marketing. While the actual HW title fight only lasted sixty-four seconds, the November 12th Fox card kicked off a multi-year deal across several properties including FX, FUEL, Fox Deportes and various regionally-specific Fox Sports Nets. While it is very weird to hear Joe Buck plugging UFC fights during Sunday football, the exposure to a noticeably larger cable/satellite/telco subscriber base and the media coverage that comes along with it could be unparalleled. For years the promotion was waiting for ‘the right deal’ and now, Dana & Co. have it.

Lee M – MMA Story of the Year: For me, it’s the UFC signing up with Fox. This is a landmark television deal for the UFC as the biggest MMA promotion in the world makes it’s debut on Network Television. It’s an absolutely huge deal and one that is going to benefit the sport of MMA for years to come. Their debut event went off with a couple of hitches, mainly Junior dos Santos making the fight last for only 2 minutes, but their second offering looks to be an extremely intriguing night of fights. Add in all of the UFC related programming on Fox Sports Net, Fuel TV and FX including UFC All Access, The Ultimate Fighter and Ultimate Fight Night events, this has to be the biggest story to come out of 2011.

Brett C – UFC Purchases Strikeforce: On March 13, 2011, one of the biggest MMA stories in years happened when Zuffa, Inc. (the parent company of UFC) purchased its main competitor, Strikeforce. It came at a time when Strikeforce was really starting to get their name out there as a formidable number two company. Big names such as Fedor Emelianenko, Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem and Jake Shields called Strikeforce home and their performances had fans clamoring for dream fights that they thought weren’t possible. Instead, Zuffa jumped in, bought the competition (a la WWE/WCW), and the rest is history. Fedor is back in Russia fighting cans, while Diaz, Henderson, Overeem and Shields now call the UFC home. Pretty soon the entire Strikeforce Heavyweight division (unless it just seems that way) will call the UFC home. Don’t be shocked of Gilbert Melendez, “King” Mo Lawal, Gegard Mousassi, and Luke Rockhold follow suit before too long.
Honorable Mention: The Rise of Jon “Bones” Jones, UFC Merges with WEC (January 2011), UFC Announces Five Round Non-Title Fights, UFC on Fox Debut, and The Injury Bug Ravages UFC Main Eventers

MMA Knockout of the Year

Eric G – Cheick Kongo knocks out Pat Barry (UFC Live: Kongo vs. Barry): 2011 saw some fantastic knockouts but none was more exciting than Cheick Kongo seemingly coming back from the dead to knockout Pat Barry in spectacular fashion live on Versus. It wasn’t so much the knockout but how and when it came about that still has people talking about this punch.

This was an unbelievable fight that only lasted a little over two minutes. The heavyweight collision saw Pat Barry rock Cheick Kongo early and nearly finish the fight. Barry dropped Kongo and swarmed in with an onslaught of punches. Kongo somehow managed to get up but was dropped again. Kongo then out of nowhere nails Barry (who had his arms down) with a punch and an uppercut and knows Barry out cold for the win at 2:39 of the first round. The visual of this action must be seen to be believed.

Honorable Mentions: Anderson Silva KOs Vitor Belfort (UFC 126), Lyoto Machida KOs Randy Couture (UFC 129), Dan Henderson KOs Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson), Nick Diaz KOs Paul Daley (Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley), Chris Leben KOs Wanderlei Silva (UFC 132), Junior Dos Santos KOs Cain Velasquez, Sam Stout KOs Yves Edwards UFC 131, John Makdessi KOs Kyle Watson (UFC 129), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira KOs Brendan Schaub (UFC 134)

Jay P – Anderson Silva KOs Vitor Belfort UFC 126: How do you define “Knock Out Of the Year”? Do you base it on how hard the recipient gets rocked? The technique? The situation? These are all the things that were running through my head when trying to determine KOTY honors. I originally was going to go with Cheick Kongo’s hail mary KO of Pat Barry at UFC on Versus back in June simply for the “victory from the jaws of defeat” factor. Then I started thinking about Pat Barry’s tendency to make stupid mistakes in his recent fights and wondered if it was more of his running chin first into Kongo than anything else. Instead, yes, I am going with the consensus number one KOTY: Anderson Silva’s “That. Just. Happened” front kick KO of Vitor Belfort. It was beautiful. Silva took a front kick, one that in my novice-level martial arts experience use simply to create some distance when I am getting my butt whipped in the gym, and snapped it like a jab out of hell to put Belfort down before a few follow up shots sealed it. In related news, between that and Machida’s crane kick of Randy Couture, Steven Segal narrowly edges out Greg Jackson as Coach of the Year (just kidding).

Lee M – MMA Knockout of the Year: I have to give this one to Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida for his knock out of Randy Couture at UFC 129. Sure Anderson Silva did it first with the knockout of Vitor Belfort. But I think that Machida’s was just a bit flashier. Throw in the head feint to start it all off and the leaping front kick, magic. You also have to consider a slight bonus point for Machida since that knockout sent Couture straight into retirement, in very highlight reel fashion.

Brett C – Cheick Kongo KO’s Pat Berry at UFC on Versus 4: As opposed to explaining it, I think it’s better that you see this knockout for yourself. There’s a reason that this fight is the Knockout of the Year and an Honorable Mention for Fight of the Year. Take the threeminutes and enjoy! http://youtu.be/JzKEOYO_8TE

Honorable Mention: Anderson Silva vs Vitor Belfort (UFC 126), Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture (UFC 129), Chan Sung Jung vs. Mark Hominick (UFC 140), Sam Stout vs. Eves Edwards (UFC 131), and Stefan Struve vs. Travis Browne (UFC 130)

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Lee McGregor is the editor in chief & owner of www.source4mma.com.

Brett Clendaniel is the owner and managing editor of http://www.WrestleChat.net.

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The Camel Clutch Blog WWE 2011 Year In Review

December 28, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

CM Punk wins the WWE title at Money in the BankThe World Wrestling Entertainment certainly had an interesting 2011. The WWE saw the return of a legend, the emergence of a new hero, & several surprises in and out of the ring. Rather than look back myself at the WWE 2011 in review, I am joined by a collection of pro wrestling writers from CamelClutchBlog.com.

WWE Wrestler of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Randy Orton: I know, I know this one is going to anger some readers, especially you CM Punk fans. Heck, I am even upset at myself after years of Orton hatred, including writing many blogs criticizing Orton for his laziness and repetitive matches. However, something clicked in the Viper and across a 12-month span I think he had the best matches in the company.

What really impressed me most about Orton was his versatility in 2011. It isn’t that hard to have great matches with Christian Cage, but Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk, and Cody Rhodes as well. Other than Money in the Bank against Cena, I can’t recall many “great” matches that CM Punk had in 2011. Other than Money in the Bank and wrestling Rey Mysterio on RAW, I can’t recall any other “great” matches that John Cena had in 2011. Daniel Bryan never had the opportunities throughout the year. To me, nobody did it better than Orton in 2011 who had a career year inside of the ring.

Jeff Peck of Wheelhouse Radio – CM Punk: There was no other wrestler in the WWE in 2011 that had more of an impact or a banner year like CM Punk did. He started 2011 with a “TV feud” against John Cena, formed/took over the “new nexus” and had a pretty good feud with Randy Orton that led to a Wrestlemania match. Not a bad year for a wrestler already and then he cut the promo of the year on June 27th, 2011 that led us to what some may call the “Summer of Punk II.”

He helped recapture the imagination of wrestling fans that felt like they were no longer in tune with the product and was part of a very memorable match & angle at Money in the Bank 2011. There were times he may have fallen off a bit in 2011 but there was no doubt that he was a top wrestler for the WWE when he captured the WWE Championship in historic style at Madison Square Garden at Survivor Series 2011. CM Punk is my choice for the 2011 WWE Wrestler of the year.

Thomas Holzerman of The Wrestling Blog- CM Punk: I’m picking CM Punk, but it’s not as much a no-brainer as one might expect. Mark Henry, yes, the same Mark Henry who as recently as four years ago was sent to the wasteland of ECW, came on strong and became as feelgood a story as a monster villain ever could. Here was a guy who was being ribbed to the point of almost quitting within six months of receiving the push of his life. All he did was go out and split wigs, induct people into his Hall of Pain, and bring back the chip on his shoulder that made him such a dynamo in said ECW stint.

That being said, Henry’s year was epic because of the execution. Punk’s year was epic because he potentially changed landscapes. He moved mountains. He started a revolution. Granted, that revolution is still in its early stages. It might fail to gain traction. But why dwell on the negative here when most of what Punk has given us has been positive? Match after match, promo after promo, he made wrestling fresh and new again. He gave it promise and purpose. Henry followed the script excellently, but Punk tore it up and rewrote it. That’s why he’s the wrestler of the year.

Brett Clendaniel of WrestleChat.net – CM Punk: I think this one should be unanimous. While there are a few guys that really went above and beyond this year, none really elevated their status the way CM Punk did. Punk went from a guy mired in the upper-mid card to a guy that some reports are saying is positioned to be the new face of the WWE going forward. He’s really the first main eventer to really connect with that 17-34 male demographic since “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock. Whether it was his now-famous worked shoot, his great matches nearly every time he steps in the ring, or his promo’s in which he doesn’t hold back, CM Punk has just resonated with fans of all ages. Even thought ratings may not be showing results at the moment, talk to any wrestling fan and they’ll tell you that the WWE is better today because of CM Punk than they were in January of 2011 when he wasn’t in the spot he is now.

Honorable Mention: Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton, Robert Roode, Cody Rhodes, Eddie Edwards & John Cena.

Jerome Wilen of ProWrestlingRingside.Blogspot.com – Mark Henry: The best career move that WWE creative did in 2011 is when they took a gamble and turned Mark Henry heel. I never really cared about Mark Henry until he became a monster heel. He has done very well both in his role as an unstoppable heel champion even when “injured.” He deserves kudos for stepping up his game with improved mic skills and doing crazy stuff such as “injuring” a sound technician on an episode of SmackDown by tossing him like a rag doll. His unpredictable character is something that has been missing from wrestling for a long time and is one of the main reasons I won’t read the spoilers so I can be surprised at what he might do next as a part of his “House of Pain” gimmick. Finally, WWE has a talent who was basically a circus side show during the attitude era with worthless storylines and gimmicks can now be taken seriously not only as a legitimate heel, but a force to be reckoned with that has the World Heavyweight Championship belt.

Terri Bey – Mark Henry: I know it is not going to be a popular choice as there was CM Punk who is the obvious choice with his brilliance on the mic and in the ring. John Cena, the cash cow, is probably another obvious choice, as Randy Orton would have been, but my reasoning is that Henry has been in the company for over a decade, and was given so many goofy gimmicks, a couple of them to make him quit, but he stood in there. This time, they pushed him as a monster, and he responded with some of the best work on the mic, and in the ring. He is taken seriously as a monster heel. Most people know he isn’t a great catch as catch can worker, but he has taken what he can do, and made it work. He also has done a great job as a heel World Champion. Smackdown ratings have been around 2 or so since he has been champion as well.

Dustin Nichols of NerdsLikeMe.Blogspot.com – CM Punk: Punk went from a sometimes main-eventer/mostly mid-carder earlier this year into a bonafide main eventer in a matter of weeks. A lot of it can be credited to his “work-shoot” promo on John Cena that has now become part of his gimmick, but at the same time, Punk has worked his ass off to get to the spot he’s in right now. He’s excellent in the ring, can work with nearly anyone, and has proven to be the most entertaining talker to hit WWE in many, many years. As the year ends, he is the current WWE Champion (and a 2-time champ for the year), and his first run with the belt, despite being short, was one of the most memorable runs in a long time thanks to a very hot storyline, engaging promos, great in-ring work and almost universal support from the crowd. As an added bonus, 2012 appears to be more of the same good fortune for Punk.

Steve Urena – Mark Henry: Now a lot of people are going to choose CM punk but we all knew CM Punk was great at what he does, plus he has won the world title before. I’m going to pick a wrestler who showed determination and drive and transformed himself into something new.. Mark Henry. Mark Henry at the beginning of the year was a teddy bear, a loveable babyface who was big on the outside but soft on the inside. I was always a fan of Henry since he transformed from sexual chocolate into a menacing figure and thought that he could be a menacing and powerful monster of a character. Fast forward to the draft lottery and Mark Henry turns on John Cena. What a moment. That teddy bear that everyone had grown to cheer for had turned into a grizzly bear and finally, we saw fire in the eyes of Mark Henry. We also saw a lighter Mark Henry as Henry went down in weight in order to be a better performer. I was looking forward to seeing him on SmackDown and figured he would be in a main event feud at some point and his run has been better than anyone expected. He started off in the mix with Christian and Sheamus then moved onto Randy Orton. His Hall of Pain will be memorable for years to come due to the brutality and the way he has handled giants. His matches have become so much better than they have before and I look forward to his title matches whenever they come on Pay Per View. Who would have thought that the guy who impregnated Mae Young would be a monster heel champion? I love it and Mark Henry deserves it. Mark Henry is my pick for wrestler of the year for his improvement and his brand new attitude.

WWE Story of the Year

Eric G – Edge retires: I went back and forth on this, CM Punk’s push, and Punk’s lack of impact on business but I think at the end of the year, there is nothing bigger than one of the biggest stars of the last decade walking away for good.

It is funny because in another era, fans would still be talking about the retirement of Edge. Yet I think fans have become so cynical and rightfully so, that they all believe Edge and even Shawn Michaels will be back in the ring at some point. I am not buying it. Medically, it just doesn’t appear in the cards. I was not necessarily the biggest Edge fan when he was around, but I have certainly noticed the difference since he left. For me, this is the biggest story of the year.

Jeff P – The return of The Rock: Besides CM Punk’s promo from June 27th, 2011 there was only one other moment that grabbed the attention of wrestling fans, new and old in one night. February 14th, 2011 “the most electrifying man in all of sports and entertainment” made his return to the WWE for the first time in seven years. It was The Rock and he announced that he was “hosting” Wrestlemania 27 & that he would never leave the WWE ever again.

Thomas H – The WWE Network: For me, the story of the year was the announcement of the WWE Network. Wrestling had always been at the mercy of network executives who were stingy with their timeslots until WWE, which has had a history of entrepreneurial endeavors, decided they wanted to control the content themselves. This is what a bold decision looks like in 2011, just like the decision made in the early ’80s to go national or in the early ’90s was to go live every Monday on cable television. Whether it works or not will be a different story; we shall see in 2012 whether that happens. For now though, the story is that they have the testicular fortitude to follow through on this, and as a fan, I hope they succeed.

The return was a moment once again where people were talking, fans that missed out check out his return on YouTube videos and were excited to see one of the wrestlers that defined a generation return back to his roots. The return led to what was the groundwork to a match between The Rock & John Cena for Wrestlemania 28 and what maybe a part-time role in the WWE as The Rock promised. It was something many wrestling fans thought they’d never see again but for that night the WWE and The Rock surprised & shocked the wrestling world by returning in grand fashion.

Brett C – (For the Second Year in a row) The Influence of Social Networking on Professional Wrestling: Ya know, I took a bit of a beating last year when I chose this as the big story of the year over a few others. Looking back, I really pat myself on the back for being absolutely right. Look at how many times a Superstars Facebook or Twitter account is mentioned on any show. Watch at how we have “Trending Topics” pushed down our throats on live TV. The story of the year once again was the impact that these things had on what we saw on our screens. The “Internet darlings”, as we’ve all been called multiple times, have really had our voices heard. Look at every WWE champion right now – CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Zack Ryder, Cody Rhodes, Beth Phoenix, and AirBoom. All young, entertaining athletes who the “smarks” around the world have been begging to carry belts for a year now. The WWE has seemingly given the Internet what they’ve been asking for. Hopefully it’s not so that they can throw it up in our faces in a month or two if ratings continue to go down the toilet. In 2011, superstars on Twitter were the gifts that continue to keep on giving. Matt Hardy being arrested, hinting at suicide, and being arrested again were probably the big Twitter moments of the year. But then there’s also people like Goldust who was banned from the site for multiple months after the WWE received numerous complaints about the way he treated fans. We saw superstars have their pushes (John Morrison) abruptly stopped, debuts (Brodus Clay) put off, and ex-employees (Chavo Guerrero, Michael Tarver) use it rip current WWE main eventers to shreds. Let us not forget Michael Cole getting tons of heat for tweeting gay slurs and Vick Guerrero and Karen Jarrett getting into a virtual cat fight that lasted quite a few days.

Honorable Mention: Death of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Return of The Rock, and Edge’s Retirement.

Terri B – 11 Time WWE/World Champion Edge Suddenly Retires: I don’t mean for this first couple of sentences to get personal, but here goes. On January 8, 2011,ironically five years to the day that Edge won his first WWE Title, I was second row ringside at Rupp Arena for a house show. Edge had just beaten Kane in a very good street fight. He was a ten time World Champion. He went around, and shook hands, and grabbed mine, and shook mine. I gave him a present which was a set of photos of him and Umaga tag teaming that I had taken, ironically in Rupp 2 years prior.. He had painted his face and body like Umaga. The last words he would say to me (I had met him twice before) was Thank You. Well, little did I know that would be the last time I would ever see him perform live, as on April 11, 2011, on Raw, at Bridgeport , CT, he announced he was forced to retire due to spinal stenosis in his neck. It was a shock to me, as well as to wrestling fans, and to the industry, as well as to WWE.  WWE gave him a great sendoff, but also had to do a draft earlier than usual. Even though Edge , per interviews, happy in his retirement, his absence leaves a void, especially on the Smackdown side. One can sense his talent not being there. Edge was kind of , and this is about the best analogy I can come up with, kind of like a chair that was always there. After all, he was with the company for 12 years or so. I started watching in 1998, the year he was first with the company, so I saw his career blossom from beginning to end. I am glad he had such an illustrious career, but his absence is strongly felt, and his impact on the WWE product is missed. Edge was a hell of a worker, even after the injuries (neck, pec, achilles, etc) started to take a toll. He continued to have awesome matches, even right up till the end. Edge also was a hell of a promo man. He was one of the best on the mic. In my opinion, he is one of the best heels ever. The sad part about the retirement is that he was JUST getting over as a babyface, a role that he was pretty decent at, but he was in his element as a heel. His retirement was heartbreaking, as no one wants to see a proud athlete lose his/her career to injury, but it was good that there were a lot of his peers saying great things about him, and having met him three times, I can confirm he is a great person. He is sorely missed, and he is missed on WWE, but his health must come first. Thank you Edge.

Dustin N – The CM Punk Money in the Bank Angle: The story of the year is the same as the angle of the year, as far as my vote is concerned. When it was confirmed that Punk was indeed leaving WWE after MITB and had not signed a new contract, it seemed like a surefire bet that Cena would walk out of the PPV with the WWE title in tact, despite being in front of a very hostile Chicago crowd against the city’s favorite son. Instead, Punk not only walked out of the Allstate Arena with the WWE title in his grasp, but continued to rub in the face of the company, including a very famous incident where he showed up at the San Diego Comic-Con with the belt and began yelling at Triple H via megaphone. Add in all of the build-up to this match over the previous few weeks where no one was sure what was going to happen-including, apparently, a lot of the employees on the WWE roster-and it made for one of the most interesting stories to come to wrestling in a long time, both inside the ring and out. While Punk was on a crusade to change wrestling because it was no longer fun, something amazing happened: fans watching actually began having fun watching these events unfold. Punk made a lot of us remember what wrestling once was and could still be again. Granted, it mostly turned into an angle and a re-birth for CM Punk’s character (a welcome one at that), but for those few weeks, CM Punk and WWE reminded me just how much fun wrestling could be if done right.

Steve U – The Rock Returns to WWE: Besides my match of the year candidates, I never felt so much joy and jubilation in wrestling until I heard IF YA SMELLLLL… What the Rock is cooking. He came back and I was 7 years old again. I remember being in my college dorm room with my friends watching Raw trying to guess who the guest host would be. We figured it could be the Rock with John Cena hinting at it but we hadn’t seen the Rock in years so it could have been anyone. Once he appeared came down the ramp and did his shtick and called out Cena I was ecstatic. Then when he challenged Cena for Mania and showed back up at Survivor Series I was elated. I got the chance to see his first match back and he hasn’t lost a step. Fans woke up and maybe him coming back means better business for wrestling… even if it is via satellite.

WWE Match of the Year

Eric G – Randy Orton vs. Christian Over the Limit, May 22, 2011: This is what I wrote on the CCB immediately after watching the match. “I can’t say it enough, this was a great match. I would give this Match of the Year for the WWE at this point, even over Triple H vs. The Undertaker. For all of the psychology Triple H vs. The Undertaker lacked, Orton vs. Christian had it. I can’t think of a better match that Randy Orton has ever had.”

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I stand by that today. I think this series was the best the WWE has had since Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho in 2008. My favorite portion of the series was the first few matches where the WWE booked them both as babyfaces. It was everything a championship rivalry should be between two “heroes.” Even after the heel turn, the matches continued to get better and while some were fantastic, I don’t think anything was better than at this stage in the feud.

Jeff P – CM Punk vs. John Cena (Money in the Bank 2011): This was a real tough one to choose because there were some really good matches this year from Randy Orton vs. Christian at Capital Punishment to Triple H vs. The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 27. But when it comes down to a match that you will most remember in 2011 it will have to be Punk/Cena from Money in the Bank 2011. It had people talking leading into the match and it had people talking after the match.

Thomas H – CM Punk vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011: I racked my brain thinking about other matches that could be here other than CM Punk vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank. I tried and tried and tried some more to make rationalizations for affairs like Punk against Dolph Ziggler on the RAW after Survivor Series, or any one of the Randy Orton/Christian matches or even the Punk/Cena rematch at SummerSlam. I just couldn’t do it. Punk and Cena were embroiled in a perfect storm. They were two guys who always had good matches with each other, wrestling in front of the most insanely hyperactive crowd in recent memory with a once-in-a-lifetime situation. There were so many outside factors. Would Vince McMahon try to re-create the Montreal Screwjob? Would Punk really walk out of WWE with the Championship if he had won? Would the crowed really have rioted if Punk lost?

For the amount of hype and questions and mystique around the match, it delivered. No movement was wasted. The crowd was intense and hanging on every moment, every little turn of action. There were the sweeping tropes for the fans at large, and there were Easter eggs for the more hardcore fans, the most noticeable being Punk celebrating with Ace Steel and Colt Cabana after a successful suicide dive to the outside. The end of the match might have been the most positively memorable PPV close in history, with McMahon and Cena showing how much the WWE title meant to each of them in their own different ways. And then, just like that, after the decision and the awarding of the title, Punk was gone. He kissed McMahon and WWE goodbye for the time being, and he was gone.

For a resolution that only really served as a bookmark for the future, more final chapter, it sure was as memorable as a complete ending.

The story telling in the match was classic yet basic as Cena & Punk put on a really good match. It told a story inside the ring and fed off the electricity that sat outside it. You were on the edge of your seat because you wanted to see what would happen next. The match itself was the most talked about match in 2011 in any wrestling company and therefore is the reason why I choose it as my WWE Match of the Year.

Brett C – CM Punk vs John Cena at Money in the Bank: The match that REALLY put CM punk on the map as a guy who could be the face of the company. I still remember that night like it was just yesterday. Social networking was abuzz just wondering if it really would be CM Punk’s last night with the company. Him leaving the company seemed like a certainty, but as the show grew near, SWERVE was on everybody’s mind. This match was absolutely electric. I, personally, can’t think of any match in the last 5 years (that didn’t involve the Undertaker and Wrestlemania, anyway) that had a crowd so invested in it. And KUDOS to the fans at Chicago on that night for making this match what it was. If you ever need proof that an audience is just as pivotal to how a match will be looked back upon historically as the actual ringwork itself, look no further than this one. It was reminiscent of John Cena and Rob Van Dam at One Night Stand. This match was also a clinic in how a main event should be done. As I wrote right here on the Camel Clutch Blog (http://camelclutchblog.com/july-17-2011-the-day-john-cena-proved-to-be-money-in-the-bank/), CM Punk may have walked out of Money in the Bank as the Superstar, but it was John Cena who actually proved to be “Money in the Bank.”

Honorable Mention: Randy Orton vs Christan “Over the Limit”, Undertaker vs Triple H “WrestleMania 27”, Davey Richards vs Eddie Edwards “Ring of Honor: Best in the World”, Christian vs Alberto Del Rio “Extreme Rules”, Any Match featuring Dolph Ziggler or Daniel Bryan, Any Match not featuring Sin Cara

Terri B – Edge (C) vs Rey Mysterio vs Kane vs The Big Show vs Drew McIntyre vs Wade Barrett in an Elimination Chamber Match at Elimination Chamber 2011 for the World Heavyweight Title: This category was hard for me to decide. There were several candidates for “WWE Match of the Year that I could have went with. I loved the HHH/Taker match at Mania 27, either of the Cena/Punk matches, and the Edge/Ziggler World Title match at Rumble. However, this particular match at Elimination Chamber 2011 was just brilliant from start to finish. The big men, Kane and Show were great, and Barrett, and McIntyre did great jobs. I thought McIntyre stood out especially well. However, it was Edge and Rey Mysterio who really were outstanding and showed why they were the amongst the best in the wrestling business. They worked well with the other participants, but when it came down to the two of them, the match went to another level. The last ten minutes of this match is worth the DVD. The false finishes, and Rey’s acrobatic antics were fantastic. Watching both men kicking out of each others’ finishes was awesome. The match ends with Edge spearing Rey in the end, and you see both guys laying there wiped out. Great stuff. Of course, you had Del Rio attack Edge post match, and Christian came to the rescue, and then Edge , I believe spears Del Rio, and takes his belt to the back. The other matches I mentioned were great, but this match impressed me the most this year.

Jerome W – The Undertaker vs. Triple H WrestleMania 27: Undertaker and Triple H at this year’s WrestleMania 27 was the best match on the entire card.  For the most part, WrestleMania’s have been lackluster, but these two seasoned veterans of the game (no pun intended) showed the world they “still got it” with a match that had suspense and some really great action and even both of these talented superstars supposedly getting fined $2,500.00 with Undertaker taking an unprotected chair shot to the head during the match.  The match had some great near falls showing that Undertaker actually could possibly lose the match (even though I expected him to win clean over Triple H).  Both Undertaker and Triple H told a great story in the ring, thus deserving of match of the year for 2011.

Dustin N – CM Punk vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011: While most are probably going to go with Triple H/Undertaker from Wrestlemania 27, I won’t be going that route. Sorry, but I really thought that match sucked. Instead, I’m going to have to go with CM Punk vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank. Never before was the future of a wrestler so up in the air. Would Punk lose and ride off into the sunset, or would he win and take the WWE title with him elsewhere? Punk and Cena faced off in Punk’s hometown of Chicago, and not only did they blow the roof off the place in front of a hot and hostile crowd, but Punk proceeded to get the match of a lifetime out of John Cena, proving that, when he chooses not to be Superman, Cena can actually put on a good performance. Yes, there were some botches in the match, and yes, there were probably better matches from a technical standpoint, but the still-excellent quality of the match combined with the atmosphere puts this one over the top.

Steve U- Tie between the Undertaker vs. Triple H at Wrestlemania / CM Punk vs. John Cena MITB: I can’t decide which match is better because I was so emotionally invested in both and they both stick out to me as phenomenal matches this year. These are how matches should be. You should be on the edge of your seat caring about who is going to win the match. Both had stipulations with two things at stake. The WWE Title and the Undertaker’s streak two of the most important things at stake in WWE. Taker/ Triple H brought a whole new level of violence to the Streak and Cena / Punk felt like a change was coming when Punk won. They both deserve match of the year and I don’t think anything else can hold a candle to those two matches this year.

WWE Angle of the Year

Eric G – The Rock vs. John Cena: The easy answer here is CM Punk but I think the way the angle ended really hurt it here. Plus, when you look at The Rock vs. Cena you can’t even touch the impact on business that it has had over any other angle the WWE has booked in 2011 and at the end of the day, the success of an angle comes down to business and this one is money in the bank (no pun intended).

I love that the WWE embraced the Cena hatred here and used it as the catalyst for The Rock’s return. The WWE could have easily pretended to ignore the obvious and had Cena and The Rock shaking hands and becoming best friends on night one. Instead they allowed The Rock to call out the yellow elephant in the room and the results thus far have been tremendous.

I don’t think anyone would argue that the dynamic between The Rock vs. Cena is what put the highly successful WrestleMania 27 over the top. The promos in and out of the ring leading up to the show were some of the best I have seen on WWE television for years. The angle has certainly had its ups and downs but overall it continues to be the most compelling in major league professional wrestling as far as I am concerned.

Jeff P – CM Punk’s promo from RAW Roulette on June 27th, 2011 that elevated him: You didn’t know if it was a shoot or a work. You couldn’t believe what you were hearing what CM Punk was saying on your television as it was happening. You were texting your friends to turn on WWE RAW right now whether they were current wrestling fans or former wrestling fans. It accomplished what it needed to do & that was make people talk about it and to sell a match/feud.

Thomas H – CM Punk: Great angles come in many different shapes and sizes, but sometimes, the best stories come from things that don’t feel like stories at all. When CM Punk came out wearing a Steve Austin t-shirt on June 27th to cost John Cena his match with R-Truth, no one thought anything of it. It was standard operating procedure to have this kind of chicanery pervade the main event. However, when Punk took a microphone, sat Indian-style and proceeded to drop a pipebomb that shook the WWE to its core? Yeah, that moment started what should have been a revolution. For two months, the illusion that wrestling was cool again was prevalent throughout the landscape. Of course, Triple H and Kevin Nash had to glom the spotlight for themselves, but during that two month period, everything was alright with the World Wrestling Entertainment.

Thankfully, they’ve begun the course-correction back to having that feeling again. Was some of it lost thanks to the regression to the mean that happened between SummerSlam and Survivor Series? I think so, but it can be gained back if the people who stuck by continue to send out word that something new and different is happening in WWE, in wrestling.

Who knows if the Punk/Cena match would have even been considered a match of the year candidate if it wasn’t for the promo he cut on June 27th, 2011? The greatness of this promo will have to be determined for years to come due to the path of success CM Punk will take from here on out. As of right now it has helped make CM Punk a marketable face for the WWE, a star that adults watch the WWE product can relate too and still gives you that “man vs. machine” attitude that made Stone Cold Steve Austin so popular. It’s talked about now and it will be talked about for years after, it was without a doubt the angle of the year.

Brett C – CM Punk’s Worked Shoot & All That Came With It: Noticing a pattern here yet? Yeah, I’m all about CM Punk this year. The worked shoot promo that we’ve all watched many, many times now was one of the most memorable thing we’ve ever seen in years. In a time where every single thing that happens is pretty much leaked on the Internet before eyes ever see it, this was one of those magical moments that literally had all of us sitting there with our eyes wide open, jaws dropped, hair standing up, and our ears wanting to hear more. What followed with Punk crashing the WWE events at Comic Con, showing up at Indy events, and his Twitter trash talk was just as good. Based on the WWE booking we’ve seen over the years, I think it’s pretty obvious that this was mostly CM Punk’s idea. Truth is, there’s really no angle that was even close to this, but I’ll list a few honorable mentions anyway.

Honorable mention: Randy Orton & Christian’s feud, Beer Money’s trek/feud towards the TNA Heavyweight Title, and Kevin Steen being fired/rehired by Ring of Honor.

Terri B – CM Punk going “inside” with his promos, and his taking the WWE Title home with him: Well, for me, this one was easy, andwas a no brainer. I thought this was awesome. Here he was, watching Cena getting thrown into a table, I believe, by R Truth and Miz, and Punk sits down on the top of the ramp, and cuts a promo that includes a lot of “inside” stuff. I was like, “WOW.”  The whole thing was cool. WWE bungled it by bringing Punk back too soon (one week)but I loved his running his yap talking inside stuff, I didn’t think Kevin Nash (who can’t cut a promo to save his life) needed to be dragged into the angle, but I loved how Punk took Nash to school on the mic. I loved his verbal spats with Triple H as well. Why John Laurinaitis is involved, I have no idea. He can’t cut a promo either, and Punk owns him too. However, overall, I loved this angle.

Dustin N – The Summer of Punk: I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but the “Summer of Punk” was just too good. While Punk’s contract was legitimately expiring at the end of Money in the Bank, no one really seemed to know what was going to happen next. Punk threatened that, if he won the WWE title, he’d take the belt with him to other promotions such as ROH or All-Japan. While most believed it was an angle, Punk was so good in his role as a bitter soon-to-be former employee complete with “work-shoot” promos that no one really knew what to think. When I watched it, I guessed it was probably an angle, but at the same time, there was that little sliver of doubt that maybe, just maybe, this was real. Furthermore, I know a lot of other fans felt the same way. In this day and age where wrestling fans are more jaded and cynical than ever (Yours Truly included) and spoilers are available the second a TV taping has ended, it’s hard to fool fans. When you as a promoter or wrestling promotion can create even that tiny sliver of doubt that I mentioned, you know you’ve got a great angle on your hands.

Steve U – CM Punk holds the WWE Title Hostage: No one saw this coming. This angle just happened out of nowhere when CM Punk got a live microphone. When he unloaded on WWE management people felt the same anger and disdain that Punk did after he dropped his “Pipe bomb.” The angle did fizzle out a little bit later but it got CM Punk on a main stage which works for me. When Punk held the title hostage I had to tune into Raw just because I didn’t know what was going to happen next. It should have went longer but for those few weeks wrestling was hot again and for that I commend Mr. Punk.

Dustin Nichols – As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/XDustinEFLX, and if you like Married…With Children, you can follow my Al Bundy parody account at http://www.twitter.com/bundyisms. Also follow my personal blog at http://nerdslikeme.blogspot.com (feedback is welcome).

Steve Urena – - [email protected]. Enjoy!

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Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/missedgehead

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Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.

For more from Jerome Wilen check out his website, Pro Wrestling Ringside – http://prowrestlingringside.blogspot.com

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