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The Camel Clutch Blog WWE 2014 Year In Review

December 29, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

The World Wrestling Entertainment had an eventful 2014. The WWE saw new stars breakout, a historic result, & one of the most fascinating stories in recent years with one top star quitting and jumping into the world of MMA. Rather than look back myself at the WWE 2014 in review, I am joined by a collection of pro wrestling writers from CamelClutchBlog.com.

WWE Wrestler of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Brock Lesnar. This may not be a popular opinion but I am going with Brock Lesnar for Wrestler of the Year. Yes I know he wrestled a part-time schedule, but look at what he accomplished in just a handful of matches? He not only ended the streak but he destroyed the WWE world champion in the most one-sided match you’ll ever see headline a WWE pay-per-view. Nobody even came close to giving Lesnar a run for the money. Rollins was my initial choice but even he didn’t have victories as historic as Lesnar. Speaking of historic, Lesnar had two historic matches in one year! I know some people will argue the schedule but I can’t think of anyone who had as dominant of a 2014 in the WWE ring as Brock.

Dustin Nichols – Dolph Ziggler. Had he not gone down with an injury early in the year, I think 2014 would have been the year for Daniel Bryan. Having said that, I am going with Dolph Ziggler. After being punished for some untimely (albeit truthful) comments about Randy Orton being boring and holding the roster back, WWE seems ready to forgive and forget and allow Ziggler to be the star we’ve all known he could be for years. Ziggler’s last few months in WWE have been spectacular, with great match after great match, as well as several key, big wins over guys like Luke Harper and Seth Rollins, including being the sole survivor in the main event at this year’s Survivor Series. Not only that, but he has brought a lot of prestige back to the Intercontinental Championship, and with the WWE title being on a part-timer who only works 30 days a year, Ziggler has done what he promised and made the IC title the most important singles belt in the company.

Tom Clark – Dolph Ziggler. Dolph Ziggler is usually the fans’ choice and honestly I have to go with him this time out.  Dean Ambrose had a good year and Seth Rollins did very well but for me, no one was as consistent as Ziggler.  Every time he laces up the boots, he impresses.  Just because he’s not a top guy makes no difference in terms of what he means to that company; Dolph is an absolute workhorse and he gets it done every time out.  He looks more comfortable and more at ease than he perhaps ever has before and if this is what simply allowing a guy to work with little main event expectations is like, then I for one say keep him where he is. He will eventually rise to the top, the guy is too good and he’s too over to be kept down for much longer.

Jeff Peck – Seth Rollins. Heading into 2014, Seth Rollins may have been the least likely guy on The Shield to breakout on his own and now he is by far the best star from The Shield since their split back in June. Rollins how tremendous matches throughout the year with guys like Dean Ambrose & John Cena and now he is poised to be a WWE Champion at some point in 2015. It’s amazing to see how far Seth Rollins has come from Tyler Black in ROH to the star we see each and every week in the WWE.

Atlee Greene – Dean Ambrose. In the wake of Daniel Bryan’s injury in May, no one has captured the imagination of WWE fans more than Dean Ambrose. Seth Rollins, and to an extent, Roman Reigns have had some good matches and fun moments but the lunatic fringe, with his versatile performance on the microphone and in the ring, has proven that in the case of The Shield, the sun of its parts is greater than the whole. Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins also deserve consideration for this honor.

Steve Grossi – Brock Lesnar. Some people are going to think I’m crazy but I’m going with Brock Lesnar for my wrestler of the year.  When I think of the individual that should win this, in my mind, it’s the wrestler who had the biggest year – the wrestler who made the biggest impact.  Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Daniel Bryan, John Cena and Dolph Ziggler all had great moments but no one even comes close to the impact Brock made in the ring in 2014.  I hate the idea that he didn’t wrestle enough to win wrestler of the year.  This isn’t football or baseball where stats are compiled.  He works when he works. It’s not about collecting stats to compare against someone else.  With Ziggler’s win at Survivor Series being close, Brock had two wins that are untouchable by anyone else.  Lesnar’s domination of Cena at SummerSlam was unbelievable.  It was the most one-sided beating of Cena’s WWE career.  Brock hit Super Cena with 16 German suplexes, and two F-5’s, pinning Cena clean to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.  Four months prior, the thing I never thought would ever happen, happened.  Brock Lesnar did exactly what Paul Heyman said he was going to do, he defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania, putting an end to Taker’s 21-match undefeated streak. Those are two moments I never thought I would see and Brock Lesnar did them both in the same year. Hands down the wrestler of the year for 2014.

Danny Bixby – John Cena.John Cena. Let’s go ahead and everyone agree to just disavow me now. My pick is…sigh…John Cena. Ugh, I hate myself for this! But let’s be honest, this year has been pretty much a crapshoot talent-wise. With CM Punk quitting in January, Daniel Bryan getting injured for 6-12 months right after he won the title at Wrestlemania and WWE’s new golden child Roman Reigns being out for a few months this fall, the WWE main event scene has fallen to one guy: John Cena. He has main evented 7 out of 12 PPV’s this year, and been the “2nd main event” for the other 5. Nobody else can boast that. The WWE relies on him to carry the weight of the product, and he does it year after year. 2014 was no different.

David Levin – Daniel Bryan. The rise of Bryan over the course of two years is one of the best stories in wrestling history. It is as important to the business as it was back in the 1970s when it was thought Ric Flair wasn’t worthy enough to hold the belt because Dory Funk and Jack Brisco had better wrestling backgrounds. The cult-like rapport’ Bryan has with the fans from a simple catch phrase – “YES!” – is one for the ages.

Robert Goeman – Seth Rollins. If Daniel Bryan had stayed healthy, this award would have been his. When the Shield broke up this year, Ambrose and Reigns had easy transitions into their face roles. Ambrose became a vengeful psychopath hell bent on destroying Rollins and Reigns…he changed his gear! Rollins became the handpicked golden boy of the Authority and has knocked it out of the park as a cocky little turd. With the sudden disappearance of alleged real world’s champion Brock Lesnar to visit every Jimmy Johns in a goodwill tour to spread the word of Vito Meats, Rollins has settled comfortably into the top heel spot. The highlight of his is of course the excellent Ambrose feud and good to great bouts against the likes of Ziggler and Cena among others. Rollins has cemented himself as the top heel in the company and I really don’t see anybody on the roster unseating him or even challenging him. Of course, I’m not forgetting all of the excellent work Rollins did in the Shield; he just impressed the heck out of me in this role. I honestly thought he would struggle in the role, but Rollins has been a natural in the role.

Chris Skoyles – Dolph Ziggler. Equally revered by casual fans and die-hards alike, Dolph Ziggler -in this writer’s opinion- deserves the nod for Wrestler of the Year not so much for any kayfabe accomplishments, but more for continuing to maintain his status as a firm favourite despite his continual mistreatment at the hands of the WWE machine. Whilst others are held up as bastions of greatness one minute, only to be scorned the next (see: Roman Reigns), Ziggler manages to retain the respect and adulation of fans thanks to his always-on-form work in keeping us entertained.

Eric Darsie – Dean Ambrose. If you told me at the start of 2014 that the Shield will break up and Dean Ambrose would be the guy I was most excited about watching out of the three, I’d laugh at you. When the three broke apart at the end of the spring, all three men jumped up the singles ladder rather quickly and I can see all three men as main eventers in the future, but with Dean Ambrose having a two pay-per-view main events under his belt as a singles star, he’s my wrestler of the year.

WWE Story of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – CM Punk Quitting the WWE and signing with the UFC. I struggled between CM Punk leaving the WWE and going to UFC and the Ultimate Warrior’s return and subsequent passing. With all due respect to the Warrior, I think the CM Punk story was much bigger on so many levels. Never have we had a story where a top guy just walked out of the company, impacting WrestleMania, and going to the UFC all in one year! On top of all of that you have the added element of Punk’s wife still working for the WWE. This is one hell of a story and the recent podcasts and interviews only heated it up again. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like it again and for me, this was the biggest story of the year in and outside of the ring. How big of a story was this? In a year where the WWE essentially eliminated the pay-per-view model in favor of a network, this story was bigger.

Dustin Nichols – CM Punk quits and signs with UFC. I think there’s really only one story that can earn this award, and that’s CM Punk parting ways with WWE and eventually signing with UFC. Regardless of which side you believe (although Punk’s seems more likely), the fact is that Punk was a major star during his time with WWE, and leaving the company for a variety of reasons was even more major. The split was bitter, and Punk eventually decided to not only not return, but to leave pro wrestling for good, announcing his retirement before the age of 40, something almost unheard of in this sport. If that wasn’t shocking enough, Punk recently signed a major contract with UFC, with both sides likely looking to replicate the success of Brock Lesnar a few years back. Punk is already training for his first fight, and is expected to debut sometime in 2015. Already, speculation is running rampant on not only who Punk will face, but how well he is expected to fare in “the Octagon”. Regardless of what you think of his career move, Punk signing with UFC has the whole sports world talking.

Tom Clark – The CM Punk saga. For me, this has to be the CM Punk saga.  The guy that once stood up for the WWE locker room decided to leave it behind in favor of healing up and trying to have a normal life with his new wife.  It made sense and I for one didn’t hold it against him.  When he finally broke his silence on WWE, everyone lost their minds and when the UFC announcement was made, things got even crazier.  The voice of the voiceless was screaming louder than ever before and he wasn’t even in the ring anymore.  Fans can either hate him or love him but no one deny Punk’s drive to be his own man and not be controlled by anyone else on any level.  We should all be that brave.

Jeff Peck – CM Punk vs. the WWE. From the walkout to the podcast pipebomb to Vince McMahon’s response the CM Punk/WWE saga has dominated headlines throughout of 2014. From rumors of CM Punk being at RAW in Chicago back in March 2014 to rumors of CM Punk being at WrestleMania 30 to rumors of any and every type of return. It’ll be interesting to see what twists it takes heading into 2015 as CM Punk prepares for his UFC debut and if there is any “burying of the hatchet” between he & the WWE.

Steve Grossi – The Ultimate Warrior Returns. The debut of Sting is a very difficult story to pick against but for me, The Ultimate Warrior was the story of 2014.  After a long and ugly feud with Vince McMahon and WWE management that lasted 18+ years, The Ultimate Warrior took his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame with a speech that will never be forgotten.  Then, the night after WrestleMania XXX, he made an epic return to Monday Night Raw with an even more powerful and very eerie speech.  He said, “No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own.  Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat; his lungs breathe their final breath.” It’s almost like he was saying his final farewell.  Then the following day, one of the saddest days I can remember, he passed away.  There is no doubt in my mind that after everything that had happened in the events during WrestleMania weekend, he was happy and finally at peace.  He will forever be one of my all-time favorite wrestlers.  He’s the kind of personality you never forget.  The music, his sprint to the ring, the face paint and one-of-a-kind promos and there’s no question the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will live forever. I couldn’t be happier that he was able to make his return and take his place in the WWE Hall of Fame.

David Levin – CM Punk Walking Out. Punk marched to the beat of his own drum. He walked out and then was fired on his wedding day. Arenas chant his name, hope he will appear in person in a “Sting sitting in the rafters” type scenario.Now, after hearing about how Vince McMahon publically apologized to him for the way he company treated him, to how Punk was never treated properly for MRSA to how he now is property of the UFC, Punk continues to make headline just for the mere fact he is the most polarizing wrestler who has not appeared in a WWE ring in the last 11 months.

Danny Bixby – $9.99! Say it with me: $9.99!!! That’s right, the absolute biggest story of the year was the creation and promotion of the WWE Network. A fan’s wet dream when it comes to watching pro wrestling. You can see every WWE/WCW/ECW ppv that ever existed, along with every new WWE ppv live while they air. I mean really, even if it was current PPV’s, you’re looking at $600 in ppv cable costs…instead of $120 for the year for the Network. That’s a crazy deal. Throw in all the old stuff, the new special content (Countdown, Monday Night War, etc) and every fan has been salivating at this. Hell, it’s worth $9.99 just to be able to watch NXT every week! As time goes on, the future of WWE will rise and fall with the success of the Network. All of their eggs are in this basket. Hopefully it doesn’t get crushed.

Robert Goeman – CM Punk’s Walk Out. This to me was a tough vote because we had the Network launch and it struggle leading to the stock debacle. You had Daniel Bryan cementing himself as the new face of the WWE, to only see his career in doubt. We all know or at-least we thought we knew the story being Punk leaving, sitting out his contract and then seemingly disappearing. Punk had never talked about the walk-out; the WWE seemed to be in radio silence mode and CM Punk became CM Sticky Note. Everybody theorized when Punk would return, then people were happy he was gone, and then everybody wanted him back. We also wondered when Vince would be seen driving a dump truck full of money down to Chicago. The company took pot shots at him in Chicago and Punk to his credit maintained silence. On Thanksgiving weekend, Punk would appear on Colt Cabana’s podcast, revealing

Chris Skoyles – CM Punk and WWE part way. I badly wanted to give this one to the Undertaker’s streak reaching its end. After all, did anything come as far out of the blue as that? Yet ultimately, I have to concede that the Punk/WWE break up earns the win simply because it’s dominated headlines for pretty much the full course of the year. Months after the Straight Edge Superstar’s last appearance in a WWE ring, we were still talking about him online, chanting his name in arenas and wondering what he’d do next. The move to MMA means we’ll still be talking about him long into 2015.

Eric Darsie – CM Punk vs. Vince McMahon. Since he walked out the night after the Royal Rumble, CM Punk was silent until Thanksgiving, when his first part interview with Colt Cabana on Art of Wrestling came out. With the lawsuit and all, he couldn’t come out sooner than he did, but it all made sense after both editions of Art of Wrestling came out. McMahon appearing on the Steve Austin Show with Stone Cold, it appears to me that what Punk mentioned in his two interviews with Cabana opened up a can of worms that the WWE has to close with their doctors, and with CM Punk.

WWE Match of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Team Authority vs. Team Cena (Survivor Series 2014). This was another tough one because I hate to be accused of recency bias but I don’t think there was a match as exciting all year as the Survivor Series 2014 Team Cena vs. Team Authority match. The match was 43 minutes long which has to be the longest WWE PPV main-event in recent years. The match was incredibly dramatic, more so than even Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H. The fans were fantastic as they added an element of excitement to the match rarely seen outside of WrestleMania. The final fifteen minutes were as fun as you will get on a WWE event in 2014. I watched it again before writing this to confirm and it was just as entertaining several weeks later as it was live. I loved this match and the drama that came with it, thus it gets my nod for Match of the Year.

Dustin Nichols – Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista (WrestleMania 30). Although not the most spectacular match I’ve ever seen, I’m going with Bryan/Orton/Batista at Wrestlemania. Although something of an average triple threat match, the story of Bryan defying the odds and continuing to come back from absolutely everything thrown at him told a great story and made the match (as well as the payoff) completely worthwhile. Andre/Hogan at Wrestlemania III wasn’t the greatest of matches, but everyone remembers it because of the great build and the fantastic story. I think the same will be said for Bryan finally reaching the pinnacle of WWE in front of a crowd 100% behind him.

Tom Clark – Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista (WrestleMania 30). This one has to be Daniel Bryan’s title victory over Randy Orton and Batista at WrestleMania 30.  It may not get the nod overall in terms of being a technical masterpiece but it was the main event of WWE’s biggest night of the year.  Combine that with the fact it was Bryan’s ascension to the top and it meant so much more.  There has arguably not been a guy more deserving and more suited to fill that spot in recent history than Daniel Bryan and I’m very happy that he got his Mania moment.  It was the biggest night of his career and it came on the night when the company made the most money.  For me, that’s an epic match that’s hard to top.

Jeff Peck – Charlotte vs. Natalya (NXT Takeover – May 29th, 2014). This may come as a shock to some but it really stands out to me as the best match in a WWE ring from this past year. Charlotte and Natalya took the Flair/Hart rivalry to the next level back in May 2014 by putting together one of the best women’s wrestling matches I have seen in some time. The chemistry between the two of them is amazing, both are extremely athletic and they brought a emotional investment into the match.

Atlee Greene – Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (Monday Night Raw 8/18/14). Their match at Summer Slam was match of the night and they upped the ante tenfold the next night on Raw. This was 25 minutes of televised mayhem that engulfed the Thomas & Mack Center and completely captivated the viewers at home. Nothing was wasted and everything meant something, unlike most Falls Count Anywhere matches, which are simply done for shock and awe. The finish where Rollins curb stomped Ambrose’s head through the cinder blocks was perfectly executed and heightened the drama of an already intense feud.

Steve Grossi – Wyatt Family vs The Shield: Elimination Chamber. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family at Elimination Chamber is my choice for match of the year.  There are many ingredients that make for a great match and this one had it all.  All six members of these factions are spectacular performers and we are seeing that play out today.  The buildup for this match was great.  The promos and altercations were all fun and highly entertaining.  The anticipation was unbelievable for them to finally have the match and that was evident the night of Elimination Chamber. The second these two groups entered the ring the crowd was jacked up.  They were chanting, “this is awesome” before the match even started.  Of course the contest lived up to the hype.  This faction war had Dean Ambrose go missing, Seth Rollins flying everywhere including through an announce table, excitement, unpredictability and most importantly a definitive finish. There were a ton of great matches in 2014 but this one tops them all.

Eric Darsie – The Shield def. Evolution (WWE Payback). One of the matches I believe put over the Shield, especially the night after they’d break apart, was their clean sweep against Evolution at WWE Payback in a no disqualification elimination match. There weren’t any falls until the last minutes of the match and WrestleMania main eventers put over the new stars, what better match to put over the new singles stars?

Danny Bixby – Wyatt Family vs The Shield: Elimination Chamber. This match only barely squeaked out ahead of The Shield vs Evolution at Payback mostly because of the storyline surrounding it. This was the major turning point for the Shield. They were now full out babyfaces after being unstoppable heels since their debut. And the fans were dying for it! This match gave people what they wanted: A compelling reason to fight (Wyatts cost the Shield a shot at the title in the chamber) and 6 performers who gave everything they had to the match. Even Erick Rowan, the weakest link in the bunch, looked legitimate in this contest. The only thing that may have made it better would be putting Ziggler & Cesaro into it somehow too.

David Levin – Team Authority vs. Team Cena (Survivor Series 2014). The WWE is finally allowing more wrestlers to move forward, leaving John Cena’s spot vulnerable. Ziggler coming forward did a few things to the landscape of the WWE. It opened the door for someone to be the go-to face in the company. It also meant the remnant of The Authority have two heads to chop when it comes to getting even. Ziggler is one of the best performers to come through the WWE in the past decade.

Robert Goeman – Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (SummerSlam 2014). Before you begin to grab from that box of rotten fruit with my name written on it, let me explain. Were there better matches from a wrestling standpoint? Yes, but from a story standpoint nothing will touch this. A legitimate big fight atmosphere not seen since Hogan vs Vader at SuperBrawl 1995, coupled with the biggest curveball in WWE history as Lesnar just runs through a fifteen time champion with ease. This is a match with so many great moments: The F-5 right away, Lesnar’s facial expressions, the suplexes, Charles Robinson in general, that Let’s Go Cena kid, Heyman being Heyman, and even Cena’s last ditch moves to slay the monster. Those two moments will always stand out for me, the outta nowhere AA and Lesnar sitting up like The Underaker with the grin and laugh like it was nothing. When Cena locked in the Hail Mary STF, I had the same dread that many fans felt as Lesnar would tap out and Cena would win. It’s one of the best STF’s Cena ever did, but the moment of Lesnar breaking out with ease, pounding on Cena, dragging Cena and hitting with F-5 to mercifully end it all was beautiful.

Chris Skoyles – Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H – WrestleMania 30. A tough one this one. For many, the subsequent main event, with Bryan finally lifting the title after a dramatic outing with Orton and Batista may be the better of the former American Dragon’s Wrestlemania 30 matches. Given the drama involved and the feel-good finale, it certainly deserves to be up there, but for this fan, the opening contest just pips it to the post. Bryan stood toe-to-toe with the man who had tormented him for months and took him out at the end of one of the best ‘Mania opening matches in 20 years.

WWE Angle of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Daniel Bryan vs. the Authority. In a perfect world this angle would have paid dividends right after WrestleMania. Unfortunately injuries to Bryan prevented the angle from truly paying off. Ironically this great angle would have not even been possible if it weren’t for CM Punk walking out and leaving Triple H without an opponent for Mania. Regardless, by the time this match got to Mania the feud was red hot and Bryan was finally given the big WrestleMania push we hoped to see.

Dustin Nichols – Brock Lesnar ends the Streak. Unfortunately, the angles this year weren’t all that great, mainly due to the shows being almost completely dominated by the Authority vs. whoever every single week. While the angle did provide some great moments, it got very stale very quickly, as any angle of this nature does. If I had to pick one, however, I am going to go with something most nearly everyone else hated, and that’s Brock Lesnar conquering the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania. I have been begging for this to happen for quite some time, but never had much faith it would happen. While Lesnar wouldn’t be my first choice, seeing him absolutely destroy the Undertaker and cleanly pin his shoulders to the mat was phenomenal. Follow that up with Lesnar obliterating John Cena in a completely lopsided affair, and Lesnar became one of my favorite performers of the year, even if he did work only part-time.

Tom Clark – Brock Lesnar Dominates the WWE. Brock Lesnar owned WWE in 2014 due to his manhandling of John Cena at SummerSlam and because of his shocking win over The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30.  His return to the company and these two events are enough for me to consider it the angle of the year.  The fact that WWE would allow a guy that’s not even part time to first conquer The Deadman at Mania then destroy Cena for the championship is so surprising that it has to get the nod here. That he spent four months off of TV with no title defense is just icing on the cake; it may not be the popular choice but for me, this was definitely the angle of the year.  And no, I’m not happy about it either.

Jeff Peck – Seth Rollins turns on the Shield. I’ve said that Seth Rollins turning his back on The Shield could be the “Shawn Michaels super kick to Marty Jannetty through the barber shop window” moment circa 2014. It came out of no where and it was with someone fans would least likely expect turn his back as a heel. Just 6+ months later from the angle and we could be looking at a moment that defines the WWE for years or decades to come.

Eric Darsie – Brock Lesnar being the 1 in 21-1. Who ever thought going into WrestleMania XXX that the Undertaker will take a lose at WrestleMania, especially to another part timer like Brock Lesnar? With how Brock has been booked for the rest of the year, and with his MMA credentials, I don’t know who’d be better to be the one to end the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak. Brock made John Cena look like a jobber at SummerSlam to become the new WWE Champion, and coming off of the victory at WrestleMania, Brock can not be stopped!

David Levin – Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority. It has been NWO-ish in how the Authority had built so much momentum, beating the hell out of Bryan. It reminded me of Lex Luger, Randy Savage and others getting their asses licked each week. The “B+” angle works great with Bryan, the underdog and the bearded, smallish wrestler with a heart as big as Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit combined.

Robert Goeman – The Rise of the YES Movement Going into WrestleMania XXX. Hands up, who thought that the WWE was going to screw this up? After so many screw-ups when it came to booking Daniel Bryan in summer/fall/winter, I surely thought that Bryan would lose again in 18 seconds at The Show of Shows. I can admit that I was wrong and there was some really good stuff in the weeks leading into Mania. The Occupy Raw segment was well done and the beat down angle, while predictable was executed so well. Credit obviously goes to Triple H and Bryan for playing their respective roles very well, but Stephanie McMahon was great in this angle, and they’d try to do the same thing with Steph and Brie….but that didn’t work obviously. It’s a great angle and it lead to The Miracle on Bourbon Street, which combined my love for Triple H doing the job and Bret Hart’s WrestleMania X journey.

Chris Skoyles – Daniel Bryan – The Underdog Prevails. Though Daniel Bryan – WWE Champion may not have lasted long, everything before that big Wrestlemania moment made for compelling television. What really made this one stand out was that it perfectly weaved on-screen drama with fans’ real-life frustration over Bryan’s push to keep us hooked from start to finish. Throw in Triple H at his most heelish best, memorable moments like the ‘Occupy Raw’ segment, and we’ve got our angle of the year.

WWE Breakout Star of the Year

Eric Gargiulo – Seth Rollins. The WWE breakout wrestler of the year is probably someone I would have never predicted a year ago. Daniel Bryan was on his way and I think Dean Ambrose could have been bigger, but the WWE creative team did less to hasten Rollins’ ascension than anyone else. He went from a cog on a three man team to being the number one full-time heel under Brock Lesnar in a year. I almost gave Rollins Wrestler of the Year but his record just didn’t quite measure up. He has no real big victories to speak of and nothing that even comes close to dwarfing the end of the streak. Rollins has a big chance to be Wrestler of the Year in 2015, but I can’t think of anyone who took as big of a leap in such a short time in 2014 or any recent year than Seth Rollins.

Dustin Nichols – Damien Mizdow. While the angles in the company were kind of stale this year, there was no shortage of breakout stars. All three members of the Shield, Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper could all lay claim to this award. However, I’m going to go a different route and go with Damien Mizdow. Mizdow is on the verge of finally becoming a major star, and everyone knows it. After having a very lackluster couple of years in the company, the former Damien Sandow got slapped with a gimmick that should have killed him for good, that being the Miz’s stunt double. Instead, Mizdow decided to have fun with the gimmick, including coming up with the idea of mimicking all of Miz’s moves and actions in the ring himself, and the fans have completely latched onto it. What was originally an idea to get Miz over (it’s never going to happen, WWE. Accept it) has instead breathed completely new life into Mizdow, legitimately making him one of the most over wrestlers on the roster. It’s only a matter of time before WWE splits this team up and finally starts pushing Mizdow onto bigger and better things, something they’re already in the process of teasing.

Jeff Peck – Rusev. When the WWE first debuted Rusev as a Russian star I groaned because it was a gimmick that was down 20-25 years ago, yet the WWE has made it entertaining and gotten it over in 2014. Rusev is a force in the ring with a ton of momentum heading into 2015 and having Lana as his mouthpiece has made him into a superstar that I’ve grown to enjoy on a weekly basis. I do believe that 2015 will be a big year in longevity for Rusev as I think he can clearly be a force in the WWE for years to come, if booked correctly.

Steve Grossi – Dean Ambrose. I’ve been saying this for months now and I am going to continue to say it, Dean Ambrose is currently the best thing going in the WWE today.  When it was time for The Shield to split up, it was clear he was not in their main event plans.  Roman Reigns was handpicked to be the next baby face star and with Seth Rollins winning Money in the Bank, he’s clearly in position to make a huge impact in the future.  But then Ambrose was given the opportunity to stand out and that’s exactly what he did.  He’s great on the microphone, excellent in the ring and you never know what you are going to get with him.  Whether it’s ripping apart a dummy in the ring, destroying the Money in the Bank briefcase, jumping out of a present or the back of a car, he’s taking the fun factor to another level.  In this case, it’s not all about getting the win in the ring.  The Lunatic Fringe has been a part of some of the best programs of the year, most notably against Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt and in my opinion; those feuds were great because of Ambrose. No question he’s the guy to keep an eye on in 2015.

David Levin – Bray Wyatt. Bray Wyatt. While we expected the members of the Shield to dominate this first half of the year, Wyatt came in a revolutionized the oddity in wrestling again. Not since the days of Kevin Sullivan and Adrian Street have we witnessed such a dramatic entrance in the business and the feuds he has already assumed with Kane, John Cena, Chris Jericho and now Dean Ambrose make him as epic as the WWE wanted him to be.  

Robert Goeman – Luke Harper. While Harper had some good performances in 2013, I felt that he took off this year with some great moments in the Shield/Wyatt Family series. Harper also had some great matches against Cena during the Wyatt feud and stood out in the blow-off to the Uso’s feud at Battleground. Harper also had some good showings against Chris Jericho in the Jericho/Wyatt feud and capped off 2014 with a show-stealing ladder match against Dolph Ziggler at TLC. Harper’s future is bright and looks to be the next great big man that the company has desperately looked for since The Undertaker started to slow down. Hopefully, Harper will have a strong showing in the Rumble match, heck I would even peg him being in the final six at-least.

Eric Darsie – Seth Rollins. Along with Dean Ambrose, I was surprised to see how great Seth Rollins was by the end of 2014 as a singles star. I never thought Rollins would be as great of a heel when he was a part of the Shield and if you told me back at the start of 2014 that Rollins will be one of the top heels by the end of the year, I’d be surprised. I can’t wait to see where 2015 takes him.

Chris Skoyles – Dean Ambrose. Another tough one. In terms of in-ring excellence, others may have shone brighter than Ambrose, and though he was already well entrenched in the WWE system along with the shield, it was in 2014 that he proved he could hold his own as a top-tier solo star.

Krysta Ibach – Luke Harper. I am trying to decide who the bigger break out star is; Dean Ambrose…Seth Rollins…or Luke Harper. (Cue chorus in the peanut gallery….HARPER???). Yes Harper. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins have just expanded exponentially since the implosion of the SHIELD. (Reigns not so much; he needs to lose the strong but silent type image; he was much better when he was that flirty, cheeky man.) Their promos for the most part are consistent and spot on; their in-ring work just gets better and better. Ambrose is train wreck riveting; you just can’t look away when he’s on. Even that spot with the mannequin where Ambrose went all out; it was a strange spot but still we were riveted. Rollins too has his moments where you just don’t want to miss anything he might do, the high spots where he drops off ledges. Their feud is one that WWE can revisit time and again and the IWC may never tire of it, their chemistry is awesome. Some of the angles have been shit, but that’s more creative than talent. And Harper…as one of the big men of the company, Harper can pull off moves that one would expect from a smaller competitor (I’m still talking about THAT first hurricanrana.) It’ll be interesting to see where they take Harper now that he has been “Set Free” from the Wyatt Family. I can see him having a great singles career…if they don’t shank it like they have with others *cough* Drew McIntyre (Drew Galloway) *cough*

You can get more of Danny than you can handle at his website www.stillrealtome.com. He also co-hosts the best pro wrestling podcast in the world, Still Real To Me, subscribe on iTunes www.stillrealtome.com/itunes. Follow his show on twitter @SRTMpodcast

Tom Clark is the host of Tom Clark’s Main Event podcast, a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a Writer for Whatculture.com

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/.

Steven Grossi is a digital video producer who likes to write a little. He’s a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, hardcore MMA fan and a total wrestling nerd. He usually has a strong opinion on anything combat sports related so give him a follow on twitter @SteveOGrossi.

Robert Goeman has been writing for CamelClutchBlog since 2014 and has written for FiveOuncesofPain and What Culture. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertGoeman.

Chris Skoyles is a writer and wrestling fan currently on a mission to review every WWE pay per view from Wrestlemania 1 – 30. Those reviews, and more, can be found on the Retro Pro Wrestling blog (http://allprowrestlingreviews.blogspot.com). Chris tweets at @Retropwrestling.

Jeff Peck is the co-host for the wrestling podcast, “The Still Real to Us Show” and the podcast, “The Bower Show.” You can download the shows over at TheBowerShow.com or WrestleChat.net. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter: @TheJeffPeck and “like” his Facebook pages: Facebook.com/TheStillRealToUsShow and Facebook.com/BowerShow

Atlee Greene is a contributor to Camel Clutch Blog and host of The Bodyslam Podcast. His other work can be found at Gerweck.net, ForcesofGeek.com, Whatculture.com and his own personal blog. He can be found on Twitter @MidnightLogicGo

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:

WWE: True Giants Home Video

The Randy Savage Story DVD

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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

“LIKE” 97.9 ESPN on Facebook: www.facebook.com/979espn

“LIKE” The Bower Show on Facebook: www.facebook.com/bowershow

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

WWE: The Top 25 Rivalries in Wrestling History DVD

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

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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

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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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You can email Steve Urena @ [email protected] or follow him on twitter @SteveUrena

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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/giopontifan

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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!

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

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

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at www.twitter.com/thewheelhouse and you can e-mail them @ [email protected]

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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