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
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.
You can email Steve Urena @ Surena6189@gmail.com or follow him on twitter @SteveUrena
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). Oh, and if you like bodybuilding, check out my mom’s official site by clicking the banner below:
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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