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WrestleMania XXVIII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

April 04, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXVIII
From SunLife Stadium in Miami, FL
April 1, 2012

BACKGROUND
It’s been purported that each WrestleMania event is generally planned a year in advance, and the booking is written backwards to support what they want to present on the grandest stage. While recent WrestleManias seem a bit more thrown-together at times, owing to an increasingly frenetic Vince McMahon being known to make constant changes, WrestleMania XXVIII was an event where a year-long plot was used, this time as an actual storyline.

One night after WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta, John Cena called out The Rock. Rather than thrash the previous night’s guest host for costing him his World Title match against The Miz, a calm and happy-go-lucky Cena simply challenged Rock to a match at next year’s big event, giving both men one year to prepare for the clash of the ages.

The idea was unique for a modern time frame in which that $45 secondary PPV that you’re being offered has but two matches booked sixteen days before the event. It’s a little hard to get up for those shows (and buyrates seem to agree), but a WrestleMania where the main event is entrenched in everyone’s brains for 363 days?

Those “in-the-know” fans who balked at WWE’s most overexposed star, and most overexposed part-timer, getting a full calendar of non-stop billing would be rewarded by the successes of their heroes.

WWE was becoming a different place, as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, who’d each passed through Philadelphia’s Murphy Rec Center on the way to the top, won the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships in 2011.

In spite of all of the social media blitzes, irksome moments from Michael Cole, and use of gimmickless FCW/NXT castoffs, it seemed WWE was crafting a WrestleMania unique among the pack. Between a year-long main event build, and two “workrate” champions, the everyday mold was finally being broken.

THE EVENT
Cena and Rock crossed paths prior to the WrestleMania main event, as Rock’s movie schedule allowed him to wrestle at Survivor Series 2011. That night at Madison Square Garden, he and Cena formed a super-team that annihilated The Miz and R-Truth. Afterward, Rock dropped Cena with a Rock Bottom as a reminder that, in four months, they’d each engage in a defining match in their careers.

After Cena was sidetracked by a hard-boiled feud with Kane through early 2012, he and Rock criss-crossed on the remaining road to WrestleMania, insulting each other in their typical juvenille fashion. Rock would host one of his trademark “Rock Concerts” laden with entendres and jibes toward the current company flagbearer, while Cena reinstituted his “Doctor of Thuganomics” persona, ripping into Rock with some lines that would make the kid-friendly sponsors cringe.

The match was even given a TV special on USA Network to promote the history of the icons, giving this match, dubbed “Once in a Lifetime”, a super fight feeling like no other in recent memory.

As if the dream match wasn’t enough to churn buyrates, the “end of an era” was also promised. The Undertaker, 19-0 at WrestleMania, wasn’t happy with how he barely eked the win out over Triple H one year earlier, and demanded a rematch with COO of the company.

Hunter initially balked, but The Dead Man persisted, eventually goading the man technically his boss into a fight. The Game agreed on one condition: that it be a Hell in a Cell match. Shawn Michaels, who’d had his career ended by Undertaker, was made guest referee as one last twist of the screw.

Sheamus was the winner of the 2012 Royal Rumble, last ousting a quizzically-acting Chris Jericho. The Celtic Warrior waited three weeks before deciding which championship to challenge for, ultimately deciding on the World Heavyweight title held by an increasingly-self-indulgent Daniel Bryan.

Bryan was an anomaly, winning the title as an underdog hero on December 18 via briefcase cash-in, but slowly took on a portrayal as an egomaniac jerk. Not only did he ignore the affection of girlfriend AJ Lee, but Bryan began to praise himself more and more for minor victories, many of them tainted. He even allowed AJ to be injured by a stampeding Big Show, all just to keep his title.

As for the WWE Championship, anti-hero CM Punk would face the winner of a ten man battle royal that took place on February 20. Jericho would win, and thus be afforded a chance to continue his vague “end of the world” crusade via the company’s top champion.

Jericho first began the mind games with Punk by claiming the “Straight Edge Superstar” had stolen his “Best in the World” moniker, which Punk gladly challenged Jericho to try and take back. With the champ not fazed, Y2J resorted to revealing the ugly family history of Punk, complete with the addictions his family members all once had. Jericho promised to lead Punk down the road of self-destruction en route to taking his title.

Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were the evening’s commentators, joined by a now-goateed Jim Ross for the Hell in a Cell match. For the third time, Lilian Garcia performed America the Beautiful. The Hall of Fame Class of 2012 consisted of Edge, The Four Horsemen (dual induction for Ric Flair), Ron Simmons, Yokozuna, Mil Mascaras, and celebrity inductee Mike Tyson.

THE RESULTS
World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus def. Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds to win the title
(And we stumble out of the gate. Boy the fans at SunLife dumped on them for this decision. I’ve said it in other mediums: it’s not the treatment of Bryan that made this moment suck; it was the belief by the company that Sheamus was going to look stronger as a result. The people who run WWE couldn’t find the pulse of the fans if they had a GPS)

Kane def. Randy Orton in 10:56
(I don’t know who this “Daniel Bryan” fellow is, but he sure got a lot of chants during this match. Decent contest that ended with a flying chokeslam)

WWE Intercontinental: Big Show def. Cody Rhodes in 5:18 to win the title
(The build was entertaining, with Rhodes showing film of Show’s WrestleMania embarrassments to psyche him out, but the match was all too brief. Rhodes actually reigned as champion for eight months)

Maria Menounos/Kelly Kelly def. Eve Torres/Beth Phoenix in 6:49
(All of these women are gone from WWE, which is a commentary on how women would rather do “something else” than work there. But I’d take a stinkface from Miss Menounos, at least)

Hell in a Cell/”End of an Era”: The Undertaker def. Triple H in 30:50
(Opinions of this one are a little divided. Some call this the greatest match in the history of the galaxy. Others think it was stupid to have Triple H assault Undertaker with basic moves, and have Michaels nearly “stop the match” because Taker couldn’t continue. Because Hunter’s so bad ass. Eh, 20-0 is 20-0, even if was slower and more plodding than Heaven’s Gate)

David Otunga/Mark Henry/The Miz/Dolph Ziggler/Jack Swagger/Drew McIntyre def. Kofi Kingston/Santino Marella/Great Khali/R-Truth/Zack Ryder/Booker T in 10:38
(As a result of this, John Laurinaitis won complete control of Raw and Smackdown from Teddy Long. Oh, and Zack Ryder looked like a useless tool. That’ll learn em)

WWE Championship: CM Punk def. Chris Jericho in 22:21
(A highly physical and intense battle that took some time to find second gear, I still found it to be the best match of the night. The battle at the end over the Anaconda Vise, with Punk refusing to give up on the hold, despite Jericho’s vicious struggle, was a nice touch)

“Once in a Lifetime”: The Rock def. John Cena in 33:34
(Nice throwback to the big-time WrestleMania main events of old, even if it was preceded by a six hour concert featuring Flo Rida and anorexic Shannon Moore. Cena’s undoing came as he tried a People’s Elbow, only to be Rock Bottom’d. Some said it was boring, but I actually liked it. Whether Rock has the endurance for another 30 minute match is another story)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
It’s hard to argue with 1.22 million buys, a WWE record, so some would say that a year-long build is the way to go. Rock would remain a part of WWE in a limited capacity, sticking around to challenge for the WWE Title at the 2013 Royal Rumble, but we’ll get to that next year.

The show began disastrously, and the fans largely didn’t come out of their anger-induced coma until the Hell in a Cell match. As many people who remember that match, and Rock and Cena’s epic showdown, equally remember how the show opened with the misstep of Sheamus and Bryan, possibly the worst WrestleMania booking since Hogan went over a tired Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX.

It wasn’t a terrible show, but it wasn’t a home run in any way except financially (undoubtedly important, despite our gripes). For the official “portrait” of the show, my pick will be a split screen. On one side is Shawn Michaels and Undertaker holding up a semi-conscious Triple H on the stage, while The Rock stands tall on the other side. WWE more than ever lives off of the past, as it can’t create an exciting present. Logically, their imagery should make you think you’re in 1998.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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Top 10 WWE Hell In A Cell Matches

October 27, 2013 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

The Hell in a Cell match has become one of the most brutal matches in WWE history. Started in 1997, the HIAC match features blood, drama, action, and intensity. Today I celebrate this classic by looking back at the ten best in WWE history.

Like anything else, Hell in a Cell has had its ups and down. Fortunately for most WWE fans, there have been more ups than downs. The concept has been watered down a bit since over the years with the reduction of blood and excess matches. Lucky for us, there are plenty of classics that remind us why this one is just that good.

I always like to remind redears that like any top ten list it is all a matter of opinion. If you agree, disagree, or feel that I left one off the list, let me know and leave a comment. Until then, here are my top ten WWE Hell in a Cell matches in match history.

Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker, Badd Blood 1997 - Some of you may argue between this and number two and I can certainly respect that. For me, this match was not only the greatest Hell in a Cell match ever, it is also one of my top ten favorite matches overall of all-time. This was Shawn Michaels at his best and in my opinion and arguably the best match from The Undertaker’s storied WWE career.

Mankind vs. The Undertaker, King of the Ring 1998 - It is hard to argue with this one not being at the top. I went back and forth several times. The drama in this match is second to none. However, I just felt that Michaels vs. Undertaker was a better match overall. Mick Foley set a dangerous standard here which has never been repeated. It was historic, physical, and a masterpiece in a lot of ways. I still liked Michaels vs. Undertaker slightly better when watching these two back, but I have no problem with anyone arguing this one number one.

Triple H vs. Batista, Vengeance 2005 - To me this is an often forgotten about classic. For as much criticism that Triple H and even Batista have gotten at times, this match really should silence any and all critics. I also remember the finish being a shocker at the time as nobody expected Hunter to lose all of those matches to Batista. This one even featured some cool weapons including a chain contraption. The match and storyline here behind the feud were some of the best of all-time.

Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels, Bad Blood 2004 - One recurring theme you’ll see in this blog is that you’ll see a lot of names more than once. Triple H and of course Shawn Michaels are repeat offenders and with good reason. The storyline of both being undefeated in HIAC matches also created great drama in this one. How good was this match? An epic 47 minute masterpiece is how good it was. You Tube has plenty of highlights but you really owe it to yourself to check out the full match if you get that opportunity. The chemistry between these two guys here was unreal.

Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker vs. Triple H vs. Steve Austin vs. The Rock vs. Rikishi, Armageddon 2000 - This match is probably better known for Rikishi’s bump than the actual match itself. However, in looking back at the videos this was one of the most fun HIAC matches. How can you go wrong having all six of these superstars in one Hell in a Cell match? The answer is simple, you can’t.

Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker (No Mercy 2002) - This is a really interesting match in that you have some fans that will argue that this was one of the best HIAC matches ever where you have a whole other set of fans that don’t even remember it. I am in the middle. I thought this one had a lot of fun spots, not what you’d expect from two big men. Lesnar retained in a match that was one of his best of his entire first WWE run.

Edge vs. The Undertaker, SummerSlam 2008 - Like several matches on this list, this one is another forgotten classic. Edge and The Undertaker I thought had one of the most underrated feuds a few years back. They had tremendous chemistry and SummerSlam 2008 may have been their finest moment. This match had it all including Edge’s specialty; tables, ladders, and chairs. Quite frankly this was one of the most thrilling Hell in a Cell matches of all.

The Undertaker vs. Triple H – WrestleMania 28 - Once again, Triple H pops up on the list. This one is still fresh in our minds and in terms of drama, it doesn’t get much better than this one. Shawn Michaels was the referee and while the match didn’t have your usual Hell in a Cell theatrics, it told a hell of a story. This one was bloody, brutal, and intense and arguably not only one of the best Hell in a Cell matches, but one of the best WrestleMania matches in Mania history.

Triple H vs. Mick Foley, No Way Out 2000 - This would have been higher up on the list if it served as the true retirement match for Mick Foley that it was promoted to be. The emotional sendoff at the end of the match could have gone down as one of the best ever if it stood. The bloody match had some thrilling moments battling at the top of the cage as well as a flaming barbed wire bat. They tried to replay Foley’s sick bump from King of the Ring but it wasn’t quite the same. Nonetheless it was certainly a great one and a match that belongs on any Hell in a Cell list.

The Undertaker and Steve Austin vs. Mankind and Kane, RAW Is War 1998 - This was one of the most exciting matches on RAW during the Attitude Era. The match was held right before King of the Ring to build up the two main-events. The big moment of this action-packed match came when Austin climbed the cage and attacked Kane on top which saw the crowd just got absolutely nuts. Jim Ross in particular is fantastic with the call here.

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Was The Rock’s most recent WWE run a failure?: Inside The Wheelhouse

May 09, 2013 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

With WrestleMania 29 in the books and The Rock’s future in professional wrestling up in the air at the moment, I thought it would be a good time as ever to discuss if The Rock’s return to the WWE was a success or a failure.

I feel like the majority of wrestling fans believe that The Rock’s run with the WWE since WrestleMania 27 was a failure. I believe fans look at it as The Rock being paired with the wrong guy, John Cena, and use that as their focal point for how the run has been perceived since he returned to WWE television on February 14th, 2011. Now those fans that believe it was a failure have very valid points.

In my opinion Wrestlemania 27 was one of the worst WrestleMania’s of the last decade and that was due in large part to the The Miz/John Cena/The Rock storyline. The WWE Champion at the time, The Miz, was an after-thought to the main event match and the focus was more on John Cena’s interaction with the host of WrestleMania 27, The Rock. The feud between those two overshadowed the match itself and gave us one of the worst/anti-climatic WrestleMania finishes ever.

The night after WrestleMania 27 gave us our first official match for WrestleMania 28, The Rock vs. John Cena. It was an unprecedented move by the WWE to announce a WrestleMania match one year in advance and gave the creative team officially one year to build towards one of the biggest dream matches since The Rock battled Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 18. The WWE had struck “gold” by getting The Rock back in the ring to take on their top superstar.

Rock vs. Cena at WrestleMania 28 gave the “old” “attitude era” fans someone to represent them (The Rock), while the “new” and “younger” fans got someone to represent them (John Cena). Fans were pumped up when the match was announced and it already had fans planning a Miami vacation to attend the perceived historic event with the match fans have been dreaming to see for some time.

Once WrestleMania 28 season began and the WWE creative team began building towards the match, fans became very critical. The buildup wasn’t what fans expected, it’s quite possible they expected too much and they began looking for excuses as to why they believed it wasn’t being executed correctly (The Rock was restrained on his promos due to the “PG” rating, etc.). Still, despite all that, fans were eager to witness one of wrestling’s last “dream matches” at a WrestleMania event.

The match itself wasn’t anything special nor was it 5-star quality at the slightest. It was a decent match that had more memorable moments from the introductions and what happened immediately after The Rock won then what happened inside the ring. The majority of fans were disappointed as their expectations weren’t met in what they saw at WrestleMania 28.

Following WrestleMania 28, The Rock vowed to be crowned WWE Champion once again before riding off into the “movie sunset” until making an appearance at the “RAW 1000” episode. The Rock’s appearance catapulted then-WWE Champion CM Punk from “super” babyface to “super” heel and the seeds were planted as “The Great One” was announced to be the #1 contender for the WWE Championship at the 2013 Royal Rumble. It definitely appeared that in July 2012 the WWE would go forward with The Rock being WWE Champion yet again.

The Rock had a good series of matches with CM Punk at the Royal Rumble & Elimination Chamber, with many people, including myself, believing that the feud and matches with CM Punk surpassed anything he did with John Cena the last two years. The Rock was the WWE Champion once again as he headed into the company’s biggest show of the year while the #1 contender to his WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29 would be his old “once in a lifetime” friend, John Cena.

I was in support of The Rock/John Cena II at first but quickly letdown due to the lack of buildup to the match heading into WrestleMania 29. It was as if either superstar had very little interaction with one another and it didn’t help that The Rock did not appear for two straight weeks in the month of March, a crucial time for WrestleMania buildup. The buzz for the match at WrestleMania 29 was a far cry from what it was at WrestleMania 28 and it translated at the biggest show of the year just a month or so ago.

The match at WrestleMania 29 was by far a better match then the two had a year prior in Miami and while they had the crowd “in it” at times, I believe it wasn’t as compared to the electricity that it had in the Orange Bowl. John Cena finally got the victory over The Rock and that’s when all the real news started happening in-regards to The Rock’s most recent WWE run.

Nearly 18 hours after WrestleMania 29, the wrestling news world went crazy when it was learned that The Rock got injured in his match with John Cena and left New Jersey without WWE knowledge. It left the WWE creative team reportedly “scrambling” heading into one of their biggest RAW shows of the year and killing any interaction between The Rock & Brock Lesnar where they would’ve “planted the seeds” for a match at WrestleMania 30. The Rock later confirmed the latter of the two, while denying he did not leave New Jersey without the WWE’s knowledge.

During that same interview The Rock spoke about his questionable future in the world of professional wrestling and said there was a “possibility” he may have wrestled his last match at WrestleMania 29. Ending what could be his most recent run with the WWE.

So with that said, was The Rock’s most recent run a success or a failure? It was 100%…a success.

Now how could that be? I just blasted nearly everything The Rock had done with the WWE in the last two years. How would something like that translate into success?

First off, it’s not The Rock’s complete fault some of those storylines never panned out like the WWE may have thought. In my opinion The Rock actually saved WrestleMania 27 and The Miz/John Cena from being any worse then it truly was. It gave a “buzz” to the show that it didn’t have weeks leading into the event.

Second, The Rock vs. John Cena heading into WrestleMania 28 had all fans excited. It’s very rare nowadays that an entire majority of wrestling fans get excited for a match and don’t honestly know who will be the winner, Rock/Cena at WrestleMania 28 brought that. It also helps that there was a good “WrestleMania buzz” heading into the event as well.

Third, WrestleMania 29 was the highest grossest WrestleMania of All-Time. Now obviously that’s not all thanks to The Rock, but he certainly played a major role in it when his match main evented that card. Throughout the entire 2-year run for The Rock he helped the WWE make a lot of money and bring them some good “pop culture” notoriety.

In America we base success off of how much money you earn and have gained. The WWE earned AND gained a lot of money when The Rock was with the company the last two years. I honestly believe the figures they have had in the last two years deserve an amount of credit to The Rock. People aren’t spending money if they don’t care, so despite what the “internet” may tell us, fans were locked in.

The “pop culture” notoriety was also a big deal for the WWE as they were able to get “mainstream” attention. The Rock is a “machine” in Hollywood nowadays and people are clamoring to see him in a wrestling ring or on the silver screen. I’ll never forget how The Rock nearly “shut down” Twitter and various other social media outlets when he returned to the WWE in February 2011. All fans were genuinely pumped to have him back and to this day his return that night is one of my favorite YouTube wrestling videos to watch due to the amount of emotion/excitement that Anaheim crowd had that night.

You can’t deny that was not a “once in a lifetime moment” in professional wrestling history.

To me the facts state that The Rock’s 2-year run with the WWE was a successful one. Could it have been better? It most certainly could have but, the “would ya, could ya, should ya’s” are exactly that. Plus I believe it’s important for fans to appreciate everything The Rock has done the last two years because let’s be honest here, he didn’t have to come back in the first place.

His heart still had love for professional wrestling and he still had love for the wrestling fan(s). For that we should all be grateful for the last two years The Rock was with the WWE, should it be his last for whatever ever reason.

For more on this topic join us for the Thursday May 9th edition of “The Still Real to Us Show” and download the show at www.wheelhouseradio.com or www.wrestlechat.net.

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Flashback: Sheamus Is The WWE Royal Rumble 2012 Winner

January 25, 2013 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

The 2012 WWE Royal Rumble winner was probably not the guy you expected. Sheamus won the Royal Rumble and a trip to the WrestleMania 28 main-event against a WWE champion of his choice. Sheamus eliminated Chris Jericho to win the Rumble and earn his title match in Miami.

Sheamus was certainly one of the dark horses to win the Rumble. I had him at 50-1 odds in my predictions blog. It was a great way to elevate Sheamus back to the championship status he had a couple of years back. I have no problem with Sheamus winning, especially eliminating Jericho and Orton.

The Rumble itself was one of the most disappointing Rumble matches in recent memory. A combination of a lack of big time superstars and a dead crowd made for a boring Rumble. It just felt like a long RAW or SmackDown battle royal for awhile. It was nowhere near as exciting as last year’s Rumble.

The Miz entered the Royal Rumble at #1 as a result of losing to R-Truth on this past Monday’s RAW. The Miz’s former partner Alex Riley was number two. Riley was eliminated quickly by The Miz. R-Truth entered at #3. So wait a second? Truth and Miz wrestled on RAW for the 1 and 3 spot? I just assumed Truth got a late number for the win. Why bother?

Cody Rhodes entered at number 4. Miz and Rhodes teamed up on Truth for the 2-on-1. Justin Gabriel came out to even things up at number five. It wasn’t very exciting at this point to see these four starting off the Rumble. The WWE really has a serious issue with talent depth and it showed all throughout the match starting early.

Primo entered at number six. The Miz eliminated R-Truth at this point by simply throwing him over the top rope. Truth pulled Miz out from underneath the bottom rope and laid him out on the floor. Michael Cole made it a point to clarify that The Miz had not been eliminated as he didn’t go over the top rope.

Mick Foley entered at number 7, bringing the crowd back to life. The crowd loved him! Foley immediately eliminated Primo. Foley paired off with Rhodes for awhile. Ricardo Rodriguez entered at number 8, entering the arena in a 1983 Datsun! The fans were into Ricardo and greeted him with cheers. Ricardo entered the ring and went to town on Cody. Foley and Ricardo teamed up together to eliminate Gabriel.

Last year’s runner up Santino Marella entered at number 9. Santino gave Ricardo a wedgy (what about the anti-bullying campaign?) and eliminated him. Foley and Santino squared off with Cobra vs. Socko. Epico entered at number ten to break up the Socko vs. Cobra match. Epico was quickly thrown out of the ring and eliminated while The Miz recovered and returned to the match. Cody Rhodes eliminated Santino during the melee. Rhodes eliminated Foley as he held a mandible claw on The Miz.

Kofi Kingston entered at number eleven. Kingston wound up paired off with both Miz and Rhodes. Jerry Lawler entered at number twelve. This was pretty cool as Lawler’s music played and he left the announcer’s table and entered the match. The crowd loved it! Lawler dropped the fist on The Miz and then was quickly dumped over the top by Cody Rhodes.

Ezekiel Jackson entered at number thirteen. Remember when this guy was the flavor of the month last spring? Jinder Mahal came in at fourteen and I have to admit that by this point I was ready to rank this as one of the worst Rumbles in history. I also can’t remember a crowd this dead during a Rumble, not that I could blame them.

The Great Khali returned at number fifteen to pick up where his feud left off with Mahal. Yep, you remember that one don’t you? Khali immediately threw Mahal over the top rope and eliminated him. Jackson was next courtesy of a Khali clothesline.

Hunico entered at number sixteen and you would have thought that they were holding this Rumble in a closet by listening to the crowd. Booker T entered at number seventeen similar to Lawler. This was another pretty cool moment. Booker went right after Cody. The crowd came alive with “Booker T” chants.

The spot of the match was The Miz eliminated Kofi Kingston who wound up landing on his hands and hand walked over to the ring steps. Nowhere near as dynamic as John Morrison’s wall-walk last year but pretty cool nonetheless.

Dolph Ziggler entered at number eighteen. Lucky guy got to lose five times tonight. The second (first televised) Royal Rumble winner Hacksaw Jim Duggan returned and entered at number nineteen to a huge crowd pop. He didn’t last long as Cody Rhodes eliminated with a clothesline from behind pretty quickly.

Michael Cole entered at number twenty. Yep, three spots wasted on announcers. Kharma returned and entered at number twenty one. She eliminated Michael Cole. Well he actually eliminated himself by going over the top rope. Ziggler wound up taking her finisher. Oh man, this guy is in someone’s dog house. Kharma also eliminated Hunico. Ziggler came up from behind and dumped her over the top rope.

Sheamus entered at number twenty two. That guy needs new music. He eliminated Kofi Kingston pretty quickly by simply dumping him over the top rope. The Road Dogg returned and entered at number twenty three. It’s been a long time. Dogg did his usual punching and jiving spot. Jey Uso entered at number twenty four. Jack Swagger hit the ring at number twenty five.

Wade Barrett entered at number twenty six. He quickly threw Road Dogg over the top rope. David Otunga entered at number 27, which is the number that holds the most winners in Rumble history. The hometown hero Randy Orton entered at number 28, going right after Wade Barrett. Orton was a one man wrecking crew at that point. Orton eliminated Uso and then nailed Barrett with an RKO, followed by an exit over the top rope.

Chris Jericho entered at number twenty nine. Jericho immediately eliminated Otunga. The Big Show rounded it off entering at number 30. Unfortunately no real big surprises this year as you could see. It was pretty underwhelming at this point as compared to most Rumbles with a whole lot of midcarders and very little superstars.

Show came in and began eliminating guys right away. The final four came down to Show, Sheamus, Randy Orton, and Chris Jericho. All three decided to attack Show. Orton delivered a pretty nice looking RKO to Show. Orton dumped Show, who was then dumped by Jericho. It came down to Jericho and Sheamus.

The best action of the Rumble came during the final minutes between Sheamus and Jericho. They had a great back and forth with a lot of near eliminations. Sheamus nailed him with the Brogue Kick, Jericho fell to the floor, and Sheamus won the match and a championship match at WrestleMania 28.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The rumor appears to be that Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk will be wrestling for the WWE championship. Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan is interesting only because they just wrestled last year at WrestleMania in a dark match. I can’t ever recall two guys wrestling a dark match at WrestleMania and returning the next year in one of the main-events. My hunch tells me that it won’t be either of them, not that I would have any problem with watching Sheamus wrestle either guy in Miami.

Daniel Bryan retained the WWE world heavyweight championship in the opener against Mark Henry and The Big Show in a Steel Cage Match. It was fun but hardly what I’d call a great match. It wasn’t bad by any means, but a bit of a waste of Bryan’s great talent. Regardless, hats off to Bryan for making this one entertaining.

Bryan won the match by falling to the floor. Bryan spent most of the match trying to escape. He tried going over and The Big Show caught him at the top. Bryan climbed over but Show held on to his wrist for a few seconds. Show finally released his grip and Bryan fell to the floor, winning the match, and retaining the WWE world heavyweight title. I took this as almost a lock that Randy Orton was winning the Rumble and challenging Bryan at WrestleMania at that point.

As an aside, the announcing here was horrible. On the one hand, you have Bryan now working as a heel while at the same time you have heel Michael Cole continuing to bury Bryan on commentary. It was a mess but it isn’t as if it hasn’t been for well over a year now.

On another side note, Mark Henry didn’t do a whole lot in the match. Henry is working hurt right now and took a backseat for most of  the match to Show vs. Bryan. I was surprised not to see any kind of gimmicked cage for a big Henry vs. Show spot.

John Cena vs. Kane ended in a count out. Cena was booed out of the building which was ironic since they played a 3-4 minute video earlier doing their best to make sure that Cena was cheered. It’s just not working right now and it’s going to get ugly for him in Miami. Cena was dominated for most of the match which the announcers brought up at one point. One thing that did surprise me was that I expected more of an all-out brawl than the actual match, although it did break down into a brawl at the end.

Kane had Cena dominated on the floor and the referee just simply counted them out. Cena fought back and the two fought through the backstage area, almost like out of one of the WWE video games. Cena threw Kane into some trashcans. Kane responded with a few chair shots to the back and laid him out.

Kane then wound up going into Zack Ryder’s dressing room. Zack was there in a wheelchair. Kane attacked him and wheeled him out to the ring. Kane then dumped Ryder out of his wheelchair to the ringside area. Eve ran in to beg Kane off. Kane wound up tombstoning Ryder anyway. Cena finally returned to the ring just as Kane was about to attack Eve. Kane chokeslammed him and left.

This got pretty ridiculous as you could imagine towards the end there. I don’t mind the angle but the fact is that the WWE fans have seen Kane for over a decade and let’s be honest. Kane hasn’t always been this strong. So the idea of a guy they have seen relegated to ECW champion dominating Cena isn’t just very believable. I don’t get it but the WWE appear committed to seeing this angle play out for a few more weeks.

CM Punk defeated Dolph Ziggler (well four times) to retain the WWE championship with the GTS. I liked the match but they appeared a gear short from making this a great one.

John Laurinaitis came out and said in the interest of fairness that he would only officiate outside of the ring, so the match got a real WWE official. Laurinaitis sent Vickie Guerrero to the back. However, the referee wound up getting bumped in the middle of the match. Punk had Ziggler in the Anaconda Vice, Ziggler tapped, and Laurinaitis ignored the move. Laurinaitis then rolled the WWE official back into the ring who was unconscious. Punk then got in Laurinaitis’ face. Laurinaitis missed another cover. Punk got Ziggler up for the GTS but wound up kicking Laurinaitis with Ziggler’s feet. Again, no referee made the count. Laurinaitis and Punk then yelled back and forth. By this time the referee recovered.

Punk later covered Ziggler once again for the GTS and Laurinaitis slid back in and made the three count with the real official. The whole idea here is that Laurinaitis wanted to prove that he wasn’t biased.

I liked the finish but man was Ziggler buried here or what? Ziggler was pinned and submitted about four times during the match. Of course Laurinaitis didn’t make the counts, but it was a bit much for a guy that is really starting to develop some nice chemistry to start the year. Laurinaitis went to the locker room clapping for Punk as Punk celebrated in the ring. Of course this one will pick up again on RAW when Triple H gives Laurinaitis his evaluation.

2012 WWE Royal Rumble results:
Daniel Bryan defeated Mark Henry & The Big Show to retain the WWE world heavyweight title in a Steel Cage Match
The Bella Twins, Natalya, & Beth Phoenix defeated Eve, Kelly Kelly, Alicia Fox, & Tamina
John Cena vs. Kane ended in a double count out
Brodus Clay defeated Drew McIntyre
CM Punk defeated Dolph Ziggler to retain the WWE championship
Sheamus won the 2012 Royal Rumble
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The Rock Is The 2012 Wrestler Of The Year

January 01, 2013 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Wrestler of the Year is such a subjective award, yet most seem to agree that the nod should go to WWE champion CM Punk. However if pro wrestling is a business at the end of the day, shouldn’t that award go to the biggest draw? If so, you’d have to give it to The Rock!

Listen I am with most of you. When I wrote up my Year End awards a few weeks ago I went with CM Punk. I am not a Punk fan but the guy was on top all year, reinvented his character, and had good to standout matches all year long. Did we all miss the big picture with Punk? I am man enough to admit I did and I was wrong.

I have heard a couple of podcasts and blogs throw around the idea of giving The Rock Wrestler of the Year. On the surface it sounds ridiculous. The man wrestled one match in 2012. How can you give a guy Wrestler of the Year off of one match? It’s practically unheard of. But when that one match set records and moved more numbers than anyone or anything else all year, how can you not give it to the difference maker?

The facts are simple. The Rock moved WWE ratings more than any other wrestler all year. The only other guy that came close was Brock Lesnar. Not only did The Rock make a huge difference in the ratings, the ratings have been the pits since he left. Have you seen them lately? I hate putting so much stock into TV ratings but there is a pattern here. The Rock made more of an impact in a few weeks in 2012 than anyone else did all year.

In the ring he wrestled one match and quite frankly, it wasn’t even that good. I thought Rock vs. John Cena was a disappointment in the ring. But guess what? The match was a monster success at the box office. The match was the most successful match in WWE history! The main-event set a WrestleMania record! At a time when buyrates and interest in pro wrestling was declining, The Rock brought it back to the casual fans and introduced it to new fans. The impact on this is just unmatchable!

Where does John Cena fit into this? Cena drew more money this year than anyone with his programs against The Rock and Brock Lesnar. Cena was also a big part of this equation. Could The Rock have done this business without Cena? I don’t think so. But Cena had plenty of opportunities all year long to ride the momentum and increase business. He didn’t. He hit with Brock and Rock but he had an entire year to do much more. For that, he doesn’t get the recognition by my criteria.

I may look at the business a little differently than you. Working inside the business I always look at the money. I know that as fun as it may be to get all crazy about a great match or invest emotionally in your favorite wrestler, none of this happens without generating revenue. That is why to me drawing money has always been the impetus of success for a pro wrestler. Shawn Michaels was my favorite wrestler of all-time but he isn’t the greatest wrestler ever. I look at guys like Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, and Steve Austin for that recognition.

Punk had an entertaining year but he was a dud at the box office. He lost viewers and didn’t make a difference at all in the buyrates other than his match with Ryback. That isn’t to say he had a bad year but why does he get the majority nod? Because he had a lengthy title reign? It isn’t as if he booked it. The money that The Rock drew was authentic, the people he brought to RAW were authentic, and for that, he really should be the Wrestler of the Year.

The Rock: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment

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Top 20 WWE Pay Per View Matches of 2012

December 31, 2012 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

When you get past the annoying social media trends, infatuation with past stars, and inconsistent booking, WWE produced a number of classic PPV match-ups on the 2012 calendar. Choosing 20 was hard, ranking them was harder. Here is what I came up with for the creme de la creme, the best of the best for the year 2012.

20. World Heavyweight Championship/Elimination Chamber: Daniel Bryan vs. Big Show vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Wade Barrett vs. Santino Marella vs. Great Khali (Elimination Chamber, February 19)
You wouldn’t think this one would make the classics list, and early on in the match, it didn’t seem to be a likely addition. What made this match special was the dramatic finishing sequence, in which comedy player Marella eliminated Rhodes and Barrett, and came within believable inches of upending Bryan for the title. Despite the crowd cheering him on, the Milan Miracle succumbed to the LeBell/Yes/No Lock, and Bryan retained.

19. WWE Intercontinental: The Miz vs. Rey Mysterio (Summerslam, August 19)
One of my favorite dynamics: Mysterio’s plucky air assault against a conniving villain who will bump along with the lucha icon. Really, Miz can be hit-or-miss, and Rey, even broken down, gets the best out of just those kinds of foes. A rapid-fire build to the end, including Miz busting out a Liger Bomb of all moves, ended shockingly cleanly, with Rey eating the turnbuckle after a crash-and-burn, and Miz spiking him with the Skull Crushing Finale.

18. WWE Championship/No Disqualification: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan (Money in the Bank, July 15)
The only detraction from this one was something I never thought I’d criticize, and that’s too much AJ. Miss Lee was the special referee for this blowoff between two honorable rivals, and it was a chaotic 28-minute affair. When you combine MMA-inspired kicks and strikes with WWE Main Event Style weaponry, it can make for a suitably brutal affair. Bryan’s current run as a main eventer came to an end via Punk hitting a back superplex through a table.

17. Ladder Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena (TLC, December 16)
The final PPV match of 2012 hit on all the notes necessary for a satisfying main event: strong booking for both the winner and loser, exciting in-ring action, a hint of controversy, and as a bonus, acknowledgement of the ascension of a young star. Ziggler’s MITB briefcase was at stake against Cena, who had the match won until AJ (she gets around) knocked him off the ladder, allowing for a Ziggler superkick, and contract-retention for the Show Off.

16. Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble, January 29)
Some panned this match for being a tad cartoony, what with the commentators, Jim Duggan, and other non-regulars getting involved, but the silly fun was surrounded by some great action otherwise. Miz and Cody Rhodes had great showings during their respective long durations, Kofi Kingston hand-stood his way into our hearts, and Sheamus and Chris Jericho put together a great extended finish, ending with Jericho being Brogue Kicked into the abyss.

15. World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus vs. Big Show (Hell in a Cell, October 28)
Even though the Sheamus/Show feud was eventually dragged out like a dead kitten carcass across sun-baked pavement, it at least produced this fun match. In recent years, WWE’s produced a number of epic battles between big men, and this ranks among the best. It’s not often see two devastating moves (WMD Punch, Brogue Kick) kicked out of, but it set the stage for a thrilling finish, in which Show KO’ed Sheamus once and for all to win the gold.

14. WWE Championship: CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler (Royal Rumble, January 29)
This one took relegation to the scrap heap quickly after it happened, and that was due to two reasons. For one, it failed to match the ‘instant classic’ that Punk and Ziggler had on Raw two months prior (Dolph’s “he’s arrived” match), and two, John Laurinaitis’ involvement overshadowed some of the proceedings. Ziggler’s GTS counter into a rocker dropper was sweet, much like the match itself, which Punk won after finally hitting his knee-on-face finish.

13. Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler (Night of Champions, September 16)
The elevation of Ziggler continued, even in defeat. After Orton cost Ziggler a chance to cash in Money in the Bank on Sheamus (before Cena committed the same act), the two were linked together for a non-championship-related match at a show that’s designed to feature all title matches. Minor quibble aside, Ziggler and Orton battled in a heated 20-minute war, with many near falls, and ending when Orton countered Dolph’s sleeper into an RKO.

12. WWE Championship/Chicago Street Fight: CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho (Extreme Rules, April 29)
The blowoff to the insipid “Punk’s really a vicing degenerate with a messed up family” angle was this unfettered fight to the death in Punk’s hometown of Chicago. Both men even wore street clothes for the occasion, giving old school fans some bunkhouse brawl memories. Punk pulled out all the stops, including hitting the Leap of Faith elbow through Spanish announce table. Jericho nearly won with a chair-assisted Codebreaker, but Punk’s GTS would prevail.

11. WWE Championship/Elimination Chamber: CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho vs. The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. R-Truth (Elimination Chamber, February 19)
This one left many of us wondering just how Jericho and/or Punk would lose, and still set up WrestleMania without either man looking weak. After one of the better Chamber matches in recent years, complete with Jericho resurrecting the Lion Tamer on Kingston, Punk knocked Jericho out with a bump to the floor, eliminating him via TKO. Left with just Miz, Punk polished him off with the GTS, leaving Jericho to have an out leading into WrestleMania.

10. Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler (Summerslam, August 19)
Shaking off the disappointment of a pointless, troll-tastic return in January, an uninspired feud with Punk (the writing, not the matches), and the controversy in Brazil, Jericho was able to have one last classic before adjourning from WWE yet again. Opening an average Summerslam, Jericho and Ziggler ping-ponged and bumped for each other to get the party started. After Y2J shook off a ton of false finishes, he tapped Ziggler to his Wal-er, Lion Tamer.

9. Money in the Bank: Dolph Ziggler vs. Christian vs. Tensai vs. Santino Marella vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Damien Sandow vs. Sin Cara (Money in the Bank, July 15)
The more discriminating fan was looking forward to this over, say, the Cena/Show/Kane MITB match, since a number of rising stars and internet favorites were involved. Kidd was the unsung hero, making his name on a series of crazy spots (i.e. the mid air twisting sunset powerbomb), while Ziggler continued his subtle suicide with his usual scary landings. Christian had the match won until Ziggler surged in, threw him off the ladder, and claimed the blue briefcase.

8. World Heavyweight Championship/2 Out Of 3 Falls: Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan (Extreme Rules, April 29)
After infuriating many with the 18-second fiasco at WrestleMania, WWE provided a make-good 4 weeks later by booking Bryan in a role he’s seldom played in WWE: a calculating killer who targets an injury and exploits it. Sacrificing the first fall to a DQ, Bryan forced Sheamus to pass out in the Yes Lock to even it up. Bryan couldn’t get the job done, however, and ate a Brogue Kick in the final act. But at least WWE, to their credit, apologized for Mania in their own way.

7. Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XXVIII, April 1)
Though many have heralded this as the hands-down match of the year, I feel there was too much stalling (understandably) to award it the title. It was well built, but just missing that “extra push over the cliff”, to quote Nigel Tufnel. As it was, I dug much of the drama, but felt the parts with Shawn Michaels weren’t needed. Undertaker turning back Hunter’s last-ditch sledgehammer attack before obliterating him made for a fitting culmination of the 20-0 mark.

6. The Rock vs. John Cena (WrestleMania XXVIII, April 1)
Once the pointless concert beforehand came to a merciful end (which included some pretentious purple-haired diva-something or other), Rock and Cena engaged in the big money match, which was equal parts Austin-Rock and Warrior-Hogan. With a more markish crowd, it may have been even more epic, but as it was, it was a great heavyweight battle that will likely lead to a sequel this year. As for round one, The Great One drew first blood.

5. WWE Championship: CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho (WrestleMania XXVIII, April 1)
After John Laurinaitis affixed a stipulation minutes beforehand, decreeing that Punk could lose the gold via DQ, one’s spidey sense smelled screwjob. Instead, it was a red herring meant to mislead the audience, and hope that Punk wouldn’t get gutted by injustice. An intense battle that slowly worked into third gear, Jericho’s head games only intensified Punk’s resolve, as he finished the former “Best in the World” with an unrelenting Anaconda Vice.

4. WWE Championship: CM Punk vs. John Cena (Night of Champions, September 16)
Kinda sad that this was Punk’s first “main event” of the 2012 calendar year, and he’d been champion the entire time. This made up for months of Cena navel-gazing, as the two picked up where they left off the previous summer at Money in the Bank and Summerslam, displaying their remarkable chemistry in a seesaw battle. The double-pin finish would have meant more with a one-on-one rematch, but you know WWE will revisit this soon enough.

3. Tables, Ladders, and Chairs: The Shield vs. Kane/Daniel Bryan/Ryback (TLC, December 16)
You wouldn’t think there’d be a lot of positives to come out of Punk tearing his meniscus, but a dangerous spotfest that gave instantly credibility to three newcomers would be one. The Shield has looked strong since their Survivor Series debut, and they were able to notch a huge win over 3 pushed and established players, in a match everyone was talking about for days. Seth Rollins in particular was made after nearly dying via table bump near the entrance way.

2. Extreme Rules: John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar (Extreme Rules, April 29)
With Lesnar’s return the night after WrestleMania came high expectations for the universally-renowned UFC icon. He immediately entered a feud with Cena, and their fight vignettes hyping their forthcoming brawl were great selling points. The match wasn’t even a match, it was a straight-up fight with lots of blood. After Cena took a hellacious beating for the duration of the contest, he used his chain, and an AA on the ring steps, to win, much to the surprise of many.

1. WWE Championship: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan (Over the Limit, May 20)
The two indy darling got to bring their blend of pure wrestling and stiff-shot-laden brawling to the big stage, for the game’s richest prize. Bryan and Punk painted a masterpiece for over 20 minutes, with both men expectedly fighting for the advantage. Bryan worked the arm in a manner similar to Bob Backlund, and ultimately hooked the Yes Lock for a sure win. Punk bridged back into a pinning combo and tapped just after the ref counted 3 on his pin.

Justin Henry is a freelance writer who covers the NFL for FootballNation and professional wrestling on a freelance basis. He can be found at Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh)

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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

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 @ [email protected] 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:

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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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CM Punk Hits One Year As WWE Champion, A Look Back

November 20, 2012 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

CM Punk has officially hit the one-year mark as WWE champion. It was one year ago on November 20, 2011 when Punk pinned Alberto Del Rio to win the title and begin one of the longest world title reigns in WWE history.

It has been quite a year for CM Punk. If you step back and look at his entire year you would think that you were looking at a five-year title reign. He was a babyface, a heel, had several big feuds, and even modified his look all in the span of one year. I think it is fair to say that the year was certainly a success for the world champion.

Punk’s first duties as world champion were to finish up his feud with Alberto Del Rio. It was a weird time for Punk because on the one hand you could sense the excitement around him as world champion yet on the other hand you had a sense of cyniscm as Punk’s last title reign lasted less than a month. Was this the title reign the fans hoped they get in July or would this be another bait and swicth?

Punk entered 2012 feuding with Dolph Ziggler. To me, Punk vs. Ziggler was one of the best in-ring feuds of 2012. Their match at the Royal Rumble 2012 is still one of the top matches of the year and one of the best championship matches in Rumble history. There was no doubt who the winner was that night as Punk pinned Ziggler several times during the match en route to the win.

Punk was in a dangerous spot here as he was being greatly overshadowed by the John Cena vs. The Rock feud. Punk’s feud with Ziggler was fantastic in the ring, but nobody really bought into Dolph as a serious contender. Punk was sliding down a road of nowhere when Chris Jericho finally hit his stride and the two had a marriage made in wrestling heaven.

Punk and Jericho will go down to some as the best feud of 2012. The angle was a lot like the Raven vs. Punk angle from Ring of Honor although Jericho certainly put his spin on it. The promos about Punk’s family were controversial yet it worked. The two had a great match at WrestleMania 28 and arguably the match of the year at Extreme Rules. People like to talk about the John Cena feud as the feud that made Punk and it certainly elevated him. But there were still some fans that had their doubts after seeing dozens of star-stop pushes in recent years. That is why it was so important for him to come out without a loss during the Jericho feud. In my opinion it was his feud with Jericho that allowed fans to take him seriously.

Punk next entered in a dream rivalry for some wrestling fans with Daniel Bryan. For longtime fans of Punk and Bryan, these two guys were on a collision course for WWE greatness. Their matches were excellent but Bryan had been tarnished at the time after a handful of decisive losses to Sheamus. I think this one could have been much bigger but again it was Punk wrestling against a guy that many casual fans felt had no chance of winning. I’d love to see these guys feud again at some point with Bryan pushed a little more seriously by the WWE.

Punk was hurting here. The matches were great but he was starting to look weak. The whole storyline with AJ playing Punk was making Punk look like a sap. Here was this angry, intense wrester going from street fighting against Chris Jericho to being caught in a dumb love triangle. Someone recognized this and luckily for Punk, the storyline ended quickly. If not I have a feeling that Punk would not be celebrating his year as champion.

Punk once again reinvented himself with a slow heel turn against John Cena. Punk and Cena aren’t two guys you’d expect to have especially great matches but they do. They just have great chemistry. The turn peaked with Punk aligning himself with Paul Heyman to form one of the most entertaining duos the WWE has seen in years. Punk went from being a sympathetic hero during the Jericho to feud to the biggest jerk in wrestling in a matter of months. Quite frankly that may be his biggest accomplishment all year.

Punk is wrapping up the year feuding with Ryback in a feud that is far more entertaining than anyone realized. Punk fans groaned when the prospect of seeing Punk having to wrestle the green Ryback came to fruition. Yet several weeks later it is one of the most entertaining feuds in wrestling. Was it a miracle or is he just that good? I think a bit of both.

So here we are on November 20, 2012 celebrating the longest WWE championship title reign in over six years. Punk is on the verge of entering the biggest year of his career with feuds against The Rock and potentially The Undertaker, and maybe even Stone Cold Steve Austin. Will Punk celebrate his two year anniversary as champion on this date in 2013? I doubt it but he will likely be on the verge of solidifying his legacy as one of the greatest of the current era of WWE superstars.

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Evaluating Chris Jericho’s Last WWE Run

August 29, 2012 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Chris JerichoChris Jericho is finally gone after losing a match to Dolph Ziggler, ending his third run with the WWE. A look back at the nine-month run of Y2J begs the question as to whether it was a success or not. In this writer’s opinion, it was a slam dunk!

Chris Jericho returned after a lengthy hiatus from the WWE back in November. Jericho returned as a heel, although it took a few weeks for the fans to pick up on it. Jericho’s silence was a new twist in his evolving persona and created more intrigue and drama surrounding his first match than his last return back in 2007.

Once Jericho finally returned, he went full steam ahead in the WWE rings. His first big match back was the 2012 Royal Rumble. Jericho went to the finals, being eliminated by the current WWE world heavyweight champion Sheamus. Jericho’s selfless act in helping elevate this stale mid-carder would become the theme of the nine-month run of the ayatollah of rock and rolla!

Jericho hit his stride by feuding with CM Punk. The feud with Punk came at the perfect time in Punk’s career. Punk was at a crossroads and with all of the WrestleMania attention focusing on John Cena and The Rock, Punk was on the verge of being stuck in a meaningless match on the biggest mania in years. Thanks to Jericho, Punk wound up a key part of the show and wrestled a match that most agree was one of the best on the event.

The entire feud with Jericho and Punk was a showcase in the brilliance of Chris Jericho. Jericho brought out the aggressive side of Punk which helped elevate the WWE champion’s character into a different direction. Jericho also brought prominence back to the WWE title picture, after a disappointing series with Punk and Alberto Del Rio. As much as people love to put Punk on a pedestal, you need to two to tango. I don’t think there was anyone in the company that would have strengthened Punk as much as Jericho did.

Jericho’s selflessness was what made this work. Jericho had no problem putting Punk over on successive shows. Jericho had no problem looking like an idiot when necessary in order to get Punk and the feud over. Jericho didn’t hold back or work softer as a bitter veteran being used to elevate the young up and comer. Instead, Jericho worked his butt off and gave Punk arguably his best series of matches up to that point. Jericho and Punk’s match at Extreme Rules is regarded by many as the 2012 WWE Match of the Year.

But it wasn’t just CM Punk. Jericho did a similar favor for Dolph Ziggler on the way out. Jericho could have chosen to work with an established veteran but instead saw a great worker that was stuck in the middle. Jericho worked just as hard and maybe even harder with Ziggler as he did with Punk. Their match at SummerSlam was arguably the best on the show. By giving Ziggler back the win the following night, Jericho positioned Ziggler to take the next step on his ascension to the main-event.

Jericho recently said this on his SummerSlam match with Ziggler.

They wanted to start the show off with a bang, and I don’t care if I go on first, last, in the middle, whatever. But if I’m going on first, I’m gonna be going out there to make a statement and kick it off with a bang, and I don’t want anybody to be able to follow it. I think the LA crowd was primed; SummerSlam is a big deal, they’ve promoted it and done a great job of making it the second biggest pay-per-view of the year, and the crowd was crazy. And honestly, it’s fun to kind of end off that last run as Y2J, as a good guy, after being the hated heel for basically the better part of four years.”

Jericho didn’t just come back for the big pay day. Jericho came back to do what many of the greats did for him as an up and comer. Jericho came back to help build the future of the WWE. How many other WWE superstars in Jericho’s position would be that selfless? The legacy Jericho has left on this last run with the WWE may have more impact in the long run than anything else Jericho has done in the WWE over the course of 13 years. If more talent in Jericho’s position took his same selfless attitude, the WWE could be in a much better place today.

And for that, I would call Jericho’s WWE run a huge success.

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