The World Wrestling Entertainment had an interesting 2013. The WWE saw the emergence of a new hero, old rivalries rekindled, & fascinating stories in and out of the ring. Rather than look back myself at the WWE 2013 in review, I am joined by a collection of pro wrestling writers from CamelClutchBlog.com.
WWE Wrestler of the Year
Eric Gargiulo – Daniel Bryan. I try not to be cliché with these year-end blogs but I dare you to tell me with a straight face who had a better year inside of the WWE rings than Bryan. This guy has consistently had very good to great matches most of the year. Ironically his most disappointing series probably came when he was in the main-events against Randy Orton. His matches with The Shield, every one of them were just tremendous, and he did it on a weekly basis. For goodness sake he made Kane look great during his run with Team Hell No!
Tom Clark – Daniel Bryan. Daniel didn’t exactly blossom, as we all knew he was more than capable; he was just given the opportunity to shine and he ran with it. The way the crowd fell in with him really says it all, they totally bought into what he was doing. The fact that the ratings weren’t there does not diminish what he did in the ring, he was the most well rounded worker in my view
Dustin Nichols – Daniel Bryan. I have to go with Daniel Bryan. Bryan has always been a favorite of mine, and he had the year of his career in 2013. WWE finally pulled the trigger on making him a serious main eventer, and although his two WWE title reigns were short and filled with controversy, he proved to his doubters that he belongs in the elite of the company. WWE now have total faith in Bryan as a top-level performer, and I see big, big things for the man in 2014. And hey, even though they were short, he still snagged two WWE titles in PPV main events, making him a 3-time champion overall. Many past and present stars would give their right eye to be able to say that.
Seth Guttenplan – Daniel Bryan. Each week, I award the WWE Wrestler of the Week right here on Camel Clutch Blog, but this award in an annual one. The WWE Wrestler of the Year award belongs to someone who has received many WOW award this year. He is Daniel Bryan. At the beginning of the year he was rejuvenating the tag team division with Kane. That was until Bryan’s popularity got so out of control, WWE had no choice (with John Cena needing surgery) but to make Bryan the number one babyface of the company.
Jeff Peck – Daniel Bryan. Amazing that the guy I give the “WWE Wrestler of the Year” award to held the WWE Championship title twice this year over a span of maybe 24 ½ hours! Bryan was “the guy” this year and as a longtime fan of his dating back to the independent wrestling scene, it was great to watch his progression throughout the year. Whether it be on the microphone or in the ring, Daniel Bryan was the guy in WWE for 2013.
Eric Darsie – CM Punk. Even though he lost the WWE title to the Rock at the Royal Rumble, wasn’t able to retain the title at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, lost to the Undertaker at WrestleMania, and lost to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, CM Punk has to be the man in the WWE! Granted he suffered several major loses to those guys, his stock doesn’t seem damaged. Since he held the WWE title for 400 plus days that ended in January, there was nothing that could knock CM Punk from the top of the WWE Mountain.
Terri Bey – AJ Lee. For my contribution to this blog’s year-end review, I am declaring current WWE Diva’s Champion A.J. LEE the 2013 Wrestler of the year.
For the past six months as Diva’s Champion, A.J.Lee has been awesome. Lee is great with her promos, and her character development. Her crazy character has been a bit toned down, but she still uses it when needed. She reminds me of Edge, when he went nuts on Vickie Guerrero. Lee is also improving as a worker in the ring as well. I feel she has done very well as WWE Diva’s Champion. A.J.Lee is my 2013 Wrestler of the year.
Dan Aleksander – Daniel Bryan. What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Daniel Bryan? A friend on Twitter said he’s developed the most organic following this side of Goldberg. He’ll shine through the burials and demotions and make WWE realize change is natural.
WWE Story of the Year
Eric Gargiulo – Bruno Sammartino Enters the WWE Hall of Fame. I don’t think there was a bigger story than the end of a 20+ year grudge between Sammartino and the WWE. I have interviewed Sammartino a dozen times since 2000 and I can tell you that hiss anger towards Vince and the WWE was very real. When the rumors surfaced of Bruno coming back I didn’t believe there was any way that he would settle his differences at this stage of the game. I was wrong. Bruno is not only back but he is very happy to be back and let’s face it. He did the right thing. Now the WWE can rightfully acknowledge Bruno’s place in history and new generations of fans can learn about the great Living Legend. In or outside of the ring nothing will top the magnitude of this story in my opinion.
Brett Clendaniel – Darren Young Comes Out as First Openly Gay WWE Superstar. No story outside of the ring garnered WWE the mainstream attention more than Darren Young revealing that he is an openly gay pro wrestler. Gay pro wrestlers have surely existed before, but none have been openly gay while actively competing in a masculine business on a stage this big. For Darren Young, it was surely liberating and a ton of weight off of his shoulders. For the WWE, it was a chance to face a hot-button issue head-on and embrace their “Be A Star” campaign even further. Young eventually appeared on The Today Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, TMZ, late-night talk shows, and countless other local radio and TV appearances. Darren Young’s brave declaration may have paved the way for future prospective gay pro wrestlers to make the jump to the WWE without fear of not fitting in. It was a landmark move and I would not be shocked if other pro wrestlers come out as a result of this. Honorable Mention: Some of the lowest ratings and buyrates in company history, Total Divas, Did The Rock walk out on the WWE?
Tom Clark – DDP working with Scott Hall and Jake Roberts. This is one of the more surprising stories of the year, mostly due to the fact that the buzz on Page has always been that he’s a big self-promoter. In this case, it does seem that his heart is in the right place as he opened his doors to both Hall and Roberts. Of course, I’m sure that he has sold quite a few of his DDP Yoga programs but that should not overshadow the work he did with both guys; Scott and Jake both look great and really appear to be turning their lives around. Much respect to Page here; it’s nice to have a feel good story in the business instead of just more controversy.
Dustin Nichols – Daniel Bryan’s Ascension to the Main-Event. Hard to pick which one was the most important, but I’m going with the ascension of Daniel Bryan into the main event. The man has had his ups and downs since signing with WWE, but has never been unentertaining. He started the year as half of Team Hell No!, and by the end of the year, he had not only skyrocketed back to the main event, but he picked up two WWE titles in the process, knocking guys off such as the invincible duo of Randy Orton and John Cena on the way. Again, you could make a case for “The Authority”, but only recently has that angle gotten interesting, with the beginning serving no purpose other than making the entire roster look weak at the hands of Orton and the Shield. If it weren’t for Bryan being at the top of the angle in the beginning, I don’t know that anyone would have cared for it that much.
Jeff Peck – Will The Rock ever wrestle again? Since post-WrestleMania 29, everyone in the wrestling world has wondered whether or not we’ve seen the last of The Rock in a WWE ring. After he got injured in his match with John Cena reports started stating that The Rock left New Jersey without telling the WWE, that his plans to do a setup segment with Brock Lesnar for next year’s WrestleMania were scrapped and he was stating in interviews that it was “most likely” his last wrestling match. All of a sudden The Rock went from “I’m never leaving the WWE again” to “I’ll leave the WWE if I get injured.” It’s disappointing as a wrestling fan but I totally get it from a business standpoint as well, The Rock was in the top 10 for money grossed from the silver screen in 2013 and he needs to take care of what’s best for him & his family ultimately.
Eric Darsie – Stone Cold Steve Austin and Chris Jericho join Podcast One to debut the Steve Austin Show and Talk Is Jericho (respectfully). If you’re a podcast fan, listening to “the Steve Austin Show,” “the Steve Austin Show Unleashed,” and “Talk is Jericho,” are three podcasts that Steve Austin and Chris Jericho put out are worth your time! With podcasts becoming more of a fan, it overjoys me to see that former pro wrestlers are embracing them as a new outlet to connect with their fan base. Two stars from my childhood are doing that, and them doing so helps me pass time away at work!
WWE Match of the Year
Eric Gargiulo – CM Punk vs. The Undertaker WrestleMania 29. This one was tougher than in previous years. Right off the top of my head the Shield had so many great matches on television that they first came to mind. I watched a few back and watched the Punk vs. Taker match and none of them beat it for intensity and drama. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan from RAW back in the spring/summer was up there too. I am hardly the biggest Punk fan but he was at his best here. Nobody expected him to win but by the midway point he had me convinced that he had a shot. The only thing keeping this match from being an all-time Mania classic is the poor storyline. Stick a better story here and this one could have been a top five Mania match.
WWE Angle of the Year
Eric Gargiulo – Mark Henry swerves the WWE Universe. In reflecting back on the WWE in 2013 it becomes apparent quickly that there weren’t a whole lot of great angles and moments inside of the ring. Quite frankly it was one of the least creative years I can remember. However, the one bright shining moment for me was Mark Henry’s fake retirement swerve. I am not a big Henry fan but this angle was just brilliant. Henry was fantastic and convincing as he played on the emotions of the fans when he talked about his family only to turn around and attack Cena. Not only was this the WWE angle of the year, but it may be the best angle the WWE has pulled off in years.
Brett Clendaniel - CM Punk’s Quest for Retribution Against Paul Heyman. This category was easily the toughest one for me to decide simply because, well, I feel as if the WWE creatively has had one of its most subpar years in a long-time. That’s a column for another time, but CM Punk’s program against Paul Heyman and all of his “Guys” was head-and-shoulders above all of the other options. I simply couldn’t stomach to choose The Authority vs Daniel Bryan for the simple fact that it was the worst booked feud of the decade…and I mean that. The feud between Punk and Heyman stretched many months that put Punk into programs with Brock Lesnar, Curtis Axel, and Ryback. For all intents and purposes, JTG could have been one of the “Paul Heyman Guys” and it still would have been compelling simply because of the chemistry between Punk and Paul. Every single one of their promo’s were gold and every episode of TV or PPV had fans wondering if that would be the night that CM Punk finally got his hands on Paul Heyman. He eventually did, but Heyman’s recent RAW comments hint to him not being done with CM Punk. Time will tell. Honorable Mention: The Shield’s lengthy title reigns, The Rhodes Family vs The Authority, Anything not involving The Miz
Tom Clark – CM Punk vs. Paul Heyman. This takes the top spot for me because of just how incredibly good both guys are on the mic. They absolutely killed it every time they were on the air, at the end of each promo it was obvious that we were seeing something special. The angle led to the match with Lesnar, which only added to it, but for me the primary selling point was the mic work done by Paul and Punk. It was compelling, dramatic storytelling and it worked on every level.
Dustin Nichols -Wyatt Family. While “The Authority” dominated TV for a good part of the year, I am actually going a different route and choosing the Wyatt Family and their reign of terror since their debut. Honestly, WWE has created one of the most intriguing angles/gimmicks in many years with the Wyatts, with no one ever knowing what they are going to do next, not to mention presenting them as backwoods people who are not only extremely intelligent, but almost a Manson Family-like cult. The gimmick is reminiscent of Waylon Mercy for obvious reasons, and I’ve have always maintained the Mercy gimmick was way ahead of its time. The Wyatts do nothing but back that claim up with fans who both cheer and boo them being hooked by the gimmick, especially Bray Wyatt’s masterful role as the leader. This guy is ridiculously good for his relative lack of experience.
Seth Guttenplan -The Authority vs. Daniel Bryan. Although it is a current angle, the Authority versus Daniel Bryan to me is the best throughout the year. CM Punk’s title monumental title reign ended in January and Bryan’s popularity was in the midst of getting out of control. WWE wouldn’t push Bryan to the top for a number of months. When WWE finally gave Bryan a shot, they incorporated their real life feelings towards Bryan into the storyline. When WWE writes stories dealing with how things really are, it makes the product so much better.
Jeff Peck – Triple H turns heel at SummerSlam 2013 and Randy Orton cashes in to become WWE Champion. It was the angle that all “hardcore” wrestling fans saw coming. The “dirtsheets” discussed heel turns for Triple H & Randy Orton all year long up to that point and the WWE executed the plan perfectly by taking the most beloved WWE wrestler at that time, Daniel Bryan, crowning him the WWE Champion then only to have it snatched away moments later by Triple H/Randy Orton. It was the biggest angle of the year for the WWE and appears to have catapulted the company into their WrestleMania 30 storyline.
Eric Darsie – The Undisputed WWE World Heavyweight Championship Unification. Yes, the build-up sucked and everyone wasn’t happy that the Undisputed title match was between Cena and Orton, but come on, WWE is known for not always pleasing the fans. Let’s see how things turn out and let’s see how the storyline goes. Will Orton walk out of WrestleMania XXX as WWE World Heavyweight Champion? Who knows? All I’m saying is I’m happy John Cena didn’t unify the titles.
Dan Aleksander – The Authority. The Authority, by default. Or should I say abeyance of anything else worthwhile? If debuts count as angles, the Wyatt Family. Follow the buzzards circling the bottleneck in WWE Creative’s finish room.
WWE Breakout Star of the Year
Eric Gargiulo – Daniel Bryan. This category is generally reserved for a guy that either debuted and rose up the ranks or went from the curtain jerker to a respectable mid-card star. Daniel Bryan is not either one of those and you could debate whether he belongs here. That said I can’t think of any other wrestler in the business whose stock ascended at the level of Bryan’s. Maybe Roman Reigns but he is just starting to break out. I can’t think of anyone better who epitomizes breakout star than Bryan.
Brett Clendaniel - Daniel Bryan. First off, I feel really bad choosing Daniel Bryan here. For starters, I already chose him as Wrestler of the Year. To go along with that, many would say that 2012 was his breakout year. Finally, I generally like to pick a newcomer for this category. But since I am really struggling to differentiate the impact of the other people I consider nominees (Ambrose, Reigns, Langston, Sandow, Wyatt, and Colter), Bryan becomes the no-brainer for me. Nobody else skyrocketed into a star like he did. None of the other nominees used 2013 to cement themselves as definitive future stars, no matter how good they looked or how they were booked. I’m not saying that any of them won’t be a future star (because I honestly think 2 or 3 of them have the potential), but we really just won’t know until we get there. Bryan went from the mid-card to the WWE’s second most popular superstar in 2013. That’s enough right there to give him this award. PS – Zeb Colter will surely be overlooked because he’s not a performer, but he was one of the WWE’s brightest lights in 2013. His promos, expressions, managerial work, and even the bit of mainstream attention that he helped them get earlier in the year cannot be overlooked. Honorable Mention: Dean Ambrose, Big E Langston, Zeb Colter, Damien Sandow, Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns
Tom Clark – Goldust. He may be more of the Comeback Star of the Year but for me, Goldust is the obvious choice. I don’t think there was ever any question as to whether or not he could still go but seeing is believing and Dustin Rhodes more than proved he is still very capable of getting it done in the ring. As with any other successful Superstar this year, the story was definitely there for Goldust and he is perhaps the biggest sentimental favorite for fans. Put him in the ring today against Orton for the belt and I guarantee the crowd would be 100% behind him, believing he can pull off the title win.
Dustin Nichols – Bray Wyatt. There were several talents that had great years and look to bigger and better things in the coming years. At the top of my list has to be Bray Wyatt, and I am boldly predicting he will be WWE World Champion within 2 years time. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns also put in strong showings throughout the year, with Reigns really coming into his own the last couple of months. At the same time, you can’t look past the Brotherhood, Cody Rhodes and Goldust. Goldust has looked better than ever since returning to WWE, and he makes a damn good team with his younger half-brother.
Jeff Peck – The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins). You can’t just pick one of these guys to be the breakout stars of 2013 because the entire group was breakout stars throughout the year. For the most part they were involved in major storylines throughout the year (Rock/Punk, The Authority, etc.) and all held gold (Tag Titles) or are still holding gold (United States Championship) in 2013. It’s hard for new superstars to make an impact in the WWE lately and yet these three superstars stayed atop the WWE “mountain” throughout all of 2013.
Eric Darsie – Daniel Bryan. When 2013 came in, Daniel Bryan was WWE Tag Team Champions with Kane. Who would of thought by WWE SummerSlam, he’d be the biggest star in the WWE? The fans pushed and pushed for Daniel Bryan ever since he lost the World Heavyweight title to Sheamus at WrestleMania XXVIII in 18 seconds, when John Cena announced that he’ll defend the WWE title against Bryan at SummerSlam, which was his way into the main event scene. Granted he got swerved out of the WWE Championship twice, but the fans are behind him more than ever and want him to recapture the title and hold it long term.
Dan Aleksander – Goldust. Yeah, he’s a vet. Yeah, he’s wrestling royalty. But I’d be damned if I could name a better comeback than this guy’s: even in unscripted sports. Plus, if you’re 9, he’s new to you.
Brett Clendaniel, Jr. is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of WrestleChat.net and a member of the CamelClutchBlog family since the first month it opened. Follow WrestleChat on Twitter at @WrestleChatNet.
Seth Guttenplan is the owner of GuTTWrenchPowerBlog. When Seth is not writing about wrestling, he is a Special Education teacher in New Jersey. To read more from Seth, follow him on twitter (@sethmikey) and visit http://guttwrenchpowerblog.com
Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan
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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.
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