PWI Year End Awards, WWE & TNA's Real Winners and Losers
DieHard Derek | On 10, Jan 2013
For the last decade, Pro Wrestling Illustrated has been a joke! Yeah, I said it!
THE PWI 500 is nothing but a popularity contest with no real logical thought behind it. Granted, the business has changed since the golden era of wrestling where there were dozens of national and territorial organizations with rosters full of legitimate talent and champions, as opposed to today where there are only three (WWE, TNA and Ring of Honor). And you can argue that the editors at the publication could really care less about their effort since paper magazines have become obsolete in the digital age.
Perhaps the thought process is, “Nobody’s reading this shit anyway! Fill out the 500 list with the three rosters and then fill in the rest of the blanks with whatever names you see on local indy posters. We’re lucky we still have jobs”!
But when it comes to the Year-End Awards, I expect more effort. Whether you’re a professional in the business or just an avid fan, you should be able to better validate your decisions based on the body of work presented during that 12-month span. These are achievements and recognitions EARNED, not filler content. Yet, it appears as if PWI has lost their voice of authority in the business, because they no longer print pictures of the winners holding their winning plaque, thus making it evident that the world of sports entertainment has even barred them from VIP list.
Here are some of the winners of the 2012 PWI Year-End Awards, along with the top three runners up and their voting percentages… and my input on the decisions:
WRESTLER OF THE YEAR – CM PUNK (47%)
Runners –Up: Sheamus (16%), Austin Aries (13%) and John Cena (8%)
CM Punk absolutely deserves this nod for a 2nd year in a row. With currently 400-plus days as WWE champion he‘s been bringing prestige back to the concept of being a title holder. While his feuds have been less than epic, that’s a fault you can lay on the WWE creative scriptwriters. In the ring, he’s given us solid performances against Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Chris Jericho and John Cena. No argument here that CM Punk proved that in 2012, he was in-fact, the best in the world.
My problem comes with the runners-up. Even though Cena dominated the main event position in 2012 without ever holding a championship, you do realize he lost a good bulk of his matches. So why are we voting for him? ….No argument on Austin Aries, as it was his year to prove the critics wrong and an opportunity for TNA to build a home-grown star…. Sheamus? Really? Yeah, he won the heavyweight title, but did anyone really care to watch his matches? He’s getting better, but not Wrestler of The year better….. Where was Dolph Ziggler on this list? – arguably WWE’s best in-ring performer? Where was Bobby Roode? – who was arguably TNA’s most valuable player in 2012. And where is at least one name from Ring of Honor? – who still focuses on giving a wrestling product to wrestling fans.
TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR – KOFI KINGSTON & R-TRUTH (18%)
Runners-Up: Daniels and Kazarian (17%), Kane/Daniel Bryan (13%), and Samoa Joe/Magnus (7%)
Why? Kofi and Truth were a team for a hot minute and paired up because they were both black – yeah, I said it! So they won the tag straps – who hasn’t? OK, Prime Time Players. But like AJ Lee, Kofi and Truth had multiple partners in 2012, so what makes their union worthy of the recognition. They’re not even a team anymore and haven’t been for months. Shouldn’t a REAL team stick together?
Daniels and Kazarian missed the top spot by 1%, and it is well deserved for two industry veterans who are passionate about maintaining traditional tag team wrestling…. Kane/Bryan deserve their spot because of their success and how over they are with the fans, but at the same time, they are not a real team. Their gimmick is that they shouldn’t even be paired together and their work shows them as two individuals forced together….Same goes for Joe/Magnus – not a real team, just a bastard child of the “creative has nothing for you” family… Uh, where the hell is Benjamin and Haas who have dominated Ring of Honor and have been a team for over a decade? Where are the guys who took them to the limit like Steve Corino and Jimmy Jacobs, and The Briscoe Brothers?….Where is Epico and Primo? – A real team who won the tag titles, work as a team, look like a team and still is a team? There’s a glitch in the Matrix people!
MOST POPULAR OF THE YEAR: JOHN CENA (29%)
Runners-Up: Sheamus (20%), Randy Orton (18%), and Jeff Hardy (17%)
This was a no brainer. Cena is not only the face of the WWE, he’s the face of the business. Love him or hate him, there is no denying him. In that respect, Hardy is the face of TNA, likely because he is a former WWE superstar and it’s in TNA’s nature to whore the celebrity built up in the WWE Universe…. While Orton is popular, I don’t know if I would rank him that high as MOST popular in 2012, considering that he spent a good portion of the year on the DL, or suspended for wellness violation.
And here were are with Sheamus again. As if PWI is trying to force feed us as much as Triple H did to get over his boy. Sheamus is great addition to the roster and a quality competitor, but I don’t see him as popular as some may think. Even as champion, Sheamus isn’t selling out crowds or closing out pay per view events. When was the last time you were psyched to see a Sheamus match? That’s my point. Even though CM Punk is a heel, he’s more popular. Daniel Bryan may be stuck is creative purgatory, but at least he has a catch phrase that blows the roof off arenas. Ryback may be new, but he’s growing into a phenomenon. And did we forget The Rock? – who sold out Wrestlemania in Miami, boost ratings with his appearances on RAW and is now an A-list Hollywood star? Not as popular huh?
Did anybody else notice I couldn’t even name another popular TNA wrestler who is in demand on global scale? Perhaps because one of TNA’s greatest flaws is that they don’t work hard enough to make their stars household names. When was the last time you saw a kid dressed as a TNA wrestler for Halloween? When was the last time kids were rough-housing outside and they emulated the style of their favorite TNA wrestler?….Go ahead, I’ll wait.
MOST HATED OF THE YEAR: CM PUNK (40%)
Runner-Ups: Bobby Roode (14%), Alberto Del Rio (10%) and Kevin Steen (7%)
CM Punk is the perfect wrestling antagonist – yet he is still more over than 99% of the roster. Perhaps I’m taking this too literal, but shouldn’t “hated” mean…HATED? Classic wrestling villains were spat on at arenas and need security escorts to leave the building. They never let you in on their devious plans or played to crowds and sold merchandise. Their job was simply: be HATED! Look at some of the greats like Roddy Piper, Rick Rude, The Honkytonk Man – the more they made your skin crawl and blood boil, the more they did their job. Do you think The Heenan Family would have been so epic if everybody was playing it cool? You can thank Stone Cold Steve Austin and the n.W.o. for doing away with traditional good guy vs. bad guy blueprint. So when it comes to this award, why not nominate talents who legitimately get booed?
Bobby Roode shouldn’t be on this list, simply because not enough people watch TNA to hate him…. Alberto Del Rio spent a good portion of the year on the DL, and his feuds were meaningless. There is nothing to hate about a guy whose matches you don’t give a shit about…. Kevin Steen is legit contender for this award, and in my opinion, the REAL winner for 2012. I don’t watch ROH regularly enough to critique his work as a heel – but his overall look and style had some fans in an uproar when he became the ROH champion. “This fucking guy??? He doesn’t even look like a wrestler!!!” Now that’s what I call HEAT!
Surprisingly, Cena didn’t make the list. I guess there weren’t as many “Cena Sucks” chants as I thought I heard…. Vickie Guerrero didn’t make the list, even though people can’t wait for her to shut the fuck up…. WWE creative could have easily made the list because the quality of the product in 2012 was beyond abysmal…. And where is Bully Ray’s nomination? If anyone, he made the most conscious effort in 2012 to have people flip him the bird!
MOST IMPROVED OF THE YEAR: RYBACK (22%)
Runners-Up: Miss Tessmacher (20%), Michael Elgin (17%) and Adam Cole (5%)
I couldn’t agree more with Ryback taking this award, but I did expect him to have a higher percentage. To think, this guy started the year with burden of being considered a Goldberg clone and he was notorious for botching spots in the ring, thus me giving him the moniker Rybotch. But as the year progressed, so did he, and has become one of the WWE’s hottest commodities – and a much needed one.
Tessmacher makes sense since she pulled the upset and won the Knockout’s title, but nominating her most improved is a joke considering how TNA put the knockouts division on the backburner for months and saw a good portion of the roster disappear. It’s hard to improve when you have nobody to work with….. Elgin and Cole earned their sports and hopefully get on the radar of either WWE or TNA so that they can continue to grow their names and experience.
Again, where is Bully Ray? This guy reinvented himself after nearly two decades as a tag team wrestler. His transformation has been a breath of fresh air for TNA and heels in general. But still no props, huh? How about props for Austin Aries, who broke free from the chains of X-division little guys to become the TNA heavyweight champion? And don’t forget Heath Slater – this guy was one Superstars match away from being released when he stepped in shit and became the “job-boy” for Raw’s weekly returning legends. From there he was allowed the opportunity to create the 3MB trio, which still does jobs – but helped three guys keep theirs.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: JEFF HARDY (24%)
Runner-Ups: The Rock (13%), Brock Lesnar (11%) and Layla (6%)
Jeff Hardy’s story from crack to champion is by far the best comeback story of the year. It may not have been as well publicized or celebrated as The Rock’s return, but from a personal perspective, you have to give props to someone who can overcome his own demons. It was disturbing watching Eric Bischoff abruptly call for his match to end against Sting at Victory Road in 2011. By that point, Hardy’s name was at the top of everyone’s death pool (his brother Matt has since replaced him). But Jeff took the time off and got it together not just for the fans, but for himself.
The Rock was perhaps the most anticipated comeback of the decade, and fans are chomping a the bit to see him bring it in 2013…. I wish I could say the same thing for Brock Lesnar. His return the day after Wrestlemania was a shocker, but it fizzled pretty quick when he forgot how to cut a promo and wrestle the fake way. It was nice seeing you again Brock, but you really stunk the joint up… As for Layla, uh, yeah, I guess. Whatever. As if we couldn’t find another piece of ass to put the Diva’s title on.
FEUD OF THE YEAR: ACES and EIGHTS vs. TNA (24%)
Runners-Up: Cena vs. Rock (17%), Punk vs. Bryan (12%) and Adam Pearce vs. Colt Cabana (9%)
I’m calling, bullshit! Flag on the play! Okay, I want to know who the fuck voted for this, when (say it with me) NOBODY WATCHES TNA! I love the TV show Sons of Anarchy as much as the next person and I think it’s cool to come up with a gimmick and storyline inspired by it – but it has to be effective. This is a perfect case of “great idea/poor execution”. And to be considered feud of the year…? Why don’t you just kick me in the balls while you’re at it?
Rock/Cena was by far the most heavily publicized feud in YEARS! And you know what made it so effective? One full year of hype, and ONLY one match. The tag match at Survivor Series helped make it legit, but it was really the only time we saw these competitors touch. We literally had to wait and pay for the big one – the way it’s supposed to be! Rock vs. Cena was the best built up program I’ve seen in over 10 years. It made me a fan again and made me want to see the match. For a moment, the magic of pro wrestling was back…but just for a flickering moment.
Punk/Bryan wasn’t really a feud in my opinion. It was more a series of indy dream matches on a grander scale. Watching these two trade off in a WWE ring made me realize truly how far they have both come since being the flag bearers of Ring of Honor. It was one of those, “we made it” moments. The problem is, it was wasted. Punk/Bryan would have been the perfect scenario to unify the titles as the main event of Wrestlemania. Hopefully WWE creative takes note.
I’m so happy to see Pearce/Cabana recognized here. Not only is well deserved, but it proves that the indies are alive and well, and that there is always opportunity to reinvigorate the territories. I wish I could have witnessed each and every encounter of their best of seven, “Seven Stages of Hate” series for the NWA title, because this is what REAL pro wrestling is made of. The story was told in the ring, and the reward was the glory of the gold. While I’m not a big fan of gimmick matches like street-fights, first blood, etc., I would have definitely been emotionally engaged because it was part of their story that drew upon their hate. These were the type of matches and feuds that occurred in the small territories where my only source of coverage was the “Apter Mags”, such as PWI. Matches and feuds like this were the reason I bought magazines and became so well versed in the art of the business. That’s what this feud was…art. And hopefully, its recognition will intrigue a younger generation to explore the indy circuit, ask about the days of territories, order back issues to see how it was all done before the curse of sports entertainment. I know it’s asking for a lot, but should it happen, don’t thank me – thank Adam, Pearce and Colt Cabana.
What are YOUR thoughts on this year’s PWI winners and runner-ups? Who do you think was snubbed? And what is your perception of where wrestling magazines have their place in 2013?
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