Shining a Spotlight 12.14.12: 2012’s Lumps of Coal
I wouldn’t go as far as others in saying 2012 was a horrible year for wrestling. I can think of quite a few other wretched years (1993 and ’95) spring readily to mind) so anyone who says “this is the worst year yet for fans” is being just a tad melodramatic. However, there’s no denying there was a lot of bad stuff this year despite such things as TNA stepping up their game and Punk’s long title reign. So before I do my annual look at the gifts wrestling gave us fans, I thought it fitting to examine the lumps of coal we were shoved down our throats first.
Ring of Dishonor
Watching ROH slowly fall in quality this year has been truly sad for us long-time fans of the company. What was once the best place for wrestling fans has slid into a mess of bad booking that ruined the seemingly sure-fire Kevin Steen title reign. Add in stuff like the defection of Kenny King and such and no surprise that ROH finally decided to shove Jim Cornette to the side. However, the topper had to be the iPPV debacle. It wasn’t just that the shows were presented horribly with service dropping in and out so most fans missed it. What was far worse was ROH’s reaction, brushing aside complaints as just an ungrateful minority, completely ignoring their problems. It’s shown that their problems are far deeper than we suspected and they need some major rebooting to turn it around in 2013 or else what was once the must-see promotion becomes a sad footnote to wreslting history.
It was going to be a major coup for WWE, a massive boost for post-Mania coverage. Eight years after his infamous departure and making his name bigger in UFC, Brock Lesnar was coming back to the company. His debut was huge as he came out to a major pop before taking out Cena and seemed ready to be raised high. But then WWE blew it by having Cena beat Brock in their first encounter, ruining what drive the guy had. I get it, Cena is the big star and probably needed the win back after dropping to Rock at Mania. But really, to bring in one of the biggest names of the past and cut off the legs of his return in the first major match was a bad move. Sure, they built him up again with the SummerSlam battle where HHH was actually willing to job to him via submission but the damage was done as newer fans saw Brock as losing his first time back and it hurt him. His exit right after SummerSlam just makes it seem a waste and a shame to see WWE blow such a potential payday.
Claire Lynch: For all the great stuff they’ve done this year, the fact remains that TNA produced what very well may be the single worst storyline of the entire year. To see two amazing performers like A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels forced to go through a mess that sounded for all the world like 2000 Vince Russo was utterly painful to watch. The idea of A.J. having an affair with Dixie Carter was crazy in and of itself due to how he’s publically a faithful Christian. But then to have this terrible actress show up and claim to be pregnant with A.J.’s child pushed it into true Wrestlecrap territory. Styles and Daniels, who never need an excuse to put on great matches, instead had to do bad promos with Lynch around and eventually revealing that not only was she not pregnant at all, she’d drugged A.J. to take the photos. Adding to the mess was how Lynch quit the company before the storyline was fully resolved, claiming she couldn’t take the hate fans were giving her on the Internet. Because of course, an actor never hears of people slamming them online. Forgive the pun but this was clearly the most ill-conceived storyline of the year and an example of how pregnancy storylines never work out.
Sheamus vs Bryan: Yep, I’m still pissed about this. This was Wrestlemania, the big one, the showcase of all that’s meant to be good in wrestling for WWE. This is a show where the stars come out and the fans are expecting their money’s worth. And so we open with Sheamus vs Daniel Bryan for the World title, a match with a decent build and two promising contenders…and it’s over in 20 seconds. Seriously? You waste two great guys and the World title in a forgettable battle that did nothing to win the crowd over or get the show off on the right foot? Terrible to watch and even the fact Sheamus did a decent job as the champ does little to overcome the bad booking here.
Madison Rayne Hearts Earl Hebner: Earl Hebner is a veteran of the wrestling game. He’s been in this business for decades and taken part in some of the biggest events and matches ever. So to see him put into this ridiculous storyline was hard to watch. After teasing having a new love for a while, Madison went to kiss Earl, showing he was it. He seemed unsure of it for a bit but soon obvious that bias was coming, leading to Hebner allowing Madison to beat Tessmacher for the Knockouts title. Seeing them together was truly nauseating and it didn’t even lead to anything as Tessmacher regained the belt from Rayne days later, Hebner was “suspended” from Knockouts matches and the whole thing was dropped, a total waste of a storyline this proud veteran had no business being involved in. And as long as we’re talking Knockouts…
Brooke Hogan, Knockouts VP: She’s hardly the first person to be given a big push due to their father and won’t be the last. But to say Brooke Hogan is totally wrong for the role of an authority figure is putting it mildly. From calling her a “multi-media star” in her debut to her flat acting, Brooke just makes you want to change the channel and hardly helps the way the Knockouts division is so poor. I love Tara and all but the fact her title push is simply because she’s dating some guy from Big Brother is bad, Mickie was out for months due to injury, I can’t remember the last time I saw Rosita or Sarita and ODB and Eric Young as the tag champs who haven’t defended those belts in months. And to toss Taryn Terrell into just the ref seems a waste of talent (although her nude scenes on HBO’s Treme were a highlight of the year), showing how the once proud division has become a sad shell of itself.
The Dim Director: Wink Vavasseu, Director of Fun. A title like that screams WWE or WCW, right? Nope, it’s the usually more level-headed CHIKARA who gave us a man who makes Johnny Ace look like ECW-era Paul Heyman. I get it’s an act, trying to figure out if he’s corrupt or just an idiot but he just comes off so damn annoying, it ruins an otherwise strong promotion with his antics and makes it hard to win new fans over when a big face for the company makes you want to eject your DVD.
Zack Ryder’s Slide: As the year began, it seemed Zack Ryder had finally hit the big time. After taking off with fans thanks to his online antics and goofy act, Ryder had won the U.S. title and seemed poised to rise a bit higher. But in just a few weeks, it fell apart as he lost the belt, was put on “injury” and then got involved in an idiotic love triangle storyline with Cena and Eve and he kept sinking. You can complain it was politics or the front office doing a backlash for a guy getting over without their help but the results are that what seemed to be a great new star the company could use is now doing matches on the C-shows.
Jeff Hardy’s Thoughts: This is shattering of the fourth wall on a level even Russo never went to. Upon being told there would be a fight to decide the contender for his TNA championship, the camera zooms in on Jeff Hardy as we suddenly hear an inner monologue on his thoughts of each challenger. Seriously? This was just completely idiotic and unnecessary, shattering the thin illusion of wrestling and making TNA look more second-rate than it really is. Incredibly dumb and hopefully something they can avoid in the future.
The King’s Heart: When Jerry Lawler suffered his on-air heart attack, it was a jarring moment for all of us, to see him so close to death and realizing how much he meant to us. WWE did a tasteful thing by not showing footage of the attack on the air. But of course, that didn’t last as it soon came out that they had not only filmed the paramedics treating Lawler but actually got on film the brief moment he died before bringing resuscitated. Then when he made his triumphant return, WWE had to bring that in for an angle to make Punk even more of a jerk. I get it, Lawler had input and gave permission but still pushing tackiness to new levels, even for the E.
AW, Cameron and politics: How not to keep a job with a major company: First, when acting the cocky mouthpiece of a tag team, don’t make a joke about Kobe Bryant’s rape charges. Second, don’t apologize for it, just brush it off as acting the role. And finally, when you are shown your walking papers, do not tear into a Twitter rampage ripping the company apart when you should know they’re keeping things tight when the bosse’s wife is running for Congress. However, firing off one’s mouth is still not as terrible as getting a DUI which is what happened to Cameron, yet a slap on the wrist for her with a 15-day suspension. So, yes, AW may have gotten into hot water with his comments but seems more than a double-standard for WWE to give a Diva a pass on a criminal charge. Yet more signs of the politics of wrestling, never a fun thing to make headlines at any time of the year.
AJ Lee: I don’t have the same loathing of her as others. In fact, I kind of like her. But come on, making her the general manager of RAW with no buildup whatsoever or reason? She wasn’t terrible in the role compared to others (Mike Adamale anyone?) but the whole thing with Vickie Guerrero was spoiled as Vickie’s entire line on AJ being too childish to be the boss was dead right. Throw in the various backstage gossip about her and Cena and she’s become more of a distraction than a real asset, a shame as she comes off nice in real life but shoving her into the spotlight was a poor move.
Screwing up Survivor Series: I had hoped last-minute booking of a major PPV would have died with WCW but WWE showed the mentality is alive and well on the November 5th RAW. In the space of ten minutes, Vince and Vickie proceeded to completely wreck the seemingly set Survivor Series PPV, first by announcing that there would be a Triple Threat match with Punk, Cena and Ryback, an announcement that went over like a lead balloon with fans. It also ruined the entire setup of Team Punk vs Team Foley as now Ziggler would be captain of Punk’s team with the Miz suddenly turning face to help Foley out for no real reason. So now, Foley was fighting for respect from Punk by facing a bunch of other guys while Punk was in the main event with two men he’d fought before. Just stellar logic here that I highly suspect cost WWE more than a few buys for this show.
Nash Mouths Off: You know how on Election Night Brian Williams was saying Donald Trump had ” driven well past the last exit to relevance and peered into something closer to irresponsible?” Well, that may pertain to Kevin Nash. Nash has long been known for a big mouth and ego to match but this year he may have topped himself. In an interview for Grantland, Nash defended his infamous comment on Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero being “vanilla midgets” with how it was just drawing heat. He then stated that when the two champions hugged at Wrestlemania XX, “that was the end of the business.” He also made the charming parallel between a wrestler and a porn star that basically said whoever’s biggest is the one folks want to watch and how guys like Punk and Cena aren’t stars as they don’t look that special when walking down the street. Given how infamously bad Nash’s matches have been, hard to agree with his “bigger is best” approach and the fact Punk has far more charisma than Nash ever did. Plus, his comments on the business being dead are a bit much but to blame any fall on Benoit and Guerrero is simply ridiculous. So like the Donald, Big Sexy, stop thinking you’re the authority of the wrestling world and accept time and the public have passed you by.
D-VON?!: When you start a big angle, have a payoff. It’s something so simple yet amazing how many bookers and promoters in wrestling history have failed to heed it. Such is the case with Aces & Eights as TNA spent months with this masked biker gang attacking everyone in the company, heels and faces alike. Shows were built around where’d they come from next and who was behind them. It was clear it was meant to be someone big, someone with a beef with TNA, suspects among the roster flying from Bobby Roode to even Jeff Jarrett. So at “Bound for Glory,” a major battle took place, the leader of the gang was unmasked to reveal…D-Von. Yes, the man who had left the company months earlier, the guy who really had no serious fan heat was now introduced as the leader of the bunch dominating TNA for a while. Fans hated this, snapping at how horrible a choice it was and even TNA understands it, now hinting D-Von is only the front man for the real mastermind. But it still won’t be the same as they blew the payoff the first time around and now A&E drags more, a good angle hurt by a bad creative decision, something going on a lot this year.
Well, the bad stuff is out of the way so next week I’ll look at the actually good stuff wrestling gave us this year. For now, the spotlight is off.