Shining a Spotlight 12.20.12: 2012′s Gifts for Fans
Well, last week was the worst of 2012, which was plentiful but this year I’m trying to look at the bright side. And the fact is that 2012 did give us some good stuff, a lot of it, surprisingly, from TNA. But even in a poor year, WWE provided some good stuff too that made 2012 a year to make you happy to be a wrestling fan still.
Rock vs Cena: I still have issues with Rock going over as it seemed better for Cena to get the win. But you can’t deny this was arguably the last true “dream match” for wrestling fans and both men did their best to make it work. The build was amazing with the use of Twitter and the question for fans on who to cheer and boo with many pointing out the slight hypocrisy in slamming Cena for being old while Rock was doing the same shtick as a decade ago. But it paid off with a match that led to Wrestlemania being one of the biggest paydays yet for WWE and more than made a lot of fans happy with how the match turned out and how some dreams can still come true.
The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived: Just two years ago, Austin Aries was talking about his frustrations with the business and his mobility and hinting he might just give it all up. Thankfully, he hung in there and it paid off big-time for him. He was riding well as the year began as X Division champion and soon catching on with fans with his ring work and terrific promos. Yet no one gave him much of a chance when he put his X title on the line against Bobby Roode for the TNA World title. Instead, TNA actually paid off on the promise as Aries went over cleanly to become the TNA World champion, ending Roode’s record reign. It was a great moment as Aries held tough in rematches and showed his stuff as champ quite well, becoming a major face of the company. While he lost it to Hardy, Aries has been elevated to true stardom, killing it in promos, able to rock fans as either a heel or a face and making TNA a place where a new guy really can rise to the top at last.
Are You Serious?: I’ve been waiting for this show for years. Come on, pro wrestling given the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, how obvious is that? The online series has Josh Matthews and Jesse James watching clips from wrestling past, not just WWE but WCW, AWA and more. Bad promos, botched moves, horrible characters, they’re all given the treatment well with the guys not holding back on jokes about what the hell the bookers and creative teams were thinking with this stuff. Plus, Puppet HHH has one of the most hysterical Twitter feeds in the business today. My only complaint is that each episode is only a few minutes long as these guys would kill in a half-hour format and sure to have plenty of material for a while to come.
Punk vs Bryan: It may not have been as long-lasting as we wanted but there’s no denying that seeing the two former ROH stars restart their rivalry today was a highlight of WWE in the early half of the year. Despite the unneeded addition of Kane, they did fantastic work at Over the Edge and rematches, reminding fans how two brilliant technicians can be as big a match as any with muscled superstars. It could have gone longer but still great for WWE to give us this and it did help pave the way to….
Team Hell No: Amazing to see how something that seemed poor could turn into something so awesome. At first, the feud between Daniel Bryan and Kane seemed a waste, okay matches but nothing really major. But then someone had the brilliant idea to team them together and we got absolute magic. The concept of “whacky tag partners who can’t stand each other” seems played out but damn if these two didn’t make it work. The “couples therapy” bits were hysterical as were their dual promos, the two hooking together for their catchphrases and just bouncing off each other wonderfully. They’re still doing well and showing how such odd partnerships can work well.
Bully Battles On: After his great solo work in 2011, it was hard to believe Bully Ray could do much better. But he’s succeeding well as the guy is one of the best mic guys in the company and able to elevate nearly any feud he’s in. He’s shown that with his work against Aces & Eights, stepping up to the fore teaming with Sting and turning face yet still able to work a nice brawling match. The guy is a real star now and a reason to keep tuning into TNA every week, something I never imagined possible.
Punk’s Reign: Maybe it’s not as great as it could be but you have to give WWE credit. No one imagined that they’d actually let CM Punk be WWE champion for over a solid year. It’s one of the longest reigns in years and Punk is still capable of doing the best promos around and a fantastic match, even against the likes of Ryback. WWE has faith in him, keeping him the heel fans want to see lose, which is always a good way to keep folks tuning into big matches for him. And Punk finally is able to showcase the stardom long due him so even if it’s not as good as it could be, to see him reign at the top of the biggest company all year long is one of the best moves WWE has made in years.
Heyman: After too long away, Paul Heyman made his return to WWE and reminded us how much we missed his brash style. First aiding Brock, then Punk, Heyman has continued to give terrific promos and openly mock Vince McMahon and WWE on how much today’s fans dislike the company’s direction. He takes hits but he still keeps coming, a push that WWE really needs now.
Gut Check: Some might dismiss it as a waste but TNA is giving fresh faces a chance, which is something definitely needed in wrestling today. It’s much better done than NXT with the guys wrestling, then the judging and already boosting Joey Ryan up nicely with his argument on his axing leading to him bring brought back. Hoping to see more of them given real pushes and good for TNA to realize at last that relying on the same old faces isn’t a good move for a company trying to build for the future.
Santino wins U.S. title: I like Santino Marella. Just the way he imbues this absolute nutjob idiot is so amazing, you can’t help but get sucked into it. He’s able to make you laugh and fans like watching him too. So while some may have groaned when he won the U.S. title, I saw it as a great highlight thanks to his celebration. He really seemed into it, crying and going wild and doing his horn toot with his friends. The fans were wild for it and nice to see him get a reward for his good work entertaining folks which is what wrestling is about.
Brooke and Tara: The Knockout division may be in a slump this year but we still have a few things to watch for it. Brooke Tessmacher has been showing some nice improvement, not just a pretty face but good skills in the ring too along with a great entrance. As a long-time Tara mark, more than happy to see her getting pushed to the belt again, despite having to put up with her idiot boyfriend. Together, they do make the Knockouts more appealing to offset the presence of Brooke Hogan, which takes a lot of doing.
Spotlight Ceding: We all knew that someone would fail to cash in MITB and win the belt but for it to be Cena was a shocker. Combined with how Punk reigned all year and it showed to the Cena-bashers that the man doesn’t demand to be in the spotlight all the time, he gets pushed into with stuff like Johnny Ace but he still doesn’t demand the title and his recent loss to Ziggler shows he can job when he has to. Meanwhile, HHH, the modern-day poster child for spotlight-hogging, showed he could let it slide also. First, despite what some suspected, he did not end the Undertaker’s undefeated Wrestlemania streak but instead put him over with a great match. Then, he let Brock Lesnar get the win after a huge build in a good battle on its own. With his in-ring career winding down, it’s clear HHH is being groomed to take over someday and his moves (such as actually reaching out to Bruno Sammartino) and this new attitude show that some guys really do know when their need to be on top all the time is done.
Joseph Parks: I admit it, I was one of those guys who took a bit to realize Parks was just Abyss without the mask. But it works as the guy is so great in the role, plays it perfectly without any real winks to the crowd so you’re sucked into it. The idea of him afraid to fight and then doing it messy was brilliant and makes the brief returns to Abyss work better. He’s really taking off with his work with Aces & Eights and the hint of a full-fledged Abyss return but he still shines on his own to show a character reinvention that really works.
The One-Man Band: You have to love a guy who puts his all into a running gag of getting his ass kicked. A highlight of RAW has been Heath Slater coming out to boast of his greatness and challenging any WWE legend to face him. From Animal to Sid to Doink to Bob Backlund, each has come out to trash Slater to a pulp and yet the next week, he’s right back there asking for more. It works because of how Slater acts, how he comes out and seems to truly think he’s great and honestly thinks he’ll win this time around. Quick but fun to watch.
Chavo rises: His WWE tenure included Kerwin White and feuding with a midget. So when Chavo Guerrero went to TNA, things could only look up. He’s managed that quite well as he and Hernandez are the tag team champs and doing quite well with it, Chavo showing promo skills he’s been denied from using for a while and finally paying off on his potential to show how a move to TNA really can be a help to some guys.
Mae Young’s Son: The 1000th episode of RAW had a lot of stuff from the Punk/Bryan/Rock encounter to the DX reunion. But the most brilliant had to be a follow-up to one of the most infamous moments in wrestling history as we saw a guy in glasses dressed up as a hand and claiming to be Mae Young’s son. It was just so off the wall and hilarious and a good sign of how WWE can laugh at itself.
Sure others have their own but there’s a few that struck me over the year. For now, the spotlight is off.