Happy New Year wrestling fans!
Going into the new year, I hope to keep this blog updates as much as possible. Doing so has become increasingly tough. While my typical ramblings on current events may be less frequent, I am trying to deliver quality over quantity. I think that’s been the case with the numerous, extensive and news-making interviews I have posted here in recent months. I hope to do more of the same in 2010.
I usually like to drop in around this time with my “year-end awards.” But seeing how the not only the year – but the entire decade – is coming to a close, I thought I’d put together my picks for the best and worst of the year and of the 2000’s.
Wrestler of the Year: Randy Orton: While his opponents may have changed (mostly between John Cena and Triple-H), Orton was the most consistent player in WWE’s main event picture this year. He anchored WWE’s A-brand as the top heel and delivered inspired promos and world-class matches. (Honorable mentions: John Cena, C.M. Punk, Chris Jericho.)
Wrestler of the Decade: Triple-H: No other full-time wrestler remained as important part of the industry throughout the duration of the decade as Triple-H. Triple-H’s position as a top player in WWE has spanned from the Attitude era of 2000, when he competed against the likes of The Rock and Steve Austin, to the modern era, where he has remained relevant for an entire new generation of fans and opponents. While many of his critics may question whether he truly earned keeping his position in WWE for so long, there’s no doubt that Triple-H is one of the most hard-working and talented wrestlers of our time. (Honorable mentions: John Cena, Kurt Angle, the Undertaker.)
Match of the Year: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25: In a year in which fans desperately cried out for younger talent to be pushed, WWE’s two most senior veterans made a case for age being nothing but a number. Not only was this match picture-perfect, but the build to it was as well. And before 70,000 fans in the home state of both men, the two wrestling legends delivered nothing short of a masterpiece of in-ring storytelling. Being in the nosebleeds of Reliant Stadium for this match is one of my fondest wrestling memories of my life. (Honorable mentions: Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho at the Bash, A.J. Styles vs. Samoa Joe vs. Daniels at Turning Point.)
Match of the Decade: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25: See above. (Honorable mentions: Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24, Steve Austin vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X-Seven, Steve Austin vs. The Rock at WrestleMania XIX.)
Tag Team of the Year: Jeri-Show: Many fans – myself included – initially criticized WWE for picking an established veteran like the Big Show to replace Edge as Chris Jericho’s tag team champion partner, rather than putting a younger wrestler in that spot. But we were all proven wrong when Show and Jericho immediately clicked as a unit, and injected life into a tag team division that had been stale for years. For years, WWE’s tag titles were rarely even defended on pay per view. But with Jeri-Show wearing them, they became one of the centerpieces of WWE. (Honorable mentions: The American Wolves, Beer Money.)
Tag Team of the Decade: The Dudleys: Just as Triple-H has been the most lasting tag team of the last ten years, so have D-Von and Brother/Bubba Ray. From being an integral part of WWE’s tag team renaissance early in the decade along with the Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian, to headlining a few pay WWE pay per views in the middle of the decade, to helping build TNA into a national force late in the decade, Team 3-D has proven the adage about the whole being more than the sum of its parts. (Honorable mentions: The Hardys, Edge & Christian.)
Disgrace of the Year: Mick Foley in TNA: It’s hard to think that the slobbenly, bumbling fool who stinks up nearly every segment he graces on TNA television was once of the most respected minds in the wrestling industry. Foley’s first year in TNA has been nothing short of embarassing, with Foley taking part in countless mind-numbingly stupid storylines in which he arbitrarily goes back and forth from playing a heel and a babyface each week. Rather than help get TNA’s younger talent over, as he once proclaimed as his mission statement, he has instead opted to self indulgently feud with the likes of Sting and Kevin Nash, and make himself chuckle through his terrible humor. In a company plagued with awful writing, awful storylines, and awful characters, Foley has been the worst. (Honorable mentions: WWE’s refusing to shake-up its main event scene, ROH’s ongoing production problems, Vince Russo’s booking.)
Disgrace of the Decade: Chris Benoit: What more is there to say? It’s hard to think of a worse story than a former WWE headliner – and one of the most gifted wrestlers in the sport – killing his wife and young son before taking his own life. Of course, the entire story is far more involved and requires far more context that I can offer here, but the story, and the fall out that ensured, tainted the wrestling industry like nothing before it. Hopefully, some good came out of it. (Honorable mentions: WCW going out of business, WWE’s handling of the WCW Invasion, TNA’s self-distructive booking.)
Story of the Year: WWE Refuses To Push New Talent: By the sixth consecutive time WWE headlined a pay per view with John Cena and Randy Orton, I really thought WWE was playing a rib on us. For the first 11 months of the year, WWE’s main event picture on Raw was all about Randy Orton, John Cena and Triple H – three men who had been headlining WWE shows for years. It was not until the very end of the year that WWE was dragged kicking and screaming into pushing some new talent. And who did they choose: Triple-H’s work out buddy. (TNA’s self-destructive booking, the rise and fall of Jeff Hardy, Hulk Hogan joining TNA.)
Story of the Decade: WWE Conquers the Wrestling World: For younger fans who have only started watching the sport over the last ten years, WWE may be synonymous with wrestling. But for decades, the wrestling landscape was one filled with multiple promotions bringing entertainment to fans. The last of those was WCW, which gave WWE quite a run for its money in the 1990s. But, on that fateful night when Shane McMahon appeared on Nitro, the wrestling world was permanently changed. Yes, TNA popped up seven years ago and managed to survive, but for all intents and purposes, wrestling in the last decade was a monopoly. (Honorable mentions: The Chris Benoit story, John Cena’s rise to stardom, the birth of TNA, MMA’s competition with and influence on pro wrestling.)