Ringside Remembrances: The Year-End Awards…aka the Shannys
Jay Shannon draws upon five decades as a devout wrestling fan to look at the past, present and future of professional wrestling.
“No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” – Calvin Coolidge
Yes, it’s That time of year, again. Time to give out my own personal awards to the best (and worst) of the year. I always like to post this on the same day as the Slammy Awards so there will be direct comparison. The Slammys Only look at WWE stuff. My awards try to bridge across various groups. This year is no exception. Some of my awards may seem obvious, while others are a little unusual. Enjoy.
Rookie of the Year:
Thoughts: I’m usually very critical about female wrestlers. So many of them are window dressing to a “real” wrestling show. It’s still too early to tell if Eva Marie is going to go down that path or if she will be more of a Trish Stratus or Gail Kim (beautiful and talented). The reason she is my choice for Rookie of the Year is simply how fast her star has risen. She has a somewhat unique look and has shown some signs of talent, in the ring. She’s still got a long way to go before she’ll be mentioned in the same breath with people like Madusa Miceli or Fabulous Moolah, but who knows? This year, she’s the best of the Rookie Crop.
Announcer of the Year:
John Bradshaw Layfield
Thoughts: There are a ton of great wrestling announcers. I considered them all. JBL rose to the top because of several reasons. First of all, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the business. I tip my own weather-beaten Yankees baseball cap to one of the few people that I will admit know more wrestling trivia than me. JBL’s interactions with Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole are classic. JBL plays his “Heel Announcer” character to perfection but you can tell that he truly respects the business and those he works with. Some other announcers feel their wrestling show is a platform to try out their stand-up routine. Others sometimes seem lost. JBL almost never gets rattled, except when Titus O’Neil threw up in his Stetson.
Finisher of the Year:
Sister Abigail – Bray Wyatt
Thoughts: I was torn on this one, a little. My top contenders were: Sister Abigail, The Package Piledriver (Kevin Steen), the RKO, The Yes Lock (aka Crippler Crossface) and the Estocada (Los Matadores). When it came right down to it, Bray’s showmanship pushed his finisher up and over the top. He is just so creepy with the whole thing. It has been, so far, 100% successful. The “Rebirth” of Bray/Husky Harris was a wise move. He plays the mind-warping heel better than just about anyone I’ve seen in my 40+ years of watching wrestling. Sister Abigail is jus the cherry on top.
Theme Music of the Year:
“Broken Out in Love” – The Wyatt Family
Thoughts: I used to be a bass player, a lifetime ago, in a local band back in Texas. The riveting bass line of this theme grabs you from the word “go”. This is possibly the best theme to be created by the WWE Music Machine, since Hulk Hogan’s “Real American”. It’s hip and gets you to humming. Another nice thing is that you instantly know who the music if for and why. The eeriness of it just fits with the group. I do give honorable mention to the runner up…The Rhodes Brothers Patchwork theme “Shattered Mirrors”.
(Best) Feud of the Year:
C.M. Punk vs Paul Heyman and his “Guys”
Thoughts: Punk started the year as a “Heyman Guy”. Things began to fall apart after Punk dropped the WWE title, to The Rock, at Royal Rumble. Punk started asking Heyman to stay in the back. Things got worse when Punk lost to Undertaker, at Wrestlemania. The final “divorce” came when Heyman turned on Punk, at Money in the Bank. Heyman then sent Brock Lesnar, Curtis Axel and Ryback to try and defeat “The Best in the World”. While Heyman and troops got some wins, early on, Punk would eventually rebound to become the ultimate victor. The confrontation at Hell in a Cell not only brought the match win to Punk but effectively dismantled the Heyman organization.
(Worst) Feud of the Year:
A.J. Styles vs Dixie Carter
Thoughts: First of all, this whole storyline is a direct lift from the 2011 C.M. Punk story. Styles wins the World title and then takes off with it. The Powers-that-Be set up a tourney to crown a new champion. Styles will eventually return and the two camps will battle it out and find a one true champ. The first time around, when Punk did it, the story was fun and exciting. Punk showed up at ComicCon and confronted HHH. The crowd was really into the whole “Will Punk take the title to Ring of Honor or TNA?” HHH was able to hold his own in various promos. Dixie Carter is No Triple H or Stephanie McMahon. She looks so uncomfortable trying to play the “Evil Company President”. Her rants against Styles come across as a spoiled brat whining because her toy was taken. Styles is having a blast working in Mexico and Japan and just sending highlight reels back to taunt Carter. Everyone knows Styles will return and there will be a decent match between him and whoever wins the 2nd World title. So many of those who have sent me comments are offended that TNA has sunk to outright “Stealing” ideas from WWE. To be fair, wrestling groups have used other groups’ ideas since basically day one. Sadly, TNA took an exciting storyline and watered it down to the point that almost no one really cares.
Upset of the Year:
Sin Cara (Version II) d Alberto Del Rio
Thoughts: This looked to be a glorified Squash Match. Sin Cara had been lounging in Mid-Card Hell for most of his time in the WWE. When Sin Cara came out, I figured this one would be another “W” for Alberto. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Sin Cara, portrayed by Hunico, surprised everyone when he actually escaped Del Rio’s attempt at the Cross Armbreaker and eventually pinned the former World Champion. The entire audience went wild to see the much-hated Del Rio get bested by someone that shouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance in Vegas of beating him. Just goes to prove to old adage…”Never say never, Brother”.
Shocker of the Year:
Hulk Hogan Quits TNA
Thoughts: Hulk Hogan’s arrival in TNA, a few years back, had everyone talking. Fans just couldn’t believe “The Hulkster” would go there (to TNA). During his time in TNA, Hulk was both hated and loved. Nothing that he did during his time in the company would compare with his listening to Dixie Carter’s offer and saying it was great…”for someone else…I quit”. There was a brief silence that spread across the arena. Dixie was shocked and held onto Hogan’s leg as he started to leave. When he pulled away, Dixie switched gears and “Fired” him. The fan reaction was swift and brutal. TNA fans weren’t really ready to let Hulk go and Dixie caught all kinds of Hell about it. Was the fan reaction justified? Maybe. Will Hogan’s departure help or hurt TNA? It’s a little too early to tell but it definitely will change the direction of the company.
Male Wrestler of the Year:
Thoughts: I know that most people will feel that I should have gone with someone like Daniel Bryan. I was seriously tempted to go with him. The main reason that I decided to go with Bully Ray is how much I respect and admire what he has been able to do. Ray was finally able to take the final step to make it to top of the mountain. He was the leader of this generation’s Super Clique, Aces and Eights. He faced the top stars in TNA and more than held his own against them all. While his group has now fallen apart and he has lost his World Title, Bully Ray is just waiting, slightly in the wings, to take back his seat on the throne.
Female Wrestler of the Year:
Thoughts: I hate her character. Her move set is limited, but it is improving. Her interview skills are ok. Why is she my pick for Female Performer of the Year? She has been a central player in numerous storylines for the entire year. From bad love affairs to General Manager to Divas Champion, Lee has been in the middle of it all. Will she end up as a passing footnote when the full history of WWE is written? I’m thinking yes to that one. But for 2013, she was the top female in the WWE. I very seriously doubt that she will be at the top, this time next year. If she’s fallen off the radar, that will be a true shame. While I hate the character, A.J. Lee is memorable.
(Best) Tag Team of the Year:
Cody Rhodes and Goldust
Thoughts: I’ve wanted to see the two Rhodes boys unite, almost since the day that Cody made his wrestling debut. Cody and Dustin did what seemed impossible…they defeated The Shield, twice. The first victory got Cody and Dustin jobs in the WWE and the 2nd win took the tag belts of one of the most dominant duos in recent wrestling history. The two brothers’ styles meshed as well their themes have. I don’t expect the Rhodes Brothers to hold the tag belts for a whole lot longer, but I could be wrong. The tag team division, in WWE, is at its best level in many years. Dustin and Cody are excellent choices as the Leaders of the division.
(Worst) Tag Team of the Year:
Ultra Nerds (Norv Fernum and Dewey Barnes)
Thoughts: I’ve always been a fan of Talent Enhancers. These are the poor guys that ended up “jobbing”, week after week, to help put over the latest up-and-coming star. In that vein, I like Norv and Dewey. Physically, they are pathetic. Super-thin and severely muscularly impaired. They’ve been cannon fodder to help elevate Ethan Carter III. They even got to end up wearing the Turkey Suits on Impact. It looks like these guys will hang around for awhile and fade into infamy alongside the Mulkeys and the Ding Dongs. I just hope TNA does something fun, like let the Ultra-Nerds upset BroMans for the World Tag Team Titles. There are thousands of under-achievers, around the world, that would cheer, in unison, for the underdog team. I’d like to see that myself.
(US.) Trio of the Year (aka the Freebird Award):
The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns)
Thoughts: I was always a huge fan of the 3-man teams. Maybe it has to do with my background, growing up in Texas. We got a lot of Lucha action, back in my youth. Trios are a huge part of the Lucha landscape. The US tried that formula, a few times, but rarely got it right. The Fabulous Freebirds were one of the few exceptions to Trios Failure. With Michael Hayes working behind-the-scenes in WWE, it was only normal to expect to see triads return. Right now, WWE has 3MB, The Wyatt Family and The Shield as their main trios. Some might throw Los Matadores in there, but El Torito doesn’t officially wrestle. Other companies haven’t really done too much with Trios, as of late. TNA had groups like Aces and Eights and the Main Event Mafia that ended up losing guys to the point of ending up as Trios but they don’t count, for me.
As for the current crop, I think The Shield is the hands-down winner of this one. All three members captured titles from early on. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns did drop the tag belts to the Rhodes Brothers but they are still causing chaos all around. Dean Ambrose has held the U.S. title for months and it doesn’t really seem that anyone is going to take the secondary strap off him, any time soon. All three men have been utilized in top-level storylines, for months. The team rarely lose but when they do, it elevates the winner or winners by another notch or two. Will any of the three end up as the top champion in the company? Hard to tell, but they really don’t need the biggest prize to keep themselves as top players. These three men are some of the best in the business today.
Match of the Year:
Michael Elgin, Jay Lethal and C & C Wrestle Factory (Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander) vs Adam Cole, Matt Taven, and ReDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly)
Ring of Honor Champions vs All-Stars
Glory by Honor XII
Thoughts: Most wrestling matches, these days, last from 5- 20 minutes. Promoters and bookers usually won’t let a match go much longer, fearing that fans will get bored with the presentation. That was one of the first lessons that I learned when I began booking for a local wrestling group, out here in Northern Nevada. Ring of Honor decided to go with something way out of the box…a 73 minute 8-man elimination match. The match was scheduled for up to 2 full hours. Ring of Honor actually had to heavily edit the match to make it fit on their 60 minute syndicated show. What was presented was approximately half the match, but even that was off-the-charts. I’ve since seen the entire match and there were almost no “Dead Times” in the match. The only slowing down was to cart out the eliminated or hurt guys. The high-spots in this battle are too numerous to count. Some of the best were Jay Lethal taking a header, off the top turnbuckle, through a table and the ending group of moves, highlighted by a Super-Sit-Out-Powerbomb. The crowd was excited from start to finish. The booking for this match was excellent with Michael Elgin having to overcome almost impossible odds to get a future World Title Shot. Add to that, the arrival of Jay Briscoe, after the match, to attack both guys and the fans left the arena…exhausted. If you compare matches to enjoying a fine dinner, most promoters set it up for the fans to wolf down their chow so fast they can’t really enjoy the taste. Ring of Honor put on an elaborate 8-course meal and let the fans have the time to fully appreciate each and every bite. Kudos to the competitors who brought so much to the fans. The other “Big” companies should keep an eye on RoH. They are a threat that could seriously change the world of wrestling…and soon.
Wrestling is in a state of flux, this year. Ratings have gone up and down more than a roller coaster in the summertime. Ring of Honor has expanded. WWE has consolidated its brands into one product. TNA has had its major issues and hopefully will be able to overcome them. The indy market has seen some of the smaller groups stumble and fall. This is all part of the wild world of pro wrestling. I’ve watched this happen for the better part of 45 years and wrestling is still the sport I love the most.