RINGSIDE REMEMBRANCES:THE YEAR-END AWARDS, 2014

Posted December 21st, 2014 by jshannon

**Note: These Year-End Awards are the thoughts and opinions of Jay Shannon and not necessarily the opinions or thoughts of any of the rest of the staff at 1Wrestling.com.

Ringside Remembrances: Year-End Awards, 2014

Jay Shannon draws upon five decades as a devout wrestling fan to look at the past, present and future of professional wrestling.

Well, the clock is winding down on 2014. It has been somewhat of a transitional year for pro wrestling. Many major stars have been on the sidelines, while other fresh faces have stepped up. These are my picks for best and worst of the year…

Rookie of the Year: Sgt. Chris Melendez

When I first heard about Melendez, I was skeptical. I’ve watched other “disabled” wrestlers and many of them were just marketed because of their disability. I remember, way back in the 80s, when George Weingroff was pushed because he was legally blind. That was cool for the 16 year old kid that had just lost the majority of his vision in a freak accident but, truthfully, George wasn’t all that great a wrestler. “Sarge” is a completely different kettle of fish. This kid lost a leg while serving in the military but if he wore long pants, you’d never know it. What he can do, in the ring, is absolutely amazing for someone of his experience level. Will he end up the World Champion? It’s just too early to tell. I do think he will hold gold, mostly likely tag team titles with his mentor, Mr. (Ken) Anderson. Hopefully, TNA will have the sense to push the man…not the disability.

Announce Team of the Year: Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino

Working as an announce team takes a lot of hard work and a special chemistry. I was (and still am) very proud of the chemistry that Don Mega and I had when we called wrestling out here in Reno. There are several good teams out there. TNA, WWE, NXT and numerous indy groups have put together compatible 2 or 3 man teams. Ring of Honor seems to have found the Golden Ticket. Kevin and Steve feel fresher than just about everyone else. They can be dead serious, one minute, and then crack jokes at warp speed, the next. Some announce teams are too scripted for their own good. Steve and Kevin obviously follow a script but the flow just seems more natural. Kevin sometimes comes across as the parent trying to keep his rowdy child (Corino) in check. It works to perfection. Other somewhat-jaded announce duos or trios could learn a lot by watching these two master craftsmen.

Tag Team of the Year: The Wolves (Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards)

Thank the Heavens that tag team wrestling seems to be making a comeback. Since I was a young kid, I’ve always appreciated how two different individuals had to learn to work together to make a cohesive unit. The Usos, Cosmic Twins, Miz and Mizdow, ReDRagon, Young Bucks, etc… have pushed the art of tag team wrestling to heights that haven’t been seen in years. Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards just seem to shine a little bit brighter than the rest, in my humble opinion.

Female Wrestler of the Year: (Jessicka) Havok

Sadly, the female divisions are at one of their low periods, right now. TNA and WWE are both running skeleton crews, as it relates to competition. Ring of Honor doesn’t even have a female division. The only female that has really caught my attention, this week, has been Havok. She came out of the indies and totally dominated TNA, pretty much from day one. She’s cut from the same cloth as Awesome Kong, ODB and a few others…strong, confident and not a cookie-cutter Barbie Doll type. While she’s dropped the Knockout title to Taryn Terrell, you know she’s just getting started.

Male Wrestler of the Year: Dolph Ziggler

There were several great wrestlers, this year. Bobby Roode, Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Lashley, Adam Cole, and a few others really stood out. As far as the performer that was constant, all year, I go with Dolph Ziggler. He has been involved in numerous feuds. He was the star of Survivor Series. He’s also held the Intercontinental title, a couple times, this year. With Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan out with injuries, Dolph stepped up to fill the massive void. He has good crowd presence and incredible in-ring skills. He is one of those to watch in 2015.

Shocking Moment of the Year (in ring): Undertaker is defeated at Wrestlemania

There are those moments, in life, that are classified as “Where were you when…”. As for this one, I was just crossing the border into Texas after leaving New Orleans when it happened. The feed to my tablet was coming and going, as the bus’ WIFI wasn’t all that great. I didn’t get to actually see it happen live, as the feed cut out. However, within seconds, I knew what had happened. My cell almost exploded in my pocket with texts and calls from several friends and family members who wanted to know what went wrong. If you watch the match, Undertaker appeared to get hurt, early on. Taker did his best to make the match look good but he wasn’t at 100% after the first few minutes. You could see the shock on Brock Lesnar’s face when Taker whispered in his ear. One has to assume that Taker was calling the match, as they went. That had to be when Taker told Lesnar to “Take it Home” (a code for finishing the match). There was a stunned silence as the ref counted the three and a Legendary situation crumbled. There have been rumors, back and forth, that Taker might or might not return to face Lesnar at Wrestlemania. Even if Taker takes the win from Lesnar in 2015, the damage has been done.

Shocking Moment of the Year (outside the ring): Warrior dies within days of going into the Hall of Fame

I was always torn about my support of Ultimate Warrior. I enjoyed Warrior’s abilities, inside the ring. He was energetic and fun to watch. On the flip side, I heard all the talk about how he was to deal with. I also understood that his move set was a bit limited. The thing was, Warrior didn’t need to be Lou Thesz or Dean Malenko, he was awesome just as he was. I was very happy when Warrior and WWE buried the hatchet and came to terms to put Warrior in the Hall of Fame. Seeing Warrior’s heart-felt speech was touching. It definitely shifted the pendulum towards being a supporter of the wild man. Seeing him on Monday Night Raw just solidified my support of Warrior. It was my friend, Scooter, who first texted me that he had heard Warrior died. I started scanning the Net for verification and called a few people that I know to find out if this shocking news was true. It was and I was stunned to my very core. One of my childhood heroes was gone, out of nowhere. Thankfully, Warrior’s passing was not laced with scandal or questions. Warrior simply left us. I do wish to thank him for what he brought us, as Rock, Dingo Warrior, Ultimate Warrior and then as Warrior. I hope his family finds peace in the fact that so many fans did appreciate and respect the painter powerhouse.

Faction of the Year: The Kingdom (Michael Bennett, Maria Kanellis-Bennett, Adam Cole, Matt Hardy, Matt Taven)

So many factions came and went over the last year or so. The Shield, Aces and Eights, The Family Stone (see below), etc… had their time in the sun, only to fall apart, totally or in part. The Kingdom is building serious momentum in Ring of Honor. Michael and Maria started together as wrestler and manager. They eventually fell in love, for real, and got married. Adam Cole joined the group, along with Matt Hardy. The group went through some growing pains when Hardy left for TNA. Maria kept hinting that Matt was returning. The swerve was the one that returned wasn’t Matt Hardy…it was Matt Taven. The former TV Champ fits right in with this collection of top-notch talent. It is still early in The Kingdom’s current incarnation but it shows serious potential to be one of the most dominant groups in recent history. Will they ever reach the level of a Four Horsemen? Not likely, but this is the business where the over-ridding motto has always been “Never say never, brother”.

Manager of the Year: Stu Stone

I went a little off the grid to find this one. Recently, I started getting Championship Wrestling from Hollywood on one of our cable stations. It’s a quirky little show that takes me back to the days of Mid-South and the Dallas broadcast of World Class on Channel 11 (not the syndicated one). Stu Stone is the manager of a group called The Family Stone. He is cut from the same cloth as a Harvey Wippleman or a young Jimmy Hart. He’s like a little banty rooster, always ready to jump up in the faces of much bigger guys, only to back off if they show the slightest sign of going after him. Watching him, you would swear someone perfected a time machine and snatched this annoying little man right out of the 1980s. He very well could be a catalyst to rebuilding the art of management for the next generation.

Match of the Year: The Wolves vs The Hardys vs Team 3D (Full Metal Mayhem Match as the finale of the Triple Threat Tournament for the TNA Tag Titles)

Who to watch in 2015: Sami Zayn

He was a top star in Ring of Honor (as El Generico). He has risen through the ranks to become the NXT champ. He’s on the verge of a massive feud with his old friend, Kevin (Steen) Owens. Zayn has talent to spare and a charisma that you can’t learn. It’s one of those things that you just have to be born with. I’ve watched quite a few of Zayn’s matches and I feel he could fit right in with the upper echelon of talent on the main roster, very soon. I hope Creative will appreciate his potential and let him become the “Next Daniel Bryan” and not bury him like they did Matt (Evan Bourne) Sydal, Tyson Kidd, and so many other smaller guys.

Best Moment in Wrestling: Daniel Bryan wins the WWE World Title

Daniel Bryan had been feuding with The Authority for months. Daniel even had to face Triple H, at Wrestlemania, just to get a shot at the WWE World Title. In a very close match, Daniel somehow managed to beat the odds and overcome the much-larger HHH. He then moved on to the main event, where he was part of a Triple Threat for the top title in WWE. Again, Daniel seemed in a non-win scenario. But just like Jimmy Kirk and the Kobayashi Maru, Daniel overcame the unwinnable position and took the title. Sadly, injuries took him out of the picture, soon after.

Worst Moment of the Year: Bully Ray puts Dixie Carter through the table

We all knew it was coming. Dixie Carter had been a thorn in everyone’s side for months. Bully Ray had promised to send the owner of TNA through a table. When it finally happened, I could not believe how offended the sight of that barbaric moment. I grew up in a family that was primarily female and I was taught, from day one, that we protect women (if they need it), we don’t brutalize them. I just felt that the whole incident sent such the wrong message. It worried me that some jerk watching the show would think “Well, Hell, it worked for ol’ Bully Ray to put that broad through a table, maybe I can use my ol’ lady as a punching bag”. I felt then, and still do, that it was irresponsible and dangerous to put something like that one national TV.

Oddest Character of the Year: The Bunny

There have been weird characters in the past: Gobbledy Gooker, El Torito, Mantaur, and probably a dozen more that come to mind. The Bunny fits right in the middle of that unique crew of misfits. It is so very obvious that a well-trained pro wrestler is inside the Bugs Bunny-ish costume. Someday, I hope WWE will let the inner person come out and retire this silly character. Right now, I’m getting a kick out of Rabbit Punches, Lucky Rabbit’s Foot o’ Doom, and so many other puns that I get to write on my Monday Night Raw Recaps. Viva La Bunny!

Beard of the Year: Hanson

This was the Year of the Beard. Daniel Bryan, Erick Rowan, Hanson and several others really highlighted facial hair from the chin down. Hanson’s has a whole backstory behind it that was discussed on RoHTV. I haven’t seen a super full beard like that since that one guy from the Oak Ridge Boys, years ago. There I go, betraying my advancing age. Smile. He has had a heck of a run in RoH, this year, and looks primed for an even better 2015.

Theme Music of the Year: Bray Wyatt

Bray got custody of the best theme in modern history when the Wyatt Family was dissolved. It is just as exciting and energetic as the wild Wyatt is. Fans really dig the tune, even if they hate its owner. It goes into my list of all-time favorites, alongside Badstreet U.S.A., Real American, and the D-X theme. 2 of those 3 are on my little MP3 player. Smile.

Catchphrase of the Year: “Yes!”

I know it’s kind of dumb but it stands firm, this year. Daniel Bryan could get the deadest of crowd active with that little 3-letter word. What takes the catchphrase beyond just a normal level is the fact that the chant has moved beyond Daniel to become a major part of the WWE Universe’s vocabulary. It is this generation’s “What?” (which is still ready to explode at a moment’s notice). Creative gets extra gold stars for having the wisdom to put a simple concept with someone strong enough to make it iconic. Decades after Daniel is gone from the business, I foresee the “Yes!” chant cutting loose at the drop of a hat. That little word is become…a Legend. Smile.

In Conclusion:

This was a great year for wrestling. There were a lot of transitioning into the next generation. We did lose several good people this year, but I’ll talk about that in a few days. 2015 is looking to be one of the biggest years in recent history. TNA is heading over to a new home. The WWE Network is expanding at warp speed. I look forward to the New Year. See you all on the other side of Father Time’s meeting with the Baby New Year. Smile.

Peace

–Jay Shannon
WordSlingerJay@Gmail.com

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