|Henry had me fooled|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Moment of the Year
This award is for the point on a show that provided emotional impact, memorability, and contribution of overall quality to the show.
2009 - Jeff Hardy gives CM Punk a Swanton Bomb from the top of a ladder in the ring to the announce table
2010 - The Nexus debuts
2011 - CM Punk exits Chicago with the WWE Championship held hostage
2012 - Matthew Palmer leaps from the balcony at the Mohawk and takes Rachel Summerlyn with him
And the nominees are...
Bully Ray Reveals He Is Aces and Eights President - Sometimes, even a blind squirrel finds a nut, and sometimes, TNA can stumble into a coherent, well-done story with a sensible swerve. The Aces and Eights angle may have died with a whimper, but Bully Ray working the Hogan family and then making the reveal at Lockdown was a rare stroke of brilliance that stood with the best things to happen in any company all year.
Damien Sandow Double-Crosses Cody Rhodes and Wins the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank Match - Sandow coming out of the shadows to sucker his then-partner was one of those "Holy shit!" happenings that not only worked within the moment but set in motion the rest of the year in WWE. However, putting aside the aftermath of the actual turn, Sandow coming out of nowhere and Rhodes bumping off the ladder made this an excellent moment on execution alone.
Mark Henry Suckers John Cena into Believing He'd Retire and Attacks Him - Henry wasn't just believable and earnest in a wrestling sense. If he wasn't sending tapes of his tearful retirement speech-turned-assault on the WWE Champion to the Emmys and Golden Globes for consideration, then he wasn't being ambitions enough. Henry showed that execution was absolutely vital towards pulling off a successful swerve, and dammit, he even had me believing he was really hanging 'em up.
Mount Rushmore Forms at the end of Battle of Los Angeles, Crushing Drake Younger, Candice LeRae, Joey Ryan, and Kyle O'Reilly Under Its Foot - For a company that doesn't run many angles, they sure do know how to kick forceful ones off. Four different babyfaces met glorious death in battle in the establishment of their big heel stable, capped off by a turn many thought impossible in Kevin Steen.
Sami Zayn Executes a Leaping, Through-the-Corner Tornado DDT on Antonio Cesaro to the Floor during Their Best Two-out-of-Three Falls Match - High spots in wrestling can be numbing for how frequently they happen, but Zayn in his magnum opus in developmental to date, combined his amazing, athletic plancha DDT with an uncanny handle on the moment in what could have been the biggest NXT match of 2013 and created a singular place in time to remember. Sure, he lost, but this spot hopefully made damn sure that everyone watching knew he put up a spectacular fight.
Wrestler of the Year
This is the award for the wrestler who excelled highest critically inside and out of the ring.
2009 - Chris Jericho
2010 - The Miz
2011 - CM Punk
2012 - Daniel Bryan
And the nominees are...
Chuck Taylor - Dragon Gate USA, EVOLVE, Chikara, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and most importantly, Instagram Video. Chuck Taylor has mastered all these promotions and media in 2013. I would dare say he's been an innovator. Sure, how others might judge how positive his innovations are would depend on whether they enjoyed the 24/7 Championship, but I thought all the different ways the titles changed hands, from traditional to the arcane, were outstanding.
Daniel Bryan - Bryan took his 2012 and at least held serve in 2013. Arguably, his in-ring output this year far surpassed what it was last year, and his character development was on a main event level. Where he shone most was in crowd manipulation, which at any stage of the game is vastly important. Bryan, despite physical limitations and sometimes counterintuitive booking, has grown his character.
Randy Orton - For a decade-plus veteran who has been mostly a creative flop to come on as strongly as Orton has in the last year is impressive. He's had two stretches this year where his character was intriguing to say the least. The first was when he was almost a sympathetic figure when he was uneasy allies first with Sheamus and Big Show and then again with Team Hell No. Second occurred starting during the RAW in Manchester when the Authority was on vacation. He developed his bratty streak, and became the best character on RAW for the last two months of the year.
Sami Zayn - He showed up to Full Sail and electrified the future of both NXT and WWE. His in-ring action, even at DDT4 before dropping the El Generico mask, spoke for itself, but he took to his maskless character so seamlessly. His backs-and-forths with Bo Dallas, his cocksure bravado towards challenging Antonio Cesaro, and especially his flirtatious chemistry with Renee Young, among other things, have made him the cult of personality within NXT.
The Shield - On one hand, nominating three dudes for a Wrestler of the Year award might come off as a cop out. On the other hand, their entire existence, until the friction towards the end of the year, has been couched in their fluid teamwork. They are a unit, and everything they did as characters was to further their own collective agenda rather than making anything about their own individual personae. They are perhaps the most unique stable in WWE history, and their mission has been to be three parts of one greater character.
Promotion of the Year
For the company who best furthered the creative, critical, and/or qualitative boundaries of professional wrestling in the calendar year.
2009 - ECW (WWE)
2010 - Chikara
2011 - Chikara
2012 - Anarchy Championship Wrestling
And the nominees are...
Beyond Wrestling - No company made a bigger leap in 2013 than Beyond Wrestling, who took their mostly underground operation public in a big way. Their slate of shows in the second half of the year showed great ambition, ambition that paid off with a larger fanbase, a cash-in of creative potential, and the establishment of the newest marquee arena in independent wrestling. Their rise this year deserves, no, demands recognition.
Chikara - They're running with less than half a year of in-ring, active promotion, but for as controversial as their shutdown has been, I would be lying if I said I didn't find any artistic merit in what they were doing. Plus, the action before the shutdown was on par with what they have been producing in prior years.
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla - PWG has set such a high bar for themselves that taking them for granted can be dangerously easy. Not only did they consistently produce some of the best in-ring action in America, the angles that they did implement were solid. Southern California's flagship promotion continues its residence at the top of indie wrestling's quality heap.
World Wrestling Entertainment - Their creative direction may have been spotty at times, but they deserve all the credit in the world for taking such a large chunk of their television time and dedicating it to wrestling. Their free TV was jam-packed full of some of the best wrestling action in the country. Allowing guys like Daniel Bryan, The Shield, Antonio Cesaro, Sheamus, CM Punk, and the various other cast members they have to create art in the ring is a plus. Even though their overall stories have been turbulent, they have also created several iconic moments on their programming. All in all, WWE had a solid year.
WWE NXT - Obviously, NXT is owned and operated by WWE, but by and large, the goings on at Full Sail University are in a parallel universe from the main WWE narrative. In many ways, the developmental territory has it over the big company. While the wrestling action wasn't as consistent on a week to week basis, the top level matches (Kassius Ohno/William Regal, Antonio Cesaro/Sami Zayn, etc.) are more than comparable with WWE's best. They also have created stories and characters that are among the best of any promotion in America.