01st Jan2014

WWE in 2013 – Looking Back: A Year in Review

by Chris Cummings

wwe

To begin, I will say that I have gone through many emotions as a wrestling fan in 2013, from elation to despair and everywhere in between. So is the life of wrestling fandom.

In the opening portion of 2013 we had CM Punk as the WWE Champion, reaching the end of his lengthy reign that allowed him to announce himself as the “longest reigning WWE champion in the past 25 years”. He lost that belt, in the January, to the “returning for a tickle and a handshake” The Rock. Many fans were upset to see Punk lose so easily to the returning “great one” who had bulked up so much that the athleticism he showed throughout his full-time wrestling career had all but disappeared. The Rock then went on to have two more matches before leaving WWE again to focus on his flourishing movie career. Punk, following a failed attempt at a rematch against the “Brahma Bull” went on to equally great things when he became 2013’s opponent for The Undertaker at WrestleMania 29, a match that stole the show and added another win to the undefeated streak of “The Phenom”.

WrestleMania was a memorable show in many ways, and forgettable in others. The undercard was poorly promoted and there were many young talents who were shafted into either being in crappy spots on the card, or not on it at all. However, the promotion for the main event matches, the marquee matches, was spot-on and garnered an insane buy rate for the 29th grand-daddy of them all. Besides the Punk/Taker match, we also saw the rematch from the previous years’ “Once in a Lifetime” scrap between Rocky and John Cena. Once in a Lifetime: Part 2? Okay, someone take the bong from Vince before he promotes it a third time. The match itself was slow and predictable, with Cena coming out on top and regaining the WWE Championship from the man that defeated him a year earlier. Triple H was in the third main event match of the night, against the part-time beast, Brock Lesnar, another very good, hard hitting match that spectators didn’t seem to warm up to, even through it was actually very good. That was WrestleMania, and it was a shame to see names like Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Antonio Cesaro, Cody Rhodes and others, guys who work hard all year and make RAW a show to watch each week, get left in the cold, in pre-show ten minute bouts or tag team matches that weren’t given time or promotion by the company to make them seem important. Even worse, many were left of the card, and some even had their match cancelled last minute to make way for musical segments and skits. What happened to the days when WWE would promote pretty much every last match on the card so they all seemed like a big deal? I hope we see those days again.

The World Title was swapped and changed between only a couple of people in 2013, with Alberto Del Rio holding the belt for much of the year in runs as both a fan loving baby-face and a vicious heel. Dolph Ziggler got a booming reaction from the post-WrestleMania RAW crowd when he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and defeated ADR for the belt, but after suffering a Jack Swagger caused concussion soon after, Ziggler was stripped of the belt and it’s all been down-hill for the “show-off” since then, with his career taking one of the biggest nose-dives that I’ve ever witnessed in professional wrestling. I hope we see Ziggler rehabilitated and rebuilt in 2014, the talented and, when given the chance, super-over Ziggler deserves much better than this hand he’s been dealt by the creative (if you can call them that) team of WWE. Del Rio went on to feud with a returning Rob Van Dam, defending his belt successfully in a decent series, before losing the title to a returning-from-injury-too-soon John Cena.

There are three things that stand out to me the most in WWE in 2013. The Shield are one of them, having a terrific year as a group, defeating a whole host of main event talent in some of the best matches that WWE has televised in years. Their matches with the likes of The Uso’s, Cody-dust, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Orton have been exhilarating, and the group beat names like Cena, Orton, Big Show, Sheamus, Punk, Bryan, Kane and a host of others this year too. As we reached the end of 2013 we began to see dissention in the ranks of The Shield and the beginning of the foundations being laid out for an eventual split between Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins. Whatever happens when The Shield finally does explode, I hope to see all three of them greeted with pushes and chances to shine on their own, because after the year they’ve had, they’ve earned it.

The second thing that stands out to me in 2013 is the return and resultant work of Dustin “Goldust” Runnels. Dustin has had a long career and worked all over the place, and we’ve seen him in all kinds of states throughout those years, in terms of his mental state, his conditioning and injury. When he returned to WWE in the midst of the “Cody Rhodes is fired” storyline in the summer of 2013, who was to know that he would return better than he has ever been. I can honestly say, after following Dustin’s career since 1992, I have never seen him more focused, more determined and more exciting to watch in the ring, and it isn’t just me. The fans chant for Goldie every time he is in the ring, and he has, through hard-work and a rejuvenated passion for wrestling, had the biggest career renaissance in many a moon. Long may it continue.

The third and final thing that stands out is an obvious one, the rise, and possible fall, and potential rise again of Daniel Bryan. Beginning the year in “Team Hell No” with Kane, Bryan went on to, through massive reactions from the fans and brilliant work in the ring, receive a big push to the top of the card, resulting in a main event match against co-babyface, John Cena, at SummerSlam. Bryan did, on that night, what nobody else has done in over a year, he defeated John Cena cleanly to capture his first WWE Championship. The fans were elated, the pop he got for the victory was the biggest of the year, but it wasn’t all that it seemed. Immediately after winning the match, the storyline was green-lit for Randy Orton to heelishly cash in his Money in the Bank contract, with the help of special referee Triple H, and beat new-champ, Bryan, becoming the new WWE Champion and starting a storyline that seemed to be heading for a big eventual win for Daniel Bryan down the line. Sadly, the storyline didn’t work as well as it first appeared it might, and Bryan has since been demoted to the mid-card in feuds with The Wyatt Family. Maybe we will see Bryan rise again in 2014 and get some revenge for the losses he suffered at the hands of “The Authority” in 2013. I hope so, but we’ll see. Still, Bryan’s in-ring work in 2013 was the best in WWE, and he continues to steal the show most nights.

The biggest thing to happen as we left 2013 was WWE’s decision to unify the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships. This match, promoted correctly, could have been a massive main event for WrestleMania XXX, but WWE decided to promote it in less than a month and put it on last at TLC in a gimmick match with both  belts hanging above the ring. John Cena and Randy Orton competed in a bland, boring and clumsy contest that saw Randy Orton become the new undisputed and unified WWE World Champion, the first in forever, apparently, but that only makes sense if “forever” is Chris Jericho’s new nickname.

As we head into 2014, Randy Orton is the WWE World Champion and will defend the belt against, you guessed it, John Cena, at Royal Rumble at the end of January. The road to WrestleMania begins now, and the potential matches begin to make themselves clear. Batista has been announced to be making a return in the coming weeks, Brock Lesnar is back on television and The Undertaker will undoubtedly be making his annual return to WWE soon too. I hope though, that WWE puts some extra emphasis on the younger talent they have at this year’s big event in April, allowing guys like Bryan, Punk, Cesaro, Ziggler and company to shine like they mean it.

Here, to end this little walkthrough of the important moments and standout happenings of 2013 in WWE, is a short “awards” section, as I pick who I feel has earned certain nods in the past 12 months.

  • WRESTLER OF THE YEAR: Daniel Bryan (Runners Up: CM Punk, Seth Rollins)
  • TAG-TEAM OF THE YEAR: The Shield (Runners Up: The Uso’s, The Real Americans)
  • MATCH OF THE YEAR: Daniel Bryan vs. Seth Rollins (RAW) (Runners Up: William Regal vs. Antonio Cesaro (NXT), The Uso’s & Bryan vs. The Shield (RAW) Goldust & Cody vs. The Shield (Tag Title Win for Cody-dust)
  • DIVA OF THE YEAR: AJ Lee (Runners Up: Kaitlyn, Natalya)
  • RETURN OF THE YEAR: Goldust (Runners Up: Rob Van Dam)
  • WORST WRESTLER OF THE YEAR: John Cena (Runners Up: The Great Khali, Santino)
  • ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Roman Reigns (Runners Up: Alexander Rusev)
  • 2014 “GONNA BREAK THROUGH” AWARD: Roman Reigns
  • DEVELOPMENT TALENT OF THE YEAR: Sami Zayn (Runners Up: Adrian Neville, Paige)
  • BEST WEEKLY SHOW OF THE YEAR: WWE NXT (Runners Up: WWE RAW)
  • BEST PAY-PER-VEW OF THE YEAR: SummerSlam 2013 (Runners Up: WrestleMania XXIX)
  • DEBUT OF THE YEAR: Bray Wyatt
  • BEST BEARD OF THE YEAR: Daniel Bryan (Runners Up: The Wyatt Family)
  • MOST UNDERRATED WRESTLER OF THE YEAR: (Tie) Dolph Ziggler/Antonio Cesaro
  • BEST PROMO MAN/WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Paul Heyman (Runners Up: CM Punk, Triple H, Stephanie)
  • BEST ANNOUNCER/INTERVIEWER OF THE YEAR: Renee Young (Runners Up: William Regal)
  • “PLEASE FIRE THIS GUY” AWARD: The Great Khali (Runners Up: Hornswoggle, Eva Marie)
  • MOST OVERRATED/OVERPUSHED WRESTLER OF THE YEAR: John Cena (Runners Up: Big Show, Mark Henry)
  • NOSE-DIVE OF THE YEAR: Dolph Ziggler (Runners Up: Ryback, Alberto Del Rio)
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