Wow, what a year. I'm not saying it was great but it was definitely a year. So much has changed in the WWE since I did my Fave Five of 2011 but yet not really at the same time. CM Punk is still champion. John Cena is still over used. Most worrying of all, Khali still gets more air time than Zack Ryder.
The real question is; has my Fave Five changed at all?
1) Daniel Bryan
Without a doubt Goat Face is my top performer of the year. He never has a bad match. Always gets big pops when he arrives. Has done amazing things with terrible material. He's just so, so good.
Think about it. If I told you at the start of the year that pre-taped counceling sessions with Bryan and Kane would be one of the best things on WWE you'd check to see if I had lost it. And considering that a year ago he was exhiled to Smackdown, it's hard to believe that he went on to have arguably CM Punk's best matches this year and is now "the Tag Team Champions".
Most wrestlers on the roster would kill to be as over as Bryan is right now and yet I still feel like there is so much more to come. Somehow, he still feels under-used. But everything is moving in the right direction so lets hope it stays that way.
2) Dolph Ziggler
Despite having a win/loss ratio in minus figures, it still feels like it has been a good year for the Heel. He won Money In The Bank, finally ditched Swagger and Vickie, got a win at a PPV over John Cena, and got to be the 5th guy to kiss AJ (that girl gets around).
Admittedly he still hasn't cashed that briefcase in but I've kinda enjoyed all the near misses with it. The best thing about those near misses is that the crowd always cheers when he runs out. People are getting behind him and in an age where a lot of venues are deathly silent, that is the most valuable thing in WWE.
Over the last couple months we've been hearing more and more Ziggler chants, lots of Ziggler signs in the crowd, and a more vocal fan base. All he needs now is the creative team to get as excited about him as the fans are. If he cashes in that case, hopefully 2013 will see the Zig Zag man follow in D-Bry's footsteps.
Despite being reduced to a "crazy slut" stereotype at this point, AJ has acheived something that very few WWE "Divas" have in the past and that's bankability. It's almost a golden rule now that if AJ is involved in the storyline, something good is going to happen.
For a tiny girl in a business of burly men, that is a very impressive feat indeed. Some could successfully argue that the way she's being treated is a bit... sexist... kinda, sorta, totally, but I will give her props for managing to navigate her way through all this mess with her head held high and a skip in her step. So to speak.
It's probably important to note that she has wrestled very few matches throughout the year but I think it's more accurate to look upon her as that old school kind of manager at ringside than a wrestler now. In much the same way as Paul Heyman = Gold, AJ has managed to become invaluable.
4) CM Punk
(Yes this is the same picture as last year, but he's still champion so what do you expect?)
The self proclaimed Best In The World has managed to do something I really couldn't predict, be WWE champion for a complete calender year. It's not that I didn't think he was worthy of it, I'm just shocked that the notoriously flaky WWE have kept with the same guy for that long (who isn't Cena, naturally).
Some of his PPV matches have been majestic and the guy is currently having a ball as the bad guy. He even managed to keep the title despite an injury which is traditionally unheard of in wrestling. WWE are definitely playing the long game and eyeing next year's Rocky tussle by keeping the strap on his shoulder. Thankfully too, as it is the right move long-term.
I haven't been thrilled over the last couple months with his rivalries but I think that's due to the lack of big names on the roster (that he hasn't already fought a dozen times). But no matter how dull the story-line is, Punk still manages to make it interesting. Even if he has to punch a fan to do it.
5) The Prime Time Players
If any of my picks this year are going to cause a reaction it's these guys. Darren Young and Titus O'Neill are, in my eyes, the best tag-team that the WWE have by far. And the best tag-team they've had for years. These guys should and will be champions. 'Fro pick and all.
The sad state of affairs is, if the tag division was being taken more seriously they'd have some storylines to work with. However, for some strange reason, Creative don't really give storylines to tag teams. They just compete, nothing more. Which is a shame as I think they have the charisma and the skills to be a dominant force.
Recently they had PTP do some commentary with Cole and Lawler, it was absolutely hilarious and rambled into the proper uses of "wash rags", of all things. This sparked a bit of debate about the team as D-Young stayed quiet the whole time and people wondered if there was a problem with the group but I think it just showed the dynamic of the team.
Hopefully things go their way in 2013 and they can finally get those MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.
AND COMPETING FOR A PLACE…Much like last time, there are other wrestlers who have impressed me this year for a number of reasons but I just didn't like them as much as the above. Something makes me hesitant about them and I'll divulge those niggles with you now.
Ryback: Clearly, Ryback has gotten a huge push from WWE this year. From a guy in a constant rotation of novelty squash matches to WWE title matches. Brodus Clay must be looking on with tears in his eyes. The problem is, despite his size and strength, nothing really inspires me with him. I think he still needs that one really good rivalry. CM Punk's injury may have robbed him of that opportunity.
The Shield: If they debuted earlier in the year these guys would have definitely made the list. I am ridiculously excited by the 3 men and the TLC PPV sealed my fandom. Hopefully in 2013 we'll see a lot more of these rising stars.
Antonio Cesaro: United States champion may have a lame gimmick but the dude has the skills inside the ring. When he is allowed to have a long match, he can really show off. Need to get a little more serious if he's to be considered more than just a midcarder. Like most guys, his future lies in the hands of the writers.
Kofi Kingston: If you dislike Kofi, you officially have no soul. Fact. He's the eternal baby face. But the guy needs to get more intense on the mic. It's his big soft spot. We've all seen what he can do in the ring when given the chance (handstand at the Rumble, anyone?).