2014 started out to be a good year for WWE. You could tell a change was in the air, but just like Bray Wyatt, they know how to screw things up. As much as I complain about the product overall there are bright spots that give me hope that one day we will be ushered into the next generation of sports entertainment. I call it the A.C. (After Cena) era. Because, in all honesty, no one can ever truly get to the top until he decides to go away.
Not out of the title scene, I mean not there.
Sitting at home in his sad, big house with his vapid girlfriend wondering why people reflect on Hogan well, when he used his entire career to hold people down, while Cena was the company man for over a decade and people spew hate at him daily.
Let’s take a look at the five superstars that lit up a lackluster product and the five that make me wish Nitro was still on the air so I can turn to it when they are on television.
5. Daniel Bryan
Leading up to WrestleMania 30, Bryan was on the biggest wave of crowd favor since Stone Cold became the man in the late 90’s. It was truly great to watch his rise to the top and made WWE’s biggest show of the year feel truly special for him and us. Since April, his life has been a shitstorm. Losing his father, vacating his title due to injury and not being able to heal completely to where some are wondering if he will ever be able to compete again. Still, despite all the bad, he got married to Brie Bella and had a night wrestlers only dream of. Nothing can take away his (or our) memories of that night.
Bryan announced he is returning to the Royal Rumble and whether this is real or a work is still in the air. He could return and win or this could be an out to have Lesnar attack him setting up Cena as the savior of our wrestling souls which leads to Bryan really retiring. Wrestling, worse than a bipolar relationship.
4. Dolph Ziggler
Has anyone had more career turnarounds than Ziggler? His entire career has seemed like one big Vince McMahon dollar bet that he can make a man go crazy by almost giving him the ball then pulling a Lucy on Charlie Brown. His world title win a few years ago looked to be the moment when he rose to the top, but a Swagger-induced concussion cut that short. I have never seen anyone punished for getting a serious concussion before. You win again, WWE. Imagine if Peyton Manning had concussion symptoms and instead of sitting him until he was better, they traded him.
2014 was Ziggler’s best year with the company. No, there weren’t any world titles, but he did something that no one has done in almost a decade. He made the Intercontinental Championship mean something. With only one world champion (who shows up occasionally), the IC title is back to being the second most important championship in the company and WWE realized that you need someone that can make fans care about both the performer and the title together. It also doesn’t hurt that Ziggler never takes a day off in the ring, making every match on TV as important as a PPV. The roster may be too crowded for him to be in the world title picture, but he is doing something more important. Bringing a dormant piece of WWE history back to prominence.
3. Sami Zayn
I don’t want Sami Zayn to go to the main roster. Why would I? Is it selfish of me to not want what I am sure is his dream as a performer? Yes, but the track record of NXT guys (sans The Shield and Wyatts) to Raw is about as good as Joss Whedon TV shows. Big E is acting like the church scene from Don’t Be A Menace, Bo Dallas is a more positive Zack Ryder and they want to turn Adrian Neville into GODDAMN MIGHTY MOUSE!
Sami’s 2014 was littered with great matches with Cesaro, Tyler Breeze, Tyson Kidd and Neville. The match with Neville at REvolution was my favorite match of the year. He can entertain in a four minute match the same as he can in a twenty minute one. His promo work leading into his last match with Neville was great and he is the most over, believable superstar WWE has had in a long time. Why would I want him to go to Raw and have them turn into another Evan Bourne?
Do I think Sami has the ability to make it huge on the big show? Hell yes. It is the lazy writers and the current state of WWE’s product I don’t trust. For now, let’s enjoy Sami Zayn, NXT champion in 2015.
2. Damien Mizdow
In the span of a few months Damien Sandow went from a different gimmick every week to the most over guy this side of John Cena. You would think being Miz’s stunt double would be one step away from the dreaded future endeavors bit on WWE.com. Nope. He took his duty as a stunt double and ran with it, more times than not being the most entertaining part of Raw. When he and Miz won the tag team championships it showed how he literally turned shit into gold.
1. Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins. Proof that we “smart” wrestling fans don’t know shit. When The Shield was split up last year we all spouted off that Rollins was a great match guy, but would fall to the Marty Jannetty epidemic that has claimed so many careers. I mean, look at Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. These were the two Shield guys that had the “it” look.
Guess what smarks? We don’t know shit.
Rollins aligned with The Authority, which was the best possible thing, and had built-in feuds with Rollins and Ambrose ready to go. Throw in the heat with Orton with Rollins’ knack for getting an audience wrapped around his finger with promos and Rollins is the best heel not just in WWE, but in wrestling today. Oh yeah, and he delivers in the ring night after night after night. WWE wants 2015 to be the year of Roman Reigns. I think Seth will have something to say about that.
Is Kane just an employee like Milton in Office Space? He collects a paycheck, but it’s due to a computer error and he was supposed to be let go three years ago. One week he looks like he running for political office, the next he wears a mask that looks like a t-bone strapped to his face with fake hair. After shows he goes to his desk and looks for his stapler.
4. Roman Reigns
Being here isn’t all Reigns’ fault. I was one of the many who was excited for Reigns post-Shield breakup. He looked like he could one day be “the man”. He still can. Leave it to WWE to push him down the throat of fans so frequently and vigorously that we feel like we spent a bad night in prison.
Batista wasn’t exactly ready in the ring and on the mic when he was given the title at WrestleMania 21, but he learned by being tossed into the fire. Maybe Reigns can do the same. If he can’t, WWE just burned someone who could have been the face of the company before he was ready. There might not be any coming back from that.
3. Adam Rose
Rose didn’t have time to take root in NXT and really see if the character could catch on. He had a catchy theme song and WWE figured they could Fandango him into popularity. Now he is in a months (months!) long feud with a bunny. Remember when Norman Smiley wrestled Ralphus in WCW and you said “man, WWE would never do this”. Welcome to the party, pal. Despite this, I am not a lemon. The former Leo Kruger could still find his place if a heel Rose is handled properly.
2. John Cena
This could easily be seen as an “I hate John Cena” post. I do, for the record, but there is reasoning for him being on here. He won’t go away. Cena has been on top of WWE for longer than Hogan was during his 80’s run. Hogan left the summer after WrestleMania IX, mainly because of the government investigation against Vince, yet the timing was perfect. Hulkamania had run its course (for the first time). It was time for a new look.
John Cena and WWE don’t want this to happen now. They are clinging onto Cena’s reign at the top (a decade!) so tightly they are missing not just the next big thing (whoever that ends up being), but causing a whole generation of superstars to not see what their real worth is. A feud with Cena should elevate a star. It turns out to be poison. Remember how over Bray Wyatt was going into WrestleMania last year? A couple of losses to Cena and a screwy win later, he was an afterthought by Summerslam.
As Matt Fowler said, “ten years is not an accomplishment, it is an assault”.
1. Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler
With all the facepalming bad things WWE put on TV this year it amazes me how no one seems concerned about how bad commentary is. I have no problem saying this is the worst is has been in the show’s history. That includes the team of Rob Bartlett, Macho Man and Vince. Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan and Mongo (is my thumb in dog’s ass) McMichael had more entertaining banter. I don’t blame Lawler. He works well when he has someone talented to be the counterpoint. His work with Vince and JR are evidence of that. It is JBL and Cole that seem to forget that they are there to engage the viewer with what is happening in the ring. Is there someone giving a promo? Insert quips here and there about whether the heel/face is right/wrong. Is there a match going on? Talk about the feud in its current state and call out the moves as they happen. What they don’t seem to understand is that you can set up other talking points during all of this.
-Wrestler A sure is taking it to Wrestler B
-Yeah, he is taking out all his aggression from what Wrestler C did to him last week. There’s a bulldog!
-Wrestler A with a kickout at two. He is showing some fight out there.
Instead, this is how matches go.
Cole: Go to the WWE App and watch exclusive content during the commercial. If you don’t know how, here is a step by step process.
JBL: MAGGLE! IF YOU DON’T HAVE WWE NETWORK AND ARE PAYING $50 FOR PPV’S YOU ARE RETARDED! MAGGLE!
Cole: Then you hit install on your phone. Goldust hits a move. What a maneuver.
King: On your phone? Install on your phone?
JBL: HOW DID CENA OVERCOME THE ODDS MAGGLE?! EVERYTIME! HE WRESTLES TONIGHT, RIGHT? I’VE GOT SOME BAD NEWS! I LOVE THAT! MAGGLE! MAGGLE!
Cole: The App is free. In case you missed it, here is how to download it. Goldust picks up the victory.
It is like being donkey punched for three hours on Monday nights. Actually, I would feel more appreciated after being donkey punched. When you long for the days of Matt Striker there is something wrong. So, so wrong.
Even TNA is doing something to fix their commentary. That’s right. TNA is actually leading the way in actively trying to fix one of its problems before WWE does. Scary as shit.
P.S. Lawler has been moved to Smackdown with Michael Cole and Booker T. is the third member of the team on Raw. This was announced a few days ago. Will commentary be any better? Take out Lawler’s line from earlier and insert Booker T. saying “shucky ducky quack quack”.
No, it won’t be.