Hello again. I’m Shawn Sommerville and welcome back to the 2014 FAN End-Of-Year WWE Awards.

I assume you’ve already read the winners of the “Technical Snowcones”, yes? If not, go back on your browser and it should be the article after this one on the main page.

Let’s not waste any more time. Let’s start…

Best Diva: Paige

Straight out of the fighting Knight wrestling family of Norwich, England comes Paige, a raven-haired young lady that has a lot more wrestling experience than you’d think one that was only 22 years of age would have. And like her mother “Sweet” Saraya Knight before her, she’s made it to the top of her profession. But while Saraya did so in the critically-acclaimed all-women SHIMMER promotion, Paige made it in the one place where nobody thought she would… WWE.

Paige was still in NXT as 2014 began, but quickly made her mark by defending her NXT Women’s Championship against Emma at the very first live NXT special on the WWE Network, Arrival, defeating her in a great bout with a new submission hold that was later named the PTO. It wasn’t long after that she became a double champion, as on the night after WrestleMania, Paige debuted on RAW and stunned AJ Lee with an impromptu match and a Paige Turner, defeating her and winning the Divas Championship to a mighty roar from the crowd. This put her in a rare group of talents that won championships in their very first main roster match. Paige would then go on to be somewhat of a fighting champion in her rookie months, defending her gold in pay-per-view matches against Tamina Snuka, Alicia Fox and Naomi. Then, before she knew it, Paige had the tables turned on her by AJ, losing the title back to her in an impromptu surprise match not unlike the one a couple of months earlier. This started a double turn feud for Paige and AJ, as the two “frenemies” battled for the Divas Championship over the course of the summer. Paige, now heel, would win the belt again at SummerSlam, but then quickly lost it back to AJ at Night of Champions. Since that time Paige has been out of the title hunt somewhat, but as the recent RAW Christmas episode proved, she’s gotten some of the normally apathetic crowds to “think again” and started to get a bit of a fan following in the process.

Paige’s upcoming involvement in Total Divas shows that she is someone that WWE is willing to put out there as someone worth watching in the future. Hopefully, it will be a better future for women’s talent in general as the rising stars of NXT today become the stars of WWE tomorrow. But they might have to remember one rule when they get there… This is Paige’s house now.

Worst Diva: Eva Marie

Did I or did I not call this last year? Seriously, go back and check. I’ll wait for you. While you’re gone, I’ll just be finishing off this opening comment. So, onto Eva Marie… Has she made any improvements from this same time last year? It’s possible, but unlikely. Has she made any positive contributions to WWE this year in terms of matches, promos, etc.? Outside of comedic purposes, no. Will she be out of a job any time soon? No… FLAT NO.

As long as Total Divas is still a thing, Eva Marie will likely stay employed/independently contracted. That’s the fact of the matter. WWE, in their finite wisdom, thought it best to continue to try and help the flame-haired femme at least become enough of a competent wrestler that she doesn’t trip over her own feet walking to the ring. Amazingly, this somehow included a WrestleMania main card match, as part of the Vickie Guerrero Invitational Battle Royal for AJ Lee’s Divas Championship. Her only offense in the match? Shoving Tamina Snuka down onto her butt. Come on, even Rosa freakin’ Mendes managed to hit an actual pro wrestling move in this one (for those playing along at home, it was a sidewalk slam). After this, she took a brief trip to developmental. Now if this were three or four years ago, she’d probably still be there now learning the craft. But this is the age of NXT, which means rabid Full Sail crowds that will only tolerate so many incompetencies from their female grapplers. Eva got chewed up and spat out like you wouldn’t believe in her only TV match there against Bayley. So much so that she was back with the main roster in a matter of weeks. Oh, and she actually managed to pin AJ to win a wrestling match. Granted it was because of interference by Paige, but it still happened.

As we enter 2015, Eva has been noticeably absent from WWE television, with the rumour being that she has taken the time off for breast enhancement surgery… Which is good news for her, because I hear that if you win a Golden Snowcone award for four straight years, they’ll actually name the category after you in perpetuity. She’s already halfway there, so let’s wish Eva Marie all the best in her quest towards FAN immortality.

Best Tag Team: The Usos

As what seems to be the case every year, the quality of the WWE tag team division varied from superb to disappointing depending on what season it was. That said, one team rode out the stormy seas and finally made it to shore as the WWE’s best duo, winning tag team gold on the way. And they are Jimmy and Jey, The Usos.

It’s easy to forget that these two have been on the main WWE roster since 2010, back when The Hart Dynasty and The Dudebusters were still a thing. And it’s amazing to acknowledge that they’ve actually managed to stay as a team this whole time, beating the average lifespan of a WWE tag team by something close to four years. It definitely was a long process for the twin sons of Attitude Era cult hero Rikishi to make their mark. First, a face turn to showcase the exciting offense they didn’t show as a heel team. Then the gradual addition of elements of their Samoan heritage, like the Siva Tau war dance and colourful tribal face paint, the latter evoking memories of their late uncle Umaga. With all the pieces in place, and after regularly being part of the night’s best matches and gaining a loud crowd following in the process over the course of the preceding year, The Usos finally claimed the Tag Team Championships in March, defeating The New Age Outlaws on RAW and winning over a rabid and hostile “post-Punk” Chicago crowd. From there, they continued having quality tag team bouts against teams like The Real Americans and especially The Wyatt Family, with whom they arguably had their best ever matches with title defenses at Money In The Bank and at Battleground (which was a stellar 2/3 Falls bout), until losing the belts to another brotherly pair in Goldust and Stardust. But just as 2014 was about to end (and I was about to send this article in) they reclaimed the titles from The Miz and Damien Sandow.

Being the best tag team in the oft-neglected WWE tag team division is usually something that is bestowed upon a team by default of being the champions. But with Jimmy and Jey, I personally feel like they could go alongside top teams of the past and not look out of place one bit. The Usos, your winners of the Golden Snowcone for Best Tag Team.

Worst Tag Team: Los Matadores

So as it turns out, we have the 2013 winners backing up and retaining their title in this category. Poor guys. Los Matadores are so anonymous and forgettable these days that most people only seem to remember them when they’re trying to make fun of JBL’s commentary (“BULL’S TWERKIN’ MAGGLE”).

Somehow, Diego and Fernando managed to finagle their way into a WrestleMania championship match this year by virtue of the other half of the roster being booked for the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Sure, it was on the WWE Network pre-show and they were the first team eliminated, but they still contributed to what turned out to be a very fun match. Then they somehow managed to do it again at Survivor Series, this time on the PPV itself, but with similar results. In between those scarce peaks, we finally got the El Torito/Hornswoggle feud that the world had barely clamoured for, starting with a baffling encounter during the Hall Of Fame ceremony. But with supporting cameos from Los Matadores and the now sadly defunct 3MB, it actually became legitimately awesome for a while, with their “WeeLC” encounter on the Extreme Rules pre-show being one of 2014’s hidden comedy highlights. However, following a Mask vs Hair rematch at Payback (again on the pre-show), the feud just went on and on until all the goodwill was gone, and it was then that Hornswoggle temporarily joined up with Los Matadores dressed as a cow. Other than that… It’s been yet another non-eventful year for the boys from Plaza De Toros.

It’s a shame that Diego, Fernando and El Torito are where they are at the moment. These are three decent talents that, like so many on today’s roster, probably deserve to be better off than they are. Instead, they are wasting their prime years playing bullfighters to little fanfare like it’s the New Generation.

Best Feud/Angle: Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins

Even as far back as Survivor Series 2012, people were salivating for the day when Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins would feud with each other. After all they’d had a decent feud back in FCW (back when developmental was still only just developmental) with Rollins as the face and Ambrose as the heel, and it was expected that we’d get that on the bigger stage as well. Instead, the script got flipped and we ended up with something even better.

Ambrose wanted Rollins’s head on a stick after his betrayal of The Shield (his promo on Rollins the week after that happened was particular noteworthy), and the fans rallied behind The Lunatic Fringe in that pursuit. After competing against each other in the Money In The Bank ladder match (won by Rollins after late interference by Kane cost Ambrose the briefcase), a one-on-one match was scheduled for Battleground, but Ambrose was so intent on fighting with Rollins in any way possible that the match was declared a forfeit win for Rollins… And even THEN, Ambrose waited for him in the parking lot and they started again. A rematch was announced for SummerSlam, and to keep Rollins where he wanted him, Ambrose chose it to be a Lumberjack Match. Historically, Lumberjack matches have never been great, but Ambrose and Rollins would have possibly the greatest one ever, having an Attitude Era-esque fight all over the STAPLES Center with the lumberjacks trying in vain to get them back in the ring. The next night on RAW, during a wild Falls Count Anywhere match, Rollins would hit his Curb Stomp on Ambrose through a conveniently placed stack of cinder blocks, and it looked like it was all over… But Ambrose returned with a vengeance at Night Of Champions, starting yet another mad brawl with Rollins. It was from here that Ambrose’s methods of madness started becoming a little TOO mad, ranging from stealing Rollins’s briefcase and rigging it with neon green dye packs to using a mannequin to demonstrate a hypothetical beating, but soon it was time to settle things in the ultimate feud-ender… The Hell In A Cell, and in the main event spot to boot. After surviving a fall off the side of the Cell, Kane’s interference and even a Curb Stomp, Ambrose was closer to victory than ever before… Until Bray Wyatt and his smoky hologram lantern put an end to that.

Ambrose didn’t actually get a win over Rollins at all in this feud, but it barely mattered. Ambrose was probably getting a lot more joy out of beating Rollins pillar to post than he would have gotten pinning him for a three count. For providing us with a little bit of everything that makes wrestling great, from killer promos to big brawls, Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins was your best feud of 2014.

Worst Feud/Angle: Brie Bella vs Nikki Bella

With the advent of Total Divas into the WWE programming schedule in the last couple of years, for better or worse, it has given their female grapplers another outlet for exposure. That said, it’s led to scenarios where angles set up for the “reality” show leech seep into the main timeline, and that’s without even mentioning the quality of the angle itself. The main proponent of such an occurrence this year was also the year’s worst overall, the battle of The Bellas.

This isn’t the first time there was tension between Brie and Nikki. In 2009, they found themselves on opposite sides of the Tag Team Championship feud between the teams of Carlito and Primo and John Morrison and The Miz. Then in 2012, they were drawn to the dispute between Teddy “Tag Team Match, Playa” Long and John “People Power” Laurinaitis like voluptuous moths to a flame and went against each other again. This time, it was a bit more personal. Nikki cost Brie a match against Stephanie McMahon at SummerSlam, apparently because she was pissed off that she was taking all the lumps from The Authority while Brie was away, having quit in solidarity with her injured husband Daniel Bryan. Brie was literally did nothing but cry as her sister berated her with hilariously heinous comments such as “I wish you died in the womb”, and for some reason Jerry Springer came in to try and get them to reconcile… But he failed miserably. The feud went on through Hell In A Cell, where Nikki beat Brie with the stipulation that the loser would have to either become the other’s “personal assistant” for 30 days or leave WWE, and then climaxed at Survivor Series where, after ALL THAT, Brie turned heel and helped Nikki defeat AJ Lee for the Divas Championship in mere seconds, retconning the whole personal assistant thing. The reasoning? Sisters, man. It came out recently that this feud was set up solely for Total Divas footage, but for a completely different storyline involving John Cena’s desire not to have children with Nikki! Two different simultaneous storylines for the exact same feud? Even Vince Russo never went there.

Unfortunately for all its revolutionary booking techniques and Nikki giving it the old-fashioned college try, this feud was not good at all, especially given the amount of TV time devoted to it in the initial fallout of Nikki’s turn. Fortunately, it’s over for now with The Bella Twins back on the same page… But the world now waits with caution for next time.

Best Promo: The YES! Movement occupy RAW – Daniel Bryan, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon (RAW 3/10/14)

One of the forgotten aspects of this crazy-ass year was the build-up to WWE’s first trip to Chicago in the wake of CM Punk’s sudden departure. Twitter accounts were set up demanding that the traditionally hot crowd “Hijack RAW” in the name of Punk and Daniel Bryan, even going so far as to issuing a DAMN MANIFESTO that read more like a script than a list of demands. Anyway, that didn’t quite work, but one has to think that it inspired WWE to create one of the year’s defining segments, and what turned out to be your best promo.

The week before in Chicago, Bryan had challenged Triple H to a match at WrestleMania, and was all but laughed out of the ring by The Authority. The next week in Memphis, Bryan was ordered to apologize for daring to make the challenge. Instead, he stood defiantly in the ring and refused to do so, proclaiming that it would all end tonight and he would make it so Triple H had no choice but to accept his challenge for WrestleMania. Suddenly, people started spilling into the ringside area, clad in Bryan’s Che Guevara-inspired “YES!” shirts. By the time RAW had returned from a commercial break, the ring and the entire area around it was filled with maybe two hundred people, protesting alongside Bryan in a massive “YES!” chant. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon entered and tried to get them to leave any way they could, but nothing worked. Waiting didn’t work. Sending out security didn’t work. Ordering Damien Sandow out to try and start the next scheduled match didn’t work. Stephanie was the first to lose her cool, flying off the handle and beginning to rant and rave like nobody else in the company could. Resigned to defeat in this case, Triple H accepted Bryan’s challenge… But The YES! Movement wouldn’t leave without The Authority accepting one more demand, that being if Bryan won, he’d be added to the Randy Orton vs Batista WWE Championship match. Triple H was so livid, he had to be physically restrained by the same security he’d sent out earlier. But most importantly, the new stipulation was added. Occupying RAW had worked.

I think all parties involved put in a strong promo here, even Bryan with whom it’s considered his weakest attribute. There have probably been better straight-out promos this year (usually from Paul Heyman) but this may have been the most satisfying one. After being abused for months, Daniel Bryan had finally broken through The Authority’s condescending arrogance and made them give in to his will. And all it took was a little help.

Worst Promo: Bella Family “Reconciliation” – Brie Bella, Nikki Bella and Jerry Lawler (RAW 8/25/14)

In case you haven’t noticed, the ladies on WWE’s roster usually don’t get a lot of promo time. So it was a surprise that when The Bella Twins started their feud with Stephanie McMahon, and then each other, they’d started to get decent promo time and prime TV positioning to use it in. People were wary, given that Brie and Nikki weren’t known to be great orators, but surely a chance wouldn’t hurt, right? Well…

Two chairs and Jerry “The King” Lawler as the moderator seemed harmless enough at the time, but that wasn’t enough warning for the verbal carnage to come. Brie poured her heart out to Nikki, apologizing for whatever it was that made her mad and trying to remind her about how close they were right from pre-birth. She was even invoking the “This is Phil Brooks talking to Paul Levesque” clause and used the longer forms of their names (Brianna and Nicole) in the process. It’d probably have been a better promo had it not come from Brie, who is at the lower end of the scale in terms of mic workers, male or female. Nikki would initially respond with what was essentially Heeling 101, making fun of the crowd for believing Brie (even though they weren’t reacting at all) and calling her story “the biggest load of crap she’d ever heard”. The only time that anyone reacted to this promo was when Nikki went for the insults on Brie’s injured husband Daniel Bryan, but at this point that’s up there with “your local sports team” as the cheapest of cheap heat. Finally, the coup de gras, and I’ll quote it verbatim… “I have no sister, I wish you died in the womb”. With that, Nikki then beat down a distraught Brie with her microphone, slapped Lawler and left the ring. Kinda cool, but not enough to salvage the segment.

This segment was one of the last times that The Bella Twins got a highly-featured spot on the show, as not long after this they were put back into the usual Divas spots. People may chalk that down to Stephanie McMahon not being involved anymore, and it may not actually be wrong, but a segment like this where the darkest, most low down things one could say to a family member could barely raise a peep from the crowd? That doesn’t say much about the delivery of those involved.

Best Title Reign: Adrian Neville (NXT Championship, 2/27/14 – 12/11/14)

Many fans these days yearn for the fighting champion, a man or woman that defends their championship against all comers and looks good doing it. WWE seem to have lost their way a bit in that regard, especially with their midcard championships, often using their champions as fodder to build up their future challengers. But NXT has shown that there is still a place for strong champion booking, and that was exemplified best by the nearly ten month NXT Championship reign of rising English sensation, Adrian Neville.

Neville won the championship at the very first live NXT special on the WWE Network, Arrival, defeating Bo Dallas in the developmental promotion’s first ever ladder match. The Man That Gravity Forgot would go on to defend the belt on television 11 more times over the course of the year, against other rising stars such as Sami Zayn and Tyler Breeze, as well as main roster journeymen like Tyson Kidd, Titus O’Neil and Brodus Clay, and did not lose in a televised one-on-one match for the entire time, even defeating former WWE Champion Rob Van Dam along the way. With such exciting moves as the Red Arrow in his pocket, it seemed that his reign would go on for over a year. But late in the reign, Neville started to lose a lot of goodwill with the audience, as he started resorting to dirty (albeit not necessarily illegal) tactics like pulling out the referee as he was counting a pinfall and sudden schoolboy pins to hold on to the gold, often at the expense of his friend Zayn. Neville would also start making passive aggressive comments towards Zayn, stating that he didn’t have the mean streak necessary to win his championship. Zayn, to his credit, would resist temptation and stuck to his guns, finally defeating Neville at Takeover III: R-Evolution in a classic bout and reconciling with him afterwards.

Now, Neville seems destined for a main roster spot in 2015, although the speculation about the manner in which that may be coming about has been the subject of much heated debate in recent times. That said, if he manages to be booked half as good as he was as NXT Champion, he might just be OK in the end.

Worst Title Reign: Brock Lesnar (WWE Championship, 8/17/14 – Ongoing)

Alongside the aforementioned fighting champion, another desired type is the special attraction champion. One that does minimal appearances on TV, like a promo or something of that ilk, so when the guy has a match, it’s something worth seeing and/or paying for because it’s a rarity. But this award has gone to Brock Lesnar’s current WWE Championship reign, which is theoretically that type of reign… So, let’s take a look at what has gone wrong with this.

Lesnar won the title from John Cena at SummerSlam in one of the most lop-sided displays in WWE history. Cena was treated as little more than a mere inconvenience by The Beast Incarnate, and some 16 German Suplexes and two F5’s later, he was without his championship belt and his dignity. In the space of four months, Lesnar had broken The Undertaker’s streak and destroyed John Cena. With apologies to Mike Tyson and Billy Keable, Lesnar was now the baddest man on the planet. As expected, Cena got a rematch at Night Of Champions. There appeared to be no harm in that, until that became a normal back-and-forth match, that Cena may have had a shot at winning if it weren’t for an interfering Seth Rollins. To many, that completely nullified any effect the SummerSlam match may have had, especially Cena didn’t really change anything in the lead up to his rematch. And then… Tumbleweeds. Hell In A Cell went by. No champion. Survivor Series went by. No champion. TLC went by. STILL no champion. Not even a pre-taped promo from him in three whole months. He may as well have not existed. For factors that may or may not be out of their control (mostly down to Lesnar’s big pay-per-appearance contract), WWE had now gone too far in the other direction and now the special attraction champion had become an absentee champion.

As of the time of print, Lesnar is FINALLY appearing again, building up to a championship match at the Royal Rumble against… John Cena. Yeah. That’s an issue for another day, but this championship reign could and should have been so much more than it is. And while it did give some newer stars a chance in the PPV main events in its absence, any wrestling company worth their salt needs an active top champion or else things just seem off.

Best Match: The Shield vs The Wyatt Family (Elimination Chamber)

Throughout 2013 and into 2014, two three-man factions dominated opponents up and down the roster. On one hand, there were the hounds of justice, The Shield. On the other, there was the eerie and mysterious Wyatt Family. Confrontations had been teased before, but soon the time would come where their paths would cross once more, and only then could they determine once and for all who the top trio in WWE was. And it would turn out to be your best match of 2014.

The honors of hosting this bout would go to Elimination Chamber in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after The Wyatt Family cost The Shield three places in a WWE Championship match inside the Elimination Chamber. The team of Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins faced the team of Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper in one of the most highly-anticipated bouts of the year… So highly anticipated, that the crowd was chanting “THIS IS AWESOME” before a single move had been made. For close to 25 thrilling minutes, momentum swung one way, then the other, all around and then out of utter control. Rollins was landing on his feet from top-rope German Suplex attempts, Harper was hurling his 275 pound frame through the ropes for suicide dives, Ambrose and Wyatt were scrapping and brawling like wild animals, Reigns was timing his brutal strike offense to near-perfection and even Rowan, completely unknown and unheralded as a wrestler, was holding his own when duty called. Soon the match spilled outside, and one-by-one, The Wyatt Family got on top of The Shield. Ambrose was laid out in the crowd by Wyatt. Rollins got slammed by Harper and Rowan through an announce table. Reigns tried his damnedest, but he finally fell to the numbers, as Wyatt hit him with Sister Abigail for the win.

And so ended a six man tag team match straight from the top shelf, as part of another year that featured several legitimate match of the year contenders. While it’s a shame that most of these guys couldn’t quite carry the momentum from this all the way through to now, at least they still could point to this and be rightfully proud at their performances here.

Worst Match: John Cena vs Bray Wyatt (Extreme Rules)

The feud between John Cena and Bray Wyatt had a lot of potential. Yet, other than some cool imagery (like Cena being tied in the ring ropes and made to wear the sheep mask) and some good matches book-ending matters at WrestleMania and Payback respectively, it never quite reached it. What didn’t help was this middle match of the feud at Extreme Rules in East Rutherford, New Jersey, a steel cage encounter that did nothing to help anybody.

Fundamentally, the match wasn’t actually wrestled bad, but I sense that this match was deemed worst on account of the booking around it. Wyatt had been protected since his debut as one of the more intelligent and cunning heels on the roster, even in his WrestleMania loss to Cena. He stated that he wanted this cage match so he could destroy Cena… So why was he suddenly your bog-standard cowardly heel in this one, trying to escape? Hell, why was CENA trying to escape? He wanted this cage match so he could try and protect the world from “Wyatt’s message”, apparently. I guess I could let that slide, since that’s just a general cage match problem these days. But, there were other issues. One of the base ideas of the steel cage match is keep any associates from interfering, right? From about halfway in, the match was almost nothing but Luke Harper and Erick Rowan interference. Cena arguably had the match won legitimately three or four times if it weren’t for them. Eventually, they ended up in the cage with Wyatt, and Cena dealt with all three with little issues. He had the match won until some damn DEMON CHILD shows up and sings him back in for the Sister Abigail and the loss. I’d elaborate on that point, but it’s winning an award all on its own further down the page.

All in all… This was just a very strange and very disappointing match. It dragged on and on, everyone involved looked stupid in some way (I mean… Spider-walking to the door, Wyatt? SERIOUSLY?) and despite being the winner, Wyatt was barely put over at a time when it really would have helped.

Best New Superstar: Rusev

As the months and years roll on in wrestling, there are some things that will probably never change. Chances are there will always be an evil foreigner who’ll come into WWE, threatening American values (probably… We don’t know for sure because he’s speaking his native tongue), showing disdain for the nation he grapples in and beating up all your heroes. This year that man was Rusev, but with his talent and some help from his social ambassador Lana, he breathed new life into a wrestling staple.

Rusev started off the year in NXT, still hailing from his native land of Bulgaria and still having a first name, before making a guest cameo in the Royal Rumble match. Officially, his debut would come the night after WrestleMania, as he quickly laid waste to Zack Ryder. Over the course of the next few months, opponents would be nothing more than tackle dummies for The Super-Athlete. He’d enter to a booming theme that sounded like one was entering a final boss battle, before demolishing them with a slick array of slams and strikes (including a sick jumping superkick that I just love to death), and finishing things with his Accolade submission hold. Also in that time he defected to Russia, controversially swearing allegiance to the regime of Vladimir Putin (whom Lana had no shortage of admiration for). Soon, American heroes like Jack Swagger, Mark Henry and The Big Show would all try to stand up for Old Glory against Rusev but try as they might, they were knocked down too. Then in November, Rusev would defeat Sheamus on a special post-RAW match on the WWE Network to win the United States Championship. Oh, the irony! The man who despises the United States is now carrying its championship belt! Whatever will we do? At the time of print, Rusev is still yet to be defeated by pinfall or submission in his tenure on the main roster, and looks set to be one to watch come WrestleMania time.

It’s definitely been a mighty first year of the planned 1,000 year legacy for Rusev, who has turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises of 2014. And just as he crushes his opponents in the ring, he also crushed the competition with one of the largest gaps in polling for any award this year. For that, he takes a Golden Snowcone back to Mother Russia for Best New Superstar.

Most Misused Superstar: Cesaro

With such a talented roster in WWE these days, some are bound to fall through the cracks and not reach their full potential. It’s just the nature of life, really. But then there are some who look like can’t miss prospects with which it almost seems like active sabotage that they’re not higher up the card. One of those men is our runaway winner of this particular award, Cesaro.

It all looked so good for The Swiss Superman earlier in the year, who had a strong run along the Road To WrestleMania. He’d claim a spot in the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and even beat the reigning champion Randy Orton clean in a one-on-one match preceding that. Then in what should have been his breakout performance, Cesaro won the first Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania, slamming The Big Show over the top rope to win it to a crowd reaction befitting a true superstar. The next night on RAW, he officially left The Real Americans to align with Paul Heyman… And it was there that it kind of started going wrong for him. Heyman was more interested in gloating about Brock Lesnar beating The Undertaker than his new client, and that partnership didn’t last long. The crowd reactions slowly went away as Cesaro seemingly abandoned his popular power wrestling style (including the Giant Swing) to stay as a heel and got caught in the midcard malaise. Finally, in what seemed like a final insult, Vince McMahon himself would state on a WWE Network special edition of The Steve Austin Show podcast that Cesaro was lacking charisma and had failed to connect with crowds. While the first statement is open to interpretation, there was overwhelming evidence to the contrary for the second one. At this point in time, Cesaro is now trying to get his bearings back with another tag team run, this time with Tyson Kidd, and just ended a two-month televised losing streak.

Things may look bleak right now for Cesaro, but I truly believe that it’s never over for someone until they get their future endeavors. Let’s just hope that, for his sake, he won’t be getting those for a long time yet and he can get back up the card and get back to the form that saw him hoist the Andre The Giant Memorial Trophy.

Most Exciting Moment: Daniel Bryan wins the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XXX

It seemed an insurmountable task for Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania. One match against his corporate tormentor Triple H, with the winner advancing to a WWE Championship match against the champion Randy Orton and the Royal Rumble winner Batista. Bryan had been battered and bruised for weeks by The Authority, with an injured shoulder taped up like a metaphorical bullseye, while all his possible opponents were going in at close to peak fitness. If Shawn Michaels winning at WrestleMania XII in 1996 was the boyhood dream, then this was the impossible dream. Incredibly, he’d gotten past The Game in the opening match. Now it was time for the final battle.

Bryan’s shoulder was even more damaged now as a result of a post-match beatdown by Triple H, but with the YES! Movement behind him in full force, he was giving it his all one more time. Orton and Batista were fresh having not already wrestled, but even they could barely contain Bryan individually. Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and crooked referee Scott Armstrong would interfere late to try and swing things back away from Bryan, but he put them away with a suicide dive, before laying out Triple H with his own sledgehammer. After that, Orton and Batista finally started working together to eliminate Bryan, culminating in a brutal inverted RKO/Batista Bomb through the Spanish announce table. All hope looked lost as Bryan was put on a stretcher and started being wheeled away, but against all sane thought and logic, Bryan pushed away doctors and came back into the match. RKOs, Batista Bombs, Spears and Knee Pluses were exchanged, until one more Knee Plus on Batista had him lined up for a YES! Lock. Batista would tap out, Bryan would win the match and the entire Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and possibly the entire wrestling world, was in raptures. Fans and wrestler alike had to move heaven and earth for him to get there, but he did it. He won the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania. And nothing in this whole crazy thing we call professional wrestling can top doing that.

There’s no doubt that Daniel Bryan has had one of the most insane WWE careers there could ever be. For all the B+ player jibes, the sex wagers, the losing streaks and commentary burials… Nobody’s going to remember those in 20 years time. But one of the greatest single WrestleMania nights one has ever had, and possibly will ever have? That’s going to live forever in build-up montages and the memories of every single fan who watched it.

Most Shocking Moment: Brock Lesnar ends The Undertaker’s WrestleMania undefeated streak

For the better part of 23 years, one man would slowly walk that aisle on a mid-spring night in front of tens of thousands of people and deliver to all one of life’s only guarantees. Death, taxes and The Undertaker’s WrestleMania undefeated streak. It was getting harder and harder for him to defend it as the years went on, but he’d always come through somehow… Until the one fateful night in New Orleans where he didn’t.

The signs might have been there from the very start of his 22nd WrestleMania bout against Brock Lesnar. While he had dominated Lesnar in the build-up for this match (including stabbing a pen through Lesnar’s hand to sign the match contract), for whatever reason, The Undertaker seemed a bit off on the night. Had age finally caught up to The Phenom at the absolute worst possible time? What would normally be the most enthralling and captivating match of the night, was now plodding and slow. As the match went on, The Undertaker dug into the signature arsenal that had served him well for over two decades to try and put down The Beast Incarnate, but it took a greater toll on himself than it did his opponent. Lesnar would hit The Undertaker with an F5, the third of the match, and the crowd waited expectantly for him to kick out. To the shock and horror of the entire wrestling world, that kick out never came. For the first time since his WrestleMania debut in 1991, The Undertaker lost on wrestling’s biggest stage. The Streak had been conquered. As Paul Heyman took his victorious client away, the fallen Undertaker was left alone in the ring to comprehend his defeat, surrounded by the stunned masses and giant Mercedes-Benz Superdome monitors displaying his updated WrestleMania win/loss record… 21-1. The Undertaker has not been sighted on WWE TV since that night, while Lesnar carried the momentum from his historic win to an unprecedented demolition of WWE Champion John Cena to win that belt at SummerSlam.

Professional wrestling has rarely seen a moment as shocking as this. Two decades in the making, The Streak is now no more thanks to Brock Lesnar defeating The Undertaker, and it is almost certain there will never be anything like it ever again. It was truly not only the most shocking moment in WWE this year, but possibly the most shocking moment in the storied history of WrestleMania.

Most Hilarious Moment: Damien Sandow becomes The Miz’s “stunt double”

Impersonation gimmicks. One of the few elements of WWE’s much maligned attempts at comedy that seems to have a half decent strike rate of hits compared to misses. I mean, look at Charlie Haas. His most popular stuff wasn’t his run in The World’s Greatest Tag Team or his overall great wrestling, but the times he was shilling JBL’s Mamajuana energy drink or paying homage to Mr. Perfect at the local Dave & Buster’s. This year, one man took it upon himself to become a man of many faces, before settling on that of a money-maker and taking his career in a whole new direction.

Damien Sandow was in a career rut. Having become the first man to lose a Money In The Bank cash-in match by pinfall months earlier, and seeing a more intense and determined approach failing to pay dividends, The Intellectual Saviour Of The Masses was mentally gone. All of a sudden, he’d be confronting Hugh Jackman dressed as Magneto, or interpretive dancing alongside Fandango, or impersonating his boss. He soon found a steady role alongside The Miz, (who had returned from a brief sabbatical and embraced an egotistical Hollywood mindset) and started wearing Miz’s attire, copying his mannerisms and wrestling matches in his place as his stunt double. But the real gold was still to come. During Miz’s singles matches, “Mizdow” would be on the floor mimicking the moves. If Miz had someone in a headlock, Mizdow would headlock an invisible opponent. If Miz took a hip toss, Mizdow would take the same fall in sympathy. And on it went, getting to the point where Mizdow was eliminating himself from battle royal matches because Miz had been thrown out seconds earlier. But wouldn’t you know, it got CRAZY OVER, with Sandow receiving career-best, babyface reactions and even unanimous “WE WANT MIZDOW” chants. It also brought him long-awaited in-ring success, as he and Miz won the Tag Team Championship at Survivor Series (although Mizdow only got stunt belts). Yet, his popularity may end up driving a wedge between the duo, as Miz does have a tendency of not allowing Mizdow to wrestle too long and steal his spotlight.

As it turned out, what very well could have been Damien Sandow’s last year in the company was actually his absolute best year. Being Mizdow has allowed him and Miz to show off a strong team chemistry, some unique comedic timing and ended up helping them both get some of the best crowd reactions on today’s roster. In my opinion, there are not many people who have deserved this kind of success more than Sandow.

Most Disappointing Moment: Daniel Bryan is forced to vacate the WWE Championship due to injury

For all the fight and all the effort it can take for one to reach the top of the mountain, it may all come crashing down in an instant, even when you’ve made it there already. Daniel Bryan, the man that a Movement put on top of the wrestling world because nobody else would do, was about to be hit with a devastating diagnosis.

It had already been a rough first month for Bryan as WWE Champion, both professionally and personally. In what would turn out to be his only feud as champion, he’d been on the end of some harsh treatment from his former hug buddy Kane. Away from the ring he’d been hit by some unfathomable tragedies, first with the death of his father just as Bryan had returned from his honeymoon, and then the death of his (and probably the whole company’s) most cherished Make-A-Wish child, Connor Michalek, who had been at ringside in New Orleans just weeks earlier to see Bryan’s greatest in-ring victory. He soldiered on and defended his title against Kane at Extreme Rules, but the biggest hit would come a week and a half later… It was discovered that he had a neck injury that required immediate surgery. With the length of his recovery time up in the air until after the surgery, WWE put scenarios in place to keep his storylines, as well as his championship reign, ongoing until they knew something concrete (even going so far as to book him tentatively in a Buried Alive match against Kane at Money In The Bank). Unfortunately, it was found that he needed a lengthier recovery and possibly even more surgery on his arm, and the WWE Championship was made vacant. Just like that, the hardest-fought-for championship reign in recent wrestling history was over in the most heartbreaking of circumstances.

At the time of writing, it is unclear whether or not Bryan has had the additional arm surgery that was reported as necessary, or whether he still actually needs it at all. The only clear information is that Bryan hasn’t wrestled since May. But as announced on the final RAW of 2014, he will be making his in-ring return in the 2015 Royal Rumble match. Like the man himself said… What does one do when you’ve already reached the top of professional wrestling? Try and do it again.

Most Embarrassing Moment: Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb “party” it up with The Rosebuds

So, the whole guest star thing. I’m on record as saying that these days, it’s not that big a deal. It’s not like in 2009 when you had guys like Seth Green and Jeremy Piven wrestling in TV main events or the whole show was themed around the guest host that week with no regard for the ongoing storylines (that said, “The Price is RAW” with Bob Barker was damn awesome). In 2014, it just looks out of place. But, that still doesn’t stop some almighty stinkers coming down the pipe sometimes.

Enter Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, the co-hosts from the US version of “Today”. Now, I live in Australia and we have our own version of that, meaning that I have no clue who these two are beyond a base recognition of the names. Also I think that our male host here would probably own these two just by telling his lame joke about the Dalai Lama ordering a pizza. Anyway, they appeared on RAW as part of WWE’s ongoing collaboration with the Susan G. Komen breast cancer awareness people and… They proceeded to drink wine in Ric Flair robes. And then smack each other on the butt with the empty wine bottles. And then Adam Rose came out with The Rosebuds and they half-assed the trust fall thing where they fall backwards off the apron into The Rosebuds, and he’s standing there wondering about ways he could abort the gimmick and just go back to being Leo Kruger again… But you’re all having FUN, right? They’re putting a SMILE on your face, yes? To put it bluntly… NO. I’m just lost for words beyond that, so I’ll take quotes from the live RAW thread that night… FAN forum member Perd was quoted as saying “I obviously had nothing to do that. But I still want to apologize to everyone”. FAN forum member Urfarkendarf was quoted as saying “This is one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever seen on this show, and I saw an 80 year old woman give birth to a hand”. Finally, FAN forum member Magiconz was quoted as saying “Segments like these makes me wish for the nuclear winter”. It’s unanimous… THIS F***ING SUCKED.

Seriously, what WAS this? WWE can truly be a bad parody of wrestling sometimes with its booking and its comedy, and I’ve stuck by them through those times, but this was the kind of thing that if I were watching with my family, I’d probably be offering refunds for the cable bill that month. Incredibly mesmerizing in its pointlessness.

Most “WTF?” Moment: Demon child helps Bray Wyatt defeat John Cena at Extreme Rules

In the 18 months or so that Bray Wyatt has been on the main roster, there’s been a tendency for matches involving him to be used as a vessel for the craziest ideas that Creative has to offer. I’ve lost count already how many times his teleporting thing has come into play. He also cost Dean Ambrose sweet revenge on Seth Rollins by ambushing him with a smoky hologram. But this one here just might have taken the cake.

We’ve covered this elsewhere already, but Wyatt’s Extreme Rules rematch with John Cena (held inside a steel cage) was somewhat of a disappointment. But right now, we’re focusing on the finish. Cena had handily disposed of the whole Wyatt Family, as he does, and was all ready to walk on out of the cage and win, as he does. Until… The Wyatt Family static hits and the lights go down. Suddenly, you hear the Ole Anderson voicebox singing that “He’s Got The Whole In His Hands” song that Wyatt was really into at the time. Static hits again, and there’s a damn kid standing there on the steps in a robe, holding a mic. HE’S singing the song, and it’s stopped Cena dead in his tracks. Now, Wyatt had used a children’s choir wearing the sheep masks as a way getting into Cena’s head earlier in the feud, and that was a damn cool visual. But here? What the hell WAS that? Anyways… Wyatt is back up at this point so he hits Cena with Sister Abigail and walks out the cage to win the match. He then stops to embrace the kid before Luke Harper and Erick Rowan each take a little hand and lead him out, all the while he’s just got this blank expression on his face. Later in the night, it turns out that Wyatt has dubbed him “Little Johnny”. Well, let me tell you something… He’s no Little Jimmy, that’s for sure.

And we never see him again, putting an end to WWE’s second odd saga involving something known as “Little Johnny”. The most bizarre thing out of all this is this… Cena has fought all of WWE’s top villains and monsters for the better part of a decade now, and beaten them all. Here was just a little boy with a weird voice, and THAT’S the kryptonite? What was stopping you from stepping down off the apron, winning the match and putting this whole Wyatt thing to bed a couple of weeks early? You’re a complicated man, John, and nobody understands you (not even your woman).

Best Spot: Seth Rollins hitting a diving crossbody onto Triple H and Randy Orton

There was one thing that was common among the top voted entries in this award… Seth Rollins jumping/falling down off of high things. Be it the Titantron, the Hell In A Cell or a ladder, Rollins was taking big risks for the big paydays. Yet, the winner of this Golden Snowcone was one that pre-dated any of those three, and ended up being the big turning point of the match it featured in.

The Shield versus Evolution was a dream match that not many considered until it actually happened, but when the time came they delivered the goods. The match went on and soon it spilled out into the crowd, much like the Attitude Era matches of yore. Triple H, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose and Rollins brawled their way through the masses until the two Evolution comrades split up their opponents. After throwing Ambrose down a flight of stairs, Triple H and Orton looked to finish off Ambrose once and for all… But they had forgotten about Rollins. Crawling unseen on the balcony above them, he gingerly climbed up onto the railing and leaped off, soaring through the air with a crossbody in what seemed like slow motion before landing on Triple H, Orton and (unintentionally) Ambrose. All four were down and out, with a resounding “HOLY SHIT” chant ringing in their ears. With all their partners incapacitated, Roman Reigns and Batista duked it out back in the ring until Reigns hit the patented Superman Punch and Spear to win it for The Shield. In fact, Reigns had to go out into the crowd to retrieve Rollins and Ambrose, because they were still down from Rollins’s dive.

With a main event heel run in the offing, Rollins has toned down the high-flying for the time being. But for the brief time (so far) that Rollins was an exciting babyface on the WWE roster, he sure did put a lot of clips on his career highlight reel, as well as some for the overall 2014 one.

Worst Pay-Per-View: Battleground

Returning to this award and holding on to their accumulated cash and prizes from 2013 is Battleground. This year it got moved out of the early October death spot, and into the July spot that had previously been occupied by the usually good Money In The Bank, now pushed forward a month. However, it could still not rectify the issues that plagued last year’s show, and that was the fact that outside of one stellar match, the rest of the card still wasn’t all that great.

The two matches on the WWE Network pre-show of Adam Rose vs Fandango and Naomi vs Cameron weren’t expected to be any good, and they weren’t. The main card opened with what ended up being the show’s best match, a 2/3 Falls Match between The Usos and The Wyatt Family that I would call the best Tag Team Championship bout of the whole year. Unfortunately, that was the peak of the night right there. AJ Lee and Paige had a perfectly serviceable match for the Divas Championship, their first lengthy match after trading the title back and forth in a couple of short, impromptu matches over the preceding months. So did Rusev and Jack Swagger, but that match was overshadowed by a lame countout finish and Lana causing a minor controversy by vaguely referencing the then-recent Flight 17 plane crash in her pro-Russia promo. Then what should have been the highlight of the show, Dean Ambrose v Seth Rollins, just didn’t happen. The match basically became an exercise in bait-and-switch, with an array of brawl segments that essentially spelled out “Wait until SummerSlam now”. Chris Jericho fought Bray Wyatt in another decent match, but in a shocker of a moment, Jericho actually won. I feel like this loss here to Jericho, who rarely wins PPV matches in his recent part-time runs, hurt Wyatt more than the much-maligned feud with John Cena did. The battle royal for the vacant Intercontinental Championship had some bright spots, but we all know how battle royals usually are, and The Miz wasn’t a popular winner. Finally, there was the main event of a Fatal 4-Way match for the WWE Championship between champion John Cena, Randy Orton, Kane and Roman Reigns, which again was OK, but had nothing going in the story and just felt like time-filler before Brock Lesnar got the title shot at SummerSlam.

This probably doesn’t sound like a bad PPV in the end. Only the pre-show matches were anything resembling bad, and nothing on the main card was anything worse than average. But there were a couple of dumb booking decisions, mostly in relation to padding out Rollins vs Ambrose, Rusev vs Swagger and Jericho vs Wyatt to SummerSlam, that seems to have soured people on this one and I can’t exactly say that I disagree with them.

Best Pay-Per-View: NXT Takeover III: R-Evolution

When I first started preparing for these awards, I was expecting to give this one to WrestleMania XXX. I mean, that was very well received even if the follow-up shows weren’t. But oh no! A wild NXT appears! Under the guidance of Triple H, the developmental brand stepped up to the plate something fierce off the back of strong matches, great characters and a consistently hot crowd at their home arena at Full Sail University in Orlando. And it all led to a killer crescendo in December with their fourth WWE Network live special (thus technically making it a PPV), Takeover III: R-Evolution.

Things were nuts right from the jump, with a bloody Kevin Owens receiving a hero’s welcome and demolishing CJ Parker in his debut match. This was followed by a solid, if not somewhat un-spectacular Tag Team Championship match between The Lucha Dragons and The Vaudevillains, and then the show’s default low point, Baron Corbin squashing Tye Dillinger. After that, though, were the show’s major highlights. A tag team match between The Ascension and the team of Hideo Itami and Finn Bálor essentially served as a coming out party for the latter. With Itami sporting his signature yellow/brown colours and Bálor wearing his famed body paint, they went blow for blow with the former NXT Tag Team Champions (Itami even attempted the Go To Sleep at one point, a move he innovated but was adapted by CM Punk in WWE) and left with the win. Charlotte defended her NXT Women’s Championship against Sasha Banks in a match that was not only a great women’s match, but a great wrestling match period. On any other night, it would have been the best… But it was followed by a straight-up classic between NXT Champion Adrian Neville and challenger Sami Zayn. In a match loaded with tension and emotion, Zayn finally came through and won the NXT Championship he had been chasing all year. It all looked to end on a post-match embrace between long-time friends Zayn and Owens… Only for Owens to turn and hit Zayn with a brutal Apron Powerbomb, planting the seeds for a continuation of a rivalry that had electrified the inde

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