December 30, 2008
The best and worst of 2008
By SLAM! Wrestling Staff and Readers
Now that Christmas and Chanukah are in the past, it comes time once again for everyone to reflect back on the year that was, and we here at SLAM! Wrestling are no different. Today begins our two-part celebration of the year that was in professional wrestling, as we hand out our own awards for the best and worst of the year. We like to think of these as the SLAM!mies, but given that that's a wee bit too close to a copyright infringement lawsuit, we'll simply call this The Best and Worst of 2008.
And oh what a year it was for the cream of the crop and... well... the cream of the crap. A lot of wrestlers proved that they indeed belong at the top of the food chain, while others proved to be nothing more than bottom feeders. Between the staff and our fans on Facebook (what? you haven't joined our Facebook group yet? Forshame!!!), the tough picks were made and we're now happy to present to you our awards evening. Enjoy!
Best Male Wrestler of the Year
SLAM! picks: Edge
This was, by far, the most diverse selection for the staff. Only two of our 12 voters voted for the same wrestler, Mr. Copeland (a.k.a. Egde), who truly had a remarkable year, capturing multiple world titles and keeping his name on "best heel in the biz" lists, even with a brief hiatus following SummerSlam. Styles, meanwhile, rose back to the top of TNA after being shuffled around and virtually getting lost in the midcard.
Worst Male Wrestler of the Year
SLAM! picks: The Great Khali
And so, we have our first consensus award of the evening. Despite the moans and groans of some other wrestlers, Khali had more than 50% of the vote from the staff and a clear lead in the Facebook poll thanks, in large part, to another award that he receives today. The lack of talent in the ring, combined with a horrid gimmick (word to the wise - recycled Mike Awesome characters don't work!) led to Khali receiving this dubious vote.
Best Female Wrestler of the Year
Facebook picks: Tie - Awesome Kong, Beth Phoenix
Another consensus pick(s). Both our writers and readers couldn't choose between the Glamazon and Kong, which says two things -- a) we like women who can wrestle; and b) we like women who dominate their division. It's fair to say that both of our selections are the unquestionable queens of the hill in their respective leagues. While other women got their share of votes, none were able to get close to Ms. Phoenix or Ms. Kong.
Worst Female Wrestler of the Year
Facebook picks: Brie Bella
These were the among the closest picks in both voting groups. For SLAM!, the former ECW siren closely beat out Smackdown's Maryse and Maria, while Facebookers had a tough time between Brie and the combo of herself and her sister. For both of our winners, there are slight, slight signs of hope, but when the rest of your respective divisions are head and shoulders above you, you've got a long, long way to go.
Facebook picks: Chris Jericho
Well, the SLAM! Wrestling vote wasn't really in doubt. It would've been like naming Dominik Hasek the Hart Trophy winner, but not the Vezina recipient. The win, however, was close, as he beat Facebook's pick by a single vote. That tells you how dominant these two men were. Titles aside, Jericho and Edge were easily the two best heels in WWE and no one even came close on their respective brands. Both men carried the Canadian flag proudly inside and outside the locker room this year.
SLAM! picks: Tie - Eric Young, Maryse
As easy as it was to pick the best Canuck, it was just as easy for some to pick the worst of our northern brothers and sisters (though some responses indicated there was no clear-cut choice). Eric Young suffered through months of being a coward and then adopting a superhero persona, Maryse was thought by many to not be at a workable level on Smackdown, while Roode felt at times like he was trapped in a lame team with James Storm. Fortunately for all three, their work towards the end of the year seemed to redeem their wrestling status. (Maryse's dislocated knee cap will put her on the shelf until mid-2009, however.)
Best In-ring Competitor
SLAM! picks: Edge
Facebook was quick to make a clear-cut favourite, while SLAM! had a few more debates (Edge narrowly beat CM Punk for his third SLAM! award). Joe stepped up his A-game this year with his first TNA World Title run, proving he could work a number of different styles. Edge, meanwhile, spent most of the year either in bouts against Undertaker or Jeff Hardy, showing his flexibility off as well.
Worst In-ring Competitor
SLAM! picks: The Great Khali
It's another case of Hart/Vezina here. If you're winning the big one, you're also winning in a focused category. Unfortunately for Khali, he's sweeping just about every negative award he's eligible for from the SLAM. The Facebookers, however, took a bit more leniency, giving him some company at the podium with Steiner and Nash. Sometimes, the less said the better...
Best on the Mic
Facebook picks: Santino Marella
It's another Canadian sweep. Jericho may not have won this award had it not been for his superbly executed and followed-upon heel turn, in which he emotionally dissected Shawn Michaels and his other foes. Santino, meanwhile, displayed a comedic touch that was unparalleled in wrestling this year, while still being able to play a solid heel.
Worst on the Mic
Facebook picks: Tie - Mike Adamle, Batista
Yes, there was someone worse on the stick than Khali. Mike Adamle was, undeniably, overpaid for his role. Whether as a backstage interviewer, a broadcaster or a general manager, Adamle's screw-ups became regular YouTube viewing. Batista, meanwhile, did himself no great favours by delivering a primarily easy-going style on the stick, clashing with his intense character.
SLAM! picks: Tie - Smackdown, WWE
Across the board, Smackdown, Raw and WWE as a whole were the most popular brands/promotions, which is understandable, in part, because they have the most exposure. That both voting groups chose SD! among the top two should also send a message to the Fed, since it tends to be more in-ring driven than Raw.
SLAM! picks: TNA
Both selections here were runaway favourites. TNA, while making baby steps towards becoming a solid second option as a company, still trails well behind WWE. ECW, meanwhile, has undergone so many roster changes from top to bottom that it has led to much confusion whilst its stars appear the two other WWE shows.
Best Tag Team/Faction
Facebook picks: Tie - Beer Money Inc., Motor City Machine Guns
It's hard not to love all three teams listed here. Miz and Morrison's popularity was undeniably boosted because of two factors -- their online presence and their exposure across all three WWE shows/brands. Beer Money, as stated earlier, really started to come on in the last couple months of '08 and now have their niche, while the Guns, after being buried, are now very prominent in TNA and look to be a strong tandem in 2009.
Worst Tag Team/Faction
SLAM! picks: The Highlanders
Here we have two very different groups - Robbie and Rory McAllister were a born-and-bred tag team while Morgan and Abyss were a throw-together duo. The former got in trouble when Robbie appeared in the crowd at a TNA broadcast, and their very focused gimmick got tired quickly; meanwhile, the latter pair hasn't really connected with fans.
Best PPV/Major Event
SLAM! picks: WrestleMania XXIV
Sure, WM is virtually a guarantee to come out on these lists year-in and year-out based on spectacle alone, but this year's event had a slew of strong matches, including the World and WWE title bouts and the Money in the Bank Ladder match.
Worst PPV/Major Event
SLAM! picks: No Surrender
Ladder of Love? MMA? Yup; no surprise, a TNA PPV overladen with gimmickery and silly matches takes the cake.
SLAM! picks: Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair (WrestleMania XXIV)
It goes without saying that this match will rank highly as one of the most memorable 'Mania bouts of all time. It featured both a well-told story and a decent workrate, easily being one of Flair's best in his most recent WWE tenure.
SLAM! picks: AJ Styles vs. Frank Trigg MMA match (No Surrender)
Maybe this is why AJ has the push he does now. This was a total mess that just screamed for a return to wrestling matches. Hopefully TNA doesn't go back down the fake shoot match road ever again, but this is Russoville, so really, all we can do is hope in vain.
Best DVD (Major Promotion)
Facebook picks: WrestleMania XXIV
The Curt Hennig DVD was, well, perfect. Plenty of outside WWE interviews, a near-full story, fantastic matches and a fun blooper reel for the famous Mr. Perfect vignettes made this compilation the must-have of the year. WM24, meanwhile, was loaded as always with the Hall of Fame inductions, the battle royal pre-PPV match and a fun filmstrip card bonus piece.
Best DVD (Indie/Shoot)
SLAM! picks: Ric Flair Shoot Interview
While the Facebookers each had a different choice, the SLAM! favourite was from Ric Flair, which was not surprising given that it's the first time that Flair has been free to say anything without being under the watchful eye of a promotion. This one will be a classic for years to come.
SLAM! picks: Air Bourne (Shooting Star Press)
Just when you think the SSP was done in WWE, Bourne comes in and not only brings it back, but reinvents it with his uncanny ability to torque his body for a heel grab mid move. The Canadian Destroyer is year-in and year-out on our list and deservedly so -- no other move combines artistry and pain like the Flip Pile Driver.
SLAM! picks: The Khali Chop
Just when you hoped that Khali had moved on and was permanently using the Tree Slam or Kona Krunch, the Chop rears its ugly pinky. More often used as a transition move, the Chop is still lowly regarded universally by wrestling fans.
SLAM! picks: Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels
Very few other feuds even got consideration in this category, as more than half of our total voters picked Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho as their favourite feud. Combining fantastic matches and extremely good mic work, HBK and the former Y2J took us on an unforgettable ride this year in a series of physical and verbal exchanges we'll never forget.
SLAM! picks: Big Show vs. Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr.
The SLAM! pick was a narrow one, as two writers picked this feud which started strong, but petered out quickly once it became apparent that it was going to be a one-on-one bout that would not deliver a Big Show squashing of Mayweather a la King Kong Bundy. Kane and Rey, meanwhile, was the latest in a series of Giant Killer battles for Mysterio in a feud we knew he wouldn't lose, because that would mean plenty of revenue dollars out the window.
Thank you to all who participated in The Best and Worst of 2008. We look
forward to continued feedback as we head into 2009.