IHAO on ... Wrestling Bests of the Year 2014

Man has wrestling been rough and exhilarating at the same time.  This year, TNA all but died, got a new home for the new year, and will be starting over.  Lucha Underground started and is really starting to make huge waves as they build up to their big AZTEC WARFARE match at the beginning of 2015.  NXT has been destroying WWE so thoroughly in quality and in skill that WWE morale is incredibly low.  And Vince in a live podcast buried everyone who wasn’t Bray Wyatt or the Shield.  WWE PPVs have slowly gotten worse and worse, and so many of the top guys or close to the top guys have gotten injured, fed up and quit, show up only once every month if we are lucky, or are just veterans who have no business continuing in the main events or upper echelon of the company. 

A lot has happened in 2014.  And with the help of some readers, I’ve compiled a list of “Of the Year” categories.  I’ve also got some garbage joke ones, and I’ll answer those at the end, because I refuse to not answer them, though I would like to actually talk about stuff like a real reviewer first, ok Mom?!
Here we go:

Best Jobber

A jobber in wrestling terms is a guy whose job is to lose to put over their competition.  They may have a name and a gimmick, but they are not a featured player or character.  Their job is to lose so that we can learn the schtick of the other guy.  The best jobber is one that bumped well, was interesting, left an impression, but never overshadowed the talent they were enhancing.  This year’s Best Jobber is …

Blue Pants

Blue Pants is actually Leva Bates, a female wrestler in the Indy’s who seems to be a friend of the female trainer for the NXT Divas and came in to do a terrible favor: to lose to someone else.  But Blue Pants put  on her Kitty Pride cosplay, came out to no music, introduced to the crowd by the most charismatic G in NXT, Enzo Amore, and sparred with the debuting Carmella.  Carmella looked great, Blue Pants looked good and rolled with the role, and returned for another match, once more jobbing to Carmella, but this time the fans cheered and chanted for Blue Pants, Blue Pants, Blue Pants!
Honorable Mentions:  Kane, the Undertaker

Most in need of a Gimmick Change

Oh goodness.  Why did I put this so high on this list?  All right, so lots of wrestlers get repackaged or work with what they are given.  Some have great gimmicks, some are basically gimmick-less and just play themselves, and some flounder in their gimmick.  Ezekiel Jackson had a terrible gimmick and terrible matches in the WWE, but now in Lucha Underground as Big Ryck, he is treated like a monster, and his cigar grinding and “brawling, not wrestling” approach changes everything about the promotion, and it was just a simple gimmick change (and company switch, but shh).  This year, the award for the wrestler most in need of a gimmick change is …

The Usos

Don’t look at me, I absolutely thought I’d be putting John Cena or Randy Orton here.  But let me ask you, oh reader, what is the Usos gimmick? 

Think about it.  Samoans?  I dunno, they don’t really talk about it other than their opening chant, which then doesn’t affect anything other than throwback moves to their father.  Is it that they are twins?  They wear face paint to make it absolutely clear which one is which.  Is it as the good guy champs of the Tag Division?  They sure don’t get to talk or really do anything to show that other than be in EVERY SINGLE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH for the tag titles.  The last time they didn’t wrestle for the WWE Tag Titles was Summerslam, and that’s because there wasn’t a tag title match on the show.  The same holds true for most PPVs this year.  But to be in every title match for so long, and still be just … those colorful guys that are good guys and have the same match all the time … that is infuriating. 

They need something.  An edge.  A heel turn.  A manager.  ANYTHING.  SOMETHING.

Honorable Mentions: Bayley, AJ Lee, Randy Orton, John Cena, Bull Dempsey, Mojo Rawley

Most Disappointing Release

Folks get fired every year.  For lots of reasons.  Some quit, some get injured and retire, and some just fail drug tests or hit women or something.  And sometimes guys get fired or leave or whatever and they had so much more they could have done!  This year, the most disappointing release goes to …

Josh Mathews

The main WWE commentary is the pits.  It is just absolute and utter garbage.  They have some talented dudes around that can do good play-by-play and good color, but the worst release for me was Josh Mathews.  He was a really good play-by-play guy, if a little bland and personality-less, but he played well with JBL, unlike Cole and Lawler, as well as some of the newer commentary guys like Byron Saxton, Alex Riley, and Scott Stanford.  For a short time Mathews was doing the PPVs and doing a real solid job.  But he was never given a real chance to do things as the lead commentator in a big way. 

And what’s happening for him now?  He will be the new voice of the WWE’s largest not-in-house competition on the new Impact Wrestling on Destination America.  And he’s going to do a great job there, because he won’t have Vince yelling in his ear, Michael Cole saying stupid things to him as heel color, and a company behind him that is trying as hard as it can to improve.  Who knows if it will, but this is a bad blow for us WWE fans because we are stuck with the same garbage we currently have instead of what we could have had.  And that is absolutely disappointing.

Honorable Mentions: Evan Bourne, Aksana, Drew McIntyre

Heel Turn of the Year

Sometimes good guys go bad.  Sometimes relationships end.  Sometimes a new villain arises from the ranks of the heroes.  And that is professional wrestling in a nutshell.  A great heel turn makes both people in that turn a bigger star, like the Rock at Survivor Series 1998.  A bad heel turn doesn’t matter, like Cesaro’s hip-hopping from fan favorite to heel for Heyman to cheered for to made obscure and held down to dwindle away what started as a great year.  But that’s neither here nor there.  The Heel Turn of the Year is …

Seth Rollins

There was no other choice.  Seth Rollins broke up the Shield, won Money in the Bank, became the true heel that HHH needed to work for him against all those pesky do-gooders in the roster.  Rollins has been the fixture of the bad guys every week, has rolled with the punches and changed every week, and has been about the only good thing to come from this whole Authority storyline that has lasted a year too long.  And he is only going to move upwards.

Honorable Mentions: Kevin Owens, Chavo Guerrero, Nikki Bella

Pageantry of the Year

Paige is my good friend.  And I got her into wrestling because she fell in love with Dusty Rhodes and his yellow polka dots.  She loves the ridiculous characters, the spectacle, and the huge stories.  She loves the guys with the PAGEANTRY.  And she asked me for my pick for Pageantry of the Year.  That one’s easy …

Finn Balor

Holy monster-under-the-bed crap, look at this glorious video! ((EDIT: Ok, so the video I wanted to share, that I had shared a lot, has been taken down by the WWE.  I put the official WWE video, but it is more edited and also doesn't have enough of the Ascension's reactions to it, but I think it'll do enough for you to get my point.))  I don’t care if you hate wrestling, love wrestling, whatever.  THIS is an entrance.  THIS is special!  THIS is thrilling and ridiculous and wonderful!  And it cannot be topped.  Well, it could have been, if Sting had given a damn and came down from the rafters or they gave him anything beyond just walking out to generic garbage rock music instead of his actual theme at Survivor Series.  BAH!

Finn Balor, before he was Finn Balor, was known for this kind of thing, this kind of pageantry.  It is not his gimmick, he just goes a little harder on special occasions, and that makes it even better than being Stardust who never turns it off.

Honorable Mentions: Stardust at all, Mil Muertes, Baron Corbin

Tag Team of the Year

Tag team wrestling hasn’t been important to the WWE for a long time.  But recently things are changing.  And since my limited scope only has time to watch WWE and NXT plus Lucha Underground (I’m gonna watch Impact in the new year, gah, gimme a break, I only have so many hours in an insomnia-afflicted night to watch stuff, guys!), I already know who the Tag Team of the Year is …

The Ascension

Face?  Heel?  Who cares!  These guys kick our butt, have an aura of awesome, and legitimately make me mark out, which does not happen often any longer.  When they rip apart jobbers, everyone is yelling along with every kick and pin count YA YA YA!  And when they are put against a real team, they show that they can actually go and show a lot of skill and character.  Watch Konnor’s reactions to Finn Balor in the video I linked to above, they are priceless.   The Ascension is about to debut and shake up the WWE Tag Division, and I cannot wait.  I cannot wait for them and the Brothers of Dust-struction.  I cannot wait for them to rip the Usos in half.  I cannot wait for them to dominate the division and actually make people care beyond the antics of Damien Mizdow.

Honorable Mentions: The Certified Gs Enzo Amore and Big Cass, the Brothers of Dust-struction

Gimmick of the Year

A great gimmick is one that makes it clear what your character is.  It lets audiences understand your character quickly and efficiently.  A gimmick is creative lubricant that makes a wrestler better.  A GREAT gimmick takes a mediocre wrestler and makes them extraordinary.  A terrible gimmick takes a great wrestler and reduces them to Adam Rose.  But what exactly is the Gimmick of the Year …

Enzo Amore and Big Cass

That right there is Enzo Amore, and he is a certified G, and a bona fide stud, and you can’t. teach. that.  And this right here is Big Cass, and he’s seven foot tall, and you can’t. teach. that.  And if you don’t like them, then you are probably S-A-W-F-T, saaaaaaawwwwft!

These guys take the awful Jersey Shore gimmick and breathe life into it like you cannot believe.  Probably because they live that gimmick; that is who they are, turned up to 11.  That’s the best gimmick.  That’s the Rock, that’s Mankind, that’s Stone Cold, that’s Kevin Nash, that’s Ric Flair, that’s what you want from an incredible gimmick.  These guys are big stars without ever having to win matches or show up all the time.  Because when they do show up, the electricity is palpable in the arena.  They have so much in front of them.  And it isn’t just the “Jersey Shore” aspects.  It’s Big Cass’ size and stature, but being cool like Big Daddy Cool Diesel.  It’s Enzo, trying so hard, even though the only offense he has is punching a few times and kicking around when he talks.  They are a great team, and will only get better.

Honorable Mentions: Damien Mizdow, Erick Rowan Genius, the Ascension

Most Improved WWE Superstar (no NXTers)

I technically didn’t want to do this one because I wanted to talk about wrestling as a whole.  But let’s be fair, I mostly watched WWE this year.  So I can easily do this one.  Now, what do I think is important to “most improved?”  I would say that I as a viewer was turned around on them, that their gimmick synced in better than before, their ring work got better, and their promo works improved.  Since I cannot do NXT guys, that is going to sorely hurt who I can talk about.  So I guess that leaves only one option …

Nikki Bella

Brie was positioned to be the big star of the Divas division along with Paige.  But things got off track because, frankly, Brie is a terrible face and Steph is a fantastic heel, so Brie never took off.  She coasted along on her husband’s popularity after Wrestlemania, but she was soon overtaken by her heel turning sister.  Nikki has improved in the ring in a huge way, having a new moveset as a power diva that is impressive and really fun and different to watch from the normal “run at you, pull your hair” Summer Rae garbage.  On top of that, her personality is starting to really shine through.  She isn’t just a “Bella Twin,” she’s Nikki.  If you need more proof, Brie turned heel just recently to go back to being with Nikki instead of the “triumphant” babyface she was supposed to be.  And now Nikki is Diva’s Champion for the WWE.  That says a lot, and makes me happy.

Honorable Mentions: Tyson Kidd

Even By WWE Standards This Makes No Sense

This was a weird one, and I was going to throw this into the joke categories below, but as I thought about it, there really is an interesting thing here to talk about.  WWE Standards means standard WWE wrestling and television.  And that means that whatever I am to talk about here needs to be ludicrous.  And I am pretty sure I know what wins the award for the E.B.W.S.T.M.N.S. …

Looney Tunes antics stopping Dean Ambrose

Dean Ambrose is the top face in the company right now.  He has the audience in his hands.  He is Stone Cold just before Austin made it to the top.  He is physical, engaging, with great character and gimmick and promos and movesets and an amazing look and … he is treated like utter trash, especially on PPVs.  Let me just share some of the ridiculous things that have happened to Dean Ambrose in just the past few months:

This is just bonkers.  It makes him look weak, as he constantly loses big matches and loses feuds by moving on to new feuds.  You cannot build your company this way!  WWE, look, you have a face the fans LOVE rooting for and seeing, why are you forcing Roman Reigns down our throats instead of using the already popular Dean Ambrose, a man who out sold ALL OTHER WRESTLERS on Black Friday for your company in merchandise?!  Ridiculous.

Honorable Mentions: Not mentioning NXT on Raw, 25 minute promos to main events and no promos for anyone else

Face of the Year

Babyfaces are the wrestlers you cheer for.  They aren’t necessarily good guys, but they are the ones the fans love.  Many times they are heroes, or at least they are wronged, or their obstacles are understandable, but not always.  It is hard to really explain the difference between hero, protagonist and babyface.  But there certainly is an easy thing for me to answer, and that’s who is the Face of the Year …

TIE: Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn

These two guys have spent one whole year building a feud that just recently culminated.  Both men have been the top guys of NXT.  Sami Zayn was, until just recently, the uncrowned champion, the people’s champion of NXT.  Adrian Neville, on the flipside, was the actual champion of NXT, the face of the brand, and the fighting-est, most honorable and skilled champion for nine months.  The two guys were part of amazing matches all year, have incredible reporte with the audience, and drove the entire brand of NXT to be as awesome as it is.

Their feud for these past few months have been some of the most tense feuds I’ve seen.  Their friendship, their rivalry, the way that Neville slowly became more and more heelish as he continued to do fight and fight for his championship, which is all he has ever done, and as Sami Zayn worked harder and harder to prove he was capable of being the top guy.  And in the end, after Neville became as heelish as he ever had been, he was redeemed by his friendship with Zayn, and then the very next week was the fighting warrior who was forgiven by the audience as he tried to redeem himself against the awful heel who destroyed Zayn’s beautiful win.

These two guys deserve this “award” and designation.  Daniel Bryan never had the company behind him.  Reigns became a caricature of himself over the course of three months, then was injured and gone.  Dean Ambrose only came into his own in the last third of the year.  John Cena is awful.  Lucha Underground is too new to really have Johnny Mundo or Sexy Starr or Prince Puma at the top.  These two deserve it, and there were no other choices.

Heel of the Year

Every face needs a heel.  Every heel needs a heel.  And even more, every fan needs a heel.  The story of wrestling, the thing that makes wrestling so magical doesn’t work if there isn’t a heel.  That guy who may do nothing wrong, never be a villain, but is always booed.  The ultimate obstacle, the ultimate other choice.  Cheating, or being a rules lawyer, being a monster or a chicken-crap-coward, there is no singular way to be a heel, and all of them are good, as long as the audience fully stays against them.  You won’t see Bray Wyatt as the winner here because it was only recently he acted as true heel  ignoring and hating the audience, actually getting boos.  No, there is only one (two) people who deserve this award …

Triple H and Stephanie McMahon

They are perfect as heels.  They knew this way back at the turn of the millennium, and they are back doing it amazingly again.  Stephanie is so perfect, and had an amazing match with Brie after almost a decade out of the ring.  Triple H bumped for Brie, did the job for Daniel Bryan, fought hard for his control, was a huge obstacle for everyone, and the two of them were perfect as the bad guys on top.  Last year, I couldn’t say that at all.  Really, it was just this year, it was just them running the show, tricked into giving Daniel Bryan a chance at Wrestlemania where he SUCCEEDED against every odd, but then splitting up the Shield, but then losing the legitimate power of Batista just before he became an enormous commodity, but then they put down the pressure and made life terrible for every face, until Survivor Series where the faces FINALLY beat them!  It was perfect, and these two deserve to be the Heels of the Year.

Now I want to see Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn v. Triple H and Steph as a feud.

Honorable Mentions: Tyson Kidd, Seth Rollins, Don Cueto

IHAO's Top 5 Matches of the Year

This is the thing that matters most.  This is the one.  The Top 5 matches of the Year.  The 5 matches that matter most, that are the pinnacle of wrestling this year.  I reviewed most of them for this site, but let’s not spoil it.  I could talk and talk about these matches, but really, their quality is what matters to me, and I want you guys to just go watch them yourselves.  Let’s go:

Honorable Mentions: Johnny Mundo v. Prince Puma v. Big Ryck Triple Threat Ladder Match @ Lucha Underground s01e07

5) Daniel Bryan v. Bray Wyatt @ Royal Rumble 2014
4) Adrian Neville v. Sami Zayn @ NXT Takeover: (R)Evolution
3) Daniel Bryan v. HHH @ Wrestlemania 30
2) Charlotte v. Natalya @ NXT Takeover
1) Adrian Neville v. Tyson Kidd @ NXT Takeover

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention one more time how disheartened, depressed, and saddened I am because of the Ultimate Warrior’s sudden death just after he finally cleared his entire name with the WWE, entered the Hall of Fame, and gave an amazing speech the Raw after, before passing away.  God bless his family, and may he rest in peace.  Thank you, Warrior.

No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man's heart one day beats its final beat. 
His lungs breathe a final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood 
pulse through the body of others and makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life 
then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory
 of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever. 
You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend markers of Ultimate Warrior. 
In the back I see many potential legends. Some of them with warrior spirits. 
And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. 
So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well. 
Ultimate. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans. 
And the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever!" ~ The Ultimate Warrior

Curt Hennig Award for Best Match While Injured – Ryback, why not
Ironic JR Award for Maximizing Your Minutes – Damien Mizdow
Best Bow Tie – This one, I guess
Greatest Surprise Grunt – Uh … “ooergh!” ((EDIT: I thought of a non-joke answer, "SKRONK!"  RIP Warrior))
Best Beard – Ziggler’s

Wrestler Who Would Most Benefit From Growing a Beard – Erick Rowan

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