Every week, On The Apron brings you features editor Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s thoughts on the latest developments in and around WWE.
Last night, Raw offered one of its odder episodes of the year. This makes sense, given that it’s the holiday season, and WWE needs its employees (sorry, independent contractors) to a) not get injured before the Christmas sabbatical, considering that it’s the closest thing to time off that they get in a year and b) it’s almost WrestleMania season, which means everybody REALLY needs to stay healthy for the next few months. Therefore, we got the latest installment of the Slammy Awards, a program that more than likely isn’t as honest as the WWE App voting encouragements throughout the show would have you believe. In the spirit of the Slammys, I’m going to use WWE’s own categories, but give the results as they (in the opinion of this humble columnist) should have been. Also, I refuse to indulge some of the categories; “Extreme Moment of the Year” is a misnomer if ever there was one.
The First Annual On The Apron Awards
Superstar of the Year
Daniel Bryan. I know it’s an obvious choice, but that’s for a reason. Virtually everything Bryan was involved in this year was gold, and what wasn’t (The Authority) was hardly his fault. He put together an instant-classic run of matches this spring and summer, getting the best match out of Ryback that anyone probably ever will and staging clinic after clinic with The Shield. That’s to say nothing of his SummerSlam match with John Cena, which aside from the post-match shenanigans was an excellent WWE main event-style match, and one of Cena’s best in some time. He also improved on the mic for the most part, and gave a catchphrase to disillusioned wrestling fans the world over. Not bad for a guy whose momentum is endlessly being murdered.
Diva of the Year
AJ Lee. Like, does this require discussion?
Match of the Year
This year has offered far more candidates than usual, none of which were the Slammy-winning John Cena-Dwayne Johnson affair at WrestleMania this past year. That’s the kind of match that convinces wrestling skeptics that they’re right AND insults the intelligence of any fan whose criteria for good wrestling goes beyond “I MISS THE ROCK AND WHEN HE SINGS SONGS THAT SOUND LIKE OTHER SONGS AND ALSO INCLUDE PENIS HUMOR.”
Rant aside, out of all the great trios wrestling WWE has offered this year, and the other non-ambulance-related fare, 2013’s best match was CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. It had every hallmark of a great WWE match in the modern era: hard-hitting as all hell, brutal, and impeccably paced. Punk and Lesnar work really well together because of Punk’s willingness to take real shots and Lesnar’s ability to rely on Punk to hold up his end of the match. (For an example of what happens when Lesnar is the clearly superior wrestler in a match, revisit any of his Triple H trilogy from this/last year.) This was elite-level wrestling by two guys who don’t necessarily have to be as good at it as they are at this point.
Double Cross of the Year
I legitimately went fetal on my girlfriend’s living room floor at the end of SummerSlam. It was telegraphed as all hell, sure, but WWE committed so thoroughly to trying to get the crowd to ignore Triple H’s continued in-ring presence that for a moment it felt like Daniel Bryan was really going to become the WWE champion and that nothing was going to go horribly wrong.
“LOL” Moment of the Year
Insult of the Year
The wholesale replacement of Daniel Bryan in the Authority storyline with Big Show, right down to the co-opting of a chant Bryan got over against all logic. The runner-up would be the Orton-Big Show main event at Survivor Series.
Faction of the Year
The Shield. I don’t know if I can think of another debut group that made this much of an impression in only a year, on top of putting together the highlight reel they already have. When you could release a multi-disc set of great matches for a team that’s only been together for a year, and not even wrestling for a full year yet, that’s something special.
Tag Team of the Year
My soft spot for the Rhodes Brothers aside, most of 2013 saw the title reign of Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, two guys who are going to be massive stars in a couple years’ time. Part of what makes The Shield so damn great is their commitment to wrestling like a team, making the kind of in-ring choices that’ve largely fallen by the wayside in the era of tag teams being a stepping stone to singles stardom and not a means to an end in and of themselves.
Breakout Star of the Year
Since it’s probably cheating to include Bryan again, I’m going to go with Antonio Cesaro. Hear me out. I know the man still isn’t where he should be, which is either as a tag team champion or feuding with Big E Langston to restore prestige to the Intercontinental Championship, most casual fans didn’t know who Cesaro was a year ago except for maybe the yodeling guy. Cesaro has, through a mixture of willpower and endlessly charismatic wrestling, absorbed so much of that Dolph Ziggler-esque “why isn’t this guy a superstar by now?” goodwill, which is an amazing sign going forward given how little WWE has done with him.