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The Spinning Lariat: Best of TNA 2013

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Every week in The Spinning Lariat, Trent Zuberi discusses the latest developments in both TNA Impact Wrestling and in American independent wrestling at large.

TNA Impact Wrestling had a busy year in 2013. Various ups, various downs, highs, lows, victories and setbacks were all in fully supply, but overall it’s been a good year. This past year will be remembered as one of TNA’s most progressive in their 11-year history, because not only were changes made, but risks beyond measure were taken in order to grow the brand as a whole, which is what the industry needs in this day and age. From a superstar perspective, this was a fantastic year. TNA had no shortage of career highs and features that only solidified the fact that they have one of the best rosters (top to bottom) that the wrestling business has ever seen. The absolute quality of the talent that TNA encompasses is noteworthy in and of itself, but the fact that that this roster only gets better week in and week out shows any viewer the amazing array of skills each of them have. It is with that that The Spinning Lariat, in its debut year, brings you its first year-end awards list!

Superstar of the Year

BULLY RAY – You don’t normally see the top heel in the company listed as the superstar of the year when it comes to lists like this…until now. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the wrestler that carried the company and talked every possible set of eyeballs into the program this year was Bully Ray. Everything from the reformed good guy run to the revelation as leader of the Aces & Eights and beyond kept everyone hooked. Ray was already a respected veteran from his days in the tag team world, but his capturing of the World Heavyweight Championship and his proving that he could be the top dog of a promotion upped his game to a whole new level. His incredible performances and persistent psychology proved that he has the IT factor to be at the top of a wrestling promotion. Great matches and stories included, the man had a fantastic year.

Tag Team of the Year

BAD INFLUENCE – Was there even a doubt? They are the only tag team out there that gets exactly how to be a tag-team. Insanely funny vignettes and in-ring antics kept viewers entertained all year along, with solid matches to boot. From the Road Warriors spoof in Chicago to the Sherlock Holmes and Watson on Halloween, Bad Influence kept us watching whenever they hit the screen. Ironically, they seemingly lost more matches than they won this year, but the way they worked TOGETHER and played off each other every second they shared the camera showed how in-sync these two guys are with each other and when it comes to working an audience. They weren’t able to recapture the titles this year, but 2014 looks good for them to have a top run.

Knockout of the Year

BROOKE TESSMACHER – Tess really came into her own this year. From her vast in-ring improvements to her clearer understanding of the psychology involved in captivating an audience, she proved that this was the year she made her true mark in the business. With the way the year was originally going, this award would have been reserved for Taryn Terrell, but with her sudden absence due to pregnancy the void for a candidate was created. When Brooke was cast into the role of Bully Ray’s main squeeze for the mid-late year, her full commitment to the story and character proved why she is at the top of the list this year.

Breakout Star of the Year

MAGNUS – No one has improved or set his course for stardom this year more than Magnus. Since his debut he has improved year in and year out, but this year he finally became a true force. It was evident in January when TNA hit his hometown of London, England, and the crowd in Wembley Arena exploded, that we have a star on our hands. Some argued that it was the obvious hometown pop, but that was proven wrong when they returned to the U.S. and the pops continued in city after city. His ring work gets better and better by the match, and the way he carries himself on camera speaks to his being a true champion in the making. He has the look, the ability and the charisma to be at the top of the promotion, and his star continues to rise.

X-Division Star of the Year

CHRIS SABIN – It was extremely hard to decide between Chris Sabin and Austin Aries for this award. Both competitors held the X-Division strong this past year and had some very exciting matches throughout to keep the story involving the belt interesting. However, Sabin takes the victory on this one because in terms of championship and character, he shifted into fifth gear and didn’t slow down. Returning from the worst string of injuries a young talent could face, Sabin jumped right in at mid-year and took the X-Division championship (totaling three times throughout the year) and also used the infamous Option C to win his first World Heavyweight Championship from Bully Ray in August. With that win, he became one of the few talents to transition from X-Division to Heavyweight Champion and back again, all while keeping himself strong. With his recent heel turn, he also displayed a new side of his personality that will definitely prove to be a breakout attraction of his character come 2014.

Highlight of the Year

AJ STYLES – Absolutely, without a doubt, the biggest highlight of the company in 2013 was its franchise player AJ Styles winning the World Heavyweight Championship. He had a strange build to get to the top this year. A screwy storyline last year that made no sense but ultimately led into the current program kept viewers confused for a while, but ultimately pleased with the result. The shift to the lone wolf/dark incarnate and subsequent return to the phenomenal version of the character kept all viewers hooked and chanting his name on shows he wasn’t even on throughout the year, proving his worth to the audience. His climb through the BFG series and ultimate victory in October built the vehicle in which we’d take the journey. With his winning of the World Heavyweight Championship and walk-out storyline, we have our target for 2014. Something awesome is brewing, and when it boils over the man standing at the top will be the one that kept us hooked throughout the year.

A special thanks to all who have supported The Spinning Lariat this year! I cannot tell you how touched I have been with the responses I have found from readers and wrestlers alike. It’s been such an honor and privilege to write about my “home team” of TNA Impact Wrestling this year and get to express my views and bring a new perspective to wrestling journalism and for that I thank HEAVEmedia for the outlet. Here’s to even more growth in 2014!

Questions, Comments, Feedback? Connect with me @Vanillajoke on Twitter!