I have no plans to watch the upcoming Slammy Awards on Monday Night Raw next week. But that won’t stop me from posting my personal preferences in each of the categories that will be presented that night. (I’m through with making predictions.) So let’s go through them one by one:
Rookie Of The Year Breakout Star Of The Year
Is it right that
three two of the nominated performers in this category aren’t really newcomers but rather repackaged veterans? Nonetheless, this list might very well represent the future of the WWE. However, one name that clearly doesn’t belong is Curtis Axel, the son of Mr. Perfect and grandson of Larry “The Axe” Henning. The former Michael McGillicuty got a major push when he was paired with Paul Heyman and even had a short run with the InterContinental title not that long ago. Despite being a good worker (he has a terrific dropkick), he’s a lousy talker (“Better than perfect?” Whatever.) saddled with a forgettable character and the worst stage name since Rocky Maivia.
Curtis Axel’s former tag team partner Johnny Curtis won the fourth season of NXT and seemed stuck in developmental limbo for years (despite occasional call-ups to the main roster) before he was finally given the Fandango gimmick in late 2012. After working dark matches during TV tapings and regular matches at live events, he was hyped in weekly old-school vignettes on the prime-time shows before finally surfacing on Raw in the build-up to WrestleMania 29.
A self-absorbed dancer who insists on a particular way of saying his name (“It’s…Faaaan…daaaan…goooo!”), Curtis got over very quickly as a heel. But then his memorable entrance music started catching so much fire, it threatened to eclipse his own. Thankfully, he was paired with babyface Chris Jericho and got a major win over him at the Showcase Of The Immortals.
Curtis seemed on the verge of an InterContinental title run but then an untimely injury took him out of the triple threat IC championship match at Payback. The less worthy Axel replaced him to capture the gold. Once he returned, in my view, he lost all momentum. He hasn’t had a decent program since working with Jericho.
The current IC champ, Big E. Langston, is a former NXT titleholder who was originally introduced as Dolph Ziggler’s bodyguard back in the Spring. Built like Ted Arcidi but far more agile and skilled, he’s the kind of big man Vince McMahon prefers in his WWE Superstar. His Big Ending finisher sure beats Arcidi’s standard issue bear hug. Since splitting from Ziggler and AJ Lee, he’s become a good guy but from what I saw before I stopped watching Raw altogether, the change wasn’t clicking right away. He has great potential thanks to his in-ring abilities but he wasn’t the best of this year’s new faces.
Husky Harris didn’t do much for Windham Rotunda (Mike’s kid) during the Nexus days but since he transformed himself into the Southern cult leader Bray Wyatt on NXT he’s become the best new individual character in the WWE this year. Another repackaged performer who benefitted greatly from weekly TV vignettes back in the summer (wonderfully eerie ones, as it turns out), Wyatt doesn’t even have to wrestle to be compelling. All he has to do is talk and he holds your attention.
His protégés, Luke Harper and Erik Rowan, are big tall monsters who can work but Wyatt is the only one of the three who deserves the nomination. Currently working a program with Daniel Bryan, it probably won’t be long before he gets a title push.
As much as I admire what I was able to see Wyatt do this year, this award truly belongs to The Shield. After debuting at last year’s Survivor Series, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins have since collectively established themselves as one of the best trios of all time.
The bookers pitted them against the biggest names in the company and all three were immediately elevated as a result. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen many of their acclaimed pay-per-view matches this year (just a lot of their TV encounters) but I did watch their WrestleMania 29 match against The Big Show, Randy Orton and Sheamus. The show opener was an underrated sleeper.
Within just a few short months, Ambrose became the United States Champion and Reigns & Rollins captured the tag belts. Since R & R dropped their titles to the Rhodes Brothers not that long ago, tension has been teased within all three. Word online is that The Rock’s real-life cousin might be getting a babyface solo push in the near future.
Regardless of what’s to come, 2013 belonged to The Shield.
My pick: The Shield
2. Diva Of The Year
The quality of womens’ wrestling has fallen sharply in the last little while thanks to departed talents and shaky bookings. But that’s not the fault of any of the nominees in this category. I have long admired Jim Neidhart’s daughter, Natalya, who is a fine representative of the Hart family, but despite her technically sound in-ring skills I remember her more for being The Great Khali’s cornerperson this year than for any of her matches.
Kaitlyn had a rather good feud with former tag partner AJ Lee over the Divas Championship earlier in the year but since it ended, her profile has been lowered. It’s too bad because her strength and charisma help her stand out from most of the female roster.
Mick Foley may have appreciated the return of The Bella Twins but I sure didn’t. More annoying than villainous, apparently we’re supposed to like them now because they have their own reality show and they’re each dating popular heroes. I must’ve missed that memo. Thanks to the remarkable absence of an actual ‘face turn, Nikki and Brie haven’t exactly been winning over audiences. And now, for me, it’s too late for them to go back and change that. Blame the bookers.
The red-headed Eva Marie has yet to prove herself beyond slapping Jerry Lawler. According to the online dirt sheets, she has her work cut out for her. She’s greatly disliked backstage. And she’s yet to impress in the ring.
The Funkadactyls remind me at times of The Jumping Bomb Angels with their unique high-flying offense. When they’re not the cheerleaders for Tons Of Funk, they’re a fun tag team in search of worthy rivals. They can certainly do better than the Bellas.
In the end, the only nominee who really had a great year was AJ, the current Divas champ. Thanks to screwing John Cena at last year’s TLC, she started hooking up with Dolph Ziggler who ended up becoming the World Heavyweight Champion for a short time. AJ would taste gold herself at Payback in June. Her relationship fell apart but thankfully, not her title reign nor her very sexy, manipulative persona. The addition of a new submission move, the Black Widow, has given her some much needed in-ring intensity.
She may be the smallest gal on the roster but she is easily the best character. Good worker, very strong talker and the best Divas Champion the company’s had in years. A winner in this category last year, does anyone really believe she shouldn’t take it again this year?
My pick: AJ Lee
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 7, 2013
UPDATE: For some odd reason, the Rookie Of The Year category has now been renamed Breakout Star Of The Year. Even weirder, Curtis Axel is not among what is essentially the same list of nominees. Without erasing history, I’ve put lines through the paragraph devoted to the former InterContinental Champion (since they’re not applicable any more) as well as the original category name. None of this has changed my mind about The Shield deserving this award.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 8, 2013