AS I SEE IT
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
As 2009 moves into 2010, it’s time for the 13th annual AS I SEE IT Year-End Review. As usual, I should note that my selections are based on what I’ve actually seen this year, either live, online, on TV, or via tape/DVD; which primarily means North American wrestling.
2009 PROMOTION OF THE YEAR:
WWE, by default.
WWE wins by default in being the only real national touring wrestling company that turns out a reasonably succesful and consistent product….even with its many faults. Dragon Gate USA hasn’t run enough shows to call them a promotion as of yet. Previous long term winner Ring of Honor has yet to recover from firing Gabe Sapolsky. Crowds in Philadelphia are down to the point where tickets are given away to get people to come to the TV tapings at the ECW Arena…a market where fans were willing to pay premium fans to come to the Northeast Armory to see house shows. God willing in 2010 that Jim Cornette’s presence has a measurable positive effect in returning Ring of Honor to a level approaching where it used to be.
Awards for the decade: WWF/E 3, Ring of Honor 7
2009 WRESTLER OF THE YEAR:
Chris Jericho, WWE
How many wrestlers are there who you actually look forward to seeing each and every time they appera on your screen…or live in an arena? Chris Jericho epitomizes a great heel in the classic sense. He insults fans, wrestlers, and then backs it up, both in storyline and in the ring for smart fans that know they get their money’s worth. Between his matches with Ricky Steamboat (a personal mark-out moment to watch Steamboat one more time), his program with Rey Mysterio, his Jerishow tag team with the Big Show he carried the year for me.
Awards for the decade: WWF/E 5, Ring of Honor 5
2009 WORST WRESTLER OF THE YEAR:
The Great Khali, WWE
Need I say much more? Khali is great for fulfilling Vince McMahon’s big man fetish, and very little else. I’ve seen men or women in wrestling school who can do more in the ring. I’ve seen Mae Young do better comedy (OK, she gets a chuckle, anyway…). Hell, I’ve seen Santino Marella do better comedy. Some would argue that certain episodes of TNA do better comedy without trying.
“Awards” for the decade: WCW 2, TNA 1 XPW 1, WWE 6
2009 TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR:
American Wolves (Davey Richards/Eddie Edwards), Ring of Honor
Since what role of Davey Richards will play in 2010 is somewhat questionable (co promoter on EVOLVE? singles wrestler in EVOLVE, tag team wrestler in ROH? all of the above?), I wanted to give the American Wolvesone mention at their peak as a tag team.
In the diminished atmosphere of Ring of Honor 2009, this tag team has been one of the highlights of the promotion and has delivered consistently in the ring, with their programs against Kevin Steen/El Generico and The Briscoe Brothers; as well as their MOTY candidate against Bryan Danielson/Tyler Black. Richards also had added great singles matches over the year in Ring of Honor with KENTA and Bryan Danielson, YAMATO and Shingo with Dragon Gate USA. The American Wolves come off like a old-school heel tag team that can back it up in the ring
Awards for the decade: WWE 3, TNA 4, ROH 3
2009 ANGLE/FEUD OF THE YEAR WINNER
CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy, WWE
This was the hottest feud of the year, and helped transition Punk into his “I’m better than you/straight edge heel” personna. A year’s worth of CM Punk wanting to rescue us from Jeff Hardy was great in the ring and on the mike. Nopw that we’ve enjoyed it for a minute, think about it. In the new squeaky clean, approved by Linda McMahon’s campaign, can’t even have haredway blood in a Hell In The Cell WWE of 2009…that the “straight edge” Punk is the heel… but the Jeff Hardy with drug suspensions (and an drug-related arrest after he left WWE) is the babyface. Even with his contract issues with WWE, Hardy more than held up his share of the program in the ring, and made it a memorable..if all too short feud.
It seems that this feud is being set up to resume, if Hardy becomes free from his legal issues, as there’s been more than a few Punk promos directed at Jeff Hardy, even after Hardy;s departure.
Awards for the decade: WWE 6, CZW/ROH 1, TNA/ROH 1, JAPW 1
2009 WORST/MOST TASTELESS ANGLE OF THE YEAR
John Bradshaw Layfield “hires” Shawn Michaels because Michaels has “lost his money in bad investments”, WWE.
OK, let me get this straight. As 2009 begins, the unemployment rate is skyrocketing (all the way to 10% official rate by the end of 2009), business after business is closing with people losing jobs by the thousands as a result. Banks are closing (well over 100 by the end of the year).
So what does WWE give fans to take them away from their problems? Exciting matches? New stars?
Oh, I dunno. How about reminding wrestling fans OF their problems each week on Monday Night RAW and on PPV to boot with a storyline that talks about a wrestler who “lost his money in bad investments”?
Along with tasteless, how about just plain stupid? Most fans realize that Shawn Michaels is being paid by Vince McMahon to appear on his wrestling show, so they realize he isn’t exactly destitute. Otherwise, how in the hell was he getting from show to show each week…let alone to PPVs and house shows? Even worse was that the angle reminded adult fans of the fact that they could lose their job at any time…if they haven’t already done so.
Honorable mention goes to the “fake Sarah Palin” on TNA for being ten levels beyond stupid. Way to get over your lead heels by having them believe that another wrestler is the Republican spokesmodel…er, nominee for Vice President.
“Awards” for the decade: WWE 10
2009 MATCHES OF THE YEAR:
WWE- Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, WWE WrestleMania 25, April 5, 2009, Houston, TX
As much as Undertaker is clearly suffering the physical effects of years in the ring, he can pull out a classic story to tell for a major show. The same goes for Shawn Michaels. The match featured old-school storytelling with a slow build, which made the match and the finish all that much more to anticipate and enjoy.
Independent – Naruki Doi/Masato Yoshino vs. SHINGO/Dragon Kid, Dragon Gate USA Open The Freedom Gate, November 28, 2009, ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA
These four cranked things up to a speed and execution level that was amazing weith false finishes and with multiple double team spots. This blow-away match topped YAMATO-Davey Richards from earlier in the evening which might well have been my Match of The Year otherwise. The ECW Arena crowd was white-hot for this match. This match was definitely worth buying the PPV for this match alone.
2009 CARD/PPV OF THE YEAR:
WWE- WWE WrestleMania 25, April 5, 2009, Houston, TX
Some have argued that this was a one-match PPV with Shawn Michaels-Undertaker. Give me a match that leaves me satisfied like that and I’ll take a one-match PPV anytime. Given the segment that aired on RAW recently, we may get a repeat again this year at Wrestlemania 26.
Independent- Dragon Gate USA “Open The Historic Gate”, July 25, 2009, ECW Areana, Philadelphia, PA (aired on PPV as “Enter the Dragon” on September 4)
There have been few shows I actually got excited to view in 2009. Dragon Gate USA “Open The Historic Gate” was one of them PA. The show which packed the ECW Arena despite premium-proced tickets in the middle of the 2009 recession featured YAMATO-BxB Hulk; the eight man CHIKARA showcase featuring The Colony (Fire Ant & Soldier Ant), Jigsaw and Mike Quackenbush vs. F.I.S.T. (Icarus/Gran Akuma), Amasis and Hallowicked; Dragon Kid-Masato Yoshino; The Young Bucks (Nick and Matt Jackson) vs. Cima/Susumu Yokosuka and Naruki Doi vs. Shingo blew away what many have suggested is the most jaded, hard to please crowd in the world, the Philadelphia independent wrestling fan.
2009 WORST CARD/PPV OF THE YEAR:
TNA Victory Road 2009, July 19, 2009, Orlando, FL
How about a night that saw “Dr.” Stevie Richards win over Abyss by using a “tazer” for the win (didn’t work any better in WCW, either), The Dudleys…er, Team 3D having to try to carry the British Invasion, Elsewhere, Kevin Nash went over AJ Styles clean (way to get over your young talent, TNA). Sting (by all accounts) wouldn’t go up for Samoa Joe’s muscle buster in their match, forcing Samoa Joe to improvise for the finish. Topping them all was likely the worst match of the year, if not one of the worst of all time on a major show, Jenna Morasca (whose wrestling credentials include being the Survivor 6 winner) vs. Sharmell. This one ranked up there with the infamous Jackie Gayda/Christopher Nowinski-Trish Stratus/ Bradshaw July 8, 2002 RAW from Philadelphia that I was unfortunate enough to witness.
“Awards” for the decade: WCW 2, TNA 2, WWE 5, World Wrestling All-Stars 1
2009 BEST TV SHOW OF THE YEAR:
WWE Smackdown by default, pretty much because of CM Punk, John Morrison, and Chris Jericho (and Jim Ross until his recent illness). Yet we also get such not-so-classic moments as “PIggie James” segments, and the unending Teddy Long on probation segments with Vince McMahon. Maybe Vince will have something better to do with Bret Hart shortly.
If Comcast let the Philadelphia market get ROH on HDNet, at least we’d have some degree of wrestling (even if not what it used to be) and I could give them an award.
Awards for the decade: OVW 4, WWE 5, TNA 1
2009 WORST TV SHOW OF THE YEAR:
TNA Impact, TNA
How about a wrestling show that featured 95% of the X-division and younger stars being jobbed out so a stable made up of 50-year-olds could have one more run, including a whole episode featuring the Main Event Mafia with “their own announcers” (sound like the infamous NWO Nitro anyone?)… or Booker T cutting promos with a different accent each week… or Abyss-Foley, first friends, then enemies (over a torn up, autographed picture!?), then friends, now Lord only knows what…Super Eric.. or Kurt Angle being turned into a comedy figure, then someone who cried because TNA turned his “private dressing room” into a closet.
All too many of the good wrestling matches that were taped for Impact were chopped to pieces for commercials, while we had to see comedy segments (unedited, of course) that made Monday Night RAW look like classic Saturday Night Live.
Pennsylvania, Delaware, southern New Jersey on WGTW Channel 48
“Awards” for the decade: WCW 2, WXW 1, The Wrestling Federation 1, 3 WWE, 3 TNA
2009 TV ANNOUNCER OF THE YEAR:
Jim Ross, Smackdown, WWE
There’s simply no one who can get over the history of wrestling and get over the emotion of a storyline than Ross. Here’s hoping we get to see Jim Ross for one more run on Smackdown (or prefereably on RAW where he belongs with Jerry Lawler) so he can get over the presumed Bret Hart-Vince McMahon storyline in 2010. Maybe if McMahon’s involved IN the storyline he won’t be able to scream in Ross’s earpiece and get in the way. Honorable mention to the TNA version of Taz(z). See how much better he does when Vince McMahon isn’t trying to force-feed him sports entertainment garbage in his earpiece?
Awards for the decade: WWF 5, TNA 4, NWA Wildside 1
2009 WORST TV ANNOUNCER OF THE YEAR:
Michael Cole, WWE Monday Night RAW
There’s probably no truth to the rumor that a Michael Cole drinking game has been started to get viewers through a night of watching RAW, especially since it’s the only way to get through Monday Night RAW in the brand-new Linda McMahon-Senate-campaign-approved wrestling-suitable-for-10-year-olds-world of WWE. Rumor has it that every time you hear phrases like “controlled frenzy”, “WWE Universe”, or “longest running episodic television program” you have to take a drink. It’s usually a good idea to have had a really good meal before watching RAW as a result. Otherwise, you won’t make it past the 10:00 pm break before passing out.
Then, you need an emetic after listening to the latest Michael Cole cheap shot at Jim Ross. News bulletin, dipshit…I’d rather watch Jim Ross even suffering with his health issues for three hours than you for five minutes.
“Awards” for the decade: WCW 2, WXW 1, WWE 5, TNA 2
2009 WRESTLING NEWS STORIES OF THE YEAR
Congressional steroids report – The story that many thought woudl have had the longest-term effect turned out to have limited effect. WWE continued on with a Wellness Program that didn’t save the life of Eddie Fatu, but has saved the life of others like MVP. TNA’s drug testing has apparently been limited with no suspensions and no changes in the physical appearance of talent. But no changes were made in the promotions, allowing for more time off for in-ring talent to naturally heal.
Shane McMahon resigns from WWE – The single story that may have the biggest long-term effect on wrestling is Shane McMahon leaving the family business. No one knows as the year ends what his future holds, whether MMA or some other enterprise.
“The Wrestler”- The high profile of “The Wrestler” showed wrestling as a performance art, and the hold it has on some long-term wrestlers after they leave the bigtime…and the effect it can have on them as a result.
Death of Mitsuharu Misawa – The stunning in-ring death of Japanese legend Mitsuhara Misawa saddened many and signified to many the end of the classic era of Japanese wrestling.
Linda McMahon Senate Campaign – This may be Vince McMahon last and biggest attempt at legitimizing WWE’s image to the general public, however directly or indirectly you think WWE has an effect on her campaign…and that her campaign has had an effect on WWE’s in-ring product, including turning RAW into a comedy show and the removal of even hardway blood from PPVs
show business, PTC forced to surrender, NWA-TNA, Philadelphia independent wars
That’s the AS I SEE IT year in review.
Until next time…
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