With last night’s WWE RAW in the books, the 2013 year for WWE is officially over.
Which means it’s officially time to start to nitpick.
While the WWE has had many questionable decisions and cringe-worthy moments in the last year, this list looks to boil those down to the ten absolute worst offenders.
Hold on to your butts. We’re about to relive some very, very rough moments here…
10. Antonio Cesaro yodels his way out of the United States Title scene.
Anyone who has watched a decent amount of Antonio Cesaro’s work recognizes the fact that Cesaro can go. He is without question one of the absolute best performers in WWE today, putting on solid and entertaining bouts week in and week out.
So how does the company choose to recognize his talents?
By dumping a yodeling gimmick on him. Emphasis on “dump.”
Antonio Cesaro’s story as the villainous foreigner holding the United States Championship practically wrote itself, but rather than rely on this time-honored heel tradition, WWE chose to exemplify the skills of the stoic Cesaro by making him a ridiculous farce week in and week out.
Though there were undoubtedly a few who may have enjoyed the gimmick (after all, statistically speaking there are people whose favorite movie is Juwanna Mann), for the most part Cesaro’s antics fell flat on the WWE Universe, causing his reign to crash and burn at the hands of eternal midcarder and apparent belt collector Kofi Kingston, a title change which served only as a transitional state between Cesaro and new United States Champion Dean Ambrose.
As the United States title now sits gathering a metaphorical layer of dust (when was the last time it was defended? It’s felt like months), one must sit and wonder what could have been if Cesaro was permitted the time and the platform to play a truly dominant heel.
9. Ryback turns heel, goes nowhere.
In the closing moments of the epic April 8th, 2013 RAW, Ryback floored then WWE Champion John Cena with a massive meathook clothesline that drew a deafening reaction from the audience in attendance. The reaction is not what one would have expected for a heel turn, and some (including yours truly) were speculating with some hope that this would not be a full blown turn but instead the way that the new baddest face in the yard chose to issue his challenge.
Unfortunately for both Ryback’s career and the WWE Universe, this act was confirmed the following week as a legitimate turn. Ryback, a guy who had overcome the “Goldberg” chants and initial doubts to become a promising, fast rising new star with a catch phrase that was quickly catching on, was now set on the path to becoming yet another generic, cowardly heel.
Of course, this turn wasn’t all terrible initially. After a few awkward promos, Ryback seemed to be gaining a bit of momentum as a jerk. His bouts with John Cena at Extreme Rules and Payback were passable, if not fantastic.
It was everything afterwards which destroyed Ryback’s credibility beyond repair.
From his newly found habit of quitting on matches to having to resort to a roll-up pin on Chris Jericho at Money in the Bank, Ryback went on a streak of stupid that completely destroyed his character.
Now he tags with Curtis Axel.
Which brings us to…
8. Curtis Axel debuts, is instantly awful.
Curtis Axel, the son of Mr. Perfect, is a hometown boy. Billed from Minneapolis, coming from a wrestling family which made their names in the old AWA, Axel is the sort of guy that a Minneapolis Pro Wrestling Examiner is supposed to love.
But Curtis Axel was garbage from the start.
Axel has no ring presence. At all. He is a black hole of charisma that somehow manages to make any match he is involved in meaningless. Axel gained the WWE Intercontinental Championship in a spot that the word “neat” was practically invented to describe, as it was not too flashy, not over the top cool, but good, passable, neat, nifty… and from that point on, he was trash. Not a single notable defense comes to mind, and not even the talents of Paul Heyman could get the local boy over as a legitimate contender.
If Randy Orton is what you would get if you wanted to build a Sports Entertainer from the ground up, Curtis Axel is what you would get if all the parts of the rejected pile suddenly animated and pulled themselves together.
But hey, at least his theme is alright.
7. Nature Boy Ric Flair returns and gives the Figure Four to… The Miz?
While Ric Flair has somewhat tainted his legacy in recent years with his run in TNA and sporadic appearances on WWE programming, his approval will ALWAYS have some meaning in the wrestling world. If Ric Flair says a guy has it, you’ll want to take a second look.
Unless that guy is The Miz.
The Miz is not a terrible talent. While some people will go out of their way to discredit him, the truth is that The Miz works hard and is passable at what he does. But someone at the top must love the guy, because WWE works so hard to make you positive that he’s better than what he is.
First, The Miz is a former WWE Champion. Second, The Miz has main evented a Wrestlemania, a feat even CM Punk has yet to accomplish. For ANY WWE Superstar, these feats should speak for themselves. But for some reason, it just doesn’t stick.
So what does WWE do next? They have Ric Flair pass the Figure Four Leglock on to The Miz, who proceeds to make it look like garbage for months until he finally gets it down, at which point the damage is already done and even when he gets it right people are quick to declare that it’s awful.
Ric Flair, a wrestling legend, perhaps the greatest of all time, bestowed his finishing move on a former WWE Champion, a former Wrestlemania headliner. If it had been anyone else, it might have worked and become one of the top moments of the year. But it was The Miz. And it was awful.
6. Big Show takes the “Yes!” chants straight to a disastrous main event.
First, it’s worth noting that The Authority angle is all about pulling what might loosely be called a “seagull maneuver,” an idea sort of cribbed from Greg Sestero’s work The Disaster Artist which, to put it bluntly, means to “make a ton of noise and crap on everyone.” To this date, no one has benefited from The Authority angle with the exception of The Authority, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, themselves. Virtually everyone who has crossed their paths has been made to look like a complete incompetent, and Big Show is no exception.
Throwing the kayfabe concept of Big Show’s “ironclad contract” out the window, The Authority spent the better part of the fall making Big Show cry (he does that a lot, it’s like someone has a fetish for it), making him hit people they didn’t like, and finally firing him from the company, at which point Big Show would arrive as an intruder, complete with his entrance theme that would cue on command in spite of the fact that he wasn’t on the active roster, and interfere in The Authority’s plans.
Take a break from thinking about this if you need to, it was so needlessly stupid it is actually painful to recall.
To top it off, Big Show would engage in the “Yes!” chants in what was a clear attempt to transfer Bryan’s momentum and catchphrase to someone who had more of the qualities that the higher-ups were looking for… well, “quality” would be a better term, and that quality would be size.
In the end, Big Show challenged Randy Orton in a blowoff match to end the entire garbage angle in a bout which would elicit “boring” chants from a crowd which had completely tuned out.
One can’t fault Big Show for this complete disaster. But it’s hard not to want to hold someone accountable for the whole fiasco.
5. Wade Barrett continues to suffer from gimmick dysfunction.
“Hard as nails English bare knuckle brawler” should NOT be a difficult gimmick to sell.
Take a tough guy, let him be tough, and the story will write itself.
But, like with most gimmicks and storylines, WWE chooses too often to take the scenic route, detouring past the obvious into the realms of the obnoxious and the bizarre.
Wade Barrett’s year started with a tiny appearance in the Colin Farrell film Dead Man Down, a forgettable crime drama/thriller which brought in all of about ten million bucks in its run. So of course, Wade has to take a run as the conceited jagoff who blows his appearance in a mediocre film out of proportion.
This goes nowhere. If recollection serves, he got picked on by Sheamus for a few weeks then was thrust into a different feud when they found something more interesting to do with Fella.
Then Wade Barrett gets sidelined again, and in his off time he begins appearing on the popular (in certain crowds) YouTube show, “The JBL and Cole Show,” as a character by the name of Bad News Barrett. A character which works in small doses on something of a comedy show.
Not a character that works in awkward weekly appearances on WWE programming.
Bad News Barrett is a one-note gimmick, a mediocre cheap heat machine which has been awkwardly thrust upon an excellent talent that deserves a million times better and has for years. Wade Barrett would be better off being saddled with a knock-off of the old Conan O’Brien Masturbating Bear gimmick than he would be with this gimmick right now.
But that wouldn’t be TV-PG.
4. Xavier Woods and R-Truth feud with Brodus Clay over entrance music and an entourage.
Every step of this list is like slogging through quicksand at this point, and every word typed feels more and more like a repeated cry of “Why?”
Xavier Woods was a good talent in NXT. Not great, not fantastic, but good. He had good matches, some good backstage moments. He was fine.
Were there perhaps other talents more deserving of a callup? Yes, probably. But someone felt it was his time, and that’s alright.
So Woods makes his debut alongside R-Truth with ZERO build-up. No video packages, no promos, he just shows up one week to reform an obscure TNA tag team that no one remembers. And in the following weeks, rather than develop on his own personality, the one that he has been working on in NXT for awhile now, he begins to become some strange hybrid between R-Truth and a Funkasaurus.
In a feud that is headache-inducing to think about, Brodus Clay unleashes a fury which destroys Tons of Funk and drives The Funkadactyls to the waiting danceline of the ever-so-compelling Woods and Truth, all over the use of his entrance theme and the fact that Naomi and Cameron accompanied Woods and Truth to the ring.
Whatever you do, do not think about that too much. It may kill something inside you.
As of this writing, Brodus Clay is a man alone, and this feud doesn’t quite feel over. Feel free to engage in an emphatic facepalm at will.
3. Miz turns heel… OR DOES HE?
With just a short amount of time left before the debut of The Miz’s made for TV movie Christmas Bounty, The Miz and Kofi Kingston were set to participate in a tag team match against The Real Americans on RAW. The match happens, it’s going fairly well, when suddenly Miz refuses a hot tag from Kofi and leaves Kingston to his fate.
While this is dumb, it’s certainly not the worst heel turn that has ever happened.
But then something strange happened. WWE, likely realizing that it’s a bit harder to promote a heel’s movie, waffled on The Miz’s turn, and in the following weeks his character became a confusing mess. From face to heel, good guy to total dink, it changed from week to week, even from day to day it seemed.
While WWE is notorious for quick turns of some athletes (see: Big Show) the idea of being noncommittal towards a Miz turn is outright ridiculous. The Miz’s run as a face has been outright boring, but he has in the past made a solid heel. To jump back and forth like this like a small child dipping their toe in cold water then running around the pool giggling from the cold is just idiotic.
2. Dolph Ziggler has two career defining moments, ends the year doing pretty much nothing.
While many would say that WWE dropped the ball with Daniel Bryan this year, there are those who would argue that they dropped it much, much, much harder with Dolph Ziggler, an individual who, like Bryan, has worked incredibly hard for the company and deserves the accolades which he has earned.
Ziggler’s crowning achievement in 2013 was doubtless the cash in of his Money in the Bank contract, a fantastic moment which will be etched in history as one of the best cash ins of all time and one of the top moments of 2013. But a moment which is often overlooked is the beautifully executed double turn in the World Heavyweight Championship match between Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio.
In that match, Ziggler created an entirely new image for himself as the gutsy, never-say-die champion who had endless fight, an image which complimented his crass, confident attitude. This image focused his character and actually made him a natural babyface for which it was easy to root.
And how did WWE capitalize on this potential new rising face in their company?
By having him fail to gain redemption by recapturing the belt, then having him flounder from moment to moment with a ridiculous amount of 50/50 booking, trading wins with one individual after another until his momentum was all but lost.
Then again, it could be worse. If Ziggler had retained, he could just have turned heel again so he could be fed to a returning John Cena at Hell in a Cell…
1. Damien Sandow is defeated by a one armed man, becomes the first man to lose his Money in the Bank cash in match.
Before we get started, a quick note: yes, John Cena failed in his Money in the Bank bid to win the title from CM Punk in 2012. But he WON the match by DQ.
Damien Sandow lost clean as a whistle to a one armed man not only 24 hours removed from a hard fought match, but ten minutes removed from a brutal ringside beatdown.
John Cena’s victory over Damien Sandow crushed Sandow’s legitimacy. While it could have been an opportunity to unleash a leaner, meaner, more focused Damien Sandow, it instead saw Sandow float quietly away from the title picture. Damien Sandow became yet another victim of a company which is apparently terrified of trying out someone new.
Think something else was way worse? Be heard in the comments, or on Twitter @midcrdmanifesto!