The 2015 WWE Johnny Awards will be posted on Monday. Here is last year’s version. Note that some of the links won’t work because we moved the site.
Welcome to the 2014 WWE Johnny Awards. These are the awards where we honor the hard working employees of World Wrestling Entertainment based on their work over the last twelve months. I come to you today to present the very “prestigious” awards that I call the 6th annual WWE Johnny Awards! This is World Wrestling Entertainment stuff ONLY. It says it in the title, but I want you to remember that when you ask why there’s no New Japan, TNA or ROH in here. It’s WWE only!
These awards are based on my own personal choice. There were no polls or write-in votes. My name is on the awards, so I get to pick the winners. I don’t expect anybody reading this to agree with every single thing I write below, but I will do my best to justify all of my choices. The awards are based on performance. It doesn’t necessarily matter if a person wins all their matches on television. It’s about the performance more than anything. (This intro was basically the same as the last two years. You’re welcome.)
Regarding NXT, I watch it every week. I’m going to add five categories towards the bottom related to NXT only, so look out for that. The other awards are for the main roster.
THE 20 MAJOR JOHNNY AWARDS
There will be 20 major awards. Each one will have a description of what the award is, the previous winners of the award (if the award existed in the last five years), the winner of the award, the runners-up for the award, and then my extended thoughts on the award. Some write-ups are longer than others. There are some “worst” awards too because some bad things deserve to be remembered too. I’ll also include photos, videos and links to relevant content so be on the lookout for that throughout the column. Let’s get to it.
1. BEST WRESTLER
To be given to the person that best combines workrate, character, microphone work and everything else into one. This is similar to WWE’s Superstar of the Year award. Past winners – 2013: Daniel Bryan, 2012: CM Punk, 2011: CM Punk, 2010: Randy Orton, 2009: Chris Jericho
Winner: Seth Rollins (Runners-Up: Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, John Cena, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan)
It’s a tough one because I don’t think there’s a runaway, clear winner like there’s been in the past three years, but when I really think back to everything in the year then my choice is Seth Rollins narrowly ahead of Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose.
Rollins is one of the best in-ring performers in WWE that had so many great matches this year as part of The Shield against the likes of Wyatt Family and Evolution. His heel turn in June was one of the biggest moments of the year. That summer/fall feud with Dean Ambrose was very entertaining. It seems as if he’s wrestled on television more than anybody this year and that’s because he’s always capable of having a great match. I can think of standout matches with Ambrose, Ziggler, Cena, Orton, Reigns and others. He’s improved a lot on the microphone since the turn too. There’s a lot more confidence when he talks now compared to what it was like earlier in the year. Rollins is 28 years old and says he’s the future of WWE all the time, but he’s really the present too. As the current Money in the Bank holder, he’s destined to be a WWE Champion in 2015.
Dolph Ziggler has really come on strong in the second half of the year. That’s because of his work ethic, but also WWE realizing he deserves more TV time. In the first half of the year he really wasn’t being used very well. In terms of in-ring performance, he’s one of the best in the company. It would be nice if he had more of a chance to do promos. Hopefully that comes as his rise continues. Ziggler’s matches are on the same level as Rollins and they had some great ones together as well. It’s just that Rollins had more high profile matches, so that helped him a lot.
If Daniel Bryan was around more he probably would have won again. It’s just hard for me to give this award to somebody that wrestled for four months and was injured the rest of the year. Those four months were amazing including several great matches. He’s the most popular wrestler out there, but there just weren’t enough matches from him. Bryan’s my favorite wrestler in WWE. It’s not about playing favorites. I just had to pick the best.
Guys like Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt have incredibly bright futures. I can see one of them winning this award in the next three to five years. Ambrose is really good as a face, but he’d probably be better as a heel. Wyatt would be a really strong heel if he was allowed to be more vicious.
Regarding the likes of Cena and Orton, they had several good matches. It’s just that they don’t do anything that ever feels extra special. Cena’s never won the Best Wrestler award, but that doesn’t mean I’m a hater. Others have been better.
You may notice that Brock Lesnar isn’t even listed with the runners up. It’s because he’s not around enough. Four matches with about 20 appearances on television. That’s not going to do it.
2. BEST FEUD
To be given to the best rivalry between two or more performers. Past winners – 2013: CM Punk vs. Paul Heyman/Brock Lesnar, 2012: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan, 2011: Randy Orton vs. Christian, 2010: The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan, 2009: CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy
Winner: Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority (Runners-Up: Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins, Wyatt Family vs. The Shield)
The first four months were dominated by Daniel Bryan’s feud with The Authority’s Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. It also involved Randy Orton, Batista and Kane. WWE did a great job of making Bryan a sympathetic babyface by having him fight against the powers that be. Every time it looked like he might fail, he kept on fighting back. There were several great parts to the story like Bryan’s “Occupy Raw” segment, Hunter finally unleashing a beating on Bryan and then their match that opened WrestleMania 30. In addition to that, we got the great ending at WrestleMania 30 with Bryan winning the WWE Title in a great match against both Randy Orton & Batista. The only mistake in the story was that Bryan should have won the Royal Rumble, but thankfully they fixed that in the next couple of months.
That Ambrose/Rollins feud post Shield breakup was outstanding. It started in early June and then they had their big match as the main event of the Hell in a Cell PPV. A problem with the feud was that they didn’t have any great matches with a clean finish. Their Raw match ended with cinder blocks and Hell in a Cell had interference from Bray Wyatt. It has left us wanting more. There’s still unfinished business between them.
When the Wyatt Family had their first face to face meeting with The Shield, the crowd erupted in “this is awesome” chants before they even touched eachother. Their matches were outstanding too. They managed to live up to the immense hype.
3. BEST MATCH
To be given to the best match. Past winners – 2013: Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk @ SummerSlam, 2012: The Undertaker vs. Triple H (Shawn Michaels as ref) @ WrestleMania 28, 2011: CM Punk vs. John Cena @ Money in the Bank, 2010 winner: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 26, 2009 winner: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 25
Winner: The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield @ Elimination Chamber (Runners-Up: Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista @ WrestleMania 30, The Usos vs. Harper/Rowan @ Battleground, Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan @ Royal Rumble, Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro vs. Tyson Kidd @ Smackdown Nov 11, The Shield vs. Evolution @ Extreme Rules)
This is always the toughest award to pick. I re-watched several of the matches that I rated really high during the year and tried to compare them all the best way I could.
That Wyatt Family/Shield match topped the list for me because they had a wild six man tag team match for 22 minutes in front of a hot crowd that was very appreciative of their work. This is from my review: “The pacing was perfect, the violence was just right and the ending was magnificent. Slow in the beginning with different guy getting a shot in the ring and then the last 7 minutes were off the charts. Reigns was phenomenal as the lone man on his team. It was weird that Ambrose was basically written out of the match after the brawl with Harper. I like how Rollins was taken out. It was a huge bump to have him put through a table with a Double Chokeslam. It seemed like Reigns might pull it off, but I’m glad he didn’t because a win for Wyatt really helps him.” That’s my match of the year. It was such a tough call.
There was a trend I noticed this year. There weren’t any matches that I’d rate at five stars out of five, but several matches that I rated around ****1/2 out of five, so it was tough to really narrow it down. Also, plenty of great matches that weren’t in the traditional one on one format…I might be a bit biased towards Bryan/Orton/Batista because I was there, but it was such a special match to me. It was an incredible moment to witness live and they told a hell of a story too…That 2/3 falls tag match with The Usos beating Harper/Rowan was the perfect example of how great tag team wrestling can be. So many wonderful nearfalls and a hot finish too…Wyatt vs. Bryan is one of the more underrated matches of the year. Maybe it’s forgotten because it happened on the first PPV, but it’s really good…That Ziggler/Cesaro/Kidd match was phenomenal during a boring period in the WWE calendar. Three of the best workers in the company were given 15 minutes to have a great match and that’s what they did…The Shield had two PPV matches with Evolution. The first one was better with Seth Rollins hitting that memorable balcony dive.
If you’re wondering, none of the NXT matches topped this one for me although Zayn vs. Neville from NXT Takeover: R Evolution would be in my top five.
4. BEST PAY-PER-VIEW
To be given to the best pay-per-view. Past winners – 2013: SummerSlam, 2012:Extreme Rules, 2011: Money in the Bank, 2010 winner: WrestleMania 26, 2009 winner: Summerslam
Winner: WrestleMania 30 (Runners-Up: SummerSlam, Money In The Bank)
WrestleMania 30 was the best PPV of the year. Daniel Bryan was the main focus of the event with two outstanding matches. He beat Triple H in the PPV opener, which is one of the best PPV openers ever, and then he won the WWE Title in the main event by beating Randy Orton & Batista to win the WWE Title. Two memorable matches won by the guy that is arguably the best in the world. It’s hard to beat that. On top of Bryan’s moments, we also saw that Hogan/Austin/Rock meeting in the ring to start the show, which provided some memorable moments. Then there was Brock Lesnar beating The Undertaker, who went to 21-1 at WrestleMania because of the loss. It wasn’t a great match, but it was a special moment. There were other solid matches like John Cena beating Bray Wyatt and Cesaro’s battle royal win too. It was a great WrestleMania and the best PPV of the year. I was glad I was there. (Review)
SummerSlam was definitely the second best. There weren’t any match of the year contenders, but none of the match were that bad and all of them were given the right amount of time. Sometimes PPVs are rushed. This one flowed perfectly. Brock Lesnar’s dominant defeat of John Cena for the WWE Title was an ending we won’t soon forget. (Review)
Money in the Bank is traditionally one of the better PPVs of the year just because when you have two long ladder matches with multiple people you’re going to get a great show. The ladder match win by Seth Rollins was better than the ladder match won by John Cena, but both were above average. In addition to those matches, The Usos had a very good tag match against Harper & Rowan like usual. (Review)
If you want more details on my PPV rankings, I did a feature for WhatCulture.com all about the 12 PPVs this year.
5. BEST FEMALE PERFORMER
To be given to the best female performer. Past winners – 2013: AJ Lee, 2012: Eve, 2011: Beth Phoenix, 2010 winner: Natalya, 2009 winner: Mickie James
Winner: Paige (Runners-Up: Stephanie McMahon, AJ Lee, Natalya)
Paige wins in her first year on the main roster in what I’d consider a close call. She’s only 22 years old, so she has a very good chance at being the first woman to win this award more than once. She started out as a face, then went heel during her ongoing feud with AJ Lee and seems to be more comfortable in that role. Fans are starting to cheer her again, though, so maybe a face run is in her future. The only thing Paige needs to really stand out is to have the opportunity to have longer matches. Too many short matches on Raw as well as PPVs. That’s not her fault. Management has to change things.
Stephanie McMahon deserves a lot praise for being a true heel that did a consistently great job of upsetting the fans every time they saw her…AJ Lee’s gone down as a performer. She’s very stale and may not be as focused anymore with her husband CM Punk out of WWE…Natalya’s in here due to her consistency as the best in-ring performer among the divas. Much like Paige, she needs to be in longer matches to really show how talented she is…An honorable mention also goes to both Nikki & Brie Bella. They’ve improved a lot in the last couple of years although their feud sucked.
6. BEST TALKER
To be given to the best person at delivering promos. Past winners – 2013: Paul Heyman, 2012: CM Punk, 2011: CM Punk, 2010 winner: CM Punk, 2009 winner: Chris Jericho
Winner: Paul Heyman (Runners-Up: Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Stephanie McMahon)
It’s a repeat winner in this category. As long as Paul Heyman appears regularly, he’s either going to be the winner or one of the runners up because the man knows how to cut a promo better than just about anybody n the business. He wasn’t on the show every week due to Brock Lesnar’s absence for much of the year, but he had moments where he would do promos for Lesnar when he wasn’t there or when he was managing Cesaro too. Heyman is gifted as a talker. Let’s hope he sticks around for a long time because any show is better with him on it. Remember his rap against John Cena? It was classic.
Wyatt and Ambrose both have the potential to win this award in the future. Other than John Cena, Wyatt probably gets to talk more than any other active wrestler in WWE. That shows that management must have a lot of faith him and that’s good because they should…Ambrose went on Chris Jericho’s podcast saying he didn’t really like his own promos because they aren’t his words. That’s a bit harsh because he’s really good at talking. It would be nice if he had more freedom, though…There were many times during the summer especially where I found myself remarking how great Stephanie was as an evil heel. Her husband Triple H had some great moments too, but too often he would revert back to being a smartass when the story always called for him to be more vicious.
7. WORST FEUD
To be given to the worst rivalry between two or more performers. Formerly known as the Katie Vick award. RIP Katie. Past winners – 2013: Big Show vs. Triple H/Randy Orton, 2012: Kane vs. Zack Ryder/John Cena, 2011: Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler & Jim Ross, 2010 winner: Kane vs. Edge, 2009 winner: Triple H vs. Randy Orton
Winner: Brie Bella vs. Nikki Bella (Runners-Up: 3MB/Hornswoggle vs. Los Matadores/El Torito, Titus O’Neil vs. Darren Young, Cameron vs. Naomi)
The idea of a Bella Twins feud probably sounded good to somebody in WWE, but the execution of it all was pretty bad. Nikki’s heel turn on Brie at SummerSlam was probably the best part of it. Their acting sucks. Nikki was horrible doing promos about how she wished Brie died in the womb and those lies that led to her saying “but I didn’t tell anybody” at the end of it. Brie’s acting was even worse. They had a match, Nikki won and Brie had to be her assistant for 30 days. At the end of the 30 days, Brie helped Nikki win the Divas Title from AJ Lee by kissing AJ to distract her. Her heel turn was never really explained other than saying “blood is thicker than water” multiple times. Let’s just be happy that we don’t have to see them feuding anymore.
Remember those “Growing Up Bella” segments that were awful? Here’s one that my banner guy Melo Man made.
If they just had matches without all of the terrible acting segments it would have been fine. The story just really sucked.
How many 3MB vs. Los Matadores matches were there? Then they managed to involved the little people too. Hornswoggle vs. El Torito happened way too many times. At least it was never booked to be serious and they actually did have an entertaining match or too…Do you remember that Titus O’Neil beat Darren Young at Elimination Chamber? Probably not. That’s why it’s here. It was stupid to break up the Primetime Players. O’Neil hasn’t done anything since then while Young missed most of the year with knee surgery…The Cameron vs. Naomi feud was awful. Unlike the Bella Twins feud, they mostly just had matches and there were some stinkers, but at least they moved on from it.
8. WORST PAY-PER-VIEW
To be given to the worst PPV. They wanted us to pay money for this? Past winners – 2012: Hell in a Cell, 2011: Over The Limit
Winner: Tables, Ladders & Chairs (And Stairs) (Runner-Up: Royal Rumble)
It wasn’t a terrible year for WWE PPVs because almost every show had something positive going for it in terms of good matches, but the TLCS PPV in December was just really boring. The only real highlight was Dolph Ziggler’s very physical ladder match against Luke Harper. Everything else was either really bad (Show vs. Rowan, Ryback vs. Kane) or tremendously overbooked like the Cena/Rollins match with too much interference and the awful finish to Ambrose’s match with Wyatt. Too many gimmick matches hurt the show. (Review)
The Royal Rumble was disappointing. Daniel Bryan should have been in the 30 man Rumble match and he also should have won it. Instead, he wasn’t even it. Bryan’s match with Wyatt was the only highlight. Rey Mysterio getting booed at #30 because he wasn’t in the Rumble match was also memorable. Batista getting the win, then flipping off fans after the show was totally unprofessional and he should have known better. (Review)
9. WORST MATCH
To be given to the worst match. Past winners – 2013: Santino vs. Heath Slater @ Smackdown Sept 27, 2012: John Cena vs. Michael Cole @ Raw June 4, 2011: Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler @ WrestleMania 27, 2010 winner: Kaitlyn vs. Maxine from NXT3, 2009 winner: Divas battle royal @ WrestleMania 25
Winner: Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio @ Elimination Chamber (Runners-Up: Cameron vs. Naomi @ Raw September 14, Any 3MB vs. Los Matadores/El Torito Match)
Picking a comedy match is easy, but those aren’t intended to be good. That’s the point. I’ve picked comedy matches in the past and never really liked doing that. This year I’m going with a match that was supposed to be good, but was downright awful: Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio at Elimination Chamber. Watching that match again is painful. It was bad from the minute the bell rang. They had no chemistry right away. Fans chanted random things like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and even Bootista. Others were chanting “We Want Lesnar” for it. Batista was booked as a babyface and won after seven minutes, but it was supposed to be a match that made Batista look like more of a star going into WrestleMania. It failed.
Cameron’s feud with Naomi sucked. Their match on the September 14 edition of Raw featured a ridiculous moment as Cameron hit a leg split on the back of Noami and then told the ref to count while Naomi was on her chest. This actually happened.
Come on ref, count! Brutal.
There were so many matches with 3MB and Hornswoggle against Los Matadores/El Torito that it’s hard to just pick one, so putting them in as a general point is enough for me.
10. BEST TAG TEAM
To be given to the two men that function best as a tag team. Past winners – 2013: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns, 2012: Team Hell No (Kane & Daniel Bryan), 2011: Air Boom (Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston), 2010 winner: The Hart Dynasty, 2009 winner: Chris Jericho and The Big Show
Winners: The Usos (Runners-Up: Goldust & Stardust, Luke Harper & Erick Rowan, The Miz & Damien Mizdow)
This one felt like an easy choice. WWE made the right call in making Jimmy & Jey Uso their featured tag team for much of the year. The Usos beat the New Age Outlaws for the tag titles on the March 3rd edition of Raw and held the titles for 200 days. Along the way, they had a lot of great matches. They probably wrestled on TV as much as anybody this year because they’re popular and always capable of putting on a show. The twin brothers are 29 years old and should be the faces of WWE’s tag team division for many years to come.
It was nice to see Goldust & Stardust reborn, so to speak, after Goldust & Cody fizzled out a bit. Their chemistry is good. It would be a surprise if they team together for all of 2015, though. A split is coming soon…The duo of Harper & Rowan deserve acknowledgement because they had a lot of really good matches with The Usos as well as other teams…The Miz & Damien Mizdow are a fun comedy team that probably won’t be together that long, but they have been very entertaining. Both guys are really doing a good job with it.
11. THE “NEXT BIG THING” AWARD
To be given to the wrestler that is most likely to be the “next big thing” in the new year. Past winners – 2013: Roman Reigns, 2012: Dolph Ziggler, 2011: Cody Rhodes, 2010 winner: Alberto Del Rio, 2009 winner: John Morrison
Winner: Bray Wyatt (Runner-Up: Rusev)
Bray Wyatt main evented the TLCS PPV to end the year, but other than that he wasn’t a featured a main event performer. In 2015, he should be. Look for Wyatt to have high profile feuds with top babyfaces like Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler and perhaps Daniel Bryan again. Keep him away from John Cena, though. That feud didn’t really go well for him.
Rusev has a really bright future. He’s a good athlete that is going to be around for a while because he’s got Lana there to do promos for him. He won’t turn into some dancing comedy guy like other heels became in recent years…Picking NXT guys could work too, but it’s hard to know when Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Hideo Itami are going to be called up. Whenever they get moved to the main roster, they are all contenders for this.
When looking at past winners, isn’t weird how Ziggler was the guy I picked in 2012 and now he’s in a spot where he could be the pick again? His career has come full circle.
12. BEST HEEL
To be given to the performer that is the best at drawing the ire of the audience. Past winners 2013: Paul Heyman, 2012: Daniel Bryan, 2011: Christian. Award began in 2011.
Winner: Seth Rollins (Runners-Up: Brock Lesnar/Paul Heyman, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, Stephanie McMahon/Triple H)
Rollins already won best wrestler, so he’s obviously the best heel too. When he turned heel against The Shield in June it was a huge moment that propelled him to that main event level heel. Without that turn he wouldn’t have got there that quickly. He’s become the complete package that can have awesome matches, deliver solid promos and come off as believable every time he’s out there.
I mentioned earlier that Brock Lesnar didn’t work enough to be considered the best wrestler. I stand by that, but it’s hard to ignore him as a pure heel that the fans hate. The fact that he doesn’t appear often makes him that much easier to hate. Including Paul Heyman with him makes sense because they work together so well. They are awesome heels…Bray Wyatt had a good year. Hopefully 2015 is better for him. He’s an ascending star…Randy Orton had a lot of very good matches this year with a number of different opponents. He deserves praise for being consistently strong although his heel run is over now…Stephanie McMahon and Triple H became awesome heels around WrestleMania. They should have been even more aggressive too.
13. BEST BABYFACE
To be given to the performer that is the best at receiving the adulation of the audience. Past winners – 2013: Daniel Bryan, 2012: John Cena, 2011: Randy Orton. Award began in 2011.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler (Runners-Up: Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, John Cena)
This is another award that Daniel Bryan should have won, but it’s hard to give it to him when he only wrestled for 1/3 of the year. Due to Bryan’s absence, Dolph Ziggler is the guy that clearly stood out as a top babyface even though he didn’t get booked like a main eventer. His first half of the year was very average, but once he became a more featured performer he really broke out. It appears as though WWE has finally found the magic formula with him. That performance at Survivor Series showed he belongs.
No wrestler has a better connection with the crowd than Bryan, so while I can’t award him with the top billing for this award, he’s a top runner up. He had so many great matches and moments while he was around. Hopefully 2015 is even better for him…Ambrose is an awkward babyface because he’s not out there catering to the fans like some others are. What Ambrose brings to the table is likable unpredictability. He’s a wildman that the people can relate to. He could win this award next year…Cena’s hated by some, but he had a very solid year. The problem is that he’s not very sympathetic considering he’s always in the title picture. It’s impossible to deny his success, though. I have a lot of respect for him.
14. BIGGEST NEWS STORY
The stories of the year that we’ll always remember when looking back at the year that was. 2013: The WWE Network Still Isn’t Here, 2012: Jerry Lawler’s heart attack, 2011: The death of Randy Savage, 2010: The departure of several big names (Shawn Michaels), 2009: Shane McMahon leaves WWE
Winner: CM Punk leaving WWE (Runners-Up: The death of the Ultimate Warrior, The highs & lows of WWE Network, Daniel Bryan’s neck injury)
The departure of CM Punk was a huge story because he was a top guy in WWE for the last three years. For him to just quit the day after the Royal Rumble without any warning was a shocking move. We waited about ten months to hear from him and when he did that two hour podcast with his good friend Colt Cabana in November he really let loose on WWE management in ways that nobody else ever has. It was revealed that he was fired by WWE on his wedding day in June, which is pretty damn harsh. He’s moved on to UFC and fans need to accept that he’s moved on.
It was great to see the Ultimate Warrior back in WWE at the Hall of Fame in 2014, then at WrestleMania 30 and then on Raw the next week. What’s sad is that when he flew home to Phoenix he ended up passing away. It’s still sad thinking about it…WWE Network finally arrived in February. The good thing is that it saves us money on PPVs while providing a great online library that’s easy to use. The bad thing is they have lost a lot of money because of it and made several mistakes along the way. It’s still not available in the UK & Ireland, which has really upset fans over there…Bryan’s neck injury would have been the biggest story most years just because the loss of a top guy is a huge deal. However, this year has been huge for big news stories so it’s only a runner up.
This was considered a “minor” award before this year. After including it in the five previous years, I figured it deserved more of a spotlight.
15. BEST INDIVIDUAL PROMO
To be given to the one speech that was the best in the last year. 2013: Mark Henry @ Raw June 17, 2012: Kane’s Speech at Anger Management @ Raw August 27
Winner: Daniel Bryan “Occupy Raw” face to face with Triple H @ Raw March 10 (Runners-Up: Paul Heyman in Chicago @ Raw March 3, Rock on Raw facing Rusev & Lana @ Raw October 6)
The two best promos happened within a week of each other. That’s because a lot of WWE’s best work happen right before WrestleMania, so it’s no surprise that these segments were done in the lead up to that event.
Daniel Bryan showed up on the March 10 edition of Raw and stole the show by getting fans to join him in the ring as well as at ringside to “occupy Raw.” It was Bryan sick of being held down by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Fans were invested in this promo more than anything else on WWE TV this year. Give credit Hunter and Stephanie for being great heels during this segment too. Bryan wanted a match with Hunter at WrestleMania 30 as well as a WWE Title shot at WrestleMania 30. It was as if WWE finally realized that this was the story they should have done from January, but it took them a couple of months to figure it out. It was a lot of fun to witness when it happened. It’s still great nine months later.
The March 3, 2014 edition of Raw was considered a huge show because of a report that CM Punk was going to return to WWE in his hometown of Chicago. That didn’t happen. It was an erroneous report. Instead of Punk, Raw opened with Paul Heyman coming out to Punk’s music, sitting in the ring for a promo and then finding a way to tie it into Brock Lesnar’s match with The Undertaker. It was promo brilliance from the best full timer in WWE, Paul Heyman.
When The Rock showed up to Raw in October it wasn’t promoted. He was in the New York City area doing other business, so WWE asked him to come by. He confronted Rusev, insulted Lana and knocked the evil “Russian” out of the ring. It’s a shame he isn’t around more often, but it was still a nice surprise.
16. BEST TURN
To be given to the best babyface or heel turn that benefited the performer the most. Past winners – 2013: Randy Orton, 2012: Big Show, 2011: Mark Henry, 2010 winner: Kane, 2009: CM Punk
Winner: Seth Rollins
This is one of those categories where there’s a clear winner and no runner up is even close, so I’m not even going to list any runners up for it. The June 2, 2014 edition of Raw featured one of the year’s biggest moments when Seth Rollins attacked Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose with steel chair shots. It was a move that ended The Shield for good while Rollins became aligned with Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and the rest of The Authority. Rollins went from being a member of the group to being the best performer of the year while both Ambrose & Reigns are headed for big things too.
Were there other significant turns this year? Not really. Paige’s heel turn was pretty good. Big Show turned like he usually does, but it’s not like it was great. Nikki Bella’s turn was significant although they did a poor job of following it up. Since Damien Mizdow isn’t fully a face right now he can’t be included yet although he’s well on his way.
17. THE “KTFO” AWARD
To be given to the person or thing that deserves to be KNOCKED THE F**K OUT~! Past winners – 2013: The Great Khali, 2012: Teddy Long, 2011: Michael Cole, 2010 winner: The anonymous GM angle, 2009 winner: Michael Cole
Winner: The Bunny & Adam Rose (Runners-Up: Hornswoggle, El Torito)
The Adam Rose gimmick is terrible. The fact that he gets so much screen time with the stupid Bunny that is capable of having matches is even worse. They have had so many bad segments that it makes us sane people want to change the channel because of how bad it is.
Hornswoggle and El Torito had way too many matches. Some of those matches weren’t even that bad, but the problem is they made them too stupid and happened way too often. Also, Hornswoggle is one of the longest tenured employees in WWE since he’s been there since 2006. Almost nine years now. Crazy thought.
This was also the year that former KTFO winner The Great Khali left WWE. He’ll be missed…not really.
18. MOST IMPROVED PERFORMER
To be given to the performer that has shown the most improvement in the last year. Past winners – 2013: Roman Reigns, 2012: Ryback, 2011: Zack Ryder, 2010 winner: Cody Rhodes, 2009: Kofi Kingston
Winner: Damien Mizdow (Runners-Up: Paige, Tyson Kidd)
Damien Sandow went from being a guy going nowhere earlier this year to striking gold as Damien Mizdow. His work as the “stunt double” for The Miz has been a lot of fun to watch. It’s a comedy character that is going to lead to great things for him when he breaks out on his own in the very near future. He had a gimmick that was an egotistical heel, but he has shown that if you are talented you can succeed in any role. Damien deserves all the success he has coming to him.
Paige burst onto the main roster post WrestleMania 30 and she has shown that she definitely belongs. Whether heel or face, she knows how to get a reaction from the fans. She’ll be WWE’s most popular diva very soon…Kidd was injured for much of 2013, so he spent much of 2014 in NXT working on a new character and having amazing matches. His gimmick as a self centered jerk has given him new life on the main roster. It’s great to see such a talented guy rewarded for his hard work.
I also wrote a feature about my most improved performers of the year for WhatCulture earlier this month. Bray Wyatt was my top pick there, but the more I think about it, the more I want to put people that aren’t in main event positions at the moment.
19. BEST VIDEO PACKAGE
To be given to the best video package that highlights a feud, performer or other event. Past winners – 2013: CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar @ SummerSlam, 2012: Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena @ Extreme Rules, 2011: The “Macho Man” Randy Savage tribute video, 2010 winner: Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Winner: Daniel Bryan @ WrestleMania 30 “Monster” (Runner-Up: Brock Lesnar/John Cena leading up to SummerSlam)
There were two videos that really stood out this year and they were promo videos for the two biggest shows of the year. For the winner, I went with Daniel Bryan’s “Monster” video going into WrestleMania 30.
I had never heard of the song “Monster” before this video. It’s by Imagine Dragons. Now I listen to it every once in a while and it makes me think of Daniel Bryan. It’s a four minute video that shows Bryan’s early days in WWE from when he was on NXT and his journey to the top. While it did ignore the fact that the “Yes” chant started as a heel taunt to upset the fans, it did capture everything that makes Bryan great. Watching it again today makes me miss the guy so damn much.
“Who is Brock Lesnar? I’m an ass kicking son of a bitch.” That’s how Brock Lesnar described himself in the build up to SummerSlam’s WWE Title match against John Cena. There wasn’t a huge scripted promo. It was just Lesnar sitting there talking trash about John Cena. Simple, but it worked. When Lesnar gets a chance so sit down in a setting like that to talk about what he’s going to do he’s at his best. “I’m going to leave him in a pile of blood and urine and vomit.” Who else can say that with the kind of credibility that Lesnar does? Nobody.
Those two are the best to me. There were probably several others out there that were good too, but it’s hard to remember them all.
20. MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT
To be given to the most memorable moment of the year. Past winners – 2013: Daniel Bryan wins WWE Title leading to heel Triple H/Orton, 2012: Brock Lesnar’s Return April 2 on Raw, 2011: CM Punk’s Promo June 27 on Raw, 2010 winner: Bret & Shawn embrace in the ring, 2009 winner: The Undertaker/Michaels match
Winner: The Undertaker losing to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30 (Runners-up: Daniel Bryan wins WWE Title at WrestleMania 30, Sting’s debut at Survivor Series, Seth Rollins turns heel on The Shield, The Ultimate Warrior’s speech on Raw the night after WrestleMania)
This is a tough one between The Undertaker’s loss at WrestleMania and Bryan’s win. When it came time to make a decision, I went with Brock Lesnar beating Undertaker because that’s the one thing that we’ll never forget about this year.
Going into Undertaker’s match against Brock Lesnar, I figured it would be another Undertaker win to make him go 22-0 at WrestleMania. As I sat in the crowd that night, there really wasn’t that much noise for the match because it was only average at best. Then when Lesnar hit that third F5, covered Undertaker and the ref’s hand hit the mat three times the feeling was: “What just happened?” Everybody was shocked. We couldn’t believe it. Paul Heyman’s reaction was priceless and fans at ringside were stunned. It was genuine shock on a scripted entertainment show. That’s why it was the most memorable moment of the year.
Bryan’s WWE Title win at WrestleMania 30 was amazing and was the right way to end the biggest show of the year. The fact that it was a really good match with Randy Orton & Batista certainly helped things too. We have seen a lot of babyfaces end WrestleMania as the WWE Champion. Bryan deserved it as much as anybody.
Sting’s WWE debut at Survivor Series wasn’t a total surprise since it got leaked online a couple of days earlier in order to create buzz. However, when he finally made that appearance it was a surreal sight to see Mr. WCW in a WWE building for the first time ever…That Rollins heel turn against The Shield was huge for his career as well as the others in the group. It set them all on a different path going forward for years to come as solo stars…During Warrior’s speech on Raw, I can remember turning to my buddy Nick in the arena and saying: “This is a really special moment.” It was. The fact that he died the next day was absolutely tragic in every way. I’ll never forget standing up to cheer for that man for what would be the last time he ever stepped in a WWE ring.
THE NXT AWARDS
I’m a big fan of NXT. I’ve watched it every week this year and ever since it became its own show from Full Sail University. Here are five awards that are NXT only.
Best wrestler – Sami Zayn
It’s a close one between Zayn and Adrian Neville, but I’m going with Zayn just because the story of the year has been about his rise to the top of NXT. He’s the perfect kind of babyface that is also one of the best in-ring performers in WWE right now. Hopefully he’s on the main roster very soon just so he can get a chance to compete in front of a larger audience.
Best diva – Charlotte
The women of NXT are a talented group. Charlotte’s only been wrestling for a couple of years, yet she looks as good as anybody out there. She’s as much of a natural talent as there’s ever been in WWE. Her matches keep getting better. She won’t be in NXT for much longer. There are other talented NXT women as well including Sasha Banks, Bayley, Alexa Bliss and others that all have bright futures.
Best match – Sami Zayn vs. Adrian Neville @ NXT Takeover R Evolution December 11
The most recent NXT Takeover main event was the best match of the year in NXT. It’s a tremendous match that ended with a clean win for Zayn in very impressive fashion. Neville was an awesome champion too. Other top contenders include Cesaro/Zayn from February, Natalya/Charlotte from May and four way match between Neville/Zayn/Kidd/Breeze in September.
Best feud – Sami Zayn vs. Adrian Neville
This was the main storyline for most of the year, so of course it was the feud of the year. Both guys were babyfaces with Neville showing heel tendencies once in a while, but he was still in the babyface role by the time they had their match in December.
Best tag team – Lucha Dragons
The team of Kalisto and Sin Cara – the current tag team champions known as Lucha Dragons – were the best team in NXT this year. While The Ascension were a very good team for a long time, the Lucha Dragons are exactly the kind of babyface team that WWE needs in their long term plans.
I’m looking forward to NXT in 2015 with Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Hideo Itami all in position to be breakout stars.
THE MINOR AWARDS
These are other awards/random thoughts that I basically made up off the top of my head without going into full details. There are 10 of them. I could do more, but this is a long enough column as it is.
Best Crowd – WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans and Raw in New Orleans April 7
This used to be a major award, but after realizing that WrestleMania and the Raw after win it every year I figured I’d move it down to the minor awards. Since I was at both of those shows I’m probably biased about how great they were. It was my favorite WrestleMania experience after attending three of the last four WMs.
Best non-wrestler – Paul Heyman
This is a no brainer once again with Heyman shining as the advocate of Brock Lesnar as well as Cesaro’s manager for a few months. Stephanie McMahon deserves a lot of credit too. She did wrestle one match at SummerSlam, but she’s a non-wrestler that showed she could be a great heel just like her dad.
Best finishing move – Adrian Neville’s Red Arrow
The actual term for the Red Arrow that Neville uses is a “corkscrew shooting star press.” It’s a combination of a twist in the air leading into a front flip. Not easy to do. Neville appeared on Raw once, hit that move and drew a huge reaction. Most of his time is spent on NXT, of course.
Most disappointing trend – The lack of WWE Title matches on PPVs
There were four PPVs this year where the WWE Title wasn’t on the line. At the June Payback PPV it wasn’t on the line due to Daniel Bryan’s neck injury and because WWE had no idea how much time he might be out of action. There also wasn’t a WWE Title match at Night of Champions, Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series since Brock Lesnar is a WWE Champion on a part time schedule. Let’s hope that there’s not another year like this again.
Best comeback – Tyson Kidd
He missed most of 2013 with a knee injury. He spent much of 2014 on NXT and he was one of the best performers on that show. It’s awesome to see WWE using the “fact” man the right way.
Best announcer – John Bradshaw Layfield
JBL is the best just because the other main announcers are average or below average. JBL’s solid as a heel announcer, but he can still improve.
Best DVD/Blu-Ray – Randy Savage/Paul Heyman
I’m going the cheap route and picking a tie between the Randy Savage and Paul Heyman DVDs. Both documentaries are outstanding. The Savage DVD has some great matches on it including some hard to find matches, so that was cool. Heyman’s DVD featured a lot of interesting clips.
Most poorly used performer – Cesaro
What a bizarre year for the Swiss Superman. He went from going into 2014 as part of a tag team with Jack Swagger, then it looked like he’d get a solo push after winning the battle royal at WrestleMania 30 and he was given Paul Heyman as his manager. Then Heyman was taken away from him and he slipped big time. Now he’s part of a team with Tyson Kidd, which could be good, but it’s going to be hard for him to get back the momentum he had back in March.
Best WWE TV Show – NXT
This one is pretty easy for me. Raw was below average for much of the year especially since SummerSlam while Smackdown doesn’t feel like a must watch show at all. NXT is a fun one hour pro wrestling show that other WWE shows should be more like.
The JTG “That Person Still Works in WWE?” Award – David Otunga
There were some other candidates for this considering how bad Eva Marie and Cameron are, but the fact that Otunga is still employed is amazing. He’s not even injured. He doesn’t work house shows and hasn’t been at TVs for many months now. At least with Eva Marie they can say she’s pretty. With Otunga, what’s the point in keeping him around? I don’t get it.
This is a new award that JTG would have won for at least the last three years. He got released in 2014. I miss him.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WWE IN 2014
Since I always like to rate the shows out of 10, how about a rating for the year? Here’s how I rated the last five years.
This year I’m going with a 5.5 out of 10.
It was a down year. No doubt about it. I’ve been writing about every Raw and PPV event since May 2009. Prior to that, I wrote on and off for about ten years. This was a down year much like 2010 and 2009 were. The three years before this year had a lot more high points.
I’ll remember 2014 more for the absences of key people rather than the accomplishments on camera. I miss Daniel Bryan immensely while I lost some respect for CM Punk because of the way he quit on WWE. I see his side of a lot of things, but there are better ways to do what he did. Then there’s Brock Lesnar, who I’m a big fan of. However, it was disappointing to watch WWE programming for three months with no sign of the WWE Champion.
There were highlights this year thanks to the performances of guys like Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns. All four of them are a big part of WWE’s future, so it’s nice to see them in featured roles as we end the year. Dolph Ziggler has been in WWE for nearly 10 years, yet he might be the most over that he’s ever been right now. It’s hard for all of them to get huge pushes when John Cena and Randy Orton are still around with no signs of going anywhere, but at least the future is there. Hopefully Daniel Bryan comes back soon too.
The other bright spot for WWE is NXT. There’s so much talent there from the top singles guys to tag teams and the divas too. It’s been a very successful year for the NXT brand.
Let’s hope things get better in 2015. There’s a lot of talent on WWE’s roster, but the booking has to improve. Also, no more crap like this.
That’s the key. Limit the bad stuff. Let the wrestlers actually wrestle. It was tough to deal with CM Punk leaving and Daniel Bryan’s injury. Hopefully nothing as serious happens next year.
Thank you very much for reading this 8,000+ word article. I don’t expect everybody to agree with all of my choices. I hope it creates some discussion, so be sure to send me your thoughts on the awards whether it’s by commenting on the article itself, via email, Facebook, Twitter or however you want to get in touch with me. Your feedback means a lot to me. I read it all and try to reply to everything.
This is my favorite column to write every year. I say this part every year: If you’re one of those people that reads a lot of my work without writing this is one of those times where I’m asking for your thoughts because I want to know what you thought. Don’t be shy. I reply to all emails.
Thank you to my good friend Steve Melo for the banner you saw at the top of this post. He also does the banners for every one of my columns including the always fun “preferred” Raw Deal banners, PPV banners and more.
This isn’t the last column of the year, but I wish you all a safe and happy New Year in 2015.
As I said, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My contact info is below. Thanks so much for reading!
John Canton – firstname.lastname@example.org