This is the final Promos By Hyphen column. When I first started, this wasn’t called Promos By Hyphen and it was only because Mike Asti needed a new wrestling writer for BDL Sports that I even started writing about the WWE on a (semi) monthly basis.
If you’ve read any of my columns before, you know that I was a fan when I younger, I came back full-time for the Monday Night Wars, stopped watching when I started college, peeked in every now and again until around WrestleMania 23, and then kind of watched Raw when it was on until after ‘Mania 25. After hearing all about how great Undertaker/Shawn Michaels had been, Thomas Crawford, Anthony Sellers, Moose Smith, and I decided we would watch all the PPVs of a new year leading up to WrestleMania together. This culminated in all 4 of us being in attendance live for WrestleMania XXVIII in Miami and Moose and Anthony making it to MetLife Stadium for ‘Mania NY/NJ (29!). We even managed to all make it to the 2014 Royal Rumble in Pittsburgh (an event that Thomas wrote a whole book about, and that’s coming soon from Tricycle Offense Publishing).
This past ‘Mania, I ended our streak as I attended my first NHL game in Pittsburgh and didn’t watch the event live. And since my last column, I’ve stopped watching everything that was going on. My daughter was getting older, I was sleeping less, and I just didn’t have it in me to stay up until 11 or even watch a PPV.
Even though I stopped watching everything, I never stopped paying attention to the product. So I knew the inevitable Year End Awards could still be done. I fought it, thinking I could just list winners and call it a day at one point, but that just didn’t feel right. For something that I’m sure will still have me running to a keyboard to talk about it in some form, WWE deserved better; Promos By Hyphen deserved better. “Promos” should get a proper ending of what has become my small contribution to the world of professional wrestling/sports entertainment.
It also just so happens to coincide with Moose getting a transfer from his job to all places but Miami, FL, which will move one of my closest friends to the bottom of the good ol’ US of A. And you know the song and dance: “You’ll have a place to stay when you visit! We can talk on the phone!” But there’s no guarantees I’ll be going back to Florida any time soon, no matter how much I wish it to be true. I’ll probably be unavailable in the small window of time Moose will have if/or when he comes back to WV, let alone Morgantown. So chances are I’ll probably never see this guy again.
So I dedicate this last Promos By Hyphen column to my friend E.F. aka Moose Smith aka Bruce Wayne aka Rancho Cucamonga Spider Killa. May your new Miami memories burn as brightly as the first ones we created there my friend.
Now, 500 words burned through. Somebody bring me a category already!
Best Championship: WWE World Heavyweight Championship
There’s no doubt about this being the biggest Belt in the company now is there? When we last spoke, Daniel Bryan has ascended to the mountaintop, only to be met with injuries and the Belt fell into our boy John Cena’s hands again by the time summer 2014 arrived.
But something curious happened then. Brock Lesnar was named #1 Contender to the Title and John Cena didn’t just lose… he got eradicated. Brock carried the Strap up to WrestleMania Play Button (referred to as 31 from here on out) when he and Roman Reigns were having an epic slugfest that got crashed by a Money In The Bank contract cashing in Seth Rollins. Other than Cena’s 49 day run with it and Bryan’s one title defense against Kane of all people, there’s wasn’t much to complain about when it came to the WWE WHC.
Honorable Mention: Tag Team Championships Divas Championship. Hear me out! I love the watching The Usos in action, I do. But they held the Belts from March until September and then again from December to February. And if Jey doesn’t get hurt, I bet they’d still have the Belts (Sidebar: How is the better of the two, Jimmy Uso, getting no TV time right now? Just because his brother is hurt doesn’t mean The Usos are over. Remind me to use the #UseJimmyUso hashtag later)! The Miz and Mizdow run was too short and the notoriety that Kidd/Cesaro, The New Day, and Prime Time Players have brought so far in 2015 comes up just short to count for me.
So yeah, Divas Championship! AJ Lee and Paige feuded for 3 straight months and despite the limited in-ring minutes, kept things entertaining (and that’s outside of the will they or won’t they relationship Creative teased the crap out of). But the thing that puts it over the top for me? The fact that Nikki Bella has been wrestling her ass off, before and after winning the Divas Title. Sure, she cut those awful promos on Brie in that feud that just ended but there aren’t any glaring weaknesses in her game anymore. Not to mention that she’s not just the best heel in the Divas division but one of the best heels on the main roster (yeah I said it)… that is, when Creative doesn’t want her and Brie to turn face because they needed Naomi to turn heel when AJ retired. Oh well…
Worst Championship: Intercontinental Championship
The best wrestlers to hold this Belt were Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan, but Ziggler’s longest run was only 56 days and we all know what’s going on with Daniel Bryan. Creative dropped the ball by completely forgetting about Bad News Barrett’s gimmick so his run leading up to ‘Mania wasn’t anything spectacular. I do have to give credit for the whole R-Truth steals the Belt storyline and the subsequent ladder match where Bryan pulled down the IC Title (knowing what we know now, those head butts with Dolph were brutal). But besides that (and still), the Intercontinental Championship was a bunch of squandered storylines and potential.
Honorable Mention: United States Championship. Rusev only held this Belt for 146 days?! Really? Did anyone remember Sheamus won it from Dean Ambrose (wasted potential) in a battle royal of all things? Me either.
Best T-Shirt: Sting – Scorpion
This marked the first WWE Season that I didn’t buy a new shirt and I blame that on a distinct lack of CM Punk but also… the shirts just weren’t that good. Granted, I missed a lot of things in the later part of 2014 but still, I know a good shirt when I see one.
With that said, I have to give total credit to Sting’s Scorpion tee as the best one of the season. Simple, white on black, and iconic-looking. That one is still on the WWE Shop Wish List for sure.
Honorable Mention: Brock Lesnar – Beast Incarnate. No Suplex City? Remember the WWE season for me runs from the night after WrestleMania until the next year’s WrestleMania. Suplex City wasn’t uttered until ‘Mania 31 and the t-shirt followed. The red, yellow, and black Beast Incarnate tee represented everything that Brock Lesnar was: striking, clean, and in your face. Also, reigning, defending, undisputed…
Worst T-Shirt: John Cena – Throwback, U Can’t C Me
I’m sorry. I get that our boy John gets new t-shirts every few months but I’m starting to feel bad for the guy. Hulk Hogan colors for the 2014SummerSlam beat down, a decent color blue with another awful digital image on the front leading into ‘Mania. And now, he has an orange (again, not bad) and green (yuck, other than the fact it’s The U’s colors) shirt that he got for the lead up to his Champion v. Champion match with Seth Rollins at SummerSlam? The US Champion edition of the Champ Is Here tee was a welcome break but that doesn’t qualify does it (because it’s been done before)?
Honorable Mention: Roman Reigns – all of his shirts. They’re too dark, too boring, and too blah. For someone who was going to be the WWE Champion a week or so before ‘Mania, WWE Shop could certainly help the guy out and Believe that they can give him a decent shirt. Bad enough he’s the only one who still has to wear his gear from his Shield days.
Best Promo: N/A
This might be attributed to the fact that I stopped watching everything or I could be spot-on, but aside from the moments Paul Heyman was in the ring, I don’t remember anyone delivering anything that was Best Promo worthy. I could count the interviews Michael Cole did after the Royal Rumble when they had to cancel Raw but that feels like a cheat. Cena just called Lana a whore a bunch of times leading up to his matches with Rusev. The Authority spent most of the year opening Raw but if anyone deserves the shine from that, it’d be Stephanie McMahon.
Yeah, I got nothing. Please contact me if anyone has any suggestions.
I could just give this award to CM Punk for his podcast with Colt Cabana though, couldn’t I?
Best Heel: Seth Rollins
New category alert! I know there’s a lot of crying on the internets about Seth Rollins being a cowardly heel and how he never wins matches on his own or even before he was Champ about how he hides behind the Authority. But let’s really look at the big picture here.
We all knew The Shield breakup was coming; we just didn’t know who it would be to break away. My money was on Ambrose, especially after Reigns started getting his singles push. Reigns was always sniping at Ambrose about his never defending the US Title or this, that, or the third. And it was pretty clear Reigns was going to face who would make his former brother see the error in his ways. I always thought Rollins would be the one to suffer, falling towards the midcard as yet another great wrestler who wasn’t going to get a fair push. But I have to give Creative credit; they had Rollins turn on his brothers a night after he helped them defeat Evolution for a second time in as many months. And he fully owned his actions as I never once heard him blaming them for what happened; he was the future of the WWE and there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do about it.
Do I wish he had replaced Batista in Evolution? Sure but in hindsight, Triple H isn’t a full-time wrestler and Evolution isn’t Evolution if he’s sitting out while Rollins and Orton do all the fighting. But for the most part, Seth talked a good game and backed it up. So what if he had an Authority assist every now and again, we really didn’t see Rollins thanking The Authority for all that they had done. He thanked himself in true heel fashion and he told the WWE Universe about how great he was constantly.
He also saved us from Cena potentially beating Brock at Night Of Champions! He put Ambrose’s head through a “cinder block”! He got Cena to bring The Authority back to power! He broke Brock’s rib! He defeated Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Title!
Come on, Best Heel running away people!
Honorable Mention: Stephanie McMahon. Go ahead. Name someone that was a better heel than her? Rusev? Nope, all Lana. Trips? Yeah right. Bray? He should be the Best Heel but he’s not. Orton hasn’t been a true heel since Evolution broke up. Barrett missed most of the season. Brock hasn’t been a heel since he defeated The Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak. And Nikki wasn’t a good heel for long enough.
No one was better than Steph other than Rollins. She forced Brie Bella into quitting, turned Nikki so she could win her first match in 11 years against Brie at SummerSlam, and went toe to toe with any face that was in her ring getting too cocky. Oh, and she’s one of the few opponents Ronda Rousey got her hands on who was able to walk away from the confrontation.
I’m sad she’s a quasi-face right now. Long live Queen Steph.
Worst Heel: Kane
Of all the terrible things Vince McMahon and Creative has had Kane do over the years, becoming Corporate Kane has to be in the top five worst ideas for Kane.
Whenever Hunter and Stephanie took time off, Kane was right there filling in, boring everyone to tears. He spent time as the Demon Kane again, which I completely forgot aside from Extreme Rules. He had, not one, but two WWE Title shots, including what I like to call a foregone conclusion match at Battleground where our boy John Cena retained. He handed Rollins the MitB briefcase, a moment that should have been written different so that Rollins didn’t look so privileged. And he and Big Show dumped out their fair share of people out of the Royal Rumble because… reasons.
I will say that his in-ring work has not taken a dive though. Even after all these years, I feel like Kane is putting everything he’s got into every move, so this award is not warranted to bad wrestling.
Honorable Mention: Big Show. Things got off on the wrong foot when a potentially fun tag team with Mark Henry got ended by a Show heel turn. Then Show came back as a face on Team Cena at Survivor Series… and then promptly turned on the team and joined up with The Authority. And since then he’s feuded with Reigns when he needed something to do and he won the second annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal… over a more deserving Damien Mizdow.
I still love you Big Show, I truly do. But even as you recently admitted, you getting as much TV time as you do is a chore for you and the WWE Universe. It was nice seeing you win the Andre the Giant Battle Royal though because you’ve followed in Andre’s footsteps the best you could in your career.
Best Moment: Sixteen suplexes
You don’t let Brock Lesnar become the 1 in 21-1 and let him lose his WWE World Heavyweight Championship match to John Cena at SummerSlam, you just don’t. That’s not what’s best for business. But you don’t expect the face of the company to get manhandled the whole match, a match that started and ended with an F-5, and had sixteen suplexes in between.
It was the exact opposite of the matches Brock had been having since he came back to the WWE, which were all rough, brutal, and featured a lot of his MMA style. The close of his feud with Trips in 2013 signaled the end of that but the constant suplexing was the perfect way to show what a force of nature Brock had become one he got his squared circle conditioning back. And Cena was the perfect patsy to show how dangerous peak condition Lesnar can be once he gets his hands on an opponent. Kudos to Cena.
I’d also like to note that Brock has only been pinned twice since he came back and the last time was over two years ago. So there’s that.
Honorable Mention: Sting. Finally, the greatest wrestler in WCW history appeared and wrestled in a WWE ring. And not only did he appear in a WWE ring, he dropped HHH with the Scorpion Death Drop and helped Team Cena (not to mention super over favorite wrestler Dolph Ziggler) beat Team Authority, which put Hunter and Stephanie out to pasture… for a month but still!
It was all downhill from there though, which I’ll address in the Worst Feud catagory.
Worst Moment: Big Show with Andre Battle Royal
So I made the mistake thinking that not only did the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal give WrestleMania a trademark match again, but I also thought it was made to be won by up and coming midcard superstars so that they’d have a nice win to push off of for the new WWE season.
Instead, we have Big Show winning and like I said two categories ago, good for him. We all know that he has more humiliating WrestleMania moments than memorable ones.
But there was no midcarder hotter than one Damien Mizdow. After he failed to cash in his MitB contract for Cena’s World Heavyweight Championship in 2013, Damien then-Sandow went into a spiral, becoming not only a jobber but a comedic jobber (I’m glad that a similar fate didn’t befall Bray Wyatt but Creative prevented that by keeping Bray in safe feuds, which they’re still doing). Sandow emerged from his downfall as Damien Mizdow and exceled as The Miz’s stunt double and later tag team partner. So when months of The Miz’s jealousy towards his double finally came to a head during the Battle Royal, and Mizdow became a face, why not give the preshow crowd what they wanted, which was a Damien Mizdow victory?
I don’t know. Mizdow doesn’t know. Hell, Creative doesn’t know. All I know is that Mizdow was eliminated last, feuded briefly with The Miz over the “Miz” name, and then got shoved into an ill-fated Macho Mandow gimmick that got canned once Hulk Hogan was let go by the WWE for his racist comments (still don’t know how I feel on that one). If you want to see Sandow still be his entertaining self, watch Xavier Woods’ Up Up Down Down YouTube channel. When Damien’s on the scene, he talks in nothing but rhymes and wears bandannas. It’s FANTASTIC.
Honorable Mention: Dean Ambrose loses to Bray Wyatt when a plugged in TV monitor explodes in his face. I didn’t watch TLC. I’m glad I didn’t. After Ambrose’s penultimate match with Seth Rollins was interrupted by Bray, you would think those two could have a solid feud for a couple months. Nah, let’s have Ambrose lose by DQ at Survivor Series and then, instead of having these two athletes go at each other until one can’t take it anymore, let’s blow a monitor up in the good guy’s face so that we can protect Bray some more. Ugh. There was more after this but I’ll just say Ambrose finished 1-4 once this feud finally met its end.
Best Tag Team: The Miz & Damien Mizdow
I just said how much I loved the Mizdow gimmick, why not do it some more? This may be one of my dirtier wrestling secrets but I love The Miz when he’s a heel and not using the Figure-Four Leglock. So Miz’s biting of The Rock’s Hollywood persona gimmick suited me just fine. And giving Mizdow one thing to do every week? Fantastic. And watching Mizdow mimic everything that The Miz was doing/was having done to him at ringside? Ingenious!
I know their Tag Team Title reign was only for 36 days but man, was it fun. Their tag team was fun. A shame that it all crashed and burned so quickly in the 2015-16 Season. I saw the same potential in a Stardust/Cosmic King tag team that wrestled at SummerSlam, but they didn’t stay together.
But it will never be as great this team was. Damn you Creative, why must you take away everything I love?!
Honorable Mention: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro. Late comers to the Season, they took the tag team division by storm in a short matter of time. This was Tyson’s finally triumphant return from injury; Cesaro shook off the stink from his run as a Paul Heyman guy and multiple ridiculous losses for months. They came, they saw, and they conquered, as they won the Tag Belts in February and held them through ‘Mania 31. And they’d still be conquering if a WWE debuting Samoa Joe hadn’t botched his finisher and put Kidd out for another year at least.
At least Cesaro is getting a decent singles push again. Am I right?!
Worst Tag Team: The Ascension
I’m sorry; these guys should still be in NXT. For some reason, they got their big boy call up and even a victory over an all-time great tag team like the New Age Outlaws didn’t help. And the announce team constantly buried them during their matches. And they were scripted to say they were better than other great teams like the Road Warriors, Demolition, and the Powers of Pain (thanks Wikipedia). And then Creative had them start jobbing to everybody and their mother and you know how well that works to get wrestlers over with the WWE Universe.
Oh well, to quote Jalen Rose: “Keep getting them checks!”
Honorable Mention: The Dust Brothers. As I said way back in my last column, I like heel Stardust and I liked the idea of both he and Goldust as a heel tag team. But the heel turn wouldn’t be enough to match the magic they captured as The Rhodes Brothers the previous year. They did put Miz and Mizdow over at Survivor Series but the following months with their eventual split and feud was unmemorable.
It’s sad that Dusty’s last WWE appearance had him involved in his son’s feud that, like most storylines, just ended quietly. But I’m anxious to see what Stardust does the rest of this Season.
And God bless your soul Dusty Rhodes.
Best Feud: Rusev/Jack Swagger
Yeah, I understand I may have lost several of readers with the winner of this category. But you know what usually happens when you wrestle the same person a lot (unless you’re Randy and Cena)? You build chemistry. This is why Sheamus and Daniel Bryan have such good matches. Same with Orton/Bryan. Punk/Cena. Flair/Rhodes. Sting/Flair. Rock/Austin. Rock/HHH. Cena/Edge. Michaels/Hart. HHH/Michaels. All of these wrestlers have beaten each other’s brains in over the years, time and time again. But they’ve built such a great chemistry, that there’s a 75% chance they’re going to tear the house down once they get into the ring together. And now it’s the same with Rusev and Jack Swagger.
Swagger has never cleanly pinned Rusev and he’s tapped out to the Accolade more times than he’d like to admit. But while others in the IWC moan and complain about another Rusev/Swagger match and its predictable outcome, I love it. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the match that’s been booked the most last season between PPVs, Raw, SmackDown, Main Event and house shows.
The only downside is that they’ve never gotten more than 10 minutes to really work a match (and yes, this is the one time I’d like to see Swagger wrestle for more than 10 minutes in his career). So maybe, someday, they’ll give these two fifteen minutes so Swagger can finally win one. Here’s hoping it’s not from some cheap rollup after Rusev is distracted by a vengeful Summer Rae two months from now.
Sorry I just wished that booking into existence as well.
Honorable Mention: Rollins/Ambrose. While their work together was excellent early on in this 2015-16 Season, these two had feud of the year written all them… and it just never quite happened. In fact, the strongest parts happened outside the ring, with Dean constantly appearing OUTTA NOWHERE to whip Seth’s ass, Seth’s Curb Stomp (RIP) onto the cinder blocks, the fall of the Cell in homage to Mankind, etc.
Creative spent so much time having them do cool things outside the ring that the actual matches failed to live up to the hype. Ladies and gentlemen, this is how you come in second to Rusev and Jack Swagger.
Worst Feud: John Cena/Bray Wyatt
Why won’t they let Bray Wyatt be great?
I mean, they started to at the 2014 Royal Rumble when he defeated Daniel Bryan cleanly. But then he interfered in John Cena’s WWE Title match against Randy Orton because of the horrid reaction the rest of the Pittsburgh WWE Universe and I were giving the match. Then they had the Wyatt Family go over the hottest stable in the company at Elimination Chamber. Everything was going so well…
But John Cena had to be dealt with. And I truly believe Creative is starting to learn from their mistakes with Sandow and Bray by how they’ve handled Kevin Owens and Cena’s feud this Season. But they dropped the ball royally with Mr. Rotunda.
Wyatt shouldn’t have lost at ‘Mania XXX, not after Cena was coming off a win the year before. Maybe Creative felt like they owed him for losing at ‘Mania XXVII & XXVIII but as we’ve seen since Cena’s had the United States Championship, he doesn’t mind putting guys over, even when he wins.
Bray’s one win came thanks to a child preventing Cena from exiting the steel cage at Extreme Rules. I’m not kidding. Go watch the ending on the Network. I’ll wait.
You see what I mean? And the reasoning for the feud is silly as well. Bray wanted Cena to become a monster (Embrace the hate anyone?) but Bray is the monster. He has all the potential to be the monster heel in the WWE.
But they just won’t let him be great.
Honorable Mention: Triple H/Sting. We knew Sting would lose. There was no way Vince was going to let WCW’s number one guy come into the WWE and win his first match. And if his first match wasn’t going to be against The Undertaker, Triple H was a nice alternative.
The buildup to WrestleMania 31 was fine; I had zero issues with any of it. But that match was a disaster and no, not the parts that featured Sting and Triple H, I mean all the Attitude Era theatrics that came with it.
Of course Trips would need not only Shawn, but the entire post-WrestleMania 16 D-Generation X stable by his side. And who comes to Stinger’s aid? Kevin Nash? Okay, I buy that, he was in the Wolfpac with him and he just went into the Hall of Fame. Who’s next? Not Konnan or Lex Luger. Ric Flair can’t take Sting’s side over Hunter’s. Could it not have been Booker T & DDP? Or even Dolph and a former member of Team Cena, since Sting helped them win at Survivor Series? No.
Hulk Hogan and Scott Hall. And they were wearing the original black & white of the nWo, the same nWo who Sting battled for most of the end of WCW’s run. This made zero sense.
We did get Kevin Nash faking another quad injury though. But Trips wins and then they shake hands in the middle of the ring.
WHY VINCE, WHY?
Best Face: Roman Reigns
And now for something Vince and Creative got completely right but we all hated.
Reigns was hands down the best face last Season. He got turned on by his partner Rollins, won the Money In The Bank Championship match entry battle royal but then he lost the match to Cena, lost the Fatal Four-Way Title match at Battleground, and defeated The Authority’s Orton at SummerSlam. So far so good right?
He then had a legit emergency hernia surgery and was gone until late December and they booked him against Big Show leading up the Rumble. He wins the Rumble but then is booed out of the building because of another case of poor match planning. And then we go from perfect buildup of a face to recovery plan for ‘Mania 31.
More Big Show matches, he wrestles Bryan at Fast Lane with his Title shot at ‘Mania on the line and wins cleanly, and his still poised to win the Title from Brock… until Brock resigns with WWE and officially announces his MMA days are over. Despite all his efforts and a damn good match with Lesnar up until Rollins’ cash in, he’s still without that elusive WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
My friends, the chase is what makes faces great faces and Reigns ran the race like no other last Season. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, I don’t know if the fans revolt like they did at the Royal Rumble. And Brock may have still found himself losing the Belt to Reigns, but probably when he pinned Rollins when the cash in came.
He’s spent a large chunk of this Season away from the Title picture as the rebuilding process continues. And like it or not, Roman Reigns will be your WWE Champion sooner or later. And he’ll be a damn good one.
Honorable Mention: Dean Ambrose. I have to give Dean a ton of credit. He went from the obviously choice of turning on The Shield to the anti-hero that hasn’t been seen in WWE since… dare I say, Stone Cold Steve Austin?
He’s fun, charismatic, puts his body on the line, can wrestle with anyone, has a great entrance and look, does commentary well, he’s with smark favorite Renee Young… if he hadn’t gotten the short end of the stick in so many of his feuds, he has Reigns beat. Believe that.
Worst Face: Curtis Axel (Axelmania)
Picking the worst face in the company would’ve been much harder if Creative hadn’t turned Curtis Axel into Hulk Hogan. They had the perfect setup for his next gimmick: he didn’t get a fair shot in the Rumble match, so have him use that anger to channel him into a ruthless midcard heel. WHY NOT?
Nope. Let’s have him wear the reds and yellows and add a bleach blonde handlebar mustache, the fans (kids) will love it!
I don’t know, if Hogan wasn’t an idiot maybe the Meta Powers gimmick wouldn’t have been too horrible, especially when Sandow involved. But they would’ve just ended them like they did Rybaxel after they spent months working together, just when they’re really working well as a team.
I’m not bitter.
Honorable Mention: Erick Rowan. Let’s see. Did Creative break up a perfectly fine tag team and make the weaker member a face? Did Creative ruin a good stable and a fully capable monster heel in the process? Was this new face the weakest member of Team Cena? Did this wrestler take a ridiculous pin at TLC from the Big Show? Did this face have to spend the Road to WrestleMania facing the likes of Kane and Big Show? And to top it off, is the wrestler’s mic skills terrible and did he change absolutely nothing from his heel run to his face run?
If all these answers are yes, then the wrestler in question is Erick Rowan and he isn’t ready to be a face and should not be one again for a long while.
Best Match: Tie – The Shield v Evolution, Extreme Rules & The Shield v Evolution, Payback
Take three parts of a great stable from the early to mid-2000s and reunite them (even though two of them just beat the crap out of each other leading up to and at WrestleMania XXX). Put them with a new recently turned face faction who dominated the roster for over a year. Allow them to beat the hell out of each other at not just one, but two PPVs in a row. And in an improbable move, have the team with Triple H lose both times. Make all three members of the new faction look like world beaters. Give the internet the gift of Blue-tista.
Then have Rollins turn on Reigns and Ambrose and join Triple H and Randy Orton in The Authority. And have Batista quit just when he was rounding back into being a quality wrestler.
Honorable Mention: Cena/Rollins/Lesnar, Royal Rumble. Once Rollins got into the Championship picture, he really began to shine this Season. Cena had it in for him because he cost him the WWE Title at Night Of Champions. Brock had it in for him because he almost cashed in on him at NoC; it was the perfect storm for all parties. It helped that Rollins was the afterthought of the entire affair as he proceeded to put on a wrestling clinic, breaking up pins, Curb Stomping his opponents at every turn, and hitting an elbow drop from the top rope on Lesnar, which took The Beast out of the match for several minutes.
For his part, Cena was ever the undying warrior, kicking out of pin attempts, and throwing everything he had at Rollins and Lesnar. But on this night, it just wasn’t enough.
And Brock? He kicked out of multiple Attitude Adjustments and Curb Stomps and won. Again.
Worst Match: Royal Rumble match
Creative didn’t learn from the fiasco of the previous year other than inserting Daniel Bryan into the fracas this time… only to have him dumped out shortly after. Bubba Ray Dudley returned… by himself. A Wyatt Family reunion was teased… and then dropped. The Boogeyman returned… for no reason. Diamond Dallas Page was there… for Rusev to eliminate. I mentioned Kane and Big Show dumping out a good portion of the field and they were in the final four with Reigns and Rusev. The Rock showed up to take out Kane and Show after they attacked Roman despite being eliminated but surprise! Rusev had slipped under the ropes and took a nap and almost won the whole shebang. He didn’t and Reigns was your winner and he and The Rock received a booing like no other on the way out.
Maybe they should skip the Rumble this Season?
Honorable Mention: Cena/Reigns/Kane/Orton, Battleground. There’s almost nothing worse than a WWE Title match when you know the Belt’s not changing hands at all. Brock was looming on the horizon so and there was no way he wasn’t getting a Title shot at SummerSlam. Reigns was being positioned as a future Champ but even Creative knew better than to make him top dog by just July after only a few months of being a face.
This was during Orton’s directionless period when he was still a part of The Authority but he really had nothing to do since he never got an outright rematch with Daniel Bryan (which reminds me, does anyone remember when Triple H said he was going to beat Bryan for the Title on the Raw after WrestleMania and was about to until The Shield intervened? Gotta love Trips man) and the Evolution angle was over. After his Title run the Season before, it was highly doubtful he would win it again.
Kane is Kane and he hasn’t been WWE Champion since 1998; World Champion last in 2010, so his time wasn’t now (I’m getting bored talking about Kane, can you tell?)
So yeah, LOLCENAWINS = LOLIMBORED.
Best PPV: WrestleMania 31
Other than the nWo and DX getting involved in Sting and Trip’s match and the Andre Battle Royal result, the card was flawless.
Bryan won the IC Title after a fun ladder match, Orton seemingly ended Rollins’ night with his Curb Stomp countering RKO, the Bellas and AJ/Paige made the most out of their almost 7 minutes, John Cena (of course) was the first man to pin Rusev cleanly in the WWE (and it was the last time he hit the Springboard Stunner successfully), The Undertaker came back and did Bray Wyatt no favors by defeating him, and the aforementioned slobberknocker that Lesnar and Reigns put on until Rollins’ made his return to cash-in.
And Ronda Rousey was there. The only MMA fighter I give a damn about whose name isn’t CM Punk (I am, still, and will remain, a CM Punk guy). In her Dragon Ball Z shirt. A Vegeta Dragon Ball Z shirt at that. I love you Ronda.
If I have to say something else bad about it… maybe Rollins cashing in when Reigns/Lesnar had been so good up to his involvement was a bad idea. Not a knock on Seth or his work as WWE World Heavyweight Champion but if Reigns did beat Lesnar (and thus becoming the first guy to pin him cleanly since he came back) would we still need to be in the Roman Reigns rebuilding campaign?
Honorable Mention: Payback. There really wasn’t a lot of PPVs to choose from this Season. Almost every card had something going on that I didn’t care for or I just found ridiculous. Since there has to be a runner-up, Payback would be it. There was no WWE Title match due to DB’s injury but we got the 2nd Shield/Evolution match, El Torito/Hornswoggle II, Sheamus/Cesaro, the end of the Cena/Bray feud, more Rusev dominance, Bo Dallas (remember he was undefeated for a portion of the Season?) got to taunt Kofi Kingston when Kane was given the gift of interrupting their match, Rob Van Dam got a IC Title shot against Bad News Barrett, and Paige had her second ever Divas Championship defense.
It could have been much worse.
Worst PPV: Battleground
Speaking of the worst, gah was Battleground was bad. You had the WWE Title Fatal Four-Way, The Miz winning the vacant Intercontinental Championship after rolling under the ropes and surprising Dolph to win, Chris Jericho did what everybody did to Bray this Season by beating him, The Usos retained the Tag Belts despite the obvious choice of putting them on Luke Harper & Rowan, and the best part was Rollins/Ambrose didn’t happen!
Nope, Creative decided that by attacking Rollins prior to their match that Ambrose needed to be banned from the arena, causing him to lose by forfeit. And then they had Ambrose come back later to pummel Rollins some more before the PPV was all said and done. Did we really need a Raw or SmackDown angle on a PPV when Rollins/Ambrose was the hottest feud in the company?
Gah, Battleground was bad. At least we had Rusev/Swagger and AJ/Paige.
Honorable Mention: TLC. The good: The New Day debuted, Ziggler won the IC Title from Harper, The Miz & Mizdow retained the Tag Titles, and more of Best Feud winner Rusev/Swagger.
The bad: Show/Rowan, Cena/Rollins doesn’t get a clean finish, Nikki Bella retained against AJ by spraying her eyes after the ref was distracted with sending Brie to the back, and Ryback/Kane.
The reason it’s not the Worst PPV is because we got 20+ minutes of Ambrose and Bray beating the living daylights out of each other. But then that pesky monitor exploded because… Dean doesn’t know how to unplug electronics apparently.
Gah, TLC was bad too.
Comeback Wrestler of the Year: Nikki Bella
So yes, the first Diva to win this category is Nikki Bella. And aside from her terrible feud with Brie that went nowhere, there was no wrestler on the main roster who showed improvement like Nikki did.
She’s been using it since late-2013, but the Rack Attack (a version of her boyfriend John’s beloved AA) is one of the most physically powerful finishing moves in the entire Divas roster. And she’s been wrecking shop with it. I’d like to know if anyone’s actually kicked out of it yet.
But along with the Rack Attack, Nikki’s in-ring ability has increased across the board. Everything looks sharper, she sells better, and she’s taken on more challenging spots and moves.
On Total Divas, Nikki and Brie have always been written as heels, as they command attention and want things done their way in their “everyday lives”, but once Nikki and Brie were reunited as the top heels in the Divas division, that’s when they really started to light it up in the little screen time they were getting. It helps that Nikki was able to win the Divas Championship (for the second time since 2011) at Survivor Series and she’s still holding it as the 2015-16 Season continues onward and upward. She’s also on-track to unseat AJ as the longest reigning Divas Title holder, but I think that’s more due to AJ’s retirement and her marriage to WWE’s current public enemy #1, CM Punk.
Nikki also became more outspoken as she was calling for the Divas of NXT to come to main roster months before the Divas Revolution began and she was also at the forefront of the #GiveDivasAChance hashtag that took over Twitter for a while (along with AJ). A Champion is only as great as their competition, so she must have seen the writing on the wall that wrestling Cameron and Rosa Mendes wasn’t going to get her the respectability she was craving.
Her mic skills still lack at times, as we saw during her vignettes when she, “wished Brie would’ve died in the womb.” Yuck. But in small doses, she’s effective, and it helps all the more when she has the Divas Belt above her head.
But my favorite thing that Nikki does, even though I hated it the first time? Dat Forearm Smash doe! She has that move down to an artform now but I think concussion concerns are causing Creative to use it less and less these days.
Nikki has gotten so good that I wish she had wrestled Stephanie as SummerSlam instead of Brie. As for why, I’ll get to that shortly.
Honorable Mention: Cesaro. Another Season, another runner-up finish for Cesaro for Comeback Wrestler of the Year. He went from Paul Heyman guy to pretty much replacing Dolph as “the midcarder who the fans like, but Creative doesn’t know what to do with him, so they’ll let him have entertaining matches, but have him lose 9/10ths of the time”, to being back in a tag team with Tyson Kidd of all people.
But what a tag team it was. Originally booked as heels, the two formed a bond that the WWE Universe immediately took to, especially since neither of them was afraid to break kayfabe. They had one run with the Tag Team Belts and had started to feud with The New Day as this current Season got underway when Kidd got hurt.
So far, Cesaro is getting booked the right way after three years on the main roster. I hope to someday give him the Wrestler Of The Year award, as any more runner-up finishes in this category just won’t do for him anymore.
Disappointing Wrestler Of The Year: Bray Wyatt
Who else could it be? To put it like he would, Bray Wyatt had the whole world in his hands at the beginning of this Season. Following his loss to Cena at ‘Mania XXX, he was the hottest heel on the main roster.
And then I don’t know what happened. Because don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Bray ever lost his popularity with the WWE Universe, he was just booked horribly time and time again.
He won his rematch with Cena at Extreme Rules, but only with help from the Wyatt Family and that kid that spooked Cena. Then Cena beat him again at Payback, which completely killed his momentum he had been gaining since the 2014 Royal Rumble when he went over Bryan cleanly.
He finally got a well-deserved shot at the WWE WHC at Money In The Bank but was a non-factor throughout leading up to Cena’s fifteenth Title reign. He feuded with Chris Jericho, because… reasons and ended up winning that series of matches. The sad thing is that Jericho’s credibility is kind of shot for me since he put over Fandango at WrestleMania 29. But the strangest part was a match on Raw with Cena last August that just saw Cena run all over Bray.
Why would you let the best heel in the company get stomped by Super Cena because he’s mad about getting annihilated at SummerSlam by Brock? There were so many wrestlers they could have used here but Creative went with Bray.
And yes, it gets worse from there! They disbanded the Wyatt Family and none of the members benefitted other than Harper getting a short IC Title run (which again makes me question Creative: Why give Luke a Title run before you give Bray Wyatt, your top heel, a Title run?!). Then we get the aforementioned Ambrose feud, which he won, but neither man got to truly show off their strengths as they had one gimmick match after another.
And then this Season mercifully concluded for Bray as he was fed to The Undertaker and became the 22 in 22-1.
Things have turned around so far this season, with a reunion with Harper and semi-decent feud with Reigns after a horrible feud with Ryback of all people. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
Why won’t Creative let Bray Wyatt be great?
Honorable Mention: Stardust. He’s gotten much better since Dusty passed, I will say that. But he spent the beginning of his Stardust gimmick convincing us that he wasn’t a complete rip-off of his brother Goldust, his heel turn with his brother and then on his brother never quite worked out, the tag team division took a turn for the better as his feud with Goldust played out and that too fizzled.
I’ve heard a lot of people say they were into the Stardust gimmick and with a year and change under his belt now, I’m starting to enjoy it too. Only time will tell if Stardust will reach the heights Cody managed to achieve at the times when he was given the opportunity; I think he actually has potential to be a main eventer now, but only if Creative agrees.
Rookie Of The Year: Rusev
There’s nothing like a winning streak to show how undefeatable the new guy on the main roster is when he had a mediocre debut in the 2014 Rumble. Rusev crushed everyone that was led to the slaughter and did so convincingly; quick on his feet but powerful at the same time, he made me a believer that the Camel Clutch could be a convincing finisher again.
He won the United States Title from Sheamus in November and continued his winning streak decisively, only losing by DQs and count outs. Rusev held the Title for 146 days before losing it to John Cena at ‘Mania 31 and unlike Cena’s feud with Bray earlier in the Season, Rusev successfully defended the Belt at Fastlane, doing something that Creative hasn’t done for Bray lately: Making him look and stay strong.
While he’s not equipped with the mic skills that Bray has, he’s pretty much established as the third biggest heel right now behind Rollins and Wyatt. And even following his split with Lana (and eventual split with Summer Rae), Rusev is still must-see TV. Had he not been out with a legit foot injury a few months ago, he may have even won the Intercontinental Championship over Ryback.
A share of this award has to go to Lana though. She was Rusev’s mouthpiece for much the Season as her pro-Russia promos gained the duo even more heat when he was having his umpteenth house show match with Swagger. There was nothing more brutal than her blurting out for Rusev to crush an opponent, even after the Russian flag had dropped and said opponent had already lost.
My one hope is that Rusev doesn’t fall in line with previous RotY winners like Ryback and Bray by having a horrific sophomore slump. And for the love of all that’s good in the world, the WWE Universe does not need to see a Rusev face run. He’s not there yet. Are you listening Creative? He’s not there yet!
Honorable Mention: Paige. Paige was a breath of fresh air for the Divas division following AJ Lee’s dominance of the weaker competition for 295 days. While she didn’t bring her Anti-Diva gimmick (or her feud with Emma) from NXT, Paige defeated all comers whenever the Butterfly was on the line, despite several losses in non-title matches. When AJ came back from her honeymoon, she promptly won her Belt back and she and Paige feuded until Nikki won the Divas Belt at Survivor Series.
In the process of that feud, she easily went from face to heel and back to face when she and AJ joined forces leading up to their match at ‘Mania 31, which they won. And her solid work throughout the Season was one of the main reasons that Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch saw call ups to the main roster in the past few months.
I don’t think we’ll see a sophomore slump here folks. In fact, I’d put Paige on a short list to compete for Wrestler Of The Year at some point.
Best Diva: AJ Lee
I admit it; I really thought AJ couldn’t wrestle for the longest time, since Creative was more interested in who she was dating/kissing/skipping around than having her wrestle an actual match for almost a year and a half. But I’m so glad to admit I was wrong.
Another wrong that I’m now righting: This is the first time I’m choosing a Best Diva winner and I almost feel like I’m giving it to AJ as an apology for not acknowledging her during her record setting reign as Divas Champion. At the time, I didn’t feel it was necessary because AJ was the only one I felt was showing true talent in the division; Kaitlyn retired, Creative never lets Natalya just dominate like I feel she can, the Bellas were improving but not quite there, the Funkadactyls were still a thing, Tamina Snuka went from possibly replacing Beth Phoenix to AJ’s bodyguard, etc. And then, she beat thirteen other Divas to retain her Title at WrestleMania XXX. THIRTEEN!
But Paige finally gave AJ the talented foil for her to truly show what they could do. Yeah, they had this weird, flirtatious, feud that didn’t make sense but their matches were great. From June until Hell In A Cell in October, they had the third best feud in the company (and honestly, I just like Rusev/Swagger way too much because AJ/Paige is Best Feud 1a) and despite the limited screen and match time, you could tell they truly enjoyed working with each other.
All this while dealing with constant CM Punk chants from the WWE Universe and never letting them get under her skin, even when she was in the middle of a match trying to tell a story. Her composure alone earned her this award.
And to top it off, after three months off for a legit neck injury, she comes back to aid her former rival Paige against the Bellas. She and Paige did the Mega Powers storyline in reverse pretty much! And I’d like to think, again, that this has something to do with the current Divas Revolution.
She wrestled the night after WrestleMania, where she helped Naomi and Paige to a win on Raw over the Bellas and Natalya. AJ even wore a Bayley t-shirt in support of the now-NXT Women’s Champion. And on April 3rd, she retired from in-ring competition.
I don’t know if we’ve seen the last of AJ in the squared circle but she deserves a standing ovation for putting Divas division on her back for so long. Maybe that’ll make up for the Punk chants in the middle of her matches.
Honorable Mention: Tie – Paige & Nikki Bella. I’ve already sung both of their praises, so here’s some creative ways to describe both: Paige = future queen. Nikki = bad b!+(#. And I almost gave this award to Paige too.
Worst Diva: Brie Bella
This isn’t all her fault. Creative just dropped her storyline with Nikki, right as her 30 days of being her personal assistant ended. She never even got a televised win over Nikki for all the rude things she said after she turned heel at SummerSlam. And she pretty much just played the role of supportive sister to the Divas Champ after Nikki won the Belt at Survivor Series.
Some good things: Her storyline with Stephanie was excellent but there was no way Steph was going to put her over. I can’t think of anything else for her to do other than hand her the Divas Belt for beating the “owner” of the WWE. And the orchestration of Nikki’s turn was perfect too, and Brie sold the feud well… while it was still happening.
The curious thing was in the months leading up to SummerSlam, Brie was clearly the stronger wrestler of the Twins. I don’t know if that was intentional but other than not being able to lock in a convincing Yes (No/LeBell) Lock, she looked like she had made a jump from the previous season.
But once she reteamed with her sister, her in-ring work became sloppy; her botches more evident. Again, this could have been to make the Divas Champion look better, but I don’t think Nikki needed her sister to look bad to do it.
Her heel work was strong as ever though, especially as her and Nikki bullied Paige and the rest of the Divas leading up to WrestleMania. And really, I gave her this award because giving it to Eva Marie is expected and too easy. She also stopped wrestling in September, following one of her implants rupturing as seen on Total Divas. With that said, it gives me great pleasure to do this:
Honorable Mention: N/A. No other Diva was worthy of this award! Cameron would be the next weakest after Eva but she didn’t wrestle enough. Same with Layla and Rosa. Tamina is still mostly muscle. Alicia Foxx made some great strides last Season. Naomi has always been impressive.
So next year, expect an actual Honorable Mention because there’s no more excuses Divas!
Worst Wrestler Of The Year: Adam Rose
They made this man tag with a Bunny (Justin Gabriel, who asked for his walking papers shortly after)! I don’t know how this is the gimmick they thought was main roster worthy, but after his E:60 feature, I’m definitely pulling for Ray Leppan. Not only for his family but Ray just seems like a good dude.
Which may be why he’s willing to settle for the stuff Creative gave him on the main roster. They did let him go undefeated until October but nobody took this guy seriously. It’s a shame because he’s winning this category purely for his character and not his wrestling ability. The matches I’ve seen him in on NXT were good (like when he teamed with Tyler Breeze to face now-NXT Champion Finn Balor & Hideo Itami on the NXT before NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable), he showed a lot of promise in-ring on Raw and SmackDown, and I like the idea of a heel version of the character. Nothing happened for Rose either way though, so he’s toiling on the D-list of the main roster.
I still think Fandango is way worse though as I’ve seen only tiny flashes from him. But he also disappeared for a large chunk of the Season, so he narrowly avoided this award two years running. I just hope that Rose gets to do something that’s worthy of his talents in this current Season. And there’s still time, there’s a lot of wrestling left to do.
Honorable Mention: Mark Henry. When I started this column, Mark Henry was the World Heavyweight Champion, the second prestigious Belt in the WWE. Last Season, he was left off the first five PPVs until he got fed to Rusev, he turned heel and ruined The World’s Strongest Show tag team, he was the first man eliminated in the Team Authority/Team Cena match by Big Show… who then later joined the team that Henry was eliminated from, and then… he was pretty much done.
I get it, Henry has been wrestling for a long time and I know a lot of his Season was lost due to injuries but you can’t find something for the World’s Strongest Man to do that’s worthy of his time? A damn shame, that’s what I call this sad chain of events.
Wrestler Of The Year: Brock Lesnar
Again, who else could it be? Only two years removed from winning the Worst Wrestler award, the Beast may have had the best Season of any wrestler to win Wrestler Of The Year (and yes, that includes my beloved Punk).
After he became the 1 in 21-1 at ‘Mania XXX, Brock didn’t reappear until The Authority gave him his long awaited Title shot at SummerSlam, and handed John Cena the most devastating loss of his career. Cena almost won it back at Night Of Champions, but some timely Seth Rollins intervention led to Lesnar losing but retaining the Belt.
The best part about Brock’s run was he only wrestled four times the entire Season and was the reigning, defending, undisputed Champion for three of those matches. That meant the WWE WHC wasn’t seen unless Brock was in the building with his advocate Paul Heyman and that it opened up the top of the PPV card. Thusly, we got Rollins/Ambrose at Hell In A Cell, Team Cena v. Team Authority (won by my guy Dolph, who pinned Rollins after Sting took him and Triple H out) at Survivor Series, the could’ve been a classic Ambrose/Wyatt at TLC, and a better than expected Daniel Bryan/Roman Reigns match at Fastlane.
When The Rock stole (that’s right, I said it) the WWE Championship at the end of the 2013 Season, he headlined every PPV during his run, and other than the matches Punk carried him in, it was a very underwhelming run. It just made me angry that he only showed up to 1 or 2 Raws in between PPVs. Maybe this was also due to the lack of talent on the roster (more like Creative’s inability to use the talent) and the fact that Heyman was on Raw almost every week to at least speak for the Beast when he was on his farm in Minnesota. Or it could be that I knew that Brock could be back at any given moment versus knowing The Rock was filming across the country. My point is Brock was the Champ and I didn’t feel like the Belt lost any of its importance just because he wasn’t around every single week.
Something else I loved about Brock despite what Heyman would say about him, he was a face the entire time he was Champion. The last time he came at Cena because he was the top guy when he returned to WWE; this time, he was more calculating, more patient in storyline. He knew John Cena had more to lose than he did. It helped that all crowds were split during all Cena feuds too. Even when Rollins got Brock to help him beat Cena in a steel cage the night after TLC, it still seemed like it was for business purposes only, not because he was a true heel.
Rollins was the heel heading into the Rumble match and then they paired Lesnar with Reigns, the WWE Universe’s whipping boy of the Season. Brock never had to do anything heel-like outside of just being a machine designed to give out punishment during his matches. A welcome change from when he picked on Big Show and Mark Henry last Season.
And finally, Brock officially arrived as the special attraction WWE kept billing him as since he came back in 2012. Really, his match with Punk at SummerSlam 2013 and The Undertaker match signaled that but with ‘Taker getting hurt early, I still feel like they had wanted to do more with the match before Brock ended The Streak. Once he got away from being the unpredictable MMA returnee that he had played against Cena and Triple H, that’s when he really started to shine. That’s why there are Suplex City shirts now. That’s why Seth Rollins can never get too attached to holding onto that WWE World Heavyweight Champion. That’s why Creative books Lesnar to lose only after he truly won in his rematch with Undertaker at SummerSlam.
That’s why Brock Lesnar is your Wrestler Of The Year.
Honorable Mention: Tie – Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns. WWE had one guy lined up to be the next WWE Champion and the other guy as the current WWE WHC for a reason.
Rollins is probably my favorite wrestler on the main roster (followed closely by Kevin Owens) so his Title run has been an awesome one for me despite his cowardly heel booking since ‘Mania 31. But all of this is possible due to the groundwork he laid from the moment he turned on The Shield. From his on again, off again feud with Ambrose, his surprising chemistry with Cena and Lesnar, and his excellent feud with Randy leading up to WrestleMania, I can’t find any holes in his game. His technical ability is off the charts, his promos are on point, and he’s taken the ball from Triple H and The Authority and ran into the end zone every chance he’s gotten.
He’s no longer just the future of the WWE; he’s among the best they have to offer.
And I’m a Reigns believer man. I truly feel like if Creative had held off on his return and let him come out as a surprise entrant into the Royal Rumble, there wouldn’t have been such a backlash against him. But Roman has the look that Vince and Co. love, he’s willing to take criticism and learn from it as we’ve seen him do since the Rumble debacle in Philly, and he just has the perfect skill set to one day replace John Cena as the face of the WWE. He’s someone that kids and adults can get behind and they will when he does finally capture his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
You may not believe in Roman now but you better pay close attention and get in line; because when the real push of Roman Reigns comes, there won’t be anything that will be able to derail it other than Roman himself.
And there you have it! The final Promos By Hyphen column and the third annual 2015 WWE Year End Awards! If you made it through all these words to arrive here (and you actually read them all), send me your address to my email and I’ll send you a No-Prize! Like seriously, I’ll find a way.
While the Promos By Hyphen phase of my writing career is ending, the WWE is in my blood so I’ll never be too far away. And I’m too invested in this Season to not say it now: There will definitely be a 2016 WWE Year End Awards, so watch all spaces with my name attached for news on that piece next year.
With all this said… I still think Creative needs to give me a job. I got ideas, man! Tell Vince/Triple H/definitely Stephanie to call me, man!