The 2013 Bobby-james Awards: Best of the WWE

Welcome to the first installment of the 2013 Bobby-james Awards – the Best of WWE.

Released in conjunction with the WWE Slammy Awards, I have selected the performers, matches, and moments that have been –  how would Triple H or Stephanie McMahon say it again? … right, “best for business,” throughout 2013.  I realize that we have just under one month and a final pay-per-view (TLC, Dec. 15) remaining, but I can assure you, these Superstars, Divas, and moments are, without a doubt, the best of the year. Without any further ado, may I present – the Best of WWE:

DIVA of the Year:  AJ Lee

AJ Lee
Diva of the Year: AJ Lee

AJ Lee reigned over 2012 as the Superstar of the year – she was involved in the main event scene and had one of the highest profiles in the WWE.  It seemed as if she’d reached the top.  This begged the question, “Where does AJ go now?” The answer was obvious:  Into the Diva’s Division full-time. Lee transitioned from being Dolph Ziggler’s valet/girlfriend into a full-time competitor and quickly the Diva’s Champion.

As champion, Lee has contested memorable bouts against former champions Kaitlyn, Natalya, and Brie Bella – she’s delivered a “State of my Mind” address, confronted Stephanie McMahon, been part of the main event scene, dropped a “Pipe Bombshell,” and brought prestige back to the Diva’s Championship.  AJ Lee is establishing her legacy as one of the greatest Diva’s of all time – she’s already well on her way to being recognized as one of the most important.

Runners Up:  Kaitlyn (#2), Brie Bella (#3), Natalya (#4)

Return of the Year:  Goldust 

Cody Rhodes and Goldust - RHODES
WWE Tag Team Champions: Cody Rhodes (left) and Goldust (right)

The “Bizarre One” returned to a huge reception during the 2013 Royal Rumble (as the #8 entrant), but this once-off appearance wasn’t enough.  In late summer, Goldust returned to aid his brother (Cody Rhodes) against The Authority (Triple H/Stephanie McMahon) – a quest that initially seemed bleak, but ultimately led to the formation of RHODES and the capture of the WWE Tag Team Championships.  Now, if WWE could just deliver that rumored brother vs. brother feud and WrestleMania match…

Runners Up:  The Bella Twins (#2), Rob Van Dam (#3), Christian (#4)

Tag Team of the Year:  The Shield 

The Shield: Dean Ambrose (left), Roman Reigns (center), Seth Rollins (right)
The Shield: Dean Ambrose (left), Roman Reigns (center), Seth Rollins (right)

After debuting near the end of 2012, it was a foregone conclusion that The Shield would maintain their dominant status as the best tag team/faction in the WWE.  At Extreme Rules, The Shield proved their dominance and swept up every championship they competed for (Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns for the Tag Team Championships, Dean Ambrose for the United States Championship) and have enjoyed lengthy reigns (note: Ambrose is the only reigning champion for The Shield as of this writing).  Then they aligned themselves and briefly did the bidding for The Authority, before moving into a feud with the “Best in the World,” CM Punk to finish off their 2013.    #BelieveInTheShield

Runners Up:  Rhodes (#2), The Wyatt Family (#3), The Usos (#4)

Rookie of the Year:  Fandango

Fandango vignette
Rookie of the Year: Fandango

“Da-da! Da-da-da-da-dada-da…” #Fandangoing #ChaChaLaLa “Fan-dan-goooooo”

By that first line – and just that line alone – you have an idea of who Fandango is.  Mission accomplished.  He (re)debuted atop the mid-card and defeated Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 29.  That catapulted him into the Intercontinental Championship scene, acquired him a permanent valet (Summer Rae), and gave him a more elaborate entrance than he already had.  Did I mention his wildly popular entrance theme (ChaChaLaLa) – or the mass of people “Fandangoing?” Sadly, an ill-timed concussion has put Fandango in a slump – but that doesn’t take away from him being the single most important rookie of the year.

Runners Up:  The Wyatt Family (#2), Curtis Axel (#3), Eva Marie (#4)

Valet of the Year:  Summer Rae

Summer Rae
Fandango and Summer Rae

There has always been an interest in the Fandango girls (after all, this year’s Rookie of the Year is WWE’s version of James Bond) but Summer Rae came to stay, and in the process has made a good name for herself.  Enthusiastically referred to as “Mrs. Fandango” by JBL on commentary, Summer Rae has risen from being the occasional Fandango dancer, to permanent fixture, to a woman with personality and some in-ring skill (as demonstrated by her clashes with Natalya).  I suspect she’ll be a force in the Diva’s Division in the coming years, but for now, the golden-haired beauty is Fandango’s valet – and is she ever good at it.  So good in fact, Summer Rae becomes a trending topic on social media when she’s ringside for a Fandango match.

Runners Up:  Paul Heyman (#2), Zeb Colter (#3), AJ Lee (#4)

Non-Wrestling Personality of the Year:  Stephanie McMahon

Stephanie McMahon
Stephanie McMahon on RAW

The (current) undisputed queen of WWE is a delicious villain.  One half of The Authority, Stephanie McMahon has returned to her “classic” form as a heel.  She’s made life impossible for a list of Superstars and Divas, namely the Big Show, Daniel Bryan, the Rhodes family, Vickie Guerrero, and AJ Lee.  Her summer confrontations with the Diva’s Champion had some clamoring for a would-be epic collision between McMahon and Lee for the strap; and her personal attacks on key stars like Daniel Bryan (remember when she told him he wasn’t an A+ player, he was a B+?), Dusty Rhodes, and the Big Show have proven that when it comes to heel behavior, the McMahons are untouchable.

Runners Up:  Brad Maddox (#2), Vickie Guerrero (#3), John “Bradshaw” Layfield (#4)

Moment of the Year:  AJ Lee’s “Pipe-Bombshell”

AJ Lee speaks to the cast of Total Divas
AJ Lee mocks the cast of Total Divas

WWE moved forward with Total Divas, a scripted reality show.  The show – and it’s Divas – commanded attention on weekly WWE television and the reigning Diva’s Champion was none too happy.  Here is a transcript of the promo she cut, which, to the delight of some wrestling fans, felt laced with animosity – much like CM Punk’s “Pipe Bomb” promo in 2011:

“Do you want to know what I see when I look in that ring?  A bunch of cheap, interchangeable, expendable, useless women – women who have turned to reality television because they just weren’t gifted enough to be actresses – and they just weren’t talented enough to be champion.  I have done more in one year than all of you have done in your entire collective careers.  I have saved your Diva’s division, I have shattered glass ceilings, I have broken down doors.  Why?  So a bunch of ungrateful, stiff plastic mannequins can waltz on through without even as much as a thank you?  You guys can’t even go backstage and shake my hand and look me in the eye because you know that I worked my entire life to get here.  I gave my life to this – and you were just handed fifteen minutes of fame.  I didn’t get here because I was cute – or because I came from some famous wrestling family – or because I sucked (beat) up to the right people.  I got here because I am good.  I earned this championship – and no matter how many red carpets you guys wanna walk in your $4,000 ridiculous heels, you will never be able to lace up my Chuck Taylors. You’re all worthless excuses for women – and you will never be able to touch me – and that is reality.” – AJ Lee to the cast of Total Divas, RAW, 8/26/2013

Runners Up:  CM Punk dumps Paul Bearer’s ashes to close RAW (#2), Dolph Ziggler cashes in (#3), The Wyatt Family debut (#4)

Most Improved Wrestler of the Year:  Brie Bella

Brie Bella (left) vs. Natalya (right)
Brie Bella (left) vs. Natalya (right)

When the Bella Twins left WWE – I was excited.  I thought they were bland personalities and mediocre wrestlers that offered nothing to the show.  Then they returned this year – and dare I say, I was actually excited to see Brie and Nikki.  They got scrappy with the Funkadactyls a few times and I had the same feelings – except this time around, they were better heels.  Then Nikki was injured and Brie went solo.  Throughout the summer, Brie’s in-ring improvements (and reported training with Daniel Bryan) were evident in her SummerSlam match against Natalya and her run as number one contender for the Diva’s Championship against AJ Lee.

Brie’s a markedly improved wrestler and is nearing the top of the current crop of Divas.  Should she maintain her level of training, we should see even better matches from Brie next year and possibly a run with the strap (a more meaningful one than her first).

Runners Up:  Seth Rollins (#2), Big E. Langston (#3), Aksana (#4)

Show of the Year:  Total Divas

Total Divas: (left to right) Nikki Bella, Naomi, Natalya, Cameron, Brie Bella
Total Divas: (left to right) Nikki Bella, Naomi, Natalya, Cameron, Brie Bella

WWE has a hit on their hands – E! Total Divas.  The scripted reality show gives fans a look behind the scenes of WWE and what road life is like for the Superstars and Divas.  It’s full of drama, “purple people eaters,” romance, and rivalry. The stories on Total Divas oftentimes work themselves onto regular, weekly programming, and I’d venture to say that on a consistent basis Total Divas offers edgier content (think Attitude era moments) and the action and excitement is better than what you’ll find on RAW and Smackdown!

Initially there was speculation that Total Divas was a vehicle for the Bella Twins, but as season one draws to a close (and knowing that season two has an order), it’s clear that while Brie and Nikki have benefited from the exposure, the other Divas (Natalya and the Funkadactyls) have shined just as bright, if not brighter.  Did I mention a surprise star was born:  Eva Marie and her hashtag #AllRedEverything.

Runners Up:  Post-WrestleMania RAW (#2), SummerSlam (#3), Payback (#4)

Feud of the Year:  Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan

Daniel Bryan (left) stands over a fallen Randy Orton
Daniel Bryan (left) stands over a fallen Randy Orton

Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton began at SummerSlam when Triple H crossed Bryan and Orton cashed in his All-Stars Money in the Bank contract moments after Bryan defeated John Cena for the WWE Championship.  It was perfect set-up to make Daniel Bryan more of an underdog than he already is/was.  Why could the smaller guy – the “Yes” master – not just reign supreme over the WWE?  Why did The Authority need a new “face of the WWE?” In the name of what’s best for business, the fall’s most intense feud began and carried through October’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. The WWE Championship changed hands like a hot potato – but in the process, some of the year’s most amazing matches were born and Daniel Bryan’s popularity soared that much more.

Runners Up:  CM Punk vs. Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar (#2), CM Punk vs. The Undertaker (#3), AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn (#4)

Match of the Year:

Street Fight:  Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton (RAW, June 24) – tie

Daniel Bryan makes Randy Orton tap out!
Daniel Bryan makes Randy Orton tap out!

Remember when Daniel Bryan made Randy Orton tap out during their epic street fight this summer?  Me too. It was one of the most intense, hard-hitting matches I can recall seeing in a number of years.  Both men left it all in the ring that night – but that cross-face with the kendo stick takes the cake.  It’s not often we see Randy Orton tap out, let alone in singles competition in the main event of RAW.  This was a huge deal and big push for the already over Daniel Bryan.  It solidified him as a singles star and main event player – and was a precursor to his two WWE Championship reigns and their intense feud.

“The Best vs. The Beast”: CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar (SummerSlam, August 18) – tie

CM Punk applies the Anaconda Vice to Brock Lesnar
CM Punk applies the Anaconda Vice to Brock Lesnar

I’ve never been a fan of Brock Lesnar personally – but his in-ring work speaks for itself.  He’s one of the most violent and intense people I’ve ever seen compete in a WWE ring.  He’s had a number of memorable matches in his career (though, I hate to say it) against the likes of Triple H and John Cena, but when he came face to face with “The Best in the World” CM Punk – fans were treated to one hell of a no disqualification match.

Built on the feud between Paul Heyman and CM Punk, Lesnar maintained his enforcer status and for once – emerged with a victory.  Punk gave his all – and it just wasn’t enough to overcome a thrashing from “The Beast.” I’ve rarely ordered pay-per-views for just one encounter, but from the start, when this match was made (despite not being a Lesnar fan) I knew it was one I had to see.  This should be one of those encounters people talk about for years to come.

Runners Up:  Cody Rhodes vs. Randy Orton (RAW, Sept. 2 – #2), NXT Women’s Championship Final: Paige vs. Emma (#3), Tag Team Championship Match: The Shield vs. Rhodes (RAW, October 14 – #4)

Superstar of the Year:  Daniel Bryan

Daniel Bryan becomes the WWE Champion
Daniel Bryan becomes the WWE Champion

He began the year as a Tag Team Champion (with Kane), worked high profile programs against main event performers John Cena, Randy Orton, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and Stephanie McMahon, and has two credits as WWE Champion.  That’s not counting the insane crowd reactions, features on Total Divas, charity appearances, merchandising, or main events (pay-per-view, RAW, and Smackdown!).  Daniel Bryan was the true face of the WWE in 2013 and had a classic ascension through the ranks.  Given his size and indy background, this is even more significant provided Vince McMahon’s apprehension to “small” champions.

You could call it the “Year of the Beard” or you could simply say “Yes!” Regardless, when you do either, you’ll think of Daniel Bryan and it’d be hard to argue anybody else had a bigger year.

Runners Up:  John Cena (#2), Randy Orton (#3), CM Punk (#4)

There they are – your Best of WWE 2013 selections.  Agree or disagree?  Sound off in the comments section to offer your opinions.