I know there is quite a bit of news as of late.
I could talk about the PPV that WWE put on, Armageddon.
I could talk about how many media outlets are saying that the Chris Benoit tragedy was one of the top ten news stories of 2007 (gee, ya think?).
Or I could keep my eye on the ball for one more column before I go into my Holiday Hibernation that I usually take around Christmas time.
So, with that said, before I get started, I would like to wish everyone in advance a safe and happy holiday season.
Hopefully, these next two weeks will be very special for a lot of you.
Now, the end of the year means one thing around here: end-of-year awards.
Every wrestling website, message board, columnist, etc. have their own end-of-year awards, and From the Other Side is no different.
However, I tend to believe I bring somewhat of a unique look at awards; so with that in mind, the 2007 WRES-PYs have arrived and I’m ready to give you a unique awards column series; unlike any you’ve seen on the internet before.
As you probably already know, I’ve got so many awards to break down, I can’t really do it all in one column; which is why I’ve decided to break it down into three columns, much like I did last year.
This is it, wrestling fans!
The last of the three awards columns has arrived.
In it, I will break down what the best storylines for 2007 were, who was the absolute best wrestler in 2007, and who should show up on everybody’s radar in 2008.
Much like good wrestlers need to be able to have mat skills, good wrestling matches need to have something at stake other than championships.
They need to have a solid storyline behind it, or even a heated rivalry that has captivated our attention and refuses to let go.
These are the top six (yes, I said six, not five) storylines and/or programs of 2007 for all of mainstream professional wrestling.
Also, on a side note, forgive me for two things: one, that I don’t have any TNA storylines or rivalries in this award nominees list; and two, that I’m doing the majority of this award nominees list in kayfabe.
This actually earned honorable mention simply because of the buzz it generated all over the wrestling world.
And besides the fact that it was the worst kept secret in the history of professional wrestling…ERR I mean sports-entertainment, it was still one of the biggest stories of 2007, and one of the most highly-anticipated returns of any wrestler since…well…pretty much ever.
And now that Chris Jericho is back in the business and bored of doing the rock-n-roll tour thing, the entire sports-entertainment business will never…EEEEVER be the same…again.
Matt Hardy and MVP: The Most Functional Dysfunctional Rivalry Ever
What started out as a game of “anything you can do, I can do better” morphed into something completely different, thanks to the always-gaping big mouth of Montel Vontavious Porter, better known as MVP.
Remember, before they became a tag team, Matt Hardy and MVP were competing in a series of contests in an effort by MVP to prove that he was better than Matt Hardy.
These contests included a boxing match, a beer drinking contest, a throwing a football through a tire contest (insert Viagra or Lavitra joke here), a one-on-one basketball contest, and a push-up contest, among others.
However, the storyline took an interesting turn when MVP opened his big mouth, as always, and told general manager Theodore Long that he was so good, he could win the Tag Team Titles with the next guy who walks into Long’s office; the guy just so happens to be Matt Hardy.
The very next week, Matt Hardy and MVP became the WWE Tag Team Champions by defeating Deuce and Domino.
However, the partnership was more often than not a rocky one, and ended when they lost the titles recently to ECW’s John Morrison and the Miz.
MVP would then viciously turn on Matt Hardy, and because of an appendectomy, Matt Hardy has not been seen since.
The storyline really earned its way onto the top five for two reasons: it cemented Matt Hardy as a certain superstar on the rise, and it had more twists and turns than a monster rollercoaster at a Six Flags theme park.
Randy Orton: Legend…ERR, I Mean Career Killer
Shortly after the dismantling of Rated RKO, Randy Orton decided to take his “Legend Killer” moniker to a whole new level, by putting any and every legend on the shelf.
He started this mission by successfully putting Shawn Michaels away for a while by repeatedly kicking him in the head. (Even though we all know he didn’t really suffer a concussion, but rather he needed time off to get much-needed knee surgery.) He then proceeded to do the same to Rob Van Dam, who is now contemplating retirement.
Sgt. Slaughter and Dusty Rhodes would also suffer the same fate.
It’s a storyline that really was a means to explain why both Shawn Michaels and RVD wouldn’t be on TV for a while, but it really cemented Randy Orton’s status as not only the “Legend Killer”, but also as one of the top heels in WWE today.
John Cena vs. Randy Orton: A Personal Rivalry Not Yet Settled
During Orton’s reign of terror as the certified “Legend Killer”, John Cena was overcoming obstacle after obstacle, building up an historic reign as WWE Champion.
He first overcame the threatening challenge of Umaga, during what some would perceive to be Umaga’s prime.
Next, he would overcome the challenge of Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 23.
He would then overcome the overwhelming challenge of the Great Khali, followed by Bobby Lashley, and somewhere in the middle of it all, he even overcame four challengers in the same match, as he defeated Lashley, King Booker, Mick Foley, and Randy Orton in a
Five-Way Match at Vengeance.
However, after Cena’s victorious title defense at the Great American Bash against Lashley, RAW general manager Jonathan Coachman named Randy Orton the #1 Contender.
Ever since the days of Cena with the spinning United States Championship and Randy Orton post-Evolution, Cena vs. Orton was a dream match for a lot of people.
It turned out the rivalry, which involved Cena’s father, John Cena Sr., did not disappoint.
It was perhaps the best main event championship rivalry to hit Monday Night RAW since Cena vs. Edge last year, maybe even better than that.
In the end, the rivalry ended rather disappointedly, and Cena would suffer a torn pectoral muscle during a match with Mr. Kennedy only six days before he was scheduled to drop the belt to Orton.
While the timetable for Cena’s return has been set for early April, Cena did make an appearance in
Iraq for the Tribute to the Troops in a comical role.
Meanwhile, Randy Orton still remains WWE Champion, and because of the previous two candidates, has now cemented his status as the top heel on RAW.
Meet Hornswoggle McMahon
Shortly after his return to RAW from his botched “demise of Mr. McMahon” storyline, Mr. McMahon found out from Jonathan Coachman that there was another McMahon running around out there somewhere.
Come to find out that Mr. McMahon had some indiscretions in his past, and now it’s coming back to haunt him.
In the next several weeks, the fans and Mr. McMahon would be left with some clues as to who his illegitimate child could be.
Stephanie McMahon revealed that it was a member of the WWE roster.
The next week, Mr. McMahon found out that it was a boy.
All of this buildup led to the identity of Mr. McMahon’s being revealed as none other than the then-Cruiserweight Champion of the World, Hornswoggle!
While Mr. McMahon could not stand the idea of having a midget…ERR, I mean leprechaun for his illegitimate son, others, such as Triple H, were getting a major kick out of it.
This storyline would catapult Hornswoggle’s popularity to levels nobody ever thought he’d reach, even though it’s mostly a comedy angle.
However, according to many sources, the role of Mr. McMahon’s illegitimate son was originally intended for Mr. Kennedy.
But, due to Kennedy being suspended for 30 days for being mentioned in the Sports Illustrated article on Signature Pharmacy, the role was then given to Hornswoggle.
I’m almost willing to bet Mr. Kennedy would like to have that one back now.
All of these candidates were intriguing, interesting, and captivating, and none more so than the winner of the Best Storyline and/or Program for 2007.
It was a rivalry that started out in February and still rages on today…
Batista vs. the Undertaker
Batista started 2007 much like it seemed he was going to end 2007 before Edge won at Armageddon, as World Heavyweight Champion.
However, there were some potholes in this road.
One of those potholes in the road was this major rivalry with the Undertaker.
The entire storyline started with the Undertaker winning the Royal Rumble, earning him a title shot at Wrestlemania, where he entered 2007 at 14-0.
The rivalry started out as a friendly rivalry, with Batista slightly intrigued and very eager to prove himself against one of the best of all-time.
However, Batista’s quest to end Undertaker’s winning streak at Wrestlemania turned out to be Batista’s demise, as Taker ended up taking the World Heavyweight Championship away from Batista, all while extending his Wrestlemania winning streak to 15-0.
Batista, furious that he lost the belt, invoked the standard “rematch clause” in his contract, and the rematch was set for Backlash the next month.
However, unlike the match at Wrestlemania, this would be a Last Man Standing Match.
Batista and Taker gave everything they had, but in the end, the match resulted in a draw, as neither man could answer the referee’s ten-count.
So, seeing that there was still some unfinished business left, Smackdown general manager Theodore Long made another rematch for the week after the next, but this time, a Steel Cage match.
This match would also result in a draw.
That was also the night when Edge cashed in his “Money in the Bank” title shot that he earned by defeating the previous owner of said title shot, Mr. Kennedy, and became the World Heavyweight Champion.
Undertaker would end up taking some much-needed time off, while Batista eventually regained the World Heavyweight Championship.
Undertaker returned later on, and the rivalry was renewed.
The fourth match between the two took place at Cyber Sunday, with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the guest referee.
Batista ended up winning that match, and tied the series up at one win each with two draws.
Undertaker demanded a rubber match for Survivor Series, but this time, it would be a match unlike any other: Hell in a Cell!
However, the fifth and final one-on-one match between these two would be ruined thanks to a returning Edge.
Edge ended up beating Undertaker, and Batista would unwillingly – and unconsciously – win the match.
This was perhaps the best championship rivalry I’ve seen on Smackdown since Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle back in 2004.
It involved so many plotlines, twists, turns, and swerves, which is why Batista vs. Undertaker has earned the title of the best rivalry of 2007.
What does being a great wrestler mean?
Do you need mat skills exclusively?
Do you need to be a good storyteller in the ring?
Or perhaps you need to add a little flavor with some incredible moves?
Could it be that you need to have at least a shred of good mic skills?
If all the above and then some is the case, then the best wrestlers in the business need to have all of that.
These five in TNA and five more in WWE have certainly demonstrated that they have all of that this year.
Keep this in mind, though; I did penalize quite a few wrestlers for having missed months at a time due to injury, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t more than a few that made the list that had to miss some time due to injury.
I mean, seriously, who would’ve been in the top five had I disqualified every WWE superstar that missed more than a month due to injury?
I mean, you probably would’ve seen Elijah Burke in the top five.
That’ll never do!
But I digress…here are the top five of the year in TNA.
With a mixture of gimmick ideas from Randy Savage, JBL, Mr. Perfect, and Ric Flair, Robert Roode has really taken his game to another level this past year.
I have a feeling that if he’s given the opportunity, Robert Roode could surprise a lot of people with just how good this guy can be.
Speaking of guys stepping their game up, another such guy this year was the monster Abyss.
Of course, he had no other choice because of the opportunity given to him by TNA’s creative team.
Had he choked on that opportunity, there’s no telling how long, if ever again, he’d get another chance to be a main event face…with a mask on it.
Much like the Undertaker in WWE, Sting in TNA is as revered a wrestler backstage as it gets, simply because he has been in the business for so long, and he still knows what he’s doing.
However, reports indicate that Sting may have wrestled his last match with TNA, and there are rumors going around that Sting could sign a special offer deal with WWE to wrestle one match to close out his career: Wrestlemania 24 against Ric Flair.
That’s easily both the best and worst idea ever.
Perhaps one of the hardest-working wrestlers alive today, Christian Cage has suffered a bit of a setback this year.
Whenever I watch his matches now, it almost seems to me like he’s regressing rather than progressing.
But, I wouldn’t look for “The Instant Classic” to stay down for long, face turn or not.
He seems to progress more than regress throughout the course of his career.
The winner of the award for Best TNA Wrestler of 2007 really isn’t that much of a surprise.
After all, he is a member of the Future World Champions list…
I mentioned that it can be argued that Christian Cage is one of the hardest working wrestlers alive today.
But, it can also be argued that Samoa Joe is the hardest working wrestler in TNA today.
Sure, Kurt Angle gets all the glory, mostly because of his reputation and his name.
However, Samoa Joe has had to claw, kick, and scratch his way to where he is today.
He’s improved dramatically on his mic skills, and his ring work is still solid.
Plus, he’s stepped his game way up in terms of telling a story in the ring.
If Joe keeps this up, TNA will have no other choice but to anoint him the World Heavyweight Champion at some point in either 2008 or 2009.
Now with the best of the best in TNA out of the way, it’s WWE’s turn.
Yes, Edge did miss approximately four months due to injury, but when he wasn’t injured, he was still one of the best at telling a story in the ring, as well as bumping his gums on the mic.
He continues to work hard, especially at pissing anybody and everybody off, and will probably have a stellar year in 2008, assuming he doesn’t tear any more muscles.
There is good reason why Vince McMahon is so freaking paranoid about the potential shift in power that would happen should Randy Orton go to TNA.
As I said before, he’s very gifted physically, and he’s a talented wrestler.
His mic skills are pretty good, and he does an excellent job of telling a story in the ring.
Love him or hate him, Randy Orton is a very well-rounded wrestler.
Despite his four-month hiatus, Shawn Michaels continued to prove this year that he still has some gas left in the tank.
His back still seems to be bothering him somewhat, though.
But, he continues to work hard day after day to put on the absolute best show possible for the WWE fans.
If there was ever a great thing happening from something completely unplanned, this was it.
CM Punk did not have to miss any time due to injury, he wasn’t suspended, he wasn’t mentioned in any Sports Illustrated articles, and he hasn’t been busted for taking steroids or painkillers.
But, Vince McMahon didn’t necessarily plan on CM Punk being the ECW Champion at all simply because he felt Punk didn’t look like a believable champion.
Those plans changed when John Morrison was suspended, and CM Punk was left to pick up the ball and run with it.
As they always say right about now, the rest is history.
The winner of the award for Best WWE Wrestler in 2007 may be seeing his final days in the business quickly approaching, but then again, haven’t we been saying that about this guy for the last five years?
Just when you think you can explain or comprehend everything there is to know about the professional wrestling business, the Undertaker changes the expectations a little bit.
How is it that the Undertaker, who doesn’t look like he’s taking anything illegal, not to mention is aging, can continue to put on five-star quality matches time after time?
How is it that the Undertaker can get the fan support back behind Batista by making him look like gold at Wrestlemania 23?
Whatever the secret, whether it’s a fountain of youth or even a time machine, the Undertaker is still the best wrestler alive today.
Nobody can make others look like gold and in turn look like gold himself more consistently than the Undertaker.
Who to Watch For in 2008
Despite the Best Wrestler award already having been handed out, there are still some wrestlers that I need to give kudos to, simply because they have the potential to make 2008 their year.
They have what it takes to take the wrestling world by storm next year, and I have listed the three wrestlers for TNA and three for WWE, in no particular order, that we need to keep an eye out for in 2008.
I know he made the top five this year, but if Robert Roode can continue to develop his character even further, and can continue to put the work in, he could very well be the best wrestler in TNA come this time next year.
He has the gifts, and now is not the time to hide them.
I can somewhat see where they’re going with his character, and for the most part, it might even be a good idea.
But, his in-ring work will need improving if he’s going to capitalize on his character transformation and become a dominant factor in TNA.
Once hailed as “The Future”, insinuating that he’s the future of the business, the man formerly known as Frankie Kazarian, now simply known as Kaz, has shown in the latter weeks of 2007 the ability to hang in a match with the likes of Kurt Angle and Christian Cage.
In fact, not only can he hang with them, he proved he has the ability to look like the future of the business in the ring with those two.
If he continues to improve his overall skills, and if TNA continues to put him in high-profile matches where he can continue to shine, we may just see the Future World Champions list increase again to four members.
Now, time to take a look at who might make their mark in WWE in 2008…
Yes, right now, things don’t look so good for the native of
He’s seemingly been sentenced, more or less, to ECW, and is constantly being compared to Simon Phoenix. (That’ll happen when you look like him.) However, I tend to look at these things as a positive.
The road to a world championship for Shelton Benjamin couldn’t be any easier, now!
He’s in ECW, for crying out loud!
If John Morrison could win the ECW Championship, certainly somebody with the physical and athletic gifts of Shelton Benjamin could pull it off.
However, if he can’t get it done in ECW, there’s no reason to think it’ll ever happen for him in WWE.
So Simon says, time to get to work,
Rhodes family seems to be pretty good at this wrestling thing.
Dusty Rhodes, Cody’s father, is a legend and a Hall-of-Famer.
Cody’s brother, Dustin, is a former multiple-time WWE Intercontinental Champion and now hangs out with a rat on iMPACT.
So my feeling is Cody’s time should be coming shortly, and his time to take the next step (Intercontinental Championship gold) could come in 2008.
Mark it down on your calendars: barring some sort of unforeseen setback in his recovery from the appendectomy, Matt Hardy will be wearing United States Championship gold by September 2008.
There’s your bold prediction for the day.
There’s the WRES-PY Awards for 2008.
I will take all feedback in over the course of the next few weeks.
Before I go, I’d like to wish everybody a safe and happy holiday season.
In the immortal words of Tiny Tim, “God Bless us, everyone!”
To the many that have fallen before this day, God Bless you all, and may you be in a much better place today than you were here.
Your memories will live on, though you are gone.