WWE Year in Review: The Company's 10 Best Decisions of 2012
Triple H faced Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match, tag teams found new life and new stars shined due to WWE's best decisions of 2012.
Looking back at the year in WWE, there is plenty to second guess, but it's far more fun to sit back and enjoy the better elements. WWE fans had good reason to cheer, to chant and to marvel.
The company entertained by bringing back old favorites and delivering a number of matches we may remember for a long time to come. Bucking recent tradition, WWE gave CM Punk a title reign that has now surpassed the one-year mark. The sports entertainment giant did well to push Damien Sandow.
Rather than wonder what WWE was thinking in giving John Cena the Money in the Bank contract or how the Tensai idea passed the planning stage, let's reflect on the decisions that led to the most exciting outcomes and satiated the fans.
Dolph Ziggler Wins Money in the Bank Contract
photo from wwe.com
The list of past Money in the Bank winners is an impressive collection of WWE stars.
Where would Edge, CM Punk or Daniel Bryan be without that briefcase, without the opportunity to essentially steal a world championship?
The next man in line to cash in is athletic showman, Dolph Ziggler.
The move to have him win the MITB contract in June appeased Ziggler fans for the moment while allowing WWE to remain patient in taking him to the next level. The company can pick its spot for Ziggler to cash in his briefcase.
Now that he's defeated John Cena in the TLC pay-per-view main event, WWE's next big decision is just how soon to have him take on the World Heavyweight Champion.
WrestleMania 28 Main Events
photo from wwe.com
WrestleMania 28's three major matches featured huge stars and dramatic action that will live in WWE lore for years to come. WWE made great choices with their pairings.
The event saw Triple H, Undertaker, Chris Jericho, John Cena, CM Punk and The Rock provide a glut of star power.
Fans may have bemoaned that for the third WrestleMania, Triple H would be the man attempting to end Undertaker's streak, but it turned out to be a brilliant decision. Slam! Sports described their Hell in a Cell match as "one for the ages."
That brutal match alone would have made WrestleMania worth the money, but WWE gave us two more memorable matchups.
CM Punk defended his WWE Championship against Chris Jericho in a battle that was the best pure wrestling match on the card. Jericho provided theater by trying to torture Punk with insults and taunts, but it was the in-ring action that shined.
Eric Larnick of The Huffington Post wrote that the match "proved that pro wrestling can still entrance a crowd."
In addition to those two excellent showings, WWE also gave fans a showdown of icons.
The Rock defeated John Cena in the night's final match.
Taking a break from being a movie star, The Rock performed in his first WWE singles match since 2003. Sure, one could nitpick his performance or the match itself, but he and Cena's star power and showmanship capped the night in captivating fashion.
Tag Team Revival
The Prime Time Players (photo from wwe.com)
WWE was already wealthy with tag team talent, having teams like The Usos and Primo and Epico available to deliver high-energy matches when called upon. In 2012, the company created a number of other pairings to bolster the division.
Titus O'Neil and Darren Young debuted with a win in April. Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara joined forces, as did Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow.
WWE helped stimulate interest in these teams with an eight-team tournament.
Having the entertaining duo of Kane and Daniel Bryan as champs has made the division unpredictable and fun.
According to F4Wonline (via wrestlinginc.com), Triple H is behind the tag teams getting more spotlight. Kudos to him for making that shift. It's been an entertaining turn of events so far.
CM Punk's Long Title Reign
CM Punk (photo by Steve Wright Jr.)
CM Punk has been WWE champ since Nov. 20, 2011. He recently supplanted John Cena as the longest reigning WWE Champion in the past 25 years.
— John Cena (@JohnCena) December 5, 2012
In an era where the gold seemed to get passed around like a peace pipe, giving Punk this opportunity was a bold move. In 2011, the title changed hands eight times; in 2012, only one man held the belt.
The length of Punk's growing title reign stirs up discussion, invites comparisons to past greats and makes the moment Punk finally loses the championship a more monumental event.
WWE has the luxury of creating its own history, for the most part. Choosing Punk as its new iron man has allowed them to put one of their best talkers in the spotlight every Monday night.
Samplings of The Rock and Brock Lesnar
Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images
WWE fans didn't get to see a ton of Brock Lesnar and The Rock in 2012, but both part-timers' impact was huge.
Without them, John Cena's WrestleMania 28 opponent, in all likelihood, would have been someone far less famous. Extreme Rules 2012 would have been short one vicious slugfest. Paul Heyman would have had a lot less reason to return.
The way the Miami audience exploded upon Lesnar's return to Raw may have been worth his asking price alone.
As for The Rock, it's clear that he has not returned to getting bodyslammed for a living full time. He's too big of a movie star to stick solely to the ring, but bringing him back in small increments was a great move.
The ability to draw from its past is one of the things that makes WWE great.
The Dolphins can't ask Dan Marino to come back for one more game. Michael Jordan won't be making any appearances for the Chicago Bulls.
2012 showed how in WWE's world, legends from years past can return, even if it is just temporary.
Booking Santino to Nearly Win the World Title
Elimination Chamber 2012
Creating the unexpected when fans know so much about a product and are so adept at seeing things before they come is nearly impossible.
WWE managed to have fans wondering if the unthinkable would happen. Could a comic relief wrestler who hasn't exactly set the world record for wins win the World Heavyweight Championship?
At Elimination Chamber 2012, Santino Marella outlasted Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, The Great Khali and Big Show. Only Daniel Bryan stood between him and the improbable.
Santino hit the Cobra on Bryan in the center of the ring. The referee's hand was just about to hit the three-count when Bryan kicked out.
That near victory enlivened the crowd at the Bradley Center. Who knows how many fans at home had slid to the edge of their seats?
For WWE to accomplish a moment that could quiet know-it-all fans and draw in the audience so well is an impressive feat.
Having Santino win the World title would have been too unrealistic, but getting him almost there was fun to watch.
Putting AJ in the Spotlight
photo from wwe.com
If WWE isn't going to feature women in the ring, if they're not going to let them wrestle longer than three minutes, having them portray compelling characters like the unbalanced, lovesick AJ Lee is a great use of available talent.
The three-way feud between Kane, Daniel Bryan and CM Punk was made far more interesting with the addition of AJ.
She later went on to become Raw general manager and was eventually removed from that position in an annoying angle where Vickie Guerrero tried to prove that AJ (a single woman) had an affair with John Cena.
That may have been a poorly written story, but no one but AJ is the right combination of cute and crazy to make it as palatable as it was.
Wrestling purists might argue that her storylines were too much like a soap opera, but that kind of tawdry narrative is a long-standing WWE tradition. AJ isn't going to replace the kind of thrill a Bryan vs. Punk match creates; but her presence accentuates it and gives it another layer.
Raw 1000 Buildup
Sycho Sid vs. Heath Slater
On the episodes of Raw leading up to episode 1,000, WWE reintroduced a number of old faces. Doink the Clown, Diamond Dallas Page, Sycho Sid, Vader and others came charging back from the past to entertain us once again.
Nostalgic WWE fans have the advantage over sports fans in that not only do they get to see their old favorites come back, but they get to see them perform again. An old football player might stop by a stadium and wave to the crowd. With WWE, those legends go beyond that and give us a momentary glimpse backward.
Sure, the wrestlers of yesteryear move far slower than they did in their prime, but even a stiff, half-speed version of Rikishi is a welcome sight.
In the process of traveling back in time each week, WWE made Heath Slater its resident jobber to the past stars.
Slater received a new niche and gained some notoriety in the throes of constant defeat.
Plucking faces from Raw's past made for an entertaining way to celebrate 1,000 episodes as well as a way to celebrate some of the men (and Lita) who helped build the Raw brand.
Pushing Damien Sandow
Promo before John Cena vs. Damien Sandow
Putting Damien Sandow in a prominent position on the WWE hierarchy without pushing too hard, too fast has been one of WWE's most well-handled situations of the year.
Sandow's condescending intellectual routine has been one of the more entertaining parts of 2012.
The 6'4'' Sandow is a good combination of size and skill. He moves fluidly in the ring and has a flair for showmanship. Even when performing moves like his Cubito Aequet, his pompousness shines through.
Stardom emanates from him.
Handing him the WWE Championship too soon like they did with Sheamus in 2009 would have been jumping the gun. Instead, the company is giving him plenty of airtime and managing his ascent quite well.
Putting Kane and Daniel Bryan Together
Team Hell No in Anger Management Class
Team Hell No has been 2012's most entertaining team, a two-man circus of kicks, hugs, chokeslams and one-liners. Putting Daniel Bryan and Kane on the same team was simply a great idea.
Had WWE not paired them, fans would never have had the opportunity to witness the viscerally funny hug-it-out moment.
Their matches have been fantastic as well.
At 45, Kane is at the stage of his career where splitting in-ring duties with a partner is the best course of action for him. He can make an impact without wearing himself down.
Not only does having Bryan carry half the load lessen the chance of an injury, it allows Kane to go full force for short bursts.
In addition, Team Hell No have been among the funniest things in WWE all year.
Their participation in anger management classes with Dr. Shelby and Harold were the best part of Raw for a few weeks in a row.
No one is going to mistake either member of Team Hell No for Daniel Day-Lewis, but they approached those odd sketches with gusto.
Bryan and Kane provided the perfect juxtaposition in terms of size, wrestling style and personality. Creating Team Hell No was one of 2012's most brilliant choices.