Official Bleacher Report WWE 2012 End of the Year Awards
It's that time again, folks; this is the official Bleacher Report WWE Awards for 2012!
2012 was a big year for Vince McMahon's company. We saw everything from the emergence of a new main-event powerhouse, to a Diva romancing seemingly half the roster, to a year-long championship reign.
There was no shortage of action, controversy, disappointment and excitement and we expected no less from the most successful pro wrestling company in the world.
The voting process was the same for 2012 as in 2011, as the word went out very recently to WWE Featured Columnists, of which 32 have responded with their choices. All of the votes are entirely opinion based of course, so expect to agree, and disagree, with the results.
This process was done with cooperation from BR Deputy Editor Adam Hirshfield, Pro Wrestling Team Leader David Bixenspan, and the votes were counted by yours truly.
As with last year, this did begin as WWE/TNA awards, but once again there were just not enough votes for any of the iMPACT stars to rank near the top in any category.
So without any further ado, it's time to straighten the ties and cue the cheesy orchestra, because the 2012 Bleachies are ready to begin!
Maybe we should have taken a vote on the name, as well.
Female Wrestler of the Year: Eve
20 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: AJ LEE
2011 WINNER: BETH PHOENIX
In a division that has seen its fair share of problems, there has been one performer who has stood out from the rest of the pack.
Eve has been the Diva to carry the weight of the women's division on her back for a big part of 2012. She may not be Trish Stratus or Lita, but Eve has done a good job of establishing herself and her heel persona has gotten her some serious heat from the WWE crowd.
Despite the fact that Layla returned and had a nice run with the Divas Championship, it is Eve who received the nod this year, and there are no immediate signs that this will change anytime soon.
Kaitlyn is constantly in pursuit of the title, but until she receives the opportunity to wear the belt, it is Eve who leads the way in the Divas division.
A championship is only as good as the talent who holds it and for the WWE Divas, Eve is arguably the best of the bunch.
Most Memorable Moment of the Year: Brock Lesnar Returns
11 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: TRIPLE H, UNDERTAKER & SHAWN MICHAELS END OF AN ERA AT WRESTLEMANIA 28
2011 WINNER: CM PUNK'S RAW PROMO
When Brock Lesnar's music hit on the April 2 edition of Monday Night Raw, WWE seemed to stand still. The sight of Brock doing his customary bounce on the ramp after all the time he was away, is a sight that likely some fans thought they may never see.
His appearances in the company were very sporadic in 2012 but despite what he did or what he said, nothing could match the night he returned and gave John Cena the F-5.
Wherever he goes, controversy follows him. The same was true in WWE, where some fans debated the right and wrong of lifting the Next Big Thing right back up the ladder though he had been gone for eight years.
But he had a job to do, a role to play, and he did it extremely well. And it all began with that night in April.
Most Likely to Rule 2013: Dolph Ziggler
13 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: (TIE) RYBACK & THE SHIELD
2011 WINNER: CM PUNK
Dolph Ziggler is currently enjoying the high point of his WWE career thus far. He is Mr. Money in the Bank and just one three-count away from championship gold. He has some prime real estate on Monday Night Raw, where he and "girlfriend" AJ Lee have their way with any Superstar who gets in their way.
And he is on the verge of becoming a top guy in the business. What more could he ask for?
The Bleacher Report Most Likely Award, of course.
Dolph was chosen not for what he's accomplished to this point, but for what fans feel he can accomplish in the coming year. And right now, the sky is the limit for the Showoff.
The addition of AJ by his side shows the commitment that WWE has to his character and now that his spotlight is brighter than before, expect it to get even brighter.
Last year, BR Featured Columnists chose CM Punk for this award and it's safe to say that we were right on track.
Will that indeed be the case for Dolph Ziggler?
Storyline of the Year: The Shield Fights Injustice
9 OF 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: CM PUNK'S WWE TITLE REIGN
2011 WINNER: THE SUMMER OF PUNK
WWE is all about moving forward, utilizing fresh faces and new talent to drive their company into the future. 2012 was no different, as we saw Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins debut as The Shield.
Their claim of a desire to fight injustice may seem very hypocritical as they triple-team a Superstar when his back is turned, but the truth is, fans cannot seem to get enough of The Shield.
Perhaps it's the aforementioned future potential of these three as individual talents that brings fans back for more. Or maybe it's the fact that they play their parts so well and have proven to be very tough that makes fans want to watch them.
No matter what the answer, The Shield certainly had the fans' attention in 2012 and could perhaps do the very same thing in 2013.
Worst Pay Per View of the Year: Over the Limit
9 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: NO WAY OUT
2011 WINNER: CAPITOL PUNISHMENT
2012 saw some great pay-per-view events in WWE, but for the Featured Columnists here on Bleacher Report, Over the Limit was not one of them.
Emanating from Raleigh, N.C., Over the Limit featured a card that sounded as if it had potential.
There was a Fatal Four Way for the World Championship, which saw Sheamus retain the title against Randy Orton, Alberto Del Rio and Chris Jericho.
Christian made his return to the ring in the opening battle royal and later won the Intercontinental Championship from Cody Rhodes.
WWE Champion CM Punk successfully defended his title against Daniel Bryan in a match that received votes for 2012's Match of the Year.
And, John Cena faced off against John Laurinaitis...in the main event.
While Cena's match was not the only low point of the night, it certainly could be regarded by many as the lowest point, and hence the decision to crown it the Worst Pay Per View of 2012.
Most Disappointing Star of the Year: Zack Ryder
6 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: TENSAI
2011 WINNER: SIN CARA
Zack Ryder won BR's Breakout Star of the Year in 2011. Now, he is the Most Disappointing Star of 2012. What a difference a year makes.
To say that Ryder lost some ground in 2012 is to say that the guy enjoys using hair gel. It is a huge understatement, and while many fans likely did not see the WWE or World Championship in his immediate future, they certainly expected more than what they received.
Ryder began the year on a high note, rubbing shoulders with John Cena on Monday Night Raw. The connection between Zack and Eve was interesting, gave Ryder a storyline to work in and made him relevant on TV.
He also began a short feud with Kane which ultimately saw Ryder getting the worst of it and by the end, he was arguably no better than when he went in.
Since that time, he made an unsuccessful run at the United States Title and the WWE Tag Team Championships with partner Santino Marella. By all rights, Zack Ryder is now back to where he began before his YouTube program, as he is rarely utilized on either Raw or SmackDown.
From Breakout to Most Disappointing. Who would have thought it?
Breakout Star of the Year: Ryback
11 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: DANIEL BRYAN
2011 WINNER: ZACK RYDER
Skip Sheffield was a big country boy with a cowboy hat who just wanted to tussle. Ryback is an unstoppable killing machine who is hungry for carnage.
When Ryback debuted in 2012, fans did not quite know what to make of him. Believing him to be a Goldberg ripoff, his response was lukewarm at best.
But as the year went on, it became obvious WWE was committed to Ryback. As he was given one huge opportunity after another, he began to gain crowd support and even respect from some of those fans who would not give him the time of day in the beginning.
Now, Ryback is a main-event star and it all comes from his rise to prominence in 2012.
Vince McMahon and WWE have always had an eye for talent and for producing some of the biggest stars in the history of the industry. Ryback could very well end up being one of those stars, and it all began in 2012.
Best Pay Per View of the Year: WrestleMania 28
17 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: EXTREME RULES
2011 WINNER: MONEY IN THE BANK
WrestleMania. The Grandaddy of them all.
For WWE, this is the Super Bowl, the biggest night of the year. Mania is the night that legends are born and legacies are cemented in wrestling history.
2012 was no different, as fans were treated to CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho, Undertaker vs. Triple H in the Hell in a Cell, and of course John Cena vs. The Rock.
WrestleMania is the event that WWE plans for all year, the night that the company's best talent is showcased for the world to see. And last year, the world saw arguably the biggest WrestleMania of all time.
No one is better at creating that showtime, that big-match atmosphere, than WWE. That is why they're on top and that is why WrestleMania 28 is on top as BR's Best Pay Per View of the Year.
Best Champion of the Year: CM Punk
29 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: (3 WAY TIE) ANTONIO CESARO, AUSTIN ARIES, BOBBY ROODE
2011 WINNER: CM PUNK
2011 saw the Summer of Punk. 2012 was the year of Punk.
For 365 consecutive days, an entire calendar year, CM Punk was the WWE Champion. He sat atop the largest pro wrestling company in the world and was virtually unstoppable.
But the length of his title reign was not the only factor when voting Punk as the Best Champion of the Year.
CM Punk brings it. Period. He is perhaps the best talent in WWE, and his ring skills were highlighted in 2012 when he faced Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler.
Punk is one of those workers who is capable of having a great match with anyone in the locker room and when you have a man like that as WWE Champion, then you have a must-see Superstar at the top of his game.
CM Punk was the best of the best in 2012 and he is the first repeat winner of BR's end of the year awards.
Match of the Year: Triple H vs Undertaker, WrestleMania 28
18 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: (TIE) CM PUNK VS DANIEL BRYAN, OVER THE LIMIT, RYBACK & TEAM HELL NO VS THE SHIELD, TLC
2011 WINNER: JOHN CENA vs CM PUNK, MONEY IN THE BANK
This one had it all. Drama, excitement, intensity. When Undertaker put his WrestleMania undefeated steak on the line once again against Triple H with Shawn Michaels as the guest referee, fans experienced all of that and much more.
Proving why they are two of the best Superstars the business has ever known, Hunter and Taker hooked up in what was billed as "The End of an Era." Two legends, icons of their generation, squaring off in a moment that very well could have been their one last hurrah.
Despite what each man does from that point on, it's this match that will be considered by many to be their last chapter, on the stage they helped to bring into the modern era.
It's one for the ages. And, it's BR's best of 2012.
Comeback Star of the Year: Brock Lesnar
5 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: CHRIS JERICHO
2011 WINNER: MARK HENRY
How big was Brock Lesnar's WWE impact in 2012? So big that he won our Most Memorable Moment and Comeback Star of the Year.
And he didn't even work a full-time schedule.
That is the influence that Brock has, that "big fight" feel that he creates whenever he's in the ring. The former UFC Champion was all business from the moment he came back to the moment he once again "broke" Triple H's arm at SummerSlam.
Not only did he not work a full-time schedule in 2012, the fact is that we're still talking about him, debating about him, and writing about him, even now.
Brock Lesnar made a huge impact when he returned in 2012, and when he shows up again, it likely will be more of the same.
Heel of the Year: CM Punk
20 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: DOLPH ZIGGLER & PAUL HEYMAN
2011 WINNER: MARK HENRY
CM Punk began 2012 as arguably the best babyface in WWE, and he ended it as its top heel. That's versatility.
Punk can get over no matter what the match, scenario, or situation. He has proven time and again that he knows who he is and completely understands his character. For him to make the jump from face to heel and do it so seamlessly is testament to just how smart and how good he is.
Of course, having The Rock to heel out on doesn't hurt, either.
Punk became a hated man for daring to attack the People's Champ on Raw 1000 and he never looked back. With Paul Heyman singing his praises, Punk had his way with the fans, giving his usual cocky smile and arrogant attitude that he is well known for.
But the great thing about being versatile is that Punk can deliver that attitude as a face, or as a heel, and still get over.
Best heel in WWE.
Babyface of the Year: Sheamus
13 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: RYBACK
2011 WINNER: RANDY ORTON
He's been accused of being too soft, of being too much of a comedy act since leaving his heel days behind him. And now, fans can accuse Sheamus of being the babyface of the year for 2012.
The truth is, Sheamus is exactly the kind of face who excels in Vince McMahon's company. He has a colorful and unique look, he is relatively harmless except for the occasional curse word, and he is a tough guy in the ring.
He is humble when he wins and he makes no excuses when he loses. And, he works very hard in the ring to put on entertaining matches every time he's booked.
He also smiles. A lot.
For many fans, this is just not who Sheamus should be. His critics feel that he needs to drop the comedy and regain his edge once again.
But for everyone else, Sheamus is right where he should be, as the top babyface in WWE.
Tag Team of the Year: Team Hell No
25 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: TEAM RHODES SCHOLARS
2011 WINNER: THE AWESOME TRUTH
When Kane and Daniel Bryan were first paired as a tag team, many fans likely held their breath and waited for the train wreck to happen.
But that train shot like a bolt of lightning, and Team Hell No became arguably the most entertaining Superstars in WWE.
Every time they were on TV, they got a reaction. From their disagreements in the ring, to anger management classes, to hugging it out on live TV, Kane and Bryan made every moment count.
And they were hilarious while doing it.
They are a tag team that should not have worked, a duo that should have been a short-lived gimmick at best.
Yet they are still going strong. And they are BR's tag team of the year for 2012.
Wrestler of the Year: CM Punk
26 of 32 VOTES
RUNNER UP: DANIEL BRYAN
2011 WINNER: CM PUNK
CM Punk's catchphrase is Best in the World. He's certainly the best of this countdown.
Capturing three of the awards for 2012, CM Punk is a Superstar who set out to make change in 2011 and that change continued through 2012 and beyond.
Despite what his critics may say, Punk is considered by many to be the best hand in the company and perhaps the best overall entertainer in the business today.
He held the WWE Championship for the entirety of 2012, and his ring work was on par with no other in the company.
He turned in one great performance after another last year, facing Daniel Bryan, Chris Jericho, John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, and Kane. He was consistently the best worker in the WWE locker room and stole the show anytime he stepped into the ring.
He may not look like the typical WWE Superstar but he exemplifies the era of the hard-working professional wrestler, a man who came up from nothing to earn his place in the business.
The bottom line is, CM Punk gets it done in the ring and on the mic. And he does it with a style all his own.
That is why he is BR's Wrestler of the Year for 2012.