This coming Monday night on RAW will be the fifth ever Slammy Awards, and the first awards since 1997. Gone are the days of "Best Personal Hygiene," "Most Ignominious," and "Best Bow Tie," this time we're getting slightly more straight forward awards, and the first three categories have had their nominees revealed this week, so let's take a look...
SUPERSTAR OF THE YEAR
- Chris Jericho
- Jeff Hardy
- John Cena
- Triple H
All six of these men have had big years, with five of them winning world championships, and Jeff Hardy being up there in title matches for most of the year. A case could have been made for CM Punk, Randy Orton, and The Undertaker to be nominated for the award, as they too have been world champions this year, with Orton and Taker winning world title matches at WrestleMania.
Shawn Michaels also deserved a nod for epic rivalries against Ric Flair, Batista and most notably Chris Jericho.
But the six we do have do certainly have their merits. Batista has been chasing the World Title all year, despite only actually holding the belt for eight days. Jericho has been a revelation in his new heel role, and has proven his versatility in his feud with Shawn Michaels, as well as his two brief-but-awesome title reigns.
No one was as hot as Edge in the spring and summer, with his psychotic promos in the build up to SummerSlam being particular highlights, and the best example of being a heel in many years.
Jeff Hardy, whilst being the only one of the six not to win a world title in 2008, has nonetheless had a very eventful year, coming close to the WWE Title on many occasions, and also reinventing himself with his new crazy face painted character, not to mention his many out of ring incidents.
Cena made a massive comeback from neck surgery to win the World Heavyweight Title at the Survivor Series, but if this was a legit awards ceremony, his three months off for that neck surgery would count against him.
And finally, Triple H has had a big year, holding the WWE Title for seven months, and he made a big move from RAW to SmackDown without losing a beat.
All six men will have matches against each other on RAW this week, with Cena facing Edge, Hardy taking on Jericho and Batista up against Triple H. As the awards are taking place on RAW, I see a RAW guy winning it, and as he's by far and away WWE's biggest star, Cena completes his comeback by winning Superstar of the Year.
MATCH OF THE YEAR
- 2008 Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble)
- Money in the Bank Ladder Match (WrestleMania XXIV)
- Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXIV)
- The Undertaker vs. Edge - Hell in a Cell Match (SummerSlam)
Four very big matches up for the vote this year, though I'm surprised they've not gone with Batista/Cena at SummerSlam, as that's the sort of match WWE think their fans will like. Instead, we get four very good matches.
First up is this year's Royal Rumble match, which started off with the last two from the 2007 match, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, and ended with a major shock, as John Cena, who many thought would be out until SummerSlam with a torn pectoral injury, made a shock return and eliminated Triple H to earn a shot at the WWE Title.
It was one of the better Rumble matches, my personal highlight being the mid-match performance of John Morrison, who proved his HBK-esque qualities several times, and would showcase some of the skills that have made him one to watch for the main events in the future.
Morrison was also in the next match, this year's Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Also in this match was CM Punk, Chris Jericho, Mr. Kennedy, Montel Vontavious Porter, Carlito, and Shelton Benjamin, and it made for a very exciting, high octane and dangerous Ladder Match. Jeff Hardy was meant to be the eighth man in the match, but he was suspended for failing the Wellness Programme, so missed out here.
Lots of great spots in the match, including Morrison's moonsault with the ladder to the outside, Shelton Benjamin being pushed off the ladder with his back breaking through another ladder, and Matt Hardy's run-in to Twist of Fate MVP off the ladder. In the end, it was CM Punk who would grab the briefcase to get a World Title shot, which he cashed in by beating Edge in June for the World Heavyweight Title.
Next is the most emotional match of the year, as Ric Flair ended his legendary career in front of nearly 75,000 fans as he took on Shawn Michaels in a match fitting of the Nature Boy's legacy.
Flair more than held his own as Michaels turned on the style and became Mr. WrestleMania once again, going as far as to do in his own ribs whilst trying to moonsault Flair through a table, with Flair getting out of the way. The ending was poignant, as Flair was helpless, HBK said the famous words "I'm sorry, I love you," and gave Flair Sweet Chin Music to win the match and end Flair's career.
The match admittedly has lost a bit of its luster, as Flair left WWE a few months later under not exactly the best of circumstances, but that shouldn't take away from the sheer moment that happened that night, the night before at the Hall of Fame induction, and the night afterwards on RAW, when Flair made his farewell address.
Finally, we have the Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Edge at SummerSlam. An amazing brawl that explored the entire Cell and beyond, this culminated a massive feud between the two men, most of it over the World Heavyweight Title. Whilst this was not over a title, it was still as intense as hell, with Edge playing his psycho character to perfection, and Taker not taking any crap from him.
Edge brought in his favourite toys—a table, a ladder, and a chair—and made it a TLC Match within Hell in a Cell, which with the bigger Cell, worked a treat. In the end, The Undertaker would prevail, and in an infamous moment, he would chokeslam Edge off the ladder and through the ring, with balls of flame bursting through the hole.
Judging those four together, they were all memorable matches, but I'm going with HBK/Flair for the pure emotion that we may never see again, plus the HBK acceptance might be interesting with him apparently being in JBL's pocket now.
DIVA OF THE YEAR
- Beth Phoenix
- Kelly Kelly
- Michelle McCool
- Mickie James
Looking at each of these four girls' years, it would seem pretty clear cut who wins this one, but remember this is WWE, and it's not all that straightforward, so let's have a look...
We start with the current Women's Champion, The Glamazon Beth Phoenix. For all but four months of this year, she's been the dominant champion sweeping all before her, and for the past few months, she's been one half of one of the best reasons to watch RAW, along with Santino Marella in Glamarella.
The first four months were plain sailing for The Glamazon, with every challenge brushed aside, but she hit a roadblock in London, which I'll explain later. Phoenix made amends at SummerSlam by taking the title back from Mickie James, and she hasn't looked back since. A largely dominant year, and you'd think she's a shoe-in for the award.
Kelly Kelly has been one of the most improved wrestlers this year, especially since she's come over from ECW to RAW, largely learning under Mickie James' wing. She's very popular with the fans, and considering she only started two years ago, she can hold her own in a match, and it will be interesting to see how she can go in a longer match. This award may be a little too early for her, though.
I've discussed Michelle McCool before, in particular her backstage reputation, but the first and current Divas Champion has had a big year. She's been involved in the Jamie Noble/Chuck Palumbo storyline, she won the first Divas Title at The Great American Bash, and she's seen off the challenge of both Natalya and Maryse.
Right now, she's in the process of turning heel on both Maria and the Bella Twins, so 2009 will prove the big acid test for McCool, but 2008 has been good to her as well.
And now for the future Mrs. Bentley. It's easy for me to be biased when it comes to talking about Mickie James, but whilst Beth Phoenix may be the dominant force of the Women's Division, Mickie is its backbone.
No Diva in the WWE, not even the Glamazon herself, can connect to a crowd quite like Mickie can—it could be because she's the bridge between the previous generation of Divas including Trish Stratus and Lita to this generation. But regardless, Mickie has had a huge year.
It started quietly, with the focus on the likes of Maria and Candice Michelle, but James exploded after WrestleMania, shocking the world when she defeated Phoenix for the Women's Title on RAW, a show I was privileged to watch live at the O2 Arena in London. Mickie would go on to hold the title for four months, resisting the challenge of Phoenix, Jillian Hall and Katie Lea Burchill amongst other Divas, before finally succumbing to the Glamazon in a mixed tag team match at SummerSlam.
She's remained a solid contender since, and with her win in the Cyber Sunday costume contest, plus her guest appearance on USA Network's Psych, Mickie is proving very popular all over the board.
Yes, you'd think that The Glamazon will dominate this based on her massive year, but given as WWE are booking these awards, they'll probably book her more on comedy, with her and Santino missing out on everything. It may be my bias, but look for Mickie to take this award.
That's it for now. When more nominees come in, that's when it's time for Part Two, so keep your eyes peeled!