AS I SEE IT Fifth Annual Year-End Review
As the year winds to a close, it's time for the fifth annual AS I SEE IT Year-End Review.
I should note that my selections are based on what I've actually seen this year; which primarily means North American wrestling.
2001 PROMOTION OF THE YEAR:
In terms of a national promotion, the WWF wins this award this year more or less by default.
2000 winner: WWF
1999 winner: WWF
1998 winner: WWF
1997 winner: WCW
2001 WRESTLER OF THE YEAR:
Chris Jericho, WWF
Even if he isn't really close to an "Undisputed Wrestling Champion" (for further information, consult Kazuyuki Fujita, Kenji Muto, and Shin'ya Hashimoto); he's shown the most consistent level of talent in North American wrestling this year with programs involving Chris Benoit, The Rock and HHH.
Jericho has, despite the a WWF atmosphere which seems to reward the ability to performing in skits over the ability to perform in the ring, been the one man who has done both...been entertaining and more importantly performed in the ring with matches like his Ladder Match with Chris Benoit at last year's Royal Rumble, tagging with Benoit against Stone Cold/Triple H for the Tag Team Championship on the May 21st RAW, or his match with The Rock at No Mercy.
While it's true that, if HHH had not gone down with his injury earlier this year, he might be getting this award...Jericho has been the man who was there all year and performed in the way one is supposed to all year...in the ring.
2000 winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley, WWF
1999 winner: Chris Benoit, WWF
1998 winner: Steve Austin, WWF
1997 winner: Eddie Guerrero, WCW
2001 WORST WRESTLER OF THE YEAR:
Buff Bagwell, WCW/WWF/independent
Even in the era of high-maintenance wrestlers, Buff Bagwell has managed to alienate Vince McMahon and other promoters too numerous to catalogue here. He has wasted opportunity after opportunity during the last year.
In at least two promotions, he was booked as a babyface, only to have the fans make it impossible for him to be such. One of these included the inaugural (and only) MECW show at the ECW Arena, which featured Bagwell coming out to do a promo. The crowd turned on Bagwell with a venomous and loud rant, even for Philadelphia crowds: "Where's your mommy?" and "You got fired". Then Bagwell is reported to have refused to do a job, further endearing himself to the Philly crowd.
Shortly before this, he had been fired by the WWF after episodes right out of his tenure in WCW, one of which involved his mother calling WWFE offices to complain about Bagwell's travel arrangements.
Bagwell is a fairly talented worker...but seems to have an attitude that will likely never allow him to approach the heights of fame he achieved in WCW, which allowed his prima donna behavior to go on.
2000 "winner": Kevin Nash, WCW
1999 "winner": Hulk Hogan, WCW
1998 "winner": Giant Silva, WWF
1997 "winner": Hulk Hogan, WCW
2001 TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR:
WWF: Matt and Jeff Hardy
This makes three straight years for them. They were involved in my WWF Match of The Year, and held the Tag Belts much of the year. They've provided constant excitement in a division that it seems the WWF hasn't known how to use as well as it did last year, which seems unbelievable given the talent within the company.
I will add if Benoit and Jericho has remained a tag team for the year, I might have given this awards to them, since I'll freely admit to being a longtime Benoit mark. I loved watching the two of them together and seeing wrestling on a WWF show. Sadly, it was not to last.
Independent: Brock Lesnar and Shelton Benjamin, "Minnesota Stretching Crew", Ohio Valley Wrestling
Here is a tag team that looks like a tag team and looks ready to be in the WWF now. The only thing that may have held them up this year were injuries to Benjamin and Lesnar at different times during 2001.
Brock Lesnar has an incredible amateur background as a Big 10 Conference Wrestling Champion 1999 & 2000, 1999 runner up and 2000 NCAA Heavyweight Wrestling Champion at Minnesota. Lesnar has amazing agility for a man who goes 6'3" 295 pounds and can hit a dead-on shooting star press.
Shelton Benjamin also has similar background at the University of Minnesota as a two-time NCAA Wrestling All-American and Assistant Wrestling Coach.
Both Lesnar and Banjamin also have the benefit of being tought by old school trainers how to actually work a professional match in combination with their amateur background and natural athletic ability.
Lesnar and Benjamin have carried the OVW Tag Belts much of the year, except for their time while injured and brief switch-offs with Disciples of Synn and the Suicide Blondes. Both Lesnar and Benjamin have been working matches at WWF B-shows recently, so WWF fans may be lucky enough to see them in the New Year.
2000 winner: Matt and Jeff Hardy, WWF
1999 winner: Matt and Jeff Hardy, WWF
1998 winner: Sabu/Rob Van Dam, ECW
1997 winner: Sabu/Rob Van Dam, ECW
2001 ANGLE OF THE YEAR WINNER:
ECW turns on WWF, July 9, 2001, Phillips Arena, Atlanta
OK, so it had to be done to jack up TV ratings because Vince McMahon fouled up the one angle that "couldn't be" fouled up...the WCW Invasion angle. Yes, this angle too was itself screwed up in short order.
You can say I marked out for purely personal reasons...and Bob Barnett and the other lucha fans can tell me that The Infernales vs. Infernales feud in EMLL blew this away (and they're probably right, if I understood enough Spanish to appreciate the promos that set it up).
But anyone who was ever a fan of ECW...those of us that spent hundreds of hours in the converted Bingo Hall that produced seven years of pure wrestling magic... got one last rush out of the promotion that thrilled us (well, sort of) when we saw Tommy Dreamer, The Dudleys, Lance Storm, Justin Credible, Mike Awesome, Rob Van Dam, Raven, and Tazz turn around and "jump the WWF" in that Phillips Arena ring. Even the live Atlanta crowd went nuts that night.
It showed us for a night what Vince McMahon could have easily done for far less money than he spent for WCW, and given the fans a far bigger rush (and produced a higher profit margin), given that he wasn't prepared to spend the money to get Ric Flair, Bill Goldberg, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash to give fans a real WCW "invasion".
2000 winner: The Stephanie McMahon-Vince McMahon-Shane McMahon-HHH-Kurt Angle soap opera
1999 winner: Andrew Martin-Stephanie McMahon Wedding angle
1998 winner: Vince McMahon as heel promoter versus Steve Austin
1997 winner: nWo-WCW angle
2001 WORST/MOST TASTELESS ANGLES OF THE YEAR:
Vince McMahon "Kiss My Ass" angle, Monday Night RAW, November 19, 26, and 28, and....
Why does a 56 year old man worth $700 million feel the need to do something so tasteless...pointless...and without any reason? Imagine what would have happened had Jerry Lawler and Ric Flair's returns not happened on the same night. Wrestling fans would have ripped Vince McMahon apart if he hadn't given us those moments on the same night.
Then, just in case we missed it, we got it repeated via tape on Smackdown and Heat.
Then we got it again live...twice on November 26th, with McMahon trying to make both Steve Austin and Jim Ross do it....not to mention McMahon doing a giddy-up around the ring with Jim Ross's hat.
We got it one more time (almost) with McMahon trying to get Trish Stratus to "kiss his ass". UPN radically edited this segment, with McMahon making statements in the live reports strongly implying that he wanted Stratus to provide him oral sex.
Sigmund Freud would have a field day with this crap.
So would L. Brent Bozell if he wasn't busy dodging and delaying the WWF lawsuit against his PTC by doing things like sending PWBTS subpoenas.
Honorable mention for Most Tasteless Angle of the Year goes to Booker T. playing priest in a "confessional" on the December 17 RAW. I may be a lapsed Catholic, but this was a bit much for my tastes... Confession being a sacrament within the Catholic Church.
I'd love to have heard the telephone conversation the next day between the Monsignor of that Parish and the Archbishop of Lafayette, the Most Reverend Edward J. O'Donnell.
2000 "winner": Stacey Keibler-David Flair and Mark Henry-Mae Young "pregnancy angles"
1999: The Paul Wight/Big Bossman "cancer angle"
1998 winner: Ric Flair "heart attack" angle and the Hawk/Scott Hall drug angles
1997 winner: DeGenerationX/Nation of Domination "racial angle"
2001 MATCHES OF THE YEAR:
WWF: Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz - Tables, Ladders and Chairs II - WrestleMania X-Seven, AstroDome, Houston, TX, April 1, 2001
It may not have been the first time. But these three teams were as reckless and as spectacular as the first time....and were able to (at least) duplicate TLC I in front of 65,000 people at the Astrodome. That gives it a nod for WWF MOTY in my mind.
Independent: Christopher Daniels vs. Low Ki vs. Scoot Andrews vs.
American Dragon, East Coast Wrestling Association, Wilmington, DE, September 22, 2001
This match was proof of how independent promoters have disproven time and time again Vince McMahon's belief that small men can't be put on top. Matches like this DO belong on top, (and can be put on top) both on level of quality and ability to integrate into storylines that will draw money...if the promoter is willing and able to bother doing so.
These four have worked matches all year for Jim Kettner's ECWA in various combinations with and against each other; and drew an enthusiastic packed house to Delaware on that September night.
They've also worked tremendous matches in venues ranging from NWA/ECCW shows in British Columbia, to All Pro Wrestling and UPW in California, to ECWA in Delaware, to IPW-Hardcore Wrestling in Florida; with Daniels also working regularly for Michinoku Pro in the "Curry Man" gimmick.
Honorable mention goes to the Shinya Hashimoto-Steve Corino-Gary Steele-Dylan Night match held by the Premier Wrestling Federation in Huntingdon Valley on December 16th. Those fans lucky enough to be there got to see a true Japanese style match at a time that a true wrestling alternative is more than welcome.
WCW Booker T vs. Jeff Jarrett, "Bash At The Beach", Ocean Center, Daytona Beach, FL, June 9, 2000
WWF "Tables, Ladders and Chairs" Match - Matt/Jeff Hardy vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Edge/Christian, SummerSlam, Raleigh, NC, August 27, 2000.
ECW Psicosis-Yoshihiro Tajiri, ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA, August 19, 2000
WCW Chris Benoit-Bret Hart, Monday Nitro, Kemper Arena, Kansas City, MO, October, 1999
WWF Matt/Jeff Hardy-Edge/Christian, Tag Team Ladder Match, "No Mercy", Cleveland, OH, October 17, 1999
ECW Rob Van Dam/Jerry Lynn, ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA, August 28, 1999.
WCW Chris Jericho/Eddie Guerrero-Chris Benoit/Dean Malenko, November 29th, Knoxville Civic Coliseum
WWF Mankind (Mick Foley)-Undertaker Hell in a Cell Match "King of the Ring" PPV, June 28, 1998
ECW Jerry Lynn-Rob Van Dam, August 8, 1998, ECW Arena
WCW Rey Mysterio, Jr.- Eddie Guerrero, WCW "Halloween Havoc" PPV, 10/27/97, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV
WWF Shawn Michaels-Undertaker, "In Your House: Badd Blood" PPV, 10/5/97, Kiel Center, St. Louis, MO
ECW Great Sasuke/Gran Hamada/Masato Yakushiji-TAKA Michinoku/Dick Togo/Terry Boy, "Barely Legal" PPV, 4/13/97, ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA
2001 MICK FOLEY BRAWLER OF THE YEAR:
Justice Pain, CZW/Big Japan Pro Wrestling
Pain has done something many wrestlers haven't done this year...represented his promotion in four different countries: the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Japan on the frequent tours CZW workers do for Big Japan Pro Wrestling.
Pain can brawl in the ring, out of the ring, around the arena; and is a good technical worker, a fact sometimes lost by those who automatically dismiss anyone working for a hardcore promotion.
He's worked programs with Men's Teioh & Jun Kasai and with The Briscoe Brothers (tagging with Johnny Kashmere). He worked a four-way June match against Lobo, Ric Blade, and Nick Gage so wild it took out two of the participants for the rest of the year.
He worked in what many viewed in the single most violent American match this year on April 14th in Delaware with Johnny Kashmere against "Sick" Nick Mondo and Jun Kasai, in a match involving barbed wire, tables, glass in ways few ever imagined.
Pain also worked Jay Briscoe for the CZW Heavyweight Title and ended the year helping CZW to sell out its debut show at the ECW Arena for the Cage of Death III show on December 15th with his match against Wifebeater.
2000 winner: Wifebeater, CZW/Big Japan Pro Wrestling
1999 winner: Mick Foley/Mankind
1998 winner: Mick Foley (Cactus Jack/Mankind/Dude Love), WWF
1997 winner: Tommy Dreamer, ECW
2001 CARD/PPV OF THE YEAR:
WWF: WrestleMania X-Seven, AstroDome, Houston, TX, April 1, 2001
With the largest crowd of the year for the WWF...drawing the largest gate in their history (to be surpassed by 2002's Wrestlemania in Toronto)...and featuring the Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock match that had been built for months, along with the exciting Tables, Ladders and Chairs II heading the card; this show was likely the American wrestling PPV of the Year.
Independent: 2001 Super Eight tournament, ECWA, St. Matthew's Parish Hall, Wilmington, DE , February 24, 2001
This tournament featured Low-Ki, American Dragon, Windy City Pro Wrestling's Jayson Reign, Reckless Youth, Florida standouts Mike Sullivan and Billy Fives, NWA-ECCW's Tony Kozina, and Spanky. As he has since 1997, ECWA promoter Jim Kettner and the participating workers gave wrestling fans (emphasis on the word "wrestling") a tournament that was a genuine thrill.
2000 winner: WWF "Fully Loaded", Reunion Arena, Dallas, TX, July 23, 2000
1999 winner: "Anarchy Rulz", ECW Odeum Sports and Exposition Center, Villa Park, IL, September 19, 1999
1998 winner: "Survivor Series", St. Louis, MO, Keil Center November 15, 1998
1997 winner: "Barely Legal", ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA, April 13, 1997
2001 WORST CARD/PPV OF THE YEAR:
WCW "Sin", January 14, 2001, Indianapolis, IN.
When you have a PPV featuring such matches as:
* A semi-main event featuring one, two, or three (depending on your viewpoint) of the least plausible main eventers possible (Power Plant trainer "Sarge", Lex Luger, and Buff Bagwell)...and Bill Goldberg.
* A Hardcore Title match that did the impossible...actually made Terry Funk seem uninteresting...
* The match voted most likely to make you lose your lunch...The Insiders vs. The Natural Born Thrillers, featuring Sean Palumbo, current co-member of the WWF's Ambiguously Blonde Duo with Billy Gunn.
* The classic match for the ages to win the WCW "Commissionership": The Cat vs. Mike Sanders...
* Hacksaw Duggan as a "disloyal Canadian" and as a special guest referee...
* A "brother vs. brother match" of Reno vs. Big Vito with a buildup that came out of nowhere, and featured some of the lamer skits this side of a Mae Young strip-tease on RAW...
You then have the "winner" for Worst PPV of the Year.
2000 "winner" WCW Slamboree, Kemper Arena, Kansas City, MO, May 7, 2000
1999 "winner": Fall Brawl, WCW
1998 "winner": Fall Brawl 1998, WCW
1997 "winner": Hardcore Heaven 1997, ECW, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
2001 TV SHOW OF THE YEAR:
Monday Night RAW, TNN
Again, this gets the award almost by default. Complain about it all you want, but it's the show that most Americans watch when they think of wrestling. Now if Vince McMahon would give us more wrestling and less skits, as the WWF showed us it can do earlier in 2001....
2000 winner: Monday Night RAW, USA Network and TNN
1999 winner: Monday Night RAW, USA Network
1998 winner: Monday Night RAW, USA Network
1997 winner: Monday Nitro, Turner Network Television
2001 WORST TV SHOW OF THE YEAR:
Monday Nitro, WCW, TNT
For the last time, Monday Nitro gets this award, as it went out with a strangled whimper and not a bang.
2000 "winner" Monday NITRO, TNT
1999 "winner" Monday Nitro, TNT
1998 "winner": Music City Wrestling TV
1997 "winner": USWA Television, USWA
2001 TV ANNOUNCER OF THE YEAR:
Jim Ross, WWF
Even though he had to get over Vince McMahon's strangest angle yet by having his face shoved into McMahon's backside...even though he had to abruptly change commentating partners...even though he had to play loyal soldier and get over the botched WCW invasion angle... Jim Ross seldom, if ever, lost the trademark enthusiasm for what he was watching and getting it over; which gives him this award.
Honorable mention goes to NWA-Wildside's Dan Wilson, who though only 21 years old, gets over the storylines and angles of the second largest nationally televised promotion in the United States. He's lucky enough to have Steven Prazak and Scott Hudson there are teachers as well; which will allow him to continue to develop his skills for something bigger one day.
2000 winner: Jim Ross, WWF
1999 winner: Jim Ross, WWF
1998 winner: Jim Ross, WWF
1997 winner: Mike Tenay, World Championship Wrestling
2001 WORST TV ANNOUNCER OF THE YEAR:
Tony Schiavone, WCW, TNT and TBS
OK...so I'll break my word and un-retire this award. I may as well give it to Tony Schiavone one last time, since he's out of wrestling for the moment. But from this year forward...I'll have to name it the "Tony Schiavone" Worst TV Announcer of The Year Award.
2000 "winner": Tony Schiavone, WCW
1999 "winner": Tony Schiavone, WCW
1998 "winner" Bert Prentice, MCW
1997 "winner": Tony Schiavone, WCW
2001 NEWS STORIES OF THE YEAR:
WWF purchase of WCW
ECW closes its doors
WCW "Invasion angle" goes nowhere, WWF ratings and live attendance drop
9:57 pm ET on March 26, 2001, was the moment wrestling fans never thought they'd see. Shane McMahon and Vince McMahon simulcast on Monday Nitro and RAW is WAR, doing what we thought only short years before to be impossible, in both the storyline and real life purchase of WCW.
But in so many ways the Invasion Angle was botched from the beginning. Names like Ric Flair, Bill Goldberg, Scott Steiner, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall weren't part of it because Vince McMahon didn't want to destroy the WWF's salary structure. Even an attempt to sign Eric Bischoff to serve as the TV mouthpiece of WCW wasn't followed through.
The WCW wrestlers that had been signed weren't allowed to get over in the way that was necessary to keep this from being a repeat of the failed WCW takeover of Bill Watts's UWF. WCW wasn't allowed, in essence to get any heat whatever.
Rather than use Paul Heyman as the mouthpiece of the Alliance, the very man who could get over damned near any angle imaginable...daughter Stephanie was used as the "new owner" of ECW, and featured on show after show after show.
As a result of all these mistakes, WCW fans stayed away...in droves. As many as five million homes...40-50% of those who had been watching...stopped watching wrestling on Monday nights.
By the time Paul Heyman did his shootfabe monologue airing on November 15th at Vince McMahon, about how he'd destroyed the traditions of the wrestling business and stolen ideas from ECW...the Invasion angle was already dead in the water. If this monologue had aired in the springtime...or had aired on the Smackdown before the Invasion PPV (which did quite well even without it)...things would have been very, very different.
What was potentially the opportunity for the greatest angle in wrestling history was ruined by Vince McMahon's unwillingness to spend the money to hire away the names that mainstream fans recognized from WCW, and by his lack of willingness to allow his former rival, the one person who could have gotten over the Invasion angle, to do so.
2000 stories: Mainstreaming of wrestling continues, WWF-ECW-TNN-USA TV network roulette, WWF goes public, PTC censorship attempts continue... but with organized efforts fighting them, WCW set to lose as much as $80 million
1999 stories: Deaths of Owen Hart and Brian Hildebrand, Foley's "Have A Nice Day" goes to #1 on New York Times Best-Seller List, WWF CD DEBUTS at number 4 on Billboard Chart, ECW TV on TNN, Parents Television Council censorship attempts
1998 stories: Changes in WWF product, making it more adult in nature; ECW's 1998 problems; Mainstream attention given the wrestling business; Jesse Ventura's election to Governorship of Minnesota
1997 stories: Brian Pillman death, Bret Hart leaving WWF/Title Change Doublecross
Since it's Santa's time of year...here's some awards for the "naughty" and the "nice".
To the nice...
For Eddie Guerrero - to be clean, sober, and entertaining wrestling fans in the way he's capable of doing so well.
For Reckless Youth - good health in 2002.
For A.J. Styles - six months exposure to a WWF audience.
For Combat Zone Wrestling - freedom from the selective enforcement
practices of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission to run their product as they see fit.
To the naughty...
For Vince McMahon: a copy (from Amazon.com) of "Exhibitionism for the Shy" by Carol Queen, so viewers aren't forced to watch him indulge in it on Monday and Thursday nights for even one more episode.
For John Collins of Main Event Championship Wrestling: a two year scholarship to the Wharton Business School to learn how to run a business before opening his next company.
For APW's Roland Alexander: a scholarship to Dale Carnegie and a copy of "How to Win Friends and Influence Enemies".
For L. Brent Bozell: a copy of Webster's Dictionary; to allow him to find the definitions of words and phrases such as "truth", "distortion", "libel", "slander", "defamation" and "extremism".
That's the AS I SEE IT year in review.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)