2012 Pro Wrestling Awards Picks: Top Stories of 2012
The Best Pro Wrestling Stories of 2012
Pro wrestling is a very misunderstood business in this country. There are many reasons for this, and I'm not going to get into them because that's for a different time. The reason I made note of this is that when people think pro wrestling stories, they may only think of death or sensationalism. I don't think that way because I am all too aware that there is an entire world of pro wrestling out there other than The E. There's great pro wrestling stories all around the globe with Japan and Mexico being the closest to the U.S. in providing great and important pro wrestling stories every year.
As I took the time to mention when I used to do this every year: I follow the Wrestling Observer awards voting method meaning the eligibility period for these awards is December 1, 2011 to November 30, 2012 and, as always, it is based on what I've seen at the time this is posted. That also goes for all winners from 2009, 2010 and 2011 in this special circumstance.
The following is my list for the top 10 pro wrestling stories during the year.
2005: The Lita/Matt Hardy/Edge Love Triangle
2006: Yakuza Crackdown Causes Pride FC and Any Other DSE-related Product to be Taken Off Fuji TV
2007: The Chris Benoit Tragedy
2008: Ric Flair Retires From Active Competition
2009: Mitsuharu Misawa's Death and its Effect on Japanese Pro Wrestling
2010: January 4 Reignites Monday Night Wars for About a Month
2011: C.M. Punk's WWE Contract Situation
#10: New Mistico in CMLL
With Sin Cara, the original Mistico, now in The E, CMLL did what promotions in Mexico and Japan have traditionally done with masked wrestlers when they leave or unmask: they have someone else wear the mask and become the second incarnation of the character. Tiger Mask, Black Tiger, and La Parka are three of the best examples in pro wrestling of characters that have had multiple people under the mask during the character's existence. So this past summer, that's what CMLL did with the much-hyped debut of the new Mistico. Considering the original Mistico was the biggest draw in all of wrestling for a good year (almost two) not that far back, my guess is that CMLL wanted to try and strike lightning twice. Usually that doesn't work, but in Mexico it has worked before (La Parka for instance), so who's to say it can't work again?
#9: New Japan on iPPV in U.S.
This wouldn't have been a top 10 story if New Japan's venture into iPPV didn't go as well as it did in 2012. It was an interesting enough story that a Japanese promotion was actively attempting to gain some kind of following in the U.S. But for them to do iPPV better than most U.S. promotions that have tried it and their first offering being the card of the year for all of wrestling makes this a top 10 story.
#8: Pro Wrestling NOAH & The Yakuza
Connections with wrestling promotions and The Yakuza (mafia) in Japan have been something that the people of Japan are well aware of, but they still force themselves to be shocked when a story comes out. In 2012, the story was connections between the mob syndicate and Pro Wrestling NOAH. But these weren't just any connections, these were connections with people near the top of NOAH at the time of Mitsuharu Misawa's death in 2009. That killed NOAH from a public relations point of view and set in motion another rough year of business that has pushed the promotion almost to the point of folding.
#7: DDT Celebrates 15th Anniversary With Successful First Show at Nippon Budokan Hall
DDT is the Japanese equivalent of The E, except kicked up a notch in every way. That means even worse sports entertainment-inspired angles, but also even better wrestling. The promotion has gained a cult following in Japan to the point that they started running one show a year at Sumo Hall and drew better paid attendances than a lot of the cards that major promotions ran at the arena. This, combined with the promotion's deal with Nippon TV, convinced the promotion to run their 15th anniversary show at Budokan Hall, an even larger arena than Sumo Hall. This was an ambitious move, but the show ended up doing another good paid attendance and had one of the most talked about matches in all of Japanese wrestling in 2012 as its main-event. Like The E, DDT has plenty of ambition. They expressed this ambition at this particular show when they announced back-to-back Sumo Hall shows for 2013 and the promotion's desire to run the Tokyo Dome for its 20th anniversary show.
#6: Triplemania XX With Connections to the First Triplemania
The Wrestlemania of Mexican pro wrestling reached its twentieth installment, and had one of its most successful Triplemania shows in years with over 20,000 in attendance in a new arena. With it being the twentieth year of this card, there had to be some kind of look back at the promotion's history or at least the show's history. AAA, the promotion that runs Triplemania (think the Mexican version of The E), did both with matches and people on the show that had ties with the first Triplemania and several of the main wrestlers on that card in 1993.
The ties to the original were the following: Konnan is currently booking AAA and had a hand in booking the first Triplemania, Perro Aguayo, who main-evented the first Triplemania, was inducted to AAA's hall of fame at Triplemania XX, the relatives of Antonio Pena, the founder of AAA, were at Triplemania XX and are in some of the promotion's storylines, the major angle leading into the first Triplemania (Mascara Ano 2000 breaking a beer bottle of Aguayo's head) was done with Ano 2000 Jr. & Dr. Wagner Jr. leading into Triplemania XX as well as being the finish to the ensuing match, and the sons of several wrestlers that were on the first Triplemania were wrestling on the card for Triplemania XX, most notably Juventud Guerrera and Perro Aguayo Jr.
#5: TNA Celebrates Tenth Anniversary
Many people didn't think that TNA would make it 10 years when they started back in 2002. Through all of their mistakes, they did make it to 10 years. And it typical TNA fashion, they celebrate something that deserves to be celebrated, but also taint the whole thing by going off course. How did they do this? By starting their own hall of fame and having Sting be their first inductee. For Jeff Jarrett or A.J. Styles not to be the first inductee is a real disservice to the promotion's history considering Sting's presence and time in the promotion hasn't produced much good in any area. I must tip my hat to the promotion for making it 10 years and would hope that they can make it to 15, but that is still more than four years away and a lot can change in this business during that amount of time.
#4: The Success of Wrestlemania XVIII
Wrestlemania is the biggest wrestling show of the year, no matter the importance of any major show in any other major promotion. Wrestlemania being a successful show isn't a story because now it's expected that the show is going to be successful. But when it's a really successful show, that's a story. It took a while to make it official (something suspicious in itself), but Wrestlemania XXVIII apparently did break the all-time pay-per-view buys record for a wrestling show with 1.3 million buys. Even before that number was made “official” the show became the most profitable Wrestlemania ever. I only say “official” for the buy number because it appeared as though the show was going to tie Wrestlemania XXIII at 1.25 million buys for the most ever, but a few months later it was revealed that the show actually did break the record.
#3: Brock Lesnar returns to The E
There were several in-ring returns to The E in 2012, but Brock Lesnar's was easily the most noteworthy. Even though he only wrestled twice in 2012, barely appeared on T.V., and barely spoke, his return was magnetic in a way that still baffles me. Thankfully I got a bit of redemption, since I'm not that big of a Lesnar fan since his first run in The E, when the numbers showed that Lesnar didn't have much of an effect on the pay-per-view buys for the two shows he was on as well as any episode of RAW he was on or advertised to be on. It definitely wasn't worth the $5 million that Vince McMahon paid him and I don't see it being worth whatever Vince just paid him to come back. Still it was the biggest draw in MMA history returning to pro wrestling, and that makes it a huge story. And it was at the time.
#2: Jerry Lawler's Heart Attack
This came up short of being one of the big tragedies in pro wrestling history. The whole thing is still a bit surreal, but it happened. On the September 10 edition of RAW, Lawler had been in the ring and almost was in an actual match on the show, but didn't actually wrestle that night. Later in the show, during a tag match, Lawler collapsed at the announce table from a heart attack, needed to be rushed to the back, and given CPR before he began breathing on his own again. The rest of the show went on as planned, but also had Michael Cole giving updates on Lawler's condition on and off for the rest of the show. The only reason the whole thing was so surreal is that most people couldn't believe it at first because The E has done angles along these lines before so much that their audience (or anyone who watches their show) can't fully believe it because it just could be another shock angle from a promotion that has no problem doing such angles.
Story of the Year 2012: Kazuchika Okada's Return to New Japan and the Megapush That Followed
A very welcome surprise to the wrestling business in Japan and to the wrestling fans that enjoy the product that comes out of Japan. Okada had been on a long work excursion to the U.S. and Mexico and this was the big return. Only 24 years old when he returned, Okada was booked to win the IWGP title just one month after coming back, a dangerous move to say the least. But Jado & Gedo (New Japan's bookers) must have seen something because Okada vindicated the title reign, the G-1 tournament win in the summer, and getting solidified already as a main-event wrestler for the promotion by nearly winning my wrestler of the year pick. He was that good in the ring and that gets you over better than anything in Japan and makes a major push worth the time and effort. Needless to say, Okada got over instantly with his new persona and finishing move (both called “The Rainmaker”) and with a match quality that was very surprising and unexpected for someone as young as he, even with as deep a roster as New Japan possesses. I was skeptical at first of the push because New Japan had been burned many, many times in the past by doing things like this, but I couldn't be happier as a wrestling fan that it worked. And I couldn't be happier as a wrestling fan that Okada turned down an offer from The E early in 2013 to stay home. Kudos Okada, you'll be better used and respected in New Japan.