Counterfeit Pennies 12.19.03: Best & Worst Of 2003

Last December around this time, I put together a column highlighting the ten best and worst WWE moments of the year. These lists were merely reflections of my own personal opinions, and the responses I received were tremendous and fun to read.

To me, it’s important to look back on the year and reminisce about good times and bad, and since this is something I do every year in order to analyze and reprioritize my life, I figured it would be somewhat cathartic and beneficial to make last year’s piece the first of a new tradition, as opposed to a one-time thing.

So without further rambling, here are 2003’s Best & Worst WWE moments.

2003’s BEST

1. Best battle rapper: John Cena.

He talks smack whether face or heel,
Forget Jericho he’s the highlight reel,

He punks guys out like he’s Ashton Kutcher
Ripping through the roster like a superstar butcher

John Cena has emerged as a breakout star
You can’t see him whether near or far

In the New Year he’ll be a huge hit
John Cena most definitely is the

2. Best surprise division: The Women’s Division on Raw. For the first time, I have paid close attention to women’s wrestling matches, and not because of scantily clad outfits. Many of the women on Raw held their own 2003, especially the quartet of Molly Holly, Victoria, Lita and Trish Stratus. These four have proven to me that while being sexy is enough to get over, being good in the ring is what it takes to become respected rather than objectified.

3. Best performance by a former Tough Enough contestant: Linda Miles, a.k.a. Shaniqua. Even though there isn’t much to choose from (Maven and Matt Morgan have been disappointing (to say the least), Jackie Gayda is relatively unknown aside from ass-less pants and nipple slips, and Nidia was much better last year), I will give Linda Miles credit for becoming a serviceable mid-carder. She gives the Bashams that little extra eccentric something that all superstars should possess, and she definitely doesn’t back down when she’s needed to interfere in matches. Her performance is probably a B or a B plus at best, but that adequate mark certainly beats out the other Tough Enough characters by a landslide.

4. Best use of foreshadowing for 2004: Kane helps Vince McMahon bury The Undertaker alive. In 2004, it seems that The Undertaker will be coming back to WWE as the Lord of Darkness. Kane’s interference in the Vince-Taker match was not surprising, but sometimes there is too much stock put into shocking moments that burn out quickly. While I have admittedly gotten sick of seeing feuds between Kane and the Undertaker, both characters will have evolved (or reverted back) enough in 2004 to make for an interesting storyline. In this case, the history and the back-story between Kane and the Undertaker can enhance this angle into something that truly goes beyond one match. I would like to see WWE be smart about the way they progress with Kane and The Undertaker’s impending encounters, by treating the fans as people who can (and do) remember or at least be reminded of events from long ago that have unfolded between two superstars. It will be up to the announcers, the interviewers, the characters, and the writing staff to ensure a successful resurrection and resolution to this longstanding battle.

5. Best improved performance by a wrestler I previously shunned: The Big Show. For one reason or another, I have always been down on the Big Show. Maybe it was because he once resorted to smoking a cigarette while coming down to the ring during his WCW days, or perhaps it was the inevitable backlash that comes with a sorry excuse for a WWF title defense against the Big Boss Man. In 2003, however, the big nasty bastard has hit his stride, both as a true force in the ring, and even as a comedic heel counterpoint to guys like Eddie Guerrero and John Cena. Either way, the Big Show is finally generating dividends worth more than his weight, and coming from a lifetime Big Show critic that should be considered a gigantic complement.

6. Best exploitation of American foreign politics: La Resistance. Aside from being awfully young and green, and despite the fact that they have already undergone almost as many personnel changes than Destiny’s Child, La Resistance has emerged this year due to WWE’s invocation of the tried and true bad guy formula: “If they are from a country Americans don’t like right now, the fans will boo them incessantly.” All the team needs now to really put them over the top is a veteran presence to guide them. Does anyone else see Jacque Rougeau as the ideal manager?

7. Best new finishing move: Randy Orton’s RKO. Obviously similar to the Stunner and the Diamond Cutter, Orton’s RKO is nevertheless a nice, quickly accessible finisher that is already fun to watch.

8. Best international visit: The WWE Smackdown! roster visits the troops in Iraq. Even though it’s yet to hit the air (December 25, 9:00 pm, UPN), I have already set my VCR to tape this two-hour episode of Smackdown! I actually believe that for once in his life, Vince McMahon has cast business aside and exhibited sincerity towards his desire to entertain the troops in Iraq who defend our country every day. Spending Christmas in a war zone is no great shakes, and I applaud Vince and all of the Smackdown! superstars who traveled to Iraq to provide a sense of holiday cheer and escapism through wrestling to those who need it most.

9. Best Raw performance: Shawn Michaels. Still not great on the microphone, but HBK has shown consistency in the ring like no one else on Raw in 2003. He constantly carries younger guys to good matches, and he is one of if not the greatest ring psychologists of all-time. His timing within the contexts of his matches remains impeccable, and it seems as though Shawn Michaels’ back is holding up just fine. He also performs at most house shows, creating an intimacy with fans that still remains foreign to part-time stagehands like Goldberg.

10. Best Smackdown! performance: Chris Benoit. Under the radar throughout the year, Benoit has had a really good year yet again. I guess consistency is my biggest sticking point this time around, and the Canadian Crippler certainly exudes that quality more than virtually anyone else in the industry.

2003’s WORST

1. Worst misuse of a character: Lance Storm. I still don’t understand how someone so talented and loyal to the company constantly gets thrown into less than desirable situations.

2. Worst performance by a McMahon: Vince vs. Zach Gowen and Mr. America. This gimmick was hokey and awkward from the beginning, and as much as I respect Zach’s innate heart and courage, I am still not sure of his ability to have a sustained career in WWE. The problems with this angle, however, have nothing to do with the one-legged wrestler. In fact, whoever created Mr. America needs to spend a few weeks in the stocks of the town village, so that he can be mercilessly scoffed at and ridiculed. Who did you think you were fooling, anyway?

3. Worst stipulation: Steiner puts his “services” on the line against Test. While the end result was Steiner’s heel turn (which I liked), there had to have been a better way than this. And when Test said he was going to make Steiner his bitch, I immediately had flashbacks of Chuck and Billy. After all, as we (unfortunately) know, Steiner does like to wear thongs, and maybe part of “Big Poppa Pump” wanted Test to come through with his homoerotic promise.

4. Worst World Heavyweight Champion: Tie: Triple H and Goldberg. He works part-time and still gets the belt back over Goldberg. Not that big Bill was that much better, since he shunned house shows most of the time and argued over money he doesn’t really need. Both wrestlers are not the right answer, and the question still remains the same: Who (if any) of the younger and fresher talent on Raw will actually be given the chance to shine at the top? From the looks of it, no one anytime soon.

5. Worst copout: Nathan Jones quits Smackdown! I didn’t like the former Australian prisoner very much anyway, but to just up and leave the company in the middle of a significant mid-card push is a slap in the face to the people who never get that kind of chance.

6. Worst Steroid job: Still Dave Batista.

7. Worst change in entrance music: Christian. There was nothing wrong with the first change, and I kind of miss the more operatic and eccentric theme.

8. Worst extended vignette: Eric Bischoff sneaks off to visit and violate Linda McMahon at her Stamford, CT home. I generally like Bischoff’s character, but this one was just too far out of the two realms of entertainment and believability.

9. Worst Raw performance: Maven. Maven would work much better as a heel right now, for the simple fact that no one gives a flying f%$# about anything he does. The fact that he still doesn’t have a viable finisher should be an indication as to the amount of faith the company has in the first Tough Enough winner.

10. Worst Smackdown! performance: Tie: Roddy Piper and Mr. America. With his brief stint on Smackdown!, the Hot Rod managed to show how little he had left in the tank. The fact that Sean O’Haire has been banished to Velocity ever since also hasn’t sat well with me at all in terms of Piper’s influence on the show. Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan donned in a red, white, and blue mask doing the same (increasingly) old routine just didn’t do it for me. As minuscule a detail as it seems, it’s just not the same without the red and yellow.

I hope you enjoyed this now-annual special edition of Counterfeit Pennies, featuring my own humble opinions as to 2003’s Best and Worst WWE moments. Feel free to share your own thoughts with me by emailing them to chris411wrestling@yahoo.com.

Before I sign off, I just wanted to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season. Also, if you still haven’t had enough of my ramblings, you can check out my flagship column at 411 Black – The Weekly Media Monitor – as well as my 411 Black Log, which is essentially a running diary about anything that comes to my wandering mind at any time of day.

That’s all for now PEACE.

-Chris Biscuiti

Chris Biscuiti also writes for 411 Black and moodspins.