The Stomping Ground: The 2012 Goji Awards

I have an apology to make. Last weekend, I said that I would announce who would be joining me in my Smackdown recaps by the time this week’s edition of The Stomping Ground rolled around. The search continues, but it’s looking to be a revolving door of guest columnists in the near future. I won’t spoil the surprise, but I already have three writers raring to go. Now we just have to work out the logistics of it.

In any case, it’s the end of the year and 2012, for better or worse, was an interesting 12 months that gave us plenty to talk about. Or basically just bitch and moan. Last year I presented The Biggest Hiccups of 2011, so logically it’s time once again for a meaningless award show. Besides, the pointless Slammys are next week.

This time, however, I’m focusing on multiple categories. It’s certainly more ambitious and I’m actually quite proud of what I cobbled together, so you’d better cast your votes this year in the comments section! The awards are WWE-only, since I rarely watch TNA (but I follow all the reports) and therefore can’t truly judge that promotion.

Best New Superstar
1. Damien Sandow: From his great heel promos to his good ring presence, I have thoroughly enjoyed the work of Sandow. Sure, his character is less-than-original, but he’s totally nailed the gimmick. I suppose you could say I’m biased, being an English teacher, but that doesn’t matter. After all, it’s YOUR votes that count.
2. Ryback: Let’s get one thing straight: I am not this guy’s biggest fan. As long as he doesn’t get the monster push Cena’s had in the past, he’s tolerable. There weren’t many choices for best newcomer, but there’s no denying that Ryback’s made an impact on the live crowds since his push against CM Punk.
3. Antonio Cesaro: I wasn’t sure how well his debut would go over with the WWE fanbase, but ever since he took the United States Championship Cesaro’s been on quite a roll. He’s consistently had good matches for the past few weeks (including a count out loss to Sheamus, a fatal four way, and last Monday’s battle with Kingston) and looks to be on his way to having a good 2013.

Match of the Year
1. Chris Jericho vs CM Punk (Wrestlemania XXVIII): despite a slow start, the match really took on a life of its own and the story the two men told was awesome. The concept of two wrestlers trying to prove who is the greatest is perfect in its simplicity and the ending cemented Punk’s main event status as the guy to beat.
2. CM Punk vs Daniel Bryan (Money in the Bank): This was a tough choice. Do I go with their first encounter at Over the Limit, or this one involving AJ Lee as the special guest referee? Ultimately, their MitB title match topped their previous battle and I loved the abrupt finish; it was way more believable than an orgy of finishers.
3. CM Punk vs John Cena (Night of Champions): Say what you will about this match; I enjoyed the way it ended with the double pin out of the suplex in the corner. Both Cena and Punk looked EXHAUSTED and provided us with a bout that made them look dead-even. Certainly one of the few times I tolerated a bullshit non-ending.

Workhorse of the Year
1. Dolph Ziggler: The man sells like a champ and can talk a good game on the mic (when he’s allowed to speak his mind and go off-script). He can pull a great match out of practically anyone he’s faced and the crowd (both live and IWC) respects his capabilities.
2. CM Punk: You shouldn’t be surprised to see him on this list, right? He hasn’t had a bad match with anyone (except Ryback) and knows how to work the crowd whether as a face or heel. Hell, the company has enough faith in him to allow his title run to be the longest of the past 25 years!
3. Alberto del Rio: Del Rio’s destiny has taken a bit of a detour this year. From lackluster feuds with Sheamus and Randy Orton to his inability to win a PPV match, del Rio has certainly seen better days. However, his TV matches are often the highlight of the show (whether Raw or Smackdown) and he’s really come into his own in regards to the WWE style of wrestling.

Most Entertaining Angle
1. The AJ/Kane/Bryan/Punk Love Rectangle: How bizarre in this day and age to see someone like AJ Lee become the focal point of the main event feud of Raw! Back when Bryan dumped her following his Wrestlemania loss, I thought she’d be relegated to Diva tag matches and battle royals and quietly disappear. Imagine my surprise when she flipped her wig and became one of the most entertaining aspects of Raw. What the hell was she going to do next? Whose mouth would she shove her tongue down?
2. The Formation of Team Hell No: Kane and Daniel Bryan’s skits in anger management became so popular that they actually became the central focus of the WWE on both Raw and Smackdown for a good month. The “revitalized” tag team division revolved around them, for Christ’s sake.
3. Punk: Longest Reigning Champ of the Past 25 Years: Arguably one of the two or three reasons I still watch the WWE.

Biggest Disappointment
1. Brock Lesnar: I’ve talked about this waste of time over and over again. He signed on for 30 or so dates and only appeared….what, on ten Raws total? Oh, and two PPVs before he decided he had nothing left to prove. I get it; it’s kayfabe. That still doesn’t justify the time he wasted on my television screen.
2. Sheamus’s Title Reign: Totally disappointing babyface run. Just let the guy be a brawler, not a John Cena-lite. And his lack of opponent variety totally killed it for me.
3. Wade Barrett: I was all set for a huge Barrett push upon his return…..and we got crapped on. His new finisher and theme song are terrible, his matches are more plodding than ever, and he was directionless for a number of months. How many times can I see Orton vs Barrett or Sheamus vs Barrett before it gets old?

Biggest Surprise
1. John Cena Goes a Full Year Without a Belt Around His Waist: This should outright win the category.
2. CM Punk’s Heel Turn at Raw 1,000: Absolutely no one saw this coming, including our very own CB who claimed it was more of a statement than a heel turn. The execution still doesn’t sit right with me, but it was technically a surprise.
3. The Crowd’s Embrace of the “Yes!” Chant: I expected people to mindlessly “sheep” their way through this chant, but it has totally exploded into something rivaling Austin’s “WHAT?”.

The “Not-So-Creative” Award
1. The AJ Scandal: Reeks of pure, unadulterated waste-of-my-time. Not even worth typing more than this sentence.
2. The Burial of Zack Ryder: The poor guy gave the WWE a successful outlet to connect with the IWC and what does he have to show for it? Remember when Ryder, Punk, and Bryan ended Raw as champions last year after TLC? Zack went on to lose his title with an “injury” and never get his rematch, Eve used him as a tool, and Kane used him as a punching bag to get to John Cena.
3. Alberto del Rio vs Sheamus….Ad Nauseam: This rivals Orton vs Christian as worst never-ending feud of the year. The worst part of it all is that del Rio could never beat Sheamus on PPV, making it as one-sided (and therefore boring) as humanly possible.

So those are the nominations for the 2012 Goji Awards. Vote for your choices in the comments below and I’ll reveal the winners for each category next week. Ah, the joys of stretching a one-note column to two weeks worth of work. Gotta love the holidays!

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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