IN LAIMAN'S TERMS #255 - Year End Thoughts and HAMMY Awards!
By Al Laiman
Dec 26, 2016 - 10:54:45 PM
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IN LAIMAN’S TERMS #255 - 2016 Wrap
1. I want to thank everyone who took the time to read my comeback to LOP in 2016. It's been a year of change, transition, and transformation for me, and the WWE is a much different product from the one I left in 2014. Some problems are still there, some new ones have arisen, but some great signs of progress are also being made.
2. I've been able to make a few bucks between Patreon donors, t-shirt buyers, and books. 62 columns later, I'm gonna take a look back at 2016, look forward to 2017, and ramble off some random superlatives in the process. Support the column if you get the chance or ability, and I'm grateful for those of you who have. It's enabled me to do things like travel to meet patrons and send them things. I've been all over the eastern part of the US this year thanks to the pursuit of many endeavors, and I'm hoping that only continues next year. I've only got two classes to go before I graduate from Penn, and I can finally move on to grad school.
3. I've also done 72 podcasts, written a new book, many columns and articles, among many other personal things that those of you closest to me know about. Since I left in 2014, the amount of douchery in the comments has reduced dramatically, so I want to give the comment section a shout-out for that. I remember back in 2011 when it was... Well, not the case.
4. Anyway, wrestling things. I have RAW on in the background vaguely, but it doesn't seem too much different than usual. Real tender moment though as Bayley gave Goldust a Bayley Bear dressed as Dusty. A few minutes later, the Club established themselves as the "O'Doyle Rules!" of WWE, but it was nice to care for a new reason for a few seconds anyway.
5. 2016 was a mixed bag. I only saw two shows, the Rumble and WrestleMania, for the first couple months. I was trying to come back in February or so after the Rumble, because even though I was disappointed with the result, I actually cared about what was happening again. Finally, late in May, the right buttons were clicked, and I was here. A few months later, we saw the brand split return, and since then the shows have been divided by big things like what color the belts are, and little things like content and quality.
6. To look back on the second half of WWE's 2016 is to see the tale of two shows. RAW and Smackdown Live occasionally resemble each other, in that RAW is also somewhat about wrestling sometimes. Smackdown went live though, which was one of the best decisions they've made in a long time. Unfortunately, it's also keeping the shows on Tuesday, which leads to a lot of what some of us have called "wrestling fatigue." With the slog that is the 3-hour Monday night RAW, another two hours on Tuesday, another hour on Wednesday, and possibly a PPV on Sunday every other week for the most part, it's too much of a sometimes-good thing.
7. The reason Smackdown Live has been successful and watchable is in its consistency. I've remarked about it a lot, but it's true. Any episode of Smackdown since the split has looked similar, been structured similarly, and feels like there's more planning than week-to-week. Daniel and Shane are seldom intrusive as authority figures, and they've even had a channel-in-picture for the match during the commercial break. Sure, it only happened twice, but they're trying... I think.
8. RAW, meanwhile, is a mess. Beyond the consistency problem, they're trying way too hard to pander, be relevant, and throw shit against the wall to see if it works. One week a month ago, they had a super over-produced opening preview with a voice-over guy and everything. Then we never saw it again. We've seen a return of squash matches, then not, then back again.
9. As one reader pointed out last week, it feels like there's only two ways to make a championship match anymore... Non-title victory over the champion, or contenders' match with no result leading to a triple threat. Though to be fair, that last one has kept Smackdown hostage too. We've had Braun Strowman wrestle Ryback-like squash matches for way too long, Nia Jax have several, then disappear, then come back for Survivor Series, then disappear for a month, then come back again. Bo Dallas changed his gimmick, had some squash matches, then went right back to enhancement. We've had some stellar women's wrestling, only for the title to see-saw back and forth six straight times. We've had Bayley debut, though not really, then re-debut, beat the champion, lose to Dana Brooke, then beat the champion again.
10. We saw a bunch of wrestlers come back for little to no reason, like Jinder Mahal and Rhyno, but then we had the return of Goldberg, who stunned even the smarkiest of smarks by beating Brock Lesnar in two minutes in the main event of Survivor Series, leading myself and many others to ask if he got Victory Road'd. RAW has had some extremely high highs, and some extremely low lows. Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, and Seth Rollins have dominated the main event to mixed results while Roman Reigns gets a continued push no matter how many arenas boo him out of the building. This has led to many episodes of RAW having a great opening segment, die in the middle, and then have a good main event. The exception this year was the post-draft RAW, which was the best one I've seen in years. That was the rarity, unfortunately, and it makes watching the full three hours a chore sometimes.
11. You never know what you're going to get with RAW, and that's part of the problem. Smackdown follows a basic formula: Managers set something up, storylines are recapped and continued, a match in the middle gets a good long bout with two featured wrestlers, and the main event scene is perfectly clear. The careers of The Miz and Dolph Ziggler have been resurrected and brought to new levels, while young stars like Baron Corbin apathize their way through the roster covering up for the departure of the original Black Hole of Charisma by being a solid wrestler but looking like he never gives a shit.
12. Smackdown has made some bold decisions with some surprising results. The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler for the IC title, I would say, was the feud of the year, bringing the intensity and effort of both to a new level. Randy Orton stagnated upon his return by trying to be witty and charismatic, but then joined the Wyatt Family. Somehow, they not only made it work, but I'm a bit of a fan. Imagine, something isn't working and they actually adjust!
13. The rules for trades and free agents haven't been established yet, and that needs to be sorted out. One week, Jack Swagger randomly appeared on Smackdown with a backwards hat and seemed to have a new lease on life. He even got a controversial win over Baron Corbin, only to then get destroyed in the rubber match and never be seen again. Overall though, even with getting the shaft in draft picks, the shorter show, and the smaller roster, they're consistently entertaining. They've put on watchable shows with a good flow, and with AJ Styles, John Cena, and Dean Ambrose as the main event, there's a much smaller gap between them and the upper-midcarders than RAW. RAW, outside of the aforementioned four, I have no idea who is even close for a push.
14. Suffice it to say, Smackdown Live was the better of the two shows in 2016.
15. Match of the year though, WWE-wise, did not come from one of the main two. Sami Zayn was in two contenders, but his NXT match against Shinsuke Nakamura tore the house down WrestleMania weekend. WWE then proceeded to keep him on RAW and overcome the odds by celebrating not losing. However, that is my match of the year regardless of what's transpired since then, even with my limited NXT exposure.
16. The debut of the year was one that drew the interest of even the jaded fucks like me. Even though they kept an extreme close-up on Reigns' blank face, AJ Styles walked out and immediately told us that he would own 2016. Although an honorable mention has to go to Enzo and Cass for calling out the Dudley Boyz upon arrival, the sight of AJ Styles in a WWE ring getting a massive pop is one that I still rewatch when I'm feeling especially down on the current product.
17. The surprise of the year was the aforementioned Victory Road-like end to Survivor Series. When we saw we were getting a rematch of WrestleMania XX's most famous trainwreck, we were expecting something bad, but not something that went under two minutes. After four years of Brock Lesnar being the controversial machine of not giving a fuck, he walks into a match with a guy having his first WWE match in nine years, and loses after 1:42. Regardless of what you thought of it, absolutely nobody saw that coming.
18. 2016 sucked for many people, but I've never had a year of more personal and professional growth. I want to once again thank every single one of you who have taken the time to read, comment, patronize, and even criticize me. Wanted to say that one more time before I give you the ones on which you voted and we now have winners. Without further ado, the HAMMY Awards.
Let's review the HAMs of 2016 one more time.
5-30-16 - JBL
6-6-16 - Chris Jericho
6-13-16 - Enzo Amore/Xavier Woods
6-20-16 - John Laurinaitis
6-27-16 - The New Day
7-4-16 - The Club
7-11-16 - Bob Backlund/Darren Young
7-18-16 - John Cena/Enzo Amore/Big Cass/Karl Anderson/Doc Gallows/AJ Styles/Big E/Kofi Kingston/Xavier Woods
7-25-16 - Bob Backlund (Gonna Give it to Ya)
8-1-16 - Paul Heyman
8-2-16 - Dolph Ziggler
8-8-16 - Karl Anderson/Doc Gallows
8-9-16 - Becky Lynch
8-15-16 - Heath Slater
8-29-16 - Kevin Owens
8-30-16 - AJ Styles
9-5-16 - Fake Xavier Woods
9-6-16 - AJ Styles
9-12-16 - Mick Foley
9-19-16 - Chris Jericho
9-20-16 - Rhyno
9-26-16 - Chris Jericho
9-27-16 - Curt Hawkins
10-3-16 - Chris Jericho
10-4-16 - The Spirit Squad
10-11-16 - AJ Styles/Dean Ambrose
10-17-16 - Stephanie McMahon
10-18-16 - This is Dean. We like Dean.
10-24-16 - Chris Jericho
10-31-16 - Big Cass
11-7-16 - New Day
11-8-16 - Luke Harper
11-14-16 - Paul Heyman
11-15-16 - Tony Chimmel
11-21-16 - Kevin Owens
11-22-16 - This is Dean. We like the Mountie.
11-28-16 - Corey Graves
11-29-16 - Carmella
12-5-16 - Kevin Owens
12-6-16 - Dean Ambrose
12-12-16 - Jack Gallagher
12-13-16 - The Miz
12-19-16 - Chris Jericho
12-20-16 - Becky Lynch
19. Two names stand out more than any others... Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose. Often Kevin Owens was involved with Chris Jericho with their League of Super Best Friends angle, and it often came down to Jericho just having more of the HAM rather than the hands-down moment. The HAMmiest moment of the year had much more parity, and came down to three finalists: Jack Gallagher politely announcing his intention to interfere, Paul Heyman in a bizarre promo saying to the crowd "you're pissing off my beast!", and the only 9-way split HAM of the Night on July 18th. First, the runners-up.
20. Second runner-up: Jack Gallagher. This was the guy who stood out the most, outside of my friend Johnny, in the new Cruiserweight Classic. He debuted on the main roster and in the reformed Cruiserweight Division a little later than his cohorts, but upon doing so, showed us his merits of being the lost third Vaudevillain. Standing on the stage, he politely interrupted the match and announced that he was going to interfere in the contest. What a unique spin on a wrestling cliche of interfering for revenge.
21. First runner-up: The 9-Way HAM Split. One of the best moments in HAM History, these nine just kept building and building and building as the group in the ring got bigger, the jokes got sillier, and the HAM got HAMMier. John Cena, who now is allowed to have a little more fun and is therefore more watchable, hanging out with Enzo and Cass, then dealing with the New Day, the Club, and AJ Styles all in one ring was too much for anyone to handle singling out one of them for the HAM that night.
22. The winner of the HAM for HAMmiest moment of the year is the 2013 HAM of the Year himself, Paul Heyman. In one of the most bizarre segments of WWE 2016, and that's saying something, Paul balanced out threatening Goldberg, telling people not to cheer for him, getting mad when they did cheer for him, and threatening the crowd with Mrs. Laiman's laugh button: "Ladies and gentlemen, you are pissing off my beast!" It sounded wrong out of context, but was made even more ridiculous by Heyman's infamous tone and delivery. As we begin a new list for a new year, no doubt that one will make some future compilation lists.
Now for the HAM of the Year. Previous winners: Daniel Bryan and Paul Heyman.
23. The second-runner up is Kevin Owens, the longest-reigning Universal Champion in WWE history. His over-the-top audible commentary during his matches, his emotional reactions, and his spur of the moment wit make him a challenger for the sliced glaze every night of RAW, and remains one of the only things to look for consistency on the red brand.
24. We have a first runner-up, and his name is Dean. We like Dean. Enough to vote him this high on the list (you just made it), as he's dressed up as the Mountie, asked Chris Jericho about his scarf, and at one point I hear he had a hot dog cart too. Ambrose is a unique personality who always stands out on the blue brand for his ability as well as his eccentricity.
25. Finally, the 2016 Ham of the Year, no shock, Chris Jericho wins in a landslide. The man who can get his own silliness over, from "drink it in, maaaaaan!" to "stupid idiot" to "it" to "You just made the List!" the latter being the most over star of the RAW roster. Chris could've won every single night if he really wanted to. Chris Jericho, you just made the List... of All-Time HAMs.
26. I don't think it's any secret that I don't follow statistics or technical aspects of match-ranking, wrestler rating, or anything like Doc is able to brilliantly do. I tend to write out of emotion, connection, stream of consciousness, and framed in pop cultural references. I know that it's niche and some people have not and will never get it, but those of you who do, I appreciate you.
27. From WWE in 2017, I want to see RAW get more consistent, Smackdown get a few more members to fill out the roster, but most of all... I want them to stop feeling like the only way to get people on the Network, to use social media, or to go out and see a thing is to hammer it into the ground, mention it every single time, take time out to explain it in the middle of the show including multiple announcers and shows having the exact same script, and for the love of JBL, cut down the filler for more than just the Hulu viewers. Patron Matt is going to have a stopwatch for future episodes to see just how much time they waste on Monday nights, especially in the dead zone of 9-1030.
28. Thank you, LOP, for a great 2016. I'll be back next Monday with the first RAW thoughts of 2017, and the Road to WrestleMania, including my favorite event, the Royal Rumble. I hope to have more guests and to do another charity drive at some point. Chris Jericho and Paul Heyman, we salute you with HAM. Thank you.
Al Laiman, In Laiman’s Terms, and Inciting Incident are owned by It’s a Shameful Thing, Lobsterhead, LLC. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. For media or inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.