I hope this doesn't come out wrong, but Jerry Lawler's near-fatal heart attack last September (in my hometown of Montreal, go figure) did a lot of good for the company. For starters, Jim Ross was immediately contacted to return to RAW to keep The King's seat warm. Jerry's heart attack also made Vince think twice about letting older wrestlers go out and physically compete. But best of all, the longest reigning WWE Champion in SmackDown history, the Wrestling Gawd himself - John Bradshaw Layfield - made his long-awaited return to the announce booth at Night of Champions. Despite being away from the desk for so many years, JBL barely missed a step and was back to making commentary enjoyable again for the first time since CM Punk returned to action. WWE wisely signed JBL to a contract and we're stuck with him until 2013, at the very least. Jerry, I'm glad you're okay, but please be kind enough to give up your spot on the RAW commentary team to JBL sometime in the near future. Or put Scott Stanford on commentary. That guy's great too.
6. Cody Rhodes
The most recent return on the countdown is one I never saw coming, and I'm surprised it didn't create a lot of buzz on the internet. When Cody suffered an injury at the hands of Kane last November on Main Event, no one expected to see The American Dream's son back on TV anytime before the Royal Rumble. Considering Damien Sandow began an epic search for his apprentice a few weeks back, I doubt WWE expected Cody back from injury so soon as well. Instead, Cody just casually walked out on Monday Night RAW and the talk of the town wasn't his miraculous and speedy return, but his mustache. Makes sense. I'm glad Cody's back and The Rhodes Scholars have reunited but I wouldn't have minded a few more searches for "The Apprentice".
5. The Undertaker
I've got to give WWE credit. Instead of hyping up 'Taker's annual pre-Wrestlemania return via a bunch of ambiguous vignettes (since that's obviously never been done before), they had The Deadman return to RAW at the most random time - literally seconds before Triple H fired Big Johnny. It was a move no one saw coming, partly because we knew the era of "People Power" had to come to an end eventually, and partly because very few people were looking forward to Taker/HHH II/III (until the match actually happened, that is). Anyways, this was a nice change of pace from the usual 'Taker returns we've seen in recent years, and even his cameo at RAW 1000 where The Brothers of Destruction reunited was fun and unexpected as well.
4. Chris Jericho
Towards the end of 2011, WWE began airing mysterious black-and-white videos centered around a boy and a girl at a deserted school. The video was clearly an indication of a returning superstar, but nobody could figure it out. Some correctly guessed it would be Chris Jericho, but I saw names like Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Batista, John Morrison & Melina, and even Sting discussed at length. When the reveal finally came, and it was indeed Y2J, I was ecstatic. Jericho has always been one of my favourite wrestlers, and it took him a few weeks to officially turn heel and cut a promo, but his Royal Rumble performance (final two with Sheamus) and his feud with CM Punk made me happier than ever to hear that familiar music.
3. Brock Lesnar
Damn you, Miami, for kind of spoiling what would have been a jaw-dropping return the night after Wrestlemania 28. However, you were such an awesome crowd for RAW I guess I can forgive you. I don't know what I liked the most about Lesnar's return - seeing The Animal (not Batista) back inside a WWE ring for the first time in eight years, or the fact we were spared a continuation of the Cena vs. Rock rivalry. Maybe a bit of both. Mind you, I still went crazy when I heard Lesnar's music, but I would have flipped out even more had the crowd not been chanting his name earlier or websites like LOP reporting Lesnar was in town for Wrestlemania weekend. Nevertheless, Lesnar's return and F5 to Cena was still a great moment, and the match that accompanied it (Cena vs. Lesnar at Extreme Rules) was even better.
2. The Shield
Raise your hand if you thought CM Punk's title reign was a goner at Survivor Series. *looks around* Yeah, I thought so. I predicted prior to the Pay-Per-View that Punk would find a way to retain his title, but nobody could have predicted it would happen by Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns showing up and putting Ryback through a table. If you predicted that, you're lying. It was such an unexpected twist that gave hope to everyone who assumed Punk would be dropping the title to Cena - words cannot explain it. The Shield's debut would cap off a very mediocre PPV but do something that rarely happens in today's WWE - get people talking. The IWC were ecstatic (most of us, anyway) that Punk won his match, Antonio Cesaro retained his title, Dolph Ziggler was the Sole Survivor for his team, and three new stars made their PPV/main roster debuts, that RAW the next night couldn't come fast enough. Just a fantastic, well-done surprise.
1. Jerry Lawler
Were you expecting someone else? I may not be a fan of Lawler's commentary, but the man is a WWE Legend and a Hall of Famer. Actually, **** that. The man is a human being. When he suffered his heart attack on RAW last September, many people thought they'd seen the last of the King, especially when news broke that he had been declared medically dead for fifteen minutes. Everyone assumed that even IF Lawler made it through, he would never be the same again. Yet, less than four months later, Lawler is his old self, calling matches alongside Michael Cole on RAW every week. Love him or hate him, you have to appreciate the fact he's still with us. I wouldn't wish death on anyone, not even The Big Show or Garett Bischoff. Life is sacred, and it's a true miracle that Jerry is still with us.
2. Day 2
Writer's Note: You asked for it, you got it! Today I will be counting down the "other company's" best matches of the year, and like my WWE list, it was no easy task narrowing it down to seven. By the way, today's column will be fairly brief because I am in the middle of a HUGE snowstorm here in Montreal and it's a miracle the power is still on. So let's stop wasting time and get things started!
7. Austin Aries vs. Samoa Joe for the X-Division Championship (Slammiversary)
2012 was a solid year for X-Division title matches, and the division in general. Despite a horrible start with Jesse Sorensen being crippled in a match with Zema Ion, the X-Division - although nowhere as prestigious as it once was - continues to entertain. The opening match at Slammiversary was a perfect example of this, as the defending champion Austin Aries took on another IWC favourite and ROH alumni Samoa Joe in what was nothing short of an awesome match. Both guys gave it their all and did their best to steal the show, with Aries coming out on top in the end. My only complaint? They could have got at least five more minutes to work with.
6. Aj Styles vs. Christopher Daniels (Final Resolution)
One of the reasons these two made my seven greatest feuds of the year list was because of the matches they put together throughout 2012. Coming in at number six is their latest - and supposedly 'final' - encounter at Final Resolution earlier this month. For two guys who have faced off in over 115 matches against each other, they always find a way to keep things fresh, and this match was no different. Aj was a bloody mess and even more surprisingly, it was the dastardly Daniels who won the match and possibly the war, via Styles' finisher, the Styles Clash. Not their BEST match, but still a fantastic outing.
5. Christopher Daniels & Kazarian vs Aj Styles & Kurt Angle for the TNA Tag Team Championship (Slammiversary)
Hey, what do you know? Another match featuring both Styles and Daniels. This one, however, was possibly the best tag team match of the year (excluding the six-man TLC match). Styles & Angle, despite being nothing more than a make-shift tag team, brought the intensity at Slammiversary and their opponents - Bad Influence - brought their A-game as well. The tag team division did anything but shine in 2012, but you wouldn't know it by watching this match. Definitely the show-stealer at Slammiversary, if you ask me.
4. Austin Aries vs. Jeff Hardy for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship (Bound For Glory)
Of the three epic battles they've had this year, I think their first meeting at TNA's Wrestlemania was the best, in my opinion. Their was so much hype going into this world title match and no one knew for sure who would win. Would TNA solidify Aries as the top dog by having him go clean over Jeff Hardy? Or would they play it safe and put the belt on their cash cow, The Charismatic Enigma? Unfortunately for the IWC, they would go with the latter, but to give the devil his due, we have witnessed a superb rivalry thus far between Aries and Hardy. This match had no ladder and no commercial breaks - Hardy/Aries I was simply awesome.
3. Bobby Roode vs. Austin Aries for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship (Destination X)
Making his third appearance on the list is none other than the greatest man that ever lived, Austin Aries. However, unlike the previous match, where Aries lost the world title, this is the match where it all began, with Aries cashing in his X-Division Championship to gain a world title match at Destination X - a new, yearly tradition that Aries gave birth to. Bobby Roode had been world champion almost as long as Aries had been the X-Division Champion, nearly a year, and after a night filled with exciting matches, both men had a lot to prove as the show-closer. While the didn't quite have the match of the night, Aries vs. Roode was an amazing, back-and-forth match. I know some people prefer their rematch at Victory Road, but I think Aries capturing the world title for the first time made the ending to this match feel more special than their successor did.
2. James Storm vs. Bobby Roode in a Street Fight (Bound For Glory)
Storm vs. Roode was my runner-up pick when counting down the year's best rivalries, and they also have the second best TNA match of the year. Their 'match' at Bound For Glory was the epitome of a war - a year's worth of feuding, promos, and bad blood all mixed together. They beat the living hell out of each other, kicked out of one finisher after another (but logically, not Davey Richards style), and had one "holy shit" spot after another. These two stole the show at Bound For Glory, and it was the perfect end to their rivalry (even though it didn't quite end that night, but whatever).
1. Christopher Daniels vs. Aj Styles in a Last Man Standing Match (Destination X)
If Wrestlemania, Extreme Rules, and TLC were the best Pay-Per-Views in the WWE calendar year, then Bound For Glory, Slammiversary, and Destination X were undoubtedly TNA's best offerings of 2012. Every one of these shows had fantastic matches from start to finish, and I still think Destination X was one of the best of the group, thanks to matches like Joe vs. Angle, Ultimate X, Roode vs. Aries, and this one - Styles vs. Daniels. These two definitely stole the show at Destination X and after some crazy spots, it was Styles who would pick up the win by nailing a Styles Clash on Daniels - off the stage through a table. Yes, you heard me right. That was one of the sickest endings to a match in recent history, and I invite you to look it up if you have no idea what I'm talking about. Styles vs. Daniels may not have been the feud of the year, but they certainly had one of the best matches of the year.
So what do you think? Agree with today's picks? Disagree? Well, let me know!