FATP: PPV Flashback – WWE TLC 2011

From Across the Pond

Welcome to the latest edition of FATP with yours truly. Thanks for the feedback I got last week about the situation surrounding the Rock and a potential run with the WWE Title. It was great to hear from so many people who raised valid points for and against giving Rocky another WWE title run in 2013.

In particular, thanks to a reader called Darrin, who sent me a huge e-mail explaining what he’d do instead of giving Rock the title. He took a lot of time and effort in sending me his thoughts, so thank you! On that note, if anyone reading this wants to talk wrestling with me or if you have any feedback whatsoever about my articles, feel free to find me on Twitter @george_sltd. I’d appreciate direct feedback instead of finding out your opinions through other means!

Right then, let’s get cracking with today’s topic. I thought I’d do something different and take a look at WWE’s TLC PPV from last year. What I’m going to do is run down the results of the PPV and look at where the competitors of each match are now, and what I think we’ll see from them in the next 12 months. It’s not something I’ve done before, so I’ve no idea how this will go down! I guess there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to get straight down to it.

WWE Flashback – TLC 2011

WWE United States Championship Match: Zack Ryder defeated Dolph Ziggler to become the NEW WWE United States Champion

Zack Ryder: Winning the US Championship should’ve been the springboard to a somewhat successful 2012 for Ryder, but in truth, it was the worst thing that’s ever happened to him. He was jobbed out to Jack Swagger about a month after winning the belt and was booked like a goofy clown for the rest of the year. He got screwed out of his US Title; he got screwed at WrestleMania when Eve kicked him square in the nuts to cost Team Teddy their match and we’ve only seen him win a handful of matches (if any) since.

Why did all that happen? I reckon it’s because Ryder got himself over without “the WWE machine”. He’s living proof that getting yourself over without management getting behind you is bad for your career. It’s a shame cos the kid’s got decent potential, but I don’t see anything coming of it. Yes, he’s been on TV most of the year, but it’s meant nothing because WWE have booked him like a joke to screw with the fans. You want more proof? Look how bad his YouTube show is now. It used to stand out because he’d done it on his own, then WWE decided to put it on their own YouTube channel and for the first few weeks, they disabled comments on the videos! It’s become a parody of itself and for something that Ryder did off his own back to end up out-with his control is a joke.

Ryder in 2013: More of the same unless something drastic happens. Either Ryder turns heel and WWE give him a shot, or he’s going to end up doing what he did this year: jobbing to main-event heels in squash matches. Sorry Zack.

Dolph Ziggler: Wow. Yet again, Dolph Ziggler has been one of WWE’s stellar performers in 2012. Although he lost to Ryder at last year’s TLC, Ziggler was clearly main-event calibre. He had a WWE Championship match with CM Punk at last year’s Royal Rumble, but apart from that, he was pretty quiet until May/June when his short-lived “alliance” with Jack Swagger started to fizzle out. Then, when WWE were rocked by injuries and suspensions to top stars like Jericho and Orton, Ziggler got his main-event shot again, this time against Sheamus. Although he didn’t win, Dolph impressed, just like he always does.

He won the Smackdown MiTB match this year and, as we speak, has still to cash in his briefcase. In fact, he’ll defend it on Sunday against John Cena at the 2012 TLC PPV. Since the summer, Ziggler has had matches with the likes of Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Kofi Kingston and now John Cena. He’s delivered in every single one of those matches. It’s not just about the bumps he takes, it’s about how good he makes his opponents look. He’s had a great year, which I hope will be topped off with a win on Sunday.

Ziggler in 2013: I hope to God that Ziggler has at least one WWE/World Title run in the next 12 months. He deserves it. The dude can go in the ring, he’s improving on the mic and no matter what you say, the fans always react to him, whether it’s good or bad. I hope WWE finally pull the trigger with Ziggler so he can show everyone what a superstar he can be.

WWE Tag-Team Championship Match: Air Boom (Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston) defeated Primo & Epico (w/Rosa Mendes) to RETAIN the WWE Tag-Team Championships

Evan Bourne: Shortly after this match, Bourne spent most of the early part of 2012 suspended. He violated the Wellness Policy twice in a matter of months (November 2011 and January 2012), which means he’s now on two strikes. He’s been out injured since then, after doing some serious damage to his foot in a car accident. He broke his foot in four places and dislocated it in five. Sadly, I can’t confirm or deny that Nick Hogan was driving at the time.

Moving on, I’ve honestly no idea when he’ll be back. It’s a shame because Bourne is one of those guys who is extremely talented, but there’s no real “place” for him on the roster. He either gets a tag-team push or squashed by heels. There’s no middle ground. Along with a few others, he’d benefit from WWE reintroducing the Cruiserweight division, but I doubt that’ll happen in the near future.

Bourne in 2013: Provided he’s able to return from his injury, I don’t see much in his future. The lack of the Cruiserweight division is just one problem. The other is the fact that he’s already been suspended twice for violating the Wellness Policy. If he gets anywhere at all, it’ll probably be as part of a thrown together tag-team. Air Funk, something like that.

Kofi Kingston: Where has WWE’s perennial babyface midcarder has spent the 12 months since TLC 2011? Yup. In the mid-card. Tag-title runs with Evan Bourne and R-Truth were pretty uneventful for the most part. He was involved in the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match, but even Kofi’s biggest fans knew he had no chance of winning. He was involved in that ridiculous 12-man tag-team GM match at WrestleMania. When his tag-team run with R-Truth ended a couple of months ago, guess what happened? Spot on! He got another Intercontinental Championship run.

I feel sorry for Kofi because he’s an excellent worker and a great babyface. That’s why they put him against main-event heels in competitive matches instead of squashes. WWE know that, more often than not, Kofi has great matches. The problem is that his character is the same as it’s always been. Don’t even mention this ridiculous “Wildcat” nickname they’ve given him. It doesn’t make sense. Kofi deserves another shot at an upper mid-card, borderline main-event feud. Whether he gets it or not is another matter.

Kofi in 2013: I’d love to see something different from Kingston. A bit of intensity, character development, hell I’d even be happy if he got a new theme song! He deserves at least one more shot at having a high profile feud. I think it’s been 4 years since Orton threw his bitch-fit. Get over it WWE!

Primo and Epico: I’ve included them together because they’re one of the few tag-teams in WWE who don’t really compete in singles matches. These guys are two good workers, but more often than not, they work with Sin Cara. That’s because they can work the lucha style. They did get a little bit of TV time earlier this year with the whole AW thing, but it ended quicker than it started.

One of the biggest problems with Primo & Epico is, what are they supposed to be? Heels or babyfaces? Sometimes they’re booked in heel vs heel matches and the crowd gets confused. Also, who are they? What’s their character? Why is Rosa randomly with them? She might look good, but what’s the background? I mentioned this earlier: we need character development. A reason to care.

If WWE don’t give us that, how are we supposed to invest in these guys? They do well when they’re given the chance to, but it never goes anywhere, making their efforts essentially pointless, which is a shame. Like I said, they’re a genuine tag-team and hopefully, they can be part of the tag-team revival in WWE.

Primo and Epico in 2013: Hopefully teams like Primo and Epico, The Uso’s and The Prime-Time Players are actually given the chance to run with the tag-team ball as it were. They’re the only three real teams in the company, so they should build the division around them. What harm can it do?

Randy Orton defeated Wade Barrett in a Tables Match

Randy Orton: One word describes the last 12 months in Orton’s career: Meh. He’s done nothing. Orton and Barrett went back and forth early on in 2012, before Barrett got injured. After that, Orton had a pointless feud with Kane, based around Kane being pissed off that “I shook your hand Randy!” If you didn’t wanna do it, then why’d you shake his hand? Jesus! Anyway, Kane and Orton exchanged victories before big news in May 2012: Orton was suspended for 60 days thanks to his second violation of WWE’s Wellness Policy. STUPID!!!

Rumours swirled around that Orton basically wasn’t arsed that he’d been suspended and he came within a gnat’s pube of being fired. If I was Vince/HHH, I would’ve been pissed beyond belief at Orton. After all the hard work that he (Orton) had done to sort his attitude out, old Randy seemed to have come back. Because of his suspension, he missed out on appearing on WWE’s landmark 1000th episode of Raw and although he came back a week later, he was kept off the SummerSlam card. Since then, he’s had a couple of decent matches with the likes of Ziggler and ADR, but he’s done nothing in 2012 of note. He’s not even on the card this Sunday after being written out following an attack by The Shield.

Randy Orton in 2013: I genuinely don’t know. Orton is going to have to prove himself to WWE officials over the next year or so. WWE officials need to know that they can trust Orton again before he gets a main-event/title run. He’s a part of the two-strike club. One more “mistake” and his arse is out of the door. WWE have backed themselves into a corner though because Orton signed a 10-year deal a couple of years ago. He’s got 8 years left and I don’t see him floundering for that long. Orton wants to turn heel. Turn him heel. He’s better that way. He doesn’t have to cut promos. The RKO will still get a massive pop, regardless of the role he plays. Either way, I don’t want to see a talent like Orton have a “meh” 2013.

Wade Barrett: Much like Orton, Wade’s 2012 has been just OK. He got injured early in 2012 and if you can believe what you read online, he was pencilled in to win the Money in the Bank match this year. Barrett’s injury forced WWE to change their plans, which is why we got a 12-man tag-match at WrestleMania instead of the rumoured MiTB match. I figured that since Barrett has been a stand-out since debuting on the main roster, he’d be brought back in a big way. Instead, he came back against Yoshi Tatsu I believe?

It’s worked really well, because instead of forcing him back into the main-event, Wade has moved up the card, shaken off the ring-rust and now, after being out for around six months, he’s back to where he was before the injury. He got a thunderous reaction when WWE taped Raw from Birmingham in November. For a guy that plays a heel and generally comes across (in character) like he doesn’t care, that must have felt amazing for Barrett. Almost like a seal of approval for all the hard work and dues that he’s paid over the last few years.

Wade has it all and I’d go as far as to say that he would be the best bad-ass heel champion we’ve seen since Triple Haitch-A. By that, I mean he wouldn’t be a chicken-sh*t heel champion like so many others we’ve seen in the last 10 years. When you look at Barrett, you genuinely believe he could kick your ass. There haven’t been a lot, if any, of heel champions like that and when Barrett rolls in to TLC this Sunday, there’s every chance he’ll leave with the IC Title.

Wade Barrett in 2013: I’d love to see Barrett main-eventing PPV’s in the next year. I’ve just mentioned that I think he has it all and has main-event written all over him. The key thing about Barrett is that he needs to work with babyfaces who are at “that” level. The only three babyfaces at that level are John Cena, Sheamus and Daniel Bryan. That’s it. If WWE can build up enough credible opponents for Barrett in the next year, he’ll probably end up being WWE or World Champion.

WWE Divas Championship match: Beth Phoenix defeated Kelly Kelly to RETAIN the WWE Divas Championship

Beth Phoenix: Beth’s start to 2012 was as dominant as her finish to 2011. She took on all comers and beat them convincingly. Her run with the Divas championship fell just short of the record when she lost to Nikki Bella the week before the Extreme Rules PPV in April. From then on, she was used sparingly, if at all, before she decided to leave WWE when her contract expired. Of course, WWE “fired” her to write her off TV

Beth Phoenix in 2013: I’d be very surprised if she returns to WWE. Not because she’s not good enough or because she wouldn’t be an asset, but because WWE don’t care about women’s wrestling. The girls get very little TV time as it is, and the ones that do tend to be women who aren’t actually wrestling at the time: Eve Torres, AJ and Vickie Guerrero. Until WWE’s mindset changes, I don’t think Beth would want to return.

Kelly Kelly: Uneventful is the best way to describe the end of her WWE run. Apart from a WrestleMania win in a tag-team match, she didn’t really do much in 2012. She went on a “break” from WWE in May and only wrestled once more before she asked for her release in September.

Kelly Kelly in 2013: Kelly seems to have moved on from WWE, so I don’t think we’ll be seeing her full-time again anytime soon. Maybe for one-off appearances, stuff like that, but not as a full-time member of the roster. I’d be lying if I said I was disappointed about that. She tried hard, but she’s not a wrestler. Good luck to her.

Triple Haitch-A defeated Kevin Nash in a Sledgehammer Ladder match

Triple Haitch-A: After beating Nash, we wouldn’t see Haitch-A again until WrestleMania time. Surprise, surprise huh! He wrestled Undertaker again, but this time it was a Hell in a Cell match with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. It was one of the best matches I’ve ever seen in my life. Not from a technical standpoint, but the storytelling and emotion in that match was second to none. If it was a football (soccer) game, then I’d have described it as end-to-end. It was booked perfectly and ended the right way. After that, he spent most of the summer feuding with Brock Lesnar, who made a shocking return to the WWE in April. Brock “broke” Haitch-A’s arm a couple of times in the lead-up to their match at SummerSlam, which was, as JR would say, bowling shoe ugly. It was physical, brutal and it looked real. Ultimately, Haitch-A came up short and we’ve not seen him since late August/early September.

Triple Haitch-A in 2013: I fully expect him to be back in time for WrestleMania 29. It’s very rare that Trips will put someone over without wanting his win back at some stage, so I think he’ll take on Lesnar at WM29 in a rematch from SummerSlam. Other than that, there’s no-one left for him to work with. We’ll see him sporadically and that’s the way it should be at this stage in his career.

Kevin Nash: Unless I’m mistaken, we’ve not seen Nash on WWE TV or PPV since last year’s TLC, which is a good thing. The dude is 53 years old and beat up. We don’t need to see him wrestle again. He’s had his time, made a lot of money and he should be happy with his legacy. The most noteworthy thing Nash did this year was to make some cruel comments about a couple of wrestlers who are no longer here to defend themselves. He said that their championship wins in 2004 signalled the beginning of the slump the business is in now. Nash is entitled to his opinion. I disagree with him, but there are people out there who think the same as Nash. People shouldn’t sh*t on him for it.

Kevin Nash in 2013: Maybe we’ll see him back on TV in some way, shape or form, but hopefully it’s not as an active wrestler. GM would be interesting. There’s also rumours of Nash being considered as a 2013 Hall-of-Fame inductee, so if I had to bet, I’d say we’ll see Nash on WWE TV again next year.

Sheamus defeated Jack Swagger

Sheamus: What a 2012 the big Irish fella has had. He’s been dominant over on SmackDown for the last 18 months or so. He won the Royal Rumble. He beat Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds at WrestleMania and held on to his World Heavyweight Championship for over 6 months before the Big Show took it off him at Hell in a Cell in October. Sheamus has had consistently great matches all year with the likes of Swagger, Ziggler, Bryan, Orton, Barrett and Big Show.

Some of the IWC think that Sheamus is an awful babyface, but I disagree. I think he’s done tremendously well and gets great reactions every week. While he’s not brilliant on the mic, he’s above average and improving every week. They can’t all be as good at promos as Cena, Punk, Rock etc.

One of the big criticisms he’s had is that he’s almost become the SmackDown version of John Cena. Cena Lite if you will. That’s a tad harsh. Granted, he’s been the focal point of SmackDown, but that’s how you build new stars. Most wrestlers would have crumbled after the reaction he got when he beat Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania, and throughout their feud, but Sheamus dealt with it.

The one thing I wasn’t impressed with this year was the fact that Sheamus had to defend his World Heavyweight Championship for what seemed like 6,793 times against Alberto del Rio. It didn’t work and the crowd wasn’t in to it, so why did we have to see it for all of 4 months? Answers on a postcard please!

Sheamus in 2013: More of the same for Sheamus next year. He’ll continue to be dominant and positioned as a major player in the WWE. Since the draft is essentially meaningless at this point, there’s no need to “move” him to Raw. Just let Sheamus keep doing what he’s doing and make sure that he continues improving. If he does that, then there’s every chance we’ll see him win another WWE/World Title next year.

Jack Swagger: For someone blessed with so much wrestling talent, it really bugs me that WWE bury Swagger by having him job to people like Santino Marella. I’m a Marella fan, but really? Really? Really? Really! Swagger is a former World Heavyweight Champion and MiTB winner. He shouldn’t be jobbed out like that. Once, maybe. Twice was pushing it, but week after week? Nah, sorry.

If you can believe what you read on the interweb, Swagger apparently had a bit of a bad attitude during his World Title run in 2010, so he’s been punished for it since. Instead of having a young guy you could use to build the company around, WWE’s booking team/management have only succeeded in making Swagger a joke. Who’s going to take him seriously now?

The only good thing is that he’s off TV at the minute. Give him a fresh gimmick, do something different, bring him back and make him a legitimate threat. It doesn’t have to be main-event, just enough to make him credible, that’s all.

Jack Swagger in 2013: It depends on when we see him on TV again. I’ve no idea when that will be. Maybe a tag-team with Alex Riley would be a route to go down?  Anything other than having him job so much again would be a start.

World Heavyweight Championship Match: Big Show defeated Mark Henry to become NEW World Heavyweight Champion

Big Show: 2012’s been something of a rollercoaster for Show. After main-eventing the first couple of PPV’s of 2012, he slid down the card to have an Intercontinental feud with Cody Rhodes. Show was basically ridiculed throughout for failing at most of the WrestleMania’s he’s been at, which is true to an extent. He won the IC title at Mania, before putting Cody over in a Tables match at Extreme Rules.

Show was in a bit of a funk after that and ended up involved in the whole John Laurinaitis fiasco. Basically, Show got “fired”, but it was just an excuse to turn him heel after the failed attempt to get Fat Shredder (aka Tensai) over. So, again, for the 11,823rd time in his career, Show turned heel again and we got some brutal matches between him and Cena. Show got involved in the WWE Title picture in the summer, but came up short. First time for everything huh?!

The latter part of the year has seen Show get some kind of redemption after the way that 2011 ended for him, which I’ll go into later. He regained his World Heavyweight Championship in a match with Sheamus at Hell in a Cell. I’ll be honest and say that, right now, I’m enjoying Show’s work more than I’ve done in years. Let’s hope that continues in 2013.

Big Show in 2013: I’ve just said it. Hopefully, Show continues to dominate and be a monster. That’s what a giant is supposed to be. Giants are meant to be scary, not cuddly, fun-loving buffoons! I don’t think he’ll keep the World Championship for much longer, but he deserved another run before he retires. He’s 40 now, so he’ll need to start slowing down soon, especially at his size.

Mark Henry: This might surprise some people. I miss Mark Henry. Well more specifically, I miss his theme music. Somebody gon’ get they ass kicked, somebody gon’ get they wig split! Bet it’s stuck in your head now too! You’re welcome! Anyway, the last 12 months that we saw Mark Henry, say from April 2011 to April 2012, he was doing some of the best stuff he’s ever done in his career.

He was dominant, nasty and scary. Basically Henry went out every night, kicked ass, took names and left. He did what he should’ve been doing for years. He even had a couple of really impressive matches with CM Punk just after WrestleMania and I loved the whole Hall of Pain gimmick he had going on. Great idea. It’s just a shame that Henry’s been injured since May after undergoing surgery.

Nobody knows when, or if, Mark will be back. If he returns, fantastic. Keep him as a heel and just have him kick ass. If he can’t come back, then he’ll retire with the knowledge that the last 12-18 months of his wrestling career were his best by far.

Mark Henry in 2013: If Henry returns, I see him coming back towards the top end of the card, but I’m not sure whether he’ll ever win the big one again. That’s not a dig at him. There are legendary icons in wrestling who never won “the big one”, so if he has to retire, Henry can be proud that he was World Heavyweight Champion. If he can’t wrestle again, some form of backstage role might be good, even commentate once in a while, who knows? It’s all conjecture at this point. The only person who knows for sure what’ll happen to Mark Henry in 2013 is Mark Henry. None of us have a clue.

Daniel Bryan cashes in his Money in the Bank briefcase and defeats Big Show to become the NEW World Heavyweight Champion

Daniel Bryan: What a year Daniel Bryan’s had. From indy and IWC darling to champion and fully-fledged WWE superstar. Cashing in the briefcase and turning heel were the best things to happen. You could call 2012 “The Year of the Goat”. Bryan has been simply fantastic this year. He walked into WrestleMania 28 and got squashed by Sheamus, but did that faze him? No. It catapulted him to superstardom. I think WWE were trying to bury him by having him lose in 18 seconds, but it had completely the opposite effect. Even as a heel, the fans stuck by him, and “Yes!” became the new “What?”

Bryan has arguably been the most consistent performer on the entire roster this year. Whether he was wrestling Big Show, Mark Henry, Sheamus, CM Punk, John Cena, Kofi Kingston, Rey Mysterio or Kane, Bryan’s performances have been excellent, verging on outstanding.

Some of his promo’s have been top-drawer this year; none more so than his work since he’s been paired with Kane, first against each other, then as a tag-team. The Anger Management skits/vignettes (whatever you want to call them) were the funniest things we’ve seen on WWE TV in years. Bryan proved that he’s not only one of the best wrestlers in the world; he can be as entertaining and funny as hell too. Talking of hell (see what I did there!), his tag-team with Kane has been excellent too.

As poor as the name Team Hell No is (I’d have gone for Kryan myself), the chemistry that those two men have is like nothing we’ve seen for years. They remind me of the Rock’n’Sock Connection and Edge & Christian. Some of it has been laugh out loud funny. Heading in to this year’s TLC PPV, Bryan might only be the tag-team champions, but he’s a bonafide main-event superstar.

Daniel Bryan in 2013: WWE have to be very careful what they do with Bryan next. It’d be a good idea to end Team Hell No before it starts getting old, fast. In terms of potential feuds, I’d love to see Bryan wrestle feuds with the likes of Randy Orton, Christian, Rey Mysterio, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and wait for it… John Cena! That should please those of you who always bitch about my opinion of him! I’d also be surprised if Bryan hasn’t had another WWE/World Title run by this time next year.

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Cody Rhodes defeated Booker T to RETAIN the WWE Intercontinental Championship

Cody Rhodes: It’s been a little bit of a stop-start year for Cody. He began it with the IC Title, only to exchange it with Big Show at successive PPV’s. He lost it to Christian less than 4 weeks after winning it back before heading towards the summer and the MiTB PPV. For my money, I thought Cody was in with a chance of winning it. He’s got the look, his promo skills are above average and he’s developed into a top-class wrestler since making his debut on the main roster at the age of just 22 years old.

Ultimately, Cody failed to win the MiTB match and has sort of faded back in to the mid-card for some reason. He had an IC title spat with Miz, Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara, before aligning himself with WWE’s resident Saviour of the Masses and dressing-gown enthusiast, Damien Sandow. Their team definitely has legs in it, but at this stage, I just feel it’s a waste of Cody’s (and Damien’s) talent to have them stuck in mid-card purgatory. Cody heads in to this year’s TLC PPV as part of a #1 contender’s match for the WWE Tag-Team Championships alongside his partner, Damien Sandow.

Cody Rhodes in 2013: It looks like WWE are shaping up to give Team Rhodes Scholars a run with the tag-team titles in the near future, so there’s that. I’d personally love to see him work his way towards the upper mid-card so that he’s perfectly positioned when this year’s MiTB match comes around. Whether he’ll be World Champion this year or not, I don’t know, but it’s not too far off for Cody.

Booker T: Booker’s short-lived in-ring return ended shortly after this, apart from a brief entry in the Royal Rumble. I’ve gotta say that, even now, I still mark out for the spinaroonie! CAN YOU DIG IT… SUCKA?!?!?! We all know that Booker’s in-ring career is effectively over. At least he knows/knew when it was time to step aside, unlike some other “legends”. Booker’s still got a lot to offer the WWE and while I miss his Booker-isms on commentary every week, the GM role is fine for him just now. He still pops the crowd and they seem to be in to what he’s doing, so I say just leave him be.

Booker T in 2013: Knowing the way that GM angles go in WWE, it wouldn’t surprise me to see/hear Booker back on commentary before next year’s TLC.

Triple Threat TLC Match for the WWE Championship: CM Punk defeated Alberto del Rio and The Miz to RETAIN the WWE Championship

The Miz: I think even Miz would agree this hasn’t been his best year. Bizarrely, he was blamed by WWE for the poor Survivor Series buyrate, even though The Rock returned. The problem with Survivor Series 2011 was that on the Raw before the PPV, WWE jobbed out Miz and Truth by having Cena beat them in a handicap match. If the booking was smart, they’d have made Miz and Truth look like a threat heading in to Survivor Series, but they didn’t and the buyrates bombed. Even though Rock was wrestling for the first time in nearly 8 years, why would you pay to watch a tag-team match when you’ve seen one of the guys beat the team he’s facing single-handed?

Anyway, after Survivor Series, Miz had an uneventful start to 2012. He struggled to get anywhere before he went off to shoot the third movie in “The Marine” franchise in May. On his return, he got a decent pop as he declared he’d be in the Raw MiTB match. He didn’t win, but it was great to see him back. Since the summer, Miz has held (and lost) the Intercontinental Championship and it seems as though we’re getting teased with a babyface run for Miz. I’m fine with that. Miz could work well as a babyface if  it’s done right and they let Miz be Miz, instead of what they think Miz should be.

The Miz in 2013: Hopefully he’ll be a full-blown babyface by this time next year. I don’t mean like the stereotypical, cookie-cutter babyface. I mean channelling parts of the Rock and CM Punk. Be a smart-ass, but in a way that’ll draw people in. I don’t think another main-event level push is out of the question, but I doubt he’ll be WWE/World Champion again; at least not this year.

Alberto del Rio: Boy, where do I start with this JBL rip-off? I suppose it’s best to be honest. I just don’t care about Alberto del Rio. I don’t see why he’s so special and why he’s had such a ridiculous number of title shots in the last two years. Listen to a live crowd when he talks or when he’s in a match. There’s a fair percentage of the crowd that don’t care either. His ring announcer, Ricardo Rodriguez, is more over with the crowd than he is. A ring announcer/valet/manager is supposed to complement the wrestler they’re with, not overshadow them. It’s not Ricardo’s fault. He’s excellent at what he does. Juan Blandshaw Layfield on the other hand, isn’t.

Del Rio was injured for the early part of 2012, before returning to the SmackDown brand in May. He walked straight into a series of matches with Sheamus, which I was tired of by the end. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. It seemed like ADR had a title shot every other week. He must’ve had about 7,397 so far. OK, that’s an exaggeration but you get what I mean. If his feud with Sheamus hadn’t have ended, I swear I’d have ended up self-harming, although I suppose watching that series was a bit like self-harm anyway. Since he’s been moved from the title scene, ADR has been feuding with Randy Orton. Again, you’d think the matches would be great, but they’ve not. They’ve just been… OK. Nothing spectacular. Heading in to Sunday, del Rio doesn’t have an advertised match, which I’m thankful for.

Alberto del Rio in 2013: I hope to Christ that he doesn’t have another title shot for at least the first six months of 2013. Seriously. I’ve had enough of it. He doesn’t make me want to see him get his ass kicked. I don’t want to see him win a title. I want to see something different. Clearly I’m in the minority, but I want to feel like I’ve got a reason to care. Del Rio doesn’t do that. While we’re at it, can WWE please stop booking him in those ridiculous 5-minute squash matches on Raw? We’ve seen so many of them that they don’t have any effect any more. Something needs to change with del Rio, but I’ve no idea what that is. I’ve no doubt that 2013 will see ADR in the upper mid-card.

CM Punk: The Best… In The World. Let that sink in. The Best… In The World.

When Punk won the title at Survivor Series last year, I never thought that he’d still have it as we head towards 2013. It’s an astonishing achievement, even though holding the belt for that long has been effectively meaningless. If Punk had been booked like a champion should be, maybe it would’ve meant more. When I say booked like a champion, I mean the last match on the card. That’s where the WWE champion, regardless of who it is, should be. In the last match, the main-event, whatever the hell you want to call it.

I might be channelling my inner Rafael Benitez here (that’s a cheeky soccer/football reference for ya!), but Punk is the longest reigning champion in the modern era. Fact. Nobody, not Rock, Austin, Savage, Hart, Michaels, HHH, Undertaker, Guerrero, JBL or even John Cena himself, has held the title for as many consecutive days as Punk. It’s an astonishing achievement. No other champion has had as many multi-man title defences as CM Punk. Fact. Count them. He’s had multi-man defences at TLC 2011, Elimination Chamber 2012, No Way Out 2012, SummerSlam 2012 and Survivor Series 2012.

To the best of my knowledge, CM Punk has only had 3 one-on-one WWE Championship title defences on PPV where there hasn’t been some form of gimmick, like a No-DQ, Special Referee, Hell in a Cell, Triple-Threat, Elimination Chamber, stipulation. They came at Royal Rumble 2012, Over the Limit 2012 and Night of Champions 2012. I wonder who the last champion was to have the “odds stacked against him” like that. I genuinely don’t know.

Punk’s character hasn’t changed this year. The fans’ perception of him has. Punk has said, and acted, the same pretty much through the entire year. Punk never turned babyface after the pipe-bomb. People could just relate to what he was saying and some fans agreed with him. Some still agree with him and it’s not just smarks trying to go against what WWE wants us to think. Granted, some people will be like that, but some won’t. I firmly believe that the ONLY reason CM Punk gets booed as much as he does is because of one man: Paul Heyman.

Regardless of who he’s with, Heyman draws heat and that’s what WWE wanted. It doesn’t matter (no pun intended) who Heyman stands beside, he will draw heat. I reckon he could even get the fans to boo an uber-babyface like Santino Marella! Pairing Heyman with Punk earlier this year was a genius move. Some members of the IWC have been clamouring for that to happen for years and when it eventually played out, the keyboard jockeys and trolls must have gone through 3 weeks’ worth of Kleenex in 5 minutes!

Since they’ve been paired up on TV, Punk and Heyman have gone from strength to strength. They got a lot of sh*t after their Jerry Lawler segment (when Heyman faked a heart attack), but I was fine with it. Newsflash. They’re heels. It’s what they’re supposed to do. WWE using footage of doctors working to save Lawler’s life backstage in a video package was FAR more sickening than anything Punk and Heyman said.

Heading in to this year’s TLC, Punk’s ended up with the night off because of injury. It couldn’t have come at a better time because to be honest, he looks f***ing exhausted and he must be burnt out. Even if he’s out of action for 3-4 weeks, it’s better than him doing serious damage to himself by continuing to work at break-neck speed for the next few months.

By the time the Royal Rumble rolls around at the end of January, Punk will have held the title for over 14 months, regardless of the outcome of this potential match with The Rock. How anyone can say Punk hasn’t had a stellar year is beyond me. CM Punk is now a legitimate, main-event, marquee name. It’s just a shame it’s taken WWE this long to realise it.

CM Punk in 2013: Because of the lack of established main-event superstars, I think we’ll get more of the same with Punk. It’s more than likely that he’ll have at least one PPV match with The Rock. I can’t wait to see those two go at it on the mic. It’ll be dynamite! If we get more than one Punk/Rock match, I won’t complain. After that, it’ll be the usual suspects for Punk. Cena, Bryan, Sheamus, Orton etc, but one thing we can all be sure of is that every single one of those matches will be tremendous.

Phew! Almost 6,000 words later and that’s us at the end of this week’s FATP! What did you think? As usual, please send me ANY AND ALL feedback directly, either by clicking the link to e-mail me at the top of the page, or send a tweet to me @george_sltd. I’ll read and reply to every piece of feedback I get. If it’s not by e-mail or through Twitter, I can’t see it so I won’t be able to reply!

Next week, I’ll be bringing you a one-off special. I’ll be doing an FATP Mailbag article next week where I’ll be answering questions from my readers about WWE, TNA or anything wrestling-related. If you want to send a question in, then e-mail or tweet me. If you’re asking a question, please try to send it to me by 6pm (GMT) on December 19th.

As always, thanks for reading.

Peace out,

George

Twitter: @george_sltd