The older I get, the more I question why I still hang around with wrestling. Wrestling is the old friend who betrays your trust time and time again, but you keep forgiving him because of all the great times you had together 20 years ago. You keep giving him more and more chances, and he keeps letting you down. This was a snoozer decade at best for our old friend, but I’ll try to find the cream of the crap anyway, or else I wouldn’t have a column.
Shawn Michaels: I like the Shawn Michaels of the 2000s almost as much as I dislike the Shawn Michaels of the 1990s. After a five year sabbatical, Michaels came back and basically reinvented the wheel. No longer would he be the Mexican jumping bean doing highspots with no discernible psychology, being a bad influence for a decade’s worth of indy wrestlers (1990s Shawn Michaels is to wrestling what Led Zeppelin is to music). He now works smart *and* hard, and has provided us with a full palate of memorable and exciting matches and storylines. I would spend many a minute arguing that this Shawn Michaels is the best wrestler ever, no matter what the decade.
Runners-up: Kurt Angle (A sad case if ever there was one, a guy who couldn’t keep his shit together outside the ring, and who couldn’t turn the corner inside the ring to take his work to the next level. As it stands however, he’s still head and shoulders above most everybody else from the decade, and was TNA’s biggest squandered opportunity.) John Cena (The best wrestlers draw the most money, so whether you like him or you hate him, the Marine belongs on this list. He is probably the most identifiable wrestler of the past decade for the casual or non-fan. That means something.)
BEST TAG TEAM
MNM: The ascension of MNM is sort of like the Stone Roses at their heyday. For a very brief period of time, they were the absolute best, and if you weren’t around to witness it, you probably wouldn’t believe it. They were fresh, they were new, they were hip, they were young, they were beautiful, they could talk, they could work, Melina was hot, and they put the world on its ear. And just as quickly as it happened, it ended. You just had to be there, man.
Runners-up: Miz & Morrison (The common theme here is that John Morrison is awesome. They were allowed to work on every show, every night, and just kept getting better and better. In today’s era of rapid fire, constant movement television programming, they were the closest thing to an old school tag team, allowed to grow together as a team, and when the time was right, they were broken up and allowed to spread their wings as singles competitors. Definitely benefited from being far away from Vince Russo.) Boston Rob & Amber (Dominated the competition, leaving a trail of scorched earth and broken hearts in their wake. The Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth of their time.)
The Rock: There was simply none better this decade, and anyone who tries to argue otherwise is a fool. He had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, whether he has a heel or a babyface. He will go down in the annals of history as one of the best talkers of all time. And for the record, he does not owe wrestling fans one iota. He got out at the exact right time and preserved his legacy. Countless old timers wish they were the Rock.
Runners-up: Chris Jericho (Jericho has really developed over time, taking his natural talking ability and charisma that he showed in late ’90s WCW and taking it to the next level. His current character was one of the absolute highlights of a terrible year. He gets genuine heel heat at a time when most don’t know what that is.) Shawn Michaels (But only when he’s not hanging around Triple H. It’s part of what makes him the real Total Package – he can get storylines and angles over better and more effectively than almost anyone. He is fucking great.)
Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker, WrestleMania 25: This is one of the five best matches of all time. I have no doubt in my mind about this. It was perfectly executed by two old pros, told a great story, and managed to conjure up real, genuine emotion. No less an authority than Bill Watts singled this match out as something special. They have to do a rematch, and that rematch has no chance of being anywhere near as good as the original, but they have to do it anyway, because the first one was so good. The ultimate trap – a match so good it has to attempt to top itself even though it has no chance of doing so.
Runners-up: Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair, WrestleMania 24 (“I’m sorry. I love you.” Again, just a memorable moment in time, a wrestler who helped shape the ’80s against a wrestler who helped shape the ’90s, neither one able to do what they could in their prime, but both determined to make it the best match it could be, raising each other’s games to the next level.) Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock, WrestleMania 18 (I was there live. I don’t need to justify it any further than that.)
WWE: Any other answer is incorrect. WWE *is* wrestling to most people, both in the figurative sense that it is the most important promotion, and in the literal sense that many non-fans or casual fans assume that WWE really is the only promotion that exists. They are a multi-million dollar well-oiled machine, which for all its faults, still puts on the best shows and the best matches when it matters most. Follow the dollar signs all the way to Vince McMahon’s Uncle Scrooge Moneybin.
Runners-up: UFC (It’s not even a wrestling company, and it operates exactly how a wrestling company should, better than any actual wrestling company in existence. It promotes personalities and conflicts perfectly, and is run by a loudmouth, arrogant, egotistical genius. It’s WWE for reals.) ROH (Puts on some great matches, is not TNA.)
The Rock Concert: Heel Rock was an amazing thing. I’m referring specifically to when he put on a “concert” in the ring in Sacramento, singing bastardized versions of classic songs. Steve Austin comes out to chase Rock away and smashes his signed Willie Nelson guitar. I watch the YouTube clip of this every couple months, and laugh hysterically every time. It was one of the defining moments of the decade.
Runners-up: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho (Jericho punched Michaels’ wife Rebecca and much money was made. It was like Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude taken to the next level. Great stuff.) Edge becoming the “Ultimate Opportunist” (It was awesome, it was memorable, and I called it. Booyaka!)
WrestleMania 17: The beginning of the end of the fun. This would mark the last time for a lot of things, as WWE would go on to ruin the Invasion angle, go to the brand split, and never quite be this fun again, before eventually completely falling off the wagon into boredom. This is also the something for everyone show, as it provides nostalgia in the form of the gimmick battle royal, a dog and pony show in the form of Shane vs. Vince, great hardcore action in the TLC match, great workrate matches and Austin vs. Rock on top, in the battle of two of the biggest stars of the ’90s. It would never get better than this the entire decade, which meant a long way down the hill.
Runners-up: WrestleMania 19 (Some great matches, and a great Seattle crowd. And Jordan was there!) One Night Stand 2005 (Not because it was the best or anything, but because it conjured up genuine emotion and nostalgia. Whatta crowd!)
BEST TV SHOW
OVW: And yes, I am dead serious. The OVW TV shows when Jim Cornette was booking them were easily my favorite shows of the decade. Cornette was able to turn any curveball WWE management threw to him into a double, triple or homerun. The hour featuring the Doug Basham vs. Danny Basham match, which culminated in them reuniting and justifying why WWE was featuring them as a tag team on their television shows might be the single best hour of wrestling in the entire decade. And to think, Cornette would later be turfed in TNA in favor of a guy who thinks making fun of someone’s Bell’s Palsy and running miscarriage angles is a good thing to do. For fuck’s sake.
Runners-up: Smackdown (I’ve said this countless times, I love the taped nature of the program. It is like a faster paced, bigger match having, two hour version of Superstars from back in the day. It invariably featured some of the best wrestlers, talking and matches that WWE had to offer, without all the hooha they feature on Raw.) Lucha Libre (I never have any clue what’s going on, but they feature hot chicks and a blue monkey. Thumbs way up.)
BEST OFF-SCREEN HAPPENING
Anything involving Hulk Hogan: The carniest carny who ever carnied, Hulk Hogan is able to weasel his way into any wrestling promotion, because he still has perceived name value to them. Was it necessary for Vince McMahon to bring back Hogan and his NWO cronies in 2002? Not really. Is he going to be the answer to fix all of TNA’s problems going into the new year? Absolutely not. But they bring him back time and time again, and you really just have to hand it to him. Nobody’s better at working the work than this dude.
Runners-up: Edge steals Matt Hardy’s girlfriend (ROH! ROH! Indeed.) The development of Pro Wrestling Illustrated over the years (It is absolutely fascinating to pick up a copy of this magazine nowadays. A far cry from the kayfabe keeper of days gone by.)
Brock Lesnar dropping Bob Holly on his neck: Instant karma’s gonna get you. Gonna knock you right in the head…
Runners-up: Kurt Angle injuring Bob Holly (Fuck Bob Holly very a lot.) Anything else involving Bob Holly that I might have forgotten (Just in case there was something else.)
Bob Holly: Never before has someone’s opinion of himself been so grossly out of line with their actual skillset. Bob Holly carried himself in the ring like he was the best wrestler who ever lived, and how dare this nobody step into the ring with him? His way-too-stiff style showed a complete lack of respect for the wrestling industry, and what he did to Matt Cappotelli was completely inexscusable. Holly might be the biggest sufferer of little dick syndrome that has ever lived. I hope he suffers great pain for the rest of his short life.
Runners-up: Shannon Moore (Look at me! Pay attention to me! His “look,” featuring a ridiculous amount of tattoos and piercings, belied a person who had no friends growing up, a desperate attention seeker who could never be bothered to learn how to actually wrestle or talk. A pathetic embarrassment who TNA is actually talking about bringing back. Go figure.) Hurricane Helms (I won’t stand back. I’ll go get some nachos until this chump out of the ring.)
Jay Lethal: The Macho Man imitation makes no sense whatsoever. Is he mocking the Macho Man? Is he paying tribute to the Macho Man? Either way, Savage doesn’t work for TNA, so it’s promoting a wrestler who is not able to make you any money. It’s not even that good of an imitation, really, and it’s gone on for way too long. Just another in a long line of reasons why TNA is a mockery of the wrestling business.
Runners-up: AJ Styles (The number one reason why there needs to be managers. This dumbshit hillbilly is a far cry from a legitimate World Champion.) Vladimir Kozlov (He loves Double Double Eee!)