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OO YEAR END EXTRAVAGANZA
Bulldog's Best and Worst of 2005 

December 30, 2005

by the Canadian Bulldog    
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Canadian Bulldog here (don't pretend like you don't know who I am!), and I'm happy to present what, for me, are my third annual "Best Of The Year" awards for Online Onslaught. Unlike my weekly Inside The Ropes column, I'm going to try to play this as straight as possible. Though I may try to sneak in a book plug every once in a while; you never know.
 
Was 2005 a great year for wrestling? Hellz no. There were far too many tragedies, disappointments and moments of mediocrity for this year to qualify as "great". Yet there were some encouraging signs that, as a fan, you don't have to give up on the business just yet. A couple of interesting new stars. Acknowledgement that the fans'  

opinions DO matter. A smattering of competition on the national wrestling scene. An awesome new book (okay, okay, I'll stop.)

Hopefully, I'll be back in twelve months time to tell you about the remarkable turnaround the wrestling industry has undertaken. Either that, or I'll be praising the virtues of Unified World Champion Chris Masters. Just saying…

Anyways, here are my picks for '05. Be sure to drop me a line and let me know what you think!

THE VERY BEST OF 2005

BEST WRESTLER OF THE YEAR: Shawn Michaels
1st Runner-Up: Batista
2nd Runner-Up: Kurt Angle

Comments: How can someone who lost matches at ALL FOUR of the year's major WWE pay-per-views be considered "best wrestler of the year"? It's not an easy task.

Here's where I'm coming from: night after night, Michaels consistently turned in the best performance. Whether it was working with truly gifted opponents (Kurt Angle, Shelton Benjamin and Rey Mysterio come to mind), elevating younger guys (Edge, Mohammad Hassan, and even Chris Masters) or getting a tremendous performance from someone clearly past his prime (Hulk Hogan), Michaels was "The showstopper, the icon, the main event". In 2005, it wasn't just a catchphrase.

The only thing, in fact, that disappointed me about HBK was his aborted heel turn. Maybe it was his decision to kill it off after SummerSlam and maybe it wasn't; but he definitely had something special going on there. It's a shame, because as a heel, he could be working with Cena right now and helping to elevate him the way he has done for others. But regardless, Shawn Michaels gets my vote.

Batista is another interesting story. In 2004, he wouldn't even have been on my radar screen, other than someone who was rapidly improving under the watchful eyes of Triple H and Ric Flair. This year, he broke out big time, put on credible matches with several big names and hardly looked out of place doing so. Is he one of my favorites? Not really, and he has a long way to go. But it's impossible to discount his considerable accomplishments.

As for Kurt Angle, well, I thought he had a horrible 2004, between his injuries, a horrible GM gimmick that just didn't suit him and an overall lack of zest in the ring. What a difference a year makes, with Angle having solid outings with many guys on both WWE rosters. If he had lost any of his competitive edge previously, he found it in spades during '05.

BEST TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR: America's Most Wanted
1st Runner-Up: MNM
2nd Runner-Up: Big Show and Kane

Comments: For everyone who thinks I am biased towards TNA, here's a nice big cup of shut the hell up for you. Granted, I mostly watched TNA though iMPACT this year (and a couple of the PPV matches I nabbed online), but make no mistake about it -- Chris Harris and James Storm are the shit. An old-school tag team if there ever was one, and since their heel turn, they've become even more compelling. Out of anyone not signed to a WWE contract right now (other than perhaps King Kong Bundy, but that's more a childhood fetish of mine), I really hope AMW make the leap sooner rather than later, and are booked properly when/if they arrive.

MNM are not tremendous talents (yet, at least), but they're definitely getting there. It's hardly their fault that they have been in one of the worst tag team environments in recent years. But at least they've got the act down, are being pushed as big-time talents and most importantly, are allowed to continue teaming, which is at least a glimmer of hope for the future of tag team wrestling in WWE.

And Big Show and Kane? Damn, they've only teamed in a handful of matches, yet I think they work tremendously well together. If only WWE would allow them to remain together for a while, instead of being involved in various other projects, I really believe you could have a franchise tag team on your hands. Of course, that will never happen…

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER OF THE YEAR: Trish Stratus
1st Runner-Up: Christy Hemme
2nd Runner-Up: Maria

Comments: And the winner of the first-ever Canadian Bulldog YIR Awards Three-peat™ is… TRISH!!! See what I first wrote about her in 2003, which still stands true:

I chose to vote for substance over style, diva-wise, although with Trish, she would have won in any type of competition, in my eyes. Her ring work rose another notch from last year, which in itself was a tremendous improvement.

Even though Trish was away for a sizeable chunk of the year, she's still head and shoulders above the competition. Plus her mic skills (anyone else recall the Viscera vignettes?) are superior to any other diva on the roster. At least now, she has a decent storyline going on with Mickie James, which will hopefully extend all the way until WrestleMania. At which point I'll probably have picked my winner for 2006 as well.

Christy's release was a shame, because here you had someone who was essentially hired just to look good… and she ended up being both a formidable second (first for Eugene, than LOD2005) and a decent in-ring competitor. Reminds me of Trish, in a way. Sadly, we may never know is she was going to become anywhere near as talented…

Sure, Maria is a strange pick, and I certainly didn't choose her for ring abilities; Victoria, Melina and even Candice rank higher on the totem pole on that front. But her character has become strangely compelling. She plays the clueless interviewer to perfection (I'm convinced most of it is just an act), and often the Maria backstage interview becomes an unintentional highlight of Raw.

BEST FEUD OF THE YEAR: Matt Hardy vs. Edge
1st Runner-Up: Triple H vs. Ric Flair
2nd Runner-Up: Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero

Comments: If you've ever read the Jerry Lawler biography (which I would highly recommend, by the way), you'll recall that he and Jerry Jarrett used to have a sign in their booking office to remind them that "Personal Issues Draw Money". This year, you had plenty of personal issues in all three of my picks.

Was Matt Hardy vs. Edge played out to perfection? No, and I'd have a hard time convincing anybody that it was. But think about it: this feud was never in the plans. Edge was supposed to be pushed throughout the year as a dominant heel; Matt Hardy was, at best, a midcarder for life. Then fans caught on to their backstage issues and LOUDLY demanded this feud. It's probably the first time since the "We Want Flair" days of WCW where wrestling fans actually forced a company's hand into re-signing someone. And THAT'S what made this feud so tremendous to me.

Contrast that with Triple H vs. Ric Flair. No, these guys weren't legitimately feuding, but they tried their hardest to make us believe it was real. A solid set-up, some great promos and a pair of fantastic, old-school matches. You can't really ask for better than that.

Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero was progressing along quite nicely, with one of those slow builds that harkens to the feuds of yesteryear. Then it jumped the proverbial shark with the inclusion of Rey's son, Dominic. Still, while it dragged on longer than it should have, both Rey and Eddie put a ton of planning into it (even battling through their respective websites!), so you have to acknowledge that kind of dedication. Not to mention, they turned out some great, emotional matches.

BEST MATCH OF THE YEAR: Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris Benoit vs. Christian vs. Edge vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kane ("Money In The Bank", WrestleMania 21)
1st Runner-Up: Ric Flair vs. Triple H ("Last Man Standing", Survivor Series)
2nd Runner-Up: Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle (WrestleMania 21)

Comments: I re-watched WrestleMania 21 the other night to make sure that I had my picks straight. Sure enough, Money In The Bank was the match that, for me, defined 2005. Was it a weapon-based spotfest? Absolutely. But I mean that in the best sense of the word. The work here by guys like Benjamin and Benoit clearly outclassed the entire TLC gambit of matches, which I also hold in high regard. Add to this the fact that Tyson Tomko, whom I considered to be 2004's Worst Wrestler (will I give him that honor again this year? TUNE IN TO FIND OUT!!!), played his role as Christian's bodyguard to absolute perfection. Money In The Bank is one of those rare matches you can watch over and over again without getting bored.

As I'd mentioned in the "Best Feud" category, Triple H and Ric Flair had a classic, old-school feud going on, and this was the icing on the cake. The match told a story, was given enough time to shine, and was gory as hell. I was really believing by the end of it that Flair might just get the win, which shows me just well these guys did their job.

Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle was great (and I didn't see their "Vengeance" rematch, so I only have the Iron Man match to compare it to) and both guys worked their asses off. The only thing was, you EXPECTED them to do just that, so even though it's unfair, that lowered the enjoyment level for me slightly.

MOST FAVORITE PERFORMER OF THE YEAR: Eddie Guerrero
1st Runner-Up: Shawn Michaels
2nd Runner-Up: John Bradshaw Layfield

Comments: Sure, this is part "sympathy vote", and I'm not even going to deny it. But still, Eddie ranked as 2nd runner-up for "Best Wrestler" and 1st runner-up for "Most Favorite Performer" last year, so at least I'm not bandwagon-jumping here.

Eddie was tremendous in his final year with us. From stealing Ric Flair's wallet at the Royal Rumble, to the slow-burn feud with Rey Mysterio, to his final and surprisingly-original storyline with "Bow-tista", there was lots to love.

As for HBK and JBL, they both had memorable years, in different ways. Shawn Michaels had an awesome (albeit short) heel run that truly captured my imagination. JBL turned both his promo and ring skills up a notch, and belatedly, I can finally understand why he got the main-event push he did a year ago.


THE OTHER BEST OF 2005

BEST TECHNICAL WRESTLER: Chris Benoit
1st Runner-Up: Kurt Angle
2nd Runner-Up: Eddie Guerrero

Comments: As I've mentioned here year after year, these picks don't change much year in and year out (I suppose my final pick will change next year, but by default). These three, particularly Benoit, were so solid in the ring this year that it's hard to see anyone approaching their level anytime soon.

BEST HIGH FLYER: A.J. Styles
1st Runner-Up: Rey Mysterio
2nd Runner-Up: Paul London

Comments: When I first saw A.J. compete, during TNA's early days, I thought he was good, but not quite great. Compare that with what I've seen on iMPACT this past year and he's now become even more polished, particularly when it comes to his high-flying stunts. Rey, as always, is tremendous, but even I have to admit his act has become a bit repetitive. And with London, thank goodness he's been allowed to use some of his own unique styles/moveset in WWE, because it's definitely working for him.

BEST BRAWLER/POWER WRESTLER: Batista
1st Runner-Up: Triple H
2nd Runner-Up: Big Show

Comments: No contest here. I remember, just prior to him dumping Evolution, how Batista pressed Viscera over his head on one Raw, and then lifted Chris Benoit with just one arm on another episode. That's power. Triple H is always best as a brawler, but can still use power moves with the best of them. And Show is just naturally a powerful guy.

BEST INTERVIEWS: Shawn Michaels
1st Runner-Up: JBL
2nd Runner-Up: Edge

Comments: No, he doesn't shine on the mic every single time, but Shawn Michaels cut one of the best promos I'd ever heard just weeks before SummerSlam. Sure, part of it was because this was Montreal. But the heel heat HBK received was unreal, and he cut his promo perfectly. So for that one segment alone, Michaels gets the nod. JBL has been more consistent, mixing the comedic aspect of his character with the more serious "Wrestling God" bit, ensuring that, at the very least, JBL's promos will be rock-solid on a regular basis. Edge has come a long way on the mic, and the fact that he has his own talk show proves it.

BEST HEEL: Edge
1st Runner-Up: Triple H
2nd Runner-Up: JBL

Comments: Last year at this time, Edge was just another heel, whining about how he was screwed by the fans at Taboo Tuesday. This year, however, he had Money In The Bank, the real life stealing of Matt Hardy's girlfriend, the storyline stealing of Matt Hardy's girlfriend, a role in the Raw vs. SmackDown feud and most recently, issues with Ric Flair. Oh, plus he stole someone's catchphrase at one point - that definitely makes him a heel. Triple H and JBL are simply great at what they do: making people hate them. Sure, you may whine because of their dominance on Raw and SmackDown, and you may detest their lengthy promos, but deep down you love to hate them.

BEST BABYFACE: John Cena
1st Runner-Up: Batista
2nd Runner-Up: Rey Mysterio

Comments: I know I'm going to catch heat for this (particularly from our humble Webmaster), but I truly believe that Cena has done a tremendous job as a face this year. Sure, he's not always getting the right reactions (and maybe I'm just not in touch with what the current audience wants, I don't know), but I do feel Cena has worked hard at being a face. That said, I do believe they will have to turn him heel soon, and return him to some of the shtick he used to have as a heel, and sooner rather than later. Batista started off strong, but then SmackDown happened, and it was tough to gain momentum, while Rey moved up from novelty cruiserweight act to dependable SmackDown franchise.

BEST CHARACTER/GIMMICK: Batista as Cerebral Assassin V 2.0
1st Runner-Up: "Crazed Loner" Eddie Guerrero
2nd Runner-Up: The Boogeyman

Comments: Imagine a face that doesn't automatically trust heels, and realizes that his enemies usually have ulterior motives. As bizarre a concept as it sounds, Batista was probably the first wrestler in years to use that mentality, and it worked for him. Although it was only used for about six months, Eddie Guerrero's "crazed loner" gimmick was quite compelling, and different than what he had done previously… Say what you will about Boogeyman, but his character is definitely NOT what I figured it would be, and it sounds like they guy is at least having some fun with it.

MOST IMPROVED WRESTLER: A.J. Styles
1st Runner-Up: Randy Orton
2nd Runner-Up: JBL

Comments: As I mentioned in the high-flyer category, A.J. has transformed from a highspot specialist to someone who deserves to hang in main events, which is no small task. As much as I hate to give ANY of my votes to Randy Orton, I have to admit that he's done quite well since returning to his smug heel ways. And JBL has definitely grown into his character; he's not the best wrestler on the roster, but he's no longer completely out of place headlining SmackDown shows.

MOST UNDERRATED WRESTLER: Ric Flair
1st Runner-Up: Chavo Guerrero
2nd Runner-Up: Nunzio

Comments: How can I call arguably the greatest wrestler of the modern era "underrated"? Simple. Everyone keeps saying that Flair should hang up the tights already and call it a career, yet he turned out some pretty impressive performances against the likes of Carlito and Triple H. Hell, compare him to the likes of, say, Jeff Jarrett, and tell me who can STILL go out there and put on a better match. I added Chavo and Nunzio in there because these guys put on great performances night after night and are rarely commended for their contributions.

BEST SECOND: Daivari
1st Runner-Up: Melina
2nd Runner-Up: Christy Hemme

Comments: Daivari was tremendous as the manager for Mohammad Hassan, and may have been even better seconding Kurt Angle. His expressions are priceless. Likewise, Melina was great as the "main star" in MNM, and Christy added something to both Eugene and LOD 2005's matches

BEST TELEVISION PERSONALITY: Joey Styles
1st Runner-Up: Tazz
2nd Runner-Up: Jim Ross

Comments: Don't get me wrong: I am not one of these people who thinks Jim Ross should have retired long ago. But Joey Styles is a breath of fresh air to Raw; he's prepared, articulates well, and has a sense of humor about what he does. The same can be said about Tazz, who continues to improve on the mic. And like I said, I still enjoyed JR's work, and do hope they bring him back in some capacity.

"HOLY SHIT" MOMENT OF THE YEAR: Matt Hardy-Edge storyline played out on television.
1st Runner-Up: Christian Cage jumps ship to TNA.
2nd Runner-Up: Paul Heyman's shoot interview at One Night Stand.

Comments: None of these moments were truly "holy shit" as they were happening, but more of a surprise as they were revealed prior to the actual event, if that makes any sense. As I mentioned in the "Best Feud" voting, Matt Hardy's return to the WWE was something that the fans made happen , which was pretty shocking, to say the least. Christian jumping to TNA showed me that he was tired of his current character in WWE and ready to become a main-eventer elsewhere. And Heyman's shoot interview, while gold, wasn't totally unexpected, given the history of ECW.

FUNNIEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR: WrestleMania Goes Hollywood Commercials.
1st Runner-Up: Eddie Guerrero lifts Ric Flair's wallet at Royal Rumble.
2nd Runner-Up: Joel Gertner's interviews at One Night Stand.

Comments: Tell me if you can watch Eugene punching the woman on the bench, or Ric Flair "wooo"ing a donkey, or Christian asking about sadomasochistic activities WITHOUT laughing. Go ahead, try it. Guerrero's skit at Royal Rumble was funny not only because he was his usual "lie, cheat and steal" self, but because of Flair's reaction afterwards. And Gertner's promo, where he asks Bischoff for a job at One Night Stand, was just priceless.

BEST WRESTLING SHOW: Monday Night Raw
1st Runner-Up: Friday Night SmackDown!
2nd Runner-Up: TNA iMPACT

Comments: Not much of a choice in the order here. I mean, Raw is still the gold standard for what happens on wrestling, and had quite a few tremendous episodes in the first half of the year. While TNA's is a fresher, newer show, I can't in clear conscience say that it has more of an "impact" than SmackDown does on a weekly basis. Perhaps next year?

BEST MAJOR EVENT: WrestleMania 21
1st Runner-Up: Hardcore Homecoming
2nd Runner-Up: ECW One Night Stand

Comments: With two tremendous matches (Money In The Bank and Angle/Michaels), some great nostalgia moments and a couple of other decent bouts, it would be hard to vote for anything BUT WrestleMania. The other two I voted for because they were different from the norm: I am in the process right now of writing a review on Hardcore Homecoming; it's definitely worth your while to check out.

BREAK-OUT PERFORMER OF THE YEAR: Batista
1st Runner-Up: Monty Brown
2nd Runner-Up: Carlito

Comments: As I'd mentioned earlier, Batista was nothing more than Evolution's enforcer in 2004. To think that he's come as far as he has in just 12 months is outstanding… Monty Brown has become one of the most popular heels in TNA, and done so in a surprisingly short period of time. Carlito has made the transformation from Razor Ramon rip-off to mid-card threat quite nicely.

BREAK-OUT PERFORMER OF NEXT YEAR: Bobby Lashley
1st Runner-Up: Samoa Joe
2nd Runner-Up: Alex Shelley

Comments: Bobby Lashley has a Goldberg-vibe about him, and I really think that if they keep an undefeated streak up with him, and perhaps move him to Raw during the next Draft Lottery, he could definitely become pretty big… Samoa Joe is either a title win away, or a jump to WWE (under another name, mind you) from becoming huge in the business. Alex Shelley could end up dominating the X Division if he plays his cards right.

BEST "REAL WORLD" NEWS OF THE YEAR: TNA Becomes A Player.
1st Runner-Up: ECW-Mania.
2nd Runner-Up: Joey Styles replaces Jim Ross as the voice of Raw.

Comments: TNA's jump to SpikeTV was huge news, not only because it means that I can watch them here in Canada, but also because this used to be the "Raw" network, with a ready-made audience to boot. The fact that The Dudleyz and Christian have since signed on shows that they're at least starting to become competitive. The ECW renaissance was important because (a) it gave national attention to wrestlers who haven't had the spotlight in years and (b) it showed WWE that there are room for other types of wrestling, albeit in small doses. Joey Styles replacing JR has been a breath of fresh air. Now if they could only do something about Lawler and Coach…


THE bOOby PRIZES

WORST WRESTLER(S) OF THE YEAR: Chris "F." Masters
1st Runner-Up: Tyson Tomko
2nd Runner-Up: SHNITSKY!!!

Comments: What can I say? All three of these guys suck.

WORST NON-WRESTLER OF THE YEAR: Don West
1st Runner-Up: Palmer Cannon
2nd Runner-Up: Linda McMahon

Comments: Don West continues to annoy me no end with his ridiculous over-selling on commentary, and also his shrill screaming on a constant basis. I wouldn't mind Palmer Cannon so much if he (a) didn't completely rip off his character from Don Callis in ECW (b) had even a droplet of personality to show us where his character was going and (c) didn't look so much like someone you wanted to punch in the face. The same applies for Linda McMahon (well, no I wouldn't want to punch her in the face): I just really don't want to see her on my television set, heel or otherwise.

WORST FEUD OF THE YEAR: 3 Live Kru vs. Kip James
1st Runner-Up: Jim Ross vs. The McMahon Family
2nd Runner-Up: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Masters

Comments: How long did the 3LK-Kip James saga go on for, anyways? Oh, wait, it's STILL GOING, isn't it? I'm all for extending storylines and whathaveyou, but there has to eventually be a decent pay-off, which they're won't be here. JR vs. The McMahons was completely unnecessary and just made for some completely unwatchable moments. It's ironic that my pick for "Best Wrestler" ended up in one of the worst feuds, but hell, it wasn't HIS fault this thing tanked.

MOST OVERRATED WRESTLER: Abyss
1st Runner-Up: Kip James
2nd Runner-Up: Hardcore Holly

Comments: My lord -- how long does this thing go on for?? It's not that I think Abyss is Abyssmal (~OMG PLAY ON WORDS!) or anything; it's just that he certainly doesn't belong anywhere near a main event. Ever. Kip James should have left the business about six years ago, and he should have taken Hardcore Holly with him.

"GODDAMMIT" MOMENT OF THE YEAR: LOD 2005.
1st Runner-Up: Dr. Heiney/Jim Ross' butt skit.
2nd Runner-Up: Diva Search 2005.

Comments: I have no problem with giving Animal another WWE run, especially if he can still go in the ring. But why team with Heidenreich? And why did they have to bastardize the LOD image/name in doing so? It still doesn't make any sense to me. The Dr. Heiney skit went on for FAR too long to be effective, and there wasn't even a payoff after all that! The Diva Search, which seemingly shorter than the 2004 version, was still a colossal waste of time, in my opinion.

WORST "REAL WORLD" NEWS OF THE YEAR: WWE Loses Dudleyz, Christian, Jericho, Tajiri, Other Key Talent.
1st Runner-Up: TSN Signs Monday Night Football for '06.
2nd Runner-Up: WWE fails to re-sign The Rock

Comments: While it's true that housecleanings happen (at least once) every year in WWE, this year's batch were still talented and over enough with the fans where they still could have added to the product. Hopefully, TNA will realize WWE's mistake and make some of these folks into bigger stars… The TSN thing only applies to us Canadians, but means that, for a good chunk of the year, we won't be able to watch Raw until some ungodly hour in the morning, which is unacceptable. And even if The Rock didn't want to wrestle any more, WWE should have at least bound him to some sort of "appearance" contract and then use him as needed. A shame.

 

And now…. In the grand tradition of, uh, last year, I bring you the second annual...

Canadian Bulldoggie Awards

Best Wrestler Ever: SHNITSKY!!!

EVER!!!: SHNITSKY!!!

Best Possible Match: Coach Man vs. SHNITSKY!!! (Steel Cage)

Best Feud: The Best Show vs. Chris Masterpiece

Best Book: Well, duh

Best Columnist: Not Pyrofalkon.

Best Fans: The crowd at NWA T&A (National Wrestling Tits & Ass) events.

Best Rookie: The Boogerman.

Best Humiliation of Eric Bischov: Too many to count.

Best Special Effects in a Documentary, Comedy or Horror Film: SHNITSKY!!!

Best New Musical Act: Darth Vader Sings Sitcom Themes of the 80's. Trust me -- check it out!

And that about does it from here. Thanks for reading, and happy new year, everyone!!!

E-MAIL THE BULLDOG    
BROWSE THE ITR ARCHIVES

CANADIAN BULLDOG  is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.


  
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