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The Rick's Honor Roll for 2004
December 31, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


I *wanted* to stand here today, proud owner of the Final Word in the OnlineOnslaught.com Year In Review Crapstravaganza... and although we've got a good 6 or 7 of these awards columns already done, turns out you can look forward to still a few more trickling in next week. 

Well, or at least one.  I'm not even sure.  I'm actually having to totally re-write this opening pre-ramble on Friday afternoon, cuz I'm not sure what's going on, and don't want to waste 4 paragraphs acting indignant about the Ultra-Shady Anderson/Lund Conspiracy To Steal The Rick's Thunder if such a thing isn't actually gonna take shape...  

Jeb had originally begged off for a "late slot" because of how he needed to wait and see how other people voted because he doesn't even remember a whole lot of good things happening in 2004... then the late slot and the memory-jogging became "I'm gonna be a few days late"... but then last night, I'm *still* not sure what Jeb was trying to say, but before 

he got cut off, I'm pretty sure he was saying he won't be doing a Year in Review at all.  Maybe.  We'll see.  That curmudgeonly sumbitch may yet log his votes for 2004, and if he does, they may well end up being the most-entertaining read of the entire lot, but I guess I'm not supposed to be holding my breath.

And then there's Erin, who I guess becomes a Conspiracy Of One.  She actually had the gall to act confused, surprised, and offended when I dared broach the subject of year-end columns a couple nights ago. Yes, indeed, those *were* supposed to be done by this week, E, and you only had about 20 days notice; what in the blue hell are you wasting all your vacation time on anyway?!? Friends and family? Work? Drinking rum and talking to jerks?  Eh, whatever; Erin's since claimed to have made a good-faith effort to try to finish up, but just ran out of time, and needs another couple days.  Maybe if I paid these assclowns, I'd feel like I could be a bit more of a dick of a boss....

So as it stands now: I don't even get the Last Word on my own damned website. Nice. Erin's for sure gonna get a late awards column in, and Jeb may or may not be doing the same. I guess procrastination has its privileges.

And in any case, this isn't about getting the "final word," since the REAL final say will be the Consensus Awardies that I'll compile from ALL the trOOps ballots.  When we name our Consensus OO Award Winners, everybody's vote counts the same...  so Humble Webmaster or not, I'm just one man with an opinion.

Or in the case of these awards, about 30 opinions, one for each category.  Strap in, kids, for The Picks of The Rick~!


1st Runner-Up: Triple H
2nd Runner-Up: Eddie Guerrero

Comments: This is The One... the award that encompasses all things wrestling, the award that is to be given to the one man who most encapsulated Excellence, Importance, and Appeal.  This isn't an award to be given to an under-appreciated "favorite" or some darling of a subset of fans.... it's for the guy who, when we look back in 10 years, EVERYbody would agree, "Yep, that was *his* year." So although it's the most predictable internet jackoff-tastic thing I could possibly do, I still HAVE to give this award to Chris Benoit in 2004. Yep, the poster-child for the Jackoff Brigade is the Wrestler of the Year in 2004.

Allow me to wax verbose for a moment, since I can not only defend Benoit as the best of 2004, but it'll also play into a LOT of my year-ending thoughts: to a large extent, 2004 was a tale of two segments. A smoking-hot first few months (through WrestleMania), and then an almost IMMEDIATE decline into Suck for SD! (RAW held on into June). And while one might be tempted to give credit to Young Randall Orton and his Density, or to JBL and His Newfound Personality, for the fine work they did ruling over the second half of the year, I just can't pull the trigger on that, myself.  Being the key players of WWE's second-half of 2004 is like being the President of France: sure, it looks good on the resume, but you're still only presiding over a fifth-rate world power. People might pay you lip service, but nobody really takes you seriously.

But the 3 or 4 months of the wrestling year that rocked? The guys who helped create that little renaissance deserve our strongest praise. When wrestling was its most fun in 2004, who was the most fun guy to cheer for? I think it's gotta be Chris Benoit, with his kick-ass Rumble win and then the sweet Road to WrestleMania, and his eventual title win.  Along the way, of COURSE he kicked ass, performance-wise. In the ring, Benoit's basically unable to do wrong, and character-wise, Benoit had some cool moments with HHH and Michaels leading up to his title win.  Bottom line: when wrestling was at it's best in 2004, Chris Benoit was the best thing happening in wrestling.  That, oh my brothers, is what makes him the Wrestler of the Year.  And plus: even when wrestling went south, it's not like Benoit stopped ruling the multiverse... he just had to do it on a smaller stage.

The largest stage of all belonged to Triple H at just about every point of the year. He was either holding the World Title or challenging for it all 12 months.  Obviously, that made him vital to WWE's red-hot first 3 months (and to RAW's continued hotness into June).  HHH was the straw that stirred the drink, as the lone heel in a three-way Michaels/Benoit/HHH feud that carried RAW for the better part of half a year.  In the ring, HHH had his best year since 2001. On the mic and as the leader of Evolution, HHH was the most important element of a number of storylines (some good, some not, but all dominating the RAW main event picture).  I think Trips deserves a bit of love and the #2 spot for the year.

And the Benoit heuristic is what lands Eddie the #3 spot on the list. The only 3 months of the year SD! was good, Eddie was the most entertaining guy on the show.  And a few haphazard moments of half-assery in the autumn aside, he continued to be as good a reason as any to watch the show throughout its decline to heinousity and its rebound to tolerability.  A healthy Kurt Angle might have been SD!'s MVP if he'd gotten the full year in; but in lieu of that, there ain't nothing wrong with paying a little homage to Latino Heat.

BEST TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR: Rey Mysterio/Rob Van Dam
1st Runner-Up: America's Most Wanted
2nd Runner-Up: Eugene/William Regal

Comments: I wouldn't be telling tales out of school if I said tag team wrestling has been on the decline for years...  but christ did things ever bottom out in 2004.  The nature of the beast these days seems to make it "uncool" to be a bona fide, full-time tag team (really, only the Dudleys pull it off; duos like the Bashams and La Resistance *try* to duplicate that tandem success, but wind up getting a bit lost in the shuffle of Makeshift Superteams.  Or even lost in the shuffle of Makeshift Semi-Super-teams; that might even be part of the problem... that teams don't really have a chance to gel together anymore.  For every Bob Holly/Billy Gunn pairing that's thrown together out of convenience, how many of them end up even as successful as Kenzo Suzuki and Rene Dupree?  Not many.)

In the aftermath of the Draft Lottery, Rob Van Dam had to get a divorce from his full-time partner, Booker T... and almost immediately started teaming with Rey Mysterio, instead.  By June, they'd found themselves in a feud with the Dudley Boyz, which they ostensibly won (since the Duds had to go on a "losing streak" to explain a story in which they were motivated to do Stupid Shit To The Undertaker To Prove Their Manhood), but then they kinda went about going their separate ways for a good 3 months, only occasionally coming together for a tag match.  That ended in early autumn, as they two were again drawn together out of a mutual hatred of Dupree/Suzuki.  They started chasing the tag titles, and in November, won them. You could quibble over whether the Rey/RVD team existed for 7 months, or whether you should only really count the last 3 months they've been together, but guess what? I don't care.  These two guys executed the babyface tag team formula so perfectly in their time together that they are EASILY the team I had the most fun watching in 2004.  They're both over, they've put lots of effort into a tag team moveset, and frankly, on a roster of dudes who sometimes seem like they are desperately BEGGING for cheers, the casual ease of these two is a refreshing change of pace.  Sure, either one of these two might well be more valuable as a singles star, but WWE seems to have it in for tiny guys and independently-minded potheads, so sticking 'em together to rule the tag scene is fine with me.

The lone "real full time team" on my list, AMW is as close as you'll see me come to an obligatory vote. Have I seen a lot of AMW in 2004? Nope, maybe a dozen or so matches.  Was I genuinely blown away or could I enthusiastically tell you about my Favorite AMW Moments? Not really. But here's the thing: in a diluted tag team field, the competition's not too stiff. And then there's the simple fact that when you watch TNA, there's only the smallest handful of guys you see who make you go, "Oh, they could probably show up in WWE tomorrow and be pretty good."  On a roster of indietastic highspot artists, over-rated "free agents," and generally under-sized superstars, Chris Harris and James Storm exude a certain kind of "It Factor." Intimate Familiarity with their work is not needed to know that these are two guys executing the lost art of tag team wrestling quite splendidly.

Eugene and Regal are #3 simply because I refuse to put the Duds on this list after the year they had. A lengthy absence ended the year for the Dudleys, and while they were here, they were (a) really over-exposed and used-up on RAW, and (b) involved in a lot of crap once moved to SD!.  But Bubba and D-Von are too good to stay down in 2005, I'm sure; if nothing else, won't SOMEbody please listen to me and give me the big-ass TLC blow-off match I'm begging for between the Dudleys and Rey/RVD?  Oh, so yeah, Eugene and Regal have been together pretty much since April, they've always been entertaining, and as the year ends, they are RAW's tag champs. Given the alternatives, that makes them as good a pick as anybody in third place for 2004....

1st Runner-Up: Molly Holly
2nd Runner-Up: Gail Kim

Comments: Duh.

I'm running out of ways to express my appreciation for Trish Stratus. You're running out of patience listening to me express my appreciation of Trish. And frankly, this is one of those awards where, if you're watching wrestling and have any good sense whatsoever, you don't need to have anything explained to you. Trish was already head and shoulders above the other women in 2003, and she GOT BETTER in 2004.  Past years' improvements came inside the ring, but this year, Trish did a 180-degree turn on her personality, and after some initial rockiness, blew expectations out of the water. I'm not saying it was easy to do what Trish did up until March of this year, but to a large degree having engrossing storylines like the Love Rhombus and being So Damned Pretty are all it takes to get away with being a Sympathetic Vanilla Babyface.  What Trish has done these last 9 months though? Doubly impressive to me. Once she hit her comfort zone, the spark Trish showed pretty much rivaled anything Edge or JBL did with heel turns on the men's side. I think I'll just sum up by saying that there's no other woman (and very few men) on the roster who put as big a smile on my face just by stepping onto the TV screen as Trish did in 2004.  Cutting a killer promo on Silly Drama Queen Lita, getting a little flustered when talking to Jericho, later deciding Jericho's not what she's looking for just now and getting into even better verbal sparring sessions with him, hopping out of the shower to seduce Shelton Benjamin while wearing nothing but a towel and that awesome facemask, or hell, even WRESTLING A MATCH... it doesn't matter: Trish would have a real hard time doing wrong by me.

Molly's nothing to sneeze at, either. She fricking wallops the ball out of the park when WWE sees fit to pitch to her. It just doesn't happen often enough for Molly to make an impact the same way Trish does. I think back to late last year, and I honestly thought that WWE might have turned the corner with Molly; she had Henchwoman Gail Kim, she was stuffing pages of Lita's own book down her throat, she was dressing in tight jeans and leather jackets and frankly looking hotter than any of the Diva Search Losers we've got hanging around now, and to me, that's like a license to print money.  Well, not really; it's still the women's division, and I have no illusions.  But at the very least, Molly handled correctly is a license to print Quarter Hour Ratings That Don't Drop Half A Point (Like They Do With Simon Dean).  But instead of following up on that, what happens to Molly and her title reign?  It ends ignominiously to Victoria, but only AFTER Victoria's appeal was pissed away, her intriguing creepiness and Russian Lesbians replaced by Involuntary Seizures During Her Ring Entrances. In a rematch for the title, Molly not only lost, but she LOST HER HAIR.  AGAIN, a License To Print Money, but there's no follow-up storyline.  Molly went from her bald phase (where instead of rewarding her with a "crazy bald chick" push, they just had her wear a wig for comic relief), to her My Hair's Short But I Don't Care Anymore Cuz I Can Totally Pull It Off phase (where the lack of comic relief wigs meant Molly's only contribution to storylines was being Trish's condom-endorsing lackey... oh, and a Sometimes Dodgeball Player), and now to her The Hair's More "Nomal" Looking Now But Also Kinda Oddly Poofy And Certain Internet Admirers Thought It Looked Better Shorter And Wonder If It's Worth Waiting Another 4 Months To Come Out On The Other Side of This Phase phase (where the women's division has been pared down to 4 women, and even as the #2 Heel in the division, Molly's basically a jobber).  It's... I dunno... I kinda got off on a ramble there that might be more appropriate for the "Most Underrated" category.  Point is: when Molly's on TV, nothing sucks. Totally sound in the ring, and probably a tinch under-rated in terms of character/persona, too.

That "nothing sucks" heuristic?  That's why Lita's not even CLOSE to sniffing this list.  She was probably the #2 "most important" woman on the roster in 2004.  But here at OO, that wins you no points, otherwise, Randy Orton and JBL would be winning awards!  Lita, one must keep in mind, spent about half the year inactive (in a wrestling sense) due to her "pregnancy"... the nature of this award does NOT require that the voter consider only ring-capable women, but the nature of The Rick DOES require that I give weight to the WRESTLING when handing out the WRESTLING awards. When active, Lita was not above scaring me shitless, anyway, and when she wasn't active, Lita was involved in some of the most god-awful tripe of 2004. Can't vote for that.  Instead, it's an easy call to give this award to Gail Kim, who might have been released late in the year, might have had some injury time earlier in the year, but who STILL strikes me as WWE's Next Big Babyface. And I still feel that way now that she's fired.  Seriously. It seemed like it'd be easy as pie: the new submissions move set, the hotness, and you just do a storyline where Gail finally gets tired of being Molly's henchwoman, and I think fans would have adored her. Of course, that would have been predicated on WWE feeling like they could do two simultaneous storylines involving women (one with Trish/the title, and another with Molly/Gail), and that's just crazy talk.  So what the fuck do I know? 

BEST FEUD OF THE YEAR: Mick Foley vs. Randy Orton
1st Runner-Up: Triple H vs. Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels
2nd Runner-Up: Chris Jericho vs. Christian

Comments: In a diluted-roster hellscape in which it seems like even C-grade "Velocity" feuds have at least 4 or 5 chapters, it's telling that wrestling's best rivalry of 2004 had EXACTLY one (1) mano y mano showdown.  I think there were maybe 2 other tag matches, and then countless promos, but just the one Money Match.

And that rather sparse-sounding feud was spread out over the first five months of 2004 (and even included the last month or two of 2003).  How do you pull that off?  Simple: you be somebody people care intensely about, like Mick Foley.  There was NOTHING traditional or expected in the pacing of the feud. From the night Mick walked out like a wuss-bag to the way the wheels seems to spin for a few weeks before Mick FINALLY revealed his ace in the hole (The Rock) for a tag match against Evolution, this threatened to seem like one pat of butter being spread over an entirely loaf of bread...  but it never really bogged down, and when the big pay-off came, it just felt RIGHT.  This storyline is a testament to Mick's gut-feel for storytelling and to the fact that this is as close to "playing to Orton's strengths" that WWE came all year.  A "one match feud" that still spanned five-plus months and delivered a TON of "moments" for fans.  Good stuff.  The only thing that I would count against this feud is that WWE almost totally failed to follow up correctly on it... but then that criticism can also be lofted at the other two feuds I picked for this list, so...  Foley and Orton gets the prize, regardless!

I honestly wasn't sure precisely how I'd include Benoit, HHH, and Michaels in this list...  cuz it kinda was a deal where Benoit wandered into the middle of a smoking hot HBK/HHH feud, and then there was kind of this side issue later between Benoit and HHH the culminated in their Iron Man Free Per View Match, but by the end of the Year, we were back to HBK/HHH at Taboo Tuesday. Would it be cheating to just throw all three of them together into on uberfeud? Maybe so, but some of the other trOOps did it, so I'm gonna do the same thing. Unlike Foley/Orton, this feud had so many different iterations and chapters that it might have run the risk of becoming diluted and watered down... but it never actually did. From the Last Man Standing Match in January, to the Fan Voted Match in October, and with any number of Triple Threats, Hells in the Cells, Iron Mans, and other tag team and singles matches on RAW in between, this was outstanding through and through.  Again, just about my only significant complain is that as good as the storyline was with these three, there was never satisfying closure, and it was because of the sudden racing to elevate Young Randall Orton for no good reason that Benoit didn't get the chance to "win" this feud.  Boo on that.  Special commendation: although the heel/face alignment here MIGHT suggest to you that this was mostly just a pair of loosely-tied-together HHH vs. Benoit and HHH vs. HBK feuds, that's not true at all. Some of the best stuff was in the Benoit/Michaels "battle of mutual respect," and the flare-ups between them add a huge amount of intrigue to Michaels recent TV return, since there *are* elements in place that might be used to craft an HBK heel turn, if one is desired. 

Last spot on the list: Chris Jericho vs. Christian.  Again, I go back to this idea that we fans got nothing all year quite as good as RAW's first 3-4 months of 2004. And a HUGE part of that? Jericho and Christian. And Trish. Although the infuriatingly engrossing Love Rhombus had pretty much collapsed into Jericho/Trish "Just Friends Dyad" after the New Year, those weekly interactions were vital to Jericho's full-fledged face turn and necessary to underscore the many ways Christian was still a dickhead. It all led up to the big payoff at WMXX, where it seemed like maybe Jericho and Trish would finally get together, but... SWERVE~! Trish turned on Jericho and decided to get herself some of that Hot Christian Lovin'.  More quality matches and more quality skits/promos followed (and these three continued to spar, at least casually, through the end of the year), and here's something kind of interesting: as much as this feud absolutely cemented Jericho's babyface turn, the real winner on the heel side might not be Christian at all, but rather Trish. An injury to Christian sidelined him and short-circuited some of his momentum; but in Christian's absence, that's actually when Trish stepped up (I never realized it at the time, but getting out from under the "needy, whiny girlfriend" gimmick and being single again is really when Trish's character blossomed; it's also when she took over the pants-wearing for Christian's Coalition and turned Tyson into the Lovely Miss Tomko). Jericho vs. Christian, tons of fun while it lasted, and with ramifications we're still feeling today.  Quality.

BEST MATCH OF THE YEAR: The 2004 Royal Rumble Match
1st Runner-Up: Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XX)
2nd Runner-Up: Eddie Guerrero vs. Brock Lesnar (No Way Out)

Comments: You could probably re-order these three however you want, and I'd still just sort of wave my hand and say "looks OK to me." Depending on my mood, any of these three could be my Match of the Year, as no one of them stands that far above the others. It's as a group that they clearly stand out from the pack (the only other truly memorable matches all year were Foley/Orton, the Free Per View Iron Man, and MAYBE the Eddie/JBL cage match if you're feeling charitable), which itself is kind of the problem. The WWE "slow it down" match philosophy has robbed us of our singular/stand-out/no-brainer Matches Of The Year. I'm not asking for TLC every week; but even situations like HHH and HBK inside Hell in the Cell, that was the *only* appearance by the Cell in all of 2004 (I think), and it wasn't that spectacular of a match.  Oh, sure, it was long and grueling, but NObody is gonna be setting that one aside as a video keeper years from now.  The WWE product has become homogenized, and tends towards a central point: yeah, to a large degree they've weeded out the truly sucky, but they're also keeping those capable of blowing us away from doing it every month on PPV, instead asking them to throttle back and "slow down."  I'm not saying "boo" to safety, but I am saying it makes it harder to be an enthusiastic fan when you have a hard time remembering individual matches being much better than "average"...

Of the handful of matches that *did* accomplish this feat of being memorable or having enough "Momentosity" (a word I just made up to convey how even if a match as a whole is only "very good" it can become historically significant with "moments" like high spots or a shocking finish or something like that), these three stood above all the rest. Benoit and Eddie's respective title wins are easy calls because they not only both came in spectacularly good wrestling matches, but because the finishes, the sights of seeing those two holding World Titles, was absolutely amazing. Good for the soul, those two matches are.  And though I know that it seems popular sentiment is to give the WMXX Triple Threat the nod in this category, I just gotta ask: have you rewatched the Royal Rumble lately?  I hadn't, but as I was re-reading my PPV recaps trying to pare my list of candidates down, I couldn't believe the king-sized hard-on I sported for the Rumble back in January; so I re-watched, and man alive is it ever good fun.  There's the rapid-fire excitement, there's comedy, there's drama and surprises, and there's even a 15-plus minute closing segment in which there's plenty of OMG WORKRATE~!  Yes, Virginia, workrate in a battle royale!  And "momentosity"? In a lot of ways, this match was even more shocking and vindicating than Benoit's actual title win; not just because he entered #1 and lasted 63 minutes to win, but because this was the night when you realized that WWE believed in Benoit.  The title win later was almost an obligatory afterthought; the Rumble is the night that *made* Chris Benoit (or would have made him, if WWE hadn't screwed up so badly after WM20).  Really outstanding match, and perhaps a forgotten one....

1st Runner-Up: Kurt Angle
2nd Runner-Up: Chris Jericho

Comments: Shawn Michaels was so good in 2004 that I would have let him have one of his injury vacations, and *still* considered him for Wrestler of the Year; he'd have done enough good in 9 months that he'd make some wrestlers working the full 12 look silly.  But alas, his body didn't quite hold together and so there were the two breaks (June to August, and then October to December), and as his consolation prize, Michaels will have to settle for being a subjective favorite of mine, rather than the objective best.  Kind of the same deal for Kurt Angle over on SD!, who is just so damned good at every facet of the business that it's almost unfair to others, but who also worked pretty much a half-schedule in 2004 due to neck concerns.  And Jericho?  Well, he was around all year long, but sadly, at times it seemed like nobody had reminded WWE's creative team of that fact, and Jericho got stuck with some real stinkers (his night as GM was a trainwreck) and confoundingly dead-end feuds (like against Batista). The fact that through it all, Jericho remains as entertaining a personality as he does is remarkable.  People must REALLY like him to put up with all the crap WWE puts him through.  I know I do.


1st Runner-Up: Kurt Angle
2nd Runner-Up: Shelton Benjamin

Comments: Yes, wrestling is fake. But no, it doesn't have to slap you in the face with the fakeness. And I don't have to slap you in the face with any more words explaining why Benoit's the best at making wrestling look real. You've heard it all before, and frankly, as long as Benoit remains healthy and active, you'll probably hear lots more about it. Angle's almost as crisp, but is penalized for the half-year absence. Shelton's got the legitimacy of the amateur background, and really developed a flashier (but still sound) technical repertoire in 2004 (more akin to the Steamboats and Stings of years past).

1st Runner-Up: Elix Skipper
2nd Runner-Up: Paul London

Comments: Another no-brainer of a category. With his magical ability to reduce gravity and hang in the air, Rey not only does amazing things when he leaves his feet, but he does them so gracefully and effortlessly that you can't help but be amazed. There are guys who make their name by just being fricking crazy, willing to hit any highspot, without regard for safety; but Rey goes out there and never once makes you fear for him or his opponent, leaving you to just appreciate the match.  I love that.  Speaking of crazy high spot artists, I'm giving Elix Skipper the nod for TNA's representative on this list in 2004; partly because AJ Styles was a bit more grounded this year in the matches I saw, but mostly because of the TNA crew, Elix comes the closest to matching Rey's "effortlessness." And Paul London is here because, despite WWE's best efforts, he seems like he might be carving out a niche for himself with some catchy and innovative moves (perhaps my favorite move of 2004 was when London, in a tag match setting, would hit his "dropsault"; dropkicking one guy and flipping back into a moonsault on his other opponent); it's not just about doing as many crazy moves as you can in a match, it's about doing moves fans respond to, and London's seemingly got a knack for that.

1st Runner-Up: Kane
2nd Runner-Up: Big Show

Comments: Surrounding yourself with Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels probably makes it lots easier to look like a sparkling in-ring performer. But in showdowns with those guys, HHH *more* than held up his end of the bargain, working the WWE Main Event Brawling Style with aplomb. You can't be a participant in as many good matches as HHH was in 2004 without being excellent at something, and here's here HHH gets his due.  Kane may have been stuck with a ton of crap, storyline-wise, but you ring the bell, and you'll have a hard time finding a more capable big man; he had some truly good outings in 2004 against Jericho and Benoit, at least. Big Show at #3? Eh, that's kind of me being a dick; Show continued to display his newfound knack for "wrestling like a giant" but not doing it in a plodding or boring way, which is good. But he also had a huge 5 month vacation in the middle of the year, and might not deserve this spot.  But I'm giving it to him, anyway: because I DON'T want to give it to Taker (who is SOOOO much better than what he had a chance to show in 2004 due to craptacular storytelling and opponents like JBL and Heidenreich), and I want to be the only guy to NOT include Batista on this list (is the guy a bona fide success story for 2004? Yes. Are things looking even better for his 2005?  Yes.  Is his persona currently one of the most appealing on RAW? Yes. But has he worked even ONE good singles match? No. There are still things for Batista to master before he's on this list).  

1st Runner-Up: Triple H/Evolution
2nd Runner-Up: Chris Jericho

Comments: I also had to restrain myself from using Mick as my "protest" vote in the Best Brawler category, cuz as good as he was, he was only good in 2 or 3 matches. And that wouldn't be fair, now would it?  But even if Mick wasn't wrestling regularly, he *was* on TV cutting promos almost weekly for about half of the year. And kids, that *is* enough for me to honor him in this category. Even Mick's little throw-away promos are often the best of the show, and when Foley decides he's actually gonna bring the heat, the results are often amazing. Maybe the best wrestling promo of the year was Mick's discussion of things he found in his attic, and how one of them just might come in handy for tearing at the virgin flesh of Young Randall Orton.  I think that one was spine-tingling.  In the literal sense.  You kinda had to shudder and shake that one off when it was done; it was that good.  Hell, the guy even made Mohammed Hassan interesting, even if only for a week. Way to be, Mick. I'm gonna cheat just a bit with my #2 pick, cuz I honestly do want to give it to "All of Evolution" (HHH/Flair/Batista); in a lot of ways I think this is defensible, as they appear almost exclusively en masse, and its the group dynamic that really makes the whole thing click. From things like the art of the "Evolution Pep Talk" (often given by Flair) to the more recent emergence of Batista's Logic and Reason, it's almost always tremendous when those three get together to talk.  If you would INSIST on me only giving the award to one wrestler, then HHH gets it as the most vocal of the three, but I'd pull him aside and tell him to share it with his buddies once you jerks weren't looking.  And how long have I been saying that Jericho's "teflon"?  Long enough that I shouldn't have to re-explain how one of his greatest talents is grabbing a mic the next show after losing a match and making us all forget about the loss inside of 30 seconds. Jericho's mic skills are truly Jedi-like.

1st Runner-Up: John Bradshaw Layfield
2nd Runner-Up: Christian

Comments: It's not much of a "gimmick," but HHH executes it perfectly... basically, he's just really good, and he's really obsessed with holding the World Title to PROVE he's really good.  And fans don't like that. And among a subset of "smart" fans, the fact that he's banging the boss' daughter and supposedly ruins the careers of political rivals makes him even more boo-able.  Technically, that shouldn't count, but I can't help myself: I find a lot of the internet HHHatred to be REALLY funny (the guy has an amazing year, is probably one of the 2 or 3 best performers of 2004, and you, the SMART fans, hate him? High-lairous!).  There's a lot wrong with JBL's spot on SD! and how he ascended to it; but one also has to grant that he's crafted some of the best heel patter of the year. I'm a particularly big fan of JBL's unique ability to make a boast SO ricockulous that it goes past funny to pitiably misguided and then actually goes BACK to being really funny by the time JBL is done telling us about his awesomeness.  Should JBL be the SD! champ? No way. Granting that he is, should it have taken him two months into his reign to start cutting these solid promos?  Nope. But we'll take what we can get, and right now, JBL's the man everybody loves to hate. And Christian's here cuz he's kind of like the Inverse of Jericho: like Jericho, Christian seems to be booked to fail more often than he should be. But as a heel, it's not his job to make us forget those losses, it's to make the losses so entertaining and humiliating that we want to see him lose again!  Or something along those lines.  Christian is REALLY outstanding at being precisely that sort of whipping boy.

BEST BABYFACE: Shawn Michaels
1st Runner-Up: Chris Jericho
2nd Runner-Up: John Cena

Comments: His matches are usually the best of the night. His promo work is usually spot-on. And he's a legend with a track record of over a decade of giving the fans' their money's worth. What's not to like about Shawn Michaels? [Note: the Nation of Canada can kindly shut the hell up.  That was SEVEN YEARS AGO, now, people...] It doesn't seem like anybody energizes a crowd quite like Michaels can; as the old rule of thumb for this category goes, he "gets the most reaction by doing the least."  And then, because he's the Show Stopper, you KNOW he's not gonna settle for doing "the least," and that's when the roof is frequently blown off the joint. Jericho's an easy #2 for myriad reasons already discussed in this document, including the simple fact that fans don't care about how badly booked Jericho is, they still respond to him like a main eventer. And for reasons unknown, the SD! fans continue to respond to John Cena like he's the coolest cat in all the land; I may think that Cena's really lost it this year, but I also can't deny that his shtick is still going over with the people who count.

BEST CHARACTER/GIMMICK: Eugene, Idiot Savant of Wrestling
1st Runner-Up: JBL, Rich Republican Jerk
2nd Runner-Up: Undertaker, OOld SchOOl Dead Guy

Comments: It could have been a nightmare, it could have been stupid, unfunny, and insensitive...  but the "retarded wrestler" gimmick instead turned into one of the year's real success stories. Everything about Eugene has clicked, from Nick Dinsmore's seamless performance, to the inclusion of William Regal as the dignified Straight Man, and even to the way Eugene's in-ring success seems ALMOST plausible (he's just duplicating what he's seen on TV and wrestling on instinct).  I had my doubts at first, I let myself get guardedly optimistic when Regal came on board, and in the end, the results decimated any expectations I'd had. It took a while (and it took the addition of Orlando Jordan) to really take off, but JBL's new persona has also wound up exceeding expectations. Do you try the Honkeytonk Man thing with your World Title? I dunno, I probably wouldn't... but on the strength of JBL's palpable unlikeability, the day he finally does lose that title will be cause for celebration, so he's doing something right.  And last: back before he morphed into the BikerTaker, Undertaker was a shoe-in for this award, year-in and year-out. And now that he's gone back to his Dead Man roots, it's still real hard to deny the simple badassery of the Undertaker. The music, the lights, the thing with the hat and the eyes... c'mon, it's pretty sweet. Just getting to see that entrance live for the first time in about 8 years, I gotta give Taker the #3 spot for old time's (OOld time's?) sake. 

1st Runner-Up: Rene Dupree
2nd Runner-Up: Trish Stratus

Comments: Make no mistake: there is still work to be done by Batista if he's gonna carry PPV caliber singles matches. But that doesn't mean that we can't take a moment to congratulate him on the baby steps he's already taken towards that end in 2004. In the ring, he certainly evolved into an outstanding tag team wrestler when he upped his intensity. For short bursts, Batista was extremely convincing (although in longer outings or single matches, he'd still be prone to doing stuff like working the wrong arm or looking downright confused in chain wrestling exchanges; like I said, at this point, I think it's a mental thing for Batista, and once the last few pieces click, 20-minute singles matches are NOT out of his grasp). And obviously, his biggest strides came on the personality side. For 8 months, Batista's heel persona was almost painfully generic: a lot of huffing, puffing, and shouting. And then around August, he suddenly just started talking. You know, like a regular person. I still remember the first time this happened -- he gave HHH a pep talk on RAW -- I was in shock. Batista, a good promo guy? Of course, as we've come to see in the last few months, Big Ol' Dave is indeed a kinda likeable character. Nobody had improvement FOISTED upon him in 2004 more than Rene Dupree; whether he wanted to or not, he pretty much had to up his game, since the depleted SD! heel roster meant he was gonna be an upper-mid-carder during the summer whether he deserved it or not. He turned the "Orton Channeling" dial up to 11 (when he's really emoting, Rene might almost have MORE of that innate bitch-slappability than Randall), added in a few flourishes (like the French Tickler), and did a reasonable effective job. Dupree ended up back in a tag team setting by the end of the year, but if the kid was paying attention, he should have learned a lot of useful things in 2004.  Trish? What can I say, I think I've had her on this list for 3 years running, now, but she keeps finding ways to get noticeably better.  She's kind of doing it the reverse way that Batista is: for a few years, Trish got her ringwork sorted out, and then this year, she finally added the killer personality.

1st Runner-Up: Molly Holly
2nd Runner-Up: Paul London

Comments: Tajiri will never be a World Champion, I know that... but this award is about the biggest chasm between Realistic Ceiling and Actual Usage. And due to what sure felt like a serious decline in Tajiri's Actual Usage, he's an EASY winner this year. At least in 2003, he'd be hanging around the Cruiserweight Title picture or causing Nidia to go blind and somehow come back with two implausible mega-structures where her boobs used to be.  But in 2004, Tajiri's a forgotten man.  He could certainly be one half of a contending tag team, and I even believe that he could, in the right situation, be in the IC Title mix.  Instead, Tajiri's 2004 was a complete and total wash-out.  By the way: don't believe me that Tajiri's got some decent upside?  How about the response to the night when he came out in the HHH wig?  Bottom line, between his stiff-ass moveset and his unique charisma (nobody "says" more by not saying a word), fans BELIEVE Tajiri as a wrestler in a way they'll never instinctively buy into Simon Dean. And yet, WWE refuses to utilize that and follow up on the handful of occasions when they ALMOST gave Tajiri something useful to do in 2004.  Remember above where I apologized for a rant about Molly that would probably belong in the "most underrated" section? Well, just go back and re-read that now.  Molly's flat-out the most underrated member of an already criminally-mishandled division.  Paul London is another guy, like Tajiri, who has way more upside than a typical cruiserweight; he actually had a brush with tag team gold this year, but still finishes 2004 as an also-ran on Velocity. Everybody knows London's got the moves in the ring, but what's baffling is that he clearly has a personality, too, and WWE just doesn't see fit to let him show it.

1st Runner-Up: William Regal
2nd Runner-Up: Chavo Classic

Comments: Ric Flair without Evolution would be a 55-year-old man still pitiably clinging to a wrestling career. And Evolution without Ric Flair would have no heart, no true connection to wrestling's past and thus no claim to wrestling's future. But Evolution and Ric Flair together? Magic. It's the role Flair's on this earth to fulfill.  That synergy is also the earmark of William Regal's relationship with Eugene; I honestly believe that without Regal as his mentor/keeper, Eugene would NOT have gotten over the way he did. Though the relationship has changed into more of a straight tag team partnership, the 4-5 months Regal spent as Eugene's manager and trainer were so key to Eugene's development that I think it's an easy call to throw him in here at #2.  Chavo Classic was dismissed from/walked-out on WWE during the summer, but for half-a-year, his work with his son was pure gold. I'd like to say something insightful like how it's telling that Chavo Jr.'s career hasn't been the same since his dad left the company... but sadly, I'm not entirely sure there aren't two ways to interpret that insight, nor that the second and more insidious one isn't accurate.

1st Runner-Up: Jim Ross
2nd Runner-Up: Tazz

Comments: As an announcer, Coach probably doesn't win any awards. But I'm lucky enough to have seen all of about 4 episodes of Heat this year, so I'm DEFINITELY grading Coach on the more nebulous criteria involved with being a "television personality." As a sometimes announcer/interview, a sometimes wrestler, a sometimes lackey or assistant GM, Coach has been genuinely amusing at almost every turn in 2004.  Actually, he's another guy who just seems to be having fun with his job, which somehow does translate onto the screen in the form of Coach seeming more natural and real than the types of heels who have to force the attitude. Coach for an hour or two of commentary? I'll probably pass; but a few minutes a week of Coach's Ritual Humiliation tends to be fairly amusing!  Especially during the opening months of the year when he was handed numerous Big Time Matches, Jim Ross reminded us all why he's the #1 Commentator in the business. The mix of emotion and analysis is something nobody else can bring to the table.  Tazz, frequently handcuffed by poor subject matter (and for a while, by a Management Initiative that he act "more heelish" even if it forced him to sound like an idiot), tumbles out of the top spot this year... but he's still the best color man in WWE, with jokes that are actually funny, and the ability to break down a match technically better than anyone.

"HOLY SHIT" MOMENT OF THE YEAR: The Rock is Eugene's Friend (Surprise Appearance on RAW, 5/17)
1st Runner-Up: Randy Orton Takes Barbed Wire Baseball Bat To His Nutsac
2nd Runner-Up: Benoit and Eddie Celebrate Together, Both World Champs, to end WrestleMania XX

Comments: I think The Rock had about 3 unannounced appearances this year. One of them was horrendous (*ahem* pie eating contest *ahem*), one was red-hot but maybe kind of expected (when The Rock appeared in Atlanta to reveal himself as Mick Foley's tag team partner), but one was just so surprising and so dead-on perfect that it might be the one time all year that I remember the opening notes of a theme song getting me up off my couch in shock. At a time when Eugene seemed at his most vulnerable, the Coach was really laying in hard with the "You've got no friends, so just go home, Eugene" spiel... and I don't even remember WHAT I was thinking of in terms of an "out," but I know I wanted somebody to shut the Coach's fricking yapper.  When the Rock made his completely unexpected appearance, it was just one of those moments where you knew all would be right with the world in a few minutes.  Sure enough, The Rock delivered his single strongest mic performance of the year, declared himself to be Eugene's friend, humiliated the Coach, and even inadvertently discovered that Eugene's favorite wrestler is Triple H (a factoid that was as important to Eugene's development as hobnobbing with The Rock was).  Easily the most pleasantly surprised I was in all of 2004. In the far distance, perhaps my fondest Hooters Memory of the year was when Mick Foley walloped Randy Orton in the balls with a barbed wire bat. And not just because it looked like a genuine ouchie (I actually cringed more at that spot than at the thumbtacks), but because I took a perverse glee in how horrified the assembled Hooters Girls were at the sight of their glossed up hunk of man-meat having his (more than likely waxed) scrotum tenderized by a gross troll of a man.  And lastly: the sight of Eddie and Benoit together with world title belts to close out WM20 wasn't a stand up and shout "Holy Shit" moment, but it was definitely a moment when you pause and reflect for a moment, and issue forth a hushed, awed "Holy Shit."  For that moment in time, all was right with the wrestling world. Which is good, cuz it sure went to hell soon thereafter.

FUNNIEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR: William Regal Trains Eugene
1st Runner-Up: Trish Stratus Throws Lita's Baby Shower
2nd Runner-Up: Randy Orton Caught on Camera Drinking Corona Light with a Lime In It

Comments: Some of it was pretty expected and by the numbers... a 4 minute vignette of Eugene being surprisingly competent inside a wrestling ring, much to the chagrin of poor, besmirched William Regal. And yet somehow, that training vignette transcended all that to get a couple of genuine belly laughs out of even grumpy ol' me. It made no freaking sense at the time, but the Triple H Water Bottle Gag might be just about the funniest single thing seen on WWE TV in years. The baby shower thrown by Trish Stratus for Lita was also quite hilarious, and also kind of exists on this list as a surrogate for All Things Trish/Lita; Lita's drama was SOOOO freaking retarded, and Trish was always right there with some snide observation that was funny enough that I'd ALMOST think the awfulness of Pregnant Lita was worth it just so Trish could keep hitting zingers.  Purely selfishly, I gotta go with the episode of "Confidential" where Randall Orton was caught putting fruit in his beer as my #3 funniest moment; not only did I trade on that 5 second video clip for the rest of 2004, but in all seriousness, when I saw it, I really did laugh out loud. It was a moment of pure vindication; I always SUSPECTED Randy Orton was a bit of a wussbag with no taste, but then his choice of beers proved it!  And thus was born a legend.... 

1st Runner-Up: WWE SmackDown!
2nd Runner-Up: WWE Confidential

Comments: Both RAW and SD! were neck-and-neck through WrestleMania...  but then SD! decided to almost immediately start sucking, whereas RAW decided to wait a few more months (actually, I was talking about this with a friend a few weeks back, and you can pinpoint when RAW finally went south: it happened RIGHT HERE in DAYTON, OH!) and also didn't bottom out nearly as low as SD! did. So RAW gets the easy win.  SD!'s still the second best thing going, though.  And no fricking pity votes for TNA... I have watched every single episode of "Impact" so far (albeit usually on heavy FF), and thing I've seen a grand total of 2 decent matches, and ZERO really memorable promos/angles.  At least Confidential gave me Orton and Corona.  Get it together TNA, I'm beggin' ya....

1st Runner-Up: WrestleMania XX
2nd Runner-Up: No Way Out

Comments: Not really a tough call for me. The Rumble PPV had my Match of the Year, and if there'd just been a stronger finish to that amazing Michaels/HHH brawl, the Rumble may even have claimed 2 of the top 4 or 5 Matches of the Year. It was also the show that featured Bob Holly's WWE Title Shot, but that match was less than 10 minutes, and the rest of the show pretty much rocked. WrestleMania had that Big Show Aura and a killer main event of its own; but the undercard had only two other matches that hit "good" (Eddie/Angle and Christian/Jericho), and the show was still padded out to 4 hours.  Maybe it's just the lofty expectations that go with Mania, but this is like the 2nd or 3rd year in a row where I've found it easy to NOT pick the BIGGEST show of the year as the BEST show of the year. Sandwiched between Rumble and Mania was SD!'s No Way Out PPV; huh, who'da thunk it?  It's SD! that gets a brand-specific PPV on the list!  It had the awesome Eddie/Lesnar match and a VASTLY under-appreciated Chavo/Rey match, too. If only WWE could have kept on kicking this much ass after the month of March....

1st Runner-Up: Batista
2nd Runner-Up: Edge

Comments: A year ago, I honestly thought it'd be Charlie Haas who broke out as a singles star in 2004. Well, hell, looks like even I can be wrong, sometimes...  the break-up of the World's Greatest Tag Team didn't go as expected, either (no violent split, just the deus ex machina of the Draft Lottery), but when Shelton wound up flying solo on RAW, he immediately got the benefit of a few wins over non-other-than Triple H. That's enough to jumpstart ANY singles career. A broken hand in June sidelined Shelton for about 3 months, but when he came back, he got almost immediately back on track, and currently holds the IC Title. Ain't no stopping him, now... Batista, breaking out of his role the Dumb Muscle of Evolution, is on the brink of a fan-demanded face turn. Which is only more remarkable when you realize that what we're seeing with Batista today is what WWE probably WANTED with Randy Orton in July. Nice work by the Big Man this year to get us a glimpse of the real Dave Batista and making sure he seems more likeable than the real Randy Orton...  and I resisted this sentiment at first, but it now cannot be denied: CHRIST did Edge ever need that heel turn. At times, the ludicrousness of his boasting and self-confidence kind of recalls JBL, but Edge is also bringing a kind of mean-spirited dickishness (not content to tell you how awesome he is, he'll ZING you good, if you give him an opening), and also has the ability to not suck once the bell rings.  Sky's the limit for heel Edge... 

1st Runner-Up: Carlito Cool
2nd Runner-Up: Mohammed Hassan

Comments: I've thought about this, and Batista's pretty much on Step Three of a Four Step Program.  I've qualified a lot of my compliments to Batista already in this document, saying "there's still work to be done." But right here, in this category, I'm telling you I think he can and will get it done. If he adds "20 Minute Singles Matches" to his repertoire, and combines that with the right storyline with regards to Evolution, then who knows what Batista might accomplish? As far as the ring work goes, it's not like I'm asking him to master Chris Benoit's moveset, either; just get a little smoother and get his head in the game a bit more. And hell, if you need to heavily script Batista's matches, that wouldn't be so bad; if WWE got entertaining matches out of the Ultimate Warrior, trust me, they can expect even better out of Batista.  Carlito Cool is a risky pick here, since we're still not sure just how soon he'll be able to return from injury or if his "spot" will still be there for him near the top of the card on SD!... but the fact that they're keeping him on TV and giving him a pretty important storyline with regards to GM Teddy Long makes me think that SD! will get back behind Carlito when he's ready to return to action, and I think Carlito's got the chops to make it work in 2005.  And it's not any personal preference that puts Mohammed Hassan at #3 on this list: it's just that same kind of guesswork regarding how strongly the company will get behind a guy. And I think WWE *really* wants to make Hassan work, so they'll spare no effort.  So you take the promotional effort, toss in my lack of faith in WWE's fanbase to do anything but boo the foriegn guy, and I kinda think Hassan could go over huge next year. Khosrow Daivari is a "best second" in the making, and Hassan himself was not unimpressive on tapes I saw before he changed ethnicities, so who knows? I remain kind of disappointed in the one-dimensionality of the characters, but I honestly can see this taking off.... 

BEST "REAL WORLD" NEWS OF THE YEAR: TNA Gets National Television Deal, but....
1st Runner-Up: WWE Begins to Exploit Amazing Tape Library (with DVDs, 24/7, online "video jukebox," etc.)
2nd Runner-Up: Lita isn't Dead After That Bump

Comments: Trust me, what WWE needs is a competitor. Somebody to battle. This will be a central tenant of my State of the Union Address whenever I get around to it. And so it's nothing but a good thing that TNA signed a deal with FOX Sports Net for a weekly national cable show. Fans deserve alternatives, and WWE needs somebody to keep them honest.  Sadly, TNA's good fortune comes with a giant "but" (which we'll get to in a moment).... the #2 cool thing I'll mention is how WWE continued to produce killer DVD sets and has put a lot of effort into it's 24/7 on-demand service, and in general is making it easier than ever before for fans to re-live or learn about the past. Given how frequently-shitty the present is, getting to hide in the tape library is a pretty cool thing...  lastly, there's no way I'll endorse Lita's tope suicida as a "holy shit" moment, just because that's not the kind of "holy shit" that award is meant for. I'm also not quite sure I can pull the trigger on making it a "goddammit" moment, since that'd also send kind of the wrong message. So I compromise by making "Lita's not dead" one of my best real world news stories of 2004.  I'm happy Lita's OK, and would just ask to not be scared that shitless again for a while.


1st Runner-Up: Tyson Tomko
2nd Runner-Up: Bob Holly

Comments: Prostetnic Vogon Heidenreich and his dumb-ass poetry was fun for maybe a couple of weeks. But man alive, a lame-ass Bronco Wreck, the simulated anal-raping of Michael Cole, and dragging Paul Heyman down with him? There's just no reason for Heidenreich to still be on my TV. That goes for Tyson Tomko, who as far as I can tell has contributed nothing to RAW in his 8 months here, but who at least had the good sense to keep to himself and limit his sucking to about one cameo appearance every two weeks, so I can still only muster up enough frustration to make him #2 on this list. Are there worse wrestlers on the roster than Bob Holly? Of course. But they don't go around randomly punching opponents in the face for real just because they're bitter and should probably just retire if the business is making them so miserable to be around.

1st Runner-Up: All Participants in the RAW Diva Search Who Still Somehow Managed to Get Jobs (tie)
2nd Runner-Up: Josh Mathews

Comments: Jerry Lawler can be funny at times.  Much more rarely, he'll actually make a pertinent and insightful observation about a wrestling match.  But mostly, he's just freaking obnoxious and I genuinely believe that, at times, he even has a detrimental effect on WWE's promotional effort. The problem is that Lawler's just so entrenched, and that it's not even like WWE has somebody ready to go as his replacement. The world's not ready for the Coach for 3 straight hours on a PPV, and you're deluding yourself if you think Paul Heyman's on WWE's shortlist for anything. My anger and frustration over recent Diva hirings and firings made it really hard to keep All The Diva Search Losers out of the #1 spot...  but I'm a caring and understanding guy, and I know it's not those girls' faults that they have jobs; it's WWE's fault for thinking they SHOULD have jobs in a wrestling company. Still, as nice and caring as I may be, I still don't really care about you if your only function in life is to get all dressed up like it's the prom and then stumble your way through some useless cameo or t-shirt-gun giveaway...  and some people say Josh is getting better on Velocity; but I don't watch Velocity, I just know that the toolbox I see doing interviews on SD! sure gives me the gripes. Making matters worse, for reasons beyond my ability to comprehend, Mathews has more wins on TV this year than Molly Holly. 

WORST FEUD OF THE YEAR: Undertaker vs. Heidenreich
1st Runner-Up: Undertaker vs. Booker T
2nd Runner-Up: Kane vs. Matt Hardy

Comments: Poetry, Bronco Crashes, and 20 minute PPV matches extending the feud when a 5 minute squash sending Heidenreich back to OVW would have been ideal...  this was truly one of the most soul-crushing feuds of the year.  But it wasn't the only suck Taker had to deal with...  nope, cuz earlier in the year, Booker T converted to voodoo for an embarrassingly-bad feud with Taker. The only good thing about Voodoo T and his magic baggie is that WWE realized it sucked after a few weeks and pulled the plug. And Kane vs. Matt Hardy is an easy #3 simply because it's the feud that, technically, encompasses Pregnant Lita and that stupid-ass wedding and all that. Awful.

1st Runner-Up: Randy Orton
2nd Runner-Up: John Bradshaw Layfield

Comments: I might just be doing this to be a prick and to make a splash, but I really feel strongly that John Cena needs to be punked out a bit, ESPECIALLY after the last few weeks of SD!. The guy went from the edgy, creative, and charismatic Future of SD! just 12 or 15 months ago to whatever shell of a gimmick he is today. John Cena went from being so cool fans demanded he turn face to a guy who is only oozing desperation; I mean, come on, his new t-shirt slogan is "Ruck Fules!"? HOW CONTROVERSIAL! I'd be embarrassed if I was Cena; not just because this is nearly as lame and misguided a piece of merchandise as the new line of "RandyWear for Ladies," but because even Cena's own staunchest fans *should* have to wonder "If he's rucking the fules, why's he such a goddamned pussy who switched those two letters around?".  Man.  And at a time when Cena's cool has evaporated to nothing, *now* is when SD! seems to be getting behind him.  He's got a customized US Title belt, and he's cutting promos pandering to fans and inviting them to join "The Chain Gang" (probably because "CenaManiacs" doesn't rhyme with anything, right?). Cena's now the "thug" that it's OK for 8 year olds to cheer for; and he'd better hope they do, cuz at this rate, nobody else will. Until tonight's SD!, I honestly had Cena #3 on this list, but I'm so convinced that SD! is getting ready to turn Cena into its signature star only AFTER robbing him of anything vaguely appealing that I bumped him up. And that, of course, bumps Randy Orton down to #2; I've spent at least 7 months trying to explain how I don't hate Orton, I just think he's being mishandled. Notice he's nowhere near my "Worst Wrestler" list... but he is way over-rated, and has not performed up to expectations at any point since his face turn.  JBL in the #3 slot is an easy call, too: for as much as others might feel the need to kiss JBL's ass for his character improvements over the course of 2004, that does NOT undo the dictionary definition of "overrated" nor does it erase the presence of a grand total of two (2) actual main event caliber singles matches out of JBL all year.  JBL got better over time, but kids, don't delude yourself, he's still in way over his head, and the only good thing about his WWE Title reign will be the day he loses it and goes back to feuds and matches where he's not asked to carry much more than 10 minutes of ring time at a stretch. 

"GODDAMMIT" MOMENT OF THE YEAR: Just About The Entire Great American Bash PPV (JBL wins title, Taker "buries" Paul Bearer doll in cement)
1st Runner-Up: Lita Takes Pregnancy Test, and the Suck Kicks Into High Gear
2nd Runner-Up: Randy Orton pins Chris Benoit at SummerSlam to Win World Title

Comments: I still don't know how this year's Great American Bash was allowed to happen the way it did. Well, actually, I did posit a theory, but that can't be right, can it? I can't remember being more genuinely flummoxed while watching wrestling all year long.  As noted above, I've isolated the moment RAW started its nosedive, and it was the June 13 RAW here in Dayton; the show as a whole was still pretty enjoyable, but that was the night where Lita found out she was pregnant. I bet at home, you all saw that and shouted "Goddammit." Live at the event, the response to Lita whipping out the EPT test was even funnier: a sigh, almost like we'd been collectively punched in the gut, and then silence. And Orton pinning Benoit wasn't really surprising, but actually seeing it happen was still painful. Nobody got dicked over more than Benoit (a grand total of ZERO quality stories/title defenses that didn't involve HHH after his win) and the night he not only had to lay down for Orton but then also get up and shake his hand afterwards was probably the biggest sacpunch of all.

WORST "REAL WORLD" NEWS OF THE YEAR: ...but TNA Has No Idea How To Produce an Interesting Weekly TV Show
1st Runner-Up: Brock Lesnar decides he's sick of wrestling, leaves SD!
2nd Runner-Up: WWE forges ahead with ubiquitous bullshit like Diva Searches and Tough Enoughs

Comments: This is the other end of the "Best Real World News Item"... cuz while it's nice that TNA got its national cable deal, they've done absolutely nothing with it as far as I can tell. The show was a useless b-show at first, and even since the end of TNA's weekly PPVs, still hasn't found a way to enthrall me. Given how badly I would love to have an alternative, there's no way the borderline-worthlessness of Impact counts as anything other than 2004's most frustrating news story.  I was also none-too-pleased with Brock Lesnar's decision to quit wrestling; the guy was my Wrestler of the Year for 2003, and still had room for improvement. Before the atrocity that was his WM20 match with Goldberg, let's not forget that Lesnar had a Match of the Year contender against Eddie Guerrero. The guy's amazing, and I, for one, would welcome him back to WWE in a second. And do I really need to recount the many ways that I hate the Diva Search and Tough Enough? They have no value as entertainment (none, zero, zilch, nada; even those of you who actually do soil your brain with Reality TV can't tell me that WWE's version is any good, can you?), and when you consider that the vast majority of the losers in the contests get contracts anyway, then WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU WASTING OUR TIME, WWE?!?  There are not words to describe how awful and pointless this shit is.  This had better not happen again in 2005.


And just cuz I'm a cocky bastard who thinks he knows about more than wrestling and wants to tell you about a few other cool things that happened in 2004, I present to you a few additional awards of variable importance, as is my annual tradition....

BEST MOVIE: I'm Not Even Gonna Try This Year
Sorry, kids, but after 3 years of picking some movie and putting it here, and then within the first few months of the next year realizing I was dead wrong, I'm giving up. Last year, I called "Mystic River" my favorite movie of the year, and make no mistake, I REALLY liked it; but then once DVD time came around, let's just say "School of Rock" is the movie that's had a good two dozen spins, and fer chrissakes, what was I doing picking the Best Movie of 2003 without seeing "American Splendor" until half-way through 2004 (that would almost certainly be my revised pick for last year's best movie). Why bother humiliating myself for a fourth year running? If I had to pick one, it might be "Collateral," but all bets would be off come April. I will tell you that by far the worst movie I saw all year was "Day After Tomorrow," though. And the worst money I paid MY OWN MONEY to see was "Resident Evil 2" (dammit, I've never even played the videogame, but the first movie was perversely amusing and had some pretty cool laser-assisted deaths, so I thought "What the hell?" and boy did I ever feel like a dumbass). Oh, and one movie I'm gonna make it my mission to NEVER see: "The Passion of the Christ." Don't think I won't pull it off, either. I stand before you VERY proud of the fact that I'm the last person on earth who hasn't seen "Titanic."

BEST ALBUM: Tyrannosaurus Hives 
The Hives second album easily cements them as lords of that little garage rock mini-fad that swept over MTV a few years ago. I mean, maybe the Strokes are still the most famous, but that's only cuz they're TV Pretty...  the Hives new record though just flat-out kicks ass, and I think trumps a number of other excellent albums that came out in a rather good year for rock 'n' roll. If I can trick you into checking out this record just by telling you that it contains the Best Current WWE Theme Song ("Walk Idiot Walk" for Red Headed Spaz), great, I'll do that... but honestly, that's not even the best/catchiest song on the record (I think "Missing Link" is; and HEY~! it's at least NAMED AFTER a wrestler!).  Best of all, this is one of those rare records that you put it on, and you fucking play it ALL THE WAY THROUGH, not one of these 3 or 4 good songs/8 or 9 filler songs deals (this is the fatal flaw that torpedoed Velvet Revolver's album, and even hurt my beloved Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's latest effort).   

BEST DVD: Rise and Fall of ECW
Because my mom apparently is sick and tired of having three bachelor sons, she went "off the list" a bit more than I'd have liked with things like the "Queer Eye" book.  Oh lord does it ever make me sad that *you* people probably know my sensibilities better than my own mom...  in any case, that left me to do some shopping for myself after Christmas, and I was finally able to check out the "Rise and Fall of ECW".  The wait, oh my brothers, was worth it. This is not a "Best DVD (Wrestling Division)" awards.  This was just the best DVD package I saw all year.  The main feature is tremendous and I'm just starting to scratch the surface of the additional bonus features.  I've wasted so much time with this that I haven't even gotten to touch the big-ass 4-disc "Return of the King" set that I'm sure will be very good and probably beat out anything else I saw all year in the Non-Wrestling Division.

BEST TV SHOW THAT I'M LATE TO THE PARTY FOR (a/k/a "The Rick's Family Guy for 2004") Arrested Development
OK, so I don't watch tons of TV. I'm not one of these douches who offers that up as proof of my superior intellect, or anything, and it's more like I probably watch as much TV as the average American in terms of hours invested, but I stick very closely to familiar ground. I won't dabble in new shows unless somebody I trust slaps me around for a bit. Last year at this time, I got my first look ever at "Family Guy" (on DVD), and over the course of the year, I've probably seen every episode a good 3 or 4 times thanks to Adult Swim. It's that good. This year, my brother verbally berated me until I agreed to watch "Arrested Development," a fine FOX comedy that, because of TV hermits like me almost didn't get picked up for a second season. Of course, after a couple episodes of Season Two, I felt like an ass for not watching the show sooner.  My brother was nice enough to avoid the "I Told You So" speech, and instead, he just got me the Season One DVDs for Christmas.  Man alive, I thought Season Two had been pretty funny so far (with one exception and one week where DVR screwed up and I didn't see the shows, Arrested Development this season has been funnier than the episode of the Simpsons that precedes it), but this show was even better last year.  Y'all oughta check it out. Before they get to Season Three. 

BEST TV SHOW THAT THE REST OF AMERICA WAS LATE TO THE PARTY FOR (a/k/a "America's Version of The Rick's Family Guy Experience"): Family Guy
See what I did there? I made an award title so convoluted and circularly logical that you just got lazy and assumed I said something REALLY deep and ironic.  All I really meant to say is that as late as I was to "Family Guy," I was still a BIT ahead of the curve.  The show was cancelled in 2002, but has been such a hit on cable this past year that -- get this -- FOX is bringing it back in 2005. Unprecedented.  I suspect the show will be a national sensation; even more so, I mean.

I can't, in good conscience, choose between these two fine television appearances. For video clarity, I think you CLEARLY have to go with my very own TV appearance during a Dayton Flyer basketball game (videoclip here; just note that there's probably about 3 old dudes, myself included, in the shot, blending in with the student section rather expertly... and yet somehow, I suspect you'll be able to guess which guy is your Humble Webmaster). But for Actually Being Broadcast Nationally and A Story You Can Tell The Grandkids, the award might also reasonably go to Erin Anderson. She was sitting ringside at RAW this past winter, and got more than she bargained for when Ric Flair's busy hands came a-calling (no videoclip available, but there's this kinda-grainy animated .gif that Erin uses as an avatar, and also this .jpg of the wideshot, that should give you the idea).

BEST VIDEOGAME (Guy Who Doesn't Even Own A Gaming Console Division): Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
You know that thing where I said I wouldn't cop a superior attitude over not watching so much TV? Well, I might kind of do that a bit here with the videogames. On the Constructive Ways To Waste Time Continuum, I'm sad to report that I put videogames well below television. But that's not to say I don't ocassionally get the itch... which is how I ended up spending about a week straight playing the new GTA on a friends 55" television back in November. It's lots of fun. Just driving around listening to the fucking radio is entertaining enough given the sweet soundtrack. So yeah, I got hooked on that for a bit. Awesome game.  And now, I'll have no desire to touch a PlayStation for another year or so.

BEST BOOK: "America: the Book" 
I could put some dense tome here in this spot, or perhaps some deeply important work of non-fiction to prove I'm smart. But you know what? Fuck it. "America: the Book" might be a comedy book -- a faux history textbook, actually -- but it's anything but dumb. There's plenty of dead-on broad humor so you'll laugh no matter how little you know about history and politics... but trust me, you got yourself a little bit o' book learning, and the thing is crammed full of special little easter eggs just for you and your big fat brain. I devoured about half of this book over Thanksgiving (my mom had it home from the library), before realizing that I was gonna have to have my own copy of it; so I put it down and started dropping the Xmas gift hints and... well, would you believe it if I said I rather magically ended up getting the book as a gift, and devoured the other half in the last few nights? Just awesome.

MOST DISAPPOINTING NEWS ITEM (Bar and Tavern Division): Management Squabble Causes The Rick's Favorite Bar to Start Sucking Badly, To Close Down Briefly, and To Reopen Under a New Name and Sucking Only Slightly Less
Oh, the Walnut Hills, I hardly knew ye. Well, actually, I knew ye pretty well, and I kinda liked ye for the most part. Until ye started booking karaoke and dance club DJs for no apparent reason. And now, it seems like ye's latest incarnation might be back to the way things used to be, except just with no patrons.  If I want to drink alone, I got plenty of booze in my basement.  Goddammit, why do most bar owners have to be such retards?

MOST DISAPPOINTING NEWS ITEM (Major League Baseball Division): Boston Red Sox Amazing Come From Behind ALCS Win Over New York Yankees... that is to say, Disappointing for YOU, Boston!
At year's end, everybody's falling all over themselves to reminisce about the Red Sox beating the Yankees, as if it didn't just happen 2 months ago. And I'm kinda surprised that the honeymoon isn't over... cuz you should have let us have this one, Boston. You've foolishly squandered a lifetime of good cheer from even casual fans for one off-season of joy.  You're nothing without The Curse, you're not lovable losers, you're not the underdog, you're not ever gonna be Ratings Gold for FOX again. You've shot your wad, and lost your identity. Mayhap you're still celebrating now, but wait till July or so, when you're nothing but the 2nd biggest payroll in baseball and STILL are the Yankees' bitches, and you now longer have any convenient Curse to blame.  Life'll suck for you Boston: for now, you've been cursed with something even worse than the Bambino... you've been cursed with HOPE.  Wasn't it less painful just KNOWING you were gonna lose every year? Trust me, come next October you'll be cursing the name of the person most single-handedly responsible for the Red Sox amazing 2004 ALCS comeback: Erin Anderson. It's true.

MOST LIBERATING NEWS ITEM (College Basketball Division): University of Dayton Graduates 3 starters, Has No Real Expectations for 2004-05
It's been fun being a sleeper team on the national radar the last few years, getting into back-to-back NCAA tourneys... but this year, hey, I get to kick it like it's 1996. Still fervently following my Flyers, but not feeling the physical pain of a loss. We're not supposed to be good this year, and somehow I've conditioned myself to cope with that without losing any of my enthusiasm. A 15-win season? A let down from recent years, but guess what? It'd make me happy.  Oh, and it goes without saying that after our 15-win season, we're still winning the A-10 tourney, getting our automatic bid, and making it to the Final Four. Because if I didn't believe that, then I don't deserve to call myself a Flyer Fanatic.

MOST NON-LIBERATING NEWS ITEM (Online Onslaught dot come Division): My 2004 Honor Roll is FINALLY Done... but the REAL Work is Just Beginning....
Christ do I hate this time of year...  this is just the start folks... next I'll compile the Consensus OO Awardies... then it's the State of the Union/OOpinion Rant on 2004... then it's the Month-by-Month Fly-bys for 2004... and I'm thinking we might need some more predictions from Scaiadamus again this year, too.  Why don't I just shackle myself to the PC?  The Big Ass OO Year In Review Mega Feature: I fucking HATE doing them, but I love going back and re-reading them so much that I can't stop myself from promising that it shall be done here in the next few weeks and that, gods willing, it'll kick at least a few percentage points more ass than last year's did.  Happy New Year, Everybody!

SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28



Rick Scaia 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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