4CRwrestling.com presents: The 2013 Wrestler of the Year Award

by Billy Carpenter (@4CR_Billy)

With the end of a historically great 2013 in the world of professional wrestling came a plethora of year-end awards from various news sites, blogs, writers, radio shows & podcasters (I’m a little partial to this one myself). 4CRwrestling.com had plans in place for our own year-end awards but conflicting schedules, increased workloads and other commitments forced that to be pushed to the side. Still, I wanted to come up with something to celebrate just how great the year was and the simple answer was to crown a ‘Wrestler of the Year’. I took it a step further and wanted to extend invitations to those that I interact with on Twitter. Some of these writers & radio hosts are ones that I have a tremendous amount of respect for and I really appreciated their input, as well as the feedback from everyone who was involved. Plans are in place to make this an annual occurrence and tweaks will be made to deliver a solid, diverse and comprehensive list. Of course, a majority of the 4CR staff participated in this but I have to once again thank all of you from outside of 4CR who sent in a ballot. Before we get into the list, I’d like to take the time and introduce the participants, along with myself:

*Anthony Johns (@hailmegatron), co-founder of 4 Corners Radio/4CRwrestling.com. Host of the ‘4CR RAW Roundtable’ ‘NXT Level’ & ‘A Hero & A Villain’.

*Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida), founding member of 4 Corners Radio/4CRwrestling.com. Author of the popular ‘Suicida Appraisals’, co-host of the ‘4CR RAW Roundtable’ and author of ‘Wrestling in the Clinton Years’.

*Jacob Godwin (@Droppingbows), contributor to 4CRwrestling.com

*Murray Peterson (@MurrayDarkMatch), co-host of 4CR’s ‘Indy Project’ & ‘4CR After Dark’

*Dre Watson (@RealWorldsChamp), co-host of ‘4CRetro’

*Stephen King (@ChainsawKing), contributor to 4CRwrestling.com, independent pro wrestler

*Jaims VanderBeek (@JaimsVanDerBeek), artist, King of Twitter. Check out some of his work at prowrestlingtees.com

*Joe Lanza (@JoeMLanza) co-host of Voices of Wrestling podcasts, pro wrestling & MMA columnist and the best source for New Japan reviews here in the US (in my opinion).

*Rich Kraetsch (@richkraetsch), co-czar, co-host & managing editor of VoicesofWrestling.com and a basketball blogger/podcaster at the excellent Hickory-High.com

*Nick Gator (@NickGator), co-host of the Future Endeavors wrestling & MMA podcast. The show is available on iTunes, Stitcher & Spreaker.

*Rudo Reels (@RudoReels), owner of RudoReels.com, the go-to spot for collectors of lucha libre & puroresu on DVD.

*True God (@TrueGodImmortal), hip hop artist, host of WrestlingHeels Radio & TeamDAR Radio.

*G9Z (@g9zwrestling), hosts a great blog on all things wrestling at g9zwwe.blogspot.com

*Josh (@AmpifiedtoRock), writes about wrestling, MMA, sports & more at Keep The Noise Down and co-hosts the Brothers of Destruction podcast.

*Skits (@WHSKITS), founder of WrestlingHeads Radio & wrestlingheads.com

Now you know the players for this year’s list and like I said, there’ll be a less-rushed approach next year and I’ll be looking to add even more names to the above list. This year, the voters amassed an impressive list of names for consideration for the award. A few names were a little surprising to come across and of course, there were those names who seemed to show up on every list. But without any further ado, here’s the inaugural 4CR ‘Wrestler of the Year’ voting! Who’ll be crowned the best of 2013?

10. Randy Orton/Alberto Del Rio
 
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Martin (on Randy Orton)-“ Randy Orton finally did what we all wanted him to do in turning heel and in doing so became the “face” of WWE. After months of spinning his wheels as a good guy, Orton became the new WWE regime The Authority’s very own “Corporate Champ” and even closed out the year holding both of WWE’s biggest titles simultaneously, beating John Cena in the process. Inconsistencies in his heel persona aside, Orton appears to be reveling & indeed thriving having once again joined Wrestling’s dark side.”

Ant (on Randy Orton)-“Randy Orton had an interesting 2013, that’s for sure. Earlier in the year, he was stuck somewhere between fan favorite and least favorite as his character had been stuck in limbo. He was the “good guy” and he was never really comfortable with that character. Money in the Bank 2013 came around and everything changed. He won the Raw MITB match and who knew that he would have the end of the year that he did. At SummerSlam, after Daniel Bryan won the WWE Championship from John Cena, Orton decided to cash in his briefcase along with Triple H’s help and win the WWE Championship. After a few successful defenses, he would unify the championships with John Cena at the 2013 TLC PPV and become the first ever WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The year ended the way Randy Orton wanted and no one can deny that his legacy in WWE was firmly established in 2013.”

Nick (on Randy Orton)-“Not a personal favorite but Orton got back to the mountaintop with some of the biggest angles in WWE.”

Billy (on Randy Orton)-“The reigning WWE World Heavyweight champion missed my personal top 10 list but he certainly had a pretty damn successful year. He won about 65% of his TV matches, claimed the WWE title Money in the Bank briefcase, cashed in on an unsuspecting Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam and defeated John Cena at TLC to unify the WWE & World Heavyweight titles again (and he did it without help!). After treading water as a face for the last few years, he finally returned to being a heelish ‘Viper’ which was a much needed change. It just suits him better. Like I said, he didn’t make my list but I can’t argue much with him being here.”

Martin (on Alberto Del Rio)-“2013 was the year when I finally appreciated Alberto Del Rio or more importantly, what ADR could do in the ring. Even with a middling feud with the Big Show, a deeply uncomfortable feud with Jack Swagger & Zeb Colter & an in hindsight welcome heel turn one thing remained consistent: Del Rio’s ring craft was second only to Bryan at times. The character may have become a shadow of its former self in my opinion, but when called upon to deliver in the ring Alberto delivers. The apparent end of the World Heavyweight Championship means Del Rio will slide down the card, but that may be a blessing in disguise as he finds a more suitable role as the lynchpin of WWE’s midcard in 2014.”

Billy (on Alberto Del Rio)-“It seems that a big portion of the online community is coming around to appreciating Del Rio a little more, just like I have since his debut. He’s so good in the ring and I’d probably only put Daniel Bryan above him in terms of in-ring work in the WWE. His knock has always been that he’s just not a good “character”. He needs Ricardo Rodriguez again, and a return to the old music & entrance via leased vehicle wouldn’t hurt either. A brief face run which netted him the World title back in January failed pretty badly after a few weeks and he’d drop the strap to Dolph Ziggler the night after WrestleMania. An awesome double-turn at Payback however set Del Rio back on the course he thrives best at—being a ruthless, heartless competitor en route to winning his second World title of 2013. Some love him, a lot hate him but he made my list and is one of the in-ring highlights for me every week.”

Ant (on Alberto Del Rio)-“ A guy people genuinely love to hate, Alberto Del Rio’s 2013 was filled with World Heavyweight Championship matches. He was the marquee World Heavyweight Champion for most of 2013 and it was accompanied by his excellent in ring work and prowess. Does he have the best character in the business? No, not at all but his in ring work is something to be praised. 2013 was ADR’s shining year to show people what he was about and his feuds with Dolph Ziggler, The Big Show, Jack Swagger, and more made this the year for Mexico’s Greatest Export

9. Michael Elgin

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Billy-“When we did the first 4CR podcasts, we had a roundtable where we predicted who’d have big years in 2013. My pick was Michael Elgin, who’d come off a stellar 2012. 2013 saw him rise even higher and become the best competitor on the American indy circuit. Not a bad match to be had all year, at least not one that I’ve heard. There’s a reason every promotion wants Elgin booked for their event—it’s because he’s one of the best wrestlers going today. A Ring of Honor World title seems to be his destiny at some point and I’m kind of shocked that it didn’t happen in 2013. Regardless, he racked up titles & wins coast to coast and looks to continue the trend of excellence in 2014.”

Murray-“This Canadian behemoth solidified himself as a fan favourite in 2013 by completing a historic indie year. He won, and subsequently lost, the PWG tag team titles. If that wasn’t enough of Elgin in PWG for you, he also landed himself in the Battle of Los Angeles finals for a second year in a row. As well he made the finals of the Ring of Honor champions tournament. While there wasn’t much gold this past year for Elgin, his hard work and integrity was not lost by the fans.”

8. Roman Reigns

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Nick-“The young superstar and heir apparent in WWE.”

Murray-“If there is one man in the WWE who has received a push harder than that of Daniel Bryan, it is this man. When he isn’t besting records set from many years ago, he is spearing his competitors into next week’s edition of Smackdown. With natural ability and in ring charisma Reigns will become one of the next great superstars. Working with the Shield was the beginning for this man, but there is no doubt the end will be championship gold.”

Billy-“Coming to the main roster in a group that also included the former Jon Moxley as well as a former ROH & NXT champion, it’s amazing to see just how far Roman has come this year in comparison to his his Shield stable mates. That’s not a damnation on Ambrose & Rollins but my God, Reigns has become the clear “it” guy and will be one of WWE’s biggest names by the time we do this list next year. The first time I saw him on FCW TV, I wasn’t all that impressed. But that was April 2012 and this is now and he’s come along like gangbusters. Charisma, strong signature moves and a great appeal to all portions of the audience. Quite possibly the future “king” of the WWE.”

Martin-“ 2013 was Roman Reigns’ year. As part of a group containing Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins, both of whom just radiate charisma & ability, it was easy to dismiss Roman as just another “big guy” but slowly and surely, the hulking Reigns has become one of WWE’s more compelling acts. From being the power component of the team Reigns through sheer physical charisma has created a captivating presence that easily stands equal to (if not more than) his Shield peers. 2013 was were Roman Reigns came to the fore, 2014 looks to be the year he takes over.”

7. Sami Zayn/El Generico

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Nick-“The artist formerly known as El Generico had an impressive NXT rookie run including a match of the year candidate vs. Antonio Cesaro.”

Murray-“Another Canadian on this list having himself a breakout year. This year was a break out of a different variety for Zayn. His former life may have made him a star in Japan’s DDT promotion, and North American independents, Zayn immediately attached himself to the Full Sail crowd. With two highly underrated matches with Curt Hawkins, and a MOTYC with Antonio Cesaro, Zayn established himself as a competent worker of the WWE style.”

Billy-“I remember the reaction of Twitter when fans of El Generico realized he’d be shedding the mask as he made his way into NXT. I wasn’t worried though because the man was more than just a mask and he got the chance to break free of that this year. He immediately connected with the Full Sail audience and put on some fantastic performances. His feud with Cesaro was a highlight of WWE programming (and it’s still continuing in the early parts of 2014) and only helped in raising his stock. I imagine the rest of his time in NXT will be filled with more of the same and hopefully Zayn finds his way to the main roster in 2014, where he will no doubt catch like wildfire with that audience, as well.”

6. Shinsuke Nakamura/John Cena

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Ant (on John Cena)-“John Cena said after winning the 2013 Royal Rumble that this was his year. He had a down 2012 and did not want to repeat that. He went on to WrestleMania 29 and defeated The Rock for the WWE Championship in a redemption match and carried the championship until August of that year. Throughout 2013, John Cena has had some very good matches and has put on shows like no one else. This is part of the marvel that is John Cena regardless of the general opinion of him from “internet” wrestling critics. John Cena left in August due to injury but came back stronger than before as he beat Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship. In December, he would lose a Title Unification match to Randy Orton and would leave a sour note to what was an accomplished year for John Cena.”

Nick (on John Cena)-“The face of his company had major wins and losses that showed how important his presence is in sports entertainment.”

Billy (on John Cena)-“John Cena takes more shit from fans than any other top guy that I can recall. I’m not so sure that at this point it’s not just out of habit that he gets this reaction. He had some great stuff all year, including matches with all of your favorites (Punk, Bryan,etc.). I’m by no means saying he’s my favorite but I can respect what he does and the effort he puts in. Throw in a Rumble win, a WWE title win over the Rock at ‘Mania, a World title win & a good catalogue of matches and Cena had a phenomenal 2013.”

Jacob (on Shinsuke Nakamura)-“At the beginning of 2013 I didn’t know who Nakamura was, and now he’s one of my favorite current wrestlers. Nakamura is never not in character and has the total package from the way he walks to the ring, to how he delivers pain in the ring, Nakamura is a joy to watch.”

Josh (on Shinsuke Nakamura)-“Shinsuke Nakamura held the IWGP Intercontinental Title for the whole of 2013 save for a brief period of a month and a half.  Even then, his loss to La Sombra aired only on Mexican television and he won it back quickly at Kizuna Road.  Add in his charisma and his great match with Kota Ibushi in the G-1 and it’s easy to see why Nakamura makes the list.”

Billy (on Shinsuke Nakamura)-“There’s no one else I look forward to more than Nakamura. He has a Super Saiyan-level of charisma and there’s no wrestler right now with more. The ‘King of Strong Style’ had some of 2013’s best matches, including legit MOTYC with Sakuraba in January and Kota Ibushi during the G1 Climax. After an awesome and successful 2013, I have a feeling that he’ll be back at the top of the IWGP title picture later this year.”

5. Antonio Cesaro/Adam Cole

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Ant (on Cesaro)-“Here is a wrestler, in Cesaro, that some people had on their radar but he was a fading blip. He would wrestle on occasion and then he wouldn’t. He would be on the losing end of many battles but his rise in popularity really took place when he would travel to Full Sail University and wrestle WWE’s up and coming talent in NXT. There Antonio Cesaro would make a name for himself wrestling some great talent like William Regal and Sami Zayn. He would join Jack Swagger and Zeb Coulter in The Real Americans, adopt a new style and make himself stand out in the WWE. Technical wrestling runs in his blood and this man is a must watch superstar in 2014.”

Billy (on Cesaro)-“As good as he is Cesaro was pretty much treading water before getting sent to work in NXT for a little bit. A feud with Sami Zayn and a MOTYC with William Regal put some buzz back behind Cesaro. Oh yeah, and some match with some guy named Daniel Bryan on RAW didn’t hurt either. Teaming with Jack Swagger in a case of “we don’t have anything else for you guys right now” could’ve been disastrous but both men made the most of it and Cesaro “giant swung” his way to earning the cheers of the fans. He’s been one of the best in-ring talents in WWE for some time but it seems that Cesaro has earned the support of the higher-ups now, which bodes well for his future in the company.”

Josh (on Adam Cole)-“The American indies don’t tend to get a lot of love when it comes to lists like these, but Adam Cole is a worthy addition.  2013 saw him hold ROH’s World Television Championship & PWX’s Heavyweight Championship. He would later win the ROH World Championship and hold the PWG World Championship for all of 2013.  In addition to these accolades, he has continued to be one of the best and most consistent all-around wrestlers in independent wrestling.  If his size didn’t impress WWE, his work most certainly should have.”

Billy (on Adam Cole)-“The king of American independent wrestling had an amazing 2013, racking up or retaining title belts all over the country. He was also able to breathe some new life into ROH with his heel turn and subsequent ROH World title win. He’s in the proverbial “catbird’s seat” as far as the indy scene goes and it’ll be awhile it seems before anyone knocks him off.”

4. CM Punk

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Billy-“While CM Punk seemingly fell out of favor with a small portion of the fans online this year, you certainly can’t deny the year he had. He wrapped up a historically long WWE title reign, had PPV main events with The Rock, challenged the legendary Undertaker’s streak—and that’s not even considering his other matches. An all-time classic on RAW against John Cena, a marquee match against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam and a sort of forgotten match against Chris Jericho at Payback are the first ones that spring to mind. I personally didn’t care much for the almost generic face he’d become by year’s end but I can’t argue that he was #2 babyface in the company behind Daniel Bryan. If Punk never comes back, his 2013 isn’t the worst way to go out on.”

Nick-“The best heel in wrestling for part of the year and a major reason to tune in Monday nights all year.”

Martin-“Okay, so Punk may not have gotten a WrestleMania main event and found himself at arm’s length as far as the WWE title picture was concerned in 2013, but he got something far greater: The chance to challenge the Undertaker at WrestleMania after being part of one of my favourite WWE storylines in many years. It’s easier for me to recall Taker’s WrestleMania opponents throughout his career than the main events of those very same WrestleManias. That to me is true immortality, more so than any title match. 2013 may have belonged to Bryan overall, but WrestleMania belonged to CM Punk & the Undertaker.”

Jacob-“Last quarter of 2013 aside, Punk continued to be golden in 2013, always top notch on the mic and skilled in the ring. I’m rarely not entertained when Punk is on the screen. Even toward the end of 2013 when he was clearly half assing it, he was still entertaining.”

3. Hiroshi Tanahashi

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Nick-“The John Cena of Japan had a banner year and will only improve.”

Josh-“I’m not sure what can be said about Hiroshi Tanahashi that hasn’t been said a million times already.  His feud with Kazuchika Okada featured some of the best matches in all of pro wrestling in 2013 and cemented itself as one of the best in the history of the industry.  Despite not holding the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the majority of the year, he was still the top draw in New Japan and had great matches with Prince Devitt, Tomohiro Ishii, and Tetsuya Naito among others.  Despite injuries and a busy schedule, his work and charisma never really suffered.  It’s hard to imagine a list like this without him any time in the near future.”

Billy-“Is there a finer big match wrestler anywhere in the world? I’m not sure what else to say about New Japan’s ‘Ace’ that you haven’t already heard. Despite losing the IWGP title at Invasion Attack, he had another phenomenal year in 2013. He’s part of, in my view, 2013’s top 2 matches (IA & KOPW) and his matches with Ishii during the G1 & Karl Anderson at New Beginning were both right there as well. Plus, he tweeted my then-2 year old daughter, which is awesome. Tanahashi is an ultra-rare talent and watching him is always a joy.”

Jacob-“Tanahashi is a version of John Cena I can cheer for.”

2. Kazuchika Okada

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Josh-“Kazuchika Okada’s status in New Japan skyrocketed in 2013.  After winning the 2013 New Japan Cup, he went on to beat Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in a classic match at Invasion Attack in April.  As great as that match was, their rematch at King of Pro Wrestling in October may have been better.  Either way, he featured in the top two matches of the year and defended his title in matches with Minoru Suzuki, Togi Makabe, Prince Devitt and Karl Anderson.  Not even a disappointing showing at the G-1 can take the shine off of what was a year that solidified Okada’s place as one of the best in the business and the future of New Japan Pro Wrestling.”

Jacob-“I got in to following New Japan in 2013, by far no one has impressed. Me more than Okada. He had more than one MOTY candidate matches in 2013. In my personal opinion Okada is a better Randy Orton than Randy Orton. He could learn a lot from watching him work.”

Billy-“My personal pick for Wrestler of the Year. Okada just gets better & better every time out and has become a mega star in the process. After beating Tanahashi at Invasion Attack, Okada has been on a tremendous run ever since. He proved himself worthy of the IWGP crown and also proved himself to be a top-flight main eventer. The kicker—he’s ONLY 26! How good will he be in 5-6 years? We could be, and most likely are, looking at a truly special talent making his way towards becoming a legendary figure in the annals of puroresu history.”

And the first ever 4CR Wrestler of the Year Award is…

1. Daniel Bryan

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Martin-“2013 could go down as Yes!-teryear. All the way through the year Daniel Bryan really did it all, from running the WWE tag division with Kane in the early part of the year, sharing the ring with the legendary Undertaker, before dissolving his partnership with Kane & defeating John Cena at Summerslam and ascending to the WWE championship, albeit briefly. All of this backed by a deafening soundtrack of this generations’ defining chant. Bryan’s storyline momentum may have stumbled towards the end of 2013 but his fanbase remained rock solid and his ring work was always excellent and provided an entire highlight reel all on his own.”

Ant-“For wrestling in general, 2013 was Daniel Bryan’s year. No one in the world came close to in ring talent, fan recognition and praise, and popularity that Daniel Bryan possessed. His work with Kane in Team Hell No helped him into stardom and Daniel Bryan was one of those few wrestlers that made his popularity on his own. This came from his constant efforts to take down the WWE’s most ruthless trio, The Shield. He got his chance at the WWE Championship at SummerSlam and, regardless of the finish to the PPV, he beat the “Face Of The WWE” without any interference and put himself on the map. His infamous “YES” chant can be heard around the world in various venues and the aura it brings with it is something to be marveled. Daniel Bryan ruled 2013 and 2014 looks to be another break out year for The Dragon.”

Jacob-“2013 became the year of the beard. From the rise of Hell No, to winning the WWE title, to feuding with the authority, Bryan shined in the ring and went from someone that the majority of the fans could take or leave to a must see star leading entire crowds chanting YES! I’m not one who thinks Bryan is being buried, instead the machine knows exactly what it is doing and has turned him into the ultimate babyface underdog.”

Nick-“Two lackluster WWE Title reigns aside, this was the Year of the Goat.”

Murray-“This past year was a career altering year for Daniel Bryan. He was part of a tag feud with the Shield that revitalized and reestablished the tag team division for the WWE. As well he challenged and defeated John Cena at Summer Slam. Since obtaining the WWE Championship Randy Orton has yet to be able to best this meteoric star. Besides the opportunities that the WWE has given him, it is a rare day no matter who he wrestles, that Daniel Bryan has a poor in ring encounter. This consistency has lead him to being a household name.”

Josh-“ The best way to describe Daniel Bryan’s 2013 is to compare him to an internet meme or viral video.  You saw him and thought, “That’s awesome” and then every time you turned around, more people were saying the same thing.  Before you knew it, you couldn’t go onto Facebook or Twitter without your entire feed or timeline referencing Daniel Bryan.  Despite the perception by many that he was being “buried” (perhaps the most viral wrestling term of the year), Bryan continued to have excellent matches and work his way into WWE’s main event picture.  His match with John Cena at SummerSlam culminated in his pinning the biggest star in pro wrestling clean in the middle of the ring to win the WWE Championship.  Not even the WWE’s ensuing mishandling of the feud between Bryan and Randy Orton could take the luster off of his rising star.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him near or at the top of this for 2014.”

Billy-“The most organically over wrestler to come along since Steve Austin. On top of that, he may very well have been the most important part of WWE’s incredibly entertaining run during the spring/summer of 2013. He had a hand in reigniting the tag division, teamed with Kane & The Undertaker on RAW, beat John Cena clean for the WWE title at SUmmerSlam and became the most popular man in all of professional wrestling in the process. I’ve voiced my displeasure in how things played out during the fall and no, I don’t think all of it was some part of a grander plan. But the one thing that WWE maybe didn’t count on was the voracity of the cheers for this man that stayed around and forced WWE to re-evaluate their stance. As big as 2013 was for Daniel Bryan, that could’ve very well been just the tip of the iceberg. At the end of 2012, he was on Saturday Morning Slam talking about bears. At the end of 2013, he’s on the cusp of a legendary run and becoming THE man in WWE. Can’t argue with him having the top spot on this list. The Year of Bryan? YES! YES! YES!”

There you have it–Daniel Bryan is the first ever 4 Corners Radio/4CRwrestling.com ‘Wrestler of the Year’! A big thanks once again to everyone who participated and helped put this together. For those of you reading, make sure to click the links next to each of the contributors to check out their projects and to also follow them on Twitter. Again, I’ll be looking to make this list even bigger and better next year with even more contributors and more defined guidelines. What did you think of our first annual list? Let us know on the 4CR Twitter feed or on my personal feed. Thanks for reading and for helping to make 4CR’s first year such a success!

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