The Pro Wrestling Examiner has compiled a list of the top 20 WWE Superstars of 2012. Who tops the list? Well you scroll down but that would be cheating! Enjoy and share your top WWE star of 2012 by tweeting it to me @KevKellam
20. BRODUS CLAY
The Funkasaurus may not be as funky as he was when he debuted earlier this year, but his entrance is always a hoot to see on RAW. His overall feel-good nature translates to audience of all ages. The former body guard for rapper Snoop Dogg can still be physically powerful. There is just something cool about Clay when he yells "Should I get him?" before slamming an opponent with an over-the-head suplex.
In 2013, Clay will have to learn to some new tricks to keep his dancing fresh like his RUN DMC outfits.
19 SANTINO MARELLA
Some purists in the wrestling biz say “funny don’t draw money”. This critique may be applicable to the clown prince of comedy on WWE TV, Santino Marella. He may never be a main eventer, but gosh darn it, he’s fun to watch. His ridiculous mannerisms in the ring, his air trumpet marching, and of course the Cobra are all elements of the funniest act in the WWE. And when we have those rough weeks where the serious guys are being serious tough wrestlers guys, you just need some comedy to break it up. Cue Santino Marella and his green sock! In 2012, the Milan Miracle had some memorable moments like almost beating Daniel Bryan in the Elimination Chamber for the World Heavyweight Championship and winning the United States Championship. This Examiner’s favorite Marela moment from 2012 was the showdown between the Milan Miralce’s Cobra and Mick Foley’s Socko at the Royal Rumble.
18. WADE BARRETT
The new WWE Intercontinental Champion sat out most of 2012 with an arm injury that set him back from his rise back to the main event scene. Barrett was hurt outside the ring in Battle Royal match weeks before Wrestlemania 28, and it was immediately clear that he was not going to be part of the big show in Miami. Prior to the injury, it was widely rumored that Barrett was being primed to win a big match at ‘Mania 28, and now it seemed like the English star
Barrett was returned without a group like the Corre or the Nexus. He came back as an unforgiving and merciless ‘bare knuckle’ brute. His new finishing move the Bull Hammer helped establish him as a force to be reckoned with. It seemed like Kofi Kingston was getting the upper hand in the recent matches, but if you follow the headlines, you know otherwise. Barrett will have a big 2013 if he can stay healthy.
17. THE SHIELD
Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns broke out of the NXT world and into the WWE Universe in a big way when they attacked Ryback at the Survivor Seris, costing him the WWE Championship. The savage attacked helped preserve CM Punk’s year-long WWE title run, but more importantly it saw a real shake up on RAW with a new dangerous threat to all WWE superstars who think they are just. Their in-ring debut at the TLC Pay Per View delivered the goods as a worth-the-dollar table-cracking steel chair-smacking war with the Shield winning over Team Hell No and Ryback. The next year in WWE may belong to the Shield.
16. ALBERTO DEL RIO
The Mexican bad guy may be transforming into a Mexican good guy but he's still one of heck of a wrestler. Del Rio proved his pedigree as a member of a great wrestling family, by being able to have good match with almost anybody in 2012. Del Rio even got a strong effort out of the not-very-athletic Great Khali, but also got a concussion on Smackdown in the process. Del Rio had a big 2011, but certainly cooled down in 2012 with mid-card feuds and silly interactions with Hornswoggle backstage. Right now he's switch to babyface on Smackdown could position him for another run at the World Heavyweight Championship, a prize he's yet to capture in WWE.
15. RANDY ORTON
It’s hard to believe that Randy Orton who was once always in the top teir of the WWE is now relegated to just above mid-card status. Orton had a rough year with numerous break in his in-ring schedule. The Viper alos suffered numerous injuries most recently a recurring shoulder problem. Yet the biggest negative to Orton’s 2012 was his 60 day suspension for his second violation of the WWE Wellness Policy for failing a test of banned substances. So how in the blue hell did the Viper get on this list? He delivers strong performances in the ring on Smackdown and several Pay Per View like Survivor Series in November. The Viper may be recoiling off TV right now, but if the rumors are true that he may revert back to his evil ways, look out because things will get interesting very quick.
14. CODY RHODES
The man who was once ‘Dashing’ may have a creepy mustache now, but he’s had a year that may been lost in the shuffle. Rhodes had two separate runs as WWE Intercontinental Champion and nearly won the WWE Tag Team Championships last week with Damien Sandow. Rhodes though did lost the IC title twice and was out of action for a month with a shoulder injury, so that puts his ranking farther back on this list.
13. ANTONIO CESARO
The reigning United States Champion has been able to hold his chin up in his European disdain for Americans for most of 2012 as THEIR champion. Cesario who stormed into WWE on Smackdown and quickly earned his stripes as a singles competitor on Smackdown. He’s successfully defended the US title against numerous stars including R-Truth and Zack Ryder.Cesaro has also been able to give the fans explosive action with bicep-to-the-face upper cuts but his Neutralizer slam is one of the best new finishers in Pro Wrestling. Go to Youtube and look up Cesaro slamming the super-heavyweight Brodus Clay’s frame with the Nuetralizer on RAW earlier this year.
12. KOFI KINGSTON
It’s becoming a fact that if you see Kofi Kingston in the ring on RAW or Smackdown, you are going to get a solid in ring match. Kingston may still be looking up as perennial midcarder as a star who seems capable of more, but he still was very successful in 2012. His tag team with R-Truth was fruitful with a run as WWE Tag Team Champs. Kingston went on to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship, which he just lost this weekend. The Wildcat nick name may not be catching on, but let the boom continued to be dropped by Kofi Kingston in 2013.
11. BROCK LESNAR
The pop inside the U.S. Airlines Arena when Brock Lesnar made his not-so-secret surprise return was the stuff of legend. You felt the audible roar in the room. You could lick your finger, point up, and feel the wind change. The game was changed with Lesnar coming back and laying out John Cena on the RAW after Wrestlemania. Lesnar vs.Cena may have had a controversial ending but it delivered as one of the best fights of the year. Lesnar’s appearances on RAW may have been sporadic, but they were special. If Lesnar was on RAW, something was going to happen. In a day and age with WWE producing 8 hours of weekly TV, you want to know something of note is going happen. You get that ‘thing’ with Lesnar.
10. DAMIEN SANDOW
“The Intellectual Savior of the Masses” is one of the most entertaining WWE characters to debut in years. With new grappling acts like Japanese invader Tensai and the funk machine Brodus Clay being hit or miss, Sandow has risen to the top of the 2013 rookie class. His stellar microphone work where he hilariously insults the audience’s intelligence are becoming the highlights of Smackdown. Sandow is no slouch in the ring either, after having solid TV matches with John Cena and Kofi Kingston. Sandow’s partnership with Cody Rhodes has the best potential to out Team Hell No from the WWE Tag Team Championships.
9. CHRIS JERICHO
Jericho started off 2012 by returing to WWE in an hotly anticipated reveal in January with a silent promo and a glowing jacket that had everyone talking. He promised to “end the world as we know it”, and by ‘world’, he meant the world that was ruled by WWE Champion CM Punk. The two squared off for months in a grudge that played out at in uniquely engaging matches at Wrestlemania and Extreme Rules. Jericho reverted to his Y2J antics when he squared off with Dolph Ziggler in one of the best RAW matches of the year, where even in defeat he stole the show. Jericho was ‘retired’ in the loss, but there is a very good chance we will see the Ayotollah of Rock’nRolla in WWE once again.
This former Nexus thug became the rookie of the year for WWE by rolling over opponents for months like he was a steamroller. As “Feed Me More!” was roared from crowds in arenas across the country, Ryback stormed his way to the top of the food chain to challenge the WWE Champion CM Punk. A year ago, Ryback was just a muscled-up beast formerly known as Skip Sheffield and now he is one of the main eventers on RAW.
7. THE UNDERTAKER / TRIPLE H
This may seem unfair to let the Undertaker and Triple H on this list, considering he only wrestled once this year. Exception should be made because when he did get in the ring this year, he had the match of the year with Triple H at Wrestlemania 28. The match was captivating from start to finish and it reached that wrestling sweet spot known as “suspension of disbelief”. The Dead Man and The Game with Shawn Michaels adding more legendary credibility as special referee, reminded fans why they are the titans in the WWE Universe.
6. THE BIG SHOW
Show won the World title in December 2011 at the TLC Pay Per View, only for Daniel Bryan to cash-in his Money in the Bank briefcase and steal the title.someone comes along and knocks him off. Fast forward to Wrestlemania 28, Cody Rhodes was crushed by Show, dropping the Intercontinental Championship to him. Big Show tumbled through a table a Tables Match, giving the IC title back to Rhodes just weeks after his big ‘Mania win. This moment was the big story of the Big Show’s career, whenever it seems like the “World’s Largest Athlete” is finally on-top. When Show came back, he got angry with an ironclad contract and went bezerk. His program with Sheamus resulted in Show once again on top with the World Heavyweight Championship and one of his best feuds in years.
The Celtic Warrior shocked the Miami crowd at Wrestlemania when he won the World Heavyweight Championship in 18 seconds. Sheamus followed it up with a show-stealing 2-out-of-3 World title match with Daniel Bryan at Extreme Rules, where he retained. Though recently his story with Big Show has grown cold, it has has had some fun matches especially their Hell in a Cell title match. He evolved as one of the most over heroes in the WWE and a headliner on Smackdown even without the World title in the final months of the year.
4. JOHN CENA
John Cena is the WWE, so why is he not the number 1 guy or even the number 2 wrestler on this list? He lost at Wrestlemania 28 to the Rock in one of the biggest main events in history, when he guaranteed victory. He failed to defeat Punk for the WWE title, yet was one of the strongest challengers for Punk. His fued with former RAW GM John Laurinitis felt like it was a play-by-numbers feud with Cena’s win at the end to be far to predictable. And even Cena’s biggest win of 2012 when he won the Money in the Bank in July, was tainted as he would be the first man in WWE history to fail to win a championship with a MITB cash-in. It was not a banner year for the leader of the Cenation, yet he continued to be the biggest main eventer in the business.
3. DANIEL BRYAN
“NO! NOT DANIEL BRYANA AT NUMBER 3!” This may be controversial to have one half of the current WWE Tag Team Champions in such a high ranking, but remember we are looking back at all of 2012. Daniel Bryan had a huge 2011 and rolled into Wrestlemania 28 as the World Heavyweight Champion. Yeah, he lost the title in 18 seconds but remember it’s the whole year. A year where Bryan went the distance with WWE Champion CM Punk in a series of outstanding main events. A year where a wrestler who was once criticized on NXT for being boring and lacking charisma, had some of the funniest segments on RAW in a decade with his ‘Anger Management’ skits. “The World’s Toughest Vegan” had one of the most fun yet simple crowd chants of the year with “YES!” and “NO!”. With veteran Kane, Daniel Bryan has helped return the WWE Tag Team Championships to prominence.
2. DOLPH ZIGGLER
Ziggler has been saying he was stealing the show all year and he’s mostly right. He may have had some ups and downs in 2012, but the ShowOff had some of the most reliable wrestling on TV and PPV. He had memorable feuds with CM Punk, Randy Orton, and captured the Money in the Bank in one of the best Ladder Match of the year. He’s become a big player on RAW in recent months, because he’s just that good. Ziggler is the total package, and we don’t mean Lex Luger. Look at his characteristics of making every minute he’s on TV meaningful, his sound mic skills, his constant sacrifice of his body is daredevil action, and you got one of the top performers in the WWE in Dolph Ziggler.
1. CM PUNK
If you hold the WWE Championship for the whole year, you are number 1. If you consistently have some of the best main event matches on Pay Per View and TV, you are number 1. If you are able to turn any promo segment into must-see TV, you are number 1.
After the hangover of the Rock at Wrestlemania wore off, Punk's matches with Daniel Bryan were the best WWE stories of the summer. By the end of the summer, Punk gracefully turned on the fans who cheered him up the mountain and spit down from the mountain on them with his "respect" mantra. Just look at who Punk beat this year: Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Ryback, Chris Jericho, Kane and the list goes on. It's just like Ric Flair says, "To be the Man, you gotta beat the Man". In 2012 for WWE, Punk is the man. Love him or hate him, you have to respect the year that CM Punk has had.
Love the Pro Wrestling Examiner's Top 20 WWE Superstars of 2012 list, or do you hate it? Tweet your toughts to @KevKellam