By Rick Nash
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They say the number 13 is unlucky for some. For WWE fans, it's been a year of mixed blessings. Older, purist fans will have felt, at times, like they're watching wrestling porn courtesy of the continued success of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk as top drawer talent. It's not all been great, though, as one must remember that the last pay-per view was the 456th in WWE history to be headlined by John Cena and Randy Orton. Perhaps 2013 was the year WWE began to take baby steps towards greatness again, or just appeased their hardcore base while their handpicked guys were on the shelf.

In the spirit of writing this year's legacy, over at the WWE Parties Ireland page (where we'll be announcing details for our ROYAL RUMBLE PARTY on January 1st) we asked fans to vote for their favourite moments and people of the year in a variety of categories. Some of the results may surprise you, some won't. Here are the winners and losers:


It was a landslide victory for 'The Biggest Party of the Summer', traditionally billed as WWE's second biggest pay-per view of the calendar, though until this year perceived to be languishing far behind WrestleMania as 'just another PPV'. This year, SummerSlam roared back in style headlined by two absolute money matches and a surprisingly competent undercard that more than held up its own end of the bargain. Daniel Bryan's challenge to John Cena's WWE Championship was one of those tantalising matches where WWE's teacher's pet takes on the Internet's darling, that come along all-too-rarely, always deliver and will constantly involve Cena as the fanboys' foil. It also had the added twist of a high profile heel turn, as special referee Triple H turned on Daniel Bryan and helped Randy Orton cash in his Money In The Bank contract in a moment that, while expected, didn't lose an ounce of awesome in its execution. CM Punk and Brock Lesnar tore the absolute house down in their highly anticipated tilt, with Lesnar coming out on top. Meanwhile the undercard featured Christian's (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to have one more title run with the gold against Alberto Del Rio, and Cody Rhodes solidifying his elevation to the upper echelon of the card in a great showing against Damien Sandow. When even the Divas match (between Brie Bella and Natalya) surpassed expectations, you knew something special was in the air. In fact the only negative from WWE SummerSlam 2013 was the lacklustre buyrate it drew, meaning market demands may leave us waiting a while for another night like this.

What You Said: "SummerSlam was outstanding. Especially heavily under the influence in the Woolshed." - Keith Fitzpatrick

Other Nominees: Royal Rumble (The Rock beats CM Punk for the belt while Cena wins a Rumble match highlighted by comebacks from Chris Jericho and The Godfather), WrestleMania 29 (Rock/Cena, Triple H/Brock, Taker/Punk), Payback (Del Rio & Ziggler do a double turn, CM Punk comes back and Cena and Ryback deliver a surprisingly passable main event) & Money In The Bank (two ladders matches, one card, this will always be a nominee in this category).




Two of WWE's best modern traditions combined to create one epic moment of the year that will live long in fans' memories. The Raw after WrestleMania, in recent years, has become almost as hotly anticipated as 'The Grand-Daddy Of 'Em All', with the combination of a hot, international-flavoured crowd (filled with people who'd travelled especially for the night before) and the 'anything can happen' vibe in the air now that the WWE's biggest disputes had been settled and new battles are on the horizon. On top of this, the Money In The Bank briefcase brings with it excitement and unpredictability, promising a title match to its holder that can be cashed in at any stage. The date was Monday 8th April, 2013 and the IZOD Arena in New Jersey was booming, chanting whatever the hell it liked and even sending new wrestler Fandango's theme song straight to the iTunes charts by singing it vociferously during his bout with Kofi Kingston. The night was primed for an explosion, and an explosion it got when Dolph Ziggler's 'Here To Show The World' theme boomed over the PA, drowned out only by the excited cries of fans who knew what was coming. Then-World Champion Alberto Del Rio lay in the ring following a successful defence of his Championship against Jack Swagger, yet within moments he was known as former champion, as smart fans' favourite Ziggler wasted no time in cashing in his briefcase to be crowned champion. Although his reign would later be marred by injury and he has since returned to languishing in the mid-card, the moment itself was unforgettable as it was one of wrestling's truly special moments that married the will of a hot crowd with exactly what they wanted to see. It says it all that this narrowly beat out fellow smart fan favourite Daniel Bryan's own title win at PPV of the Year, SummerSlam.

What You Said: "Has to be that moment from the grandest stage of them all....The Raw after Wrestlemania, Ziggler all the way to the bank!" - Seán Noble-Keegan

Other Nominees: Daniel Bryan wins, then loses, the belt at SummerSlam; The Rock wins the WWE Championship at Royal Rumble; Raw goes crazy the week before TLC; CM Punk finally gets Paul Heyman on top of the cell.



At first, The Shield mightn't appear like a natural fit: you've got Dean Ambrose channeling Heath Ledger's Joker, Seth Rollins as the crazy-bumping, rocker-looking indie kid and Roman Reigns as the muscle. But it's not parity that necessarily makes a tag-team great (otherwise The Usos would dominate the division for years to come), it's that the sum of their parts is greater than the whole. I've spoken before about how, during my wrestling days, I sought to carve a niché for myself as a tag-team specialist, and I remember how I was told at first by several people how I would have no chemistry with the guy who would go on to be my longest and best tag-team partner: I was a typical 20-year old party-goer who loved chasing women in clubs, he was a teetotaller who was pretty shy around ladies. Apples and oranges. In the ring, though, I loved to be hyper and charismatic and work the crowd into a frenzy, while he was a workhorse who could do athletic stuff that I couldn't dream of. That, to me, is the essence of a tag-team/stable foundation: together you form a complete entity by filling in any blanks your partners may have. And I've previously broken down in detail how The Shield take this approach into the ring and make it work. Let's face it: The Shield never have a bad match. And, in wrestling, everyone has bad matches from time-to-time! The reason for The Shield's perfect streak is because the foundation is so solid, the theory behind them so strong, that it's a can't miss formula. Ambrose can show up to the ring not feeling it one night, but Reigns and Rollins will more than make up for it. If WWE do go ahead with the split it appears is in the pipeline, let us take a moment to remember how great this past 15 months have been since 'The Hounds of Justice' re-introduced us to the art of tag-team wrestling.

What You Said: "Have to go for the Shield as a group they have had a savage year as opposed to Goldie and Cody who've only been going a few months" - Stephen Minihane


Other Nominees: Cody Rhodes & Goldust (close and worthy runners-up), The Wyatt Family, The Usos, Team Hell No.


The Rookie of the Year award (which consisted of characters, rather than wrestlers themselves, who debuted last year) turned into a surprisingly competitive one, with Wyatt nicking the win at the death over closest rival Fandango. The latter seemed set for a landmark year after a successful debut against Chris Jericho at WrestleMania, followed by the aforementioned night after on Raw which saw fans take his cheesy, ballroom-dancing theme song to their hearts in a campaign that would end with it charting on iTunes, but an injury shortly thereafter struck a crushing blow to his momentum and he has languished since. Wyatt, on the other hand, was too compelling to miss any TV time, despite suffering a similar fate shortly after his character's debut as head of cult-like Wyatt Family. The leg injury allowed Bray to focus on a newfound strength of his: mic work, a talent that had gone unnoticed during his previous (brief) tenure in WWE under the Husky Harris moniker. Rarely, if ever, has one superstar been so at one with the much-maligned scripted promo process of 21st century WWE. What passes for cantankerous melodrama out of the mouth of some seems sublimely spooky when uttered by Wyatt who, flanked by Luke Harper (formerly Brodie Lee) and Erick Rowan, seems primed to take over as leader of the dominant stable in the company once the inevitable Shield split happens. The biggest testament to how well he is doing is that, despite the fawning for The Shield as exhibited in the above category, nobody seems to be begrudging Wyatt for inheriting their sacred spot. A sustained run of stellar in-ring work is still needed to give them the depth to back up their talk, but after stealing the show at TLC in a handicap match against Daniel Bryan, they seem well capable of holding up that end of the bargain. "We're here," says Bray to mark the trio's ominous arrival to the ring, and it appears that The Wyatt Family have indeed arrived.


What You Said: "Bray Wyatt. Was going to say Eva Marie as a joke, but I couldn't bring myself to do it." - Mark K Doyle

Other Nominees: Fandango, Curtis Axel, Eva Marie, Los Matadores.



Things were looking bleak for Dustin Runnels, if you followed him on Twitter. At the age of 44, it appeared that the wrestling career of the son of legendary Dusty Rhodes and brother of current star Cody Rhodes had ground to a halt. Goldust was never a main event character anyway, at best he was an intriguing sideshow in his early run with WWE in the mid-90's, more recent runs had seen him as some fun but fluff comic relief. Fans had always enjoyed his work, but even his biggest admirers were clueless where he could fit into the WWE universe in 2013. At times he hawked merch on Twitter, sounded fans out about hosting seminars/live Q&As (with, depressingly, no announcements forthcoming), at his lowest ebb he'd occasionally even reach out to The Rock in public and ask openly for movie extra roles, hoping perhaps that seeing his name would trigger a flicker of nostalgia in Dwayne's brain and he'd hook him up for old times' sake. What else had he to lose? As someone who met plenty of old-timers like this (and toured with the guy the movie was allegedly based on), trust me when I say that The Wrestler was an uncomfortably accurate movie for many veterans of Runnels' ilk who fail to find their second calling after their career ends.

Then things changed. Cody was getting some buzz for consistently outstanding singles performances, but he had a wedding and honeymoon coming up, so WWE opted to use this as a chance to give him a storyline with on-screen COO Triple H, where he was 'fired' after losing a match to Randy Orton. Being big advocates of social media, WWE had obviously taken note of Dustin cheering on his brother on Twitter every week. It didn't seem like it was a long-term gameplan on his part or anything, just an effort to show support for his brother. Even in Dustin's most optimistic dreams (of starring in the next Fast & Furious sequel) he couldn't have seen this coming. Because before he knew it he was on Raw, stealing the show in an emotionally charged match against WWE Champion, Orton. Then he was on PPV, wrestling The Shield alongside his brother, with father Dusty in their corner cheering them on. And, in one of the most genuinely emotional charged moments of WWE programming this year, they won. Not just the match, they wrestled in a Match of the Year contender, and their family embrace on-stage to their father's legendary 'American Dream' theme song will live long in the memories of those who saw it. Soon they were tag-team champions. And, in a matter of weeks, one of long-time WWE fans' cult favourite remnants of the past was back. But not only was he back, he was finally a serious wrestler, performing in better matches than he ever had, being taken seriously with his face-paint serving as a nostalgic throwback rather than the running joke it had seen him treated as before. In the most unlikeliest of fashions, Dustin Runnels had been given an inch by WWE and he had run a mile. And when we opened the voting for this category, it wasn't even close. Welcome back Goldust.


What You Said: "Goldust: never though he'd be that good." - Adrian Barry


Other Nominees: Chris Jericho (at Royal Rumble), CM Punk (at Payback), Rob Van Dam, Rey Mysterio.


When compiling any kind of list or award nominees, a certain amount of controversy and dispute is inevitable, simply because you're limited to a certain amount of choices or criteria. Stephen Bergin made a valid criticism in the vote for this one, arguing, "Can't vote for this ... Not one match with (Daniel Bryan) in a match of the year listing !!! The man could wrestle a paper bag and manage a 3 and a half star match." Yet think back and it's tough to pick a standout match that Daniel Bryan had that bettered the other nominees (listed below). Before August, he spent much of the year as a show-stealing midcarder in a comedy tag-team. His series with Randy Orton failed to produce a standout match (ironically with their best effort being their recent Raw match, which had zero build) due to the storyline in each match being overly-complicated. The John Cena title match at SummerSlam sticks in the memory, the unfortunate thing being that the Randy Orton and Triple H angle afterwards is what we'll remember more than the actual match itself, which you may remember was somewhat subdued, over-awed by the anticipation perhaps and overshadowed by what came before it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your Match of the Year: CM Punk's epic, No Holds Barred showdown at SummerSlam with Brock Lesnar. A match that will go down in history as somehow stealing the show from the biggest moment of 2013's undoubted show-stealer (and no, I don't mean Dolph Ziggler).

Since his 2012 return on a part-time basis, Lesnar didn't appear to have missed a beat in the ring, except for one thing: he seemed to have forgotten that keeping your opponent safe was pretty important (most memorably, for me anyway, nearly beheading The Miz when he threw a steel chair out of the ring right onto a prone Miz's neck). We're fans though, so we don't particularly have to care about his reckless abandon, it simply added an extra dimension to his game. As a result his feuds with John Cena and Triple H became an intense thrill, but it was his showdown with Punk that utilised the former UFC Champion's new edge to full effect. Lesnar double-stomped his foe on the concrete, manhandled him onto the announce table and annihilated his back with a steel chair. Brock's evil genius cornerman Paul Heyman got some measure of comeuppance as Punk locked his former manager in the Anaconda Vice. Punk kicked out of the F5 and Lesnar kicked out of the GTS. Both men went to all-out war and left fans hanging on the edge of their seats for the match's entire 30-minute duration. And even when Lesnar had his hand raised at the end, the match only served to leave you thinking that both men were absolute bad asses, the mark of a truly great wrestling match.

Maybe Punk's year (which saw him nominated in this category for three equally-deserving matches in total - coincidentally he lost all three) is a testament that you don't need to be in the last match on the card to have the best match. As Bill Watts used to say "Personal issues make money", so give a great wrestler a solid story to tell in the ring, time to tell it and a believable personal issue to talk people into the building and it's everything we've come to love about Punk: the perfect blend between the old school and new age. Add the unpredictability and credibility of Brock Lesnar to the mix and, well, you've got yourself a surefire Match of the Year.

What You Said: "Brock Punk was an insane match that has the whole Woolshed on the edge of its seat. That gets my pick." - Stephen Minihane

Other Nominees: John Cena vs. CM Punk (Raw - 25/02), The Undertaker vs. CM Punk (WrestleMania), Wade Barrett vs. Jack Swagger vs. Antonio Cesaro vs. Fandango (Money In The Bank Ladder Match), Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. The Shield (Battleground).


Who else could it be?

The funny thing is, 2013 wasn't meant to be Daniel Bryan's year. He found himself, as the year began, in a tag-team that wasn't even meant to be a tag-team. Team Hell No (with Kane) was originally formed as some short-term comic relief, which ended up becoming the highlight of most of WWE's programming at the time. Daniel Bryan has a habit of doing that.

And when the Kane tag-team had finally run its course, people speculated that it would be the end of Daniel Bryan's time in the limelight, just as they had when he lost the World Championship in 2012. But Bryan clung on to relevancy and rose to the top of the card in the same way that legends before him like Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels (his trainer) and Macho Man Randy Savage had: he had the best match on the card every night. He got the biggest reactions. He put in the kind of shift every single time he stepped into the ring that made him unforgettable.

Even then, his back was against the wall: some say he wouldn't have had a sustained run at the top if not for John Cena's tricep injury. It still is: Vince McMahon reportedly soured on him after the SummerSlam PPV that he headlined drew a lacklustre buyrate. And yet there he is, standing in the ring alongside Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, John Cena and Randy Orton as WWE try to sweep his run to the side like it never happened, and those fans won't let the segment go-ahead until WWE are forced (through Triple H) to acknowledge their "YES!" chants. They say you get out of wrestling what you put in. Daniel Bryan put everything into his in-ring performances this year, and this is his reward now. Fans simply won't allow the show to go ahead unless he's at the centre of it all.

This was supposed to be the era of Punk. He was the chosen one to keep the Internet fanboys happy. WWE eventually bowed to our will and he was granted the longest title reign in a decade and prominent feuds with The Rock and Undertaker as a result. Yet despite the fact that we still love Punk, it's not him who's been getting the most insane crowd reactions since Stone Cold Steve Austin was at his peak, it's that small guy with the weird beard who chants "YES!" a lot and, oh, he just happens to work harder than everyone else in the building.

2013 was a year that saw Goldust make the most remarkable and unlikeliest of comebacks, it was the year where AJ Lee staked her claim as a potential future Hall of Fame Diva, one that saw John Cena possibly accepted by even his strongest of haters after WWE programming just wasn't the same without him, and one that saw Randy Orton finally find his true character in the ring as he unified the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships. But are any of those what we'll remember from 2013 in years to come?


Was Daniel Bryan a landslide winner in our vote for Wrestler of the Year?

What You Said: "This is a no brainer, yes yes yes!" - Mark Connors

"Even though I love Punk, it has to be DB, YES YES YES!!!!" - Conor McKillion

"Daniel Bryan YES YES YES!!!!" - Stephen Minihane

Other Nominees: CM Punk, Goldust, AJ Lee, John Cena, Randy Orton.

Rick Nash is a former professional wrestler who currently runs WWE Parties Ireland (hosting large scale events for big WWE pay-per views in Dublin). He's also a DJ and terrible sports gambler, so feel free to share any WWE thoughts or sports tips with him on Twitter.

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