This is the first in a series of posts that focus on the Very Best of 2012 in the world of Professional Wrestling. First up are my Honorable Mentions. The matches that are worthy of your eyes, but not quite the best of the best the year has to offer. They will be broken down by company or area of the world. All of this leading up to the Top 10 matches of 2012. Along the way, lots of highlights and some low lights showcasing 2012 in all of its glory.
2012 was the year TNA ascended from the absolute worst promotion in the Americas to…’you know what, they ain’t so bad!’…and I mean that in the most positive way possible. The turnaround for TNA has been quite remarkable. Instead of the often convoluted, swerve-driven storylines of the Vince Russo-era that often never paid off, TNA had scaled down their programs to consist of bare bones, logical, ring-based booking and it worked to great success. In the middle of the year, TNA had perhaps their hottest creative period of its existence. TNA’s flagship show, Impact, went live on Thursdays and it quickly went from trash TV even my DVR wouldn’t touch to one of the more consistent, well-paced wrestling shows on American television.
By year’s end, TNA had made its first real “star” since Samoa Joe, and maybe its biggest homegrown (and I say that loosely, as a fan of American Independent Wrestling) star in Austin Aries. Aside from Aries, TNA also established, strongly, homegrown performers at the top of the card in Bobby Roode and James Storm as well as rejuvenated efforts from veterans like Bully Ray and Jeff Hardy. All-in-all, a successful year by all accounts for TNA wrestling.
Before we get to the matches…some token superlatives…
Best Wrestler – Austin Aries
Best Tag Team – Bad Influence AKA #WTTCOTX (World Tag Team Champions of the World), Frankie Kazarian & Christopher Daniels
Most Improved – Bully Ray
Best Show – Destination X 2012
Best Unintentional Awesomeness – Christopher Daniels’ Appletini
Best In Show – The Ass of Miss Tessmacher and the oozing of sex that is Christy Hemme
*None of the following matches made my annual Top 10 Best Matches of the Year, but consider these worthy honorable mentions as the Best of 2012 – Honorable Mentions: TNA —
1. Bobby Roode (c) v. Austin Aries
Destination X 2012
The definitive match of 2012 for TNA. Not only did this match hit all of the right notes in the ring, but a quality story was told with a satisfying finish. Austin Aries had held the X-Division Title for nearly a year. He had run through the entire X-Division without flaw. By the time Destination X rolled around, Aries had become the top wrestler, the top promo, the top everything in the company. It was only natural he would ascend to the top of the card and make a run with the top title. He would be offered a shot at the title if, and only if he forfeited his X-Division title. Aries would not only parlay his ascension to the top of the card into a title shot, he’d put over the X-Division title in the process. Probably TNA’s best booking to date would be the rise of Austin Aries. Congruently, TNA would push World Champion Bobby Roode as a legitimate stalwart heel champion. He would become TNA’s longest reigning heavyweight champion, going over everyone with classic heel tactics. Like I said in the intro…simple booking. Going into this match, the majority of the pro wrestling fanbase thought, for sure, Roode would go over, as the direction of the company was looking like a re-match between Roode and rival James Storm for the title at the company’s biggest show, Bound For Glory a few months later. However, what would elevate this match is the right result. Aries would win the title over Roode in a great match. TNA made a new star. I marked out, I won’t lie.
2. Christopher Daniels v. AJ Styles
Last Man Standing
Destination X 2012
I would hypothesize that Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles have been feuding and/or teaming together in some capacity for over three years straight and five of the last six years. I don’t mind, because they happen to put on a good to great match every time they step in the ring together. They have great chemistry. As a friends, they are two long-time veterans of the American Indy scene and TNA. As foes, they have a deep history with Styles playing your classic face and Daniels your classic manipulative heel. Really good, basic stuff that always delivers in the ring, their Last Man Standing Match was no different. This was the blow off to one of the worst programs of the year, but the in-ring action made it tolerable. Ya see…Daniels and his new tag team partner Frankie Kazarian conned some lady named Claire Lynch into…you know what, fuck it…just know, the storyline was WrestleCrap worthy. This was the blow-off match and the end result was one Styles and Daniels most brutal matches to date. The match took a little while to get going, but the finish is well worth the journey. This wouldn’t rate as the best Daniels and Styles have to offer, but it is a worthy companion to a long series of matches. And, of course, the right guy went over, which always gets an extra thumbs up.
3. Austin Aries v. Bully Ray
Austin Aries first major foray at the top of the card came against perhaps, the most unlikely top heel in TNA. Bubba Ray has been around the business for almost two decades. A great tag team champion, but often considered overweight without a look for a singles run. However, Bully Ray has gotten himself in good shape and has since gone on the best singles run of his career and for most of the year, was considered the #2 heel in the promotion. In this feud, Bully Ray would do what bullies do, and pick on the small guy. Aries, the X-Division champ, would be put over as the small guy with no chance to beat the big, bad bully. I expected very little from this match, but it delivered big time. Your classic big bully heel versus your small fighting champion face.
4. James Storm v. Bobby Roode
Street Fight w/ King Mo as Special Guest Enforcer
Bound For Glory 2012
A bloody disaster worthy of a blowoff of the most heated feud in TNA. In classic heel fashion, Bobby Roode would take the World Heavyweight Title from James Storm late in 2011 and throughout the next year would thwart Storm’s every attempt to retain or get back into the title picture. Perceived to be for the World Title earlier in the year, as Roode was barreling toward a year+ long title run, it would simply become your token blow off due to the ascension of Austin Aries, but the result was still strong. Your classic trash can to the head, blood everywhere street fight, this match delivered on brutality with great spots and a no shenanigans ending that would take away from a clear, decisive victory for the face. Awesome, fun match.
5. AJ Styles & Kurt Angle v. Bad Influence (c)
It would be inappropriate of me to leave a Bad Influence match off the list. Tag team wrestling hasn’t had a whole lot of good matches in 2012, but this one was TNA’s standout.
Others: Austin Aries (c) v. Alex Shelley – Against All Odds 2012; Austin Aries (c) v. Samoa Joe – Slammiversary; Jeff Hardy (c) v. Austin Aries – Ladder Match @ Turning Point 2012
Disgruntled Disney Park employee in Maury Povich Storyline with TNA talent. Oh…and Appletinis. The bulk of the storyline lasted for months, but it concluded with this…