First, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and say thank you for making Ring Posts one of the most popular blogs on baltimoresun.com.
Here are my selections for the best of 2008 in eight categories. I welcome your comments and encourage you to send along your picks.
WRESTLER OF THE YEAR: SHAWN MICHAELS
For most of 2008, it looked as if Edge was a lock for this award. Randy Orton and Chris Jericho also had strong years. Edge and Orton both missed some time, however, and Jericho didn’t really get on a roll until the second half of the year. From January to December, it was Michaels who turned in one extraordinary performance after another, both in the ring and on the microphone. A decade after entering into a four-year retirement, Michaels, who turned 43 last July, proved that he’s still “The Showstopper.” Technically, Michaels didn’t wrestle in many main events last year, but in the eyes of many fans, his pay-per-view matches with Ric Flair, Jericho and Batista were the real main events of the respective shows. On a couple pay-per-views, he didn’t even wrestle and he still nearly stole the show with his promos. As the year came to a close, Michaels began an angle with JBL that is somewhat far-fetched, but he has succeeded thus far in making it compelling.
MATCH OF THE YEAR: SHAWN MICHAELS VS. RIC FLAIR (WrestleMania XXIV, March 30, Orlando, Fla.)
A legend of Flair’s magnitude deserved a grand sendoff into retirement, and that’s exactly what he got under the bright lights of WrestleMania. For Michaels, it was yet another WrestleMania moment to add to his spectacular resume. From a technical standpoint, it was far from either man's greatest match, and it wasn’t even the best-worked match on the card. But the emotion of it being what most believed was Flair’s final match, and Michaels’ conflicted feelings over possibly ending his idol’s career, made it something truly special. The finish will go down as one of the most memorable moments in wrestling history: A dazed Flair, with tears in his eyes, struggled to his feet and gestured to Michaels to bring it on; Michaels, with a remorseful look on his face, said, “I love you. I’m sorry,” and then hit Sweet Chin Music for the win. Flair received a standing ovation and was serenaded with a “Thank you, Ric” chant as he made his way to the back, putting an exclamation point at the end of a career that began in 1972.
FEUD OF THE YEAR: SHAWN MICHAELS VS. CHRIS JERICHO
These two incredibly talented and savvy veterans brought out the best in each other in a program that had a very realistic feel and featured outstanding matches and promos. What really turned this feud from a good one into a great one was the heated segment that took place at SummerSlam, when Michaels, with wife Rebecca at his side, announced his retirement. The best verbal exchange of the year then occurred when Jericho demanded that Michaels tell his wife and kids that he won’t be able to wrestle anymore because of Jericho, and Michaels responded that Jericho needs to tell his wife and kids that their daddy will never be Shawn Michaels. Jericho tried to sucker-punch Michaels, but Michaels ducked and Jericho connected with a stiff punch to Rebecca Michaels’ face that resulted in a swollen and bloody lip. Michaels and Jericho wrestled each other on four pay-per-views: At Judgment Day, Michaels won clean in match before Jericho’s heel turn had been completed; in a bloody match at The Great American Bash, Jericho won in a UFC-style finish; in an unsanctioned match at Unforgiven, the referee stopped the match and awarded it to Michaels because a battered Jericho was no longer able to defend himself; and in a ladder match for the world heavyweight title at No Mercy, newly crowned champion Jericho prevailed, breaking a tooth in the process.
by Kevin Eck of Baltimore Sun's Ring Post
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