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#45 - Brodus Clay
Brodus Clay's return to Raw following his Funkasaurus repackage is still one of the best memories of 2012 burned into my mind. After months of "we want Brodus" chants and worldwide Twitter trends, WWE finally delivered, giving the WWE Universe Brodus Clay... It just wasn't exactly what we expected. In fact, it wasn't anything like anyone had expected! What fans wanted was the rough and tough big man destined to rip through Raw's mid-card faces on his way to the top (this was pre-Ryback, remember). What they got was a disco-dancing-dinosaur.
Whether you love the outcome, or still protest the decision to this very day, Brodus has been effective. In terms of crowd reaction, he's actually one of the top faces on both Raw and Smackdown. And I doubt we'll ever forget the way WWE brought him back. It was almost as if Vince sat down with a team of experts and said, "alright...what will piss off the internet geeks the most?"
#44 - Magnus
Nick Aldis, or TNA's Magnus, is one of the best young talents in the business today. He's also one of those guys who has been around the company for too long without making a lasting impression. For what it's worth, there's a laundry list of British talent improperly handled by major wrestling companies; I still hold that Nigel McGuinness could have been one of the best World Champions in TNA history.
That being said, 2012 showed me more than anything why Magnus needs to be a key player for Impact Wrestling moving forward. His tag team with Samoa Joe was brief, but one of the best duos of the year. They showed surprising chemistry, and I was actually quite sad when they broke up for the axiomatic tag-team-turned-bitter-rivals bit. Too soon.
Magnus has more to offer TNA than most, and if he's not an established singles champion by the end of 2013, I'll be right back here to let them know how stupid they're being.
#43 - Mark Henry
2011 was the single best, most entertaining year of Mark Henry's career, and a bit of that newfound fire and passion he displayed carried into the early-goings of 2012. After losing the World Title to Big Show, en route to Daniel Bryan, he started nursing injuries that would eventually lead to his potentially permanent vacation. Before he left for surgery, Henry managed to have a rather underrated WWE Championship match against CM Punk that I've rewatched 3 or 4 times since.
I think I speak for most when I hope to see Mark Henry make his return in 2013. With a single year's performance he cemented himself as one of wrestling's best big men, both in the ring and on the mic. I'm personally not done watching Mark Henry, World Heavyweight Champion.
#42 - Randy Orton
Another Wellness violation for The Viper in 2012, but I can't say with any certainty WWE would have properly utilized those two months had he been around. Hell, if I were in Orton's position as one of the top faces in professional wrestling, being given mid-card treatment and no direction, I may have intentional broke the rules to get a few months at home with my family. I'm not insinuating or pointing any fingers, I'm just expressing frustration with how he's been handled.
That being said, I quite enjoyed his post-Summer feud with Alberto del Rio, several of his matches with Dolph Ziggler, and his program with Wade Barrett early in the year. He's incredibly overlooked for his consistent in-ring work, as are most veterans because we the fans have "seen it all". But when you match him up against the likes of a Ziggler, or del Rio, it's obvious he's still in the top tier of the WWE roster. With reports (read: rumors) that Orton is due for a heel turn in 2013, I'm excited to potentially see him return to a zone I've always found him more comfortable (not to mention, enjoyable). The Viper character is, by its very nature, a cold and calculating villain.
Whatever they do with him, I'm just hoping Orton returns to a program that feels important. He belongs at the top, every bit as much as Cena does.
#41 - Brooke Tessmacher
I'm expecting some anger from wrestling fans over my decision to place a TNA Knockout over Randy Orton, but when you look at Brooke's career in 2012 I feel it's justified. Two times the Knockouts Champion. Ranked #7 among the best female wrestlers by PWI. A marked improvement in the ring, and on the mic. And finally, a very solid break from her former mentor and BFF Tara that cemented her as much more than Extreme Expose eye candy.
She's come along way, and stood out in a dwindling women's division that can seemingly only focus on one person at a time, despite having two separate title divisions. In fact, her career in 2012 almost paralleled another lovely lady we'll talk about tomorrow...