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#30 - Tara
At 41-years-old, the current TNA Knockouts Champion is still one of the best women in the business. In terms of her wrestling ability, she's second-to-none; a true veteran ring general who has always hung with the elite. And after almost 13 years in the business, she's still re-inventing her character as the face of women's wrestling in her promotion. As a current Chicago transplant, she's also got a big crush on my favorite windy city, so there's that...
Tara (real name: Lisa Marie Varon) put Miss Tessmacher on the map in mid-2012 with a perfectly crafted heel turn, and a series of quality pay-per-view matches. And while many fans probably cringed at the idea of coupling her with Mr. Pectacular, their on-screen relationship has been, in this writer's opinion, fantastic. It gives Jesse something to do while learning the business, and adds even more depth to the champ's character.
#29 - Alberto del Rio
Alberto del Rio is one of the most under-rated performers in WWE, in that he is surrounded by a black cloud of negativity from fans that remember several of his 2011 blunders. To be fair, putting him in a feud with CM Punk was a really, really bad idea. It exposed some of his weaknesses, and Punk's fans just weren't receptive to his WWE Championship reign coming to an end. But 2012 has been a completely different year for del Rio.
Let me ask a question: when was the last time ADR wrestled a bad match? There are only a small handful of guys that are better inside the ropes than del Rio; in fact, Daniel Bryan might just be the only guy who is hands down more technical. An entire summer of great matches with Sheamus went overlooked because their program was "too generic". His impressions of Randy Orton remain some of the more hilarious material of 2012. If WWE pulls the trigger and makes him a full-fledged face, he could go all the way to the top with Ricardo by his side.
#28 - Damien Sandow
It's really hard to believe that the clean-cut Idol Stevens has managed to be repacked into this overwhelmingly successful, full-bearded heel we all know and love as Damien Sandow. It's probable many of you didn't even know the two are the same. You're welcome.
As soon as his music hit on Raw 1,000 and he made his way out to be "eviscerated and disposed of like common trash" by Degeneration X, I knew WWE had big plans for this guy. And why not? He's a great wrestler, a charismatic character and has joined forces with Cody Rhodes to bring intellectual prosperity to WWE's tag team division. And all since April of this year...
#27 - Santino Marella
One of my favorite moments of 2012 came at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, as Santino Marella came within inches of winning the World Heavyweight Championship just weeks before WrestleMania. It's said that a good crowd can change the fate of any wrestler; it was true of Zack Ryder at Survivor Series, and the magic happened again for Santino when he won a Smackdown Battle Royal to replace Randy Orton in the aforementioned Chamber match. I was literally on my feet, hands on my head when he executed The Cobra on Daniel Bryan; it was a moment I'll never forget.
Here is this comedy character that few have ever, or will ever take seriously. He wears a sock puppet on his hand, that he takes from his tights, and jabs his victims in the face. It's also worth noting that he dances around and pretends to play the trombone in celebration. He's goofy looking, and "won" his contract by fluke after being chosen "at random" from the audience. But nobody ever took Dude Love seriously either... Santino may never be a World Champion, and sadly he may never be a Hall of Fame pro wrestler, but he has this way of electrifying his fans and inspiring tens of thousands of people to cheer for him, no matter how ridiculous you may feel after the fact. I'm a fully grown man, and on more than one occasion I've found myself chanting from Santino at a live WWE event. He's got the magic, and that's why he's #27 on this list.
#26 - Kurt Angle
2011 was a pretty big year for Kurt Angle, winning the World Heavyweight Championship and putting on clinics with Jeff Jarrett in one of the more personal rivalries wrestling has ever witnessed. In 2012 I feel Angle hasn't been a key player in terms of the Impact Wrestling story progression, but he holds this spot on our list because as always, he continues to be one of the best professional wrestlers on the planet. Additionally, this year more than ever before, the Olympic Gold Medalist did his job as a veteran and put over those who needed it.
He gave Jeff Hardy his first huge win on the road to redemption, both in story and in the eyes of his TNA fans. He put AJ Styles over, and then partnered with him to put over Christopher Daniels and Kazarian. The four of them had not one, but two Match of the Year candidates in grand tag team fashion. And while many may discredit the importance of guys like Wes Brisco and Garrett Bischoff, he's now doing his part to build them up as legitimate; not to mention his work with Devon and the rest of the Aces & Eights. Kurt Angle can make any man, and any match look good.