Before we move on to our man of the year, a quick word on why we decided to choose a male and female wrestler of the year, rather than just one person. We don’t feel that, at least in mainstream wrestling, men and women get the same crack of the whip at the moment. They don’t occupy the same space in the same way. Are we happy about that? Definitely not. But we wanted to recognise both separately this year and, of course, we consider both male and female awards to be completely equal. If we’re still plugging away at this by next year, maybe we’ll change things around and make it a mainstream and independent award. For now, here’s our number one bloke of 2011.
The problem with American collegiate athletes, is that they can appear a little dull on the surface. During the years in which I spent large amounts of time trying to make sense of the magnitude that is American college sport, the bizarre and alien cattle market that is a draft proved my point. Neither college sports nor a draft system operate in British based sports. Every boy who ever held up his sateen professional jersey in front of draft day flashbulbs seemed as generic as the next. The thing about these kids though, is that they don’t need to be interesting and have sparkling personalities. They’re expected to court the media to a point, but ultimately, as long as they’re scoring points, they’re winning at life.
But what about collegiate wrestlers who want to make the jump from amateur sport to sports entertainment, where they can make some cash if they work hard and wink at the right people? How do you go from a place where only being able to move matters, to a place where you also have to sell the movement like an actor playing things up for those sitting in the cheap seats at the back? It’s not easy, especially if you haven’t had the benefit of learning the craft of audience engagement in front of demanding indie circuit crowds.
One man who has made that leap work is Dolph Ziggler. Dolph had a brilliant 2011 and is proof that paying your dues in the mid-card under various guises for however long it takes pays dividends. It doesn’t happen often, but Dolph Ziggler is a true all-rounder. The full package. In 2011 he was World Heavyweight Champion, albeit for just 11 minutes and 23 seconds. He held the United States Championship for six months, his mic work was continually spot on, his partnership with the magnificent Vickie Guerrero continued to be an enormous source of fun, his appearances on Zack Ryder’s YouTube show had us pawing at out computer screens and, most crucially, his matches never disappointed. We had no choice but to make him our man of the year.
Basically, Dolph Ziggler’s such an astute showman that, whether he’s in the ring or on the mic, people definitely pay attention when he’s around. Even his haircut and change of hair colour sparked all kinds of internet debate about character identity and branding. Here’s to 2012, Dolph Ziggler. We’re watching every move. But not in a creepy stalker kind of way. Not most days anyway.