Happy New Year? Where WWE stands after 12 months of sports entertainment

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New year, new look? Let's examine 2012 and see if the product is any better than it was 12 months ago.

At the start of every new year, I look back at my life over the previous 12 months and ask myself, "Am I better off now than I was 12 months ago?"

If the answer is "no," then I fucked up somewhere along the way.

At the very minimum, I should have at least positioned myself for bigger and better things or taken what is already good and made it great. With that in mind, I want to reflect back on the WWE of 2012 because it's been an up-and-down year, but one I believe ended much better than it started.

Let's begin by looking at the list of titleholders:

January 2012:

WWE Champion: CM Punk
World Heavyweight Champion: Daniel Bryan
Intercontinental Champion: Cody Rhodes
United States Champion: Zack Ryder
Tag Team Champions: Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne
Divas Champion: Beth Phoenix

January 2013:

WWE Champion: CM Punk
World Heavyweight Champion: Big Show
Intercontinental Champion: Wade Barrett
United States Champion: Antonio Cesaro
Tag Team Champions: Daniel Bryan and Kane
Divas Champion: Eve

Having Punk retain the belt works, because he's been able to transform his stale face gimmick into a terrific heel persona. To that end, he's much better now as champion than he was last year. The same goes for Daniel Bryan, who makes an exceptional tag team champion alongside Kane.

Team Hell No could be one of the highlights of the year and it's almost embarrassing to compare them to "Air Boom."

Remember when Kane was evil and trying to kill Zack Ryder while pulling him through a hole in the ring? And John Cena was saving him before smooching Eve? Garbage. Now, "The Big Red Machine" has re-invented himself and the "Hoeski" is a dastardly Diva + belt.

Better than Beth? Probably equal. But both are improvements over Smelly Kelly, whose tall, blonde and thin look went out with fat laces.

The Intercontinental title run of Cody Rhodes will probably be best remembered for re-introducing the white strap, a welcome addition, but this belt still feels lost at sea. It works as a breeding ground for future WWE champions but Rhodes did little to elevate its standing and I'm afraid Barrett could be a downgrade.

Barrett Barrage? More like Barrett Mirage. You think you see the promised land until you get closer and realize you're simply suffering from overexposure.

Just the opposite is Antonio Cesaro, who took a title that was so meaningless they gave it to Jack Swagger and made it a talking point. A foreign heel claiming he's the king of red, white and blue? I can boo that. And this guy knows how to work, too, which is why he's getting a much-deserved push.

Sorry, Zack.

What we lost in 2012:

John Laurinaitis
Mark Henry
Chris Jericho
Andy Leavine
Karma
Triple H's and Undertaker's hair
Beth Phoenix
Kelly Kelly
Bella twins (buh-bye)
A.W.

What we gained for 2013:

Ryback
The Shield
Big E. Langston
Ric Flair (sort of)
Damien Sandow
Paul Heyman
WWE Main Event
The Funkasaurus
Prime Time Players
Antonio Cesaro

I can't believe I'm saying this, but of all the things we lost in 2012, I'm most saddened by the departure of John Laurinaitis. When he debuted as a television personality, I couldn't stand him. He consistently flubbed his lines and had the personality of a dial tone.

Instead of trying to fix it, WWE exploited it -- and it worked.

Jericho comes and goes and while his return was well executed (Trollgate), his ensuing feud with Punk was hardly intoxicating (har har). Andy Leaving (not a typo) wasn't tough enough, Mark Henry pulls a muscle lacing up his boots and Karma was endeavored by her own personal problems.

The show must go on.

Thankfully it goes on with Paul Heyman, who instantly elevates anyone he works with. Ryback initially seemed like a dud (no thanks to Benny Camer and Stan Stansky) but the sheeple love chanting his goofy catchphrase and he's proven to be able to hold his own when it counts. The Shield? Um, yeah, TLC.

'Nuff said.

Damien Sandow is terrific but the jury is still out on Big E. Langston, as well as the returning Ric Flair. It may be too early for the former and too late for the latter. Perhaps they can ply their trade alongside the floundering Funkasaurus on Main Event?

All in all, I'd say we're much better off than we were a year ago. Especially after reading this.

That's enough from me, Cagesiders. Now I want to hear from you. Is WWE better, worse, or pretty much the same product it was 12 months ago?

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