On last week’s episode of Raw, CM Punk was outraged that John Cena won the “Superstar of the Year Award,” and to be honest, he has every reason to be.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Cena won because the fans voted for it. But if the award was legitimate, there’s no way Cena would have won it.
After all, as Punk said, Cena had arguably the worst year of his career in 2012. OK, maybe not, but at the very least, Cena had his worst year since becoming a top guy back in 2005.
Cena’s 2012 got off to a really rocky start with an absolutely abysmal feud against Kane—the infamous “embrace the hate” storyline that tops my list of the WWE’s worst angles of the year.
His matches against Kane at both The Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber rank among the worst pay-per-view matches of 2012, and once that feud ended, he reignited his rivalry with The Rock.
Their rivalry was very good, and their match at WrestleMania 29—though it may have fallen slightly short of some expectations—was still great. The problem for Cena, however, was that he lost what was undoubtedly the biggest match of his career.
Things would get better for Cena when he picked up a huge win over Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules, even though he was dominated for 95 percent of the match.
The match itself was one of the most unique WWE matches we’ve ever seen, and it was certainly one of the best matches of 2012, but things kind of began to fall apart for Cena shortly after Extreme Rules.
That’s when he ignited a rivalry with then-Raw GM John Laurinaitis and faced him in the main event of Over the Limit in May. Cena would lose the match after interference from The Big Show, and the match itself was one of the worst PPV main events in WWE history.
Big Show’s interference would ignite a feud between Big Show and Cena that resulted in another awful Big Show/Cena match at No Way Out, a bout that was won by Cena after a boatload of interference from outside parties.
Cena’s victory over Big Show ended what was—aside from his match with The Rock—a pretty terrible first half of 2012 for “The Champ.”
He would, however, start the second half of the year on a better foot by winning the Money in the Bank briefcase at the self-titled PPV. Unfortunately for Cena, he became the first person to ever lose his cash-in match when Big Show interfered in his match against CM Punk at Raw 1000.
The events of that show ultimately led to a Triple Threat match between Cena, Punk and Show at SummerSlam, a decent match that Cena lost despite hitting his finisher on Show and not taking the pin.
Due to the finish of that match, Cena got himself another WWE Championship match against Punk at Night of Champions in September. This match was arguably the highlight of Cena’s 2012.
It was another instant classic between Punk and Cena, but once again, Cena didn’t win the match and left the show without the WWE title.
Elbow surgery caused him to miss Hell in a Cell, and at Survivor Series, he lost yet another WWE title match, this time being pinned by Punk in another Triple Threat match also involving Ryback.
Still, that didn’t prevent Cena from getting yet another opportunity to earn a World Title match. The circumstances of Cena’s involvement with AJ Lee and the supposed “scandal” between the two led to Cena facing Ziggler for Ziggler’s MITB briefcase at WWE TLC earlier this month.
Although it didn’t come without controversy, Cena lost that match as well, meaning that he would end 2012 without capturing a World Title for a full calendar year—something that most of us thought would never happen again.
Looking back, though, Cena ending 2012 without winning a World Title was a fitting end to what was a very rough year for him.
In terms of the quality of his matches, it was a great showing for Cena in 2012. His PPV matches with The Rock, Lesnar and Punk will rank among the very best bouts of the year when it’s all said and done.
When looking at Cena’s year overall, however, it wasn’t what you would expect out of the WWE’s top guy.
Instead, it was a year that was marred by ridiculous and poorly booked storylines, most notably the “embrace the hate” angle and the “scandal” involving AJ Lee.
Although Cena is still the unquestioned top guy in the WWE, he has been booked in some absolutely atrocious angles this year that you wouldn’t expect to see a major star have to go through.
It wasn’t just the lame soap opera-like angles involving Kane, Zack Ryder, AJ, Eve and Ziggler. It was also the poorly booked feuds and matches.
Cena’s match against Laurinaitis at Over the Limit was a complete joke, and his match against Big Show at No Way Out wasn’t much better. These two feuds dominated most of Cena’s summer and failed to produce very much entertaining programming whatsoever.
Although Cena would recover with a strong PPV match (at Night of Champions) and a rivalry with Punk, his elbow injury put a major damper on his year, as has his romance angle with AJ Lee.
For whatever reason, the WWE just hasn’t given Cena much to work with in 2012, and despite his continued greatness in big matches, he’s been in a bit of a slump overall for most of the last year.
It’s hard to hate on Cena for “always winning” because he’s lost a lot of big matches this year and hasn’t held the World Title in about 15 months now.
Yet at the same time, it’s hard to say that he’s had a great 2012, either.
If you look at the whole picture and think about his awful angles and inability to win the big one, Cena’s 2012 was not the type of year we’ve grown accustomed to see him having.
Cena shouldn’t have been “Superstar of the Year” when guys like Punk and Daniel Bryan had far more memorable performances in 2012.
Rather, it should be recognized that he doesn’t always get the superstar treatment. Just like everyone else, he has to suffer through a crappy storyline or two every once in a while.
And in 2012, he did it quite often.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!