The MVP award, known by many a sports fans as the most valuable player, is an award acknowledged as the top guy of their profession with a season that is considered a symbol of exceptional workmanship and praise by all. In WWE, the top guy of their respected brand is considered to be the MVP. Whether it is being a box office draw for the company, showcasing in-ring work, or amassing championship accolades, the MVP exemplifies it all.
Disclaimer (Spoiler Alert): Due to the controversial events involving wrestler, Chris Benoit. It is noted that in this article, Benoit is mentioned for his wrestling ability and the stories that progressed him in his career at a certain time of great success. The writers and editors of Last Word on Pro Wrestling, absolutely do NOT condone the actions of Chris Benoit.
2000: The Rock
- 2000 Royal Rumble Winner
- Won his 4th and 5th WWE Championships at Backlash and King of the Ring Respectively
- Voted as Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Box Office Draw Award Winner
The Rock was put in a situation to succeed in every aspect in the year 2000. Royal Rumble winner, WrestleMania main event for the second consecutive year, and two WWE Championship reigns during that year. The Rock main evented 12 out of a possible 14 pay per views, 11 of those involving the WWE Championship at the time. This was the start as well as the middle of Rocky’s rise as the top guy in one of the company’s best years.
Runner Up: Triple H
Triple H was considered the wrestler of the year in 2000, winning the Wrestling Observer’s Lou Thesz Award and rightfully so. Triple H was a true workhorse, entering the year as the top guy wearing the WWE Championship. His feud with Mick Foley set the tone for the year as the best rivalry that WWE put on that year and it rightfully won the Wrestling Observer’s Rivalry of the Year, which Triple H won another two times in his career. His matches were consistently great with the likes of Foley, The Rock and Chris Jericho, and it showed that Triple H was indeed “The Game.”
2nd Runner Up: Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle, on the other hand, had one of the best rookie years in WWE history. He had a successful debut at Survivor Series 1999. He simultaneously wearing both the Intercontinental Championship and European Championship. Furthermore, he won the 2000 King of the Ring and ended the year as WWE Champion surviving a huge Hell in a Cell match involving The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker and Rikishi. For only being a full year in the business, it was a great sample size of what the Olympic Gold Medalist could really do moving forward.
2001: Kurt Angle
- Entered 2001 as WWE Champion and won his second WWE title during that year’s Unforgiven Pay Per View.
- WCW Champion
- Unites States Champion
- Voted As Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Most Outstanding Wrestler
- Saved the WWE from the Alliance at Survivor Series
Acknowledged by Wrestling Observer as Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Year in 2001, Angle dropped classic after classic in that year alone against the likes of Triple H, Chris Benoit, Shane McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin. This was only year two of his WWE career. As gifted as he was in the ring, Angle was a great overall character. He crossed the lines of being a heel comedic wrestler, with Angle being delusional and not knowing that the crowd actually disliked him. He went on to become universally liked and showed the elements that would make him revered today. Entering the year as WWE Champion, Angle was becoming the big fish in an ocean that was the WWE roster in 2001. His constant work ethic and growth were key for moments that still fans remember to this day (i.e. “The Milk Truck” parody in Sacramento).
Runner Up: The Rock
The Rock’s 2001 was a tricky one. At No Way Out 2001, he defeated Kurt Angle to win his sixth WWE Championship, earning the right to enter the main event as WWE Champion at WrestleMania X-Seven; on that night, he dropped the title to Stone Cold Steve Austin. However, on the Raw after Mania, he would be written off of television due to the shooting of The Mummy prequel The Scorpion King that would keep him off television until late July. The Rock would be a key player for Team WWE vs The Alliance, racking up two WCW Championship reigns (World Title) and even had a tag team title reign with enemy Chris Jericho and ultimately got revenge on Austin winning the winner takes all Survivor Series Matchup.
2nd Runner Up: Stone Cold Steve Austin
Despite a failed heel turn, Austin would have two reigns as WWE Champion, winning his 5th at WrestleMania X-Seven. He held the WWE Championship for the longest time in his entire career (175 Days). 2001 would see him turn heel, joining Mr. McMahon & Triple H. He turned face again, aligning himself with Team WWE. Austin turned heel again, aligning himself with the WCW/ECW Alliance. Finally, he turned face again after Survivor Series 2001. Despite the turns, Austin’s quality of matches was up to par with the likes of his 1997 run in the company, facing off against the likes of The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, The Rock, and Kurt Angle.
2002: Brock Lesnar
- 2002 King of the Ring Winner
- WWE Champion (Youngest holder of the Championships history at 25 years and 44 days of age)
Brock Lesnar in 2002 was on the rise. 6’3” 295lbs, NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Champion out of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, a pure athlete and physical presence. Dubbed as “The Next Big Thing,” Lesnar was on a fast track dominating the likes of The Hardy’s, Rob Van Dam, and Hulk Hogan leading to him facing off against WWE’s golden boy at the time The Rock and winning the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 2002. He would have a convincing first reign going against The Undertaker in a feud that would end at No Mercy 2002, in a Hell in a Cell match. Lesnar would lose the WWE Championship at Survivor Series 2002 in controversial circumstances as then-manager Paul Heyman would betray Lesnar. Despite the end of his title reign, 2002 was the stepping stone for the excellence that would be Brock Lesnar.
Runner Up: Triple H
January 7th 2002, Madison Square Garden, Triple H would make his long-awaited return to WWE after tearing his quadricep back in May of 2001. The stage was set and the emotion was at an all-time high. “The Game” would go on to win the Royal Rumble in Atlanta that year, then would main event WrestleMania X8 vs. Chris Jericho winning the Undisputed WWE Championship. He would hold the title for about a month losing to “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan at that year’s Backlash. Triple H would continue his rivalry with Chris Jericho culminating at Judgment Day 2002 in a Hell in a Cell match. Then, Triple H would take part in a blood feud with a returning Shawn Michaels for a good chunk of 2002. Triple H would win his first and second World Heavyweight Championships and this would be the era of Monday Night Raw that fans and analysts would call “The Reign of Terror.”
2nd Runner Up: (tie) Shawn Michaels & Hulk Hogan
The second runner up was a difficult task. Between these two its a matter of who had the best come back story in WWE at the time. On one side you had “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, “The Immortal,” “The Icon,” returning to World Wrestling Entertainment for the first time since 1993 as a member of the New World Order faction. Hogan would be part of one of WWE’s biggest rivalries (on a financial standpoint) vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X8. Hogan would exchange his nWo Black and White for that “OG” Red and Yellow as he would win his 6th WWE Championship, at the time tying Stone Cold Steve Austin & The Rock for most reigns in WWE history.
Then on the other hand, you have Shawn Michaels. “The Showstopper,” “The Heartbreak Kid,” after four years being away from active competition Shawn Michaels’ first match back was a successful victory over Triple H at Summerslam 2002. Michaels would then have another “first” in WWE history as a competitor and winner of the 1st ever Elimination Chamber, which gave him his 4th World Championship in his career, and his 1st World Heavyweight Championship.
2003: Brock Lesnar
- 2003 Royal Rumble Winner
- 2x WWE Champion
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated Match of the Year vs. Kurt Angle (16 Sept 2003)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated Feud of the Year vs. Kurt Angle
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Feud of the Year vs. Kurt Angle
If 2002 was the stepping stone year for Brock Lesnar, 2003 was the breakout. Despite in storyline being thwarted by Kurt Angle after Armageddon 2002, that didn’t stop Lesnar from winning the Royal Rumble to become the #1 contender for the WWE Championship. Lesnar would go on to main event WrestleMania XIX against Angle and would win his 2nd WWE Championship. He would hold the title until Vengeance 2003, where Angle would take the title from him in a triple threat match (involving Big Show). Lesnar would become the chaser which would culminate on the 16th of September 2003 episode of Smackdown winning a 60 Minute Ironman match 5 to 4. Lesnar would hold the title for the remainder of the year and be Smackdown’s top heel at the time re-aligning himself with then General Manager, Paul Heyman.
Runner Up: Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle entered the year as WWE Champion. With Paul Heyman on his side and his Team Angle associates Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin riding with him, Angle established himself as Smackdown’s “final boss” in early 2003. WrestleMania XIX would be Angle’s last match until June of that year as he was recovering from a neck injury. Angle would win the WWE Championship for the 4th and final time of his career defeating Lesnar and Big Show in a Triple Threat Match. Angle would hold the title for the remainder of the summer losing the title back to Lesnar in the aforementioned Ironman match on Smackdown.
2nd Runner Up: Triple H
As mentioned as 2002s runner up, this would be the start of Triple H’s reign of terror. “The Game” in his 2nd World Heavyweight Championship reign would beat the likes of Scott Steiner, Booker T, Kevin Nash & Goldberg before losing it to Goldberg at that year’s Unforgiven event. Triple H would win his 3rd World Heavyweight Championship at Armageddon 2003, in a Triple Threat Match involving Goldberg and Kane.
2004: Chris Benoit
- 2004 Royal Rumble winner
- World Heavyweight Champion
- World Tag Team Champion (with Edge)
- PWI #1 ranked wrestler in 2004
- PWI Wrestler of the Year
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Most Outstanding Wrestler
Looking at the events of 2007, this choice to many is a controversial one on numerous levels. However, 2004 was a banner year for the career of Chris Benoit. Benoit would enter the Royal Rumble that year as the #1 entry, then to win the Rumble match, following up to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XX and win in a Triple Threat Match involving then-champion Triple H and rival Shawn Michaels. Benoit would successfully defend the title against the likes of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and Kane before losing the World Heavyweight Championship to Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2004. Benoit would be a pivotal part of the main event picture throughout the remainder of 2004 entering into the next year.
Runner Up: Eddie Guerrero
Guerrero’s path to the WWE Championship wouldn’t be the easiest by any means. His year started off rocky with a rivalry with his former ally, his nephew Chavo Guerrero Jr. However, on the 29th of January 2004 edition of SmackDown, Guerrero would win a 15 man over-the-top-rope battle royal to be the #1 contender to then-WWE Champion Brock Lesnar at No Way Out. Eddie would go on and win his first (and sadly) only WWE Championship in Daly City, Calif. in the famous Cow Palace arena. Guerrero would hold the title for 133 days losing to JBL in a Texas Bull Rope Match at that year’s Great American Bash event.
2nd Runner Up: John “Bradshaw” Layfield
Exit Bradshaw, the beer-drinking, foul-mouthed, a** kicking attitude, enter John “Bradshaw” Layfield. A stock market genius, a corporate man, and a self-professed “wrestling god.” JBL would kick off a near year of dominance at Great American Bash defeating Eddie Guerrero in the aforementioned Texas Bull Rope Match, which would be the start of a 280-day reign as WWE Champion, a reign SmackDown wouldn’t see until the likes of AJ Styles surpassing a year in 2017. JBL would defeat the likes of Guerrero, The Undertaker & Booker T throughout 2004 as he would enter the following year as champion.
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