Last year was an anomaly for this award as for the first time since 2006, neither John Cena nor Jeff Hardy were either the winner or the runner-up for this award. As you can guess by the picture to the right, things are back to normal.
Sheamus began the year by winning the Royal Rumble and used that opportunity to win the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXVIII in a matter of seconds. He held onto the title for almost seven months and is still in contention for the belt. However, it wasn't his in-ring success that gave him this honor. At the beginning of the year, Sheamus was the second biggest star on the SmackDown brand firmly behind Randy Orton. However, due to an injury and a suspension, 2012 was not a great year for "The Apex Predator". Sheamus took advantage of Orton's misfortune and stepped into Randy's huge shoes both in story lines and in the hearts of the SmackDown fans.
Winner: John Cena
Despite not holding any championship gold this year, John Cena is still the biggest star in wrestling. His battle with The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII set company records for both pay-per-view buys and gross sales. In October, John Cena did something that hasn't been done since Bret Hart left the company in 1997. He made it fashionable to wear pink. Due in part to his pink merchandise, WWE raised $1 million for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. And even though he never held any gold this year, he participated in the final match of nine pay-per-view cards this year. By comparison, CM Punk, who held the WWE Championship for the entire year, only competed in the final match three times. Two of those three matches involved John Cena.
Prior Most Popular Wrestler of the Year Award Winners
- '11: Finally, the most electrifying man in sports and entertainment has won this award.
- '10: This wrestler had been fired from the WWE shortly before winning this award.
- '09: Despite being arrested on some major drug charges a few months earlier, this wrestler won the award for the second straight year.
- '08: After years of tag team success in the ring and battling his addictions outside of it, 2008 ended with this wrestler finally winning the WWE Championship.
- '07: The winner and runner-up battled each other earlier in the year in the main event of WrestleMania 23.
- '06: The ultimate underdog story
Photo of John Cena at WWE Tribute to the Troops 2012: Kris Connor/Getty Images