2011: The Year in Pro Wrestling

michael dworkis looks at top 10 events in WWE and TNA …

The new year is just days away. The 2011 is about to be thrown in the trash and the 2012 calendar hung on the wall of your kitchen, bathroom, garage, or wherever you typically track important events. I imagine in the halls of the Titan Towers, home of WWE, that calendar has more ink on it than Papa Shango.

I think back to how the year began, and how the year ended. To be honest, not a whole lot felt memorable this year. In fact I can only think of ten events that are newsworthy, and that was before I did a Google search. This was a year of breakout stars, returns, and retirements. Enough with the build-up, let’s get to it.

10. Bobby Roode and James Storm win the TNA Heavyweight Title

Do not hold your breath. This is the ONLY mention of TNA/Impact Wrestling/Hogan-O-Rama/Whatever-They-Call-Themselves-This-Week you will see in this top ten. Am I biased against TNA? No. It is just that they have made their show so unwatchable. Having talent like Angle, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy, and Rob Van Dam is not enough to make me watch a program filled with 90 minutes of Hogan-Bischoff segments, 20 minutes of commercials, and 10 minutes of wrestling. If you think I am kidding, go read a dirt-sheet with coverage of a single episode. Anyway, James Storm defeated Kurt Angle on an episode of Impact to win the title, and then Roode won it on Impact about a month later. I think this has significance since the title is not being held by Hogan, Sting, Bischoff, or a former WWE Superstar.

9. Santino Marella almost won the 2011 Royal Rumble

Am I joking? About what, listing this in my Top Ten or that this really happened?

It did happen.

In the first-ever 40-man Royal Rumble match, resident WWE comedy act Santino Marella was the last man to be eliminated from the Royal Rumble match. Earlier in the match, Santino was thrown out of the ring, but not over the top rope. The rules state you must be thrown over the top rope and both feet must hit the floor in order to be eliminated from the match. Santino spent a good time stumbling around ringside. After Randy Orton threw out Wade Barrett, Alberto del Rio capitalized on the stunned Orton and eliminated him from the match. However, Santino rolled back into the ring, behind a celebrating del Rio. The crowd went crazy as Santino started praying like he missed Sunday Mass. He wound up the arm and as the Mexican Aristocrat turned around The Cobra struck and Alberto del Rio went down to the mat! The roof exploded off the arena! Santino had the Rumble won! He grabbed Alberto and ran towards the ropes, however del Rio quickly regained his balance and reversed Santino, eliminating him from the match. Alberto del Rio dashed the dreams of the former Intercontinental Champion.

8. Two disasters with one name: Sin Cara

Call me cynical, call me angry. If you do, then call yourselves correct. One of the things I love about WWE is the hype that comes before a debut or return of a wrestling superstar. I get ticked off when it turns out to be a guy rushed onto television and was not ready for it. Look, I will not take away his talent for high flying moves and risky top rope jumps. The problem happens when he slips up too many of his moves, botches the finish to more than one match, violates the Wellness Policy program and gets suspended, and then saddled with a ridiculous gimmick where there is an impostor Sin Cara running around. Maybe when he returns in 2012 after recovering from his injury, he might once again wow audiences instead of disappointing them.

7. The Muppets guest host Monday Night RAW

Okay. This was not epic or anything, but come on people! Muppets! Who doesn’t love The Muppets?! In hype for the upcoming film, The Muppets were the guest hosts of Raw, and some surprising events took place. Beaker is a distant relative of Sheamus, Gonzo gets beaten up by Ziggler and Swagger, Animal as guest time keeper, and Miss Piggy having a shout fest with Vickie Guerrero. Statler and Waldorf berated The Miz and proclaimed their boredom with the show. Funny thing about that, the show was pretty boring!

6. Triple H is named as Chief Operating Officer of WWE

Thought this was a gimmick to get Vince McMahon off the air? Well, it was. It was also a symbol of true events taking place in the corporate end of World Wrestling Entertainment. Vince McMahon has begun the slow transition to retire from running the company and allow his daughter and son-in-law, Stephanie and Jean-Paul Levesque (Triple H for those unfamiliar with his real name) to begin running company operations. Many long time company employees have since left or were released from their positions, as new positions have been created while others released. It remains to be seen the long-lasting impact this transition will have on WWE. So far the show has turned for the better and with more young talent being pushed, I see more success from WWE.

5. The Miz defeats John Cena in the main event at WrestleMania 27

As Mike Mizanin stated on the last Monday Night RAW of 2011, this was the year of The Miz. Before 2011 even began The Miz was on top of WWE, and I would say probably the most entertaining champion since Edge. Winning the championship in November of 2010, The Awesome One rolled right through WWE and made main event matches in WWE more entertaining. His streak rolled onto the Grandest Stage of Them All, as The Miz emerged victorious in the main event at WrestleMania 27, over the “face of WWE” himself, John Cena. This is pretty big considering Cena has highlighted WrestleMania for the past two years. At WrestleMania 25 he defeated Edge and The Big Show to win the World Championship, and the following year beat Batista for the WWE Title. Although the victory came with an assist from the “host” of WrestleMania, The Rock, it is still in the record books that The Miz defeated John Cena to retain the WWE Title. The career of the Miz continued to flourish until losing the championship. Then he got paired with the crazy R-Truth, and saddled with a conspiracy gimmick. Although the gimmick itself was not all that entertaining, The Miz continued to garner attention with his brash behavior and antagonizing antics.

4. Zack Ryder defeats Dolph Ziggler to win the United States Championship at the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs Pay-Per-View event

“HE DID IT. HE DID IT. HOLY PRIMUS HE DID IT!”

Those were my exact words in the recap of the TLC pay-per-view event. In the first match of the night, Zack Ryder fulfilled his goal of pinning Dolph Ziggler and winning the United States Championship. This goes back months, as Ryder began his crusade to earn the popularity of the WWE Universe using, well, modern tech. YouTube and Twitter were his tools, and why not? This is the new millennia, is it not? Everyone uses Facebook and Twitter for their own use, how about it being used to earn fan appeal? It sure worked. Eventually crowds in arenas all over would chant for Ryder. I honestly think that he is the second-most popular Superstar in WWE right now, right behind number one CM Punk. He racked up an impressive number of wins against Dolph Ziggler, but for some reason never got the big title shot, and when he did, lost. WWE soon put Mason Ryan in the running for the United States Championship as he started a feud against Ziggler and stable-mate Jack Swagger, but the crowd did not want Ryan, they wanted Ryder. At Tables, Ladders, and Chairs, the Long Island Iced-Z finally earned a hard-fought victory over “The Show Off” Dolph Ziggler to win the title. If anything, this shows the potential for a lot of the new talent, and the potential for a revolutionary future in WWE.

3. Daniel Bryan wins the World Heavyweight Championship at the Tables, Ladders, And Chairs Pay-Per-View event

Wait just a minute, Daniel Bryan did not have a title match at that PPV? No he did not, but after sore loser Mark Henry blindsided and incapacitated The Big Show after losing the World Title to the giant, Bryan rushed to the ring, Money in the Bank briefcase in hand and cashed in. The submission specialist quickly pinned the groggy Big Show to win the title. Finally, Daniel Bryan was thrust into the main event spotlight where he belongs. I felt as if every time he was about to break the mid-card barrier, he got shoved back down into the bottom of the barrel. Think about it, right after winning the Money in the Bank ladder match at its pay-per-view namesake, he was on a losing streak that rivaled Barry Horowitz. Thankfully, that all changed. The next night on RAW, he, along with Ryder and Punk stood triumphant in the ring, symbols of the bright future of WWE. It was not said by name, but the thought was there. Two graduates from Ring of Honor were now WWE World Titleholders. Who would have ever thought that could happen. Then again, who would have thought Chris Benoit would have ever been a World Champion. I will do you one better, who ever thought Rey Mysterio would win the main event match at a WrestleMania against Kurt Angle and Randy Orton to win a World Title. Daniel Bryan is the most skilled mat technician WWE has right now. Remember the days where tap-out victories were awesome? Where matches with suplex counts in the double-digits were incredible and the norm? Daniel Bryan, and CM Punk are the boys who can bring that back. Let them do it. Bring it.

2. CM Punk becomes Mr. Microphone Pipe Bomb

In a stunning turn of events, CM Punk turns his promos into rants and tirades about the lackluster management of WWE. Weeks of jabs culminated during a lengthy tirade about the McMahon family and the decay of professional wrestling earned his mic cut off and an announcement of his firing posted on WWE.com. It was known by then his contract was expiring and he would have one last match against John Cena for the WWE Title. Either WWE planned this from the start, or some light bulbs went off with ideas based on the unscripted tirades of the Straight-Edge Superstar. Cena forcing McMahon to rehire Punk, the angle turned into Punk threatening to win the title and take it with him out of WWE forever, possibly going someplace else with it. With rumors unclear and uncertain if Punk would resign with WWE, the match took place at Money in the Bank. After failed interference from Vince McMahon, CM Punk pinned John Cena and claimed the WWE Championship. Running with his prize through the ecstatic crowd, McMahon could only sit and watch in despair as his treasure left the arena in the hands of a victorious Punk. Although Cena was crowned as WWE Champion after a one-night tournament, Punk returned with his WWE Title. Punk did not leave WWE, as he stayed to continue fighting against corporate idiocy. The two had a match at SummerSlam where Punk emerged victorious and as the undisputed champion of WWE. Punk has become a sharpshooter on the microphone, ending boring, repetitive in-ring promos from John Cena and Alberto del Rio in exchange for more entertaining matches. From then on, the boasts about being the “Best in the World” rang true as the current WWE Titleholder is fulfilling his promise of bringing back wrestling to sports-entertainment.

1. Edge Retiring from WWE

Yep, this is my number one impact for 2011. April 11, 2011, the Rated-R Superstar announced his retirement from in-ring competition. I recall sitting by my television feeling sadness, a bit of emptiness, but a lot of pride. Edge was blunt. One more injury and he would be shopping for wheelchairs, if he was that lucky. He talked about being on the road, wrestling every night, and the daily bumps and bruises taking their toll. He was right about all of it, and I commend both Adam Copeland and WWE for allowing him to talk as honest as he did. Edge has had a career that was beyond incredible.

Here is the short end of it.

Four WWE Championships, seven World Heavyweight Championships, five Intercontinental Titles, one United States Title Reign, and fourteen Tag Team Championships. That does not cover his contribution to the sports-entertainment industry. He was a major face of WWE. I do not mean face or heel, although granted he was awesome in both roles, but he was a recognized figurehead. On commentary, on the mic, in the ring, in gimmicks, in everything he gave his heart, soul, and body to giving the crowd the show they paid to see. His match against the Undertaker at WrestleMania 24 was probably one of the best of both their careers. There can be no doubt, no dispute that WWE and their fans felt a little empty inside when Edge retried. I am very glad to see him make appearances and continue to be a presence in WWE.

Notable mentions for 2011:

Triple H vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania 27
Say what you want about the old guard of WWE. These two guys busted what was left of their respective tuchases to steal the show. Will we see another Taker/Game match this year? I hope so.

Kevin Nash is back, then he’s gone, then he comes back, and then gone again
Meh. Nash first came back at the 2011 Rumble under his Diesel gimmick. We do not see him again until he costs CM Punk the WWE Title after his win over Cena, attacking Punk which allows Alberto del Rio to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase, and defeat Punk for the title. Nash was a thorn in the side of Triple H and their feud culminated with a Sledgehammer on a pole match which Triple H won, and beat Nash senseless after the match. Nash is now “out” due to “injuries” from that match.

The Rock
Okay, so he wrestled at Survivor Series for all of five minutes. So he cut some pre-taped promos. He spewed some new catchphrase to sell t-shirts. He is The Rock, and he is back in WWE, making sporadic appearances until his match with John Cena at WrestleMania 28. Will it be good? Only time will tell on that one.

With all this in mind, I am looking forward to 2012. I do not give a crap about TNA/ImpactWrestlng at all. WWE I have faith in and from what I see as 2011 concludes, I see CM Punk and Bryan Danielson leading the way to a very anticipated 2012.

1 COMMENT