ThunderStruck: 2011 Year In Review
I returned to writing in September of this year. I may not be the best writer out there or the most read writer in the IWC. There are a couple of things, however, that are for certain. I have one of the most ridiculous writer gimmick names in the entire IWC and this is my 50th column since making my comeback! It's only fitting that I write my 50th piece as a reflection( yes, I'm going to be spitting a ton of facts out at you that you already know) on this year's events in WWE. I promise to throw in some actual opinion of my own here and there. I'm going to go month by month and primarily focus on the pay per views as a way to limit the scope and not have to type this thing forever. Also, at the end of this piece I will have a list of things that I would like to see happen in WWE in 2012. Here we go!
The Royal Rumble was unique this year in the sense that it 40 participants. I'm not sure what difference this made in the grand scheme of things and I heard that they are planning to go back to the traditional 30 man Rumble this year. Alberto Del Rio won the Rumble. This was premature for Del Rio, as nobody on the planet cared. Edge was the World Heavyweight Champion and successfully defended his title against Dolph Ziggler. I can only imagine how much help Edge would be with building this great pool of talent that WWE is now pushing if he had continued to compete in the ring. I was half expecting Edge and Christian to have a World Title feud before his premature retirement was announced. The Miz was WWE Champion(feels like forever ago) and was able to retain against Randy Orton with the help of Alex Riley(He was more known as a manager for the Miz than he is now working on Superstars. Horrible). Also, Eve was the Divas Champion after winning a fatal four way at the Rumble where Natalya dropped the title(yes, I'm going to briefly mention the divas as well).
Edge was able to retain his World Heavyweight Championship in the Smackdown Elimination Chamber match at the February event. The Miz defended his title against Jerry Lawler one time during their short feud and it occurred at this event. I know that nobody thought Lawler would win the title at age 62, but how cool would it have been to see a guy like Jerry Lawler finally capture a WWE Championship after a 40+ year career in the ring? Wishful thinking on my part. Miz was able to hold onto the gold in this one as well. John Cena came out victorious in the Raw Elimination Chamber match to become the number one contender for the WWE Title. Let me make this clear: Miz was champion and WWE cared just enough at the time to put him in a match with...Jerry Lawler. Cena wasn't champion but they were hyping the potential rivalry with The Rock during these months and he was put over as the star of this show by winning the chamber match. Hmmm. Edge winning the chamber match tells me that WWE had big plans for him throughout this entire year. It's beyond sad that these plans had to change so suddenly.
WrestleMania 27 was hyped for being the show hosted by The Rock. If I remember nothing else about it, I will not forget the level of involvement that The Rock had in this event, and it's not a good thing in my eyes. To me, you cannot sacrifice the quality of YOUR MAIN EVENT OF WRESTLE-FREAKING-MANIA to build hype for a match at next year's event. It's garbage and it was beyond disappointing. The Miz retained his title with the help of The Rock after the match was restarted by the great one. There just was nothing to this main event. The Rock opened the show; The Rock closed the show. The Rock said he was never going away. I understand the meaning behind it in the sense that he was planning to come back and wrestle on a very seldom basis, but appearing only a half dozen times to hype the "biggest Mania match of all time" is just crap. I don't care about Cena and The Rock at WrestleMania. I wouldn't be surprised if WWE scrapped it and turned it into some sort of tag team match(here come the arguments that they would NEVER book a match so far in advance just to change it later on). Get real; it's WWE and while it's highly unlikely they would change this match, anything can happen. Edge wrestled his final ppv match and successfully defended his World Title against Alberto Del Rio. Either WWE decided Del Rio wasn't ready, or they decided Edge needed to hold onto the title to begin a feud with Christian. I believe it's possible that Edge's condition may have been known about at this point in time and that this was planned intentionally for Edge to have his last big showing. Undertaker continued his streak at this event by defeating Triple H. No surprise there. The rumor mill has it out there that they are going to wrestle again at Mania 28. They can't top what they did last year, so I'm not sure that Triple H is the best opponent for the dead man.
Extreme rules featured a 20 minute last man standing match where Randy Orton defeated CM Punk. These guys hadn't even touched on the accomplishments that they would both achieve this year. Christian captured his first World Title in a ladder match with Alberto Del Rio with the help of Edge. Cue the crybaby gimmick that WWE feels Christian needs to have to be a success. I hate it. The guy is legitimately one of the top three wrestlers in the company when it comes to making others look good in the ring. Why do they have to give him such a stupid gimmick for him to be successful? John Cena won back the WWE Title from the Miz in a triple threat match also involving John Morrison. Cena had a good year full of title wins. More title wins than CM Punk, as a matter of fact. We know what happened with Morrison. The guy continuously had the best matches in the company and allowed his contract to run out. Smart move on his part to keep the door open for a comeback. I don't want to say Miz fell off the map, because he definitely improved himself as a wrestler and as an entertainer. The Subway promo was a bit much though. I hope to see Miz back as WWE Champion in 2012(face champion, maybe?).
Over the Limit in May was a snooze for a pay per view(I literally fell asleep watching it live). Brie Bella defeated Kelly Kelly to retain her divas title. The divas were pretty dull on tv during this time period(some things rarely change). Randy Orton was able to successfully defend his World Title against Christian(he had defeated Christian for the title two days after Extreme rules at the Smackdown taping). John Cena was able to come out of the show with his Super-Cena gimmick after being pummeled by the Miz in an "I quit" match for the WWE Title. Cena held onto the gold yet again and Miz started to fall off the main event radar. RTruth, on the other hand, was able to defeat Rey Mysterio at this event and started to really make a name for himself as a crazy heel.
Dolph Ziggler was able to win the US Title at Capitol Punishment from Kofi Kingston(and then held onto it all the way to TLC). Alex Riley defeated the Miz in a short ten minute match. Funny how time changes things, isn't it? I remember watching Drew McIntyre at a live event in August 2009 where he squashed RTruth in five minutes. Ezekial Jackson was able to defeat Wade Barrett for the IC Title, while Randy Orton yet again defeated Christian and held onto his World Title. People may have gotten bored with Christian and Orton wrestling repeatedly all Summer long, but these two guys honestly never got boring, no matter how many times they were put in a ring together. John Cena was once again put into his Super-Cena role and overcame the crazy heel in RTruth to hold onto the WWE Championship. Should've known Vince's choice would have been to keep the title on Cena in this scenario(anybody know a bigger racist than Vince McMahon when it comes to his feelings on the WWE Championship?).
Money in the Bank was easily the best and most exciting pay per view as we moved through the Summer of 2011. Daniel Bryan was victorious in the Smackdown MITB ladder match and Del Rio won the Raw contest. Bryan vowed to cash in at WrestleMania 28 after winning the briefcase. Christian was able to capture his second World Title at this event when he beat Randy Orton with the ridiculous "title can change hands by DQ" stipulation. As I said before, Christian going back to the whiny gimmick rather than being a successful and talented World Champion was just a huge disappointment for me. In a match between two giants, Mark Henry began his streak of dominance by defeating the Big Show and putting him out of action by smashing his ankle while a steel chair was placed on it. CM Punk was able to win his first WWE Championship in a victory over John Cena. Punk "walked out" with the title in his hometown of Chicago after announcing he would do so when his contract expired the same day. The few weeks prior to Money in the Bank also led up to John Laurinaitis becoming a regular character on tv and continued after Cena knocked him out during the match when he attempted to ring the bell prematurely. I'm actually growing to like the John Laurinaitis character myself. Triple H made his return to WWE the following night on Raw when Vince wanted to fire John Cena. The board voted Vince no confidence and put Triple H in charge. Since Punk had walked out, a tournament was held for the WWE Title on Raw. This was a really good tournament of matches. Rey Mysterio defeated the Miz in the finals and would lose the title later in the night to John Cena when he was given his rematch. CM Punk made his return at the end of that Raw wearing his own WWE Title.
Summerslam was definitely in the top half of pay per views this year as CM Punk was able to pin John Cena in their WWE Title unification match while Cena had his foot on the ropes. While celebrating, CM Punk got attacked by a returning Kevin Nash who hit Punk with a jackknife. This led to Alberto Del Rio cashing in his MITB briefcase and becoming the new WWE Champion. Randy Orton had a No Holds Barred match that I considered to be the best of their 7(8 maybe?) match series. Orton was able to hit an RKO on Christian onto the steel steps and regain the World Heavyweight Championship. We saw no US Title or IC Title match on the show, but Wade Barrett destroyed Daniel Bryan in a quick matchup that was only booked a few days prior to the show. The show was somewhat of a disappointment. Mark was able to defeat Sheamus by countout to continue his Hall of Pain streak that he had been on as of late. Also Kelly Kelly was able to retain her Divas Title when she defeated Beth Phoenix. I suppose the "shock value" to the ending of Summerslam was what was supposed to impress the fans.
Heading into September, we had the Night of Champions event where John Cena got his rematch with Alberto Del Rio and was able to capture his third WWE Championship in 2011. Triple H was able to defeat CM Punk in a no DQ match with the stipulation being that Triple H would step down as COO if Punk won the match. RTruth and the Miz attacked Triple H and Punk during the match, and Kevin Nash also attacked both competitors. I was disappointed to see Triple H not put over the top wrestler in the company in CM Punk. Triple H storyline fired RTruth and Miz the following night on Raw, leading to them acting out over the next couple of months. John Cena was able to capture yet another WWE Championship when he defeated Alberto Del Rio in their match. The biggest change that occurred during the show was the crowning of a new World Heavyweight Champion in Mark Henry when he defeated Randy Orton. Henry's streak of dominance had been rolling since July and WWE officials apparently decided to reward Henry for staying healthy for such a length of time. Cody Rhodes was able to retain his IC Title in a defense against Ted Dibiase and Dolph Ziggler was able to retain his title in a solid fatal four way match involving himself, John Morrison, Alex Riley, and Jack Swagger. Kelly Kelly again was also able to defend her title successfully against Beth Phoenix in Phoenix' hometown of Buffalo, NY.
October gave us two pay per views, though I'm not sure for what reason. Alberto Del Rio was able to defeat CM Punk and John Cena in a Hell in a Cell match after Cena was locked out of the cell and Del Rio was able to use a hammer on CM Punk to pick up the pinfall. The competitors were attacked after the match by RTruth and Miz, who came out from under the ring. Randy was unable to defeat Mark Henry in his rematch for the World Title and Henry's dominance continued. I felt Randy Orton should have been able to get the title back and continue on as champion through the remainder of the year. He's the top star on Smackdown no matter what way you argue it and he represents the brand well. I guess WWE creative felt otherwise. Cody Rhodes was able to wrestle the match of the night while in dress pants when he fought John Morrison and successfully defended his IC Title. This was really a great year for Cody Rhodes as he has been climbing the ladder of success in WWE. Beth Phoenix was able to finally capture her first Divas Title from Kelly Kelly at this event as well. The second pay per view given to us in this month was Vengeance. The most highlighted moment from the show was when Big Show and Mark Henry superplexed their way into collapsing the ring and ending their match with a no decision finish. John Cena failed to capture the WWE Title from Alberto Del Rio after Truth and Miz got involved in their last man standing match. Beth Phoenix was able to defeat Eve, who was challenging for the Divas Championship. Dolph Ziggler pulled double duty at this event where he and Jack Swagger failed to capture the tag team titles from Air Boom. In his second match, however, Dolph was able to defeat Zack Ryder, who was challenging for the US Title. Cody Rhodes wrestled perhaps the match of the night against Randy Orton and lost to the viper. Truth and Miz were able to get the win over CM Punk and Triple H in a tag team after outside involvement from Kevin Nash. This added fuel to the fire for the Nash/Triple H rivalry that none of us really cared about.
November saw the in ring return of The Rock when he teamed with John Cena to face the Miz and RTruth at the Survivor Series. The Rock looked as good as ever as he and Cena were victorious in the match. He got all the pops from the crowd for the night and got probably the biggest one when he hit Cena with the rock bottom after the match. Mark Henry started to show weakness as World Champion when he got himself intentionally disqualified during his match with the Big Show. Dolph Ziggler once again pulled double duty when he successfully defended his US Title against John Morrison and then participated on Team Barrett in the traditional elimination match against Team Orton(Barrett's team was victorious with Barrett and Rhodes as the sole survivors). The match that should have been the main event of the night saw CM Punk capture his second WWE Championship when he defeated Alberto Del Rio with the anaconda vice submission hold. This was one of the better pay per views in terms of built up matches, but the hype for a WWE Title change should have been greater for Punk and not taken away from by the in ring return of Dwayne Johnson.
All I wanted for Christmas was tables, ladders, and chairs. What a great way to end 2011 for WWE. All was right with the world when CM Punk was able to defend his WWE Title successfully in a triple threat TLC match and Zack Ryder was FINALLY able to capture the US Title by defeating Dolph Ziggler! My personal favorite moment of the night was watching the Big Show become World Champion by defeating Mark Henry in a chairs match and knowing instantly that Daniel Bryan was going to come down and cash in his briefcase to become the new World Heavyweight Champion! You also saw Cody Rhodes successfully defend his IC Title against Booker T. WWE couldn't have picked four better guys to be champions representing the company heading into 2012. Triple H also defeated Kevin Nash in a sledgehammer ladder match that almost put me to sleep. I am very thankful that Nash is out of the picture until at least the Rumble.
I believe 2011 will become the year that is best known for the development of some major stars. Guys like Daniel Bryan, Zack Ryder, Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, and the Miz are the future of professional wrestling and will be in the Punk, Cena, Orton, Henry, Show, Kane, Taker, HHH ect. category soon enough. I believe 2012 will be the biggest year yet in the career of guys like Wade Barrett, Sheamus, and Christian. Some of the undercard guys that I believe will have similar development that Dolph and Cody had are guys like Drew McIntyre, David Otunga(yeah I said it), Ted Dibiase, and Jinder Mahal. The return of Chris Jericho and the retirement of The Undertaker in 2012 are two significant events that I believe will help shape the course of the future of pro wrestling.
10 Things I would like to see in 2012:
-John Morrison returns - the guy needs to up his charisma and sell his character more than ever before to go along with his talent in the ring.
-Repackage Jack Swagger - do something different for this guy. He can wrestle; he shouldn't just be a joke if Jim Ross has that much faith in his ability in the ring.
- Kofi Kingston winning the World Title - since you know he will never win the WWE Title, the World Title will have to do. The guy has the in ring ability to do big things. I doubt this one will happen; it's more of a dream than anything.
-Zack Ryder wins Money In The Bank - I believe this will happen, and I believe Ryder will see himself booked in matches with John Cena in 2012.
- Sheamus becomes the top face of Smackdown along with Randy Orton - The guy has everything he needs besides a solid World Title reign on his resume. Make it happen WWE!
- 12 pay per views - 13 was even too much. I would be okay with just 8 if they were made to be that much more significant. I don't like feeling like I'm watching the same show every month when I drop 50 dollars on it.
-John Cena becomes "heel" and defeats The Rock at WrestleMania - Everybody and their grandmother has asked for this to happen. Everybody thinks it will make Cena's character better. They're right. My biggest problem with doing this is that it's predictable. But it does need to happen.
- Dolph Zigger and Cody Rhodes become World/WWE Champions - This will happen very soon. Ziggler has made himself a star and has worked his tail off to get where he is at. He's come a long way since being a male cheerleader. Cody has won me over in so many ways and continues to work great match after great match while making his character that much more heel than it already is. Jim Ross said both of these guys should quit if they don't win major gold in 2012, and he's right.
- No celebrity/gimmick matches at WrestleMania! - Ok, we know that this won't be avoided. But between gimmick matches and celebrity matches, WrestleMania always has something for me to complain about. Cole/Lawler last year was RIDICULOUS. Austin was the only bright spot in that match as referee. The Snooki six person tag was a waste of time and screwed over John Morrison. The eight man tag was cut to about three minutes in length when it could've been a fantastic match, but we were forced to sit through that other crap.
- Christian vs CM Punk in the main event of a major pay per view - This needs to happen because it will be absolute money if they book it right. I wanted for Christian to be World Champion and be face, but I know Vince will never consider it. So I'm asking for this match to headline either MITB or Summerslam.
^These are the things I would like to see. Maybe some will happen; some definitely won't. As a bonus I'm going to ask WWE to make Daniel Bryan a heel champion, and I believe that one is already in the works. It was a good year of development for WWE, and I believe if the current top stars stick around and continue to put on the matches they are capable of, there is a bright future for WWE that we are heading into.
If you read this far, congratulations on making it through. It's now 12:45AM Eastern time and I can say to you all, Happy New Year! This was a fun piece for me to write as my 50th column since coming back to wirting. I hope you enjoyed reading this. I'll be back with the Raw Analysis on Tuesday. Until then, you've been ThunderStruck!
We open Smackdown with a promo from the Big Show. Show says he thought he would be standing out here as WHC, but he isn't. He says Daniel Bryan is the champion and everyone has been asking him how he's been feeling about things since Sunday. Show says he was finally there after nine years on Sunday. He puts over Mark Henry for his strength and brutality and talks about how he was proud to be the new champion, only to have it taken away just like that. He says he has mixed emotions. We get a flashback of Raw on Monday with Josh Matthews pointing out that Big Show has the shortest World Title reign in history. Show says he is going to give us his honest feelings about things when he is interrupted by Mark Henry. Henry asks Show what he's proud of. He points out that Show has nothing to be proud of by having the shortest reign in the history of WWE. Henry says Show feels embarrassed and humiliated. Henry tells Show he should take a week off and quit the business. Henry says he wants his rematch tonight with Daniel Bryan. Daniel Bryan interrupts. Bryan says most people can't believe he is champion, including himself. He goes on to list all the traits he doesn't have and insults himself. He points out that he is a very good wrestler. He says despite all the things he isn't, he is the World Heavyweight Champion. Henry says every time he touches Bryan, he beats the hell out of him. Henry and Show both want rematches tonight. They get interrupted by Teddy Long, who books Show vs Henry in a number one contender's match tonight. Bryan offers Henry a handshake as he goes to leave and pulls away when Henry goes to shake it. There really isn't a better way to start the show than with your World Champion and the potential title contenders. Unfortunately, I was hoping the title contenders might be other superstars. I guess Big Show won't be out of the main event scene just yet.
Next up we have a champion versus champion match with Zack Ryder taking on Cody Rhodes. These guys go back and forth and give us just a few minutes of fighting before Booker T jumps on the announce table and starts singing about "Cody the red nosed reindeer" and his broken nose. This distraction allows Zack to hit the roughryder finisher and score the pinfall on Cody. I like what this does for the rematch setup between Booker and Cody, but again I hate seeing Ryder pick up the win with help from others. Ryder is a good enough wrestler that he doesn't need help to win matches. He does however need help with adding a variety to his moveset so that he doesn't become the next John Cena. Good match overall, though.
Backstage segment where Santino asks Teddy Long if he can have Zack Ryder's job as assistant to the GM of Smackdown. Aksana comes in and talks to Teddy about knowing multiple positions and being there to give him a hand if he needs it. She leaves and Santino raises the cobra arm up and goes away. Vicky Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler then come into Long's office and Ziggler asks for a match tonight with Daniel Bryan. Long has no problem with it and makes it official. I always like Smackdown backstage segments better than Raw's, and I think it's partly because of Teddy Long's character and it's partly because the show always seems to be more productive. It's not usually just match hype in the backstage segments like on Raw so much as it is making matches and establishing things for future shows.
Big Show and Mark Henry come out for their match. David Otunga comes out and says that Henry's ankle damage caused his blood pressure to go up(?) and that Henry is not medically cleared to compete tonight, therefore the match is off. Big Show hits the weapon of mass destruction on Otunga as Henry leaves the ring. I know Henry is nursing a groin injury but I'm guessing the severity of it can't be that bad if they won't take him off tv for any length of time. Thank you WWE creative for saving us from another match between these two.
The Miz and Teddy Long are shown backstage. Miz says he was told to be at Smackdown. Long says he knows nothing about it. Miz says he is going to take the show hostage unless Teddy has someone who can stop him. Long tells him he will find someone. Miz is in the ring gloating that nobody on Smackdown compares to his talent. Out comes Sheamus. These guys wrestle a fast squash that results in Sheamus picking up the win with the brogue kick. What did this do for Miz? I know it helped add to the role that Sheamus has been on as of late, but what exactly is the plan for him heading towards WrestleMania? I fail to see how Miz can be seen as a top contender for the WWE Title if he is going to be destroyed in fast matches like this one.
Wade Barrett comes out to cut a promo. Barrett says the barrage has been on a role as of late with just a few minor speedbumps. Barrett has a video package played of his rivalry with Orton over the past month. Barrett goes to leave and Orton comes down and attacks him. They brawl to the back where Orton gets the upper hand and sprays Barrett down with a hose before slamming him onto a car and hitting and RKO on the roof of the car. This was quite the intense scene and it makes me think the next match between these two at the Rumble will have some sort of falls count anywhere/street fight stipulation to go along with it. I honestly look forward to getting more from these guys.
Primo goes one on one with Kofi Kingston in our next match. This one is quick but loaded with the athleticism that we've come to love out of Kofi. Kofi gets the victory in quick fashion with Bourne and Epico at ringside as well. I like these one on one matches between tag team wrestlers; again I just wish WWE would add more tag teams so that we can see some variation outside of our three regular teams as of late. Good win here for Kofi. I hope that Kofi is able to hold some singles gold this year if they decide to split him and Bourne up sometime in 2012.
Dolph Ziggler vs Daniel Bryan in our main event is up next. Jack Swagger comes down during the competition, closely followed by the Big Show to even the odds. Bryan and Ziggler showcase some of their moves and Bryan even hits a huge back suplex on Ziggler from the top rope. These guys are going on quite nicely until Big Show chases Swagger around ringside and they jump into the ring. Teddy Long comes running down and turns the bout into a tag team match. I really don't see that this was necessary to take away Ziggler and Bryan's singles match. I'm a little disappointed with it. Bryan ends up tagging himself in when Show gets knocked down and reverses an attempted ankle lock by Swagger into a labell lock, and Swagger taps out. Bryan is shown celebrating the win with the World Title as Big Show looks on from the outside and Smackdown goes off the air. It seems pretty safe to say that Big Show will be Bryan's challenger at the Royal Rumble for the title. Swagger goes down as the guy that always loses once again. Ziggler doesn't get pinned and Daniel Bryan gets put over as being a great wrestler. I'm not sure if the best way to market your champion is by putting him down in every single category outside of actual wrestling. Wouldn't that make him Bob Backlund? Scary thought.
Raw was feel good and celebratory for three out of our four main champions. Smackdown was productive. We weren't forced to deal with divas. Show and Bryan is setting up nicely for a good feud to formulate. Swagger and Ziggler will turn on one another soon enough. Barrett and Orton continue to leave me wanting more. Sheamus needs his own talk show segment or something. I enjoyed the show tonight. I'll be back Tuesday with Raw and we'll start kicking it into high gear with some extra columns heading into the new year. Until next time, you've been ThunderStruck!