Writer's Note: Today's countdown focuses on the seven breakout stars of the year. Not to be confused with Superstar of the Year, this column will focus on seven guys who ended 2010 with no real direction storyline-wise, but bounced back and had a great 2011. You could argue that these are the 8th-14th top superstars of the year, if you will. Keep in mind these are my PICKS, not FACTS, so you're welcome to disagree.
7. Ted DiBiase: Kicking off today's list is the man behind the "DiBiase Posse". Call it a stupid idea or a waste of time, but the fans have really responded to DiBiase's creativity, and for the first time in years, DiBiase is actually over. Keep in mind that DiBiase did more than just tailgate with fans this year. Before he turned face, The Fortunate Son temporarily realigned himself with Cody Rhodes, which led to Cody winning the Intercontinental Championship. Although Cody and DiBiase's feud was quicker than their reunion, it put DiBiase back in the spotlight and the two had a good match at Night Of Champions. DiBiase didn't win any championships, but he's in a much better place now than he was on RAW at the start of the year.
6. R-Truth: Many fans will remember 2011 as the year R-Truth went "cuckoo" and invented someone named "Little Jimmy". Others will remember 2011 as the year Truth turned heel and challenged John Cena at Capitol Punishment for the WWE Championship. I consider 2011 the year R-Truth saved his job. Longtime readers might recall that at the start of the year, I named a handful of WWE Superstars who I thought would be released before 2012. In what many considered a "longshot", I named Truth as one of the victims, citing his stale face run and limited ability in the ring to be his downfall. However, I was proven wrong when Truth unexpectedly turned heel and became one of the most entertaining superstars on the entire RAW roster. As I said, he challenged Cena for the WWE Championship, played a major role in the "conspiracy" angle against Triple H, and main-evented Survivor Series as one-half of The Awesome Truth. Not a bad year for someone who I predicted would be sitting on the unemployment line.
5. Wade Barrett: It's a shame "The Barrett Barrage" took so long to begin, or else Barrett might have found himself in the top three, maybe even in contention for Superstar of the Year. Nevertheless, Barrett had a much better year in 2011 than he did while leader of The Nexus. To recap, Barrett participated in the Smackdown! Elimination Chamber Match in February, took part in his first Wrestlemania match alongside The Corre, won the Intercontinental Championship, defeated Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam, and was the captain and a Sole Survivor at Survivor Series. Not a bad year at all. Although many people are growing tired of his feud with Randy Orton, his Tables Match last Sunday at TLC had many people talking about "The Barrett Barrage"; a much better reaction than Barrett being buried under a mountain of chairs at last year's TLC Pay-Per-View. Going into 2012, Barrett has momentum on his side.
4. Dolph Ziggler: I'm sure many people are going to complain about Ziggler not making the top two, but keep in mind that Ziggler didn't start turning heads until after SummerSlam. He kicked off the year in strong fashion, facing Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship at the Royal Rumble, and even becoming the champion for about ten minutes. The only problem is, Ziggler didn't seem comfortable at the top of the blue brand, and his move to RAW which saw him debut a new look did him no favours. It was only when Ziggler beat Kofi Kingston for the United States title that Ziggler got back his lost credibility, and credibility to the U.S. title as well. That being said, Ziggler wrestled so many great matches in 2011 - with wrestlers varying from Randy Orton to John Morrison to CM Punk - that many experts consider Ziggler one of WWE's best up-and-comers. Losing the title to Zack Ryder at TLC probably helped Ziggler more than hurt him, because it gives him a chance to move up the card in 2012 and stay there this time (sidenote: Ziggler is still my pick to win the Royal Rumble).
3. Zack Ryder: Speaking of Long Island Iced Z, 2011 saw the rise of the underdog known as the "Internet Champion". At the start of the year, Ryder was absent from WWE television - he was lucky to compete in matches taped for "WWE Superstars". But that all changed when Ryder decided to start a YouTube show called Z! True Long Island Story. The show would go on to become a huge success, with superstars all over the roster, both jobbers and main-eventers, praising Ryder for his efforts to be noticed. WWE finally acknowledged the Ryder Revolution over the summer and made him Teddy Long's personal assistant. Soon after, Ryder began wrestling every week on RAW and/or Smackdown! and started a rivalry with Dolph Ziggler, both on-screen and on his YouTube show. After pinning Ziggler numerous times in non-title match-ups, Ryder finally got a shot at Ziggler's United States Championship at last Sunday's TLC event, and Ryder was able to defeat Ziggler once and for all. 2011 was a roller-coaster ride for Ryder. He started off the year on the edge of unemployment, and ended it by winning his first major singles title. Woo Woo Woo, he did it.
2. Daniel Bryan: Bryan may not have won the most matches in 2011, but he wrestled some great ones and added several career accomplishments to his resume. Despite getting booted from Wrestlemania due to time constraints (or so they say), Bryan would find himself drafted to Smackdown! where he would really make a name for himself. After a mini-feud with Sin Cara, Bryan would shock the world by winning the Smackdown! Money in the Bank briefcase, insert himself into The Big Show/Mark Henry feud, and as we all know, cash-in the MitB briefcase at TLC to win his first-ever world heavyweight title. No one knows for sure whether Bryan will headline Wrestlemania as the world champion, but he will be the champion heading into the new year.
1. Cody Rhodes: Should you consider this an upset? Not really. Cody had an absolutely amazing year. He began 2011 by feuding with Rey Mysterio, and would go on to defeat ReyRey at Wrestlemania 27. After that, Rhodes reformed his alliance with Ted DiBiase and began dissecting the Smackdown! roster until he defeated Ezekiel Jackson for the Intercontinental Championship right before SummerSlam. DiBiase eventually turned on Cody, which led to a mini-feud between the two and a good match at Night Of Champions. Cody would then renew an old rivalry with Randy Orton, which saw the two put on an exciting series of matches. At Survivor Series, Cody was a Sole Survivor along with Wade Barrett and this past Sunday, defended his Intercontinental title successfully against a returning Booker T. From one character change to another, one good match after another, and some excellent feuds, Cody Rhodes is my pick for the number one breakout superstar of the year.
Honourable mentions: Air Boom (Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne)
2. Day 412
Writer's Note: If you haven't already guessed, today's column will be the complete opposite of yesterday's topic. Rather than highlighting seven superstars who rose up the card over the past 365 days, I shall examine seven guys who went down the card instead. Some of these guys had memorable moments at the 2011 Royal Rumble and/or Wrestlemania 27, but are ending the year competing on "Superstars", not being used on television, or are no longer employed by the company. A list of shame, if you will.
7. Jack Swagger: What a strange year for The All-American American. After winning the Money in the bank briefcase at Wrestlemania 26 and enjoying a short and forgettable world title reign, Swagger's 2011 highlights consists of standing in Michael Cole's corner in his match against Jerry Lawler at this year's Wrestlemania. Many people took it as a good sign that Swagger was involved in the Cole vs. Lawler feud because it meant more television time for The All-American American, but the company dropped the ball on multiple occasions by not turning Swagger face and confronting Cole. Over the summer, Swagger formed an uneasy alliance with Dolph Ziggler and got a new valet in the form of Vickie Guerrero. Unfortunately, Vickie is yet to lead Swagger to success, as his win/loss record for 2011 is disastrous for a former world heavyweight champion. If WWE wants to rebuild Swagger in 2012, they have a lot of work to do.
6. Tyson Kidd: Poor Tyson. Despite his size, he's one of the better workers on the roster but continues to receive little to no television time (unless you count NXT and "Superstars", but I don't). Many people thought it was a bad idea to split up The Hart Dynasty - one of WWE's only true tag teams at the time - but that didn't stop WWE from pulling the trigger. To no one's surprise, David Hart Smith got released, and Kidd is fighting for survival. I predicted Kidd would have a much better 2012 and I stand by my prediction, as WWE would be foolish not to utilize Kidd's stunning in-ring ability in the new year. Until that happens, it's hard for the casual WWE fan to take Kidd seriously.
5. Brodus Clay: Speaking of WWE dropping the ball, let's talk about Brodus Clay. After being the standout star of NXT Season Four (fuck off, Johnny Curtis), Brodus was immediately brought to the main roster to serve as Alberto Del Rio's bodyguard. Brodus would then wrestle some high-profile matches against the likes of Edge and Christian, and would even be in Del Rio's corner at Wrestlemania. Unfortunately, WWE decided to break up Del Rio's mini-stable, and Brodus was sent back to developmental before going on an insane winning streak on "Superstars", crushing jobber after jobber. Towards the end of the year, WWE decided to reintroduce Brodus with video packages but...he never returned. For about a month, Brodus's debut was pushed back week after week until WWE stopped mentioning it altogether. In summary, Brodus kicked off 2011 involved in a major angle with Del Rio and Edge, and is ending the year M.I.A.
4. Santino Marella: If the only thing you can recall Santino doing in 2011 is almost winning the Royal Rumble match, you're not alone. After his shocking performance at the Rumble, Santino would go on to do absolutely nothing but job. I know he wrestled and beat The Corre at Wrestlemania 27, but he was the weak link of the team, and the match was anything but memorable. Once his former tag team partner Vladimir Koslov became the next member of the "Future Endeavoured" club, Santino lost all direction whatsoever and wrestled more often on "Superstars" than RAW. To be fair, he did miss several months due to a car accident, but since his return, Santino has been booked even worse, if that's possible. The 2011 Santino was a far cry from his days as Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion.
3. Alex Riley: If this countdown was based on the first six months of 2011, Riley would not be on it. In fact, Riley would probably have been my second or third choice for breakout star of the year. However, it is a year-in-review list, so the entire year has to be taken into consideration. There's no denying Riley had a spectacular start to the year: helping The Miz retain his WWE Championship time and time again, being in Miz's corner in the main-event of Wrestlemania, and even defeating his former mentor at Capitol Punishment. Unfortunately for Riley, his luck changed almost overnight, as he went from feuding with Dolph Ziggler to competing on "Superstars" every week - a position he holds to this day. Some people blame a lack of crowd reaction to his de-push; others say he was too green to be pushed as RAW's next top babyface. Whatever the reason may be, A-Ry's stock has fallen drastically over the past six months.
2. Drew McIntyre: It hurts me to put McIntyre so high on the list, as I really like the guy, but I have no choice. It's hard to pinpoint where things started going wrong for the former Intercontinental Champion. Surely it wasn't during his matches with Edge, was it? Surely it wasn't during the Smackdown! Elimination Chamber Match, when McIntyre arguably stole the show? Surely it wasn't the move to RAW...or was it? I can probably count the number of appearances and matches McIntyre has made on the red brand on one hand - the rest have all been on "Superstars". In a matter of months, McIntyre has gone from being next in line for a world title push to next in line to lose his job. Although I wouldn't predict McIntyre getting released anytime in 2012, he has a lot of work to do to remind fans that he's "The Chosen One". WWE fucked up HARD with McIntyre this year, but there's still time to make him relevant again.
1. John Morrison: Imagine. The first WWE match of 2011 consisted of WWE Champion at the time, The Miz, defending his title against John Morrison, who had defeated Sheamus at TLC a month earlier to become the number one contender. As we all know, Morrison was unsuccessful in his quest, but it was a damn good match, and many people predicted Morrison would win the championship. Fast-forward to the present day and Morrison is no longer with the company, having opted to let his contract expire earlier this month. What a shame. Morrison had a great 2011 prior to his neck injury - turning heads at the Royal Rumble, getting more attention in the RAW Elimination Chamber Match, teaming with Trish Stratus and Snooki at Wrestlemania 27, and competing for the WWE Championship in the main-event of Extreme Rules. But as we found out, all good things come to an end, as Morrison lost several months of ringtime due to an injury, and when he returned, he was never quite the same. His final WWE highlight consisted of him facing Dolph Ziggler for the United States Championship at Survivor Series in a match that was overshadowed by the crowds' relentless demands for Zack Ryder. The following week, Morrison would be written off television by his former friend and foe The Miz, and is now a free agent. Not exactly a storybook ending for a man who many people thought would win a world title in 2011.
Honourable Mentions: Ezekiel Jackson, Darren Young, Michael McGillicutty
3. Day 413
Writer's Note: In what you may consider a follow-up to the face and heel turn columns from a few weeks ago, today I will countdown the best character changes of 2011. The criteria includes: how the turn happened, how the audience reacted to the face/heel turn, and how successful the superstar was afterwards. Simple enough, right?
7. Alex Riley: Kicking things off is a guy who, as I mentioned yesterday, had a great first half of 2011. While he had a memorable run as The Miz's sidekick and ally, Riley really turned heads on the RAW after Over The Limit, when he finally stood up to The Miz and turned face. In what many considered a star-making moment, Riley completely destroyed The Miz and the crowd loved it. The following week, Riley debuted with new entrance music, and continued his feud with The Miz, which he arguably won. Unfortunately, Riley would be demoted to "WWE Superstars" not long after his program with The Awesome One, and has made only a handful of RAW appearances since Money in the Bank. A-Ry's face turn was well-done; it was the follow-up that went sour.
6. Sheamus: Going into 2011, if there was any WWE superstar in dire need of a character change, it was The Celtic Warrior. Coming off the heels of a King of the Ring victory that hurt his career more than anything else, Sheamus ultimately dropped out of the main-event scene and was booted off Wrestlemania 27 at the very last second. Many people were glad to see Sheamus drafted to Smackdown!, but he had little direction, having already feuded with Randy Orton the year before. Therefore, company officials decided to take a chance and turn Sheamus face, which on paper, seemed like a bad idea. Why would the crowd want to cheer a man who had taken out huge fan favorites like Orton, John Cena, and Triple H? Yet, Sheamus proved his critics wrong by getting over quickly with the audience and has won almost all of his matches since turning face over the summer. Going into 2012, The Great White has the potential to cement himself as one of Smackdown!'s top babyfaces.
5. Bobby Roode: In 2011, it definitely paid to be Roode. Ironically, TNA spent a good several months building up Roode as a top babyface, as someone who could beat Kurt Angle and win the world title at Bound For Glory, only for TNA to "swerve" the fans and turn Roode heel a few weeks after losing to Angle. Admittedly, costing your tag team partner the world title is an effective way of joining the dark-side, but I found it strange that TNA would put so much effort into making Roode a fan favourite only to do a complete 360 less than a month later. But I suppose that's TNA booking for you. Anyways, Roode has been doing a great job with his persona as it has helped him establish himself as a main-eventer. The question is, can Roode still draw heat when he\s no longer champion? I guess we'll find out in 2012.
4. Christian: If you were pissed the day you heard Christian lost the world title to Randy Orton two days after winning it at Extreme Rules, raise your hand (*quickly counts*). Shit, that's a lot of hands. The fallout from Captain Charisma's unexpected title loss left a bad taste in the mouths of so many fans, that despite Orton getting major face reactions week after week, Christian would get large pops as well. WWE had a choice: either make the Christian/Orton feud one built on respect, or turn one of them heel. Since Orton was the face of Smackdown! and Christian not ready to lead the brand, the latter turned heel and after a rocky start, became one of Smackdown!'s top heels. Many fans (myself included) felt Christian would return to the midcard after losing the belt and his rematches against The Viper. However, Christian's heel turn may have guaranteed him a spot at the top of the card when he returns from injury in 2012.
3. Bully Ray: When WWE split up The Dudley Boyz almost ten years ago, it was a disaster. Devon's Reverend gimmick went nowhere fast, and the fans had a hard time buying Bubba as a singles wrestler. Therefore, when TNA decided to break up Team 3D, many fans were skeptic, and for good reason. But surprisingly, Bubba adopted a new heel persona and got himself over big-time as "Bully Ray". He delivered some intense promos, engaged in several compelling feuds, and was one of the bright spots of TNA. As for Devon, well, that's another story. But Bully Ray definitely had a career year, no one can deny that.
2. R-Truth: I said it in Wednesday's column and I'll say it again. Turning heel was the best thing that could have happened to Ron Killings. I'd even go as far as to say it saved his job. As a face, Truth was running in circles - rapping his own theme song, getting the crowd riled up, and losing to anyone and everybody. By the Green Bay/Milwaukee failure last February, Truth was losing fans by the week, and had become an after-thought on RAW. That was until John Morrison beat Truth for a WWE Championship opportunity and Truth responded by turning heel and taking out his former friend. This sudden change of heart resulted in Truth facing John Cena in the main-event of Capitol Punishment, forming The Awesome Truth with The Miz, and main-eventing Survivor Series against Cena and The Rock. Truth is set to return from suspension in a few days, and when he does, we'll see if he can find a way to top his career-saving 2011.
1. CM Punk The greatest face/heel turn of 2011? CM Punk, without a doubt. He kicked off the year as one of RAW's top heels, and is ending the year as not only the WWE Champion but one of RAW's top babyfaces as well. Such a feat is much easier said than done, folks. It's not difficult for a heel to turn face overnight, but it's a harder process for the other end of the spectrum. As many wrestlers will tell you, it's easier to get the crowd to hate you than to make them to love you. Yet, Punk was able to take the momentum created from the Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View and use it to his advantage. Rather than allow himself to be buried at the hands of Triple H, Kevin Nash, and Alberto Del Rio, Punk proved he was the star of the storyline and the crowd got more and more behind him as the weeks went by. Just this past Sunday, he carried TLC as the show's top babyface due to no John Cena present and didn't look a tad out of place. He may not be the absolute best in the world, but Punk may one day be the face of the company.
4. Day 414
Writer's Note: In an update to yesterday's column, many readers pointed out that I did not include former world heavyweight champion Mark Henry in my list of the best face/heel turns of 2011. I didn't include The World's Strongest Man because being the intelligent person I am, I thought Henry turned heel in 2010, not 2011 (don't ask me why). Had I been bright enough to remember that, Henry would have been ranked number three, no doubt about it. Thanks to everyone who pointed out that glaring omission. Now let's shift gears and talk about last night's episode of Smackdown!...
PRO: Big Show/Mark Henry/Daniel Bryan
I'm sure some people would refer to Smackdown!'s opening segment as nothing short of a "clusterfuck" (Hi Hustle!), but I thought this was a great way to kick off the show. Not only did it put both Henry and Show back in the title hunt, but Bryan cut a pretty good promo in which he put over not only himself, but the two behemoths as well. Teddy Long booking Show vs. Henry to determine Bryan's first challenger wasn't unexpected, but Bryan definitely made the most out of the segment, especially when he shook Show's hand and dissed Henry at the end. Once again, a nice way to start the show which served to answer many people's questions about the world title scene.
PRO: Ryder vs. Rhodes
WWE may do an awful job nowadays of hyping a champion vs. champion match on RAW or Smackdown!, but at least the superstars themselves constantly deliver. I know a lot of people who are still not sold on Ryder and/or Rhodes' in-ring work, but these two put on a good match. Both men looked strong, and almost like equals, despite Rhodes having won the Intercontinental Championship long before Ryder won his United States title. The only thing I did not like about the match was Booker T's involvement. I know it was done to continue the Booker/Rhodes feud and help Ryder pick up the win, but I thought it took the spotlight away from Ryder, the new champion, especially since Ryder won the bout. Apart from that, this was a good opening contest between two of WWE's future megastars.
CON: Henry vs. Big Show - NOT!
When this match ended up being the second of the night, I was confused. Surely a contest between two former world champions for the chance to become Daniel Bryan's number one contender would take place in the main-event, no? But it all began to make sense when David Otunga, coffee mug and all, came out to stop the match because Henry was not medically cleared to compete (again). Otunga got knocked out for his troubles, Henry and Show went to the back, and that was it. A complete waste of time which could have been devoted to an actual match (I guess WWE tends to forget they have guys like Justin Gabriel, Tyson Kidd, Yoshi Tatsu, etc. on the roster. Oh, well).
PRO: The Miz on Smackdown!
If I learned anything new by watching Smackdown! last night, it's that the Miz would benefit tremendously from a permanent move to the blue brand. Over on RAW, Miz has lost a lot of his momentum and has feuded with the top faces (Punk, Cena, and even Truth if he returns as a babyface). But while I was watching Miz rag on Teddy Long backstage and cut his in-ring promo, I thought Miz looked so refreshed on a different show. If I were in charge, I would definitely consider moving Miz to Smackdown! in 2012 as either a heel or a face, as it could rejuvenate his career, much like it did with Sheamus this year.
CON: Sheamus beating Miz
Speaking of The Great White, he was selected by Teddy Long to face The Miz and "defend" Smackdown!. The two put on a short but fun match, with my only beef being with who got the win. It's been quite some time since Miz picked up a big victory, while Sheamus has quite the impressive winning streak going on. Whether you're a Miz fan or a Sheamus fan, I think it's safe to say that Miz needed the victory a lot more last night. Instead, WWE continued to book Miz in weak fashion, while Sheamus got an unnecessary win. Just strange booking, in my opinion.
PRO: Orton and Barrett's backstage brawl
Last night we saw an interesting development in the ongoing feud between Randy Orton and Wade Barrett. After boasting about how he was dominating Orton, Barrett was chased to the back by The Viper and the two fought it out like pure savages. It ended by Orton ramming Barrett into the hood of a car in the parking lot and then RKOing the man from Wales on a parked car. Although a bit lengthy, this was a fun brawl that showed how much each guy hates the other. You be assured they have at least one more match left in them.
CON: Kofi vs. Primo
This is not really a knock against the match itself, as it was solid, but rather on the external factors. For starters, the crowd was not into this match partly because they were still calming down from the backstage brawl and partly because Primo & Epico aren’t really over yet (but in their defense, they haven’t cut too many promos letting the audience know who they are). The match also fell flat because the announcers spent more time ragging on Booker T’s history as a tag team champion, Daniel Bryan, and Rosa Mendes. Kofi vs. Primo came across as an after-thought, which is a shame for both guys.
PRO: The double main-event
At first I thought WWE were actually giving Bryan and Ziggler over twenty minutes to wrestle on free television, which would have gave countless internet fans worldwide a major boner right before Christmas. Unfortunately, the match only went half as long because Big Show and Jack Swagger ran down to get involved, which caused Teddy Long to book a mandatory tag team between Show-Bryan and Zig-Swag (don’t hate). Both contests were exciting, and it ended with Bryan getting the win over Swagger. Instead of complaining about Swagger suffering another loss, I’m going to point out that in one week, Daniel Bryan has pinned or made submit three former world champions - Big Show, Alberto Del Rio, and Jack Swagger. Hmmm, maybe Bryan’s title reign won’t be booked that badly after all.
#ThankYouSantaClaus: The storyline between Henry, Show, and Bryan over the world heavyweight championship...Ryder vs. Rhodes...The Miz “electrifying” Smackdown!...The Miz vs. Sheamus...Orton and Barrett’s backstage brawl...the tag team division continuing to get TV time...Bryan vs. Ziggler...Show-Bryan vs. Zig-Swag...NO Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal, Hornswoggle and Alicia Fox
#FuckYouMcDonaldsForMakingMeWorkOnXmas: Booker T’s Christmas Carolling...Show vs. Henry never taking place...Miz continuing to lose...Kofi vs. Primo being “just there”...No Aj or Kaitlyn in a Christmas outfit
Grade: A (really good show this week)
5. Day 415
Today is December 25, and as you know, most people around the world are celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah or some kind of holiday. Some are getting gifts, some are stuffing themselves with food, while others are just kicking back and enjoying the day off. As a result, there is very little going on in the world of wrestling. It's one of the only days of the year when the show does not go on (unless Christmas falls on a Monday Night RAW taping or something). Me being a columnist that has vowed to post every day until January 1st, 2012, that kind of leaves me in a pickle.
But never fear, reader. In the spirit of Christmas, I will share with you the top FIVE Zack Ryder moments of 2011. Biased, you ask? Obviously, but it's my column, on Christmas, so I don't really care. Broskis, enjoy the list. Haters, take care, and spike your hair. WWWYKI!
5. The debut of Z! True Long Island Story
We start the countdown with the YouTube show that started it all. Many people would agree that if Z!TLIS was never created, Ryder would not be at the level he is now. In fact, he'd probably still be wrestling on "Superstars" every week. But this weekly show, exclusive to YouTube, not only put Ryder on the map, but revolutionized the wrestling business. Why? Because Ryder broke the norm - rather than sitting on the sidelines, waiting for a push, Ryder started his own push, or The Ryder Revolution, if you will. What started off as a challenge to Mike "The Situation" from Jersey Shore turned into one of the most popular series on all off YouTube. 45 episodes later, and Z!TLIS is still going strong.
4. Zack Ryder (with Hugh Jackman) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Apart from The Muppets, Hugh Jackman was arguably the most entertaining RAW host/celebrity/whatever of 2011. Unlike many who came before him, Jackman was engaged in the WWE product and appeared genuinely excited about being there. His promo in the ring led to him putting over Zack Ryder, who's push was relatively new at the time, and later accompanied Ryder to the ring for his match against United States Champion Dolph Ziggler. Jackman ended up punching out Ziggler which allowed Ryder to pick up one of the biggest wins of his young career. A great rub from an A-list celebrity right there.
3. Zack Ryder vs. John Cena
This was a match that many members of the IWC thought we would not see for at least another year, but WWE gave it away for free on RAW a few weeks ago. In case you forgot, it was Ryder putting up his shot at Dolph Ziggler's U.S. championship against John Cena's spot in the WWE Championship match at TLC. Rather than getting a quick squash match, both men tore it down and put on the best match of the night. Cena did a very good job of making Ryder look like his equal, and when Cena barely managed to defeat Ryder, he forfeited his title shot at TLC to allow Ryder another chance at Ziggler's U.S. title. Not only did Ryder get to have a great match which one of his idols and biggest supporters, but Ryder was also put over by the face of the company.
2. Ryder's reception at Madison Square Garden
It's been said before, and I'll say it again. If you can make it in Madison Square Garden, the world's most famous arena, then you can make it anywhere. At November's Survivor Series Pay-Per-View, the person with the most cheers all-night long (besides The Rock) was - you guessed it - Zack Ryder. Despite not being booked for a match and making an appearance in front of the live crowd, the audience could not get enough of Long Island Iced Z. Chants of "We Want Ryder"/"Woo Woo Woo" echoed throughout the arena during the opening contest, the traditional elimination tag team match, and even during Rock's post-match promo. Ryder was no longer an internet hero, but someone who everyone wanted to see.
1. Ryder wins the U.S. Championship at TLC
Let's make one thing clear. Despite a fantastic title reign by Ziggler, the U.S. title is nowhere near the prestige of a world title, and it probably never will be. BUT, WWE did the right thing by putting the title on a face who was not only over, but worked really hard to win the title. In other words, it was a fairy-tale ending for Ryder at TLC, achieving his dream of finally winning a singles title in the WWE. The crowd popped like mad when Ryder won, as did I, someone who's supported Ryder since his early days in ECW. Ladies and gentlemen, Zack Ryder is no fad. Ryder is here to stay. Woo Woo Woo, You Know It!
6. Day 416
Writer's Note: Today's column is going to be anything but fun or positive. Rather than praising these men and women on their accomplishments in 2011 or giving them tips on how to improve in 2012, I will simply be tearing them a new asshole. Why? Because I cannot stand their fucking guts. I don't wish death upon any of them, but it would be nice to see every last one of them get fired from their respective companies in the new year or something. A guy can dream, right? Anyways, I'll try not to rant too much, but no guarantees.
7. Mr. Anderson: I don't know what pisses me off the most about this man. The fact that he is still employed by TNA, or that his fans continue to defend him, saying he does not suck. If you are an "asshole", I feel so sorry for you. This guy is a charisma vacuum who has not wrestled a memorable match his entire career (WWE and TNA included). His promos are repetitive, and he has played the tweener role for so long now it's annoying just listening to him talk. Yet, despite all that, TNA continues to push him as one of their top stars. The only push Mr. Anderson deserves is down the card, and even that is being generous.
6. Heath Slater: While I'm glad that the "One Man Rock Band" is nothing more than a glorified jobber, it irritates me that WWE occasionally tries to push him as more than that. For example, Slater had no business competing in the Smackdown! Money in the Bank Ladder Match, but he did. Slater had no business wrestling at Wrestlemania 27, but he did. I know his inclusion in both matches came about due to his involvement with The Corre, but it still bugs me. He also gets way too much offense in against guys like Sheamus or Daniel Bryan. Slater has a terrible look, has zero charisma, and it's painful to hear him cut a promo with that accent of his. What WWE sees in him, I'll never know.
5. Matt Hardy: If you're surprised why the older Hardy brother is not higher on the list, it's because I don't hate Matt as much as I think he's an idiot (if that makes any sense). Pretty much everything Matt did this year can be summarized in one word: stupidity. From posting a YouTube video of Jeff tasing his girlfriend, to getting fired from TNA after being arrested for driving intoxicated, to posting a fake suicide video, all the way to getting kicked out of WWE-sponsored rehab and landing back in jail, it can all be explained with one statement - Matt Hardy is an idiot. I may have been a fan of The Hardy Boyz back in the day, but I hope Matt never gets another chance to appear on WWE television, not after all the shit he pulled this year.
4. Jinder Mahal: Whoever made the decision to call up Mahal from FCW and give him a spot on the main roster is a moron. Whoever decided to give him a push upon his debut needs to get his brain examined. Whoever decided to keep using Mahal on television despite the crowd not giving two fucks about him (and most WWE audiences ALWAYS boo anti-American characters) should be fired ASAP. Mahal did accomplish something in 2011: he made The Great Khali not be the least-exciting person whenever they were in the ring together. Mahal is way too green for his current role and is stinking up every match and angle he participates in. Just go back to FCW or find another job.
3. The Bischoffs (Garrett & Eric): No, I'm not talking about a tag team. I'm talking about a father and son combination that has poisoned a lot of TNA programming in recent months. Eric Bischoff, who is one of the main authority figures backstage, decided to push his son Garrett (who is NOT a trained wrestler) as a top face in TNA. Not because Garrett can deliver an intense promo or is super-athletic, but because he's Eric's son. My opinion? Fuck that shit. Who the fuck does Eric think he is, pushing a guy who is NOT A WRESTLER over a roster full of guys who know how to wrestle just because he's Garrett's biological father? Fuck you Eric and fuck your worthless son as well.
2. Eve/Kelly Kelly/Alicia Fox: Words cannot express how much I hate these three women. Well, they could, but most people would not understand my Canadian foul language. So let me just say that these three women epitomize what is wrong with women's wrestling in the WWE: they are all models turned wrestler. They are no more than "okay" in the ring, have very little charisma, and are unbelievable champions. 99% of fans do not take the women's division seriously because they know they're not watching women who have trained their whole life to be wrestlers: they're watching former models and Barbie dolls. What's worse is that WWE keeps trying to push them like they're phenomenal athletes and on par with the likes of Trish Stratus, Lita, and Victoria (WWE wanted Trish AND Lita to present Kelly with the "Divalicious" Slammy to endorse her as the new face of women's wrestling - SAY WHAT?!?!). I can't wait for the day Kharma comes back and "accidentally" injures one of their body parts so badly that they quit WWE and go back to modeling. Good riddance.
1. Hulk Hogan: The person I hated the most in 2011? One of the biggest names in the history of professional wrestling. Why? Because alongside his good buddy Eric Bischoff, Hogan is using his backstage pull to poison the TNA roster. Granted, his first year in TNA was pretty bad, as he wasted no time signing his friends and has-beens like The Nasty Boys and Orlando Jordan to TNA contracts, but he didn't improve much in 2011. Hogan has done nothing to improve Impact Wrestling's rating since his arrival, and even made his match with Sting at Bound For Glory the main attraction. At the same Pay-Per-View, Hogan reportedly vetoed the scheduled Bobby Roode title win because he didn't think Roode was a main-event caliber star. Fuck you, Hogan. Fuck your ideas and your opinions, they're terrible. The wrestling world has evolved over the past twenty years, while you haven't changed a bit. Stop spreading your cancer and leave the company before you kill it. But I know your ego will never allow that to happen, and that's what really pisses me off.
7. Day 417
Writer's Note: Last night I spent my entire evening at a managers' Christmas party and did not get home until 2am. Considering I'm scheduled to work two from now, I have no time to watch RAW until much later this week, which means no RAW Pros & Cons today. Instead, I'll be sharing my thoughts on one of the major topics from last night's show: Ziggler is the new number one contender to Punk's WWE Championship.
A few days before Christmas, a rumour spread across the internet that WWE officials were not pleased with RAW's consistently poor ratings and were debating about stripping the title off CM Punk as a result. Most people dismissed the story; RAW's ratings have been in decline for the majority of 2011. Surely they wouldn't dethrone Punk not even two months into his FIFTH world title reign!
But last night on RAW, Punk was forced to compete in a Gauntlet Match, and the hometown hero couldn't even make it halfway through, as he fell to Dolph Ziggler in the second match/round. As a result, Ziggler will face Punk for the WWE Championship next week on RAW.
I'm sure most people will boast that Punk and his fanbase have nothing to worry about. Ziggler is excellent, and is a future world champion - no doubt about it - but he won't win the WWE title next Monday, especially with so little build-up. Punk and Ziggler will compete in a very early Match of the Year candidate, much like John Morrison and The Miz did on the first RAW of 2011. However, the results will mirror Morrison vs. The Miz - the challenger will put up a valiant effort, but in the end, the champion will retain his title. After all, it's merely a coincidence that Punk is being forced to defend his WWE Championship a week after reports broke about officials being sceptical about his drawing ability as world champion. Nothing more than a coincidence...right?
I hope so. I'm a huge fan of Ziggler myself, but to hot-shot the title on the former United States Champion just because Punk is being scapegoated for low ratings wouldn't help either guy (or the company) in the long-run. It would give Punk another short and crappy title reign, Ziggler would suddenly have a HUGE burden on his shoulders, and for all we know, RAW's ratings won't improve a bit. WWE is quick to blame Superstar X and Superstar Y for RAW's ratings being in the toilet, but refuse to blame the writers instead. It's not that overall interest in the product is down, because if it were, Smackdown! would be getting numbers closer to a 1.2 than a 2.2 almost every week. Instead, Smackdown!'s ratings are going up not because of the star power, but because the wrestling and overall storylines make for compelling on television.
RAW is home to John Cena, CM Punk, Triple H, The Miz, and even Smackdown! talent like Randy Orton and Sheamus, which provides for A LOT of star power, but the majority of episodes in 2011 have been a chore to get through. During Alberto Del Rio's first reign as WWE Champion, he lost the title to John Cena at Night Of Champions because WWE thought Cena could improve the ratings. Well, Cena didn't - RAW's ratings remained the same. The point that WWE refuses to acknowledge is that the champion is not to blame for a decline in ratings, but RAW's creative and booking team is. The champion may be the show's main draw, but how can he draw if he has next to nothing to work with?
CM Punk's isn't too blame for the 2.9 rating last week. Del Rio should not be blamed for mediocre ratings during his title reigns. Not even Cena is at fault for failing to draw massive ratings. The product is the problem, and ratings won't improve until the company wakes up, fixes the product, and solves the problem.
WWE, please don't make Punk drop the title on Monday. Calm down, and get to the root of the problem. When you do, it might be time to make some major changes.
Song Of The Day:
Whew. Another week of dailies gone, which is much easier said than done. Now that the holidays are almost over (we just have New Years this weekend to get through), the closer we are to returning to school. I can't believe I resume classes January 3rd, which is just cruel. That's University life, I guess.
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