WWE: 2011 Year-End Awards

Eric KanesContributor IIIJanuary 2, 2012

WWE: 2011 Year-End Awards

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    Compared to the past few years, 2011 was pretty damn good, in terms of both in-ring action and promos. This article will have 20 awards for 20 different things, some of them for good things and some of them for bad things.

    Before I move on, I'd like to do a quick plug. Make sure to add me on Facebook to be updated on all of the year-end columns and also on the Writer Search that I will be holding for my site, QuickWrestlingNews. I've finally decided on a date and that date is this Wednesday on Jan. 4, so definitely make sure to add me to stay tuned.

    And now, without any further ado, let's get down to the 2011 Year-End Awards.

Wrestler of the Year: CM Punk

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    Honorable Mention: John Cena, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, Christian

    I think we can all agree that this year, CM Punk has to run away with the "Wrestler of the Year" award. Like it or not, CM Punk owned this year.

    He started off the year in the most interesting storyline when he was the leader of The Nexus and he was angry at John Cena. He'd go on to have a great showing in the Royal Rumble match and then he moved on to feuds with Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio, putting on many 3-plus-star matches in the process. However, things didn't really kick off for CM Punk until June 27 when he cut his infamous shoot promo.

    From that point, his career just skyrocketed to the top and within about a month, he became the No. 2 babyface in the company. He cut what I consider some of the greatest promos ever, he had really good feuds with John Cena and Triple H, and he wrestled some fantastic matches against John Cena, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, and Alberto Del Rio. He even got two reigns as WWE Champion and right now, he is finally makinf the title relevant again. Nobody else could match the year that CM Punk had.

    We have four wrestlers who get "Honorable Mention" here. John Cena gets it for obvious reasons, as he was involved in two of the most important feuds against both CM Punk and The Rock. Say what you want but those rivalries would not have been possibly without him. He was also involved in two great matches against CM Punk, which we'll get to in a bit.

    Randy Orton had a pretty good year, too. He improved a lot as a worker and he had that terrific series of matches against Christian. He was also used to put several guys over, most notably Wade Barrett, so I can't leave him out.

    Christian and Mark Henry both had their best year due to their respective heel turns. For the first time in his career, Mark Henry had a run as World Champion and he put on the best matches and promos of his career. He was a lot more entertaining than at any other point in his career so it shows how much of a difference booking can make. Christian also had two runs as World Champion and consistently worked some of the best matches on SmackDown.

Match of the Year: CM Punk vs. John Cena (Money in the Bank)

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    Honorable Mention: Triple H vs. The Undertaker (WrestleMania 27), Christian vs. Randy Orton (SummerSlam), Christian vs. Randy Orton (Over the Limit)

    The "Match of the Year" topic got an article of its own. This is what I had to say:

    Was anybody really expecting anything else? This wasn’t just “Match of the Year.” This was one of the greatest matches of all time. Here is what I said in my Money in the Bank review:

    "This right here was the reason that most of us watch wrestling. What we got here was magical. The crowd’s response and the way these two went back and forth was surreal. I’d say that 95 percent of the crowd was for CM Punk. Colt Cabana was at ringside, and Punk high-fived him every time he took Cena down on the outside.

    This was 35 minutes of pure, straight-up wrestling, and it was booked perfectly. The match of the year by far. Cena hit two AA’s on Punk towards the end, and Punk kicked out. Cena’s facial reaction was gold as he told the referee, “I don’t know what to do.” To end it, CM Punk hit the GTS on Cena’s chest causing Cena to fall out of the ring. Punk rolled him back into the ring, but Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis came out on the ramp, distracting Punk.

    As Punk got back into the ring, Cena got him into the AA. Laurinaitis went to the referee to signal for the bell, but Cena broke the hold and decked him in the face. Off the distraction, Punk hit the GTS and won. McMahon called for Del Rio, but as Del Rio ran out, Punk kicked him in the head, blew a kiss to McMahon and left through the crowd with the title.

    A perfect ending. You don’t often hear me praising WWE like this, but this was terrific. Everyone was expecting a clean Cena win, a Chicago Screwjob, or Punk winning and then Del Rio cashing in. All of those endings were teased, and it got the crowd in attendance, and everyone watching at home, excited for the finish.

    Thank you WWE, for putting on this epic pay-per-view and finally getting it right.”

    Looking back, nothing came close to this match. CM Punk’s shoot promo made him a legitimate main eventer and this match sealed the deal. Things would’ve been a lot different right now if there was a different finish to the match, especially if John Cena won. Like I said in my review, though, this was one of those instances where WWE got it right.

Rivalry of the Year: CM Punk vs. John Cena

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    Honorable Mention: Christian vs. Randy Orton, The Rock vs. John Cena, CM Punk vs. Triple H

    CM Punk and John Cena get yet another award and CM Punk gets his third award in a row. CM Punk vs. John Cena and Randy Orton vs. Christian were both good feuds that gave us a lot of classic matches but I think in the end, what it came down to, is the fact that CM Punk and John Cena's feud was great not only in terms of matches, but in terms of promos as well. CM Punk's shoot promo, his contract negotiation, and his contract signing with John Cena were all terrific and it's something that Randy Orton and Christian just weren't able to achieve. Plus, I think the quality of CM Punk and John Cena's matches were just slightly better than Christian and Randy Orton's but that might just be me.

    CM Punk vs. Triple H was fun for what it was but the problem with it was the direction that it went. CM Punk spent two months attacking Triple H and then in a matter of one day they became buddies? This could've been the feud of the year if Triple H had turned heel and CM Punk had been the anti-hero rebelling against the evil boss. Instead, what we got was CM Punk and Triple H suddenly becoming best friends and teaming up against Awesome Truth. It started out really good but didn't really follow through.

    The Rock vs. John Cena was a good feud as well and I think it'll be a strong candidate for "Rivalry of the Year" in 2012, as it's just really getting started. If John Cena turns heel by WrestleMania, it's definitely going to be hard to top it.

Tag Team of the Year: Awesome Truth

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    Honorable Mention: Air Boom, Jack Swagger & Dolph Ziggler

    It says a lot about tag team wrestling in WWE when the winner of "Tag Team of the Year" is a team that was together for three months. Nonetheless, The Miz and R-Truth were consistently entertaining during their run as a team. During their run, they were the focal point of four pay-per-views in a row and they were involved in two major matches, one against CM Punk & Triple H and one against The Rock & John Cena.

    It could've been booked better but that's on the creative team and not on them, so I won't go into that. Air Boom was a close second as they are the current tag team champions and they are actually treated more like a tag team than an alliance but they weren't as entertaining as Awesome Truth and didn't accomplish as much so they came just short of getting the award.

    Hopefully, 2012 is a much better year for tag team wrestling. As of right now, we have five teams - Air Boom, The Usos, Curt Hawkins & Tyler Reks, Primo & Epico, and Hunico & Camacho. There's also several teams down in FCW waiting to be called up. This already looks like a solid division but the only problem is that only one of these teams gets consistent air time and the reality is that most of these teams will be split up within a few months. If WWE were to give the tag team division just a little more attention, it definitely has potential to be good again.

Diva of the Year: Beth Phoenix

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    Honorable Mention: Natalya, Kharma

    The diva's division was even weaker than the tag team division this year. There's only one diva that could even be considered for this award and that is Beth Phoenix. It could've been Natalya if she was the one who was Diva's Champion but since Beth Phoenix is the one who's always in the spotlight, she gets the nod.

    As with the tag team division, 2012 will probably be a better year for women's wrestling. There's a Beth Phoenix vs. Layla feud coming up, which won't be spectacular but at least it's something fresh, Beth Phoenix vs. Natalya will probably happen which should be good, and of course, I'm sure a lot of people are counting down the days until Kharma's return.

    The diva's division was a train wreck this year for the most part and we'll get into that more in a bit.

Heel/Face Turn of the Year: Mark Henry

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    Honorable Mention: CM Punk, Zack Ryder, R-Truth

    If somebody told me at this time last year that Mark Henry would go on to become World Champion, I would’ve thought that they’re crazy. After all, at that time, he was used as “enhancement talent” in squash matches against guys like Cody Rhodes and John Morrison.

    Ever since being drafted to RAW, he was used as a comedic face in some horrible segments like the hot tub time machine with Hornswoggle and the dance-off with The Great Khali. He had a very dull character and it seemed like he was on the brink of retirement.

    Then, in May, Mark Henry was drafted to SmackDown where he officially turned heel. WWE quickly put him on a roll. He took out the likes of Big Show, Kane, Vladimir Kozlov, & The Great Khali and inducted them into the “Hall of Pain.” All of this eventually led to the first World title reign of his career and easily the best year of his career as well. For the first time in his career, he showed some personality during his promos and even put on some decent matches.

    It just goes to show how much of a difference good booking can make.

    I wrote a full article for this award so you can see my thoughts on the others right here.

Promo of the Year: CM Punk's Shoot Promo

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    Honorable Mention: CM Punk's Contract Negotiation With Vince McMahon, The Rock's Return Promo, CM Punk & John Cena's Contract Signing

    Like it or not, there was nothing not only this year, but probably in the past five years that was even close to this promo. Whether it was worked or not doesn’t matter. CM Punk expressed some of his major frustrations on behalf of everybody and it shook things up in WWE in a big way.

    Because of this promo, CM Punk is where he is today. He went from floating around in midcard hell for several years to being the No. 2 face in the company. He’s one of the top merchandise sellers and draws in the company. I’d say he’s even surpassed Randy Orton, and is on a level just below John Cena. As of this writing, he’s the current WWE Champion and I’d bet you anything that if it weren’t for this promo, CM Punk would not even be in WWE right now while John Cena would have been in his eighth month as WWE Champion.

    It might not seem like the promo changed a lot, but it really did. It created a lot of hype for the company and it made CM Punk into the star he is today. I won’t even write out the transcript for this promo. If you haven’t seen it already, see it now. It’s that good. I’d say it might even be in the top 10 promos all time.

    This also has its own article, which can be read right here.

Pay-Per-View of the Year: Money in the Bank

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    Honorable Mention: SummerSlam, Royal Rumble, Extreme Rules

    Money in the Bank runs away with this award and nothing even comes close. I rated this pay-per-view 9.5/10 and I don't think that's overrating it at all. It was a solid show from top to bottom with a hot crowd and well built-up matches. There were four 3-plus-star matches and one 4-star match. What more can you ask for?

    Money in the Bank had the best opener of the year with the SmackDown Money in the Bank match, which was 25 minutes of nonstop action and it saw Daniel Bryan emerge victorious. Kelly Kelly vs. Brie Bella was next and it was too short to really be horrible. Mark Henry vs. Big Show was a really good match considering who was competing and it got Mark Henry over big time.

    After that, we got the RAW Money in the Bank match which wasn't as good as the SmackDown one but I still had it at 3.5 stars. Christian vs. Randy Orton was next and they delivered as always. Finally, we saw CM Punk vs. John Cena put on the "Match of the Year" with one of the hottest crowds in years. If they took out the divas match and had somebody else win the RAW Money in the Bank match, it would've been pretty much flawless.

    SummerSlam was really good as well with two 4-plus-star matches. The Royal Rumble was fun with the 40-man Royal Rumble and a hot opener in Edge vs. Dolph Ziggler. Extreme Rules had two good matches as well, which were Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio and John Cena vs. The Miz vs. John Morrison.

    All in all, this was a very strong year in terms of pay-per-views. I can't say that there was any one that was completely unwatchable. Even Over the Limit, for all its horrible matches, had the Christian vs. Randy Orton match to make up for it. Even when the storylines on TV were crap, the PPVs were consistently good this year. Hopefully, this is a trend that continues into 2012.

TV Show of the Year: RAW

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    Honorable Mention: SmackDown

    I'll admit that a lot of the RAWs that WWE put on this year sucked, especially between WrestleMania and CM Punk's shoot promo. Still, there were a lot of really good, memorable editions of RAW. On RAW, we saw matches such as The Miz vs. John Morrison, CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Alberto Del Rio, and the 12 man tag team match. In fact, I just noticed that every single promo on my "Top 10 Promos of 2011" happened on RAW.

    The thing about RAW is that it's usually either really good or really bad. I can't say that that's a good thing but it's better than just being boring 90% of the time. I found it hard to sit through a lot of the editions of SmackDown and never really felt like I missed anything if I missed it. It's not the talent because the talent was definitely there (Christian, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, Sheamus, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, etc.) The problem is either the creative team or Vince McMahon not wanting to focus on SmackDown as much as RAW.

    Either way, RAW takes this one.

Most Overrated Wrestler of the Year: Alberto Del Rio

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    Honorable Mention: Kelly Kelly

    This award is for the wrestler that was overrated the most by both WWE and the IWC. Any way you look at it, Alberto Del Rio takes this one.

    At the start of the year and even all the way throughout the summer, everyone was talking about how amazing his promo skills were and how great of a wrestler he is. He went on to win the Royal Rumble, win the Money in the Bank briefcase, and get two reigns as the WWE Champion. Throughout all of this, his lack of charisma was exposed. I guess that he was overrated at the start of the year because he was still relatively new and felt a bit fresh. However, the "It is my destiny; Rey Mysterio is a chihuahua" promo got old really fast. As of right now, it seems like he might be out of the main event picture for a while.

    I don't think Alberto Del Rio is a bad wrestler. In fact, he's one of the better worker and that is evident by his matches with CM Punk. The problem is that WWE tried to push him really hard really fast and they went about it the wrong way. First of all, they should've gotten him a mouthpiece, such as Armando Estrada. Then, they should've actually had him win matches. What was the point of having him win the Royal Rumble if he lost to Edge at WrestleMania? What was the point of having him win Money in the Bank if he lost the title to John Cena a month later? WWE booked his character horribly for a year and now it's going to be hard for him to come back from this.

Most Underrated Wrestler of the Year: Jack Swagger

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    Honorable Mention: Vladimir Kozlov, Drew McIntyre, Tyson Kidd

    Jack Swagger went from being World Champion in 2010 to being Michael Cole's manager and Dolph Ziggler's henchman in 2011.

    It sucks, too, because it could've been his best year yet if instead of him managing Michael Cole, Michael Cole managed him. After all, Michael Cole is probably the most hated WWE personality, so having him manage Jack Swagger would give Swagger a lot of heat and momentum. However, WWE chose to have Jack Swagger and Michael Cole kindly part ways instead and that was the end of that. Then, it seemed like Swagger was on the verge of something big again when Vickie Guerrero showed interest in managing him. A lot of people thought that it would lead to a face turn and feud against Dolph Ziggler for him. Nope. Now, Jack Swagger is simply in Dolph Ziggler's corner for some of his matches and that's it. It really is a shame to see where he is with all of the talent that he's got.

     

Breakout Star of the Year: CM Punk

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    Honorable Mention: Mark Henry, Zack Ryder, Christian

    CM Punk picks up his fifth award here. Let's take a look at how the runner-ups broke out this year first. Mark Henry went from being in stupid guest host segments and being used occassionally as a jobber to having a dominant run as the World Champion. Zack Ryder went from being exclusive on Superstars to being one of the top merchandise sellers, one of the most popular superstars, and the current United States Champion. And of course, Christian went from doing pretty much nothing in 2010 to being a 2-time World Champion in 2011.

    However, nobody was able to break out quite like CM Punk did this year. In 2010, he won only one pay-per-view match and he lost feuds to both Rey Mysterio and Big Show. In fact, there was an instance where he teamed up with Luke Gallows and Joey Mercury in a 1-on-3 handicap match against Big Show and still lost. To end the year, he suffered an injury and acted as a commentator until he healed. After the abomination of the year that he had and considering how entertaining he was on commentary, I remember some people actually speculating whether or not he should even return as a wrestler.

    However, CM Punk did return as a wrestler, and as the leader of The Nexus. Still, they had the entire faction and CM Punk himself completely destroyed by Randy Orton. It really seemed like CM Punk was leaving WWE until June 27th. I've already recapped this several times in this article so in summary, from that point on, CM Punk finally solidified himself as a legitimate main eventer and he is the current WWE Champion on RAW. In 2012, he'll likely become the face of SmackDown and make that show somewhat entertaining again. Mark Henry, Zack Ryder, Christian, and a lot of others had good years but nothing can top CM Punk's well-deserved rise to the top.

Most Likely to Break Out in 2012: Sheamus

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    Honorable Mention: Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz

    As of right now, I have to go with Sheamus for "Most Likely to Break Out in 2012." I know that in a lot of people's minds, he already is a legitimate main eventer. That idea died for me after his run as "King Sheamus." My definition of a legitimate main eventer is somebody who can bounce right back into the main event scene after being involved in a midcard feud. It's also somebody who can be used to put others over and doesn't need to be put over himself. In my eyes, the only legitimate main eventers in WWE right now are John Cena, CM Punk, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, and Big Show. In 2012, I think Sheamus will join that list.

    Right now, Sheamus doesn't really have a feud and his character basically just comes out whenever another wrestler needs somebody to fight. It seems like WWE is really protecting him though until he has an actual feud because I can't remember the last time he lost. I think Sheamus will get another run as World Champion this year but this time, it'll have been built up properly and he won't just go back to being a midcard jobber afterwards.

    Wade Barrett is a really close second for me. I actually couldn't decide between him and Sheamus, so I went with Sheamus just because WWE seems to have a bit more faith in him. As most of you know, Wade Barrett is one of my favorites. He was great as a heel when he was the leader of The Nexus and he has the charisma that a lot of the roster lacks. If WWE had just a bit more faith in him and didn't drop all of his angles after a few month, he'd already be one of the top guys right now.

    A lot of you might be shocked that I put Dolph Ziggler's name up there because I've never been a huge fan of Ziggler. I still think he has a lot to work on, especially in terms of mic skills. All he really does is talk really fast. People say that he's "great" on the mic but they said the same thing about Alberto Del Rio just because he had an accent. What has stood out to me about Dolph Ziggler recently is his matches. He's consistently been putting on some of the best matches on RAW and he's really been growing on me. He's still fairly young at age 31, so if he continues improving like this, big things could be in store for him.

    The Miz is somebody else who I think could have a good year. If Chris Jericho were to come back and eventually have a feud with him, it could put him over huge.

    People will probably ask me why Cody Rhodes didn't get "Honorable Mention" and my answer will be that I don't think it's his time yet. All of the heels can't be pushed to the top at once and I think that Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, and The Miz will get pushed before he is. However, he's still only 26. He's still got time. There's no need to rush his main event run. It's better to slowly build him up like they are now than to just shoehorn him into the main event scene, like they did with Alberto Del Rio.

Funniest Wrestler of the Year: R-Truth

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    Honorable Mention: CM Punk, The Rock, Santino Marella

    R-Truth was easily the funniest WWE performer this year. I'm not even sure if it was intentional most of the time because he is genuinely a very funny person. Nonetheless, a lot of his promos turned out to be hilarious with his catchphrases, crazy antics, and "Don't what me!"

    CM Punk and The Rock both had a lot of funny lines in their promos. "OMG Kevin Nash WTF thought he was dead LOL." "You run around here looking like a bowl of fruity pebbles." "If you say it's because it's your destiny, I swear to Jebus I'm going to start drinking." "You put on your tough guy wristbands like a Transvestite Wonderwoman." I could go on and on.

    Santino Marella had a lot of funny moments as well, as he always does. He probably would've gotten the award last year but this year, he wasn't featured enough to get it.

Announcer of the Year: Jim Ross

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    Honorable Mention: Wade Barrett from that one time he did commentary, maybe Josh Matthews on a really good day

    It's pretty sad when the commentary is so bad that the "Announcer of the Year" award has to go to someone who called about a total of 10 shows. Still, his performances at both WrestleMania and Hell in a Cell were better than any of Michael Cole's, Jerry Lawler's, or Booker T's.

    Some people enjoy Booker T's commentary. I was always a huge fan of him as a wrestler but I just can't enjoy his commentary style. When a guy like Kevin Nash makes his return after eight months and attacks CM Punk, the commentators should make it look like an intense moment, not say "that's my big homey right thur!" Same with Daniel Bryan winning the world title. Why the hell would you talk about the "fave five" when a moment like that happens?

    What I don't get is why WWE has all of these guys on commentary when they have Jim Ross, Joey Styles, and William Regal all under contract. Why not utilize those guys as the main commentators? It makes no sense to me.

Theme Song of the Year: "Cult of Personality" - CM Punk

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    Honorable Mention: "You Suck" - Awesome Truth, "Ain't No Grave" - The Undertaker, "Smoke and Mirrors" - Cody Rhodes, "Here to Show the World" - Dolph Ziggler, "Rockhouse" - Kevin Nash

    For the "Theme Song of the Year", I decided to make in an award exclusively for theme songs that made their debut this year. There were some really good ones but none matched someone as much as "Cult of Personality" matched CM Punk. It matches his character perfectly and seems like it was written almost exclusively for him.

    On a side note, this is CM Punk's sixth award so far.

Rookie of the Year: Kharma

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    Honorable Mention: Brodus Clay, Sin Cara, Hunico

    This year, we didn't see too many rookies. None of the ones we saw really made too much of an impact, so I'm giving to Kharma for lack of anyone better. As I said earlier, I cannot wait for her to come back and dominate the Diva's Division.

     

Catchphrase of the Year: "You Gon' Get Got!" - R-Truth

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    Honorable Mention: "Woo Woo Woo You Know It" - Zack Ryder, "Take Care, Spike Your Hair" - Zack Ryder, "I am the best wrestler" - CM Punk, "I am Mr. John Laurinaitis, the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations" - John Laurinaitis

    "You gon' get got" wins "Catchphrase of the Year" and it ties in to the "Funniest Wrestler" award. The way R-Truth delivered the line and the moments he delivered it at were simply hilarious. I think it was supposed to be a one time thing but because it worked the first time, he continued using the line from that point on.

Worst Match of the Year: Country Whipping Match (Extreme Rules)

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    Honorable Mention: John Cena vs. The Miz (Over the Limit), any divas match not involving Beth Phoenix or Natalya

    Apparently, somebody in WWE thought it would be a good idea to have a Country Whipping match between three announcers and Jack Swagger. It wasn't. This was brutal to watch, I felt bad for Jack Swagger because he was involved in this, and JR broke his hand for nothing. It's horrible that they made him wrestle in the first place. Hopefully, WWE learns their lesson from the detereorating ratings and stops doing the angles with the commentators.

Worst Wrestler of the Year: Kelly Kelly

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    Honorable Mention: The Bella Twins, Alicia Fox, David Otunga

    I couldn't go with anybody else for this one. A lot of people would probably say David Otunga or The Great Khali as the "Worst Wrestler" but at least those guys know how to run the ropes and don't yell like they're getting their arms chopped off. Watching a David Otunga is boring whereas watching a Kelly Kelly match is annoying. I don't get why they use her as the centerpiece of the Diva's division either. She's obviously not a very good wrestler and there are much better looking divas that don't know how to wrestle (Kaitlyn). Hopefully, WWE becomes more wise and starts using women that can actually wrestle, such as Beth Phoenix, Natalya, and Kharma as the focal points of the Diva's division.

Final Thoughts

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    And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. In summary, here are the 20 Year End Awards and their winners:

    Wrestler of the Year: CM Punk

    Match of the Year: CM Punk vs. John Cena (Money in the Bank)

    Rivalry of the Year: CM Punk vs. John Cena

    Tag Team of the Year: Awesome Truth

    Diva of the Year: Beth Phoenix

    Heel/Face Turn of the Year: Mark Henry

    Promo of the Year: CM Punk Shoot Promo

    Pay-Per-View of the Year: Money in the Bank

    TV Show of the Year: RAW

    Most Overrated Wrestler of the Year: Alberto Del Rio

    Most Underrated Wrestler of the Year: Jack Swagger

    Breakout Star of the Year: CM Punk

    Most Likely to Break Out in 2012: Sheamus

    Funniest Wrestler of the Year: R-Truth

    Announcer of the Year: Jim Ross

    Theme Song of the Year: “Cult of Personality” – CM Punk

    Rookie of the Year: Kharma

    Catchphrase of the Year: “You gon’ get got!” – R-Truth

    Worst Match of the Year: Country Whipping Match (Extreme Rules)

    Worst Wrestler of the Year: Kelly Kelly

    All in all, 2011 was an above average year for WWE. With Chris Jericho potentially returning, Brock Lesnar's contract with UFC up, and many stars on the rise, let's hope for an even better 2012.

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