WWE RAW: 11 Most Memorable Moments of 2011 (So Far)
Last week's 11/11/11 calendar moment brought out the numerologist in everyone.
In keeping with the spirit of this "once in a century" event, the following is a review of the most memorable moments of 2011 from the WWE's flagship program.
Not surprisingly, most are not matches but rather segments, promos or overall themes.
Regardless, it has been a great year for RAW as evidenced by these highlights.
11. Michael Cole References
This moment from the September 26th show makes the list if only because it was probably the last thing you'd expect to hear.
For all the criticism directed his way, Cole deserves credit for keeping a straight face when making this announcement.
10. NEXUS: Initiation
The January 10 edition was extremely uncomfortable to watch.
Multiple segments detailed the NEXUS members being initiated into C.M. Punk's version of the group.
The initiation included hitting all their respective finishes on Michael McGillicutty, Husky Harris being lashed with a leather strap and David Otunga being decimated by Big Show.
The physical abuse at the urging of Punk was shocking, especially given the PG rating the Federation strives for. The segments did, however, cement C.M. Punk as a monster heel over the next 5 months.
9. The Rock's Birthday
An electric night all around. The rabid Miami crowd arrived in a frenzy on May 2nd, as the U.S. military had killed Osama Bin Laden the night before and, therefore, there was a party atmosphere at hand.
Lillian Garcia's anthem, a special appearance by recording mega-star Pitbull, and some of the best promos by the Brahma Bull since the late 1990's highlighted this episode. The show also featured guest appearances and cameos by several celebrities.
Considering that WWE Creative has an unfortunate habit of tarnishing Superstars' status in hometown appearances (i.e., J.R. every time they are in Oklahoma, The Miz being fired in Cleveland, etc.), this episode was made all the more electric by the fervent Miami audience.
8. Kharma Announces Her Pregnancy
On the May 30th edition of RAW, following a crying fit the week prior, Kharma came out to address her emotional outburst.
In a powerful promo that included a synopsis of the many obstacles she has overcome and a rebuke to her naysayers, Kharma announced she was pregnant and taking a maternity leave.
Had the segment ended then, it would have cemented her reputation as a powerful heel. However, the Bella Twins came out for some pointless bullying, somewhat sullying the segment.
Nevertheless, considering the push she was likely prepared to get, Kharma's abrupt announcement sent shockwaves through the Divas' division.
7. Air Boom Win the Tag Team Belts
The WWE Tag Team division had been stagnant and lackluster for as long as anyone could remember. It had gotten so bad, the announce team was often openly critical of previous champions David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty.
It was, therefore, an unanticipated breath of fresh air when the (shortly thereafter) christened "Air Boom" captured tag team gold on the August 22nd edition of RAW.
Although a revisionist look back at this achievement in light of Evan Bourne's wellness suspension takes some of the luster off the accomplishment, at the time, it served as an infusion of energy into the division and also rejuvenated the wallowing careers of both Kingston and Bourne.
6. Cole Takes a Shot at Jerry Lawler's Deceased Mother
The feud between Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler produced some notable moments throughout 2011.
None, however, were more memorable—or, perhaps, controversial—than the segment on February 21.
Jerry Lawler's mother had, in fact, recently passed away.
Reality fused with storyline in this segment where Cole generated some of the most incredible heel heat imaginable by referencing Lawler's mother. Although he would mention her again in a subsequent episode, this initial jab at a recently bereaved King was unfathomable in its sheer cruelty.
5. Title Belt Insanity: July 25th
On the July 25th edition of RAW, Rey Mysterio opened the show with a title match against The Miz. He won the match and celebrated his victory.
However, later that night, John Cena was awarded a match against Mysterio and (not surprisingly) won the match. Rey's title reign lasted less than two hours, and although C.M. Punk's return at the end of the night to close the show helped propel his rise to prominence, one cannot help but wonder how gratifying a lengthier Mysterio title run would have been.
4. Alex Riley Face Turn
Sure, everyone knew it was coming, but this segment from the May 23rd show was done absolutely perfectly.
From the slow, psychotic delivery of The Miz at the start of his rant to the ever-increasingly hostile look on Riley's face, culminating with an exceptionally executed beat-down of The Miz, the two former colleagues brought a rush of emotion and adrenaline to this segment.
This angle had been built up slowly, and when the two finally came to blows on this episode, it was an exceptional way in which to split the partnership and launch a feud between the two.
3. Vince Gets Fired
Another well-executed segment.
Vince McMahon's arrival in the ring was well-received, but nothing could have prepared the audience for Triple H's return—in a business suit, no less—to deliver the stark news from the WWE Board of Directors.
Hunter's delivery of the termination speech was extraordinary, and the emotion and tension between the two men reached its apex when Triple H delivered his infamous line: "I love you Pop."
The crowd loved it, with chants of "Thank you Vince" closing the show.
A perfect set-up for the Triple H COO storyline.
2. Edge's Surprise Retirement
At the April 11th edition of RAW, there was a speculative buzz pervasive as the IWC had hinted a major announcement was coming from Edge.
Edge's retirement announcement was shocking and poignantly-delivered. His "shoot" delivery referencing his numerous memorable (and forgettable) storylines was impressive.
This was a case of a Superstar going out on top, albeit far too soon.
1. C.M. Punk's Promo: June 27th
This was a game-changer, plain and simple.
Punk went off on everything. Cena, the fans, Vince, Stephanie, John Laurenitis.
When Punk's microphone got cut off, it marked a seismic shift in how the industry was perceived. It was easily one of the best promos ever done, and had the potential to alter the dynamic of professional wrestling for years to come.
Time will tell if WWE can capitalize on this potential, as it appears that "The Reality Era" that this segment launched has abruptly ended. However, for a few short weeks in the summer of 2011, C.M. Punk had even the most casual wrestling fans abuzz about this angle.
It all started with this segment.