WWE: Mani's 2001 Year in Review
Around this time of year, Bleacher Report is full of excellent articles recapping the year's best matches, shows, wrestlers and many other things for 2011. As a change of pace, I want to bring a retrospective look at years past and analyze the best (or worst) of that calendar year.
There is no better place to start than one of the most intriguing years in wrestling history: 2001.
This was a summer dominated by the Invasion storyline, which could have been so much better if the WCW stars were given an opportunity to stand on the same level as the WWE stars. Even so, the year was filled with great matches and PPV events and a packed roster eager to perform for the fans.
This is the first in what is hopefully a series of articles where I look back on years past and give out some awards. Any suggestions for a year to review are more than welcome in the comments, as I will make slideshows on the most popular years.
Now let's hand out some awards.
Most Popular Superstar of the Year
Rob Van Dam was supposed to be a heel on the side of the Alliance, but he was just too damn good in the ring to be hated.
Many fans knew his reputation from ECW and appreciated his high-flying abilities. RVD became popular enough to the point of challenging Stone Cold for the WWE title at No Mercy. Despite being on the losing team at Survivor Series, RVD kept his job since he held the Hardcore Championship, something we probably will not ever see again.
Although RVD continued to be one of the top fan favorites, he did not get his big push until 2006 and the famous One Night Stand PPV. He held the ECW and WWE titles simultaneously until a count of drug possession suspended him and took away his major push.
Nonetheless, RVD earns the award for most popular superstar, even if he wasn't meant to be a good guy.
Worst Match of the Year
Don't recognize the two guys in the picture? It's OK; you are forgiven.
Actually, it was the Unforgiven PPV that the tag team known as Kronik, composed of Brian Adams and Bryan Clark, took on the Brothers of Destruction for the Tag Team Titles.
Adams and Clark formed Kronik in 2000 in WCW, becoming the tag team champs a couple of times. After the Invasion, they were given the opportunity to hold titles yet again by facing Undertaker and Kane. This was the last match they ever wrestled as a tag team.
Both men were very clumsy in the ring, bad at hitting their moves and even worse at selling their opponents' maneuvers. A couple of manikins would have rivaled Adams and Clark for a better match.
It goes to show just how hard it can be for big men to be successful in the ring. Guys like the Undertaker and Kane are able to capitalize on their size to deliver quality matches.
Adams and Clark, on the other hand, looked completely lost out there.
Brawl of the Year
Imagine shopping for groceries when you see Stone Cold Steve Austin throw Booker T into the oranges you wanted.
Well, if it was 2001, that scene may have actually happened. Stone Cold and Booker win brawl of the year for their awesome supermarket brawl, which lasted over five minutes. They managed to hit all areas of the store, including the produce, frozen food and meat sections.
Two things to point out here. Does Booker T always like stealing Trix? And does Stone Cold ever take those knee braces off? He stands out like a sore thumb in the supermarket.
Props to Booker for getting doused in flour and to Austin for serenading us with "That's Amore."
Promo of the Year
The promo work for Stone Cold vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X7 was awesome, and this promo video is even better.
Thanks to Limp Bizkit's "My Way," this video is one of the best the WWE has ever made. This great rivalry was already one of the most anticipated matches in history, and this video got the blood flowing even more.
Today's John Cena and Randy Orton cannot even hold a candle to the magnitude of both of these men. Two superstars that come around once in a generation happened to be in their prime simultaneously, and the fans were the ones who benefited from many classic encounters.
Moment of the Year
Chris Jericho's shining moment of his career came in December of 2001, when he became the first Undisputed WWE Champion by defeating the Rock and Stone Cold in succession.
Sure, there was plenty of interference, but who else can say that about their careers? Jericho didn't have the best title reign and played third wheel to Triple H and Stefanie McMahon, but this was a special moment that should never be forgotten.
While this may not have been deemed moment of the year at the time, in retrospect, that night had the biggest impact of any in 2001. It was the beginning of a change in the company, one that didn't see Rock and Austin as the two main guys.
Sure enough, both men were part time at best within a year, and all but gone within two.
Best PPV of the Year
This one is the easiest award to give out.
From Angle vs. Benoit to TLC II to Taker vs. HHH to Stone Cold vs. The Rock, this was the best PPV of 2001 and one of the best shows in WWE history. Almost every match delivered, and the quality of wrestling and entertainment on the show made it one hell of a night.
Even Shane vs. Vince was pretty entertaining given the participants involved. It showcased the future with its strong undercard and the present with its final two matches. The Undertaker against Triple H was a match that was thrown together due to a lack of storyline, and both men did a great job with their contest.
Furthermore, the show had deep ramifications for the future. Specially, Austin and McMahon were now on the same page. While the Austin heel turn wasn't as successful as it could have been, it was a bold move for an insanely popular superstar.
And we still wait for the John Cena heel turn.
Feud of the Year
While the feud between Angle and Benoit may be forgotten, it's still my pick for feud of 2001.
These men faced off at WrestleMania, Backlash and Judgment Day, with each match better than the one before. At Backlash, Angle and Benoit went face-to-face in an Ultimate Submissions match lasting over a half hour. It was a dream come true for fans of pure technical wrestling.
At Judgment Day, the feud culminated in a two out of three falls match, with Benoit coming out on top in the end. Although these men would go on to become tag team champions, they were fierce rivals for a good portion of the year.
A main point of the feud involved Kurt Angle and his gold medal. While that storyline is now overused, this was one of the first times that route was taken, and it provided for entertaining TV.
Stone Cold and The Rock were of course considered, and the Alliance vs. WWF feud never lived up to its potential. Therefore, the dark horse wins feud of the year in the form of Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit.
Wrestler of the Year
It's a familiar face. The best wrestler of 2001 was Kurt Angle, beating out some fierce competition.
This category could easy be won by Stone Cold. Even though his heel turn never completely got over with the fans, he adapted his character in order to garner the reaction he wanted from the crowd.
Still, Kurt Angle was the man who delivered in every match he took place in during 2001.
One particular night that comes to mind is the King of the Ring. Angle competed in three matches that night, the last being a brutal contest against Shane McMahon (keep that in mind). His performance in the third contest was excellent, and it showcased his stamina and versatility.
As mentioned before, Angle had a great feud with Benoit and became an integral part of the Invasion by turning on the Alliance in the 11th hour. He finished off the year by competing in a very good contest against Stone Cold at Vengeance.
In terms of work ethic, Angle was unparalleled at that time and clearly made a name for himself. In just over a year, he found himself in the main event of WrestleMania, a testament to his in-ring ability.
The Robert V. Manisero "That's Gonna Leave a Mark" Award
It's now time to introduce one of the newest, most prestigious awards in all of wrestling. Dedicated to yours truly, this award recognizes a moment during the year that definitely required an ice pack, or maybe some serious medication.
Just narrowly beating out Edge's spear on Jeff Hardy at WrestleMania, Shane McMahon is the recipient of the inaugural Robert V. Manisero "That's Gonna Leave a Mark" award. Jeff would have won the award if it weren't for the amount of times Shane got pulverized.
As the video emphasizes, Angle was relentless in his desire to throw Shane threw the glass pane. When at first you don't succeed, try, try, again. Shane went through the glass twice, but into it another three times. When it was all said and done, he looked like he had been involved in a serious car crash.
There were plenty of solid candidates, but this brutal moment takes the cake for the year 2001.
Match of the Year
Finally, we reach the Match of the Year award. In a year when great matches were aplenty, nothing can compare with the insane TLC match witnessed at WrestleMania X7. Stone Cold vs. The Rock was awesome that night, but TLC II was better.
Technically, nine people were involved in this match, as Lita, Spike Dudley and Rhino all saw serious action on behalf of their respective teams. There are so many memorable spots from this encounter. Some include Jeff Hardy's Swanton Bomb on the outside, Edge's spear of Hardy and Bubba Ray and Matt getting pushed through four tables on the outside.
Amazingly, Edge and Christian repeated their success from the inaugural match and won the second time around with the help of Rhino.
This match and its first creation revolutionized the business as we know it. Conveniently, the TLC PPV takes place later on Sunday, and it is a testament to the work of these three tag teams. If the WWE can develop a tag team division half as good as what we saw 10 years ago, I'm sure the fans will be pleased.
I hope everyone enjoyed my 2001 year in review. If you have suggestions for a particular year I should review, please share in the comments section and I'll do the most popular ones.
Thanks for reading!