WWE Year-End Awards: Top 10 Matches of 2011
What's up, ladies and gentlemen?
My name is Eric Kanes and I am back here today with the first of several year-end articles that I will be writing this week, culminating in one big year-end awards article. The first of the series will look at the top 10 matches of 2011.
Looking back at the year, I have to admit that 2011 was a great year in terms of in-ring action. It was much better than 2010 by a long shot. Every single pay-per-view had several ***+ matches, and there were a good dozen ***+ matches on Raw and SmackDown.
This article will look at the top 10 matches that stood out and probably won't be forgotten for a while.
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 at the start of January for my site, QuickWrestlingNews.
And now, without any further ado, here are the top 10 matches of 2011.
10. The Miz vs. John Morrison (RAW 1/3/11) (***3/4)
This was the first match of WWE...and boy, what a match it was.
The match started with the Miz and Alex Riley double-teaming John Morrison until Morrison eventually hit his dive off the "W" on both of them, and then took Riley out with his flying chuck kick. The Miz and Morrison then took this to the ring. Morrison was in control until he missed Starship Pain through the table on the outside, which allowed the Miz to hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the win.
Both guys went all out with Morrison hitting his high spots throughout the match and putting his body on the line in hopes of winning the WWE title. The Miz made those great facial expressions every time Morrison kicked out. The year couldn't have started any better.
9. CM Punk vs. John Cena (SummerSlam 2011) (****)
Coming in at No. 9, we have the culmination of the CM Punk-John Cena feud. This was the match that officially ended the hottest feud of the year.
This was definitely a great match, but it appears this low on the list because of the bar that CM Punk and John Cena set at Money in the Bank. With the hot crowd, unique spots, and perfect finish, it was close to impossible to follow that. Nonetheless, these two did the best that they could. This turned out to be one hell of a match.
Looking back, when I wrote my SummerSlam preview, I overrated the match a bit at ****1/2, mostly because I wrote the preview just half an hour after the event and was really excited about the return of Kevin Nash. I thought that this would lead to Triple H turning heel and being the evil COO with Kevin Nash as his enforcer.
Instead, we found out that Kevin Nash texted himself to attack CM Punk, and all we got was a Triple H-Kevin Nash match. It's a shame that it went this path because the CM Punk-Triple H feud really had so much potential.
Another thing that hurt the match was the ending. It ended with CM Punk pinning John Cena while Cena's foot was on the rope. The reason that this was a bad move was because of the countless theories that there were prior to this event.
I could probably name 10 better ways that the match could've ended, one being CM Punk just getting the clean win. Instead, WWE chose to have it end with Cena's foot on the rope and barely even addressed this after the event.
Either way, the actual match couldn't have been better, but looking back, these two things definitely hurt it.
8. SmackDown Elimination Chamber Match (Elimination Chamber 2011) (****1/4)
Going into this match, I was semi-looking forward to it, considering that there was an empty spot for a mystery participant. I, like many others, was hoping for Christian to return from his injury here. When that participant was revealed to be Big Show, I was sure that this match was going to be a flop. However, all six of these guys proved me wrong.
Every wrestler had his moments. There were a bunch of memorable spots ranging from Wade Barrett getting shoved through the Chamber door twice to the chain-sequence of moves on Big Show to Edge jumping up and catching Rey Mysterio with a spear in mid-air. This was one of the best Elimination Chamber matches and also the last great match of Edge's career.
Also, Christian made his return right after the match ended, returning from injury and taking out Alberto Del Rio, which would eventually lead to this...
7. Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio (Extreme Rules 2011) (****1/4)
This match came right after Edge's abrupt retirement. Before Edge retired, nobody expected this match to take place. However, due to the circumstances, Christian had to fill in for Edge. Even though Alberto Del Rio had already been drafted to Raw, a lot of people doubted that Christian would win, considering how WWE had booked him during the prior years.
Nonetheless, Christian shocked the world when he finally won his first world championship after a 17-year career.
This was a terrific match, no doubt about it. However, what made it special was Christian's first world title win and the post-match celebration with Edge. It could be considered as Edge passing the torch to his long-time friend.
Of course, Christian would go on to lose the title just two days later, but that would lead to the awesome feud with Randy Orton, which we'll get into a bit later.
6. SmackDown Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank 2011) (****1/2)
Here we've got one of the best Money in the Bank ladder matches ever and probably the best opening PPV match of the year. The match went for 25 minutes straight with lots of back-and-forth action. What made it great was the unpredictability. The three favorites going into the match were Sheamus, Wade Barrett, & Cody Rhodes. WWE could've had any one of them win, but instead chose to go with a winner a little out of the ordinary. Here is what I wrote about the possibility of Daniel Bryan winning in my SmackDown Money in the Bank match preview:
Here, we’ve got arguably the best worker in the match. Is there any chance of him winning? No. It’s a damn shame too. If this match was being held 10 months ago, then there wouldn’t have been a better candidate. It just goes to show you how much WWE has dropped the ball with this guy. He could be amain event player and might be one day, but Money in the Bank won’t be his time. Chances of Winning: None.
This is one of those times where I'm glad I was wrong. WWE chose to go with Daniel Bryan as the winner. They couldn't have made a better choice. As of this writing, Daniel Bryan is the current World Heavyweight Champion and will likely be defending the belt at WrestleMania. His reign has already been fun. Hopefully, he goes on to have a memorable reign as champion.
5. The Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble 2011) (****1/2)
This year marked the first (and probably only) 40-man Royal Rumble match in history. Personally, I think this was a great decision. The Royal Rumble match is one of the most anticipated matches every year. Usually, when it comes to the Royal Rumble PPV, nothing else on the card really matters.
Since people will likely be ordering the PPV regardless of the rest of the card, this is usually the PPV where they don't have any other big matches and upper mid-carders get test main event runs, like Dolph Ziggler did last year. With that said, I'd take an extended Rumble match over some other random match any day.
Anyway, this Rumble turned out to be much better than the year before, which was just one guy getting tossed out after another. There were many memorable moments in this Rumble. John Morrison did his parkour stunts to stay in the match. Kevin Nash & Booker T made their returns. The Nexus dominated the match for a good 10 minutes. Also, Santino Marella almost won.
Of course, a better winner could've been selected. When I said in January that Del Rio was a horrible choice because he wasn't ready, a lot of people disagreed with me. Looking back now, it's hard to disagree with that since nothing happened with his win.
I still think it should've been Wade Barrett winning, and then facing Edge with The Corre in Barrett's corner and Christian in Edge's corner. He could've even won. The story would've then been that The Corre ended Edge's career, and Christian is now looking for payback.
Nonetheless, despite the result of the match, the match itself was very well done, which is why it comes in so high on this list.
4. Christian vs. Randy Orton (Over the Limit 2011) (****1/2)
This pay-per-view had Wade Barrett-Ezekiel Jackson, Sin Cara-Chavo Guerrero, a Kiss My Foot match between Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler. Of course, there was the abysmally poor John Cena-The Miz "I Quit" match. This match definitely made up for it. The first match that these two had on SmackDown was fantastic, but these two were able to follow it up and put on a great pure wrestling match.
This match had some holds and counter-holds that were insane such as the Killswitch into a Boston Crab, the spear into a powerslam. The RKO into a roll-up. This was 18 minutes of pure wrestling. I enjoyed every second of it.
I think it's safe to say that this is the best non-gimmick match of both of these guys' careers. I also think that they finally found the right opponent for Randy Orton in Christian. They had great chemistry and after working all of those matches with Christian, it seems like Randy Orton became a better overall worker.
He'd go on to put on good matches with the likes of Sheamus, Wade Barrett and even Mark Henry.
3. Christian vs. Randy Orton (SummerSlam 2011) (****1/2)
Christian and Randy Orton make this list yet again. I think that every match that they wrestled this year was at least ***, but this one was the best, in my opinion, slightly better than their bout at Over the Limit.
This one was different from all of their other matches that we had seen. At Over the Limit, these two worked a face-face match, while at SummerSlam, they worked a face-heel match with Christian constantly trying to cheat to win. They told a completely different story both times. This was also a "No Holds Barred" match and we got a lot of weapons brought out in this straight-up brawl.
By the end of the match, Christian had gone through three tables. The finish with Randy Orton catching Christian in the air with an RKO on the steel steps was very well-done. We've seen that finish a lot, but it was executed perfectly here.
This was a perfect way to end their classic summer feud.
2. The Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania 27) (****3/4)
Going into this match, I wasn't sure what to expect. Triple H and The Undertaker are two legends who have put on many classic matches during their illustrious careers. However, going into the match, both of them were over 40, neither one had wrestled a match in nearly a year, and both were recovering from injuries.
I'm glad to say that these guys put on one of the best matches of 2011. In fact, it could very easily have been the match of the year if it wasn't edged out by No. 1. These two guys went all out and gave it all they had and at one point, I was even surprised when Undertaker kicked out of Triple H's Tombstone.
Although I'd much prefer The Undertaker to face someone like The Miz, Sheamus or Wade Barrett in his final match at WrestleMania 28, I wouldn't be too disappointed if he were to have another match with Triple H.
1. CM Punk vs. John Cena (Money in the Bank 2011) (*****)
Was anybody really expecting anything else?
This wasn't just the 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 event man, 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.
These are the matches that didn't make the list but I still think are worth mentioning:
-Edge vs. Dolph Ziggler (Royal Rumble 2011)
-RAW Elimination Chamber Match (Elimination Chamber 2011)
-John Cena vs. The Miz vs. John Morrison (Extreme Rules 2011)
-Christian vs. Randy Orton (SmackDown 5/6/11)
-John Cena vs. CM Punk vs. Alberto Del Rio (Hell in a Cell 2011)
-Team Barrett vs. Team Orton (Survivor Series 2011)
-The Rock & John Cena vs. The Miz & R-Truth (Survivor Series 2011)
-CM Punk vs. The Miz vs. Alberto Del Rio (TLC 2011)
And that shall conclude the Top 10 Matches of 2011 list. I hope you enjoyed. The next list will be The Top 10 Promos of 2011 and it will be up this Monday. Until then, I'm out!
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