Official Bleacher Report WWE 2011 End of the Year Awards
OK, Bleacher Report readers and WWE fans, we present to you our awards for 2011!
It was a big year for the house that McMahon built, as we saw the rise of new Superstars, and the return of some legends. Along the way, we all had our own viewpoints and opinions on what was happening, and despite how much we agree or disagree, we certainly had as much fun debating as these guys did performing for us.
As with any "best of" list, this rundown of year long accomplishments is based solely on the opinions of those who voted, and while you may see that some of your favorites made the cut, you might be disappointed with some of the choices made.
So, who exactly is responsible for either making your day or causing you to pull your hair out?
The guilty parties are 25 WWE Featured Columnists and writers, all of whom received the same email from yours truly, with a list of awards decided by myself, and approved by Deputy Editor Adam Hirshfield and WWE Lead Writer David Bixenspan.
Now you know where to send your hate mail.
In the interest of fairness, this awards idea began not just with WWE but TNA as well. Ring of Honor and other promotions were not included, however, due to the fact that not every fan has access to these other companies on a regular basis.
In the end, this slideshow has become exclusively WWE, as there honestly was not enough feedback on any TNA stars or events to cause them to grab the top votes in any category.
For those diehard TNA fans out there, I can only say that the effort was made, but when it comes to the business of professional wrestling, it's still WWE's world.
OK, now that all of that is out of the way, let's get on with the show.
Female Wrestler of the Year: Beth Phoenix
RUNNER UP: NATALYA
The Divas Division has been under fire for quite some time now.
Short matches, unimpressive workers, lazy storylines, and an overall general feeling of irrelevancy for fans. This is not the division of Trish and Lita, as times have certainly changed.
Along the way, the women seem to have lost their drive, and while most of it is likely due to bad booking, there just did not seem to be anyone who could be able to bring the division back to its former glory.
But, that did not stop Beth Phoenix from trying.
Beth proved once again why she is one of the most talented female workers the company has ever seen, a true professional in every sense of the word.
She is skilled, she is capable, and she has paid her dues. If anyone deserves this bit of recognition, it's Beth. The only other woman who received any real number of votes was Natalya, with three.
Beth got 18. She is our female wrestler of the year.
Most Memorable Moment of the Year: CM Punk's
RUNNER UP: CM PUNK LEAVES WITH THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP
This was one of those moments that had every fan on Facebook and texting within minutes of it happening.
CM Punk's "shoot" promo on the June 27 edition of Monday Night Raw was not only shocking in its tone, but unapologetic in its delivery. Simply put, the truth hurts.
For years, fans have voiced the same complaints with WWE that Punk echoed during his promo. While many of us did realize that the majority of his words were likely approved beforehand, it did not change the impact that the moment had on us, or the business at large.
Not since Stone Cold Steve Austin had a worker so openly defied Vince McMahon and the corporate structure he sat upon. But, while Austin did it with a middle finger and Stone Cold Stunner, Punk simply sat down and symbolically stood up for those fans who were tired of being ignored.
The voice of the voiceless would not be silenced.
This moment received 10 out of 25 votes, with the runner up of Punk leaving with the WWE Title a close No. 8.
Most Likely to Rule 2012: CM Punk
RUNNER UP: DOLPH ZIGGLER
The man who wanted the spotlight because he knew he could be the top guy, not because he was told to be, is arguably the same man who ruled WWE in 2011.
It appears as though he may just do it again in 2012.
The company who has long supported and pushed its own creation in John Cena, was urged by an outcry of fans to give someone else the opportunity. That someone was CM Punk, and he more than delivered, the moment his name was called.
While it's unclear what lies ahead, fans' expectations are certainly very high, as this vote proves.
Punk received 12 of 25 votes, while Dolph Ziggler, the next closest Superstar, received only 4.
Storyline of the Year: The Summer of CM Punk
RUNNER UP: RANDY ORTON VERSUS CHRISTIAN
When CM Punk announced that he was going to Money in the Bank, and walking away from the company with the WWE Championship, fans were a bit apprehensive.
After all, this thing could have went either way, as Punk was reportedly ready for a break. This seemed to be just another storyline, and after it was all over, the man who had recently shocked the world with his Monday Night Raw promo, would likely ride off into the sunset.
And, he did just that. But, he took the WWE Title with him.
This was just another dramatic plot twist in what has come to be referred to as the Summer of Punk.
CM Punk owned the company during this time, and every week, even the most critical of fans sat back in anticipation of what the maverick would say next. His spots with Vince McMahon, Triple H, and John Laurinaitis, painted Punk as the modern day Stone Cold, but there is one fact that cannot be denied.
There is only one Stone Cold, and there is definitely only one CM Punk.
A total of 17 out of 25 votes had to do with CM Punk, from his promo, to his WWE Title victory, his departure, and his overall heat with the company. The closest runner up was the Randy Orton versus Christian angle, and it garnered only two votes.
Worst Pay Per View of the Year: Capitol Punishment
RUNNER UP: OVER THE LIMIT
You can't win them all, and while WWE had a very entertaining run of pay per views in 2011, there was one that, for many fans, really stunk up the place.
Capitol Punishment was that event, and it took home the award for worst pay per view of the year.
This pay per view featured John Cena defending the WWE Championship against R-Truth, who had gotten a little hot since his heel turn.
Truth believed that there was a shadowy conspiracy behind the scenes stopping him from reaching the top of the company, and he directly accused John as being the beneficiary of the plot.
It sounded good on paper, but the execution left a lot to be desired, as there just did not seem to be that much interest when the pay per view took place.
Add to this an unsuccessful attempt by Christian to win the World Title from Randy Orton, Ezekiel Jackson who had recently turned babyface working Wade Barrett, and several other matches that did not really add up to that much drama, and fans were left feeling unfulfilled when the night was over.
Capitol Punishment received 7 votes out of 25, with Over the Limit coming in right behind it with 6.
Most Disappointing Star of the Year: Sin Cara
RUNNER UP: ALBERTO DEL RIO
See that pic of Sin Cara? That was the best the guy looked all year.
Sin Cara came in with a lot of hype, an international star who was to be a WWE Superstar. The comparisons to Rey Mysterio, both physically and in the ring, came right away, as many fans speculated that Sin Cara would be the man to replace Rey in the company.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
From the first moment Sin Cara debuted on TV, the problems were evident. His ring work was not in sync with the WWE "style," and he began botching moves nearly every time he worked.
The fact that he was replaced, and then later brought back after several attempts to work with him, despite a wellness policy violation, proves that WWE had faith in the gimmick, if not the man who wore it.
No one knows what lies ahead for Sin Cara, but if 2011 is any indication, then it does not look good for this Luchador.
Sin Cara received 7 of the 25 votes, with Alberto Del Rio in at 5 votes.
Breakout Star of the Year: Zack Ryder
RUNNER UP: DOLPH ZIGGLER
This was the one that fans had been waiting for.
Zack Ryder, who was getting nothing from WWE creative, decided to take his case to the people on his YouTube show.
The Z! True Long Island Story gave Zack a way to show his personality, to develop his character, and more importantly, to get over.
When a push was not given to Ryder, he instead created his own. And, it was brilliant.
Zack's fans could see his love of the business, and his willingness to do whatever it took to entertain. They appreciated his effort, and his sense of humor. Suddenly the guy who fans felt was irrelevant was becoming an overnight sensation, and being given real face time on WWE TV.
When he won the United States Championship, it proved that indeed, Zack Ryder had arrived.
Zack won this award with 11 of 25 votes, and Dolph Ziggler came in with 6.
Best Pay Per View of the Year: Money in the Bank
RUNNER UP: TABLES LADDERS & CHAIRS
Taking place in Chicago Illinois, Money in the Bank was arguably the biggest pay per view of the year. It was also one of the most entertaining.
The headliner for this one was of course John Cena defending the WWE Championship against hometown hero CM Punk, who threatened to leave the company if he won the belt.
The two men had a great match, and when John's shoulders were counted down at the end, fans who watched as Punk left through the crowd knew they had gotten their money's worth.
Mark Henry defeated Big Show in a punishing match, Alberto Del Rio won the Raw Money in the Bank briefcase, and Christian defeated Randy Orton for the World Title.
And, as an added surprise, Daniel Bryan won the SmackDown Money in the Bank contract, as the stunned crowd erupted with approval.
This one had it all, and is a prime example of how good the WWE product can be when everyone's on their game.
MITB received a very impressive 19 out of 25 votes, with TLC a distant second at only 2 votes.
Best Champion of the Year: CM Punk
RUNNER UP: DOLPH ZIGGLER
More often than not, the guy at the top of WWE usually sports an incredible physique, a flashy gimmick, or deep psychological approach to his character.
None of that applies to CM Punk.
As fans' taste changes, so too does what the company delivers with its Superstars. Punk looks like a regular guy, he sounds like a regular guy, and at the end of the day, it just does not feel as though he's being phony.
The fact that he's a great worker is not hurting his cause at all.
Punk has of course been World Champion before. But with his reign as WWE Champion, this time around it definitely feels different, as though he has been given the stamp of approval not only by creative, but by the fans who pay to see him perform.
Punk takes home this award with 10 of the 25 votes, while former United States Champion Dolph Ziggler comes in at 6 votes.
Match of the Year: CM Punk vs John Cena at Money in the Bank
RUNNER UP: UNDERTAKER VS TRIPLE H AT WRESTLEMANIA 27
Fans are still talking about this one.
Punk versus Cena will go down as one of the best WWE matches ever, an instant classic that saw both men bringing everything they had to entertain the masses.
Punk's promise to leave WWE with the belt, combined with John's need to step up against a great talent, made for some real drama, and fans were not disappointed by what they saw with this one.
Critics of Cena were forced to stand up and recognize his contributions to this match, and fans of Punk were vindicated by WWE's choice to push for the top spot in the company.
There is no doubt among many fans what the best match of the year is, and in this case 20 out of 25 fans completely agreed. The runner up Wrestlemania match between Undertaker and Triple H came in with only 2 votes.
Comeback Star of the Year: Mark Henry
RUNNER UP: THE ROCK
It's not as though Mark Henry went anywhere. The truth is, he's always been around, just working, doing what he was told to do, and stepping up to be the worker that he was expected to be.
But, when Mark became the monster, fans could only call it a comeback.
A comeback from mediocrity. A comeback from irrelevancy, a step up the likes of which he had never experienced before.
Winning the World Title, in rather easy fashion, from Randy Orton was just the beginning. Beating Orton in the rematch, and then continuing his run for three months before losing at TLC, Henry proved he is more than capable of being a top guy in WWE.
Mark went from being a worker who was overlooked in many ways, to being trusted to carry the gold on the top tier of the company. He excelled in this position, and deserves all the credit for making it work.
Mark won with only 7 votes total, but the next man, the Rock, had only 4.
Heel of the Year: Mark Henry
RUNNER UP: DOLPH ZIGGLER
Mark Henry is the ultimate definition of a heel.
He is uncaring, remorseless, vindictive, and will stop at nothing to get his way. Using power, intimidation, and sheer brute strength to dominate his opponents, Mark proved that the only way to run heel in this day and age is to do it all out, never holding back.
Every week, fans watched as Mark completely ran through every man put in his path, doing what few other WWE Superstars had done in quite some time.
Mark used to be thought of as a joke, a smiling babyface who could not buy a victory. But, as a heel in 2011, no one was better at drawing heat and using that hate to establish himself as a real player in the business.
Mark won this award with 9 votes, seconded by Dolph Ziggler with 5.
Babyface of the Year: Randy Orton
RUNNER UP: CM PUNK
2011 was not your typical year in WWE, and the man who was voted the babyface of the year is not typical either.
Randy Orton is a heel masquerading as a face. It's just that simple. He's vicious, he's cold hearted, and he is not above ripping a man's head open in a fit of rage to prove it.
And, fans absolutely love him for it.
He is so popular, that on any given night, he out-pops everyone else on the card. He is the man that a great number of fans want to see, and he is hardly ever booed in any city WWE runs.
Perhaps what has set Randy apart from any other face would lay claim to this award is the fact that he has come such a long way since his days of dominating on SmackDown. He is no longer the guy that does not lose, who is virtually unbeatable.
He now does what a real pro wrestler does, he gives back, and does everything he can to make the match, and his opponent, look good. Fans can see the effort, and their respect for him has grown immensely because of it.
Randy wins in this category with 9 votes, while CM Punk comes in with 5.
Tag Team of the Year: Awesome Truth
RUNNER UP: BEER MONEY
When WWE decided to pair R-Truth together with The Miz, many fans were left very puzzled. Why was this being done? Why yet another partnership for Miz, once again with a worker he had virtually nothing in common with?
But, those fans were in for a surprise.
These two guys not only gelled together, they excelled. Their mutual belief of a vast conspiracy engineered to hold them both down provided a concrete reason for their partnership. Their antics after they began tagging provided some cool moments on Raw, and proved the alliance was a very good idea.
And, man, were these guys over. Awesome Truth had the benefit of both guys being very good on the mic, able to articulate their positions, and draw heat whenever they opened their mouths.
They may not have a been a tag team in the sense of dominating at the championship level, but it's clear that no one could touch them in terms of what they brought to WWE as a duo.
Awesome Truth won with 9 votes, while Beer Money, the only TNA talents to receive any substantial number of votes in any category, came in a close second with 8.
Wrestler of the Year: CM Punk
RUNNER UP: RANDY ORTON
This is it, the big one. CM Punk is your 2011 Bleacher Report WWE Wrestler of the Year.
The truth is, 2011 belonged to Punk. He owned every city WWE ran, he entertained every time a mic was in his hand, and more importantly, he got it done every time he was in the ring.
His match with John Cena at Money in the Bank proved that he is more than capable of delivering a five star match with anyone he's paired with, and his ability to tell a story in the ring is undeniable.
Fans love, and love to hate, Cena. Fans love, and can't get enough of, Randy Orton. But, the fact is that in 2011, the name on the lips of the majority of fans was CM Punk.
The year revolved around him, and he is living proof of what hard work, perseverance, and dedication to his craft, can accomplish, in this business.
Several guys in WWE are good in the ring. Several are good on the mic. But, no one in WWE was as good in the ring, on the mic, and in every way that counted, as CM Punk.
Orton received one vote. Punk? 24 out of 25.
Congratulations, Punk. You earned it.