WWE: The 10 Best Championship Title Reigns Throughout 2011
Another year is out of the way and what a year it was for the WWE.
It's been one of those years defined by change. New champions, new breakthrough stars and a promising new era that will carry over into 2012.
In 2011, certain divisions saw vast improvement. Certain stars broke records and some went from nothing to something at the flick of a popular YouTube channel.
A champion is defined by the work displayed in the ring and the reaction of a crowd. When the WWE Universe believes in what you are doing, you are on the right path.
When you are a big enough star, you literally get championship opportunities by the week and those who shine bright enough get reigns that put them on the cusp of legendary status.
Here are the top-10 championship reigns that either started or ended (mostly both) in 2011.
10. John Cena (def. Alberto Del Rio)
Reign: September 18, 2011-October 2, 2011
This reign is on here because what would a list about champions in WWE be without their biggest star, John Cena.
This reign is significant because it was his 10th reign as WWE Champion. He eclipsed the record of nine a couple months earlier, but touching the double digits here has to mean something, right?
Either way, it was a transition reign that arguably wasn't needed but is on here because of the significance of it being Cena's 10th overall and third of the year.
9. Zack Ryder (def. Dolph Ziggler)
Reign: December 18, 2011-present
Woo woo woo, you know it!
This reign could be higher on the list, but time will only tell how significant this reign is going to be.
The very fact that Zack Ryder won this title is enough to be on this list, considering how far he has come.
Ryder has gone from being an Edgehead to a singles competitor to a guy not getting any airtime on WWE television whatsoever.
He built himself up on the Internet and in the world of YouTube and social media. It was the perfect time to do so as Ryder became an instant sensation and WWE officials took notice.
Eventually, Ryder was back on TV and with some select superstars giving him the push of a lifetime.
Ryder single-handedly got himself his first singles championship reign and at the same time, brought credibility to a mid-card title with the sheer excitement he exuded in his win.
Great things are in store for "Long Island Iced Z," but he makes it in at this spot due to the fact that we have to wait and see where this reign goes, as it is currently in its infancy.
Also, I was a little giddy to type in "Woo woo woo," so I couldn't wait any longer.
8. The Miz (def. Randy Orton in 2010)
Reign: November 2010-May 1, 2011
The era of "awesome" was upon us in WWE and it was all thanks to the newest super heel, The Miz.
The brash, arrogant, former reality show star broke out on the scene in WWE in 2004 as a part of the cast of the "$1,000,000 Tough Enough" competition. Although he did not win the contest, he stayed with WWE and slowly climbed the ladder to success.
All the ridicule, all the ribbing, all the jokes and he stood through it all and became WWE Champion by cashing in his Money in the Bank contract.
This reign was his first and brought Miz to that main event stage that he has yet to leave, becoming one of WWE's best stars.
This reign is significant because it survived a WrestleMania match with John Cena, who doesn't usually lose in singles encounters on the "biggest stage of them all."
It was one of those reigns that can only be defined by one word...AAAAAAWESOME!
7. Christian (def. Alberto Del Rio)
Reign: May 1, 2011-May 3, 2011 (aired on May 6, 2011 via tape delay)
He finally did it. Christian climbed the ladder, figuratively and literally, to claim his first world championship in WWE.
All it took was for his best friend Edge to retire, but he got it done.
Christian has been through a lot the last number of years, including leaving WWE so he can be a success in TNA. His work there set the platform for his return to WWE and although some people backstage allegedly didn't see him as "world champion material," he proved that perseverance pays off.
Although this reign lasted for a couple days, this initial reign will be something Christian will never forget.
It also set the stage for Christian and Randy Orton's epic summer rivalry, climaxing in a number of "Match of the Year" candidates, at Over the Limit and Summerslam.
This initial reign is on the list because it showed that Christian was ready and has been for a while and that WWE finally has shown some faith in Captain Charisma.
6. Dolph Ziggler (def. Kofi Kingston)
Reign: June 19, 2011-December 18, 2011
This reign is significant because it put a belt on one of the fastest rising stars in WWE. Dolph Ziggler showed the WWE Universe that he has the potential to be a long-serving champion in the industry. With the help of Vickie Guerrero, he got enough heat for everyone to take him seriously.
He will be a legitimate threat to be WWE Champion in the very near future and this reign allowed Ziggler to show his typical heel tactics of holding onto a belt, including outside interference and cheap tactics.
He sells so well in the ring and the charisma shown on the mic makes him a great asset to have in the future.
Being a long-serving United States Champion is significant because it usually leads to great success in the main event scene, which is why this reign lands at this spot.
5. Cody Rhodes (def. Ezekiel Jackson)
Reign: August 9, 2011 (aired on August 12, 2011 via tape delay)-present
Finally, a reign that brings significance to such a prestigious title in WWE. It has been a while, but Cody Rhodes is the perfect guy to wear this belt.
Since winning the title, Rhodes has defeated a couple former world champions, a former employee while in street clothes and changed the very design of the belt to what it used to be in the old days, which makes any long-time WWE fan salivate.
Rhodes' work speaks for itself. He has excellent mic skills, he's a great storyteller in the ring and being the son of the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes doesn't hurt.
Rhodes is making his own footprint in the WWE landscape and this title reign that he is currently enjoying is one of the best of the year because it brings credibility to a star destined for great things and to a belt that has been losing a bit of luster over the years.
4. Air Boom (def. Michael McGillicutty & David Otunga)
Reign: August 22, 2011-present
It can be argued that this reign is saving the tag team division in WWE.
Two singles competitors coming together after seeing their quest for singles success crash into a wall, Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne have brought life to a dying division.
Together, Air Boom have gone on to compete in PPV matches for the belts that people actually tune in to see. It's been a lengthy reign thus far, even surviving a suspension of Bourne, and the team has defeated the teams of Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger and R-Truth & The Miz, among others.
The tag team division seems to be on an upward spiral to become relevant again and this reign was the start of it, so kudos go out to Air Boom.
Speaking of saving a division...
3. Kelly Kelly (def. Brie Bella)
Reign: June 20, 2011-October 2, 2011
I may take some heat for putting Kelly Kelly for this instead of Beth Phoenix, but the fact is, most of what happened to make this title great again was the constant pursuit of the belt by Phoenix.
After a saga of great matches on PPV, Phoenix finally won the belt, but not without developing a great on-screen rapport with Natalya to form the "Divas of Doom," as well as show Kelly as a credible champion (again, may take some heat on that one).
Kelly has learned a lot over the years and it culminated with quite the reign as Divas Champion. While it did come to an end, it showed that Kelly is a great athlete, capable of putting on watchable divas matches on TV and PPV.
It was the beginning of what some hope is a new age in the Divas division, one that can bring back the nostalgia of the Trish Stratus and Lita days.
One can hope, right?
2. Mark Henry (def. Randy Orton)
Reign: September 18, 2011-December 18, 2011
After 15 years in the WWE, Mark Henry finally got his first world title reign. It was a long journey for the World's Strongest Man through every kind of storyline known to man, even being the father to a "hand" back in the Attitude Era.
He started his climb into the main event at the end of 2005, showing signs that he was ready for the next step. After a match against Undertaker at WrestleMania 22, Henry was once again relegated to the mid-card, with small spurts of dominance in between.
He received his big push in 2011, and it showed that he learned how to be a monster heel, squashing everyone in his way and toppling Randy Orton to win his first world championship.
Throughout his reign, Henry showed what he can do on a grand stage, beating down champions, former champions and retaining momentum for a solid four months.
Yes, his battles against Big Show revealed a scared champion, which showed signs of weakness, but it also allowed Henry to show his crafty side, escaping with the belt by any means necessary, and showing the toughness to gut out some of the best big man matches of all time.
If you have an argument to this, may I suggest you re-watch Vengeance up until the ring collapse, it was an excellent match between two of the longest-serving big men in WWE.
Anyway, it was one of the best reigns of the year because it moved Henry to a place that he is sure not straying away from anytime soon.
I just hope by ranking him No. 2, that I haven't guaranteed myself a spot in the "Hall of Pain."
1. CM Punk (def. John Cena)
Reign: July 17, 2011-August 14, 2011
First off, you might be reading the title of this slide and automatically assuming that this article was created for the sole purpose to praise CM Punk...well, you're right...mostly.
This was probably the most talked about WWE title reign of the year, as it was mostly spent while CM Punk wasn't part of the company at all.
He defeated John Cena to win the belt at Money in the Bank in an instant classic that could take "Match of the Year" honours. The lead-up to the match brought Punk from a general main event star to the popularity that few reach in this business.
Punk won at Summerslam, but a returning Kevin Nash cost him his title, something Punk has yet to get redemption for.
Anyway, this reign is the best of the year because it brought a lot of buzz back to the WWE, and the lead-up saw one of the best promos in WWE history.
What do you think?