Spend a few minutes on the Internet reading about wrestling. Go to any of the sites, and you will find one thing in common, the complaining. Man, do we love to complain about wrestling. Almost every week someone will call the latest episode of Raw the worst episode in recent memory, or complain that a storyline has gone on far too long or is being booked all wrong. I’m not condemning those who complain. I myself have used this column on several occasions to lament the current state of the WWE and pine for the days of yore when wrestling was still great. And I’m not saying that those complaints are unfounded. With a minimum of four hours of content every week (and more on PPV weeks) WWE has never been to fill the timeslot with nothing but wonderful material. It’s clear that a standard weekly Raw is usually a great hour-long show that is stretched, and padded into a two-hour time slot. And the parts that don’t work stick out a lot more than the parts that do. But now at the end of the year I want to take some time and look back on all the good things that worked this year. These are the reasons that I still tune in to the WWE twice a week and the reasons that I will continue to watch next year. These are the reasons why, even though all those complaints are still valid, I haven’t given up on wrestling yet.
All things Punk: 2011 has truly been the year of Punk, who has easily been the best part of WWE the past several months. He was in the best match of the year, had the best promo of the year, and was the best commentator of the year; I’ll even give him the best T-shirt of the year. Since July, every PPV match of his would be a strong contender for a top ten list and you can make a good case for some of his Raw matches as well. It’s hard to believe that earlier this year we were hearing backstage rumors that the guy was about to leave the company for good. I can’t imagine where we would be now if that had happened.
#Heel: While Punk is the superstar of the year, the “most improved award” would have to go to Dolph Ziggler. He got a bit of a main event tease at the beginning of the year, but now it really feels like he’s ready. The new “show off” aspect of his character works fantastically and makes him one of the most entertaining heels in the company right now. The guy also wrestles every match like he thinks he’s in the main event a PPV. After having the “free” match of the year with Punk he said in an interview, that he wanted the match to be better. The biggest reason I wanted Ryder to win at TLC was because it was time for Ziggler to drop the mid-card belt and go play with the big boys.
Ryder Revolution: What was Zack Ryder doing at the beginning of the year? Was he still in those one legged tights? I honestly don’t remember. But one YouTube show later, and crowds chant the guy’s name during matches he’s not even involved in. The thing is, Ryder is by no means the best wrestler in the company. And I’m not transfixed during his promos the way I am during the promos of a few other wrestlers. But the reason I’m so excited about Ryder’s success is the fact that it is due to the demands of fans. In a time where the company shoves certain superstars down our throats while others are wasted in the background, it’s nice to see that enough chanting and sign making can still sometimes have an effect on WWE creative.
Your current champions: As if they were answering the Christmas wishes of the collective Internet, WWE is ending the year with all your favorite stars holding titles. These guys, who came out together at the top of Raw last week, are all people who, though loved by fans, seemed like they would never get to far in a company that didn’t seem to value there talents or potential. Now though, they are all champions. Also worth a mention is Cody Rhodes, who hasn’t gotten to hang out with the other champions due to his heel status, but is no less an example of WWE finally looking toward the future of the company.
The Return of the Great One: The Rock was on at a time that I was not exactly allowed to watch wrestling. The crass, low brow aspects of the era meant that WWF was not allowed in our house and I got my wrestling information from seeing an episode here and there, and listening to friends at school talk about what had happened. So I had assumed that a chance to watch the Rock fight in his prime had passed me by. Sure he would someday come back and wrestle again, but that was going to be years from now, not while he was one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. But as it turns out, Rock will wrestle again. Earlier this year he came back with a run of promos to remind us all why he used to shame everyone else on the mic. We even got to see a bit of ring work back in November to prove that any fear of ring rust was unfounded. Rock can still wrestle and this time around, I get to watch.
A pair heels: There were two great heel turns this year and add the fact that they happened to a pair of faces that were really getting lost in the shuffle made them all the better. First was Mark Henry who traded in his loveable giant character for the Hall of Pain. Henry was never a wrestler that I thought I would be invested in. But it turns out that Heel Henry was a much more compelling story and resulted in one of the best Heavyweight Championship runs in a long while. The second heel turn belongs to R-Truth. As a face, Truth did little more than hang out with Cena backstage like the nerdy kid at school who tries to around the cool kid in hopes that some of the popularity will rub off. Then Truth decided there was a conspiracy against him and became immensely entertaining. The best promos of the year may belong to Punk and the Rock, but the more entertaining ones were all from R-Truth, who talked about being yelling at pigeons, being scared of spiders, and the “Little Jimmies” that plagued his very existence. Hopefully his absence won’t stall Truth’s career and when he returns we can get the same crazed conspiracy filled rants as before.
Tags: cm punk, Cody Rhodes, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Mark Henry, R-Truth, Raw, Smackdown, The Rock, WWE, zack ryder