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The Worst Year In Wrestling Ever: A Case For--And Against--2011

Last week, I tackled a year that produced perhaps the biggest turnover in professional wrestling history, as the top three promotions in North America became one. It produced perhaps the best wrestling PPV of all time (certainly the most bought) and followed it up with the biggest disappointment in wrestling history: WCW vs. WWF. Despite the disappointment that's often associated with 2001 (and the heated argument on the damage 2001 had done to the wrestling business)...

Your votes overwhelmingly decided it was not the worst year ever. Next case.


Professional wrestling in the States was not in a good place by 2011. The cool factor has been long gone, fans of the two big promotions were served with the same things over and over again, while rising talent continued to be criminally underutilized. But one promo on a hot June night in Las Vegas was the spark the pro wrestling business needed. Yet, though the story wrote itself, they still managed to blow it to a degree not seen since... well, the Invasion. Take a journey if you will to the next year in the Worst Year Ever series, 2011.


Yeah, let's start with the elephant in the room.

June 20, 2011. CM Punk announces that when his expires on the night of the Money in the Bank PPV, he is leaving WWE, and he's leaving as WWE Champion.

One week later in Las Vegas, CM Punk drops a megaton bomb on the audience, viewers, and wrestling fans at large. Yeah, it was a worked shoot promo, but in the minds of many, it told some ugly truths:

I hate this idea that you're the best (referring to John Cena). Because you're not. I'm the best. I'm the best in the world. There's one thing you're better at than I am and that's kissing Vince McMahon's ass.

You're as good as kissing Vince McMahon's ass as Hulk Hogan was. I don't know if you're as good as Dwayne though. He's a pretty good ass kisser. Always was and still is...

I've grabbed so many of Vincent K. McMahon's brass rings that it's finally dawned on me that there just that, they're completely imaginary. The only thing that's real is me and the fact that day in and day out, for almost six years, I have proved to everybody in the world that I am the best on this microphone, in that ring, even in commentary! Nobody can touch me!

And yet no matter how many times I prove it, I'm not on your lovely little collector cups. I'm not on the cover of the program. I'm barely promoted. I don't get to be in movies. I'm certainly not on any crappy show on the USA Network. I'm not on the poster of WrestleMania. I'm not on the signature that's produced at the start of the show. I'm not on Conan O'Brian. I'm not on Jimmy Fallon. But the fact of the matter is, I should be.

This isn't sour grapes. But the fact that Dwayne is in the main event at WrestleMania next year and I'm not makes me sick...

The reason I'm leaving is you people. Because after I'm gone, you're still going to pour money into this company. I'm just a spoke on the wheel. The wheel is going to keep turning and I understand that. Vince McMahon is going to make money despite himself. He's a millionaire who should be a billionaire. You know why he's not a billionaire? Because he surrounds himself with glad-handed, non-sensical, douchebag (censored)  yes men, like John Laurinaitis, who's going to tell him everything he wants to hear, and I'd like to think that maybe this company will better after Vince McMahon is dead. But the fact is, it's going to be taken over by his idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law and the rest of his stupid family...

Even if it turned out to be nothing more than a worked shoot, it woke up a wrestling business that was sleepwalking for years. Suddenly, July 17, 2011 was more than just about a pay-per-view with two ladder matches. For all intents and purposes, they no longer mattered. One match would determine the future of the company, and perhaps the wrestling business as a whole.

All eyes were on Chicago, Illinois. A PPV that was mostly thrilling would have been all for naught if John Cena retained the WWE Championship in hostile territory. It would have been yet another case of WWE throwing money away to protect the status quo. The 33-minute encounter ended with Punk (who as it turned out just signed a new deal while the show was in progress) winning the WWE Championship for the first time. Not even a Vince McMahon-directed Alberto Del Rio attempted Money in the Bank cash-in could prevent the inevitable: WWE was going to have to come to terms with life without CM Punk.

Suddenly, CM Punk was in high demand. Here's Punk at San Diego Comic-Con. Here's Punk on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Here's Punk doing radio shows. Here's Punk showing up out of the blue at an indy wrestling show in Chicago. And he was technically their heavyweight champion of the world, though he did not (in storyline) work for them.

And almost immediately, the cracks begin to form. CM Punk was gone for all of a week, returning moments after John Cena defeated Rey Mysterio less than two hours after Mysterio won the WWE title. Two WWE Champions? Intrigue. Then Triple H assuming his COO duties got involved. And Triple H the wrestler's ego got involved. CM Punk loses the WWE title and a match to Triple H in consecutive months. Summer of Punk over. Status quo wins again. The next big star burned out before it can shine bright. Sure Punk got the WWE Championship back in MADISON SQUARE GARDEN and began a title run not seen since the heyday of Hulkamania, but it took more than half of it to rebuild "The Voice of the Voiceless". And even then (with the benefit of hindsight), WWE didn't have their full confidence in him.

2011 also saw the sudden retirement of Adam Copeland, whose years of high-impact style wrestling did irreparable damage to his body. It wasn't just that one of the premiere performers of this generation retired, it was shocking. No one foresaw it. One week, he was opening Wrestlemania XXVII, the next, he's announcing his career's over.

Speaking of Wrestlemania XXVII, a Wrestlemania featuring Steve Austin, The Rock, and Trish Stratus, three of the faces of the Attitude Era should not be allowed to suck under any circumstances. But it did. Said Wrestlemania opened with The Rock doing his thing for about 15 minutes. People wouldn't have minded this much had an advertised match on the show, Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus, was (1) kicked to the preshow, and (2) turned into a battle royal won by The Great Khali of all people. Yet, it's still only the second biggest time-waster on the show. That honor goes to Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler. The two announcers on RAW got 30 minutes on PPV. This interminable feud got 1/8 of the allotted PPV time on this show, or more than every match on the show but one, including the main event.

A main event won by Mike Mizanin. Let that sink in for a minute. Mike Mizanin, cast member of The Real World: Back to New York, won a main event at Wrestlemania. Less than 20 men walking the earth have a Wrestlemania main event win. Men like Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and Steve Austin. Mike Mizanin has a Wrestlemania win. Mike Mizanin as WWE Champion's biggest feud was John Cena. His second biggest feud: Jerry Lawler. Think about it for a moment.

Speaking of The Miz, let's talk about his #1 d***-rider, Michael Cole. Good fucking Lord was Cole intolerable in 2011. I don't care if your lines are being fed to by Vincent K. from Stamford, Connecticut, if you spout out about how everything sucks and what's going on doesn't mean a thing, then guess what? Everything sucks and what's going on doesn't mean a thing. 2011 is the first time I can remember watching RAW on mute ON PURPOSE. Now combine the awfulness of Cole with the awfulness of Jerry Lawler on commentary. Now combine that with Booker T on commentary. Bring back the team of Vince McMahon, Randy Savage, and Rob Bartlett.

Shit. Randy Savage.

Randy Savage died, you guys. Bonesaw McGraw. The guy from the Slim Jim ads. The guy who died without making peace with WWE before his passing. That's depressing. (Side nugget: at least he'll finally get his due when he's inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in March.)

To lighten the mood, a Sin Cara phallus shirt.

You know, I'd keep talking about WWE and their shitty year, but I'm up to a fourth page and I still haven't talked about their "competition".

WWE as it turned out did some rebranding and were no longer calling themselves World Wrestling Entertainment, just WWE. Yeah, they took the wrestling out of their name. They also took the Entertainment out of their name, but that's another discussion for another day. TNA, always always reacting to what WWE does, rebranded themselves as Impact Wrestling with the tagline "Wrestling matters here." It would if you, you know, and I'm just spitballing here, do more wrestling on the show. Turned out some of their shows had less wrestling than the average RAW program.

While WWE was never one to get along with other wrestling promotions, TNA and New Japan Pro Wrestling as late as 2011 were buddies. Well, until Jeff Hardy fucked it up. His TNA world title match with Tetsuya Naito was so horrible, New Japan decided to completely cut them off. Turned out New Japan may have been on to something. TNA, of course, did not see this. Hang on to this, as I will come back to it.

Hey, did you know Brian Kendrick was on The Price is Right? TNA didn't.

TNA signed another former WWE diva in Chyna. She made exactly two appearances before deciding porn was the better option. Let this sink in for a moment: she chose T & A over TNA.

Joker Sting.


Speaking of Sting, he returned to the company after a brief absence. How did TNA push his return? In the most TNA manner possible, of course. WWE plugged these pretty awesome 2/21/11 vignettes that hinted at the return of the Undertaker, but possibly the coming of Sting to WWE. Turned out it was the return of both Undertaker and Triple H, but no Sting debut as he resigned with TNA. So TNA rips off the 2/21/11 videos with a 3/3/11 video that was widely and rightfully mocked. Turned out March 3, 2011 was also their first show away from the Impact Zone or the Asylum. And it also turned out March 3, 2011 would begin another Sting world title run in TNA. It smacks of Hulk Hogan in his WCW heyday.

So back to Jeff Hardy, the man Sting defeated to win the TNA world title. At Victory Road, Jeff Hardy, who's had a documented history of drug problems, showed up-on PPV-high, drunk, or both. And they send him out there anyway. Sting retains the world title in an 88-second main event. The entrances lasted longer. The "Eric Bischoff trying to change the main event" bit took longer. The post-show video package lasted longer. No one outside of Jeff Hardy was reprimanded, not even Sting who vocally (and rightfully so) agreed with the crowd chanting "Bullshit" as the show ended. Soon after Jeff was suspended, his brother Matt was arrested for DUI (and subsequently released). So was Kurt Angle, who at the time of his arrest, was the TNA world champion.

Sting vs. Ric Flair.

Sting vs. Hulk Hogan.

Fuck your push, Bobby Roode.

Just days after the Victory Road debacle, Shannon Spruill, aka Daffney, sues TNA for worker's compensation citing injuries she suffered in a 2010 match against Rosie Lottalove (who has since lost quite a bit of weight). The suit would be settled in 2013, but the public relation damage done to TNA was done.


Show of hands if you had The Rock returning to WWE in 2011. Put your hands down because you are lying.

The Rock was making quite the living for himself as an action movie star. He had no reason to go back. Then John Cena said a thing or three about The Rock. That was in 2008. Why should The Rock care? Cena's making a living getting booed in arenas around the world while Dwayne was making a living making movies for a lot more money and a lot less toll on his body.

Then the WWE (assumingly) backed up the truck for Dwayne and the next thing you know...

Yeah. It was THAT awesome. It was also in that moment you may have realized that...yeah, WWE was in desperate need of star power, and John from West Newbury, Massachusetts simply wasn't going to cut it. After disparaging John Cena and The Miz, The Rock announced (as we were shoulder deep in the guest host era) that he would be the host and star of Wrestlemania XXVII. And make no mistake about it: he WAS the star of that show. It was his music, not John Cena's, not Mike Mizanin's, that played when the show ended.

So... Tough Enough came back, you guys. And here below is far and away the most awesome moment from that series.

By the way, she was the one that stuck around in WWE. Not the winner, Andy "Silent Rage" Levine. This woman right here. Now she's on another awful reality show, Total Divas. And you wonder why people aren't exactly warming up to a re-reboot of Tough Enough.

So... that wrestling promotion out of Philadelphia got a new TV deal. No, not ECW. That died in 2010, though some would argue it really died a decade earlier. Ring of Honor ended the HDNet era, but would not be off TV for long. Sinclair Broadcasting Group not only bought the TV rights, they bought the company. What it'll mean long term remains up for debate. Some still argue that ROH's best days are behind them, but maybe the best is yet to come.

This happened the night after TLC. For one night, the Internet won.

Muppets on RAW. You didn't enjoy the Muppets on RAW and I might have to check and see if you have a soul.


So that's 2011. Was it the worst year in wrestling ever? You decide and debate below. Next time, it's back to the '90s.

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