Site contributor shares his top 10 wrestlers of 2011
by Cody A. Springer
2011 was a huge year for professional wrestling, and there’s no doubt that 2012 will be bigger. But who exactly set the wrestling world afire in 2011? Keep in mind that this is a list made by one person’s judgement. I’ve been a wrestling fan for almost 13 years, and about six of those are as a ‘smart mark.’ But as Craig always says, everybody’s list is different.
Honorable Mentions: Eddie Edwards (ROH), James Storm (TNA), Seth Rollins (FCW). The only thing preventing these guys from reaching the top ten was being overshadowed by their particular counterparts on this countdown.
Number 10: Dean Ambrose (FCW)
Most have never heard of Dean Ambrose (who was known as Jon Moxley on the indy circuit), but those who have know exactly what he’s capable of. In April, he signed a contract with WWE, and has been wrestling in their developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling. When he debuted, he faced Seth Rollins (well known as Tyler Black on the indy circuit) for the FCW 15 Championship, a championship that is defended by competing in 15 minute iron man matches. Yeah, it’s pretty legit. The match was so close, that it ended in a 0-0 draw. Two rematches ensued, the first was a 20 minute iron man match, which also ended 0-0, and then a 30 minute iron man match, that ended 2-2. After sudden death, Seth ended up prevailing. Since then, Ambrose has gone on to have wonderful matches with WWE Champion CM Punk (that lasted 25 minutes, or an average PPV main event) and William Regal. In December, he wrestled dark matches for the WWE at live events, facing current World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan twice. Supposedly, he has a spot on the main roster waiting for him, but his debut is being delayed as Triple H (a real life member of creative) has said that he doesn’t want anybody debuting from FCW without a strong storyline and a strong gimmick.
Number 9: Cody Rhodes (WWE)
Cody Rhodes can make anything work. First he was dashing, he made it work. Then he dawned a mask and became dark and brooding. He made that work. Then he took off the mask and became the most confident he’s ever been, and it works! He started off the year with a feud against Rey Mysterio, which forced him to dawn a mask. As a result, he started to refute peoples’ supposed ‘ugliness’ and started putting paper bags over his opponents’ heads. He won the Intercontinental Championship, and had a wonderful feud with Randy Orton that led to Rhodes’ liberation from his mask, and he became the Cody Rhodes Butterfree, as if shedding the mask was shedding his cocoon, evolving from the masked Metapod. Since then, he’s done the best thing he could have done. He brought back the awesome retro Intercontinental Championship, and gave it a white belt. That thing is awesome for serious.
Number 8: Robert Roode (TNA)
Robert Roode has been the saving grace, and most of the time, the only watchable aspect of TNA. Everybody knew Beer Money was the best thing going for TNA, and transitioning Robert Roode into the TNA Champion was the smartest move they could make, even if the BS that surrounded him getting it (Roode loses his match at Bound for Glory, his partner wins it the next night, and then he ends up winning it two weeks after that). He constantly turns chicken shit in to chicken salad, and that in of itself is top ten worthy for a man trying to find a name for himself in the former WWE Superstars’ retirement home. And he has, that’s the best part.
Number 7: Davey Richards (ROH)
Davey Richards is the real deal. The man is hard hitting, relentless, and has successfully brought Japan’s Strong Style of wrestling to America. He won the ROH World Championship for the first time at ROH Best in the World by beating his own tag team partner, Eddie Edwards. The man did not have a bad match in 2011, and capped it all off by beating Eddie Edwards again at Final Battle to retain the ROH Championship after over 40 minutes of stiff kicking and chopping. Watch out for Davey Richards
Number 6: Christian
After Wrestlemania 27, Edge unfortunately had to close the doors on his wrestling career due to injury. And even though the 2012 first ballot hall of famer had to leave us prematurely, the one thing we can take solace in, is that it left the door open for Christian to finally take the step to the main event. At Extreme Rules, Christian beat Alberto Del Rio to win the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time. He then would go on to have a very extensive feud with Randy Orton, that led to many great matches between the two. At the end of it all (and before his injury toward the close of 2012), even as a heel, he would have the crowd chanting “One More Match.” One can only wait with excitement to see what Christian has in store for 2012.
Number 5: R-Truth
At the beginning of 2011, I would have told you R-Truth’s WWE career was on the downward slope. But after an uncanny win to become Number One Contender to John Cena’s WWE Title back in April, his shot was taken away from him only a week later by his close friend John Morrison. This drove R-Truth over the deep end, and led to a metamorphosis like no other. After he controversially blew cigarette smoke on John Morrison, he began getting crazier and crazier, leading him to talk about Little Jimmy, his fear of spiders, people “getting got”, and having great interaction with the crowd (“Don’t you what me!”). He even marched out to the ring, interrupting Stone Cold and Mr. McMahon and wearing, of all things, a Confederate Soldier’s uniform. I’ll let that one sink in for a second… Yeah. Truth would later go on to form a tag team with the Miz, and face John Cena and The Rock at Survivor Series in what could easily be called the biggest match of Truth’s career.
Number 4: Zack Ryder
Speaking of people who’s careers were on the downturn at the start of 2011… Zack Ryder, sensing his time with WWE was near, took to the YouTubes with Z! True Long Island Story in an attempt to show the world that he was entertaining. Lo and behold, he was, and it eventually landed him where he wanted to be. Zack Ryder took matter in to his own hands, and got himself over with the WWE Universe, a lesson that could be learned by many in the WWE locker room. At TLC, he finally accomplished his goals, and defeated Dolph Ziggler to become the United States Champion, and the WWE Universe couldn’t have been happier. And all this couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
Number 3: Dolph Ziggler
You wanna talk about a guy who hasn’t had a bad match? A guy who turns chickenshit in to chicken salad? Dolph started off his year headlining the Royal Rumble against Edge. He would go on to win the World Heavyweight Championship after losing to Edge at the Rumble, but that didn’t stop Ziggler from shining. After his 11 minute reign as World Champion, he would go on to Wrestlemania, where he would team up with LayCool to face John Morrison, Trish Stratus and Snooki from Jersey Shore. Although Snooki had a surprisingly good performance, Ziggler was the one who really shined. Ziggler would then win the United States Championship, which he would hold for the rest of 2011, mostly. Ziggler consistently steals the show with his matches, and his “Ask the Heel” promos on Zack Ryder’s Z! True Long Island Story have been bar none. He harkens back to Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect, and in my humble opinion, Ziggler is the new “Nature Boy.”
Number 2: John Cena
Cena haters get your flames ready! That’s right! John Cena is number two! This year, John Cena has been tasked with his biggest challenge yet: a match with The Rock at Wrestlemania 28, and everything he’s done has been centered around that feud. Every side feud has always started with the motivation that he needs to get ready to face The Rock. And, like it or not, Cena consistently has match of the year quality matches, and this year at Money in the Bank against CM Punk was no different. His feuds with Punk and Kane (at the tail end, leading in to 2012) have been more than up to par, and Cena has carried the entire Rock feud on his back, while Rock in in Hollywood land blowing up cars. Love him or hate him, he’s here, and he busts his ass night after night, and it shows. Plus, Dave Meltzer gave his match with Punk five stars, which is something Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho both don’t have.
Number 1: CM Punk
“Hey Colt Cabana, how ya doin?” CM Punk turn the wrestling world on it’s ear when he delivered the most scathing promo the WWE has heard in years. A promo liked to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s original Austin 3:16 speech, there is no doubt that CM Punk was THE hottest commodity in wrestling this year. From literally leaving the WWE with the WWE Championship (he legitimately was not under contract for a while as WWE Champion), which was a feat nobody had accomplished before him. He had a match with John Cena, which The Wrestling Observer ranked Match of the Year. He successfully launched a campaign to reinstate WWE Ice Cream Bars, he called his boss’s daughter (and other boss’s wife) an idiot on live television, kicked Johnny Ace in the head, caused Vince McMahon to be “relieved of his duties,” helped cause Triple H to be stripped of his GM duties on RAW, helped cause a company-wide walkout on live TV, and defeated John Cena TWICE. CM Punk completely changed the landscape of the WWE, and the WWE Universe thanks him for it. In 2011, he truly was the Best in the World. (Oh, and he has TWO five star matches from Meltzer.)