Have you ever skipped ahead to the last chapter of a book? Have you ever wish you hadn’t? While 2010 is a much maligned year, 2011 seems to get a pass. Mostly because the high moments are very satisfying to certain segments of the audience whereas 2010 may have been a little more flat. I’m going to watch all the footage with an open mind. Every Raw, Smackdown, and Pay Per View. I might peak in on NXT: Redemption when that starts as it seems to be the beginning of what NXT would eventually become. Looking forward, there may be some real rough patches in 2011. As usual, my mission is to go through this year and see what we can gather from the footage that will aid us in putting together our GWWE 100 lists. Perhaps there are some surprise moments, hidden gem matches, and forgotten greatness somewhere in this 12 month period.
Raw starts out with what will likely be the best show of the year. To tie up some of the loose ends from 2010, they put on Pay Per View quality matches for the first show of the year. This is obviously unsustainable from week to week but much appreciated. There is a lot of crossover this month, with stars from Smackdown appearing on Raw and vice versa. With it being Royal Rumble season, many lapsed fans are tuning in again to see what is going on. So it makes some sense to have the shows as star studded as possible. On the other hand, the mid and lower card talent are often left out in the cold, which makes it all the more difficult to build new stars.
Storywise, Raw is driven by the feud between John Cena against CM Punk and the New Nexus. Alberto Del Rio appears nearly every week, familiarizing him with the Raw audience as Del Rio gets pushed towards his Royal Rumble victory. The Miz is on a collision course with Randy Orton for the WWE Championship at Royal Rumble. But the threat of Jerry Lawler still looms in the background.
Meet the New Boss.
CM Punk comes down to the ring declaring himself to be the new leader of the New Nexus, and boy do they have some nasty plans for John Cena. Wade Barrett comes down to the ring and takes issue with Punk hijacking his group. The Anonymous Raw GM has to put in his two cents. On that night, 1/3/11, there would be a Steel Cage Number One Contenders Match. Sheamus vs Randy Orton vs CM Punk or Wade Barrett. Punk gives the spot to Wade Barrett and says if Wade wins, Barrett will remain the Nexus leader. But if he loses, Punk will assume control of the group. Punk, of course, costs Barrett the match, even though he totally promised not to interfere.
The next order of business is for CM Punk to test the loyalty of his new group with hazing rituals. Michael McGillicutty gets beat down, Nexus style. Husky Harris gets whipped with a belt three times by each Nexus member. Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel are supposed to fight each other with kendo sticks but instead decide to go to Smackdown to be with Wade Barrett. Finally, CM Punk climbs the top of the Titantron and says he will jump. He is bluffing but he loved to see the crowds reaction. John Cena appears on the tron and insults the New Nexus and it’s leader in his usual juvenile fashion.
On 1/17, CM Punk is scheduled to face John Cena. If any member of the Nexus interferes, they will be out of the Royal Rumble. The New Nexus members are nervous about this but Punk tells then to have some faith. Cena and Punk are having a pretty good match when a large, Batista-like man shows up and attacks CM Punk, causing Punk to win by disqualification. Then he attacks John Cena, along with the rest of the New Nexus. We will find out that this guy is Mason Ryan and he really looks a lot like Batista.
At The Royal Rumble, CM Punk draws number one. He is almost immediately attacked by Wade Barrett’s new group, The Corre. The New Nexus hits the ring and its an all out brawl. The Anonymous Raw GM calls for order and demands everyone but Punk leave the ring or face disqualification from the Rumble. Punk has a long run in the Rumble. Over time, more of his New Nexus teammates join him in the ring. They take over the Rumble. The New Nexus really reestablish themselves as a dominate group, tossing out several people. Then John Cena shows up and clears the ring, almost singlehandedly. Punk hangs on but ultimately Cena dumps him. Then Hornswoggle comes out. Cena and Swoggle have their own dominate run, teaming up against whoever comes out next. It was fun for the crowd but really helped make this match feel longer than it really was.
As of the last Raw of January, it looks like Cena will be moving on to menacing The Miz. So time will tell if The Nex Nexus gets revenge on John Cena for eliminating the group from the Rumble or if the program is dead. Cena and Punk will definitely cross paths in 2011 further down the road.
Return of The King.
The year starts out promising enough for The Miz. John Morrison gets his title match at he earned at TLC. So on the 1/3 Raw, it’s Miz vs Morrison, No DQ, Falls Count Anywhere. Royal Rumble could have benefited from having this match on it. This seems like maybe the best opportunity to pull the trigger on John Morrison but I guess they had better ideas in mind. Morrison manages to fight off repeated interference from Alex Riley. The match was excellent. Unfortunately for Morrison, he misses Starship Pain through a table, allowing Miz to get the win. Speaking in strictly kayfabe terms, the Raw Anonymous GM has regularly banned people from ringside, even in No DQ situations. Yet, he decides not to act in this situation. Why? Furthermore, John Morrison knew the rules of the match, he knew Alex Riley would be out there as a second, why is it he didn’t bring some backup in this situation? Would it have been that hard for him to ask R Truth to come to the ring with him and balance out the threat of Alex Riley?
Meanwhile, Randy Orton wins a Triple Threat Steel Cage Match against Sheamus and Wade Barrett to earn the spot of number one contender. It’s worth noting that at this time, Michael Cole is shilling for the Miz on commentary and Jerry Lawler has heard about enough of it. So the Raw GM makes a match where Miz and Riley will face Orton and Jerry Lawler. Orton and Lawler get the win, building The King further as a legitimate threat to The Miz and his WWE Championship.
The next week, Dolph Ziggler invades Raw to have a battle of number one contenders against Randy Orton. They have a good match and Orton wins clean with a RKO. After the match, Miz attacks Orton and leaves him laying. Miz then gets on the mic to mock his number one contender.
Next, Edge shows up on Raw. The Anonymous Raw GM still has a vendetta against The Rated R Superstar. He has Edge face three different people in an over the top rope challenge. Whoever can throw Edge over the top will get the Number 40 spot in the Royal Rumble. Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger, and Tyson Kidd all hit the ring. Edge dispatched all three. To mess with Edge further, he will have to face Miz later on that night. Reminder, it is revealed later on that Hornswoggle was the Anonymous Raw GM in a throw away gag. And no one sought revenge against him for his many controversial decisions. Edge faces Miz. It was a fine match. Dolph Ziggler joins the commentary team. Eventually, he runs in and attacks Edge. Edge wins by a DQ. Randy Orton runs in to make a save on Edge before any further damage can be done. But there is one more matter of business before we get to the Royal Rumble. As a consequence of this match, Miz and Randy Orton show up on Smackdown and a tag team match is made for the nights Main Event. Rated RKO would reunite for one night, forgetting all about their very bitter feud only a couple years back, and they would face the team of Miz and Dolph Ziggler. Rated RKO get the win in a blah match.
That brings us to The Royal Rumble. The Miz vs Randy Orton is likely the best non gimmick match of the month in WWE. The finish was less than satisfactory. The New Nexus come to ringside and distract Randy Orton. Alex Riley tries to sneak attack Orton but he is sent sailing over the top rope. However, that opened up a chance for The Miz to hit the Skullcrushing Finale and get the win.
Finally, we learn on the Raw after the Royal Rumble what this sudden push of Jerry Lawler is really all about. The Anonymous Raw GM announces there will be a Raw Rumble, a 7 man Royal Rumble to determine a number one contender to The Miz at Elimination Chamber. These men are John Cena, John Morrison, Sheamus, CM Punk, R Truth, Randy Orton, and Jerry “The King” Lawler. Ted DiBiase Jr comes out and confronts Jerry Lawler, demanding his spot in the Raw Rumble. Lawler reveals a little known fact. In Lawler’s 18 years in WWE, he has never been in a match at WrestleMania. His goal is to defeat The Miz and go to WrestleMania as WWE Champion. Lawler will get his match at WrestleMania but that’s a story for a different day. The King wins the Raw Rumble and he will face Miz at the Elimination Chamber for the WWE Championship. While I appreciate that they want to do something nice for The King and give him his WrestleMania moment, they have greatly diminished The Miz to do so. His match with Michael Cole at WrestleMania isn’t going to be the career defining moment anyone would have hoped for. It would appear that this match is the result of long term booking, with issues between Lawler and Cole dating back to the previous year. Personally, I feel like they could have accomplished their goals with a better plan.
A Series of Unusual Events.
An interesting occurrence happens in the world of the Diva’s Title to start the year. Melina had become number one contender the previous month. She turns heel on Natalya, letting our Divas Champion know that Melina is coming for her belt. From there, Raw stays true to it’s formula. Melina and Natalya are placed on opposite sides of some very short, unremarkable tag matches. It’s assumed that Melina would get her title match at Royal Rumble, since she spent a couple of weeks scowling at Natalya and no other programs were being built. And that is an important point because none of what eventually happens gets built at all. Eve Torres is making appearances in short matches on Raw. LayCool are losing repeatedly on Smackdown and are on the verge of breaking up. The Bellas are competing for Daniel Bryan’s virginity. So on the 1/17 Raw, Melina and Eve join the commentary team during a match between Natalya and Maryse. Michael Cole asks a very simple question of Melina as the match starts. “What are your issues with Natalya?” All Melina can say in response is “Umm….” and she freezes. Completely locks up. Michael Cole is in his heel persona at this point and he savages Melina on commentary, with her sitting right next to him, and offers no reply. Eve Torres jumps in and tries to add something to the situation. It’s the sort of boiler plate, stock dialog you would expect to get from a Diva at this point. Eve didn’t exactly set the world on fire with her commentary. Cole tries one more time to engage Melina in conversation and gets nothing. I would imagine her confidence was just shattered at this point. Cole laces into her. Eve gets in on the act as well. Natalya’s match comes to a merciful end and the show moves on to better things. The next week, Melina gets her title match and gets dispatched in short order. Michael Cole makes sure to get a few more digs in at Melina on commentary, kicking her while she is down. If this was all put together to get over Cole’s heel persona, mission accomplished. However, Melina is a fellow heel so I don’t know how effective this was. What happens next is really slapped together, so it would seem the company changed plans after this situation. It’s announced, out of the blue, that LayCool would get a Divas Title Match at Royal Rumble in a Handicap Match. Reminder, LayCool previously haven’t won a match in nearly two months, individually or as a team, and have been close to breaking up. Even more strange, at Royal Rumble, the Anonymous Raw GM decides that instead of a handicap match, LayCool and Natalya will be in a Fatal 4 Way with Eve Torres added to the mix. And as one last confusing turn, Eve wins the match and becomes the new Divas Champion. The next night, Eve and Nattie team up, best of friends, even though Eve had taken Natalya’s title just the night before. Up to this point, we haven’t seen this kind of sharp turn in a storyline that takes a title program in an entirely different direction.
But You Already Knew That.
Alberto Del Rio appears on almost every show, both Raw and Smackdown, for the month of January. Del Rio has a mini feud with R Truth and finishes his business with Rey Mysterio, for the moment. As for Mysterio, ADR has a good 2 out of 3 Falls Match on the first Smackdown of the Year.
On Raw, Del Rio comes out week after week cutting a pretty similar promo. Basically Del Rio calls it his destiny to win the Royal Rumble then go on to become a champion at WrestleMania. R Truth comes down to retort, saying a Royal Rumble win must be earned. It’s not a matter of destiny. Del Rio gets a breezy win over Truth. They repeat the whole matter next week. Except this time, Richard Rodriguez distracts Truth with his own rendition of “What’s Up” causing a countout. After the match, Alberto gets on the mic to insult country music in Nashville, then has Richardo sing “La Cocaracha” for the people. In response, Truth invades Smackdown and teams with Rey Mysterio to face Del Rio and Cody Rhodes. Rey and Truth get the win. On the 1/21 Smackdown, R Truth is back for one last attempt to derail Alberto Del Rio on his Road to WrestleMania. Del Rio wins in a match that has been a serious of diminishing returns.
Del Rio has a few more strong appearances on both Raw and Smackdown. One was interrupting an Over the Top Rope Challenge between Ted DiBiase Jr and Mark Henry. He teams with Sheamus the next week on Raw to face John Morrison and Mark Henry. The go home episode of Smackdown leading into the Royal Rumble, Del Rio teams with Kane to face Kofi Kingston and Rey Mysterio. Kofi and Rey get a win in an average match but I love their finish. Rey hits a 619 then Del Rio falls back into Trouble in Paradise. It looked impressive. That makes me want to see more of Rey and Kofi has a team.
It’s now time for the Royal Rumble. This year there will be 40 men in the match. The total match time is 1 hour and 9 minutes. It feels much longer. The New Nexus gets the Diesel push, eliminating several people in a row. It helped reestablish the group. However, they get wiped out by Cena in short order. Then Cena and Hornswoggle have a good, long run. Booker T and Diesel are the surprise Legends who make a Rumble appearance. This crowd really gets behind Diesel. They missed the opportunity to revive the New Generation on that night. Del Rio draws number 38. Santino makes it to the Final Four by accidently getting knocked under the bottom rope by Sheamus. Sheamus gets tossed by Randy Orton. Wade Barrett gets thrown by Randy Orton. But that allows Del Rio to sneak up behind the Viper and eliminate him. It looks like Del Rio has won but here comes Santino Marella. Rising up like a phoenix from the ashes, the crowd realizes Santino hasn’t been eliminated and goes wild. Santino climbs in the ring and hits the Cobra. Santino celebrates and the crowd loves it. If you’re looking for big moments for Santino, this would qualify. Santino takes a little long celebrating, which allows ADR to recover and eliminate him. I think the idea of Santino winning the Rumble is a lot more fun than the reality of what happens when Santino Marella heads to WrestleMania to challenge for a World Title. Instead, Alberto Del Rio gets the win and he will be going to WrestleMania.
The next night on Raw. Alberto Del Rio reveals he will challenge Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship. That means Raw will hold an Elimination Chamber Match to determine who will face The Miz at WrestleMania, if Miz can survive the challenge of Jerry Lawler.
And The Rest.
Ted DiBiase Jr is the master of the slow motion breakup. Last year it was with Legacy. This year its with Maryse. Ted Jr tries to prove to Maryse that he is not a loser. So he challenges anyone in the building to an Over the Top Rope Challenge. Naturally, Mark Henry answers the call. I think they did the same thing last year with Henry and Jack Swagger. Mark Henry’s fortunes will turn pretty drastically this year. Right now his only roll is to answer Over the Top Rope challenges and get attacked by a gang of heels. As for Ted Jr, we already covered how he got punked out by Jerry Lawler. Maryse isn’t doing a lot of acting here. I think she wants this angle to end as much as anyone.
Randy Orton gets involved in a Tag Team Title Match between Husky Harris and Michael McGillicutty taking on champions Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov. Orton RKOs the members of The New Nexus. It appears as though Randy Orton will be going after CM Punk going forward.
There isn’t a ton of difference between Raw and Smackdown in January. There is so much crossover, you end up seeing a lot of the same faces each week on each show. As Edge moves from the Kane feud to a program with Dolph Ziggler, fans warm up to this title run a little bit more. Big Show gets featured heavily, as he is always a Royal Rumble favorite. Wade Barrett is expelled from the Nexus and comes to form The Corre with Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, and Ezekiel Jackson. In terms of work rate and how much time is devoted to promos or angles, there isn’t a ton of difference as we head toward Royal Rumble.
Don’t Let Him Meet Your Ex.
To finish up Edge’s business with Kane, they face each other in a Last Man Standing Match for the World Heavyweight Championship. It ends up being their best match so far with a conclusive finish. They callback to other moments in their feud, which is rarely seen in WWE matches. Edge wins and finishes that matter.
On the same show, Dolph Ziggler defends his Intercontinental Championship against Kofi Kingston, again. It ends up being one of their better matches. This time, Kofi gets the win and finally regains the IC Title after months of trying. But not so fast my friend. Vickie Guerrero steps in and orders another match immediately. Dolph has barely recovered and Kofi puts him away quickly. Mercifully, Vickie doesn’t make Dolph go for a third time, against Kofi anyway.
The 1/7 Smackdown was a pretty busy show. On that same night, there is a Triple Threat Match to determine the Number One Contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. After Dolph’s unfortunate lose to Kofi, he and Vickie get in a fight backstage. Dolph hints at breaking up with her. To make things right with Dolph, she inserts Dolph into the Number One Contenders Match, making it a Fatal 4 Way. Dolph seems uncertain to enter this match. He is still feeling the effects of his match with Kofi. Now Dolph has to face The Big Show, Cody Rhodes, and Drew McIntyre. Wade Barrett attacks Big Show during the match, helping Dolph sneak a win.
On the 1/14 Smackdown, we get the latest edition of The Cutting Edge. Edge has Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero on the show. Edge brings up some of the highlights of his relationship with Vickie Guerrero. She hauls off and slaps him. Dolph attacks but ultimately gets dumped to the outside of the ring. This leaves Vickie alone in the ring with Edge. He has that look in his eyes and seems to be getting ready for the Spear. Dolph is able to save and disaster is averted.
In the course of events, Teddy Long is found unconscious in his office and is taken to a medical facility for treatment. He’s going to be out for a while which puts Vickie Guerrero in charge of Smackdown for the moment. That night, Edge has to face Justin Gabriel. It’s a fairly decent match. I think they could have done better. Gabriel gets the upset win with some help from The Corre and outside interference. Gabriel has been an underrated performer in the Nexus and now The Corre. He has been on the main roster less than a year but generally delivers when he gets a chance in the ring.
Edge resumes his feud with the Anonymous Raw GM on the 1/24 Raw. The Raw GM puts a price on Edge, offering the number 40 spot in the Royal Rumble to whoever can throw Edge over the top rope. Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger, and Tyson Kidd answer the call and all fail quickly. Edge threatens to smash the computer. But the New Nexus shows up to save the computer and Edge finds something better to do. Later that night, Edge faces The Miz, Champion vs Champion. No titles are on the line though. Dolph Ziggler is on commentary to offer his keen insights. To the shock of everyone, Dolph leaves the commentary position to attack Edge, causing a DQ. Randy Orton saves Edge from any further harm, ignoring everything that has ever happened between the two of them only a few years prior.
That leads to Team Rated RKO reuniting against The Miz and Dolph Ziggler on the go home edition of Smackdown. Rated RKO get a nice, nostalgic win. In the Aftermath, Vickie Guerrero gets on the mic an announces that at Royal Rumble, in Edge’s match with Dolph Ziggler, the Spear will be banned. Using it will be an automatic DQ and forfeiture of the World Heavyweight Championship.
So how will Edge get around this at the Royal Rumble? The match is quite good. Dolph seems to keep surviving everything Edge throws at him. Dolph can’t seem to put away Edge, no matter how hard he tries. Eventually, the ref gets bumped. Around the same time, Vickie also gets knocked down. This opens up a chance for Edge to hit the Spear just in time for the referee to come to his sense and for Edge to get the win.
The next night on Raw, Alberto Del Rio declares his intentions to face Edge at WrestleMania. Edge attacks Del Rio to get send a message. Del Rio gets the better of him and puts Edge in a cross arm breaker. To make matters worse, Edge has a rematch with The Miz on this night. Edge going into this match with a bad arm adds a little drama to the situation. During the match, John Cena gets on a mic and stands in the crowd. He taunts the Miz for unclear reasons. This distraction allows Edge to overcome the odds, Spear Miz, and get the win.
For The Corre.
As previously mentioned, Wade Barrett gets run off of Raw and out of the Nexus by CM Punk. Wade shows up on Smackdown and jumps The Big Show during a Number One Contenders Match, getting the better of The World’s Largest Athlete. The next week, Wade announces he is now on Smackdown and the winds of change will continue blowing. The Big Show calls out Barrett, seeing if Wade is as brave face to face as he is attacking Show from behind.
Meanwhile, Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel leave the New Nexus when they refuse to beat each other with kendo sticks at the request of CM Punk. Also, Ezekiel Jackson has been featured in vignettes on Smackdown for a couple of months now. His debut is moving at a Glacier’s pace, if you will. So during this Wade Barrett vs Big Show Match from 1/14 Smackdown, that is some of the backdrop. You don’t appreciate just how big Wade Barrett is until you see him next to Big Show. The match wasn’t half bad. Then Slater and Gabriel run in to attack Big Show. They were less than successful. But here come Ezekiel Jackson. Jackson attacks Big Show and finally its too much for Show.
On the 1/21 Smackdown, Wade Barrett introduces his new group, The Corre. He promises this group will be four equal parts with no leader, unlike The New Nexus. Teddy Long interrupts and promises they will not run wild the same way The Nexus did on Raw. Wade swears he will behave himself. Later in the show, Teddy Long is found unconscious in his office. The Corre deny any involvement in Teddy’s unfortunate situation.
The Corre shows up on Raw to confront The New Nexus. The situation is tense but the Raw Anonymous GM has a solution. CM Punk will face Wade Barrett. The winner will see his group enter the Royal Rumble. The loser will have his group out of the Rumble. To make things better, John Cena will be the special guest referee. The match never really gets going before Cena finds a reason to disqualify both Punk and Barrett. Which Cena says means none of them will be in the Royal Rumble. The Raw GM interrupts and instead declares all of the teams will be in the Royal Rumble.
That brings us to the Royal Rumble. CM Punk draws number one. Then members of The Corre hit the ring. Members of the New Nexus run out and it’s an all out brawl. The Anonymous Raw GM sends in a message tells everyone to get out of the ring before he disqualifies all of them. The number 2 entrant is Daniel Bryan and the Rumble gets moving from there. The Corre never really gets the strength in numbers to dominate the Rumble in the same way The New Nexus does. Even with that, Wade Barrett makes the final four, drawing number 30. It’s hard to say The Corre had a weak showing when Barrett finishes in the final four but they didn’t make the impact of the New Nexus.
Dial Up The 619.
“Dashing” Cody Rhodes is very protective of his face. For months now, whenever someone got too close to hitting Cody in the face, he would snap. So you can imagine what Cody’s reaction was when he faced Rey Mysterio on 1/21 and was hit with the 619. Cody sold it like he was seriously injured. It didn’t look like Rey even got him that hard. In a backstage segment with trainers and doctors, Cody is absolutely hysterical that Mysterio would hit him in the face like that. The next week, Cody cuts an excellent promo, announcing that he will withdraw from the Royal Rumble because he can’t bare to be seen in public after what Mysterio did to his beautiful face. Cody delivers an even better promo at Royal Rumble with his back turned to the camera. He blames Mysterio for his disfigured face and vows revenge on Rey for what he has done. Rey doesn’t seem bothered by this one bit and never comments on this situation as of yet.
And the Rest.
Drew McIntyre is crushing dudes in the ring but being gentle with Kelly Kelly backstage. One day, Trent Beretta gets an upset victory. Drew beats him down backstage in view of Kelly Kelly, which is a complete turn off. Why does this storyline exist? Are we supposed to be cheering for The Sinister Scotsmen and hope he can get the girl? Is this leading to a match between Kelly Kelly and Drew McIntyre? I don’t know where you can go with a story like this and I suspect creative doesn’t either.
JTG has segments where he recaps what is happening in WWE. They are pretty entertaining and a good show case for what JTG can do on the mic. He is like an urban Sean Mooney doing event center segments.
- John Morrison vs The Miz. Falls Count Anywhere for the WWE Championship. Raw. 1/3.
- Randy Orton vs The Miz. WWE Championship Match. Royal Rumble 2011.
- Alberto Del Rio vs Rey Mysterio. 2 out of 3 Falls Match. Smackdown. 1/7.
- Edge vs Dolph Ziggler. World Heavyweight Championship Match. Royal Rumble 2011.
- Sheamus vs Randy Orton vs Wade Barrett. Number One Contenders Steel Cage Match. Raw. 1/3.
- Kane vs Edge. Last Man Standing World Heavyweight Championship Match. Smackdown. 1/7.
- Royal Rumble Match. Royal Rumble 2011.
- Dolph Ziggler vs Kofi Kingston. Intercontinental Championship Match. Smackdown. 1/7.
- Big Show vs Cody Rhodes vs Drew McIntyre vs Dolph Ziggler. Number One Contenders Fatal 4 Way Match. Smackdown. 1/7.
- CM Punk vs John Cena. Raw. 1/17.
- Daniel Bryan vs John Morrison. Raw. 1/17.
- Randy Orton vs Dolph Ziggler. Raw. 1/17.
- Raw Rumble. Raw. 1/31.