Saturday, December 31, 2011

The 2011 Top Rope Awards

You voted! (ok not may of you, but to those who did vote you know who you are) And now the results are in. It is time to look at the winners, or in some cases losers, in the 2nd annual 2011 Top Rope Awards. In addition to the awards I made public, I've also added some secondary awards to hand out.

2011 was a very up and down year for the WWE. It was up at the start and heading into Wrestlemania. It went back down until C.M. Punk began his main event push in the summer. Ever since SummerSlam it has been a very hot and cold time for the WWE. Hopefully the WWE can put together one solid year of booking, but that is about as likely as The Rock, Steve Austin, and Brock Lesnar all deciding at the same time that they want to come back to the WWE full time. There are some things I would like to see happen in the WWE in 2012, and that is something that can be saved for a later blog.

For now though, onto the Awards!

Fan Vote Winner: C.M. Punk (60%)
My Vote: C.M. Punk

Maybe I have a lot of John Cena readers for my blog. I'm surprised Punk got such a low total, but he still pulled off the win. And he gets my vote to, rather easily. I don't think there is another wrestler on the roster that even has an argument here. Punk has had a breakout 2011 in terms of super stardom. He started off the year great as the new leader of Nexus. He took a back seat to everyone in the spring, but then he exploded onto the scene in June with his shoot promo on RAW and main event push. Punk was finally able to be C.M. Punk. He was able to express himself on the mic and do his thing in the ring. Sure, C.M. Punk might have been brought back too soon, but he is still the most entertaining act in the WWE right now. He works perfectly with John Laurinaitis.

I know the ratings haven't been as strong with C.M. Punk on top, but I really hope the WWE doesn't pull the trigger on his push. Punk still moves a ton of merchandise and that is something the WWE cannot, and should not, ignore. Punk should be in the WWE Championship match at Wrestlemania. Now that may fall behind the bill with Rock/Cena and HHH/Taker likely, but being in the WWE Championship match at Wrestlemania is still a historic feat in and of itself. Hopefully Punk continues to stay near the top of the WWE for the foreseeable future. He's busted his tail in the ring for years and it is great to finally seeing it pay off.

Match of the Year
Fan Vote: John Cena vs C.M. Punk: WWE Championship Match at Money in the Bank (90%)
My Vote: Same Thing

The fans made it pretty clear here. There is only one match that truly stood out in their eyes this year. And I agree. The WWE Championship match between John Cena and C.M. Punk at Money in the Bank was a once in a lifetime match. It was a combination of so many great things all falling into place at once. C.M. Punk was hot coming into the show, which just so happened to be in his hometown of Chicago. The crowd made the atmosphere of the match better than anything the WWE had done in years. Punk was on the verge of leaving the WWE with the WWE Title, something that had never been brought up in WWE storyline before. The match was great. Both Punk and Cena brought their A game to the show. Cena was able to keep up with Punk's pace. There was drama in every near fall. I don't think the WWE will ever be able to duplicate an atmosphere like that in a long time. Hot crowd, hot storyline, drama throughout.

Fan Vote: John Cena vs C.M. Punk (54%)
My Vote: Same Thing

Even though I agree with this vote, to me nothing really stood out in terms of feuds this year. Even when C.M. Punk and John Cena were fighting each other, it always seemed to be more about Punk vs The Corporate people inside the WWE. First it was Vince McMahon, then Triple H, and now John Laurinaitis. But even when Punk and Cena exchanged words on the mic or wrestled in the ring, it was clearly the best thing going in the WWE. It seemed like Punk brought the best out of Cena. It almost seemed like Cena enjoyed working with Punk more than anyone else in the WWE. Second place here went to Randy Orton vs Christian. While that feud did result in some great matches, it also was somewhat one sided with Randy Orton always coming on top, and Christian's only singles win coming via disqualification. Punk and Cena were also more entertaining on the mic and had more pieces involved than Orton and Christian did. Guess it is the joy of being on RAW rather than Smackdown.

Fan Vote: C.M. Punk Shoots on RAW (66%)
My Vote: Same Thing

I think you can see why C.M. Punk won Superstar of the Year. Anything good in the WWE this year pretty much involved C.M. Punk. Sure The Rock returning was fun, but it really didn't result in any immediate change in the WWE. Punk's promo still has some lasting effects. Storyline wise it got Vince McMahon off of TV. It lead to C.M. Punk's main event push and it showed that when given the mic, you really don't know what exactly he will say. Yes, I know it wasn't a complete shoot. But it was still something unexpected. The promo itself made you think that Punk actually had a chance to win the WWE Title at MITB and leave the WWE with the Title. The promo launched forward the C.M. Punk push.

Fan Vote: Money in the Bank (77%)
My Vote: Same Thing

This will end the C.M. Punk portion of the awards ceremony. But while C.M. Punk/John Cena was what stood out from this show, it also had another good Randy Orton/Christian match as well as two outstanding Money in the Bank ladder matches. The Smackdown match especially stood out. The match itself was wide open as there was never really a clear cut favorite heading into it. Then, the WWE pulled another rabbit out of its hat when Daniel Bryan won the match. I gave the Smackdown MITB Match ****, Christian/Orton ***3/4, and the RAW MITB Match ***1/2. I even gave Mark Henry/Big Show ** for the story it told after the match. The Divas match only got * star if you want to know. And of course Punk/Cena got the ***** treatment. No other PPV this year can claim that kind of star treatment. Good wrestling, great story-telling, and a great atmosphere throughout the night.

Fan Vote: Dolph Ziggler (55%)
My Vote: Cody Rhodes

The first disagreement between myself and the fans. I can see the reasons why the voters chose Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler has been one of the better workers in the WWE this year. He worked double duty at Survivor Series and Vengeance. All of his matches are fun to watch. Ziggler also has Vickie Guerrero at his side, which means he gets instant heat for just standing next to her. The one thing I also like about Dolph is that he is finally being allowed to use the mic to get himself over. Ziggler struggled on the mic early in his career, but he clearly has grown into his spot on the card. He oozes confidence every time he steps in front of the camera and he feels confident in his character. I would expect Ziggler to have a very good year in 2012, and I would be shocked if he didn't win the WWE or World Title for real this time.

But my vote goes to Cody Rhodes. I think Cody has grown so much as a character this year. The problem is he took a backseat to Mark Henry on Smackdown. Rhodes took a character that seemed like an 80s type character and made it watchable and enjoyable. Then when Rhodes decided to lose the mask, he transformed his character into an even darker personna. Rhodes has been great on the mic and seems to have finally brought some respectability back to the Intercontinental Title. I like Cody's program with Booker T because it gives him an opportunity to go over an established veteran. I also like that it appears the WWE might go through with a program with Cody against his older brother Goldust, aka Dustin Rhodes. The more veterans Rhodes goes over, the better for him. Rhodes is another wrestler I expect to win the WWE or World Title sometime in 2012.

Fan Vote: John Morrison (46%)
My Vote: Triple H as COO

Another disagreement! Lets look at John Morrison first. There were high hopes for Morrison heading into 2012. He won a WWE Title shot at TLC at the end of 2010. I thought for sure the match was going to happen at the Royal Rumble between him and Miz, but instead the WWE did the match on the first episode of RAW of 2011. To me at least, that was the first sign of trouble for Morrison. The Rumble match sells itself, so why not take the risk with Morrison/Miz. Morrison then apparently had some issues with Trish Stratus at Wrestlemania, feeling Trish stole his real life girlfriend Melina's spot on the card. That's pretty delusional. He was in the main event of Extreme Rules, but after that it was downhill. He had a neck injury that kept him out almost all summer, and when he returned he never had another shot at the main event. He was released just about a month ago.

Now there are backstage politics involved with this. Many people saw Morrison as being "whipped" by Melina, and that caused problems backstage. Vince McMahon also believed Morrison didn't have the look of a main eventer and couldn't beat anyone in  real fight. That's debatable, but it all played a part in Morrison's departure. The reason it doesn't win for me is because the WWE has hyped up mid-carders before and then pulled the plug. Look at Wade Barrett in Nexus, Kofi Kingston, and Jack Swagger. Morrison just adds to that list. I really hope Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes don't get the same treatment.

Now why does Triple H as COO get my vote? It is simple for me: I expected so much more out of this storyline than what I got. I expected a much longer program with C.M. Punk. A slow burn to a Triple H heel turn would have been great, with a match culminating at Wrestlemania between the two. I threw out the idea of a possible Corporation 2011 forming, with guys like Alberto del Rio, Miz, Dolph Ziggler and Wade Barrett joining the new stable. There were so many possibilities with Triple H as a heel leader. But the WWE decided not to go that route. They rushed HHH/Punk in one month time, then the two were tag team partners a month later on PPV. Triple H then went to wrestle a match against Kevin Nash on PPV that was mildly entertaining but also slow moving. Now Triple H is back off of TV. I just expected much more from this storyline. But again, I don't know how I got any faith in that considering the track record WWE Creative has with big storylines like this.


From Entertaining to Awful: Michael Cole
I was entertained by Michael Cole's character in the beginning of the year. Cole was on with all of his ripes of Jerry Lawler, and I was legitimately looking forward to the Cole/Lawler match at Wrestlemania. Problem was, the match was poorly booked and the program went on way too long. It should have ended at Mania, and Cole should have been transitioned to a manager of some sort. Instead, Cole went back to commentary and constantly buries talent doing it. Cole is driving away viewers, and I hope the WWE execs finally realize that Cole on commentary either needs to be toned down or removed completely.

From Awful to Entertaining: John Laurinaitis
Part of this may have to do with C.M. Punk, but Laurinaitis has become an entertaining TV character. His impression of C.M. Punk this past week on RAW was hilarious. I also like how he has to say his name and title every time he walks out on TV. It is just such a heel move for him to do. He gets as much heat, if not more, than Vickie Guerrero does. Laurinaitis is a perfect foil to C.M. Punk and I hope he continues to entertain as RAW GM for the foreseeable future.

Always Entertaining: Ricardo Rodriguez
I think Ricardo is one of the most underrated acts in the WWE. He works great with Alberto del Rio. Ricardo's announcing of Del Rio as he comes out is great. He's the perfect comedic foil as well. Like this past week on RAW when the Bellas were arguing about Alberto del Rio, the look on Ricardo's face had me laughing. Ricardo is also a great bumper, as evident by the huge bump he took at TLC. Ricardo is great in his act and I hope he keeps it up.

Quote of the Year: "My heart don't run on kool aid!" Mark Henry
Mark Henry was one of the pleasant surprises in the WWE this year. I guy who has done almost nothing for ten years all of the sudden becoming relevant is great. I enjoyed Henry's push. At the start of this push, Henry wanted it to be known that his fun past was over. Often times when Henry wore his all red wrestling attire people liked to call him the Kool Aid man. Well, someone shouted that at him on a RAW during his push, and Henry made it be known that those days were behind him. So while Henry became a serious threat down the line, he gave us one last laugh before it.

Tell Me I Didn't Just See That: Jim Ross Dances on RAW
The WWE has done a lot of stupid stuff with Jim Ross this year. He's wrestled a couple of times, been made fun of for his weight, and even his Bells Palsy. But when Michael Cole challenged Jim Ross to a dance off, you expected the worst. But to my surprise, Jim Ross busted a move in the ring and looked like he belonged in a night club downtown. Now sure it might have been a bit degrading for Ross personally, but it was the one thing they did with him this year that was entertaining and got a laugh out of me. Jim Ross has been through way too much shit in his career, but his dance moves were something I didn't expect.

That's all from me. I hope you all have a Happy New Year. Have fun, but don't be stupid.

Until Next Time,
Justin C
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka

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