Peace out 2011, hello end of the world! I hope every reader's holiday season was fantastic and filled with good memories and joy. Tonight's Raw marks the entry into a brand new year of pro wrestling, but before we get there I'd like to pay one last tribute to the year that was. So "I invite you to strap on your seat belts, ease the seat back, click it into gear, and go into overdrive" because it's going to be one hell of a ride!
Kicking Things Off with a Bang! In the very first Raw of the year, we would see the WWE Champion Miz successfully defend the belt against John Morrison in a Falls Count Anywhere match. I was on the edge of my seat for all the near falls, foreign object spots, and generally excellent ring-work from two great talents. It seems that the trend of good matches would continue throughout the year! Dolph Ziggler and Edge at the Royal Rumble stole the show, Taker and Triple H at Mania was legendary, Punk and Cena in Chicago was electric, Randy Orton and Christian took each other to the limit… most of the roster showed up this year in a huge way, and I couldn't have been more surprised by the level of matches we were exposed to for the first time in years.
I'll say it again: if you're not watching Superstars, you're missing some great in-ring action! TNA stepped up this year as well. Although not to the extent of the WWE, and they're certainly not as good as they have been in the past, I will say Impact thoroughly entertained me in the later part of the year. And with Davey Richards taking ROH to new levels of awesome, I'd say the full spectrum of pro wrestling is on the up-swing. Of course, 2011 had its share of forgettable encounters, but what year doesn't?
Albertoooo… del Rriiiiooooooooo! After exploding out of 2010 with a hot winning streak and a few kayfabe injuries under his belt, the Mexican Aristocrat seemed poised to take the WWE Universe by storm. And after winning the Rumble it seemed only a matter of time (two months to be exact) before we'd see del Rio cross-armbar his way into the World Heavyweight title belt. Edge's unexpected, early retirement through a wrench into the entire plan, and after a big Mania loss ADR just kept falling off the radar. Money in the Bank was a step up, theoretically, but in a lot of people's minds it was just proof he couldn't get to the top without some sort of cheap propellant. Not one, but two lackluster title reigns later, del Rio was off the map completely. I don't think all hope is lost though! His work at TLC was among my favorite, and I still think he can draw a decent enough level of heat to remain relevant in a main event picture. But he seriously needs to break out of his box and work off-script against a good opponent. I was hoping Punk could be the guy to get that done, but alas, it was not his destiny… Here's to hoping 2012 builds del Rio back into a credible talent.
Youth Movement: A New Generation Approaches! Anyone still complaining about the pro wrestling not taking its "youth movement" seriously needs to wake up. In TNA the outstanding Bobby Roode is your World Heavyweight Champion. James Storm has quickly become a main event level face, Jeff Hardy has been properly built back into the picture, Morgan and Crimson are the tag team champions, Austin Aires and Robbie E are you mid-card champs, while AJ Styles and Chris Daniels continue to amaze. WWE's picture is similar, with Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes emerging from 2011 as best up-and-comers. The Miz and R-Truth faced Triple H, CM Punk, John Cena, and the Rock in a 3 month period of time! Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Wade Barrett, and Zack Ryder? The youth "movement" is solidly behind us. We are at the start of a brand new generation!
Yes, both brands are still populated by legends, classics, veterans…whatever you want to call them. Never forsake your experienced elders, and never seek change just for the sake of change (a bit of fortune cookie wisdom for ya…). Undertaker, Triple H, Bully Ray, and even ole' Hulk Hogan still have a lot to offer the industry, even if it's mostly in a backstage capacity.