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Rags to Riches: The Mark Henry Story
2011 was filled with a lot of younger talent stepping up and taking their place in the industry. It was also full of veterans who many thought were well passed their prime, reinventing themselves and taking their brand by storm! TNA has Bully Ray, WWE has Mark Henry. Two guys that brought a lot to the history of pro wrestling, who rose up late in their careers and shocked a lot of people. Bully Ray has won tag team gold in almost every promotion in the world, but managed to turn heel, drop his partner, and give TNA's main event scene a much-needed shot of adrenaline. Mark Henry has consistently been one of the biggest (literally) disappointments for the WWE. His few good moments are very much out-shined by his considerably bad moments. But this year he came out of nowhere, won the World Heavyweight title, and entered the Universe in the Hall of Pain! Well done gentlemen, nobody deserves it more.
Rock Returns...Punk Shoots
Two moments are battling it out for 2011's biggest event in the pro wrestling world. The first is the much anticipated return of the Rock! His first promo back was electrifying, proving that the Great One hadn't missed a single beat. Some give the Rock a lot of crap for going away and accomplishing more of his dreams...I don't. Some give him crap for claiming that "he's back" and then disappearing for months on end... I don't. It's a world of entertainment that the Rock lives in, and I for one am just happy to see him around every once in awhile. The announcement of Rock/Cena was huge, and I'm looking forward to April for that match alone! Rock has taken Cena to a level we haven't seen in a very long time, and it is incredibly refreshing. It was good to see him back at Survivor Series, but it probably wasn't necessary. The same people complaining about his absence would probably be whining about him stealing the spotlight from Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, and Wade Barrett... You can't win 'em all!
The second monumental accomplishment in the wrestling world this year was the rise of CM Punk. The "Shoot Heard Round the World" shook things to their very core, and I had dozens of friends who had never watched wrestling coming to me, wondering what was going on in my fantasy universe where grown men in tights beat the hell out of each other. Punk's title win in Chicago was nothing short of amazing, and certainly a memory I as a Chicago native, will never forget. Many doubt Punk's ability to draw, and the ratings controversy has lead many to believe he won't remain on top for long... We'll see what happens in 2012!
A Year in Review...
We're never going to find wrestling perfection. Likewise, no matter how blind we are to the failures of the Attitude Era, there has never been wrestling perfection. With as good as 2011 was for most fans, it had its bumps along the way. The Divas division is still in shambles. It found decent footing with Layla early on the year, Kharma made things interesting for a few weeks, and Beth Phoenix's win was a step in the right direction. But the division, as a whole, is still far from good. Some great stars were let go this year, a few stars fell from grace, Edge was forced into retirement, and perhaps the biggest blemish of all...the passing of "Macho Man" Randy Savage. It was a hard year for a lot of people, but the roster powered through and delivered some of the best work I've seen in all my time as a wrestling fan.
The Rock returned and offered that energy we've been without for so long. John Cena retorted with great promos and built instant chemistry with the Great One. The Miz dominated the WWE title picture early on, and continued to have a good year. Randy Orton took Christian from glorified mid-card talent to legitimate main event player and former World Heavyweight Champion. Mark Henry came out of nowhere, Kane returned with a vengeance, Big Show brought emotion back to his character...the big guys really shined in 2011! But it was also the year of the little man, as "dat boy D-Bry" won his World title, Cody Rhodes dominated Smackdown's mid-to-upper card, Sin Cara made his debut, Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston won tag team gold, Dolph Ziggler rose to the top, and CM Punk took his place in the history books. In fact, if you had to close the year with just one name to represent it all, I'd wager a great deal of fans would simply say... CM Punk.
As we say goodbye to a fantastic year in wrestling, and look forward to 2012 and all that it offers, remember that there is hope for the industry we all love. Constant complaining will get us nowhere, and no matter how upset certain segments can make us, we are in a truly special point in pro wrestling history. On the verge of a new generation, a new era, and a whole new way of "doing" wrestling...business is about to pick up. Who will make 2012 the best year in wrestling? Brodus Clay (ok...maybe 2013)? Chris Jericho? Will Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes reach the World titles? The revolution may just start tonight... 1/2/12
Follow along with me on Twitter @MikeKillam as well as the rest of the Wrestlezone crew for tonight's episode of Raw, ushering in a new year...and an old name.