WWE Year in Review 2011: Business Figures, Title Histories, Awards
A comprehensive look at a year of ups, downs, creative woes, and rebuilding.
Click here to read our WWE Mid-Year Report to see how much things changed--as well as how many things stayed the same.
WWE's 2011 was a lot like the company's creative direction--erratic, nonsensical, inconsistent, and just plain confusing.
We saw the rise of the young guns and just as quickly the fall of others. We saw CM Punk rise up to true, seemingly permanent, main event status, despite disappointing in the ratings. We even saw Zack Ryder, a superstar whose career was all but left for dead, only to put himself on the map with a hit YouTube show, special connection with fans, and an undeniable work ethic.
Make no mistake about it. We saw a lot of good in 2011, such as Mark Henry becoming a monster heel, great matches, and the return of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. But for every good thing we saw on WWE TV, there was that much more bad--start-stop pushes, constant title changes, the company's social media obsession, and apparently, a new movement to cut promos burying each other (paging Michael Cole). Before we look back at 2011, let's take a brief look at our mid-year awards, just for comparison's sake.
WWE Mid-Year Awards 2011
Biggest WWE Story: Edge forced into retirement
Best Match: Undertaker vs. Triple H - WrestleMania XXVII, April 3, 2011
Best Newcomer: Alex Riley
Biggest Disappointment: CM Punk's push
Biggest Breakout Star: Alex Riley
Most Likely to Succeed: Alberto Del Rio
Best WWE Diva: Trish Stratus
Best Tag Team: Big Show and Kane (by default)
Best Show: RAW/Smackdown
Worst Show: NXT
Best PPV: Elimination Chamber
Most surprising disappearance: David Hart Smith
Worst Match: Anything involving AJ Lee (I should've wrote "Most Divas Matches")
Most Likely to get Future Endeavored: JTG, Curt Hawkins, DH Smith, and Melina
Worst Match Fans Actually Paid To See: The Miz vs. John Cena - WrestleMania XXVII
Best Feud: The Rock vs. John Cena
Worst Feud: Jerry "The King" Lawler vs. Michael Cole
Most Overrated Wrestler: Sin Cara
Most Underrated Wrestler: The Miz
Best Feel-Good Story: Christian wins World Heavyweight Title; Celebrates with Edge
Most Tasteless Story: Michael Cole tweets homosexual slur
Mid-Year MVP: Christian/CM Punk
Looking back, Edge's retirement may still stand as the biggest story of 2011 outside of The Rock's return. Even with the emergence of Punk as a full-time main eventer, the ratings patterns have shown he doesn't necessarily click with all of WWE's fans, particularly women and children, who tune out in droves, according to WrestlingObserver.com's Dave Meltzer. As I wrote back in July, Edge never was the draw or star The Rock was, but he was a consistent, full-time performer WWE could always rely on. Rock is only a part-timer and means millions of dollars, but solely for the short term at this stage (no reason to leave Hollywood, when there's a high demand for his services). Edge had a fan base and always delivered in big matches, especially on pay-per-view. WWE's roster was already suffering from a lack of depth. Edge's sudden retirement due to a career-ending neck injury only accentuated that problem.
Undertaker vs. HHH was a great match, but Punk vs. Cena at Money in The Bank gave it a run for its money (no pun intended). Best Newcomer and Breakout Star is almost laughable at this point, as Alex Riley has disappeared from RAW and Smackdown. Either he got injured at the wrong time or he pissed someone off. Or both. Either way, he is the latest example of WWE's start-stop pushing with midcarders. Sure, I thought he was a better heel anyway, but to take him off U.S. TV completely after working so hard to build him up in wins over The Miz is preposterous.