And 2011 is behind us, closing another year for WWE. It was a year ago that I made a video celebrating some of the best matches from 2010 (though not a year since I wrote about said video, check the July entries for reminders) and I certainly kept up with matches from all of WWE’s shows including those now airing on the internet. Once again in choosing 15 of the best it was 10 Superstar matches and 5 Diva matches, and of course WrestleMania was left out as were all the big gimmick matches such as Elimination Chamber, Hell In A Cell and Money In The Bank. With regards to John Cena vs CM Punk, I debated it but everyone knows it was a great encounter and there was no way I was going to try and edit that. Sadly this year not every title got represented but what can you do?
1) The Miz* vs John Morrison (Falls Count Anywhere; WWE Championship) – Raw January 3rd:
What a way for Raw to kick off the new year though I suppose when Cena isn’t your champion you already have your main event sorted. The Miz was one of the better booked MITB champions in recent years and I enjoyed his reign while it lasted (forgetting that awful I Quit match). Anyway I recognise this as his first clean title defence and it certainly made him look strong. Morrison used his flash to create some interesting spots and Miz delivered as well such as the back body drop onto the railing and the Starship Pain into the table. The match was an exciting back and forth affair that put itself on my list within the first five minutes. It was a great way to start off the year for Miz though I guess you could call it Morrison’s final great WWE match.
2) Daniel Bryan & Gail Kim vs Tyson Kidd & Melina – Superstars March 24th:
I wasn’t expecting an intergender match to make it to the list so it took a lot of debating and thinking over which category was going to have a match cut to accommodate it. In the end I decided since the men were involved in the decision, it’d be them. So that’s 9 Superstar matches in addition to this one. This is definitely *the* best mixed tag WWE have ever put on because it’s the only one where I’ve seen the women’s action to be just as solid as the men’s. I was surprised with Melina who couldn’t really go like she used to after her injury but she pulled out some great spots like the Matrix to dodge the crossbody and seeing her and Gail trade submissions was hot in every way. Tyson could have gotten more offence in but everything else about the match was amazing enough to make me overlook it. Need I say anything more except – double missile dropkick!
3) Melina & The Bella Twins vs Eve Torres, Gail Kim & Natalya – Superstars March 31st:
As was the case last year, Superstars remained a haven for the Divas in 2011 though admittedly a couple of the Raw and Smackdown matches nearly made the list, something none of last year’s Raw Diva matches could even dream of. The Divas have been main eventing the show several times and this was by far the best of them. On the face side all three women got good ring time though Eve could have gotten a chance to do more in her hot tag. Gail played the Ricky Morton role very well and the heels were great with their double teams and the way they isolated her. The girls busted out some new stuff as opposed to the same five moves of doom we normally see to make the match more important and exciting. It is a shame Melina and Gail are no longer with the company now.
4) Evan Bourne vs Zack Ryder – Superstars May 5th:
In the video it’s been moved back a bit to help the flow so don’t mind the little goof in the order. I was going to get Evan Bourne on the list somehow and thankfully this bout from May popped up and met the expectations. I realise this is the third Superstars match in a row on the list and it has been good for someone like Zack Ryder who certainly rose to the top this year. The match had a few surprisingly entertaining mat wrestling sequences which neither of these two are known for so it made the opening parts a lot more interesting. The spot at the security wall was cool and Ryder’s offence was also fun and unique. This was miles better than the match they had on the show almost exactly a year before this one (Ryder actually pulled out the win in that one if you believe it).
5) Michelle McCool vs Layla (No DQ, No Count-outs; Loser Leaves WWE) – Extreme Rules:
And our first PPV match on the list is one nobody is surprised to see. Really this match had been anticipated for nearly a year since we expected LayCool to split as soon as Layla won the title. Despite being less than six minutes it was a complete thrill ride with the two trading hard-hitting moves and intense spots on the outside. Michelle of course went out with a bang, going back to her feud with Melina for some really cool moments. The near-falls were really well done, especially Layla busting out her Face Lift finisher so early. When Michelle hit the Faithbreaker I thought they were going to swerve us and her retiring was just a bogus story. I do miss her on Smackdown, Layla too, and hopefully she’ll be able to deliver a match to get on my list next year.
6) Sin Cara vs Daniel Bryan – Smackdown May 13th:
I knew I would get at least one Sin Cara match on here from this year. Internet fans are divided on the guy but he does entertain me when his opponents can actually sell his moves. Thankfully on this good episode of Smackdown the suits finally gave him a worthy opponent in Daniel Bryan, coincidentally to hype up a PPV match against Chavo Guerrero. In my opinion, the roles should have been the other way round as this was a back-and-forth competitive match while the PPV one was a one-sided spotfest that was mildly entertaining. Bryan did play the heel in the match but he got some great spots and my favourite would probably countering the springboard elbow into an arm bar. You’ll notice I cut Chavo out of the video because he’s not really needed in it.
7) Randy Orton* vs Christian – Over The Limit (World Heavyweight Championship):
Just to clarify for you, when it comes to a series of matches like this feud only one of them will be represented and of course I’ll pick the best one (in my opinion anyway). The first title match on Smackdown was lacking something because with the spoilers everyone knew Orton would be winning. This was probably the most unpredictable of the matches and had a certain dynamic that wasn’t there when Christian turned heel. Orton really shined this year and he and Christian complement each other so well that they were able to deliver six big matches this year and each of them was worth a watch. This one had me on the edge of my seat with all the near falls and nice little spots like the Samoan Drop into the arm drag and who didn’t mark out when Christian used the spear? Hopefully creative will realise how awful a heel he is and turn him back face so we can have more matches like this one.
8) Wade Barrett vs Daniel Bryan – SummerSlam:
When I heard these two would be having a match at SummerSlam I had a feeling they had the potential to steal the show and deliver a match of the night. Low and behold, I was right. Anyone who read my review of the PPV won’t be surprised at this making the list. For a match that had minimal build-up, it tore the house down and was definitely the sleeper hit of the night. Here you have two guys who will be headlining the PPVs this time next year and hopefully they might end up feuding because more matches like this can only be a good thing. Wade finally got the strong win he needed with a sick clothesline off the top rope and a clean finish. And yes, Bryan has now set a record by appearing three times on the list.
9) Eve & Kelly Kelly vs The Bella Twins – Raw August 15th:
This one will raise some eyebrows considering the girls involved and the well-known fact of me not having any feelings towards the Bellas. However I was a little stuck as to what the final women’s match would be on the list and I felt this was a strong encounter and definitely the best of this combination of Divas. Kelly’s offence was impressive and the twins were excellent with their chemistry, isolating the leg and that hold looked painful. Eve is a lot better at the hot tag stuff than Kelly is and I do mark for a well-done moonsault. Who would have thought a Raw tag match would make it to the list?
10) Tyson Kidd vs Trent Barretta – NXT August 23rd:
It seems this year NXT replaced Superstars as the place to go if you wanted to see your favourites who weren’t in the spotlight. While Superstars allowed for lengthy competitive matches, NXT allowed the lower card guys to be involved in proper feuds and storylines, not to mention showcasing their talents in a way that they couldn’t normally do when they’re getting squashed in three minute matches on Raw and Smackdown. Tyson Kidd caught my eye last year when the Hart Dynasty reigned supreme and this match has made sure he remained in my vision. I also saw something I liked in Trent Barretta in his brief little program with Drew McIntyre at the start of the year. This match took place in Calgary and the crowd were hot for Tyson, and rightfully so, because this is definitely the best match he’s had in WWE and he really should be in line for a US title or IC title shot in the near future because he certainly deserves it. Don’t agree with me? Then watch that baseball slide-DDT spot again.
11) Kelly Kelly* vs Beth Phoenix (Divas’ Championship) – Night of Champions:
Kelly and Beth have had a fairly interesting feud. True WWE didn’t really invest in it as much as they could have but think of their feud as a good movie that got bad marketing. Because the two of them brought it where it counts – on PPV. SummerSlam was a pleasant surprise, Hell In A Cell was really good and even TLC delivered despite being an eleventh hour addition. But Night of Champions was definitely the best match these two put on. I’ve never heard a crowd so into a Divas match in years, not since Trish/Mickie in Chicago or Trish/Lita in Toronto. I mean Beth gets dead crowds everywhere else but here her hometown crowd supported her and she even got cheered against Kelly Kelly, WWE’s golden girl. Aside from the crowd’s involvement the girls added plenty to the match with what was going on in the ring. Kelly was looking the sharpest she’s ever been with that ‘rana off the top rope and big props to both her and Beth for that superplex. This was actually their shortest match but it definitely felt epic anyway.
12) Cody Rhodes* vs Ted DiBiase (Intercontinental Championship) – Night of Champions:
Well NOC delivered yet again this year as anyone who read my review of the PPV will remember how I couldn’t get enough of this match and how I voted it Match of the Night. Watching it back a good few times and I was still right. Cody has really shined this year in everything that’s been given to him. He got a rather filler angle with Rey Mysterio for WrestleMania but turned it into a cool match and got over as a heel. He’s really been one of the best heels in WWE this year and one of the best IC Champions in recent years. Ted DiBiase also impressed me with his face run because he is so much better in that role than he ever was as a heel. WWE just needs to invest time in him and we could have another big midcard star on our hands. And that double bridge-out just gets me every time.
13) Beth Phoenix* vs Eve Torres (Divas’ Championship) – Vengeance:
The final women’s match on the list is the best of the lot. I always saw something in Eve during her first Divas’ title push and then again this year she showed little flashes of brilliance in matches with Layla and Natalya but I was extremely excited to see what she could do with Beth on a PPV with 10 minutes to work. She didn’t quite get 10 minutes but I’m not complaining. She and Beth had electric chemistry and Beth got to be even more dominant than she could be in her matches with Kelly. Eve gave as good as she got and that submission hold really opened my eyes. The entire end sequence was beautifully done and at the time I was especially pleased because it gave Beth her first clean win as champion.
14) Alberto Del Rio* vs CM Punk (WWE Championship) – Survivor Series:
Is anyone really surprised this is here? Once again, anyone who read my review of the Survivor Series PPV will see how awesome I thought this match was. I did strongly consider including Punk/Cena but this match trumped that one in my opinion. Del Rio is a much better worker than Cena and the New York crowd was way more intense than the Chicago one if you ask me. As I said in the review, I had a feeling we’d be treated to a great wrestling match and indeed we were. Del Rio and Punk had really good chemistry together and I wouldn’t have minded a full blown feud but anyway it was great that Punk got the belt and I’m so glad that even though I didn’t get to watch the PPV live I was able to avoid any spoilers when watching it back. And yeah I want those Ice Cream Bars as well.
15) Dolph Ziggler* vs Zack Ryder (US Championship) – TLC:
It’s only fitting that I end the video with probably the biggest success story of 2011. Here’s a guy who was virtually nothing last year, I liked him well enough but I don’t know if I could call myself a fan. I, like many others, discovered his Youtube show and anxiously awaited for WWE to pull the trigger on him and thank the lord they finally did. I never actually thought Zack Ryder could pull off a babyface role but he has been one of the ultimate underdogs of this era. This match featured another rising star who is poised for big things this year. Ziggler is a true champion in the making and I can’t wait to see him with a world title. It almost gives me the same feeling of passing the torch that I saw from Miz/Daniel Bryan at Night of Champions last year. Just seeing Ryder embracing his father at ringside made sure there were more than a few misty eyed fans watching at home.
Strong contenders that didn’t quite make the list. If you ask me why they’re not on there, it’s because the ones that are were better. Duh
*Edge vs Dolph Ziggler – Royal Rumble
*Edge & Kelly Kelly vs Dolph Ziggler & LayCool – Smackdown
*Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus – Raw (title change)
*Natalya vs Eve Torres (lumberjill) – Raw
*Christian vs Alberto Del Rio (ladder) – Extreme Rules
*Gail Kim vs Melina – Superstars
*Alicia Fox vs Natalya – Superstars (the 10 minute one)
*John Cena vs Rey Mysterio – Raw
*Sin Cara vs Sin Cara – Hell In A Cell