**Warning: These columns (and the next two that I will be typing in the upcoming days are not going to have any Honor Rolls, Detentions, Gold Stars, or anything else. The next few columns will be dedicated to my end of the year awards. If disappointed, my apologies. I hope to maybe do a special “Mr. V” column either on Wrestleview.com or on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/DeskofMrV). Until then, pleased be entertained by Mr. V, the host of the Third Annual Golden Yardstick Awards!**
Well my Wrestleview Students, 2011 has ended. And since I wait to do the Year-End Awards when 2011 officially ends, it is now the appropriate time to hand out awards of what we deemed were the best (and worst) of professional wrestling in this Four-Part series.
With that I say WELCOME TO THE 3RD ANNUAL GOLDEN YARDSTICK AWARDS (part 2)!
Of course, thanks to Wrestleview Staff member Gregory “Grash” Walek for the logo to celebrate the festivities! Thanks, Grash
Once again, the Goldies look remarkable.
This year is going to be a bit different. After doing this alone for two years and with a new teaching position I knew this could not be done individually. Hence why there were not any “Mr. V” columns over the past few months. So I decided to bring in some much needed help with a very intelligent staff member. So these picks were chosen and debated (twice) by myself and ROH on Sinclair, WWE Superstars, FCW Recapper and Wrestleview International Roundtable’s Jason Namako! I thank Mr. Namako for his service in helping complete the 2011 ceremonies.
Now, the rest of the rules have been pure for the past two years.
– First off, all biasness goes out the window. So even though I am all about professional wrestling in the Pittsburgh scene, don’t expect to see Kurt Angle, Shane Douglas, or Corey Graves winning any Yardsticks because they are based from “Pittsburgh, PA”.
– Only World Wrestling Entertainment, Impact (TNA) Wrestling, and Ring of Honor Wrestling will be represented. We may have a random nominee from the independents, but the three mentioned promotions are the ones I watch every week.
– There will be 21 Golden Yardsticks featuring various categories (including Wrestler of the Year)
– Mr. Namako and I may create a new category. However, it was agreed that Best Newcomer and Best Guest Host stay retired.
– There will be the same amount of Rotten Apples as last year. There will be nine passed out during part 3 of the awards ceremony.
This week, I will hand out SEVEN out of 30 Awards. By the way, if you want to give me educated and honest feedback on this feature send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If one does not like my selections, don’t expect an apology from any of us. The Internet is a global podium.
Let’s get to the ceremonies, shall we?
According to Webster’s Dictionary “Underrated” means to rate or evaluate low; to understate. There are so many wrestlers in the WWE, TNA, and ROH that have been underrated from the booking teams of each company respectively. To be “underrated” mean that one has done a great job, yet were not rewarded properly for their efforts.
Last year, I awarded Yoshi Tatsu the title “Most Underrated” for his ability to use many disciplines in pro wrestling styles but was not truly rewarded with a push on either Smackdown or Raw. In 2011, Tatsu was not a big-time player in the WWE, but had an interesting feud with Tyson Kidd over on WWE NXT. Tatsu was not nominated this year, nor was even considered for this award.
The three on our list may be extremely talented in their company, but have not broken through or may not have had the chance to break through. Our lists were long and it was very challenging to find just three to nominate. So we did our best and here they are.
Tyson Kidd – Kidd may be used as enhancement talent on Raw or Smackdown, but we did not forget the contributions he had while on WWE Superstars or WWE NXT. He has tried new styles and even tried to acquire a manager, but none of that meant success in a level where he should have been placed in 2011. Despite not getting booked his fair share of victories, Kidd was impressive in the ring with the likes of Yoshi Tatsu and Sin Cara and he did his best to get some mid-card talents over. His wrestling is much better than advertised, with a focus on technical wrestling we thought he was a bit underrated.
Drew McIntyre – Yes, McIntyre is still employed by the company and after considering him “overrated” as the Intercontinental Champion in 2009 he has improved as a wrestler in power and brawling over the most recent twelve month span. While not featured often in Raw or Smackdown, he fought valiantly on WWE Superstars and showed that if booked properly he can be one of the better technical wrestlers on a show with a larger audience.
Rhett Titus – No one has improved more on the Ring of Honor roster as a wrestler more than Rhett Titus. He went from being mired in the mid-card helping top-level guys get over to a wrestler who was part of the best up-and-coming team not only in Ring of Honor, but in professional wrestling as a whole. Titus showcased more in 2011 than he did in any other year, but we deemed him one of the most underrated wrestlers because he just did not main event as much as he should have this year. Though he was part of the winning team in ROH’s Ladder War III, it did not merit to the ROH World Tag Team Championships.
So this year, we have three wrestlers with different styles. Though none of them won a championship in 2011, one can be proud to at least win one of these awards, as their efforts have not been forgotten by the fans. We present the 2011 Golden Yardstick for Most Underrated to…Drew McIntyre!
Mr. Namako and I discussed at length who the top three should be for this category, however we were clear on who should be awarded this title. McIntyre has the look of a WWE Superstar and was rewarded with gold way too soon in his career. However, in 2011 he has improved as a speaker and a wrestler and yet he never cracked one of the top two WWE programs consistently. Titus was part of an up-and-coming team throughout 2011, but the lack of championship gold is why he was very close to winning this award despite have a superb year for Ring of Honor. Kidd is one of the few wrestlers on the WWE Roster to have a good match despite how much time is awarded to him. We hope that next year these three get some reward for their efforts, as they were (in a way) not rewarded for their contributions inside the ring.
2011 Golden Yardstick for Most Underrated: Drew McIntyre (WWE)
First Runner-Up: Rhett Titus (ROH)
Second Runner-Up: Tyson Kidd (WWE)
Previous Winners: Christopher Daniels (2009); Yoshi Tatsu (2010).
Others considered were: Chris Masters, El Generico, Maxine, Brooke Tessmacher, Velvet Sky, Eric Young, Kenny King, The Usos, Christopher Daniels, Devon, Kid Kash, and Winter.
BEST HIGH FLYER
Throughout 2011 there were wrestlers who were simply awe-inspiring. They were able to capture the attention to the fans worldwide with their strikes not only in the squared circle, but their abilities to do all this outside the ring as well via the aerial attack. There were many professional wrestlers that were able to defeat their opponents by way of defying gravity, but we can only nominate three wrestlers who consistenly battled their opponents throughout 2011.
Last Year, Kofi Kingston won the award and the best and most consistent high flyer. In 2010, he had the attacks that were worth winning the past year. However, despite winning the WWE Tag Team Championship and carrying the current title well he was not even considered for this award in 2011 because of being inconsistent with his attacks.
Here are our nominees for Best High Flyer.
Evan Bourne – If not Kingston, then why not his “Air Boom” tag team partner? No matter the opponent, Bourne was able to fluently use his legs through the air to takedown opponents large or small. If no one believes us as to why he is above many in this category, may we say that the Air Bourne (Shooting Star Press) is still one of those moves that cause cameras to flash in many WWE venues. Thanks in part to his aerial moveset, Bourne finally got a deserving championship title in the WWE and quite possibly helped regain the attention of a dying WWE Tag Team Division in 2011.
El Generico – OLE! “The Generic Luchador” came off one of the best feuds in professional wrestling history and had a successful 2011 for Ring of Honor. Though limited on the mic, he lets his wrestling do the talking and thanks in part to his flying abilities he is one of the most popular wrestlers on the roster. Some of the leaping moves that he can accomplish well are the Coast to Coast dropkick and a Suicide Dive into a DDT outside of the ring. Also he can display a great moonsault and (at times) the 450 Splash. These moves helped him defeat Christopher Daniels for the ROH Television Championship, a title long overdue for the popular luchador.
AJ Styles – Now that he is no longer a heel character, he did what he did best as a babyface. Styles flew like no other on the TNA Impact Wrestling roster. Though he won no championships for TNA in 2011, he was able to attact viewers to the television screens with his dropkicks, moonsaults, and (what I personally enjoy) the flying forearm. When in trouble, Styles always depended on his aerial moves to get him the upper hand in his match in TNA.
So we have three of, in our opinion, the best high flying wrestlers that professional wrestling has to offer. However, one stood out as the best. We thought all three were worthy of this award, but this year we are giving the 2011 Golden Yardstick for Best High Flyer to…AJ Styles!
When it came to consistently performing high flying moves at an exceptional level (and that means “year round”) it was unquestioned that Styles was the best high flyer. Despite a foot injury, he was still able to have good matches (at times) through the air with Bobby Roode and that gave Styles the advantage in the long run. Bourne was easily the best high flyer in the WWE in 2011, but he was not truly showcasing his tactics until his Tag Team Championship run and also he missed time with a suspension in 2011. Generico is a great high flyer as well and arguably the best in ROH, but once he lost the Television Championship to Jay Lethal we have not seen nearly enough of him. So when it came to who was the best “flyer”, we agreed that “The Phenomenal One” was our pick for this award.
2011 Golden Yardstick for Best High Flyer: AJ Styles (TNA)
First Runner-Up: Evan Bourne (WWE)
Second Runner-Up: El Generico (ROH)
Previous Winners: AJ Styles (2009); Kofi Kingston (2010)
Others considered were: Justin Gabriel; Jigsaw; Rey Mysterio; Willie Mack; and Austin Aries.
The definition of “Brawling” means “fighting”. It’s a very simple term. The nominees take battles inside the ring and (at times) out of the ring and also one must keep their opponent grounded. These next few wrestlers may not be the best when it comes to being high-flying or technical, but these three are men that you don’t want to start a fight with an more than likely will be great allies in a bar fight.
Last Year, Sheamus won with his brawling base as “The Celtic Warrior”. Even though he is now “The Great White”, his offense is still the same and since then became once again one of the best brawlers in professional wrestling. So, did Sheamus repeat? Let’s find out.
Jay Briscoe – He may be a tag team wrestler, but no one brawled better on the Ring of Honor roster on a regular basis than the man from Sandy Fork, DE. He was not afraid to keep the action outside of the ring and inside of the ring he equaled the intensity that led him to the ROH World Tag Team Championship in December 2011. Also, don’t forget all the bloody brawls that he shared with his brother Mark against the All Night Express.
Bully Ray – This may surprise some wrestling fans of the article, but Ray was a consistent brawler in 2011 for TNA. When he is losing the battle, he finds a way to use a chain, a table, or even a chair to even the score. His intensity helped resurrect his career after his split from Team 3D. Despite some lack of talent, Ray always brawled his way to the main event scene with the Immortal faction and picked up some key victories along the way thanks to the hardcore style.
Sheamus – Last year’s winner added more moves to his already successful art of brawling. He added clubbing his opponents to near submission along the ropes and he has used the flying shoulder a bit more since 2010. His style of wrestling helped him get over a losing trend and even though he turned babyface, the work that Sheamus accomplished has improved in the ring. With possible injuries to the main event talent on Smackdown, Sheamus is very close to possibly winning a World Heavyweight Championship in the near future.
When it came down to it, all three were the toughest in their company. So when 2011 closed, it came down to one of “#DemBoys”, a “Bully”, and a Great White. Trust me, this was a very close call between Mr. Namako and I because all three were very talented with their wrestling style and it led to pushes for all three. But after a long discussion we decided to present the 2011 Golden Yardstick for Best Brawler to…Sheamus!
Sheamus got the edge mainly because babyfaces usually are not ones that wear down an opponent’s limbs by stomping and clubbing away. Sheamus was not only able to achieve success with the face turn, but his brawling was actually better. Jay Briscoe was considered the runner-up, but it was a close call because if one watched a ROH Internet PPV one would know why Jay Briscoe is a tough hombre. Bully Ray was a favorite earlier in the year for the award, but he became a little bit silly for our liking to be awarded the “Best Brawler”. Regardless, it was a close call but The Great White gets the “Golden Yardstick”
2011 Golden Yardstick for Best Brawler – Sheamus (WWE)
First Runner-Up: Jay Briscoe (ROH)
Second Runner-Up: Bully Ray (TNA)
Previous Winners: The Big Show (2009); Sheamus (2010)
Others considered were: Samoa Joe, Wade Barrett; Eddie Kingston; Mark Henry; The Big Show; Drew McIntyre; Kevin Steen; and Michael Elgin.
BEST TECHNICAL WRESTLER
What does technical wrestling mean to us? Will, to be technical means that one must be exceptional in all aspects of professional wrestling. To me a technical wrestler is somebody that knows what they are doing, how they do it, and how they execute a hold or maneuver. Out of all the categories in this award ceremony this is clearly the most difficult. We considered nominating CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler, and even Davey Richards. However, when we gathered out thoughts and saw the best wrestlers in the world we came up with the top three candidates for this category.
Last Year, Daniel Bryan amazed the masses in the WWE Universe with his array of techniques. He flew, grappled, and powered his way to the WWE roster. This year, Mr. Namako and I nominated him again but he has tough company.
Daniel Bryan – As mentioned before, he received another nomination in 2011 because nothing decreased in his technical ability. In a way, his WWE run in 2011 was much better than last year because of the achievements. He won the Money in the Bank case and cashed at the WWE TLC Pay-Per-View and became (as of press time) the current World Heavyweight Champion. No matter how big (Mark Henry) or small (Sin Cara) the opponent, Bryan always puts for this best efforts and makes it one of the best matches on the card. Some of the moves that are successful in his arsenal are the Running Dropkick, the Flying Knee Strike to the outside, and of course, the LaBell Lock.
Alberto Del Rio – His technical style of wrestling led him to multiple titles in 2011. Del Rio is very quick with his strikes and he grappling was one of the best in the WWE. Del Rio used his intelligence (and booking of course) to win the 2011 WWE Royal Rumble and it led to a solid match with Edge at WrestleMania. He won the 2011 Money in the Bank for the Raw brand and won the WWE Championship a month later. The one thing that is very impressive is his wear down tactics. Del Rio goes to the arm frequently and usually makes his opponents tap out to his Cross Arm Breaker.
Mike Quackenbush – (From: Jason Namako) The owner of the hybrid, family friendly promotion known as CHIKARA, is one of the top guys in professional wrestling when it comes to limb work. Nowadays in the major companies, when attacking a limb is used in a control segment of a particular match, it usually 9 times out of 10, is completely forgotten about at the very end due to lack of selling on the recipient, or by the attacker going to work on a completely different limb. Quackenbush is that rare exception. When he goes to start working on a limb, he does so many unique and innovative ways to attack said limb and never lies off of it. Case in point, his matches with Sara Del Rey and Eddie Kingston this year, where both were coming in with injured legs. What did Quack do? He worked on that leg throughout the match and never let up.
It is funny how these three were not “household” names at the start of the year but in the end they all either carried World Titles (Bryan and Del Rio) or became very close to winning the Championship (Quackenbush with the Chikara Grand Championship). All three guys are amazing wrestlers in their promotions as well, as it was rare to see a bad moment inside the ring. This was once again a very difficult decision and Mr. Namako and I switched wrestlers all over the place the last three weeks we talked about this category. It may be controversial, but the 2011 Golden Yardstick Winner for Best Technical Wrestler goes to…Alberto Del Rio!
When gimmicks were vanquished and we focused on wrestling, Del Rio was crisp in the main spotlight. While his reactions from the fans were not there, Del Rio’s wrestling style was still a treat as he went right at an opponent’s arm and rarely stepped away from away from it. Also, he wrestled in more big matches than the other two wrestlers in 2011. Quackenbush was also one of the best in attacking the limps of an opponent. As Mr. Namako stated “Quackenbush had many unique ways to attack a limb”. Despite being viewed on a limited basis in Chikara, we thought Quackenbush should get his just due because if you are looking for a technical style look no further in the independents than Quackenbush. Bryan was hot and cold in 2011. While his technical wrestling stayed mainly the same, he was not truly featured on Friday Night Smackdown until he teased cashing in the Money in the Bank case weeks before winning the title. Bryan just squeezed into the top three because of a late charge involving a minor feud with Mark Henry.
2011 Golden Yardstick for Best Technical Wrestler – Alberto Del Rio (WWE)
First Runner-Up: Mike Quackenbush (CHIKARA)
Second Runner-Up: Daniel Bryan (WWE)
Previous Winners: Chris Jericho (2009); Daniel Bryan (2010)
Others considered were: Davey Richards; Randy Orton; Tyson Kidd; Eddie Edwards; Christopher Daniels; Christian; Dolph Ziggler; Kurt Angle; Drew McIntyre; Bobby Roode; William Regal; Cody Rhodes; Roderick Strong; and CM Punk.
We, as pro wrestling fanatics, like to watch good wrestling from the greatest wrestlers on the stage today. However there are times where we like to see personalities. These types of personalities make the fans either cheer the wrestler on, completely be against the wrestler, or a specific wrestler that can generate both good and bad reactions. Those are the sings of having good charisma, or appeal, in professional wrestling.
Last Year, John Cena was the winner because whether the fans chanted “Let’s Go Cena” or “Cena Sucks”, Cena got a reaction. When he spoke, there was a reaction in 2010. For the third year in a row, Cena has been nominated again. And, just like 2011, Cena’s competition for this Golden Yardstick will be very tight.
The Briscoes – Mr. Namako and thought it was fair that the tag team joined in the top three because without one, the other one would be lost. Whether they are in New York, Chicago, or Louisville Jay and Mark Briscoe get a reaction and are big reasons why Ring of Honor fans pay a ticket to their events. They have an unorthodox delivery in their promos, with Jay screaming about how they will destroy their opponents and Mark just adding his two cents into the promo. Their improved vocal work and their improved work in the ring have gained the attention of many wrestling fans, and it is why we placed both Briscoes in this category.
John Cena – “Let’s Go Cena….Cena Sucks”! Those are not piped in often by the WWE, as Cena’s reactions are as real as it gets. He is the WWE Superstar that is depended on to hyping up a paying crowd at many of their venues. While his promo work has been the same, it still generates intense reactions from his fans and his “haters”. Cena for the third straight year is nominated based solely on his charisma and the way he grabs the attention when it is his turn to run a program.
Zack Ryder – A surprise entrant in this category, Ryder used his YouTube series to gain a few thousand fans and it turned into a global phenomenon. Sure, he has improved as a wrestler in 2011 but it was his comedy from his videos that helped him get a lot of respect from the fans who supported him as far back as his “Woo Woo Woo” gimmick started in ECW a couple years back. We are very serious that when his music hits and he makes his way to the ring (whether it was as a heel or a babyface this past year) he got the biggest crowd reactions.
When it came to picking the three most charismatic professional wrestlers (ok, four), it was more difficult than the last couple years. However, only giving one Golden Yardstick is very complex. And while there were a couple new names the winner remains the same. The 2011 Golden Yardstick for Most Charismatic goes to…John Cena!
Since we started these ceremonies, John Cena has continued to draw pops and heat better than anyone else in professional wrestling. That is something to be respected, even to those who are not fans of Cena. Cena always kept the crowd alive when he wrestled a program and the fans rarely seen a dead crowd when Cena was involved. Ryder was the quickest to gain charisma in 2011, however he got a late start as he was featured on WWE Superstars a lot more and really did not reach his peak until the second half of the year. The Briscoes may have been the most consistent performers in ROH this past year. There charisma in unquestionable and belongs in ROH, but we have to ask if the Briscoes would allowed to carry this charisma to a bigger company. So this year, like the last two years of presenting these awards, Cena is the head of the class.
2011 Golden Yardstick for Most Charismatic – John Cena (WWE)
First Runner-Up: Zack Ryder (WWE)
Second Runner-Up: The Briscoes (ROH)
Previous Winner: John Cena (2009-2010)
Others considered were: CM Punk; Sheamus; El Generico; Hiroshi Tanahashi; James Storm; Christian; and The Miz.
BEST ON THE MICROPHONE
In professional wrestling today the talents need to know how to use the microphone. Sure, the ability to execute maneuvers and holds are good ways to keep your job. However in order to be a bonafide superstar, one must know how to use the microphone effectively and efficiently. There are many professional wrestlers that could fit this mold. But who are the ones that the fans react to? Who are the ones that the fans actually care about? Well there are three people that we decided to nominate who are very good at cutting the promos (a.k.a. do exceptional work on the microphone).
Last year, The Miz showed how “awesome” he was and his overall improvement helped him win the award. His used the power of his voice to be the WWE Champion for a part of 2011 as well, but since his mic work tailed off and was limited. Though he was considered, he will not repeat as the winner.
Wade Barrett – Barrett is a natural on the mic. Ever since NXT Season 1 he was able to captivate the audience with his promo cutting. Even though he was exiled from the Nexus in January 2011, he was able to keep The Corre going for a few months despite the doomed gimmick. While the other members of the group floundered, Barrett was able to talk his way into some key feuds with The Big Show and Randy Orton over the year. His delivery is smooth, his words crisp. Add the English accent to his work is an added bonus. Though 2011 was his best year on the mic and it got him to a run with the Intercontinental Championship, one should listen to how great he was in commentary for FCW a couple years ago.
Jay Briscoe – Ring of Honor is known for their wrestling, pure and simple. Most of their stories take months to develop, but it is not often that they cut promos on their opponents until they were able to have a weekly television show (earlier on HDNet and now Sinclair Brodcasting). In 2010, most of the ROH wrestlers were finding their niche on the mic. In 2011, we thought Jay Briscoe but loud, violent promos that got the crowd riled up. At first he was jeered. But as the year progressed, Briscoe’s work on the mic was excellent (even when he cut YouTube videos) and his words spoke as loud as his actions. The work paid off, as he is one half of the Tag Team Champions for ROH with his brother Mark.
CM Punk – Over the past year, Punk was able to deliver with the mic when he was the leader of the New Nexus and then when he broke away from the group and became a main event star. There are many promos out there in professional wrestling, and nothing stood out more than the end of Monday Night Raw on June 27, 2011. When he did the worked shoot on Cena, the McMahons, and others it had the pro wrestling world buzzing throughout the summer. Many fans compared his mic work in those months to Stone Cold Steve Austin (and many fans wanted a Punk/Austin WrestleMania for a while). His work on the mic throughout the year helped him get a lucrative deal with World Wrestling Entertainment and a couple reigns as WWE World Champion. Now, about those Ice Cream Bars?
So, when cutting promos these three are the best at their trade. This was clear cut, as Mr. Namako and I had a very easy decision for this category. We are proud to award the 2011 Golden Yardstick for Best on the Microphone to…CM Punk!
Remember, this is for the duration of 2011 and no one created more feedback and reactions than when CM Punk would open his mouth. During the spring as the leader of The New Nexus, his deliveries were great. His work over the summer was something the WWE needed and he was given a ton of freedom. And while the end of the year his steam cooled down a bit, no one can deny the fact that CM Punk was the best in this category in 2011. Briscoe and Barrett were fighting for number two, but we decided to award Briscoe the second spot because when it came to a box office draw the fans of ROH paid to see Jay Briscoe than the WWE fans wanted to see Wade Barrett. If Barrett slowly develops to a bonafide main event star, he might be a favorite to win this award in 2012.
2011 Golden Yardstick for Best on the Microphone: CM Punk (WWE)
First Runner-Up: Jay Briscoe (ROH)
Second Runner-Up: Wade Barrett (WWE)
Previous Winners: Chris Jericho (2009); The Miz (2010)
Others considered were: John Cena; James Storm; R-Truth; Dean Ambrose; Dolph Ziggler; Mark Henry; Bully Ray; The Miz; and Portia Perez.
According to Mr. V’s 2nd-Favorite book, Webster’s Dictionary, to improve means “to bring into a more desirable condition”. In our eyes, it is easy to pick wrestlers who were main event talents. This year, one main event wrestler really improved and became a face of the brand. However, there are two others that are not household names that earned championships with their improved in-ring ability.
Last Year, I chose WWE’s Drew McIntyre. Since winning the Golden Yardstick, McIntyre’s work improved a bit more than in 2010. However, the push just was not there as he dwelled on WWE Superstars more than any other WWE program. While he was considered again for the award, he was not an official nomination. Here are the three wrestlers we thought improved in all aspects in 2011.
Wade Barrett – When he left the Nexus, there was concern over the status of Barrett. However, 2011 was a better year for Barrett as a singles competitor. He did have a run with “The Corre” which led to a run with the Intercontinental Championship that started in March until he dropped it to former Corre teammate Ezekiel Jackson in June. But as a singles wrestler, he has improved and even added a new finisher with The Winds of Change (a remarkable Spinning Side Slam). He now leads a one-man “Barrett Barrage” and added more power and technical skills. He ended 2011 with a solid feud with Randy Orton and got a fair share of victories over “The Apex Predator”.
Randy Orton – The past two years there was not a true main event talent that was nominated. Orton bucked the trend this past year with his improved work as the top babyface on the Smackdown roster. With the sudden retirement of Edge in April 2011, Orton was drafted to the Smackdown brand via the WWE Draft and his year improved drastically. Orton added much needed emotion to his current style and while some people considered him overrated, Orton delivered in almost every feud he took part of and made each wrestler better after the feud. Look at what Orton did to guys like CM Punk, Cody Rhodes, and Wade Barrett. As for his wrestling, he has improved in that aspect as well and is much better with his timing and delivery. This improvement helped him win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on a couple occasions.
Cody Rhodes – A man that started the year “Dashing” ended the year as a well-rounded WWE Superstar. No one knew what to expect when he debuted a few years ago, but he has slowly improved over those years. In 2011, he took his work to a whole new level and it resulted in a health Intercontinental Championship reign. He feuded with Randy Orton over the year and while losing he looked great. Rhodes improved as a brawler and as a technician in the ring. His Beautiful Disaster Kick looks so much better and now he added a needed mean streak to his offense. Let’s not forget his most important victory when he defeated Rey Mysterio at Wrestlemania. If he continues this trend, look for him to battle some more established talents in 2012.
I am sure somewhere out there Mike Tedesco is looking at these nominees and is ecstatic since all three nominees represent the Friday Night Smackdown brand for the WWE. All three improved in character and as a singles wrestler. I expect even bigger things in 2012 for all three of these wrestlers. It was a very tough decision, but we agreed that the 2011 Golden Yardstick Winner for Most Improved goes to…Wade Barrett!
There is so much more potential to tap into Barrett, and that was why we selected him as the Most Improved winner. Barrett is booked stronger than when he was with The Nexus. While he is not in main events with John Cena, he has become a much strong presence on the Smackdown brand and has victories over wrestlers who were booked as World Champions. Expect bigger things for Barrett later in 2012, as there is so much potential in this character. Rhodes had a breakthrough year in 2011 as well. While we gave him high marks in wrestling and promo work, we scored Barrett slightly higher because of his in-ring delivery. Barrett was the better choice. Orton improved mostly as a babyface character and one that the WWE fans can pay attention to. His wrestling style improved a bit, and he helped many wrestlers get over. But Orton has improved a bit less than the other two. Orton was a star in 2011. Barrett and Rhodes are not at Orton’s level yet, but could be in the future.
2011 Golden Yardstick for Most Improved: Wade Barrett (WWE)
First Runner-Up: Cody Rhodes (WWE)
Second Runner-Up: Randy Orton (WWE)
Previous Winners: Dolph Ziggler (2009); Drew McIntyre (2010)
Others considered were: Drew McIntyre; Rhett Titus; Titus O’Neil; Brooke Tessmacher; Velvet Sky; Eddie Edwards; Dolph Ziggler; Kaitlyn; Bully Ray; Justin Gabriel; Serena; and Tommaso Ciampa.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR
This award is one of the toughest to pick because what really defines a “comeback”. Sure, our nominees are three that in a way came back to the lights whether it is in the Indepedents, TNA, or the WWE. Long story short, out definition of comeback might be different than what others believe. Mr. Namako had a few choices, but the top three were clear cut. It was tough though to pick a winner for this award.
Last Year Rob Van Dam was the winner because he made a triumphant return to wrestling on TNA Impact. After just mere months, he was their World Heavyweight Champion until he was part of an injury storyline with Abyss. In 2011, he still maintained good standing on the roster and had his fair share of matches, but nothing near the success he had in 2010.
Austin Aries – The reason why he was chosen was because he hinted retirement and took time off after leaving the Ring of Honor roster. He was rejected by WWE for their Tough Enough show and he was experiencing some doubts. However, he still wrestled for Dragon Gate USA for a bit and then he returned to the TNA Impact Wrestling roster just in time for their Destination X Pay-Per-View. He would go on to win the Four-way X Division Showcase tournament final for a contract. The comeback was complete in a way when he defeated Brian Kendrick for the TNA X Division Championship just two months after he was an active member on their roster. It is great that a wrestler with that much charisma and talent chose to continue what he does best, and he is a viable part of TNA’s improved roster.
Dave Finlay (From: Jason Namako) – “The Fighting Irishman” started the year as the agent for all the Divas matches for the WWE, but in March 2011 he was fired due to events at a RAW house show in March where he took full responsibility for the actions that led to his dismissal. Sadly, it was because the WWE had to please one of their bigger sponsors to the company, the National Guard. He chose to do what he does best, fight. Despite being 53 years old, he would tour the independent scenes in the United States and overseas. What Finlay did was provide some of his best matches in years and many indy wrestler were willing to be taught by a grizzled veteran like Finlay. Some of Finlay’s memorable matches occurred at an EVOLVE match vs. Sami Callahan and a very brutal encounter with Kevin Steen at Pro Wrestling Guerilla. We hope the trend continues for Finlay, who still shows passion for the business that he loves.
Jerry “The King” Lawler – While he is still a hot ticket in the independents, Lawler made a surprisingly impressive splash for a couple months as a wrestler for the WWE. He was 61 years old when he was part of a memorable feud with The Miz (which stretched in late 2010 to early 2011) and it led to an actual WWE World Championship match with The Miz at the successful Elimination Chamber PPV. What made it more impressive that he kept his head in the game was that his mother passed away after a long battle of cancer just eight days before he battled The Miz at Elimination Chamber (it should be applauded, as if Lawler wanted to mourn I am certain the WWE would have adapted to his needs). Lawler got his revenge against Michael Cole for the months after his feud with the Miz. While the WrestleMania match was disappointing (mostly because of Cole), Lawler did his best to not disappoint. He still showed that he can be amazing by wrestling for various independents federations, including one match in which he defeated Salvatore Sincere at the International Wrestling Cartel’s Night of Champions show at Franklin, PA.
There were others under consideration (which will be shown in a moment). So this past year the comebacks were great and plenty. It was very difficult (like most of our selections) to pick just on winner. But this year we chose the wrestler that despite his age defied the odds and had some solid matches. We are proud to present the 2011 Golden Yardstick for Best Comeback to…Jerry Lawler!
It was the most difficult Comeback Yardstick to pick this year, as all three were worthy of the title. However, Mr. Namako and I picked Lawler because despite all obstacles he single-handedly dragged the story with Michael Cole and had good matches with The Miz when people were not expecting him to do nearly enough. Aries was a close second because despite appearing a limited basis in the ring he still has many years in the tank and can win an award or two if the booking goes his way in 2012. No matter what storyline or match, Aries will give 100%. Finlay arrived a bit later in the independents. However, he showed that he still is a valid technical wrestler and brawler in the few matches he showcased his talents. All three were worthy, but we agreed that Lawler made the best comeback out of them all.
2011 Golden Yardstick for Comeback of the Year: Jerry Lawler (WWE)
First Runner-Up: Austin Aries (TNA)
Second Runner-Up: Dave Finlay (Independents)
Previous Winners: Mick Foley (2009); Rob Van Dam (2010)
Others considered were: Hulk Hogan; Kid Kash; and HHH.
THE 2011 FEUD OF THE YEAR
In order to tell a good story inside the ring, we actually believe that a good story outside the ring is mandatory. Though we experienced feuds that made us want to scream at our own television sets (see the Rotten Apples in the next installment), there were some feuds in professional wrestling that caught one’s attention. For me personally, I really thought that there were dozens of good storylines. The three we picked were the most entertaining in the ring and outside the ring.
Last Year, the no-brainer choice was Kevin Steen vs. El Generico from Ring of Honor. The story between the two led to bloody battles and successful promo work by Steen. The ending of the feud was the best that I have seen in years with El Generico ending Steen’s career in ROH. However, a year has passed and Generico used that momentum to win the ROH Television Championship and Steen made a triumphant return to ROH in June 2011 in a non-wrestling role. He was “reinstated” after beating Steve Corino at Final Battle 2011.
Let us present the nominees for Feud of the Year
All Night Express (Rhett Titus and Kenny King) vs. The Briscoes (Jay and Mark Briscoe) – Ring of Honor usually has a feud that goes on for over six months and it flows well. This tag team feud had no championship implications (ok, maybe a few #1 contender matches but that was it). This feud was between the most established team in ROH History going against the up-and-coming team of Titus and King. It started in March when the Briscoes turned heel and clobbered the All Night Express. It led to one of the most intense matches this year when they faced off at Honor Takes Center Stage. During that match, the feud reached an extremely high point when Rhett Titus and Jay Briscoe faced off, blood pouring over their faces and just matching blows. After the Briscoes had the upper hand, it turned to the All Night Express’ fortune when the ANX won the third-ever Ladder War match at Death Before Dishonor. The feud ended on their weekly show on Sinclair Broadcasting in the fall of 2011. Since then The Briscoes turned babyface and won the ROH World Tag Team Championship over Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team (Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas). As for the All Night Express, they needed to take a break after Rhett Titus’ unfortunate injury.
Randy Orton vs. Christian – This was a guilty pleasure of a feud. Orton was awarded a title shot against Christian just days after Christian won the World Heavyweight Championship vacated by his best friend, Edge due to retirement). Orton won the championship and select wrestling fans were visibly upset. However, what they did not know that this was a feud that would turn Christian heel and lead to one of the best feuds in the summer. Christian always asked for his “one more match” and won his title back at Money in the Bank. The feud ended at the end of August, which meant it was a very healthy and intense three month feud that featured some amazing wrestling between the two and we got a whiny Christian once again. Let’s face it, a whiny, heel Christian is the best. Since then Orton had feuds with Mark Henry, Cody Rhodes, and Wade Barrett. Christian had a very good feud with Sheamus, but was cut short with another injury.
Randy Orton vs. CM Punk – This feud also featured Orton, which showed how (in a way) Orton was in 2011 as a performer. The feud began in January with CM Punk and The New Nexus targeting Orton. Some of the best moments were from Elimination Chamber, where Punk was superb in antagonizing Orton and luring him to defeat. With CM Punk in complete control, Orton thought the best way to get some against Punk was to eliminate The New Nexus one by one. Orton would “punt” Husky Harris, Michael McGillicutty, David Otunga, and Mason Ryan so he could get to Punk (who played a great heel in this feud) at Wrestlemania all to himself. The feud peaked at Wrestlemania. Despite the underwhelming card, Orton vs. Punk was rated as one of the best matches on the card. Sadly, the feud abruptly ended when Orton was drafted to Smackdown (which actually led to the feud with Christian). Since the feud, CM Punk won World Championships as a singles star on Monday Night Raw, while Orton did the same on Friday Night Smackdown. Overall, it seems like a very successful feud that led to bigger things for both.
Again, Mr. Namako and I had a tough decision on our hands. Sure, Orton was nominated twice. But readers must understand that there are some rare cases where famous actors were nominated twice for the same award. Well, despite Orton’s solid year he surprisingly did not win the Golden Yardstick. With that, we present the 2011 Golden Yardstick for Feud of the Year to…All Night Express vs. Briscoes!
It was close, but the ANX vs. Briscoes feud was a highlight and got great reactions from start to finish. Credit Ring of Honor for booking long, extensive feuds that helped both teams succeed. Both of Orton’s feuds deserved the award, but both feuds were not as overall entertaining and were not as intense as some of the matches between the ROH rivals. So for the second year in a row, ROH wins the Feud of the Year!
2011 Golden Yardstick for Feud of the Year: All Night Express vs. The Briscoes (ROH)
First Runner-Up: Randy Orton vs. Christian (WWE)
Second Runner-Up: Randy Orton vs. CM Punk (WWE)
Previous Winners: Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio (2009); El Generico vs. Kevin Steen (2010)
Other feuds considered were: Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins; CM Punk vs. John Cena; John Cena vs. The Miz; Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder; Davey Richards vs. Eddie Edwards; Sara Del Rey vs. BDK; Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes; Mark Henry vs. The Big Show; Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler; Serena Deeb vs. Portia Perez; Bully Ray vs. AJ Styles; Christian vs. Sheamus; and Kevin Steen vs. Ring of Honor.
Next time, I will present the “bad” in professional wrestling, the 2011 Rotten Apples. The Categories will be awarded for:
Worst Gimmick (2010 “Winner”: Orlando Jordan)
Worst Feud of 2011 (2010 “Winner”: Orlando Jordan vs. Rob Terry)
Most Appaling Storyline (2010 “Winner”: The Mr. Anderson concussion angle)
Worst Commentator (2010 “Winner”: Mike Tenay)
Worst Women’s Wrestler (2010 “Winner”: Alicia Fox)
Worst Match of 2011 (2010 “Winner”: The Steel Asylum Match on Impact)
Most Overrated (2010 “Winner”: Rob Terry)
Most Disappointing Wrestler (2010 “Winner”: Ted DiBiase, Jr.)
Worst Wrestler of 2011 (2010 “Winner”: Rob Terry)
Well, that does it for me. I thank you all for reading this column and I hope you enjoyed this column as much as I typed it out. If you want to get a hold of me during the week, here are the ways:
THE TEACHER’S LOUNGE IS NOW AIRING ON SATURDAYS
The Teacher’s Lounge every week provides a complete rundown of the past week’s events in professional wrestling in a 90-minute program for the Wrestleview Radio Network. Join Dave Stephens (WWE Raw Recapper) and I as we embark on what happened in the past week. We also play a few games as well. For more visit vip.wrestleview.com.
That does it for me. You may now leave my classroom in an orderly line and please do not find cross anyone living under bridges. They may make you solve riddles that you can’t answer. So NO to them! Until next time, you are…DISMISSED!