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Top 25 Matches of 2011

Top 25 Matches of 2011

26

What were 2011's best bouts?

In Atlanta, a once-handsome man took out the rage of his disfigurement on a Mexican superhero. In Chicago, a tattooed rebel stormed into an arena and disappeared with a coveted prize. In San Antonio, two giants destroyed a building. These may sound like comic book stories, but they were, in fact, the moments that defined WWE in 2011. A transitional year, the past 12 months saw new Superstars step into the light as legends slipped into the shadows. What was left behind were these 25 phenomenal encounters.

25

Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes from WrestleMania XXVII

Once a vain Superstar overcome with his own good looks, Cody Rhodes underwent a serious personality crisis after Rey Mysterio rearranged his perfect features with a  blistering 619. Ravaged by his broken beauty, Rhodes began wearing a protective facemask and lashing out against Mysterio whenever he could. The tense rivalry brought the two masked men to WrestleMania XXVII where they battled in a bout that nearly stole the show. Despite his instability, Rhodes showed that he’d finally attained the promise he’d shown as a member of Legacy by beating the legendary luchador on The Grandest Stage of Them All. What followed would be the best year of his career thus far.

24

Yoshi Tatsu vs. Tyson Kidd from WWE NXT

Sure, they were fighting over a toy, but that didn’t take away any of the intensity between Yoshi Tatsu and Tyson Kidd when they battled in a Necklace on a Pole Match on WWE NXT Redemption in July. For weeks, The Hart Dungeon-trained Kidd had been using the Japanese Superstar’s action figure to torment his rival. With the honorable Tatsu’pride on the line — and one leg of his action figure strung on a necklace and dangling from a pole on a ringpost — Yoshi fought hard to grab the leg first to win the pivotal match. But during The Cardiac Kid’s celebration, Kidd attacked Tatsu, stomping on his leg and using the steel ringpost and announce table as weapons. The Japanese Superstar may have won the match, but his pride — and leg — were quickly bruised again by a disrespectful Kidd.

23

World Heavyweight Champion Edge vs. Kane from SmackDown

The rivalry between The Rated R-Superstar and The Big Red Monster transcended the World Heavyweight Championship long before these two met in the first SmackDown bout of 2011. It became personal weeks earlier, when The Ultimate Opportunist tricked the then-champion Kane into throwing his father, Paul Bearer, off a ledge. With his guide and championship taken from him, The Devil’s Favorite Demon pulled out all the stops to punish Edge in a devastating Last Man Standing Match. Mounting a vicious offense early, the monster pummeled the champion all across the arena, but The Ultimate Opportunist would skirt defeat. Blasting his rival with a destructive Con-Chair-To, Edge sent the demon right back to hell.

22

WWE Championship Triple Threat TLC Match from WWE TLC

Through blistering battles with John Cena and captivating interviews, CM Punk earned his spot as the biggest Superstar of 2011. At WWE TLC, The Straight Edge Superstar proved he deserved it. Defending his WWE Championship against The Miz and Alberto Del Rio in a dangerous Triple Threat TLC Match, The Second City Saint overcame the underhanded tactics of his rivals — including the interference of Ricardo Rodriguez and being handcuffed to the turnbuckle by The Awesome One — and scaled the ladder to grab the his title. Soon after, Punk tweeted, “My march to WrestleMania doesn't begin after the Rumble. It starts today. You're in or you're out. If you're out, you'll be left behind.” So, in or out?

21

Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes from SmackDown

The November 4th Street Fight between Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes will go down as one the most brutal beat downs of the year. Reigniting a rivalry that began when their Legacy faction fell apart, The Viper and his former protégé tortured one another throughout the ringside area. It was a test of will for Rhodes, who spilled serious amounts of plasma after getting blasted in the head with the sharp edge of a monitor, but Cody could not beat the man who taught him every dirty trick in the book. In the end, Orton won with two RKOs before slipping a paper bag onto the ravaged face of his former ally.

20

WWE Champion The Miz vs. John Morrison from Raw

The Miz silenced many of his critics when he became the WWE Champion at the end of 2010. His remaining detractors shut up after they witnessed The Awesome One successfully defend his title against former friend John Morrison in a grueling Falls Count Anywhere Match on Raw in January. Once the WWE Tag Team Champions, The Miz and The Shaman of Sexy battered each other throughout Phoenix’s US Airways Center before Morrison risked it all by attempting to put his rival through a table with Starship Pain. Unfortunately for The Prince of Parkour, The Miz moved at the last second, causing all of Morrison’s weight to crash through the pine. The misstep brought The Awesome One the win — and some serious credibility.

19

SmackDown Elimination Chamber Match

At WWE Elimination Chamber, World Heavyweight Champion Edge outlasted Big Show, Rey Mysterio, Kane, Wade Barrett and Drew McIntyre to emerge victorious from the mind-altering abyss that is the Elimination Chamber for the second time in his career. Beginning and ending the bout, longtime friends The Rated-R Superstar and The Master of the 619 put their mutual respect aside and tore the house down. After an extremely intense final showdown between the former WWE Tag Team Champions, Edge finally pulled out the win, hitting the Spear on Mysterio in mid-air for one of the last great victories of his stellar career.

18

Randy Orton vs. CM Punk from Extreme Rules

Before delivering an uncensored interview that would change the course of his WWE career, CM Punk was desperately trying to piece together a frayed Nexus that had unraveled under Wade Barrett. Looking to reestablish his crew’s reputation at the expense of Randy Orton, The Second City Savior entered Extreme Rules in May to face The Viper in a Last Man Standing Match. Of course, the slimy leader planned for New Nexus to do the dirty work for him, but that plot fell apart when Mason Ryan and company were barred from ringside, leaving Punk all alone with WWE’s Apex Predator.  Amidst a barrage of kendo sticks, chairs, exposed turnbuckles and steel steps, Orton reigned supreme, executing a jaw dropping RKO on The Straight Edge Superstar from the top rope that put him out for the count.

17

WWE Champion Alberto Del Rio vs. Rey Mysterio from Raw

Bitter rivals since the day Alberto Del Rio rolled into WWE in a custom car, The Mexican Aristocrat and The Master of the 619 thrill WWE fans every time they lock up, so it was no surprise that their August 15 showdown on Raw grabbed our attention. Three weeks after winning and losing the WWE Championship in a single night, Rey Mysterio wanted nothing more than to reclaim the illustrious prize in the heart of the San Diego. He came close to doing just that after nailing Del Rio in the face with his iconic 619, but the underhanded champion managed to counter a diving splash to beat his rival. After the bell, The Mexican Aristocrat ruthlessly applied his tendon-snapping cross armbreaker to Rey, proving he’s as devious as it gets.

16

World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton vs. U.S. Champion Dolph Ziggler from Raw

It was a blast for the WWE Universe when the World Heavyweight Champion and United States Champion met on one of the first Raw SuperShows under COO Triple H. Despite the lack of bad blood between the competitors — and with Orton nearing a title bout against Christian — The Viper and the self-styled showoff clashed like their careers were on the line. Ziggler put up a championship-worthy fight, stopping Orton in his tracks with a superkick as WWE's Apex Predator ran in for a punt, delivering a Zig-Zag outside the ring and nearly sealing the contest by reversing the RKO into a sleeper hold. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough, as Orton tossed his opponent into the air and administered the RKO to seal Ziggler’s fate.

15

World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry vs. Daniel Bryan from SmackDown

Now that he’s actually won the World Title, Daniel Bryan as champion doesn’t seem unrealistic. But in late November, the idea that the submission expert from Aberdeen, Washington would grab the title was as unlikely as Sheamus hitting a tanning bed. Still, when Bryan earned the right to face Mark Henry in a Steel Cage Match for the World Heavyweight Championship on SmackDown, he showed no lack of confidence when he stepped into a metal torture chamber to face a man twice his size. With the WWE Universe pushing him forth, the Money in the Bank winner came close to overcoming the odds as he targeted the monster’s vulnerable ankle, but a bit of miscalculation resulted in a World’s Strongest Slam from the second rope and some busted ribs for the underdog.

14

Randy Orton vs Wade Barrett from WWE TLC

In the midst of a career resurgence he dubbed the “Barrett Barrage,” the thuggish Wade Barrett had either the guts or foolishness to target the biggest dog on SmackDown — Randy Orton. Trashing Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena against The Viper in a Tables Match, the British Superstar nearly lost an eye when WWE’s Apex Predator sent a jagged edge of wood into his brow. Foggy from there, Barrett attempted to put Orton through a table by diving off the top rope and ended up getting RKO’d right through the pine by his venomous rival. It was a fighting effort from Barrett, but a brutal reminder of the fact that if you come at the king, you better not miss.

13

Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk from Capitol Punishment

Even without the flanking of his New Nexus rebels at Capitol Punishment, CM Punk eked out a sound victory over longtime enemy Rey Mysterio, closing the latest chapter on their storied rivalry and positioning Punk to next “do the most honest thing the WWE Universe has even seen.” What exactly was up The Second City Savior’s tape and tattoo sleeves? WWE fans would have to wait and see.

12

WWE Championship Triple Threat Steel Cage Match from Extreme Rules

The Awesome One’s impossible reign as WWE Champion finally came to an end at May's Extreme Rules in a taxing Triple Threat Steel Cage Match. Locked in the enclosure with John Morrison and John Cena, The Miz was still full of himself after beating the Cenation leader in the main event of WrestleMania XXVII, but he wouldn’t be as lucky this time. Taking a whipping from both of his rivals, The Miz almost had an opportunity to escape when R-Truth stormed the cage and attacked JoMo. The Awesome One could not break free, though, and ended up getting hit with an Attitude Adjustment from the top rope and losing his cherished WWE Title.

11

World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry vs. Big Show from Vengeance

WWE fans would have to go back to the days when Andre the Giant rumbled with Big John Studd to find a rivalry as massive as this one. Breaking out as the single most dominant presence in WWE more than a decade into his career, Mark Henry demanded attention when he beat Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Title and sent monsters like Kane, The Great Khali and Big Show to the emergency room. For months, The World’s Strongest Man ran roughshod over SmackDown before The World’s Largest Athlete returned, kicking off a rivalry that resulted in more property damage than a World Series riot. This was never more apparent than at Vengeance when the two super heavyweights smashed each other with such ferocity and power that they literally destroyed the ring.

10

SmackDown Money in the Bank Ladder Match from Money in the Bank

Kane, Sheamus, Cody Rhodes, Sin Cara, Wade Barrett, Daniel Bryan, Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel each risked their physical wellbeing in a mad battle to grab a briefcase containing a contract good for a World Heavyweight Championship opportunity at Money in the Bank in July. Brutal from the bell, the high stakes bout saw powerhouses like Kane and Sheamus take an early advantage, especially after The Celtic Warrior sent Sin Cara away in an ambulance after slamming him through a ladder. But it was the tenacity of Daniel Bryan that saw him through to the end as he defied the odds to grab the coveted briefcase. Six months later, he’d shock the world again when he "cashed in" on Big Show and won the World Heavyweight Title.

9

World Heavyweight Champion Edge vs. Dolph Ziggler from Royal Rumble

There are few things in sports-entertainment as captivating as watching a Superstar come into their own. For Dolph Ziggler, 2011 was his year to do just that. Pulling ahead of the pack early in a battle with Edge over the World Heavyweight Championship, the showoff earned the opportunity to hang with one of the greats in a major Royal Rumble bout and proved that he deserved to be there. Sure, Ziggler may cocky, arrogant and pigheaded, but so were Ric Flair, “Superstar” Billy Graham and every other #heel worth their weight in peroxide. Dolph may not be in that company just yet, but this bout proved he is on his way.

8

John Cena & The Rock vs. The Miz & R-Truth from Survivor Series

The uneasy union between John Cena & The Rock proved to be as formidable as it was combustible at Survivor Series 2011, when the two standard bearers of their respective eras joined forces to battle The Miz & R-Truth in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd. Dubbed “the most charismatic tag team of all time,” Cena and The Great One agreed to put aside their very public distaste for one another to successfully unite against the devious tandem known as The “Awesome Truth.” Despite a mutual celebration that momentarily united members of both Cenation and Team Bring It, a post-match Rock Bottom to Cena reignited these icons’ heated rivalry, setting the stage for their inevitable and highly anticipated confrontation at WrestleMania XXVIII on April 1, 2012.

7

The 40-Man Royal Rumble Match

A WWE tradition since 1988, the over-the-top Royal Rumble has long been one of sports-entertainment’s true proving grounds, but it was never as big as it was in 2011. Cramming 40 Superstars into one ring over the course of an hour, this record-setting battle royal played host to the surprising returns of Booker T and Kevin Nash, a strength-in-numbers display from New Nexus and a bizarre partnership between John Cena and Hornswoggle. But, in the end, it was the slimy Alberto Del Rio who survived the grueling bout, dumping Santino Marella to earn a first class ticket to WrestleMania. Some guys have all the luck.

6

Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio from Extreme Rules

Alberto Del Rio claimed it was his destiny to obtain the vacant World Heavyweight Championship at Extreme Rules. For Christian, it was simply a way to honor his friend Edge, whose injuries in defending the title forced him into early retirement. In May, The Mexican Aristocrat and Captain Charisma met in a Ladder Match with the coveted Championship hanging above their heads. Throughout much of the bout, Del Rio seemed to have his opponent on the ropes after threading Christian’s arm through the ladder and applying the Cross Armbreaker. But the arrival of Edge offered just enough of a distraction to turn the tide. With his opponent preoccupied, Captain Charisma toppled The Essence of Excellence out of the ring and climbed rung by rung to take the title as his best friend watched with tears in his eyes. It was almost like destiny.

5

WWE Champion Rey Mysterio vs. John Cena from Raw

WWE fans watched a title change hands not once, but twice on an electric episode of Raw in July. Shocking the world by winning a tournament to become the WWE Champion, Rey Mysterio had little time to celebrate as he had to defend his newly-won title against John Cena in the main event later that evening. Unsurprisingly, a breathtaking, back-and-forth match unfolded between The Master of the 619 and the Cenation leader, with each gaining the upper hand. After trading finisher attempts, Cena was able to hit the high-flyer with an Attitude Adjustment and get the pin. However, there was another surprise in store after the match, as WWE Champion CM Punk returned with his WWE Title in front of a stunned crowd.

4

Raw Elimination Chamber Match

They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Same goes for the Elimination Chamber. Dubbed The Devil’s Playground for good reason, the satanic structure houses six Superstars inside ten tons of twisted metal, jagged steel and bulletproof glass. But, like any great battlefield, the chamber has become a place of glory that serves as a testament to the cunning or power of the Superstar who survives it. For John Cena, it has been such a place on three occasions, including this February 20 war against Sheamus, CM Punk, Randy Orton, John Morrison and R-Truth. Determined to earn a WWE Championship Match at WrestleMania, the Cenation leader persevered before finally eliminating Punk to earn his showdown with The Miz on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

3

World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton vs. Christian from Over the Limit

When two established Superstars meet with a title on the line, WWE fans can expect fireworks. They would not be disappointed at Over the Limit in May. In a gripping match for the World Heavyweight Championship, Randy Orton and Christian continued their rivalry to dueling cheers of "Let's go Orton/Let's go Christian.” Desperate to get his title back, Captain Charisma came out strong, but WWE’s Apex Predator battled back with a DDT and a powerslam. Finally, The Viper was able to counter Christian’s Killswitch attempt with an RKO, sealing the win and sending his opponent into a downward spiral from which he still hasn’t recovered.

2

WWE Champion John Cena vs. CM Punk from Money in the Bank

In the weeks after CM Punk hurled a verbal pipe bomb on Raw in late June, WWE was surrounded by a buzz not felt since the days when “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was stomping mudholes in the competition. That excitement followed The Straight Edge Superstar into his hometown of Chicago where he battled WWE Champion John Cena in what Punk claimed would be his final bout. Vowing to leave with the WWE Title, The Second City Savior shocked the world when he did just that. With Mr. McMahon looking on in shock, the new champion hopped a barricade and blew a kiss goodbye to his old boss before disappearing into the Windy City night. For the first time in a long time, WWE fans had no idea what would happen next.

1

The Undertaker vs. Triple H from WrestleMania XXVII

WWE in 2011 will be remembered as the year CM Punk emerged as the leader of a new school, but that didn’t stop two old school icons from having the standout match. Meeting on The Grandest Stage of Them All like two old gunslingers taking their spots in the center of town, Triple H and The Undertaker clashed in a No Holds Barred Match with their legacies clearly defined. In one corner stood a megalomaniacal barbarian driven mad by his desire to break The Streak. In the other was the once-indestructible Deadman, made vulnerable by two decades of dominance. What followed was brutal, captivating and emotional. Damned if that isn’t what sport-entertainment is all about.

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