Drama. Intrigue. Excitement. These are just some of the words that  reflect and describe the kind of year that WWE fans witnessed and enjoyed. The matches were spectacular, and there were many memorable moments. This was also a year where the company pushed several young talents, who were thrust into the spotlight, and it began at the very beginning of the year.

For the first time in its history, the WWE expanded January’s Royal Rumble Match, from the traditional thirty participants to forty. Alberto Del Rio outlasted 39 other wrestlers in a grueling contest, to win the battle royal, and challenge a champion of his choosing at Wrestlemania 27.

A month later, in February, Vince McMahon stood on stage at Raw and indicated that Wrestlemania 27 would have a guest host. That announcement intrigued fans. Who was it going to be? As it turned out, fans waited only a week. At the end of the February 14 edition of Raw, in Anaheim, California, the time had come to announce the guest host of Mania. The arena became dark, and the music blasted over the speakers. That was an indication of who would grace the stage. He entered the arena to wild cheers, screams and yells. The Rock appeared to the delight of spectators.

In April, the big event occurred. Alberto Del Rio chose to challenge Edge for the World title. The champion retained his title in a well – fought battle. The Rock got involved in the main event, applying his “Rock Bottom” on John Cena, allowing The Miz to retain the WWE title. That result started something that was unheard of in the WWE.

On the first Raw after Wrestlemania, the company chose John Cena vs. The Rock as the main event for Wrestlemania 28. Fans yelled and screamed with delight at that announcement. Never before had the company announced the main event for their biggest show of the year so far in advance.

With fans all hyped up after the announcement, I am sure they did not expect much to happen at Raw on the following Monday. Well, things happened, and fans were unhappy. Edge entered the ring and talked about his career as an active wrestler. He mentioned his numerous injuries. Then, he stated, the unthinkable – he was retiring because of the neck injury he suffered and the feeling of numbness in his arms. Fans were shocked. Some were in tears, knowing they would never see this wonderful athlete wrestling again.

That announcement forced him to surrender his World Championship. A ladder match was announced between Alberto Del Rio and Christian. What a match that was! Christian managed to capture the championship that was held by his friend, Edge.

The loss of Edge due to retirement was not the only devastating occurrence in 2011. Professional wrestling lost one of the all time greats. On May 20, Randy Savage passed away. Wrestlers still honor him today, because he brought grace and style to the ring. C.M. Punk still utilizes Savage’s famous top-rope elbow drop, and when the fans see this, they chant “Randy Savage….. Randy Savage.” That is a reflection  of the respect fans had for him.

Now, what about C.M. Punk? What a second half of the year he had! It all started after John Cena defeated R-truth, on the June 27 edition of Raw. Punk attacked Cena and slammed him through a table. Then, he walked up the entrance ramp, sat down, and took a microphone. He delivered one of the best, most realistic promos I have ever heard in professional wrestling. He “verbally bashed” the McMahon family, Triple H, John Cena, Hulk Hogan, among others, and indicated that change was necessary.

He also mentioned that his contract was expiring on July 17 (which also coincided with the Money in the Bank pay-per-view,) and was leaving with the WWE title. He did just that, despite attempted interference from Vince McMahon and John Laurenitis. Fans were just thrilled, while the owner was angry. Since that promo at the end of June, Punk has become really popular and fans get excited when he makes an appearance to speak, because they never know what he will say next.

At that event, Alberto Del Rio also won the Raw Money in the Bank briefcase and Daniel Bryan won the Smackdown version of the match. At Summerslam, Punk again wrestled Cena, and emerged victorious. After the match, Kevin Nash entered the ring, and attacked Punk, without justification. With the champion down, Del Rio used the opportunity to ‘cash in’ the Money in the Bank briefcase, and defeated Punk to become the new WWE Champion.

Throughout the year, Randy Orton had several great matches. His battles with Christian and Cody Rhodes were spectacular and thrilling. But his current rivalry with Wade Barrett is ongoing and pretty enjoyable. Fans are seeing Barrett as a talented and tough individual who can provoke Orton, and this is bothering Randy immensely. The two of them have had great matches, with Barrett scoring a few more victories than his counterpart, including a victory in the “traditional Survivor Series elimination match” back in November. I hope Barrett becomes champion in 2012.

Also at Survivor Series, fans saw the in-ring return of The Rock, as he teamed with John Cena to defeat the Miz and R-truth. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t hear from the Rock again. Cena just kept mentioning him during interviews to continue to build hype for Wrestlemania 28. I will discuss this match further in a future article.

The WWE made one star’s dream a reality. After fifteen years of hard work, Mark Henry finally became the World Heavyweight Champion. As champion, he had a rivalry with the Big Show. In October, at Vengeance, Mark Henry attempted to superplex his opponent, but to the fans’ amazement, the ring collapsed. Everyone cheered wildly. But, the match ended, without a winner.

Some big moments took place during the final month of 2011. The Henry/Big Show rivalry continued with a match at the Tables, Ladders and Chairs event, but had an unexpected ending. Big Show became the new World Champion. However, Mark Henry, in a fit of rage, attacked his adversary, knocking Show out. Suddenly, Daniel Bryan entered the ring to the cheers of the crowd, and ‘cashed in’ his Money in the Bank contract. He gave the briefcase to the referee. In a little under ten seconds, Daniel Bryan realized his dream, and became the World Heavyweight Champion. Fans in the arena were absolutely thrilled – they just could not stop cheering. So, it goes to show, no matter how big or small you are, you can achieve your dreams if you work hard and believe in yourself. That belief brought Bryan success. I am glad the WWE recognized his hard work, and gave Daniel a chance to become World Champion.

As it stands now (and hopefully remains like this for at least the early part of 2012), the champions in the WWE are: WWE Champion, C.M. Punk, World Champion, Daniel Bryan, Zack Ryder, as the United States Champion, Cody Rhodes, as the Intercontinental Champion, Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne, as the Tag Team Champions. Also, fans are seeing other young talent like Wade Barrett, Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler and the Miz climb the ladder – these wrestlers can become  WWE and World Champions in the new year. What we see here, is the future of World Wrestling Entertainment. These individuals worked hard to achieve their goals, and deserve a push to the main event. Hopefully, the WWE will continue to build new stars in 2012, and continue to provide fans with a year of excitement, action, and suspense.

To all my followers, Merry Christmas, and may you all have a safe, happy, and healthy 2012.

Azeem Kayum

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