After covering WWE shows weekly for most of the year I thought I’d take this chance to have a look back on the year of wrestling, not to mention the chance to write more and more words about more and more matches. To that end, here is the first in a series of lists I’ll be counting down to celebrate the best performances from WWE in 2011.
And as we highlight the best and the brightest, spare a thought for those wrestlers who can’t even get a gig on a main show, toiling away on the C Shows every week, working matches that get maybe a couple thousand views on YouTube. But to their credit, these guys have taken the opportunity for more time and more freedom and worked hard to put on a LOT of awesome TV when hardly anybody has been looking. So first off lets take a look at what you may have missed…
I have to say, a couple of these were actually on Smackdown and don’t fall under the ‘C show’ criteria strictly speaking, but they are still things that happened so long ago and fell under the radar so I assume they passed most people by, and like everything on this list, its about highlighting some exceptional work that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.
Drew McIntyre vs Trent Barreta (WWE Smackdown 14th & 21st January)
Drew and Trent’s January matches were some of the best squashes I’ve ever seen. They were actually the second and third matches of a trilogy that began on the 31st December 2010. That first match ended when Trent took a flying Undertaker dive over the top rope, missed Drew and Senton’d on the floor, landing right on his HEAD and DYING in the process. Afterwards Drew helpfully DDT’d the corpse on the floor to assist his recovery.
Which brings us to two weeks later and the first of our matches. Trent lashes out at Drew before the bell for trying to kill him, Drew takes this as a personal affront and proceeds to BEAT THE SH*T out of this young man. On the outside Drew literally throws a KNIFE EDGE CHOP TO THE FACE in one of the more brutal spots you’re likely to see on WWE TV. In the end, Trent manages to escape death and roll Drew up for the surprise three count. Drew, helpfully, goes backstage and pummels Trent into a wall for daring to roll him up.
So we need a decider. Trent again tries to get the jump on Drew early and prevent his death, and again Drew cuts him off and mauls him to his death – clubbing lariats into a nasty snap suplex, catching Trent off a springboard with a big ass Sky High. Drew actually wins after a Kurt Angle Top Rope Leap and Throw, calling back to Trent’s initial suicide leap of death and showing the brutality of these beatings; two of these matches have ended simply by Trent being killed by a nasty spill. They even continue afterwards when Drew offers his hand to Trent and Trent wisely cracks him in the face instead, leading to more brawling.
Drew was at his vicious, brawling, ass kicking best here. Trent, for his part, was a great little babyface and sold the crap out of all of Drew’s offense. These are amazing squashes that are honestly worth going out of your way to watch.
Divas Matches on WWE Superstars
I wish I could write up so many of their matches, but there’s only so many words I can use (even by my standards) until you’re here for days reading my crap. Suffice to say, Superstars is a place for the under-appreciated to work, and there are none more in need of TV time than these women. When given the chance here they really do some business.
Most weeks on SS the girls have been getting sh*t done in all sorts of combinations. So many examples – Gail and Melina had a good ‘we used to be friends’ feud in June. Maryse always looked great on Superstars, tearing it up with Nattie and Beth. Gail Kim got to fly all over the place on this show, as does AJ now. There was the great Beth vs Melina match on 5/5, and of course, after waiting over two years I finally, FINALLY got my Beth Phoenix vs Gail Kim dream match (I seriously wanted to see that match more than any other in the entire universe) and they delivered with a great little battle. And, in a completely different direction, Maxine of NXT ‘fame’ has been doing some serious work on that show as the driving force behind the Betamax/Curtis love triangle, which is the only reason anyone has to watch NXT.
I particularly want to mention two ladies here – Natalya and Alicia Fox. They had an AWESOME Superstars feud, basically revolving around Nattie tearing Alicia’s weave out and Alicia being pissed about it. They had a super workrate battle on February 10th, and picked it right up on July 7th with a match that was both awesomely brutal and utterly hilarious. Their in-ring conversations (“You owe me new hair!”) were some of the funniest you ever saw. The work was top notch, with crazy moves and counters, and Alicia was legit a gigantic asskicker and showed me more in these three matches (completed on July 23rd) than the rest of her career combined. I was never an Alicia Fox fan, at all, but this series completely sold me on her, to the point where I was excited when her recent babyface push begun. A perfect example of how great a lot of these women can look when given the time and space, as well as a perfect example of someone unfancied looking awesome on a C Show.
Chris Masters vs Drew McIntyre (WWE Smackdown 11th February)
As a fan of Divas I have learned by necessity to enjoy a match no matter how little time it actually gets. This has been handy when it comes to Chris Masters because, in what must be some sort of sick joke, in the period Chris Masters was on the SD roster he never got to have a Smackdown match. Instead, his infrequent appearances were seemingly always limited to sub-2 minute jobs.
But the point is, it doesn’t matter how long you get, as long as you’re awesome. In February Masters faced Drew Mac in this match that clocked in at a customary 1 min 59 secs, and I would legitimately argue that it was the best match of the year at that point. Its still one of the hidden gems of 2011. These guys did more in less than 2 minutes than a lot of guys do with more than 20.
The match itself actually only lasted about 75 seconds, since the first part was taken up by Drew cutting a promo. Masters immediately got down to business though, laying hard chops and all manner of offense on Drew, including NAILING him with his own Sky High Powerbomb in a great spot. The finish (yes, the finish was the second thing of the match) was ‘Holy Sh*t’ awesome – Drew tries a backslide and Masters fights and FIGHTS to switch the arms and attempt one of his own, but instead Drew flips over and into the perfect position for the Futureshock, which Masters sold like a CHAMP. I mean, this RULED, and ruled hard. A ridiculously fun way to spend 2 minutes.
The Tyson Kidd vs Trent Barreta Series
This was a long feud, lasting seven months, producing no less than seven great matches. That is as prolific as Orton & Christian were this year, to give you some idea of how great this was. What I loved the most is that, like Orton/Christian, they did such a great job of building a coherent feud through matches that were sometimes months apart. And unlike Orton/Christian, they had no help from any angles or promo time to tell the story; this entire feud was worked in the ring.
And worked magnificently. Both of these guys are awesome and totally brought it every time they faced. There were so many great spots and counters in all their matches, and they always built upon these spots and switched them up. For example, the tale of the Frankensteiner. In their first match, Tyson went for one, and Trent rolled through it into a rollup for a nearfall. Months later in #5, Trent rolls through the Frankensteiner again only for Tyson to counter with the Sharpshooter, before Trent turns that into another rollup. Months later again in their next battle, Trent tries a Frankensteiner himself but Tyson blocks it right into a Boston Crab for the win. In fact, Tyson’s finishes are another case in point. Their first two matches Tyson wins with the Sharpshooter. During #3 Trent escapes it twice, first via rollup and later by making the ropes after a huge struggle. Trent’s escapes seem to have broken the hold’s spell, because Tyson never beats him with the Sharpshooter again. Instead, he has to find new ways to put him away, and he succeeds with a swinging Fisherman’s Buster, a rollup reversal, the aforementioned Boston Crab and his INSANELY MURDEROUS BRAINBUSTER all winning him matches.
As you may tell from the above, Tyson did a lot of the winning in this feud. A fact which was another link in the chain between these matches – Trent’s quest for a win. By their fourth match Trent is frustrated at being 0-3 and comes out a house of fire all over Tyson. He still comes up short, and its not until #5 that he manages to finally pin the man (and only with some help from Yoshi, more on that later). His desperation in this feud leads him to bust out increasingly INSANE moves, like hitting the Whisper in the Wind onto the floor or off the barricade, and going for his Undertaker Senton Dive (and surviving). Speaking of, he learns from previous matches when he’s in danger of DYING, as he did in #2 from being GERMAN’D ONTO HIS HEAD (nobody has died more times in 2011 than Trent Barreta). But in their next matches Trent avoids headdropping Death by German by landing on his feet or switching out with a go-behind. Both of these guys learn and improve from their battles; or in other words, this sh*t is real. I absolutely love work like that.
I’m describing this on such a micro level, but I was just blown away with the depth of storytelling in their work. But I mean, simply put, it was a long series of excellent matches, and these guys were the heroes of the C Shows this year.
The Yoshi Tatsu vs Tyson Kidd ‘Little Yoshi’s Leg’ Feud
Yes, there really was a blood feud over an action figure in 2011. And it was great. I already loved Yoshi’s adorable wacky Twitter gimmick of Lovin’ Life with his action figure, and the fact that it turned into a wacky TV angle is just awesome. You just cannot hate stuff like this, this is pro wrestling.
For the uninitiated, on NXT Yoshi kept a shrine in his locker room for Little Yoshi, his action figure. Tyson Kidd took exception to wacky babyface hijinks such as this, and one day took Little Yoshi and SNAPPED HIS LEG OFF. The prick. Tyson then proceeded to wear the Leg around his neck to taunt Yoshi, who spent the next few weeks trying in vain to get the Leg back, as he and Tyson traded wins in some cool little matches.
Of course this all led to the big one: 26th July, Yoshi vs Tyson in a Necklace on a Pole Match. The absurd premise is belied by the hard-hitting grudge match we have here, as well as by Regal’s super serious commentary. We see crazy stuff like Yoshi’s running knees into the stairs before CRASHING into the barricade, and later Tyson doing a Boston Crab through the ropes. Yoshi finally hit a big Kick and made the most epic Jeff Hardy babyface crawl towards the Pole you ever saw. In the end, Tyson is hooking Yoshi up for a HUGE back suplex off the top, and Yoshi decides to willingly sacrifice his safety for Little Yoshi, not defending the suplex and instead reaching out to GRAB THE LEG before being driven to his death. An AWESOME babyface finish.
It doesn’t end with Yoshi retrieving the Leg however, as Tyson proceeds to BEAT THE SH*T out of Yoshi’s real leg in an awesome, brutal beatdown. This put Yoshi out of action until his Mysterious Japanese started turning up on the Tron to distract Tyson (as we’ve seen) before he made his big return on September 6th as a darker Yoshi, sporting new tights, new hair and new Muta face-paint, to exact some final revenge on Tyson Kidd. As far as wacky C Show feuds go, this rocked.