Winners & Losers Of 2011 (Part Five)

Winner:  CM Punk & Zack Ryder

The juiciest parts in entertainment are always the villains, nefarious characters with few boundaries and plenty of evil intentions.  But sometimes in the world of professional wrestling, even being the bad guy can limit your opportunities for advancement.  In 2011, two former heels transformed themselves into the two most talked about babyfaces in the WWE.

For the first half of the year, CM Punk was the leader of The New Nexus, a small group mostly made up of graduates from the NXT show who were making life miserable for John Cena.  At the Royal Rumble, Punk cost old nemesis Randy Orton a chance to regain the WWE Championship from The Miz by giving him the GTS while the referee was otherwise preoccupied with his minions.  (Three years earlier, Orton had punted then-World Champion Punk backstage before he was to defend the title at Unforgiven 2008 forcing him to forfeit.)

For the next several months, Punk and Orton worked a fairly decent program that culminated in three pay-per-view matches, the best of which was probably their last one at Extreme Rules where they alternated whipping each other with that nasty kendo stick.  (Orton came out on top in that one.)  During an interview at the Capitol Punishment pay-per-view prior to his match with old foe Rey Mysterio, Punk promised that the next day on Raw he would deliver the most honest promo in history.

He didn’t disappoint.  After interfering in a non-title Tables Match between WWE Champion John Cena and R-Truth (Punk moved the table before the champ could AA his opponent through it) which gave the latter a much-needed victory, he seized the microphone and proceeded to tell it like it is, running down Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley (without naming them) and WWE owner Vince McMahon in the process.  The crowd ate it all up even though Punk was still a villain and even admonished the crowd a couple of times.

Over the next several weeks, he stopped bashing the fans and focused his attention on Cena and Triple H (John Laryngitis would be waiting in the wings).  More awesome promos followed which made you think something exciting was happening to the point where reality and storytelling were beautifully blurred and therefore, indistinguishable from each other.  At Money In The Bank, in front of an extremely supportive hometown Chicago crowd, Cena and Punk took their time to put on a terrific main event which saw the latter finally elevated to the WWE Championship.  The new champion vowed not to re-sign with the company and to walk away with the title.  But a week later, after Rey Mysterio won the belt in a 2-week tournament on Raw and Cena beat him for it, the original prodigal champion returned.  Living Colour were very pleased.  (Punk started using Cult Of Personality as his entrance music.)

To determine the undisputed champion, Cena and Punk battled again at SummerSlam in another solid main event.  After winning controversially (special guest referee Triple H didn’t see Cena’s foot on the rope when he made the three count on him), Punk was ambushed by Kevin Nash (who hadn’t been seen since his brief appearance in the Royal Rumble match) and the Raw Money In The Bank winner Alberto Del Rio cashed in his briefcase to steal the title away from the dazed champion.

Punk would soon do battle with Triple H in the main event at Night Of Champions which he would lose and bizarrely, team up with him only to lose to Awesome Truth in a tag team match at Vengeance.  (Sadly, the WWE’s COO is feuding with real-life pal Kevin Nash at the moment.  I miss their verbal jousting.)  In between, he remained in the hunt for the championship securing numerous chances.  At the Survivor Series, he finally regained the title from two-time champ, Alberto Del Rio.  At the end of the year, he won two much deserved Slammys including Superstar Of The Year, which was voted on by the fans, and survived a Triple Threat TLC title match against Del Rio and The Miz.  May this second reign last a hell of a lot longer than the first and may the outspoken promos of the summer make a triumphant and permanent return.  Remember Phil, “You’ve got the power!  You’ve got the touch!”

The same year that Punk was first feeling the threat of Randy Orton, Zack Ryder was one of Edge’s goons hired to keep the World Heavyweight Championship around the waist of The Rated R Superstar.  But after that angle was dropped, Ryder changed his look and became something of a joke.  He wore tights with only one leg.  His catchphrase, “Woo woo woo, you know it!” was more annoying than endearing.  In 2010, in order to avoid having to defend his WWE title against a substantial threat on pay-per-view, Sheamus gave Ryder a shot only to beat him in seconds after levelling him with the Brogue Kick.

In the 40-man Royal Rumble match this year, when he made his way to the ring, colour commentator Matt Striker snarked, “Even The Situation finds this guy annoying!”.  Needless to say, he didn’t last long in the match.  Realizing he needed to do something to get over with the fans, in February, Ryder began a YouTube series called Z! True Long Island Story, an homage to the celebrity biography series, E! True Hollywood Story.  The videos became very popular as more episodes were filmed and posted.  Soon, on pay-per-views and the weekly TV shows, the crowds were either chanting “We want Ryder” or showing signs expressing that sentiment.

The WWE slowly started to realize that Ryder was having an effect through his social media promotions (he has almost 400,000 followers on Twitter and his 44 YouTube videos have been viewed millions of times) so gradually he was reintroduced on Raw and Smackdown, mostly through backstage sequences.  Triple H would name him an assistant to Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long.  By June, he was finally seeing action in the ring (and wearing regular trunks for a change).  In the second half of the year, Ryder, the self-proclaimed Internet Champion (Ted DiBiase would be proud), was regularly teaming up with main event superstars in TV and house show tag team matches and going over big time for the most part.  John Cena, The Big Show, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and yes, even Sheamus have all helped elevate him to a level of success he had never previously enjoyed.  At the end of the Survivor Series, even The Rock gave him a shout-out.

Ryder was doing so well with his promos and matches that he started a program with U.S. Champion Dolph Ziggler, even defeating him in a few non-title encounters on TV, one of which came about through some timely interference from actor Hugh Jackman who nailed him with a decent right cross on Raw.  Despite not being put over at The Survivor Series, The Long Island Iced Z finally got his championship push at TLC, ending Ziggler’s six-month reign.

Now wearing an officially sanctioned title, will Ryder remain popular with his broskis or will they grow tired of his Jersey Shore schtick?  As he would put it, “Are you serious, bro?”.

Either way, if there was a Slammy for Broski For The Year, Zack Ryder would be a fitting recipient (he actually won Trending Star Of The Year).  And no one was more effective in the ring and on the mic than WWE Champion CM Punk.

Loser:  Sun News Network

Did we really need a Fox News-style cable channel in Canada?  The CRTC seemed to think so when it allowed Quebecor, the parent company of Sun Media, to broadcast its right-wing nonsense on a daily basis.  Launched in April, there was much hype.  The timing was particularly slick with the federal election campaign just about to commence.

But ratings have been poor from the start.  Despite hiring ubiquitous, moronic firebrands like Ezra Levant and later, Bloaty McFatAss, the CBC and all other Canadian news outlets haven’t had much to worry about.  No matter how many times the channel complains about Canada’s public broadcaster or even The Toronto Star, few really give a damn.  Not only were TV viewers turned off, reviewers have been equally disinterested.  In particular, TV Critic John Doyle of The Globe & Mail has hammered the channel on numerous occasions.

Then came the ridiculous controversies.  With NDP Leader Jack Layton on the verge of becoming the Leader Of The Opposition, Sun News (and The Toronto Sun newspaper) put out a silly story about him getting a massage from an alleged bawdy house in the mid-90s.  Their source was a former cop who ended up being investigated for the incident.  (He wasn’t charged.)  Layton rightly condemned the story as political nonsense (he didn’t do anything illegal and was never arrested) and his party went on to have their best national showing to date.  (Tragically, his cancer would return and he would die before sitting in the House Of Commons to savour his remarkable triumph.  He was just 61.)

Then came the infamous Margie Gillis interview.  Former CBC reporter Krista Erickson, the host of Canada Live, interviewed the award-winning dancer about arts funding.  She made fun of her profession by flapping her arms in a mock-interpretative manner, condemned the wisdom of taxpayer money supporting it (a little over a million spread out over a dozen years or so; the annual federal budget for all government expenses is hundreds of billions) and shouted over her while she was trying to respond to her inane questions.

A record number of complaints found their way to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council – more than 4000 – and a official decision has yet to be made on what should be done about the widely panned interview.  Erickson’s Facebook page was loaded with criticism.  Her wall has since been completely scrubbed.  For their part, Sun News foolishly stood by her over the whole debacle.  They were the only ones.

The same couldn’t be said for afternoon anchor Theo Caldwell, the channel’s first casualty.  Like most Sun broadcasters I couldn’t take him for more than a few seconds but considering the fact that his ratings were just as bad as everybody else’s, it seems deeply unfair that he’s the only one to get 86’d thus far.  Late in the year, Sun News absurdly tried to cover up his image from an old group photo by inserting the offensive presence of McFatAss right on top.  Hey guys.  Ever hear of re-taking a photo?  That would’ve made more sense.  Guess there wasn’t room in the budget.

Then came the biggest indignity of them all.  After just seven and a half months on the air (in certain cities, the channel replaced the money-losing Sun TV, the former Toronto One), Sun News Network got booted from Cogeco, Rogers, Shaw and Bell’s basic cable line-ups.  One of the most pleasurable moments of the year for me arose unexpectedly when I clicked channel 16 and nothing came up.  (No more TV Guide Channel listings, either.)  With the Crumbling Tradition Service no longer airing repeats of his old chat show, Bloaty McFatAss is officially off of my TV.  Insert Hallelujah choir here.  The only place SNN exists now is on Digital cable through the above-mentioned companies.

With Quebecor bleeding its newspapers to keep this industry joke on the air, how long before it’s taken out behind the barn and shot to death?  I give it a year.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
1:29 a.m.

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Published in: on December 20, 2011 at 1:29 am  Leave a Comment  

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