In 2011, Rey Mysterio won his one and only WWE Championship. It was the culmination of 10 years of hard work and incredible matches in the WWE and nobody was more deserving, and he was keen on being a fighting champion and taking the belt around the world as a representative of the company.
“What’s that? You want to hold the belt for an entire episode of Raw? Not on my watch!”, Vince McMahon probably said. Despite achieving his dream and climbing the mountain as the WWE Champion, with his first foray into the main event scene for five years, Rey Mysterio’s WWE Championship reign would be one of the shortest in history.
Here is the story of how he became the WWE Champion and how the legendarily show reign of Rey Mysterio was pathetic booking, and a poor treatment of one of wrestling’s all-time greatest.
CM Punk’s Pipebomb
Going into Money in the Bank 2011, John Cena was the WWE Champion. He had won it from The Miz after Wrestlemania 27 and was in his peak of “Super Cena” mode. Fans were growing tired of his never-ending schtick, his happy-go-lucky attitude and the fact that he won seemingly every single match. It got really, really boring.
Then, in steps CM Punk. The Chicago-native superstar was a former World Champion in WWE and a two time Money in the Bank winner. However he had never been treated as the top star in the company and grew tired of Vince McMahon’s reluctance to put him at the top of the card, instead of John Cena ever week. He was set to wrestle Cena at Money in the Bank, but before that he would cut one of the most legendary promos of all time – The Pipe Bomb.
In the Pipe Bomb promo, he detailed everything wrong with the WWE, including the “idea that you’re the best”, speaking to John Cena. He detailed all the fans frustrations and threatened to walk out of the WWE with their world title if he won, something that the WWE Universe were intrigued by. This promo instantly made him a huge star and drew more interest from lapsed wrestling fans returning than almost anybody ever before.
This set up one of the most anticipated matches ever at Money in the Bank 2011. Much to everyone’s surprise CM Punk DID win the match and the WWE Championship, blowing McMahon a kiss as he exited thought he crowd and into the cold Chicago night. WWE had lost not only their number two star, but also their champion. Something had to be done.
WWE Championship Tournament
WWE had a problem. CM Punk had left the WWE as champion, taking the physical belt with him. WWE had a new one made, not expecting his return and endeavoured to crown a new champion as soon as possible. Their idea was an eight-man tournament to take place over two weeks on Monday Night Raw, featuring some of the top stars on Raw, although John Cena was not included in the bracket.
The eight men involved in the 2011 WWE Championship tournament were;
- The Miz
- Alex Riley
- Kofi Kingston
- Alberto Del Rio
- Jack Swagger
- Rey Mysterio
- Dolph Ziggler
A real “who’s who?” of the mid 2010’s WWE midcard. The tournament progressed quickly, with the semi-finals taking place on the July 18, 2011 edition of Monday Night Raw. These saw The Miz defeating Kofi Kingston to earn a finals match against Rey Mysterio, who took down R-Truth and Dolph Ziggler en-route to the finals.
Rey Mysterio vs The Miz for the WWE Championship took place a week later. It was quite a low-key affair, especially compared to Punk-Cena just the week prior. In a hard fought bout, Rey Mysterio pinned former champion The Miz to become the WWE Champion for the first time in his career. He did win the World Heavyweight Championship in 2006, following his 2006 Royal Rumble victory, but the eponymous title had eluded him until that day.
He celebrated backstage, but they would not last long. Enter John Cena.
Rey Mysterio vs John Cena
After the match (which was inexplicably right in the middle of Raw), the roster celebrated with Rey Mysterio and sprayed him with champagne. It was a joyous time, only interrupted by former champion John Cena greeting him with a handshake, before the celebrations continued.
However, Mysterio would not have long to take in his win. WWE booked a title defence for later that night – hardly fair for the Ultimate Underdog who had only just got his hands on the gold. Vince McMahon booked him in the main event to defend this newly-won title against John Cena in a match that seemed entirely.
Despite being tired and probably drunk from all the celebrations, the Lucha Libre Legend put on a good show against Cena. At times he looked like he could steal the win over Cena, but the 16-time champs power became too much for the diminutive Mysterio. He eventually fell to an AA, being pinned by John Cena and losing the WWE Championship before he even knew he was champion.
The match between the two was excellent as you’d expect – one of the best RAW main events of the year. But the title in did not elevate Rey, and neither did he add to the prestige of the title. It seemed like WWE just wanted to get his name on the title history books without actually wanting him to be a meaningful champion. He was just a pawn in the ensuing Cena vs Punk feud.
Rey Mysterio would challenge for the WWE Championship once more, battling Alberto Del Rio in August for the belt. He was unsuccessful and never again tasted WWE Championship gold. However, he has had such a legendary career that he does not need a belt to add to his trophy case, being safe in the knowledge that being one of the most iconic wrestlers of all time is enough to secure his WWE Hall of Fame spot.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.