Monday, 1 January 2018

Top 50 Matches - The 2017 Edition

Hello everyone and a Happy New Year to you all. New Year as always means it is time for my top fifty matches of the past year of professional wrestling. It's been an interesting year for pro wrestling, the landscape has changed drastically and it feels like we're going to see more change in the next 3-5 years than we've seen in over a decade, a very interesting time to be a fan. 

Anyway as for the past twelve months it is hard to categorise overall whether it has been a good or bad year for wrestling. Certain promotions have been great, others less so - and I'd actually say on a whole it's not been a great year for wrestling. But when you look solely at the in-ring stuff this year is possibly up there as one of the greatest years of all-time. The in-ring product of most companies that I dedicate any sort of time to, even those producing all around average or poor shows, has been stellar. 

Looking back on 2017 vs. 2016 in terms of my viewership I think levels have remained roughly the same. I watched every broadcasted even from NXT, ROH, PWG and Lucha Underground. That was supplemented with every major NJPW show as well as any All Japan or NOAH shows/matches that caught my attention. I also kept an eye on the independent scene and watched anything that stood out from there. My only real regret from my viewership this year is I wish I'd watched more All Japan and I wish I'd watched more of PROGRESS hopefully two issues I can rectify in 2018 but there is only so much time in the year and only so much pro wrestling I can physically pack into any given year. Within WWE I watched very little of the weekly shows but still made myself - despite significant lack of interest - watch the PPV's if nothing else but to legitimise this list. I also watched every episode of the Mae Young Classic. 

Speaking of women's wrestling they made a slight improvement by making an appearance in the Top 50 this year - it is only one match that made it but two matches came particularly close to making it into the Top 50 (#54 & #57 respectively). So a step in the right direction but still a significant step down from the amount of matches I was seeing on my lists two or three years back. I decided to keep the statistics addition from last year for this year's list as I think it is a fun little wrinkle. 

Now to my favourite part of every single one of these - the explanation of the date parameters thanks to PWG. The reason I need to mention this is because there is a match on this list from Mystery Vortex IV which was taped in December 2016 but was not released on DVD (the only way to watch PWG unless you're actually at the show) until 2017. Therefore it was considered for this 2017's list rather than 2016. The same goes for a match from Lucha Underground that appears which was actually taped as far back as June 2016 but didn't air until Ultima Lucha Tres in September 2017. The unique twist this year is I don't have any matches that have already taken place that I need to warn you about for 2018's list thanks to PWG not holding a December show this year and Lucha Underground not taping Season 4 until February or March. Now with all that inane rambling out of the way, here it is, let's see who just made the list (Sorry Y2J, couldn't resist).

Best Matches of 2017:

1) Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, IWGP Intercontinental Championship - Dominion 6.11
2) Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito, G1 Climax Final - G1 Climax: Day Nineteen
3) Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega, IWGP Heavyweight Championship - Dominion 6.11
4) Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, IWGP Intercontinental Championship - Wrestle Kingdom 11
5) KUSHIDA vs. Will Ospreay, Best of the Super Jr. Final - Best of the Super Jr. 24
6) Dante Fox vs. Killshot, Hell of War - Lucha Underground: Ultima Lucha Tres, Part I (27th September)
7) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi, IWGP Intercontinental Championship - Power Struggle
8) Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega, B Block - G1 Climax: Day Eighteen
9) The Hardy's (Jeff & Matt) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson), Ladder Match, ROH World Tag Team Championship - Supercard of Honor XI

10) Seth Rollins vs. Triple H, Unsanctioned Match - WrestleMania 33

11) Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega, IWGP Heavyweight Championship - Wrestle Kingdom 11
12) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito, A Block - G1 Climax: Day Seventeen
13) WALTER vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. - All Star Weekend XIII: Night Two
14) Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne, United Kingdom Championship - NXT Takeover: Chicago
15) Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream - NXT Takeover: War Games
16) Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito, A Block - G1 Climax: Day One
17) Zack Sabre, Jr. vs. Marty Scurll, PWG World Championship - Mystery Vortex IV
18) The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs. The Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero M & Rey Fenix) vs. Matt Sydal & Ricochet, PWG World Tag Team Championship - Nice Boys (Don't Play Rock 'N Roll)
19) Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) vs. DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tomasso Ciampa) vs. The Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson), Three-Way Elimination Match, NXT Tag Team Championship - NXT Takeover: Orlando
20) Bobby Fish vs. Jay Lethal - 15th Anniversary Show
21) Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) & Roderick Strong vs. Sanity (Alexander Wolfe, Eric Young & Killian Dain) vs. Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly), War Games - NXT Takeover: War Games
22) John Cena vs. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz, Elimination Chamber, WWE Championship - Elimination Chamber
23) Adam Cole vs. Christopher Daniels, ROH World Championship - 15th Anniversary Show
24) Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki, B Block - G1 Climax: Day Sixteen
25) Asuka vs. Ember Moon, NXT Women's Championship - NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III
26) The Chosen Bros (Jeff Cobb & Matthew Riddle) vs. The Monstars (Donovan Dijak & Keith Lee) - Battle of Los Angeles: Night One
27) Marty Scurll vs. Adam Cole, ROH World Television Championship - Supercard of Honor XI
28) Tetsuya Naito vs. Michael Elgin, IWGP Intercontinental Championship - The New Beginning: Osaka
29) Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hirooki Goto, NEVER Openweight Championship - Wrestle Kingdom 11
30) Marty Scurll vs. Lio Rush, ROH World Television Championship - 15th Anniversary Show
31) Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin, B Block - G1 Climax: Day Eight
32) Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Johnny Gargano - NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III
33) Jay Lethal vs. Marty Scurll - Final Battle
34) Flip Gordon vs. Will Ospreay - Global Wars: Chicago
35) The Hardy's (Jeff & Matt) vs. RPG Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson, Street Fight, ROH World Tag Team Championship - 15th Anniversary Show
36) Best Friends (Chuck Taylor & Trent?) vs. Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll & Zack Sabre, Jr.) - Nice Boys (Don't Play Rock 'N Roll)
37) Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii, IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship Final, IWGP Heavyweight Championship - G1 Climax Special: Night Two
38) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre, Jr., A Block - G1 Climax: Day One
39) AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon - WrestleMania 33 
40) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi, A Block - G1 Climax: Day Eleven
41) The Bar (Cesaro & Sheamus) vs. Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins, RAW Tag Team Championship - SummerSlam
42) AJ Styles vs. Brock Lesnar - Survivor Series
43) Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre, Jr., A Block - G1 Climax: Day Three
44) Drew McIntyre vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas, NXT Championship - NXT Takeover: War Games
45) Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee, Quarter-Final Match - Battle of Los Angeles: Night Three
46) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Bobby Roode, NXT Championship - NXT Takeover: San Antonion
47) The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs. Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin), ROH World Tag Team Championship - Death Before Dishonor XV
48) The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. The Elite (Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks [Matt & Nick Jackson]) - War of the Worlds: Toronto
49) Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin, IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship First Round - G1 Climax Special: Night One 
50) KUSHIDA vs. Will Ospreay, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship - King of Pro Wrestling


Number of Top 50 Matches by Promotion
New Japan Pro Wrestling – 20
ROH – 10
NXT – 8
PWG – 6
WWE – 5
Lucha Underground – 1

Number of Top 50 Matches by Wrestler

Kenny Omega – 8
Hiroshi Tanahashi – 7
Tetsuya Naito – 6
Marty Scurll – 5
Matt Jackson – 5
Nick Jackson – 5
Zack Sabre, Jr. – 5
Kazuchika Okada – 4
Kota Ibushi – 4
Adam Cole – 3
AJ Styles – 3
Michael Elgin – 3
Will Ospreay – 3
Akam – 2
Andrade “Cien” Almas – 2
Beretta/Trent? – 2
Bobby Fish – 2
Christopher Daniels – 2
Dean Ambrose – 2
Donovan Dijak - 2
Jay Lethal – 2
Jeff Hardy – 2
Johnny Gargano – 2
Keith Lee - 2
Matt Hardy – 2
Rezar – 2
Seth Rollins – 2
Aleister Black - 1
Alex Shelley – 1
Alexander Wolfe - 1
Asuka – 1
Baron Corbin – 1
Bobby Roode – 1
Bray Wyatt – 1
Brock Lesnar - 1
Cesaro – 1
Chris Sabin – 1
Chuck Taylor – 1
Dante Fox – 1
Dash Wilder – 1
Drew McIntyre - 1
Ember Moon – 1
Eric Young - 1
Fenix/Rey Fenix – 1
Flip Gordon – 1
Frankie Kazarian – 1
Hirooki Goto – 1
Jeff Cobb/Matanza Cueto - 1
John Cena – 1
Katsuyori Shibata – 1
Killian Dain - 1
Killshot – 1
Kyle O'Reilly - 1
Lio Rush – 1
Matt Sydal – 1
Matthew Riddle - 1
Minoru Suzuki – 1
Penta El Zero M/Pentagon Dark – 1
Pete Dunne – 1
Ricochet/Prince Puma – 1
Rocky Romero – 1
Roderick Strong – 1
Scott Dawson – 1
Shane McMahon – 1
Sheamus – 1
Shinsuke Nakamura – 1
The Miz – 1
Tommaso Ciampa – 1
Tomohiro Ishii – 1
Triple H – 1
Tyler Bate – 1
Velveteen Dream - 1

Best Match/Best Possible Match:

Overall: Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Lucha Underground: Dante Fox vs. Fenix vs. Killshot vs. Matanza Cueto vs. Pentagon Dark vs. Prince Puma
New Japan Pro-Wrestling: Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
NXT: Adam Cole vs. Akam vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Bobby Fish vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Rezar
PWG: Marty Scurll vs. Matt Jackson vs. Nick Jackson vs. Zack Sabre, Jr.
ROH: Marty Scurll vs. Matt Jackson vs. Nick Jackson
WWE: AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy vs. Seth Rollins

Thursday, 5 January 2017

End of Year Awards - The 2016 Edition

Hello and welcome to my, not so, presitigious End of Year Awards. This is the sixth year these awards have been in operation and I can say without any doubt this is by far the longest this article has ever been so, for that, I apologise. With that said let's get on with the awards, enjoy!

Major End-Year Awards

Promotion of the Year:

This was a really difficult category to award this year. Ever since I started doing these awards there has always been one promotion that stood head and shoulders above the others in any given year. This year was not the case. As per usual there were good and bad in all promotions however this year the field was a lot tighter. So who won this tight race? Let’s find out. Right off the bat I’d like to note that for the first time since the inception of these awards I couldn’t even consider TNA because aside from a couple of Hardy related things I have not watched TNA this year. So of the promotions I did see enough of we first go to New Japan Pro Wrestling. It’s well known that I am not a fan of the way NJPW has booked over the past few years and this year was no different. Their failure to capitalise on arguably the most over man in all of wrestling in 2016. There have been some great matches and the odd great moment, as well as a great G1 but overall it was another average year for NJPW and it is out of the running. From Japan to Reseda, California and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. PWG did what PWG always does, put on great shows with great matches but very little in the way of meaningful storyline progression. PWG is happy with its place of a Super Indie that puts together bi-monthly super cards that delivers dream matches but little else. This year though the match quality was slightly lower than usual and there was even less storylines than usual so although they once again delivered what I expect from PWG it wasn’t enough to earn them this year’s Promotion of the Year award. Onto the biggest and, to most, only game in town the WWE. Despite being the only wrestling promotion most people know they have only won this award once – almost by default in 2011 – and they aren’t going to add this year to their list of accomplishments (not that it matters to them of course). It was a tough year to watch WWE, there was very little to get excited about in the first half of the year and although SmackDown became the most consistently entertaining wrestling show on television post-brand split RAW has remained awful and the promotion as a whole is average at best. There have been some good points this year though, as mentioned previously SmackDown has been great since the brand split and some guys have had career years – AJ Styles I’m looking at you. NXT has had possibly its weakest year since they exploded from developmental to legitimate brand with NXT: Arrival but the weekly shows are still logical and the Takeover’s continue to be brilliant shows. I look forward to where SmackDown and NXT go in 2017, I look forward to continuing not watching RAW and reading reviews after the fact confirming that I was right not to watch because it doesn’t look like either of those things are going to change soon. On to the promotion that has won this award for the past two years – ROH. I’m going to go on the record and say that the criticism the company has come in for this year have been way overblown, the shows have not been nearly as bad as some have made out. The weekly product is consistently compelling with excellent matches and good storyline progression. The house shows or B-events or whatever label you want to attach to them have been generally excellent. The PPV’s, however, have been largely disappointing despite ending with a fantastic Final Battle. Make no mistake though, despite my brushing off how bad ROH has been, they’ve certainly seen a steep decrease in quality from the past two years and they’ve done nowhere near enough to three-peat. This year I’ve picked up watching Pro Wrestling NOAH again. After being intrigued by the goings on in late-2015 I decided to check out the show that saw Naomichi Marufuji dethrone Minoru Suzuki for the GHC Heavyweight Championship and I was hooked again. 2016 was a great year for NOAH, a revitalising year that they badly needed. It wasn’t perfect, the Suzuki-gun invasion angle was dragging towards its end and they managed to somehow kill a fantastic junior division in the second half of the year but for the most part it was great. There were some great angles, the rebuilding of important talent, the elevation of younger talent and the solidification of the likes of Katsuhiko Nakajima – absolutely the right man to finally rid NOAH of Suzuki-gun – as permanent main eventers. They had a great year and although I am questioning some of the booking decisions at the end of the year (why would you have Atsushi Kotoge hold both the Junior belt AND the Junior Tag belts when you knew he was going to move up to the heavyweight division and, more to the point why would you promote Kotoge to a heavyweight at all?) they were an admirable second place in this category in 2016 and I look forward to seeing what they do in 2017. They lost however to the insanity that is Lucha Underground. Like I mentioned right at the start of this write-up this has not been a perfect year for anyone – and Lucha Underground were no different. Season Two started in January with a bang and for the first 15-20 episodes LU were on fire with their storylines and matches. Sadly, the wheels completely fell off towards the end of Season Two culminating in an incredibly underwhelming Ultima Lucha Dos. However, towards the end of the year they have regained all the goodwill they lost with a stellar Season Three so far and, as we inch closer to the mid-season finale, I have full faith in the writers to continue their success into 2017. And hopefully they’ll fix their biggest failing in their history so far – the poor utilisation of Pentagon. But that is all in the future and for 2016 Lucha Underground are my ‘Promotion of the Year’.

The winner is: Lucha Underground

Superstar of the Year:

Contrary to our opening award, this award was one of the easiest to pick as one person did stand head and shoulders above the rest but we’ll get to that. Before we start I must reinforce the difference between this award and the next award ‘Wrestler of the Year’. This award is given to the best all-around performer in professional wrestling over a year-long period, the ‘Wrestler of the Year’ award is given to the best in-ring performer in professional wrestling in a calendar year. With that said let me mention that two people had a real chance of winning this award but bad booking let them down. Those men were Pentagon Jr./Pentagon Dark who looked on course to be the MVP of Lucha Underground and possibly all of wrestling only to be derailed by some spectacularly backwards booking that ruled him out of the running. That, however, paled in comparison to the booking of Tetsuya Naito. This man is more over than I’ve seen anyone in Japanese wrestling be for a long, long time. However, a token IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign aside, he has been woefully underutilised in favour of the hugely over exposed Kazuchika Okada. The booking of NJPW has long given me cause to scratch my head but their booking of Naito has been on an entirely different level of disappointing. So down to the three men who actually had a chance. Let’s start with last year’s winner, the Greatest First Generation Wrestler – Jay Lethal. He had another great year picking up where he left off in 2015. His run as World Champion, which will go down as legendary, continued all the way until Death Before Dishonor in August when he dropped the strap to Adam Cole after a great feud. His interactions with Cole, and by extension Bullet Club, Colt Cabana and Kyle O’Reilly were some of the highlights of the year. Even after dropping the top prize in ROH he continued his great feud with Cole and established a nice mini-feud with Tetsuya Naito that saw him beat Naito on an ROH event before giving Naito his win back in NJPW. This year though, despite him continuing his great work of last year albeit to a lesser extent, he was a distant third. Now on to the man who was a distant second, Samoa Joe. Joe has had a spectacularly good year. He has been one of the best heels in the business and looks more motivated than he has in years. He has churned out great match after great match and decent, if not fantastic, feuds with Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura. But it is more than that with Joe this year. He has an aura about him right now. A must-see aura that very few people have and every segment he has always has my full attention. Joe’s had arguably his best year ever but certainly his best year since 2006 but he was nowhere near this year’s winner. The man who won this award can be described only one way – Phenomenal. Yes, this year’s winner is indisputably AJ Styles. AJ started off the year challenging Shinsuke Nakamura in a classic match for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in New Japan’s signature Dome show and ended it as WWE Champion. His year was not perfect of course but even the ‘not perfect’ bits had AJ making them better than they had any right to be. His feud with Chris Jericho did not produce the level of matches I had expected or hoped – and the feud itself was underwhelming until Y2J’s heel turn changed everything. His feud with Roman Reigns was possibly his worst in a couple of year, but that’s nothing against that feud, which was better than any of us could have dreamed with some of the best matches of Reigns’ career. If the lowlights weren’t very low, the highlights were incredibly high. His debut in WWE was a moment to behold. A spectacular moment that saw the Amway Centre explode as AJ made his entrance into the Royal Rumble match. I was in a bar that erupted upon AJ’s entrance (finally) being shown. He gave a great performance in that match but he was only just getting started. He had a brilliant feud with John Cena that culminated in a great match at SummerSlam. He was drafted to SmackDown and held down the fort in the infancy of the brand split producing a great feud with Dean Ambrose that saw him win the WWE Championship in yet another thrilling match at Backlash and extend all the way to December’s TLC PPV without once feeling like it had overstayed its welcome. As expected AJ’s wrestling this year was fantastic but he really was the total package this year. His character is on point and really plays to his strengths. His heel work has been fantastic even if it is becoming increasingly difficult to get him booed. And his mic work is just on a different level to what it used to be. He really is the ‘Superstar of the Year’ and I’ve got a feeling it is going to take a hell of a year if anyone else is going to beat him next year, too.

The winner is: AJ Styles

Wrestler of the Year:

I always find this award difficult to gauge because wrestling has become increasingly reliant on great matches in recent years, even in more story driven companies like WWE. That reliance means we arguably see more great matches than ever before because people are having great matches on weekly shows and PPV undercards rather than just in big PPV matches. So, picking one guy as the in-ring king for a year is always difficult. This year I added a ‘statistics’ portion to my Top 50 Matches of the Year list (which you can read here) which made it somewhat easier but having the most matches in my Top 50 list doesn’t necessarily make you the best wrestler of the year. That said, the guy that was tied for first place in terms of having the most matches in my Top 50 is the guy that has won this award this year so it obviously is a factor. Let’s start with some of the close contenders though. Shinsuke Nakamura had a great in-ring year with a constant stream of great matches including two that made the top ten of my aforementioned Top 50 list. His debut match in NXT against Sami Zayn came close to winning the whole thing in terms of best match of the year (you can see which match actually won later in these awards) and his last big match in NJPW saw him have an absolutely sublime match with AJ Styles inside the Tokyo Dome. Speaking of AJ he had a tilt at this award too but came up just short of emulating Daniel Bryan as the only man to win Superstar of the Year AND Wrestler of the Year in the same year. Although with his Superstar of the Year win this year and his Wrestler of the Year win in 2014 he does become only the second man to ever win both awards following, obviously, Bryan. I’ve mentioned most of AJ’s great matches this year with Cena, Ambrose, Nakamura and others. One match I haven’t mentioned that deserves some recognition was his Tag Team Championship match with Chris Jericho against the New Day. An absolute jewel in the rough that was Monday Night RAW this year. AJ had so many good matches this year it would take me eons to list them but he still came up short. Adam Cole was in consideration for this award too with six matches in my Top 50 – the same as the eventual winner. Cole has been on point in ring this year even if his character and promos have been less compelling than in recent years. From his clashes with Jay Lethal to his clashes with Kyle O’Reilly. His work in PWG, his work in ROH, everywhere Cole showed up he brought his working boots. I’d like to highlight some of his less fashionable matches this year. His match in Lakeland, FL for the World Title on a Road to Final Battle Tour Show with Silas Young was one position away from making the Top 50 and was a truly great match that helped solidify Silas Young as a main eventer – at least for the few people like me who will have actually watched the show. He was in multiple great six-man tags with The Young Bucks and actually, at the start of the year, a great three team tag street fight as part of the original Kingdom which also involved reDRagon. Finally, another Cole match that didn’t get enough love was in the build-up to the 14th Anniversary Show there was a tag match on the weekly show that saw Cole team with then World Champion Jay Lethal against reDRagon. He had a great in-ring year but once again it wasn’t enough. We’ve just mentioned him and Jay Lethal was in consideration for this award too. His World Championship defences were consistently excellent and his matches after losing the belt remained fantastic. In fact, thinking back over the past twelve months I can only think of one Lethal match that was a real let down. That would be his disappointing outing at Final Battle against the debuting Cody Rhodes. Overall though it was a fantastic in-ring year for Lethal. His battle with O’Reilly on TV was one of the best TV matches all year in any company. The storytelling in that match was on a level you rarely see in wrestling nowadays, a forgotten art almost that was brilliantly shown in that particular match. His matches with Colt Cabana are among the best in Cabana’s career and helped revitalise Cabana as a performer in my eyes. He also, did not do enough. Our final contender that just came up short is the enigmatic Marty Scurll. I’ve always thought Scurll was a decent performer but nothing more. That changed in late-2015 and was consigned to the annals of history by the end of 2016. He had great matches all around the planet. His matches in PROGRESS with Will Ospreay, in ROH in every match he has had so far – all of which (three) featured on my Top 50 Matches list, in PWG – most notably versus Kyle O’Reilly. Every time I see Scurll I know I’m in for a great match. He won the prestigious Battle of Los Angeles tournament this year and I can’t think of anyone in that tournament who would have been a more deserving winner. Scurll has turned into a really special performer and he was very, very close. But not close enough. The winner of this category is the new ROH World Champion, Kyle O’Reilly. O’Reilly has had fantastic matches all of the globe this year. He’s had great matches of every kind, junior matches in New Japan, heavyweight matches in New Japan, multi-man matches, tag team matches, technical classics, hardcore brawls. Every type of match he has had he’s nailed this year. I can’t think of a bad match he has had and he has featured in some of the best. He had two classic matches with Adam Cole, one where he won the World Title at Final Battle and the first and arguably best match ever between the two (which is saying something) at Supercard of Honor. He had that match on TV against Lethal that I mentioned earlier. His match with Scurll in PWG and so many more. I could wax lyrical about how good O’Reilly has been in the ring this year for the rest of this article but there are more awards to give out so all I’ll say is Kyle O’Reilly is the deserved winner of this year’s ‘Wrestler of the Year’ award.

The winner is: Kyle O’Reilly

Female Superstar of the Year:

This one was pretty easy. It has been a mixed year for women’s wrestling from my point of view. My general life restricts how much wrestling I can consume so certain promotions that I used to be very current on have fell to the wayside. SHIMMER, Stardom & SHINE are three of these. They’re not the only promotions I have stopped watching but they are the three most pertinent to this particular award given that all three are all-female promotions. I also feel like, despite the ‘women’s [r]evolution’ being a catchphrase WWE likes to throw around, WWE and NXT have failed to deliver what they have over previous years with regards to women’s wrestling. With NXT it is more to do with the loss of talent. Three of the ‘Four Horsewomen’ that the NXT Women’s Division was built around were promoted to the main roster last year with the final one being promoted midway through the year. This loss of talent has hit NXT hard, forcing them to build up other female performers which – with the exception of Asuka – they haven’t done well enough. Thankfully this is beginning to change with Ember Moon obviously set for a huge push and the likes of Billie Kay and Peyton Royce getting some serious air time and actual feuds. However, for most of the year the Women’s Division has been Asuka and that’s it. With regards to the main roster in WWE they failed to push the women properly in the first half of the year and then had a 50/50 record post-draft. With my feelings on RAW and SmackDown well known it might be easy for you to guess where each 50 comes from. SmackDown has used the so-called ‘lesser talents’ of the women’s division very well since the brand split, more on that later. On the other hand, RAW has been so obsessed with pushing itself as history-making and progressive that they forgot to actually be progressive. Somebody, and for the life of me I can’t remember who, once said – and I’m paraphrasing here – that if you want the women’s division to be taken seriously just book a feud between men and then at the end switch those men for women. RAW has been so focused on promoting the fact that they are giving women main events and giving them match stipulations they’ve never had before that they forgot to actually build a feud. And that has really crushed the hopes of one of the early forerunners for this award – Sasha Banks. Sasha started the year hot, with crowds baying for her to get involved in the title picture. When she came out at the Royal Rumble the arena exploded. The build to her match against Becky and Charlotte at ‘Mania was very good and the match delivered but the winner being Charlotte really sucked the energy out of the story and really stunted Sasha’s year and more importantly overness. Once she finally got back in the title picture she and Charlotte traded the belt back and forth like it was going out of business with no real escalation to the feud and stipulations feeling like they were just being tacked on so WWE could say “look how progressive we’re being”. With that tumultuous and end to the year there was never any chance of her really winning this award. Another person who suffered a somewhat similar fate was her fellow horsewoman, Bayley. Bayley started off the year as NXT Champion and was delivering great matches and really elevating her opponents. She gave Carmella her best match to date and even made a feud with Nia Jax and Eva Marie not awful. It wasn’t good, but against those two not awful is a massive achievement. She got a rousing reception when she made her first, at the time one-off, appearance on the main roster as Sasha’s mystery tag partner to take on Charlotte and Dana Brooke. She also had two great matches with Asuka but – and we might be noticing a trend here – following her promotion to the main roster she really stagnated. Used as a bit part player until pretty much the end of the year she had her skirmishes with Charlotte but always felt like a distraction until they got back to the only women’s feud RAW had any time for, Sasha vs. Charlotte. She had some heatless feuds that I can make little comment on since I only saw a segment here and there on YouTube and read about in other people’s reviews given my total lack of time for RAW recently. So despite a great half a year she’s also not a real contender this year round. I made a prediction at the start of the year with my fellow ‘Rebooking Series’ co-author Jonathon that this year this award would go to Ivelisse. I really thought it would be her year and it really could have been as she is obviously well like in the Lucha Underground realm, in fact it would have been far preferable to have her be the first female Lucha Underground Champion as opposed to that accolade going to the far less talented Sexy Star. However, injuries majorly impacted her year and she’s not even close to being considered here. I just thought I’d bring it up to show how talented she is and how next year may well be different if she can recover from her injuries and continue delivering how she does when she is fit. I also feel it’s obligatory to mention the only person to win ‘Female Superstar of the Year’ twice, Cheerleader Melissa. As I mentioned earlier, my viewership of SHIMMER, and knowledge of the product, has vastly decreased in recent years – hitting an all-time low this year of roughly zero, to the point where I don’t even know if Melissa even still wrestles for the company. Being probably the greatest wrestler SHIMMER has ever had I’d imagine she still is but, on the other hand, having done pretty much everything there is to do in SHIMMER it wouldn’t shock me if she was gone either. This has led to my only exposure to Melissa this year being through Lucha Underground where she is known as Mariposa. She’s far from one of the most prominent characters on the show but she still has managed to have a really good year. Her two biggest highlights being the No Mas match with Sexy Star (which, despite missing the Top 50, was my highest ranked women’s match of the year) and the very recent four-way match she was a part of with Jeramiah Crane, Killshot and Dante Fox where she was undoubtedly the star of the match. I hope LU have bigger plans in place for Mariposa because despite her character not being the most compelling right now and her promo skills, as always, being a bit lacking she is without a doubt one of the best in-ring performers they have on their roster – male or female. Melissa’s year was, as usual, good but possibly her weakest ever and not enough to become a three-time winner. So, that leaves us with two, and despite my earlier dissection of WWE’s booking of their women this year both of these contenders come from WWE’s roster. Less surprisingly they both come from SmackDown. Let’s start with a woman I’ve watched wrestle for a long time, Becky Lynch. Becky has had a great year starting with challenging for the then Diva’s Championship at the Royal Rumble in a really underrated match, until the finish, with Charlotte. She was part of the three-way dance at WrestleMania that I mentioned earlier which was arguably the best match on the show, sans the finish (noticing a common thread here?). She did get slightly lost in the wilderness for a while after that but a decent feud with Natalya took her up to the draft and that’s when things kicked into a higher gear for Becky. She was the first female drafted to SmackDown and went on to become the first ever SmackDown Women’s Champion. She had, and is possibly still having, an amazing feud with Alexa Bliss. The matches have been a bit of a let-down sadly but the promos and feud itself have been nothing short of stellar. The booking has been fantastic too and actually has you invested far more in a singles match between Becky and Alexa with their simmering heat than RAW does by just going “Charlotte…Sasha…Hell in a Cell…Main Event of a PPV………HISTORY!” So, who is the other contender? Well it is none other than the other side to that coin, Alexa Bliss. Alexa has had the hottest run of any female competitor this year with her run since the draft being, to steal a phrase from her arch-nemesis, straight fire. It hasn’t been all plain sailing this year though, despite seeming the obvious opponent for Bayley – at least until it was time for Asuka to claim the NXT Women’s crown – her feud with Bayley was seemingly put to one side in favour of feuds with Nia Jax, Eva Marie and a friendly rivalry with Carmella. She was also part of the elongated saga that saw Blake & Murphy finally part ways as a tag team (I think, that did end, right?). However, once the draft happened and she turned up on SmackDown, everything changed. She was immediately positioned as one of the top heels in the division and made the most of every opportunity she had. I initially thought her feud with Becky was a placeholder, a good heel for Becky to beat at the start of her Championship run. However, as the weeks went by Alexa delivered great promo after great promo, both on SmackDown and the always entertaining Talking Smack. Some of her segments with Becky were among the best WWE have produced all year. Sadly, as I mentioned earlier the matches have been somewhat lacking so far but it’s hard to argue Bliss has put herself on the map this year and absolutely deserves to end the year as SmackDown Women’s Champion. That being said, I have to give Becky the edge this year. No-one had a perfect year but Becky Lynch proved why she is one of the best in the world and although I know there is more and better to come from her, she is the unquestionable winner of this award in my eyes.

The winner is: Becky Lynch

Tag Team of the Year:

Tag Team wrestling has undergone a real renaissance in recent years and I absolutely love it. I’ve always though tag team wrestling was an underrated part of most promotions and I’m so pleased to see more companies pushing their tag teams to the fore. Look at ROH, whilst none of their teams are under consideration for this award this year, the depth of talent in their tag team ranks is unreal. The Addiction, Motor City Machine Guns, The Pretty Boy Killers, Silas and The Bruiser, The Young Bucks, occasionally reDRagon – who are possibly my favourite tag team of the 21st century. I could go on but you get the picture and this incredible depth of tag team wrestling is not exclusive to ROH. So, let’s get on to the contenders. We start with the current NXT Tag Team Champions, DIY. DIY – made up of indie veterans Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano – came into our consciousness as a tag team last year during the first ever Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. From what I remember it was supposed to be a one-time deal but Gargano and Ciampa impressed so much that they’ve turned it into a full-time gig. They’ve been a stellar team all year building themselves up from the bottom of the NXT Tag Team ranks. There was a brief moment, both on NXT programming and during the Cruiserweight Classic, where I feared they were going down the route of splitting them up as a team which would have been an awful shame. Thankfully that didn’t happen. They did have a tremendous match against each other in the Cruiserweight Classic but it ended amicably and their team went from strength to strength. They engaged in an amazing feud with The Revival, who I’ll come to later, which culminated in an absolutely super Two out of Three Falls match at NXT Takeover: Toronto which saw DIY finally claim the gold that had eluded them for so long. But it’s not just against The Revival, they’ve had great matches with practically every team in NXT this year. On the last NXT show of the year – where they showed the entirety of the Osaka show – DIY defended their tag team titles against the team of Akira Tozawa and Tajiri and boy what a match that was. It caused some last second editing of my top 50 matches list as I watched it in the latter stages of New Year’s Eve when the article was all finished and just waiting to be posted, that’s how good the match was. The only mark against DIY this year is their name but that is me being extremely nit-picky and of course will play no part in determining whether or not they win this award. It only seems natural to come to the team they beat for those NXT Tag Team Championships next – The Revival. The team of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder really came out of nowhere last year to become one of my favourite teams and 2016 has seen them go from strength to strength. The name is incredibly fitting as the duo evoke the best memories of the likes of The Brainbusters and their ilk. That comparison may seem a bit over the top but The Revival have earned the right to be compared to those legends. Their mantra of “No flips, just fists” fits them perfectly and they have a case to say they’ve had the best match on every single Takeover this year. They truly are ‘Top Guys’ and have just been exceptional in every department this year from their ring work to their mic work to their character work. Their feuds have been phenomenal and they have everything it takes to become a Hall of Fame quality tag team – in fact, barring WWE brainlessly splitting them up any time soon, I’ll be shocked if they don’t earn that Hall of Fame moniker one day. We know The Revival had a great feud with DIY but our next contender in this list is the team they started off the year setting the world on fire with – American Alpha. Alpha comprises of loveable dork Chad Gable and the suplex machine that is Jason Jordan. These two complement each other so well both in the ring and out. Their goofy personas endear them to almost everyone who watches them and their skills in the ring are beyond question. They started the year off with a quest to win the NXT Tag Team Championship, something they did on WrestleMania weekend when they defeated The Revival in a tremendous encounter. All of their matches with The Revival were brilliant and even though they eventually lost the straps back to The Revival, that didn’t stop Alpha. They were drafted to SmackDown this year and were the clear favourites to become the first ever SmackDown Tag Team Champions. That was not to be as they were side-lined in a feud that saw the stagnant Usos turn heel and become the reinvigorated and incredibly entertaining Usos. That feud is far from over and will probably go on to become quite the historic rivalry if things continue the way they are. Alpha ended what was a defining year for them as a team by surprisingly defeating the Wyatt Family to win the Tag Team Championships on the final SmackDown of 2016. It was a win I didn’t see coming but one that Alpha definitely deserve. Our final contender is a bit of a dodgy one. Should they qualify as a tag team? Given the fact that I always consider trios as a tag team unit (albeit a six-man one) I decided the Worldwide Underground would. PJ Black, Jack Evans and the heinous Johnny Mundo and their devious cohort Taya have dominated the Lucha Underground landscape in Season Three. Since coming together, seemingly through a shared sense of self-importance and showcasing an inherent ability to be the most loathsome unit on the planet, they have caused havoc in the LU universe. It is no wonder I find them so entertaining to watch. Capping off their year in style with Johnny Mundo slithering his way to becoming Lucha Underground Champion they still found time to be such incredibly hateful people that they even disgust each other at times with the tensions simmering between Jack and PJ as well as Johnny and everyone. They have had an amazing year but was it enough? Well the short answer is no because no team could touch The Revival this year, they have had a better year than any tag team has had in a long time and, given the two years reDRagon have had in 2014 and 2015, that is a hugely impressive feat.

The winner is: The Revival

Match of the Year:

As per usual I won’t go into too much detail of all the different contenders in this particular category because it would spoil things for those of you who haven’t read my Top 50 Matches of 2016 list yet (you can read it here, by the way). So we’ll just stick with the match that won. For the second year in a row New Japan delivered the best match of the year for me and this year it was the G1 Climax Final that pitted long suffering Hirooki Goto, sadly world renowned as a choke artist, against current Bullet Club leader Kenny Omega to determine who would win the briefcase for an IWGP Heavyweight Championship match at the January 4th Dome Show (it’s just around the corner folks). I know a lot of people thought the best match from this year’s G1 Climax was the B Block finale between Omega and Tetsuya Naito and although that was a fantastic match I felt this one had the edge. The story these two told was nothing short of phenomenal and really made me buy into Omega as a legitimate leader of Bullet Club and, more importantly, a legitimate main event player in New Japan. It’s not that I’ve ever had anything against Omega – I’ve always really liked the guy but something just didn’t click with him in New Japan for me. Both his Jr. Heavyweight Title run and his Intercontinental Title run had left a lot to be desired and he was stuck with the albatross that Bullet Club has become. But this G1 was Kenny’s break out party and boy did he save his best performance for last. This match had everything, great wrestling, great storytelling, great drama, some really big spots and a ton of really good near falls. The only criticism I would have is after everything Goto has gone through in the past few years, he really needed this win. Going to the finals would have been a break out moment for Omega regardless but this felt like Goto’s last chance to be a real main eventer in New Japan – something he absolutely deserves. And it would have actually made Gedo’s weird booking of him (acknowledging his “choking”, becoming so submissive to Okada, joining CHAOS etc.) make sense because it would have all built to this and then him defeating Okada in a Tokyo Dome main event to really cement himself in the upper echelon of NJPW. Sadly Gedo has no interest in that and instead Omega went over. I was disappointed in the winner but the match itself was nothing short of outstanding and a well deserving winner of the Match of the Year accolade.

The winner is: Hirooki Goto vs. Kenny Omega, G1 Climax Final – G1 Climax: Day Nineteen (NJPW)

Angle/Feud of the Year:

This is another category where nothing really stood out to me. It’s not that there were no good rivalries this year, there were plenty, but never was I watching something unfold and thinking “this is going to be tough to beat”. We’ll start off our contenders in ROH with a feud that spanned practically the entire year, Kyle O’Reilly vs. Adam Cole. The two had been feuding since the back half of 2015 and finished off that particular year with Cole sneaking a win out against O’Reilly at Final Battle before falling victim to O’Reilly beating him down after the match. Obviously, however, that didn’t settle it. They came into the New Year immediately establishing themselves as the two best contenders for Jay Lethal’s ROH World Championship which led to an excellent three-way dance at the 14th Anniversary Show. After both came up short, Cole and O’Reilly’s focus returned to being solely fixated on one another. This led to what everyone assumed was a feud-ending No Holds Barred Main Event at Supercard of Honor X. O’Reilly won an enthralling encounter and everyone moved on. Cole took some time off, O’Reilly focused his attentions on becoming ROH World Champion. When Cole returned he revealed himself as the newest member of Bullet Club and this is where the feud reignited. Cole made the claim that O’Reilly would never be ROH World Champion as long as he was around. Then came a heavily promoted match on ROH Television when O’Reilly took on World Champion Jay Lethal in a match that was expected to be given the full television hour. Before the match could start though Cole and his goons attacked O’Reilly leaving him in no state to compete. He returned later in the show to compete but he was at an obvious disadvantage, eventually losing to Lethal after an incredible match that everyone who hasn’t watched it should check out. Post-match Bullet Club beat him down again and this wrote Kyle off the shows for a little while. Cole, meanwhile, turned his focus onto becoming only the third ever two-time ROH World Champion, something he accomplished by defeating Lethal at Death Before Dishonor XIV. O’Reilly returned and, along with long-time friend and tag team partner Bobby Fish, took the fight to Bullet Club. Eventually getting his chance at Cole in a No Disqualification match for the World Championship at Final Battle. The match never reached the heights of their Supercard of Honor match from earlier in the year but it was still phenomenal and O’Reilly finally got the win that mattered over Cole – at Final Battle, for the belt. This story lasted practically eighteen months with very little space in between and yet not once was it boring. It was a blast of a feud which really kept ROH going through an otherwise underwhelming 2016. Over to Japan and Pro Wrestling NOAH to look at our next feud which saw NOAH, specifically Katsuhiko Nakajima, versus Suzuki-gun. NOAH did a brilliant job of building Nakajima up this year through his matches with Minoru Suzuki and his unsuccessful tilt at Takashi Sugiura’s GHC Heavyweight Championship so, despite years of underutilisation, by the time we got to October, and Nakajima’s second title shot of the year, he was more than ready. He defeated Sugiura to become Champion and went on to successfully defend it against Suzuki-gun leader Minoru Suzuki in a match that all but sealed the end for Suzuki-gun in NOAH. I’ve been baying for NOAH to push Nakajima for years and this time around they’ve got it right, he was the right man to finally end Suzuki-gun’s stranglehold on NOAH and he’s the right man to take the company forward into 2017 and beyond. This angle, although overstaying its welcome by the end, did exactly what it needed to. We’ll stick with NOAH for the next angle which is one of those difficult angles that actually started in 2015, meaning all the good bits from the previous year can’t really be taken into account but to give you some background into this angle I’m going to discuss it briefly. In 2009 Go Shiozaki was being primed to be the next top star in Pro Wrestling NOAH. He had been successfully teaming with Puro legend Mitsuharu Misawa and was clearly being put into a position where he could become the ace of the company and allow Misawa to slowly retire. Sadly, Misawa died in a tag team match in the middle of 2009, this threw the whole company into chaos. Losing Misawa was one of my saddest moments in all my years of watching wrestling and led me to seriously question my fandom. It was also the catalyst that caused NOAH to almost die as a company. The day after Misawa’s untimely passing, then GHC Heavyweight Champion Jun Akiyama announced he would have to vacate the belt due to injury and nominated Shiozaki to challenge for the now vacant belt. Shiozaki did and beat Takeshi Rikio to claim his first crown. Unfortunately, this all came far too soon for Shiozaki and his popularity was seriously hindered. He eventually dropped the belt to Takashi Sugiura and he was never quite the same thereafter. He won the title again but it was never the same and he seemed like damaged goods. He eventually left the company when they were arguably at their lowest ebb to jump to rival promotion All Japan Pro Wrestling. After things didn’t work out for him there he came back to NOAH. His return received little fanfare and he was initially rejected by both the crowd and the locker room. Only one person accepted him, Yoshinobu Kanemaru who had also recently returned to the promotion from All Japan. After Sugiura’s shocking betrayal of NOAH to join Suzuki-gun, Shiozaki offered his services in the fight against Suzuki-gun but NOAH Ace Naomichi Marufuji turned him down. Switching into the stuff that counts, i.e. occurred in 2016 Shiozaki’s search for acceptance went on but his year didn’t start well when his only friend, Kanemaru, also turned on NOAH and joined Suzuki-gun. However, his old friend Maybach Taniguchi came to his aid. In the main event of that same show Marufuji dropped the belt to Sugiura and after the match finally accepted Shiozaki back into the fold with a handshake and handed he and Taniguchi the NOAH flag, symbolically saying that he had failed and it was time for them to defend NOAH. Shiozaki’s, and by extension Taniguchi’s, feud with Suzuki-gun intensified leading to the two unsuccessfully challenging for the GHC Tag Team Championship. Shiozaki also focused on attacking Suzuki-gun via the singles route and eventually became the #1 contender. In May Shiozaki defeated Sugiura to reclaim the GHC Title for NOAH. His reign lasted only for two months and he and Taniguchi eventually won the Tag Team Championships as NOAH finally saw off the threat of Suzuki-gun but that moment when he defeated Sugiura to win the Championship was very special. Sure, it didn’t last very long but Nakajima was the end game, not Shiozaki and this redemption angle he had played out perfectly. We now travel back to the States for our final two contenders. First from the land of opportunity in SmackDown comes the Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz feud. Dolph has really become maligned by the hardcore wrestling crowd but I still like him. It may help that I never watched his feud with Rusev which seemed to be the point where a lot of fans turned on him. However, this feud did raise his stock, albeit only slightly. The story started off with Ziggler challenging for Miz’s Intercontinental Championship after Miz had made some less than complimentary comments about Ziggler and his penchant for losing big matches. Ziggler’s challenges were unsuccessful usually down to Miz cheating or his wife Maryse interfering, or both. Eventually Miz got so far under Dolph’s skin that he agreed to put his career on the line for one more shot at Miz’s Intercontinental Championship. Dolph was successful in one of the best WWE matches of the year and the feud up to that point was probably the leading contender for this award. Sadly, mainly due to how thin SmackDown’s roster is, the feud didn’t end there and eventually Miz reclaimed the title which has blotted the copybook of this feud – especially since it somewhat negated Ziggler supposedly silencing his critics who said he choked in big matches. It was still an incredibly well-built, heated feud though and one which saw both men do their best work in years. Our final contender for this award comes from the land of NXT and directly correlates to our previous award. It is of course than fantastic feud between The Revival and DIY. The month of May saw Gargano and Ciampa score what seemed like a strange win against The Revival since The Revival were just about to receive their rematch for the NXT Tag Team Championship against American Alpha. It made perfect sense though as The Revival won that match as well as Alpha’s rematch which set up DIY as the obvious next opponents for Dash and Dawson. This match happened at Takeover: Brooklyn II in a mesmerising match of supreme quality that absolutely stole the show and saw The Revival just hand onto their Tag Team Titles. That was probably meant to be the end of it as it seemed obvious WWE were building towards splitting Ciampa and Gargano up but the reception that match received I believe changed WWE’s mind and they built to the rematch which took place in Toronto at the next Takeover event. This match somehow topped their previous outing, a brilliant Two out of Three Falls match with took the number five place on my Match of the Year list. The match ended with both Dash and Dawson tapping simultaneously and DIY getting a moment that was just perfect in the eyes of many fans. This rivalry was very special and to be honest all five angles mentioned would all have been worthy winners but in the end I had to give the edge to the Go Shiozaki redemption angle as I believe it was the most perfectly written and complete of the lot.

The winner is: Go Shiozaki’s Redemption

Best One-off Show of the Year:

I feel like I’m repeating myself here but this was another category that was virtually impossible to decide. There were four shows in serious consideration for this award and we’ll go in chronological order meaning we start with Takeover: Dallas. What a tremendous show this was and the fact that it took place just two days before a shocking WrestleMania only hammered that point home. The show started off with a fantastic Tag Team Championship match between The Revival and American Alpha which saw Alpha finally claim the NXT Tag Team Titles. After that we saw Austin Aries’ in-ring debut and saw him manage to get the first decent match I’d ever seen out of Baron Corbin. That being said, this was definitely the low point of the evening. Next saw the utterly sublime debut of Shinsuke Nakamura in an instant classic effort with the departing Sami Zayn. A virtually perfect match, how could you not love this show? Following that effort was Bayley’s unsuccessful defence of her NXT Women’s Championship against Asuka. This match played out far differently from how I expected it to with Bayley getting in a lot more offence than expected and it was all the better for it. Allowing Bayley that offence did not detract from Asuka’s title win and proved that underdog babyfaces don’t have to be portrayed as loveable but seriously deficient wrestlers to get over against a monster heel which – despite her size – Asuka is booked as. Now we come to the main event, this did not quite live up to the rest of the card and frankly had the wrong result all because NXT wanted to shoehorn defending NXT Champion Finn Balor into the record books as the longest reigning NXT Champion. He really should have dropped the belt to Samoa Joe here but alas they decided the record was too important and they’d do the title change on a house show later. The Dallas show also had the first on-screen appearance of one Mr. Bobby Roode. Next we go to another NXT Takeover event, Takeover: Brooklyn II. This was another great event and we opened with a pitch-perfect opening contest between No Way Jose and Austin Aries. Post-match Aries was confronted by a returning Hideo Itami in a great moment that I was hoping would lead to the rejuvenation of both of their fledgling NXT careers. Sadly, we’ve ended the year with both injured but that does not detract from this show itself as the moment was brilliant. After this we saw the debut of Ember Moon as she defeated Billie Kay in a short but sweet match which saw her shock fans with her ‘O-Face’ finishing manoeuvre – I knew they’d have to come up with a different name for that move, I just wish that they would get on with choosing one but I digress, again. Next was the much anticipated in-ring debut of Bobby Roode. This was a truly special moment as Roode literally descended into the arena whilst the Brooklyn faithful serenaded him with his theme song. It was one of those moments in wrestling where the hair stands up on your arms and you realise you are witnessing something magical. The match he had with Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas wasn’t bad either although it only succeeded in getting Cien booed more than ever before – something which has worked out to everyone’s benefit as Almas has turned heel, thankfully. The Tag Team Championship which came next between The Revival and DIY has been mentioned plenty in this article already so I won’t spend too long on it, needless to say, it was awesome. Asuka defeated Bayley in Bayley’s rematch for the Women’s Championship she had lost at Takeover: Dallas. This was on the level, if not slightly better, than their bout in Dallas. The main event here was a very good match too as Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Samoa Joe to win the NXT Championship for the first time. Also, Shinsuke’s entrance featured a live violin solo lead-in – and it was utterly amazing. This show was an amazing way to spend two and a bit hours. The fact that SummerSlam was the next day put into perspective how much better NXT is than the main roster (there’s a pattern here). We come to early September and small Legion Hall in Reseda, California for our next contender. The 2016 Battle of Los Angeles was three nights of the best wrestling you would see all year, the best of which was Night Two and that’s what we will discuss here. This show was tremendous and saw Cody Rhodes debut for the promotion in a great match with NXT alumni Sami Callihan. Every match on this card was at worst good from the opener between Tommaso Ciampa and Dalton Castle to the – in my mind – overrated but still very good six-man tag outing in the main event that pitted Mount Rushmore 2.0’s The Young Bucks and Adam Cole against Matt Sydal, Ricochet and Will Ospreay. The match that stole the show though was the beautiful tag team match that saw Fenix and Pentagon, Jr. team up to defeat Heroes Eventually Die (Chris Hero and Tommy End). A superb encounter that showed once again this year just how good tag team wrestling can be when it is done right. Our final contender was one of the last big shows of the year with ROH’s Final Battle. I’ve defended ROH a fair bit in this article but I have no issue saying that their PPV’s have generally been a let-down. Final Battle, however, was unequivocally their best outing of the year. We started off with a six-man tag match that I really had no interest in seeing but ended up thoroughly enjoying through the efforts of all six competitors. We then came to our first disappointment of the night in a so-so match between Silas Young and Jushin Thunder Liger. Things picked up again straight after though as Dalton Castle and Colt Cabana had a great match showcasing both men’s strengths. The debuting Cody Rhodes took on Jay Lethal next and while the match itself was underwhelming the post-match drama was anything but as Cody turned heel in a brilliantly despicable way. Matt Taven’s New Kingdom won the brand-new Trios Championship next in a match that was far better than I expected. This was followed by three tremendous matches that elevated this from a good show to a great show starting off with a brilliant three-way dance for the ROH World Television Championship between Champion Marty Scurll, Dragon Lee and Will Ospreay. It warmed my heart to see Marty get the reaction he did when his music hit. Second was the Tag Team Championship match that saw The Young Bucks defend against The Briscoes in a match that I didn’t have high hopes for since these two teams have never really shown any good chemistry in any of their previous encounters. However, they delivered in spades here with a fantastic tag title match. Post-match we saw the emergence of Broken Matt Hardy to challenge the “Bucks of Youth” in a segment that blew my mind and the mind of everyone in the Hammerstein Ballroom that night. Finally, we came to the main event and the piece de resistance as Kyle O’Reilly won the ROH World Championship in an absolute war against Adam Cole. This was a great show, and a great way to end the year for ROH but it wasn’t quite enough. For me it came down to the two NXT shows which were so tightly matches. In the end, I just about gave the edge to the Brooklyn show but it was a hugely difficult choice. The match quality was arguably slightly better on the Dallas show – although even that is very tight – but the overall feel of the show and specifically how the show ended just gave Brooklyn the edge.

The winner is: Takeover: Brooklyn II

Worst One-off Show of the Year:

This is the first year this award – for lack of a better term – has existed. It came last year when I decided to beef up the awards with some extra categories (as well as making some of the ‘Minor Awards’ into ‘Major Awards) but the decision came so late in the year I decided not to apply them to the 2015 awards and instead just ready myself to use them in this year’s version. As for the winner itself, well it was decided pretty early in the year and it was always going to be difficult for anyone to beat it. I’m never one to deliberately seek out bad wrestling to watch for kicks so this award is always going to go to a show that I actually thought had a chance of being good but woefully underdelivered and in a massive role reversal having won best show of the year in both 2014 and 2015, it is WrestleMania 32. There were no other contenders for the award really. I literally wrote WrestleMania down as a possibility the day after it aired and then nothing else across the rest of the year even came close to the absolute disaster that was this WrestleMania. Let’s get the not terrible bits out of the way first. The Women’s Championship Three-Way Dance was a good match, and AJ vs. Jericho was not terrible – although it wasn’t nearly as good as I hoped it would be. There we go, that’s it. That’s the only good things I could come up with for this year’s effort. Now to the bad and we’ll start with the length of the show. Now let me preface this by saying I know WrestleMania is an extravaganza, it is the WWE’s answer to the Super Bowl and I get that it is going to be longer than your average PPV. However, this year’s runtime of five hours on the main show and a further two-hour pre-show made this an absolute slog to get through. It was particularly hard for me given I live in the UK so the show ended at some time around 5am if I remember correctly. That would be a hard show to get through even if it was excellent from top to bottom, sadly, this was not. We opened with an Intercontinental Championship match starring some of the best talent WWE has to offer – and Zack Ryder. So, of course, Ryder came out on top. The bar I was in to watch the show went from a rowdy bunch of wrestling fans excited to see WrestleMania making a level of noise comparable to that in a football stadium to a bunch of a wrestling fans making a level of sound that would not have been out of place in a library. The dreaded League of Nations took on New Day in a really confusing match where many thought the titles were on the line and after a dull match most were convinced New Day had lost the belts. And after the match Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley came out to lay waste to everyone for… some reason. This also occurred later in the show when The Rock came out with a flamethrower, bizarrely, and then used the flamethrower (figuratively) to torch the credibility of The Wyatt Family beating Erick Rowan in seconds with some sort of assist from John Cena (this show was so bad I’d already forgotten). Before that Baron Corbin had won the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal in a not terrible match, The Undertaker had defeated Shane McMahon in an absolutely terrible match and Brock Lesnar had made Dean Ambrose look like an absolute chump in a match that should have made Ambrose but instead came close to breaking him irreparably. That leaves us with the main event and boy did this main event fit this show. An absolute slog to get through, an undesirable result, a bored and frustrated crowd and a general poor representation of the company. Roman Reigns defeated Triple H in one of the worst main events in recent WrestleMania memory. It was turgid, as was the show. There was no other ‘winner’ this year, it simply had to be WrestleMania 32.

The winner is: WrestleMania 32

Best Moment of the Year:

We’ve had some great moments this year. Let’s start in PWG. On Night One of All Star Weekend XI we saw the return of Adam Cole to the promotion in a thoroughly brilliant moment. He was topped, however, the following night by the return of beloved babyface Kyle O’Reilly. Speaking of O’Reilly and Cole, we’ve discussed their Final Battle outing earlier in the article and O’Reilly willing lie in a bed of thumbtacks in order to get Cole to tap out and win the World Championship was a beautiful and cathartic moment. In Japan, we had two huge moments for guys finally winning the big one. One of these moments was capitalised on to full effect, one was completely wasted. So, we’ll start with the wasted one and look at how great a moment was when Tetsuya Naito defeated Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. As I said it was wasted but that doesn’t ruin the moment itself, only what came after and boy was this a great moment for Naito and the fans. On the flip side Katsuhiko Nakajima’s defeat of Takashi Sugiura and Suzuki-gun for the GHC Heavyweight Championship was a massively overdue but really enjoyable moment and NOAH are looking to use that moment to build for the future with Nakajima at the spearhead of that movement, and rightfully so. Back to WWE for the final three contenders and we have to start by talking about how special that moment was when DIY defeated The Revival for the NXT Tag Team Championship. I love both teams but I much prefer The Revival of the two and despite that, I was so engrossed in this match that by the end when Dash and Dawson tapped I cheered louder than I have for any Championship win since probably Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 31. Our next moment has also been discussed earlier – the debut of Shinsuke Nakamura. The atmosphere in Dallas when Nakamura made his entrance can only be described as electric – and everything that followed was amazing too. Most year’s this would have been enough to win but this year it was not. There was only one answer to this category and that answer came very early in the year when AJ Styles made his debut in the 2016 Royal Rumble. For years, I’ve wondered what it would be like if AJ ever appeared in the WWE but I never thought it would actually happen. Rumours had been swirling of this possibility over the preceding weeks but for some reason I just couldn’t buy into it. When his music hit I was intrigued and somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice was going “Could this be AJ?” When he appeared on the screen I lost my mind. It was a really special moment and realistically the only thing that could win this award.

The winner is: AJ Styles debuts in the Royal Rumble

Worst Moment of the Year:

I usually like to award this category to an astoundingly bad piece of booking or a moment that completely fell on its face because that was what I created this award for. Unfortunately, this year, I can’t. There is an elephant in the room that I simply cannot ignore. But first let’s talk about what would usually would have won this award. To understand that we have to go all the way back to the night after WrestleMania 28. John Cena is stood in the ring following a defeat to The Rock and calling him out to shake his hand when all of a sudden Brock Lesnar’s music hits. Making his return after eight years away from the company he returns to a thunderous ovation. Over the next four years Lesnar’s booking, sans weird defeats to John Cena and Triple H, can only be described as indomitable. WWE sacrificed a lot at the altar of the Beast Incarnate. Whether you like him or not John Cena has been the standard bearer in the WWE for a decade but when Summerslam 2014 rolled around Brock Lesnar defeated him in crushing fashion for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.  Earlier that year The Undertaker’s almost mythical undefeated streak at WrestleMania was snapped clean in two by Lesnar. He was the decimator of legends, the uncontrollable, undefeatable, unstoppable force of nature that Heyman always claimed he was. This year had been no different and although a lot of people – myself included – were starting to get sick of Brock and his ‘matches’ we all knew it would be huge for the man who would eventually slay the beast. So, when I was watching Survivor Series this year I had very little interest in Goldberg vs. Lesnar but I’d watched the whole show, and that was the main event – I wasn’t going to turn off so I settled down to watch it with my phone at my side so I could keep myself entertained in the obvious lulls that were going to occur in this match. Then Goldberg destroyed Lesnar with three moves and beat him in less than two minutes. It was shocking, it was unexpected, but most of all it was stupid. All that building up of Lesnar into almost a demi-god was thrown to one side for a 50-odd year old man who hadn’t wrestled in the better part of a decade and is probably only going to have two more matches in his entire career. That is spectacularly short-sighted and downright awful booking. I still, some months later, cannot comprehend how catastrophically stupid that was. They’ve tried to explain it away as Lesnar being underprepared and not taking Goldberg seriously enough. He’ll probably even get his win back at WrestleMania 33. But it’s too late. The spell is broken. That mythical demi-god beast is now just a man. So, yes, when he’s beaten in the future it will probably be seen as a big deal for whoever it is. But they could have created a star. Instead they threw it all away for a shocking end to a pay-per-view. It was a gargantuan waste of an opportunity. I’m struggling to find exactly the right words to show just how stupid I think this was but I’ve exhausted my vocabulary and still can’t find words cutting enough. That would have been a slam dunk of a winner in 2015, it probably would have been a slam dunk of a winner in 2017 but not in 2016. This award goes elsewhere and to one of the most soul-crushing segments I’ve ever seen on a wrestling show. The moment Daniel Bryan came out to announce his retirement from active competition. It was a necessary segment, a heart-warming one at times, and a genuinely lovely speech from Bryan. I know he should not ever wrestle again and if I had a chance to speak to him I’d tell him that despite being one of my favourite wrestlers of all-time I never want to see him wrestle again. But that didn’t take away from the trauma of watching a guy I’d been watching for nearly fifteen years, more than half my life was having to retire. It was awful and without a doubt that saddest segment in wrestling this year for me personally. With that, the worst moment of this pro wrestling year has to go to Daniel Bryan’s retirement.

The winner is: Daniel Bryan retires

Breakout Star of the Year:

This award is always a difficult one to quantify in terms of what actually makes someone a breakout star? I always define it as someone who has significantly improved their own standing in a promotion or in wrestling as a whole over the preceding twelve months. So, it is very much a subjective thing but based on that criteria, there were only two people who stood out as contenders this year. We start with the current GHC Heavyweight Champion Katsuhiko Nakajima. Nakajima has been around for a long time now, despite his still relatively young age. I mean as far back as 2005 he was teaming with his mentor Kensuke Sasaki in a revered match against Go Shiozaki and the legendary Kenta Kobashi. Despite this, he has never reached the levels he truly should have. His relationship with Sasaki has been both a blessing and a curse over his tenure in pro wrestling but I have to believe that, in recent years, it has been far more hindrance than help. However, 2016 was possibly his most important year to date. He started off the year looking like a serious contender for the GHC Heavyweight Championship and was at the forefront of NOAH’s fight against Suzuki-gun. He was victorious against their leader Minoru Suzuki but came up short against Takashi Sugiura as he looked to reclaim the title for NOAH. After that he took part in New Japan’s prestigious G1 Climax tournament where he made a huge impression. Naomichi Marufuji may have got the IWGP Heavyweight Championship match and Go Shiozaki may have got the feud with Katsuyori Shibata but Nakajima was arguably the NOAH wrestler who left the biggest impact during that timeframe. Back in NOAH he unseated Sugiura to finally win the GHC Heavyweight Championship and is looking to become the ace of the promotion. He has a truly fantastic year and his stock has raised significantly but he was already a star in NOAH before this year so now we look at his opponent in this award, somebody who has broken out into new frontiers – Marty Scurll. I really got on board with Scurll last year when I saw his debut for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, this year he went from strength to strength. Having great matches all over the world and becoming one of the best heels on the planet. His No Disqualification Match with Will Ospreay in PROGRESS this year really made a lot of people sit up and take notice. He then went onto win the definitive North American wrestling tournament in PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles just one year after he debuted for the company in the very same tournament. He made such a big splash that when ROH came back to the UK for the first time in a decade he was one of the people brought into the company – on a permanent deal – to help galvanise attention for their UK events. On that UK tour he beat fellow Briton Will Ospreay to claim the ROH World Television Championship which he went on to successfully defend against Ospreay and Dragon Lee at Final Battle, ROH’s premier event, in his North American debut for the company. It really was an unbelievable year for The Villain and despite Nakajima arguably having a better year in terms of what he has achieved, Marty has improved his standing in the world of pro wrestling more in my opinion and for that he wins the 2016 Breakout Star of the Year Award.

The winner is: Marty Scurll

Most Improved Superstar:

Three options stand out immediately in this category: Jack Evans, Chris Jericho and The Miz. Let’s take a look at them in alphabetical order, starting with Evans. Jack Evans was a big part of ROH during the company’s best years and despite being a significant part of one of my favourite stables of all-time, Generation Next, he was never somebody I particularly cared for. I’ve never subscribed to the theory that has been bandied around over the years that indie guys are just spot monkey’s doing ‘MOVEZ’ with no selling or psychology to their game but, to me, Jack Evans has always fit that bill. Add to that the fact that he’s never really had any semblance of a character outside of ‘I do flips’ and his promo skills have always been somewhat terrible, I’ve never rated the guy. This year things changed though. Evans really took to life in Lucha Underground through his feud with Drago. Defeating Drago via unscrupulous means he started calling himself the ‘Dragon Slayer’ and was portraying the most egotistical of characters. Later joining up with PJ Black to fight off Drago and Aerostar. In one of Dario Cueto’s great ideas, during a Trios Tournament he teamed the devious PJ and Evans up with perennial babyface Fenix. The team worked surprisingly well together and were in line for a Trios Championship match against the Tecnico Dream Team (Dragon Azteca, Jr., Rey Mysterio and Prince Puma) when Fenix was taken out backstage by Johnny Mundo. Mundo took Fenix’s place in the match and what would go on to become known as the Worldwide Underground won the Trios Championship. They would eventually lose them to the team of Aerostar, Drago and Fenix but they had a good run on top. After that Evans continued to help further the major Worldwide Underground goal, Johnny Mundo as Lucha Underground Champion. Mundo succeeded and continued to put pressure on Evans and the other members to do his bidding. Evans is currently embroiled in a slight feud with PJ Black as tensions within the Worldwide Underground continue to simmer but, overall, he’s just improved his character and mic skills so much that I can almost forego the flips for no reason and the complete lack of psychology to his matches just because he’s become so damn entertaining, and that is something I thought I would never say. Next let’s look at Chris Jericho. Now I can hear some of you scratching your heads on this one. After all, Chris Jericho is a legend in this industry and has had one of the most storied careers we’ve ever seen so how can he, of all people, be the most improved? The answer, to me, is simple. As much as I love Jericho his last few runs have fallen flat with me. I didn’t hate them as much as a lot of people – a lot of fans I spoke to never wanted to see him come back again as his last few runs had been so bad in their eyes – and I will always want to see Jericho but this year he’s had probably his best run since serious man Jericho in 2008. Ever since turning heel against AJ Styles he has been nothing short of masterful to watch. Creating this almost mid-life crisis character with the scarves and the mannerisms, throwing his toys out of the pram like a petulant child, Jericho managed to get real heat for a while – something I never thought I’d see him get again. The reinvention of ‘The List’ has been a stroke of genius and Jericho is the most over he has been in a long, long time. Our final contender is The Miz. I’ve always thought Miz was solid, nothing spectacular, and I certainly had no desire to see him main event a WrestleMania but he’s always been decent. I was very excited when he beat Zack Ryder for the Intercontinental Championship on the RAW after WrestleMania but I was just excited to get the belt off Ryder, I had no idea what greatness that title switch was going to bring. Refining his movie star character and adding his wife Maryse as his valet has really made him an incredible heel. He’s been great all year but, as expected, his year really took off when he was drafted to SmackDown in the brand split draft. Since then the game has changed and Miz has clicked into a higher gear than ever before. His feud with Dolph Ziggler was an amazing one which I’ve detailed in the angles of the year category but his overall presentation has been fantastic, regardless of opponent. His ring work has improved marginally, his promos have been slightly better but really it is his character that has improved exponentially this year. When I watch SmackDown Live every week he’s one of the first people I’m excited to see. His feud with General Manager Daniel Bryan led to an absolutely killer promo on one of the early editions of Talking Smack. Bryan accused Miz of being a coward because of his style of wrestling which led to a ferocious blast back from Miz accusing Bryan of being the coward for his reckless style which led to his retirement and saying if Bryan loved wrestling so much then why wasn’t he resigning as GM and wrestling on the indies. The promo had fire I’d never seen from The Miz before and perfectly encapsulated the improvements he has made over the calendar year, and that is why he is my most improved performer of 2016.

The winner is: The Miz

Most Underutilised Superstar of the Year:

This is the first year this award has been awarded and it came about when I was writing last year’s awards and realised how frustrating it was to watch so many different companies fritter away so many potential stars so imagine my surprise when it came to the end of the year and all three contenders for this award actually came from the same company, WWE. We start with the Swiss Superman himself, Cesaro. Now much has been made of the infamous comment Vince McMahon made that Cesaro was “Too Swiss”. The comment was mindboggling at the time and remains so today. Vince claimed that Cesaro couldn’t connect with the audience yet he is one of the most consistently over performers on the roster. I genuinely don’t get why WWE don’t see him as a top star, it blows my mind. Cesaro spent the first quarter of the year injured but returned to great fanfare after WrestleMania in a #1 contenders match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He came up short in that match but the fact that he was in that four-way gave me hope that WWE had seen the light and he was now in the main event picture. My hope was misplaced. Despite a slight slip down in the card he was part of a great four-way feud for The Miz’s Intercontinental Championship which also involved Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. He was then involved in a never-ending series with Sheamus which, in a remarkably stupid booking decision, literally never ended after match seven in their best of seven series ended in a draw. The duo was then put together as a tag team. At first things really didn’t seem to click but slowly the chemistry came and Cesaro and Sheamus became a cohesive unit, teaming to end the New Day’s mammoth record-breaker of a Tag Team Championship run. For his success towards the end of the year and generally decent feuds he was a part of I couldn’t justify Cesaro winning this award, but he is still massively underutilised by the company and it is crazy that he has never been World Champion. Up next is everyone’s favourite underdog, Sami Zayn. Zayn has had a tough first year on the main roster. He debuted in the Royal Rumble attacking long-time rival Kevin Owens. The two would feud for most of the first half of the year and although the matches were good and the rivalry was good, Zayn was booked to look like a chump for most of the feud which really hurt him in the eyes of the fans. WWE attempted to fix that by having Zayn defeat Owens in a great match to end their feud and it worked to an extent. Unfortunately, hating Kevin Owens had slowly become Zayn’s only character trait which is far too one dimensional. He went on to have heatless feuds with the Dudley Boyz and Chris Jericho. He unsuccessfully challenged for the Intercontinental Championship at the cross-branded PPV Survivor Series failing, in Stephanie McMahon’s words, to bring the Championship to RAW. His punishment was a match with Braun Strowman which, shockingly, was the best thing to happen to Zayn all year. Involved in a real feud for the first time in six months Zayn took full advantage bringing the best matches we’ve ever seen out of Strowman and helping to cultivate a really entertaining storyline that built Strowman as a monster heel with no remorse against a never-say-die babyface that echoed David vs. Goliath. Zayn did end up coming up a little short in his final match against Strowman (which took place in 2017 so is of no consequence to this award anyway) but that didn’t matter. The feud had done its job and massively inflated the stock of both performers. So Sami has been utilised poorly, but they’ve done enough right with him to not “win” this award. That leaves me with the most underutilised performer of 2016 and it is… Tyler Breeze. An NXT stalwart Breeze was promoted to the main roster in late-2015. By 2016 he’d already been relegated to afterthought but that was at the top of his descent. Doing nothing of note in the first quarter his highlights included being eliminated in mere minutes in his first Royal Rumble, being eliminated with ease from the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania and losing to Zack Ryder on Superstars. He was then unfortunately dragged into the awful Golden Truth formation angle until a good thing happened to Breeze for the first time in 2016 when he, and the other person dragged into that angle – Fandango, grew tired of the Golden Truth and turned on them forming a tag team that would go on to be known as the Fashion Police. Breeze and Fandango ended up losing to the feud to Golden Truth after Goldust burned them by turning up the dial on their tanning machine – I am not making this up. Thankfully, in the brand split The Fashion Police were drafted to SmackDown. A sure-fire sign that things were looking up for the team, right? Wrong. It started well, when they defeated The Usos in a tremendous pre-show match before Battleground but things were all downhill from there. SmackDown’s biggest failing since the draft is the massive underutilisation of this tag team. They have such great potential but remain jobbers. It took place in 2017 so has no effect on the award but this fact is best illustrated by the fact that Breeze and Fandango faced American Alpha this week and were squashed in less than sixty seconds. They’re just not seen as anything other than jobbers which is a shame because they are a great tag team and Breeze is a great singles star – just look at his NXT run.

The winner is: Tyler Breeze

Televised Show of the Year (consistency-wise):

Another category, another time when I felt there were only three options available to me – although SmackDown made a real run for this award in the post-brand split era but they just didn’t have enough time to make up the ground from being an enjoyable show of little to no importance or consequence in the first half of the year. This award is given as, hopefully, indicated in its longwinded title for a show that airs throughout the year and produces the most consistently entertaining product therefore it obviously can’t be a PPV but has to be a series of shows with the same brand name. I’ll start with Ring of Honor’s weekly show, ROH Wrestling. I love the way ROH utilise their hour of programming each week. You get the occasional great match but the show is far more about building people’s characters and personalities as well as furthering angles rather than the actual matches themselves and most importantly, since it is only one hour per week, nobody gets overexposed. You still get great matches such as the Lethal vs. O’Reilly World Title clash but even then, so much of that match further storylines from ROH vs. Bullet Club to Lethal’s face turn to establishing O’Reilly as a never-say-die, main event babyface to Cole vs. O’Reilly to even Nigel’s loosening grasp on control in the company something which was written into his departure from ROH. NXT follows a similar style to this and I’ve heard people describe the weekly shows as boring. I couldn’t disagree more. I love seeing how NXT are building people up through their weekly shows rather than just throwing Championship matches out there for no reason. And when those Championship matches do happen on the weekly show they’re always well-built and heavily promoted. For how NXT operates the TV show is utilised perfectly. So, I’ve waxed lyrical about both of those weekly shows and how they operate but they’re both runners-up in this category. That’s because there is a company with a different style out there. One without PPVs or special events to build to. Lucha Underground. LU is different because their TV show is their only product. I’ve talked about why Lucha Underground has been so good this year in the Promotion of the Year category so I don’t feel I need to spend too long explaining why they won this award for the second year in a row. To put it simply you get amazing stories and matches on a weekly basis. Even one segment can steal the week of pro wrestling like Vampiro bringing Puma back-to-life or Pentagon’s encounter with Catrina backstage. LU knows what it is, and it plays to that and that’s why 99% of the time every show is enjoyable.

The winner is: Lucha Underground

Minor End-Year Awards:

Face of the Year: Kyle O’Reilly

Heel of the Year: Johnny Mundo

Best Commentator of the Year: Corey Graves

Worst Commentator of the Year: David Otunga

Non-Wrestler of the Year: Vampiro

Gimmick/Character of the Year: Mil Muertes

Promo of the Year: The Miz’s “I’m not a coward” promo to Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack

Finisher of the Year: Marty Scurll’s Chickenwing

Spot/Bump of the Year: Roderick Strong hits End of Heartache on Candice LeRae through a collection of chairs

Worst Television Show of the Year (consistency-wise): Monday Night RAW

List of Winners:

Promotion of the Year:

2011: WWE
2012: TNA
2013: PWG
2014: ROH
2015: ROH
2016: Lucha Underground

Superstar of the Year:

2011: CM Punk (WWE)
2012: Christopher Daniels (TNA)
2013: Daniel Bryan (WWE)
2014: Adam Cole (ROH/PWG)
2015: Jay Lethal (ROH)
2016: AJ Styles (NJPW/WWE)

Wrestler of the Year:

2011: El Generico (ROH/PWG)
2012: Austin Aries (TNA)
2013: Daniel Bryan (WWE)
2014: AJ Styles (NJPW/ROH)
2015: Roderick Strong (ROH/PWG)
2016: Kyle O’Reilly (NJPW/ROH/PWG)

Female Superstar of the Year:

2011: Cheerleader Melissa (SHIMMER)
2012: Gail Kim (TNA)
2013: Cheerleader Melissa (SHIMMER)
2014: Candice LeRae (PWG)
2015: Bayley (NXT)
2016: Becky Lynch (WWE)

Tag Team of the Year:

2011: The All Night Express (ROH)
2012: Bad Influence (TNA)
2013: The Young Bucks (PWG/ROH)
2014: reDRagon (ROH)
2015: reDRagon (ROH/NJPW)
2016: The Revival (NXT)

Match of the Year:

2011: John Cena vs. CM Punk, WWE Championship – Money in the Bank (WWE)
2012: The Undertaker vs. Triple H, Hell in a Cell (Special Guest Referee: Shawn Michaels) – Wrestlemania XXVIII (WWE)
2013: CM Punk vs. John Cena – RAW (25th February) (WWE)
2014: The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family – Elimination Chamber (WWE)
2015: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi, IWGP Intercontinental Championship – Wrestle Kingdom 9 (NJPW)
2016: Hirooki Goto vs. Kenny Omega, G1 Climax Final – G1 Climax: Day Nineteen (NJPW)

Angle/Feud of the Year:

2011: CM Punk vs. John Cena/Vince McMahon/WWE (build-up to Money in the Bank) (WWE)
2012: Austin Aries vs. Bobby Roode (Aries’ rise to the TNA World Heavyweight Championship) (TNA)
2013: Daniel Bryan “The Weak Link” (WWE)
2014: Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority (build-up to WrestleMania XXX) (WWE)
2015: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks (Bayley’s rise to the NXT Women’s Championship) (NXT)
2016: Go Shiozaki’s Redemption (Pro Wrestling NOAH)

Best One-off Show of the Year:

2011: Money in the Bank (WWE)
2012: Slammiversary X (TNA)
2013: Battle of Los Angeles: Night Two (PWG)
2014: WrestleMania XXX (WWE)
2015: WrestleMania 31 (WWE)
2016: Takeover: Brooklyn II (NXT)

Worst One-off Show of the Year (initiated in 2016):

2016: WrestleMania 32 (WWE)

Best Moment of the Year:

2011: Christian wins the World Heavyweight Championship at Extreme Rules (WWE)
2012: Kevin Steen wins the ROH World Championship at Border Wars (ROH)
2013: Daniel Bryan wins the WWE Championship at Summerslam (WWE)
2014: Daniel Bryan wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXX (WWE)
2015: Seth Rollins cashes in Money in the Bank to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 31 (WWE)
2016: AJ Styles debuts in the Royal Rumble (WWE)

Worst Moment of the Year:

2011: Jim Ross and Michael Cole’s “rap-off” (WWE)
2012: Hornswoggle is revealed to be the Anonymous RAW GM by Santino “Sherlock” Marella (WWE)
2013: John Cena’s performance on the 14th January edition of Monday Night RAW in the Steel Cage match with Dolph Ziggler which made Pierce Brosnan laugh at its lack of realism (WWE)
2014: Daniel Bryan not being in the Royal Rumble (WWE)
2015: Roman Reigns wins the Royal Rumble (WWE)
2016: Daniel Bryan retires (WWE)

Breakout Star of the Year:

2011: Beer Money (Bobby Roode & James Storm) (TNA)
2012: Daniel Bryan (WWE)
2013: The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins) (WWE)
2014: Sami Zayn (NXT)
2015: Dalton Castle (ROH)
2016: Marty Scurll (ROH/PROGRESS/PWG)

Most Improved Superstar of the Year (initiated in 2016):

2016: The Miz (WWE)

Most Underutilised Superstar of the Year (initiated in 2016):

2016: Tyler Breeze (WWE)

Televised Show of the Year (consistency-wise):

2011: SmackDown (WWE)
2012: Impact Wrestling (TNA)
2013: RAW (WWE)
2014: NXT (NXT)
2015: Lucha Underground (Lucha Underground)
2016: Lucha Underground (Lucha Underground)

Minor End-Year Awards:

Face of the Year:

2011: El Generico (ROH/PWG)
2012: CM Punk (WWE)
2013: Daniel Bryan (WWE)
2014: Candice LeRae (PWG)
2015: Mike Bailey (PWG)
2016: Kyle O’Reilly (NJPW/ROH/PWG)

Heel of the Year:

2011: Bully Ray (TNA)
2012: Bobby Roode (TNA)
2013: Adam Cole (ROH/PWG)
2014: Adam Cole (ROH/PWG)
2015: Roderick Strong (PWG)
2016: Johnny Mundo (Lucha Underground)

Best Commentator of the Year:

2011: Jim Ross (WWE)
2012: Nigel McGuinness (ROH)
2013: Todd Kenneley (TNA)
2014: Excalibur (PWG)
2015: Corey Graves (NXT)
2016: Corey Graves (NXT/WWE)

Worst Commentator of the Year (initiated in 2016):

2016: David Otunga (WWE)

Non-Wrestler of the Year (initiated in 2016):

2016: Vampiro (Lucha Underground)

Gimmick/Character of the Year:

2011: Christopher Daniels’ “Face of the Company” Character (TNA)
2012: Christopher Daniels’ Apple-tini sipping, evil mastermind character (TNA)
2013: Daniel Bryan’s inferiority complex (weak link storyline) character (WWE)
2014: The Young Bucks’ overly self-aware characters (PWG/ROH)
2015: Dalton Castle (ROH)
2016: Mil Muertes (Lucha Underground)

Promo of the Year:

2011: CM Punk & John Cena “Cena is a dynasty” (WWE)
2012: CM Punk & John Cena’s promo on the go-home show before Night of Champions with Bret Hart (WWE)
2013: Mark Henry’s “Retirement” (WWE)
2014: Dean Ambrose: Post Shield Break-up (WWE)
2015: Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens’ contract signing (NXT)
2016: The Miz’s “I’m not a coward” promo to Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack (WWE)

Finisher of the Year:

2011: El Generico’s BRAINBUSTAHH! (ROH/PWG)
2012: Kevin Steen’s Package Piledriver (ROH/PWG)
2013: Daniel Bryan’s Baisuku Knee (WWE)
2014: The Young Bucks’ Meltzer Driver (PWG/ROH)
2015: Shinsuke Nakamura’s Boma Ye (NJPW/ROH)
2016: Marty Scurll’s Chickenwing (ROH/PROGRESS/PWG)

Spot/Bump of the Year (initiated in 2012):

2012: Nick Jackson’s Ladder fall turned into a springboard Swanton Bomb to the outside at Threemendous III (PWG)
2013: CM Punk hits a piledriver on John Cena in their #1 Contenders Match on RAW (WWE)
2014: The Young Bucks superkick Candice LeRae with a thumbtacked boot (PWG)
2015: Seth Rollins hits the Phoenix Splash for the first time in WWE (WWE)
2016: Roderick Strong hits End of Heartache on Candice LeRae through a collection of chairs (PWG)

Worst Television Show of the Year (consistency-wise) (initiated in 2016):

2016: Monday Night RAW (WWE)