It was yet another year in pro wrestling where the business was either linear or down. In the US, WWE continued to plod through with mind-boggling booking, but WrestleMania saved buyrates from being alarmingly down over the year. In TNA, they continued their usual business strategy of booking for TV ratings and not really giving a damn about their PPV numbers. ROH left HDNet and went into syndication, but the jury is still out on how they are doing.
Our pro wrestling awards will be WWE heavy because it’s the number one promotion in the US. But Alan keeps us honest with his independent and international choices. Alan, Duan, myself, Big D from Superfriends Universe, Ryan Pike from Tough Talk MMA give us their picks for the awards.
Most Outstanding Wrestler Of The Year
Alan – Daisuke Sekimoto and Akira Tozawa
I’m sitting on the fence and splitting this between two men who’ve had years that were utterly incredible. Daisuke Sekimoto basically played the NWA touring world champion role in the first half of the year as wXw champ defending the belt in three different continents. Invaded All Japan with Yuji Okabayashi and won the All Asia titles in one of several classics with Soya & Sanada. Had a MOTYC in his home promotion of Big Japan when Soya and Hama came to try to take back the belts. Won the Fire Festival in Zero 1 in a great final with the usually average Kohei Sato. Has had countless other ****+ singles and tag matches.
Akira Tozawa shares the spoils by having two amazing half years. The 1st half was all in the US where he became a hero in PWG with an absurd amount of MOTYCs, and was the best guy on the DGUSA shows too. Then in the second half of the year he made his return to Japan and instantly was in the main event picture. His title match with Mochi was incredible.
Duan – Dolph Ziggler
A huge breakout year for Ziggler – always gave it absolutely everything inside the ring regardless of his place on the card. There’s not a more consistent performer on the roster.
Ryan – CM Punk
Consistently delivered great promos and delivered great performances in the ring at the right times.
Big D – Daniel Bryan and CM Punk
Despite the storyline going from fascinating to lame WWE garbage, CM Punk managed to completely reinvigorate his career and for the first time became a super-over top babyface. Bryan had good matches up and down the card with guys of all shapes and sizes from Sin Cara to Mark Henry. He won Money in the Bank. He does tons of jobs and doesn’t even complain about it, then ends the year as World Champ. The cream rises to the top.
GG – Dolph Ziggler
He was my choice last year for who I expected big things from in 2011. And even throughout horrendous booking, I think he was the brightest star. For one, I looked forward most to his matches on every PPV and TV taping. Secondly, his selling has become Mr. Perfect-like, taking athletic bumps, and really selling the hell out of the beating he’s taking. Thirdly, I’m not sure there’s a better athlete in the company and if they don’t turn him loose in 2012, it will boggle my mind.
Pro Wrestling Show Of The Year
Alan – PWG DDT4
The PWG DDT4 show was a really amazing night of tag team action.
Duan – Money In The Bank
If there was one fleeting moment where I thought WWE might actually turn the ship around; this was it. A brilliantly booked and brilliantly executed PPV capping off a fascinating month of TV.
Ryan – Money In The Bank
A couple fun ladder matches, a few decent undercard bouts and a main event that delivered and then some.
Big D – Money In The Bank
Every single moment of the PPV I loved. From start to finish. The Divas Match was even OK! Henry vs. Big Show was great. Both MITBs were brutal and yet different, and CM Punk vs. John Cena was everything I love about the biz wrapped up into one match.
GG – Elimination Chamber
It was between this show and Money In The Bank for me. Part of the reason why I think this show may have been better in comparison is because I was there live, and I didn’t have to hear the inane commentary. My favorite part of the show was watching Edge and Rey Mysterio. They are experts at the Elimination Chamber match, making every possible near fall and big move count.
Match Of The Year
Alan – Susumu Yokosuka vs. Shingo Takagi (Dragon Gate in Nottingham – October 22nd)
Haven’t been able to watch it on tape yet, but I’m confident enough from the live experience that it was the MOTY and possibly my favorite match of all time.
Duan – The Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XXVII)
The only saving grace of this years Wrestlemania and Triple H’s career best performance. A miracle match considering the level of injury and inactivity for both men going into the show .
Ryan – CM Punk vs. John Cena (Money In The Bank)
High drama and a sense of real consequences in an industry that seems to have lost both.
Big D – The Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XXVII)
This match displayed the art of near-falls encompassed into one match.
GG – CM Punk vs. John Cena (Money In The Bank)
I wouldn’t put it on par with 2010’s Michaels/Undertaker match (which was the winner for me last year), but it’s the slightest notch below. There’s something missing from a lot of these big matches that Taker and HBK got right. The moves need to count. They need to make sense. And they need to lead the viewer to believe that the match could possibly be over. In that sense, Taker/HHH from this year’s WrestleMania was better than this was. But overall, I think this was slightly better because there was a curiosity about what was going to happen that is missing from every single Undertaker match that you watch. That curiosity, and then actual payoff worked tremendously and popped everyone.
Big Things In ’12
Alan – Manabu Soya and Takumi Soya
Manabu Soya was my original choice but after seeing his little bro Takumi in action recently I think both Soya brothers will have great 2012s.
Duan – Justin Gabriel
If you eliminate all the guys they have already tossed a world title to at some point, there isn’t a whole lot to work with. Gabriel has the skills, look and personality to take an opportunity should one be afforded to him.
Ryan – Antonio Cesaro
Best known as Claudio Castagnoli in PWG, CHIKARA and Ring of Honor, Cesaro is delivering some great performances in Florida Championship Wrestling. It’s only a matter of time before he hits the main roster.
Big D – Other than Wrestlemania XXVIII? Nothing.
Nobody is gonna get over and nobody will care about anything other than Mania unless we see Cena finally go heel.
GG – Brodus Clay
Even with the delay in his comeback from injury, I think he’s a guy that will need to be pushed. WWE is lacking heels and they have a bit of a script in how to book him by how they’ve booked Mark Henry this year. He could be Raw’s version of Henry.
Moment Of The Year
Alan – Kota Ibushi winning the Best Of The Super Juniors. So emotional.
Duan – CM Punk’s title win at MITB. The one and only time WWE had people talking this year.
Ryan – CM Punk blows a kiss to Vince McMahon, leaves WWE with the title…for two weeks. They may have whiffed on the follow-through, but the beginning of this angle was executed beautifully.
Big D – Granted CM Punk’s title win is pretty freakin’ big, Rock’s return actually created a spike in the ratings and viewership. Can’t be touched.
GG – I think Punk’s Raw-ending promo in late June was the moment of the year. It got so many people talking, specifically non-wrestling watchers. Whenever people start wondering if it was “real”, you know you’ve done something right. You can relive it on Paul Heyman’s website.
We’ll be back early next week with our boxing and MMA awards.