2015 Pro Wrestling Awards

2015 Pro Wrestling Awards

It’s the last of our FGB Awards for the year – check out our 2015 Pro Wrestling Awards.

Here are the categories:

Most Outstanding Wrestler
Show of the Year
Match of the Year
Breakout Star
Big Things in 2016

Participating in the awards are Duan, Alan, Big D, Alex Goff, and GG.

Most Outstanding Wrestler

Duan: Jay Lethal
If you asked me to predict this one back in January, Lethal wouldn’t have been in my first 100 guesses. I have always seen him as solid but unspectacular; a guy who will neither let you down nor inspire. He changed my perception completely in 2015. Jay has delivered at a main event level in a way that nobody else has. His character development has been stellar, his ring work is phenomenal, and his matches consistently live up to the hype. For my money, he’s the top talent in the industry at this moment.

Duan’s previous winners:
2014: Seth Rollins
2013: Daniel Bryan
2012: CM Punk
2011: Dolph Ziggler
2010: John Cena
2009: Chris Jericho
2008: Jeff Hardy

Alan: Yuji Okabayashi
One of things that I look for most in a great wrestler is true, believable fire. I think the standard of wrestlers in the world right now is as good as it’s ever been, but there are most certainly things that wrestlers of the past were better at. Exhibiting fire was one of those things. There is one man who still has this attribute in abundance and his name is Yuji Okabayashi. He might not be a mainstream household name, but he was the best pro wrestler on earth in 2015. He ascended to the top of his home promotion, Big Japan, but also was in demand across the Japanese scene. His tag series with mentor Daisuke Sekimoto against The Twin Towers was incredible, with the May 28th offering being a five star match of the year contender. On the singles front, his Strong World Heavyweight Title win over Sekimoto at Sumo Hall was an absolute barnburner as were his matches with Shuji Ishikawa and young Hideyoshi Kamitami. He even got a four star match out of the extremely limited Abdullah Kobayashi Jr.

Alan’s previous winners:
2014: Tomohiro Ishii
2013: Kazuchika Okada
2012: Kazuchika Okada
2011: Daisuke Sekimoto and Akira Tozawa
2010: Chris Hero
2009: KENTA
2008: Shingo Takagi

Big D: Seth Rollins
Solid work all year round, the major focus of many many major angles all over television, improved mic work, great matches all over, and walked out of Mania with the strap.

Big D’s previous winners:
2014: Seth Rollins
2013: Daniel Bryan
2012: Daniel Bryan
2011: Daniel Bryan and CM Punk
2010: Daniel Bryan
2009: Christopher Daniels
2008: Edge

Alex: Jay Lethal
What an amazing year Jay Lethal had. He entered this year as the television championship, then he won the world championship beating long-time champion Jay Briscoe. He had matches that were good with a variety of opponents and his promos were on the highest level of anyone currently in pro wrestling. His gimmick was simply his posture of a confident pro wrestler; a throwback that raised the profile of everything he was involved with.

Alex’s previous winners:
2014: AJ Styles

GG: AJ Styles
This one didn’t hit me over the head as a surefire pick, initially. But as I thought about which matches I enjoyed the most and which wrestlers I enjoyed watching the most, Styles kept coming up. While I didn’t love him in TNA, there’s something about him in New Japan (and ROH to a lesser extent) that resonates as big time. There are a few wrestlers who resonate as big time to me. Okada, Tanahashi, Lesnar, and Styles are the top four right now in my book of guys who can turn a pro wrestling match into a big event. And out of the four, I think I enjoyed Styles’ matches most.

GG’s previous winners:
2014: Adrian Neville
2013: Daniel Bryan
2012: CM Punk
2011: Dolph Ziggler
2010: Daniel Bryan
2009: Chris Jericho
2008: Chris Jericho

Show of the Year

Duan: Ultimo Lucha
This is a business in desperate need of some fresh thinking right now and Lucha Underground looks to be the promotion best capable of producing it. If they do one thing really well, it’s that they give you variety. From match to match and from segment to segment, you’re seeing different skills at work. They know each member of the roster has their own strengths and they’re able to weave them together to make something great. There was no better example of that than the Ultimo Lucha season finale. Completely different from any other supershow this year, while still remaining accessible enough for new viewers.

Duan’s previous winners:
2014: Payback
2013: SummerSlam
2012: TLC
2011: Money In The Bank
2010: WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Judgment Day
2008: Wrestlemania 24

Alan: Wrestle Kingdom 9
Four days into the year and this award was already sewn up. It was gonna to take a miracle for this to be knocked off its perch as the year rolled on. Dragon Gate and PWG tried their best, but nothing was topping a show headlined by the top two matches of the Dome! With a solid undercard to boot, this was an all-time classic show.

Alan’s previous winners:
2014: NJPW G1 Climax Day 7
2013: NJPW G1 Climax Day 4
2012: NJPW King Of Pro Wrestling
2011: PWG DDT4
2010: PWG Seven
2009: PWG Threemendous 2
2008: ROH Supercard Of Honor 3

Big D: WrestleMania 31
The New Japan Dome Show was unbelievable and I didn’t think anything could rival it, but this show… jeez. The manhood from Lesnar vs. Reigns, the insanity of the Ladder Match, Rusev’s epic entrance, and Hunter/Sting wackiness. Had so much fun watching this show and it was apparently better live.

Big D’s previous winners:
2014: Wrestlemania XXX
2013: SummerSlam
2012: TNA Destination X
2011: Money In The Bank
2010: WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Backlash
2008: ROH Supercard Of Honor 3

Alex: WrestleMania 31
I must admit I may be biased because I was there, but seeing WrestleMania live is amazing. The Undertaker match was flat, but the rest of the card delivered in its own way. The show was capped off with the surprise of Seth Rollins winning the world championship. Those who attended live were hit with a brisk shower of cold water after reading online reviews stating the show wasn’t that good when viewed on the WWE Network. I still stand by this show being the best of the year.

Alex’s previous winners:
2014: SummerSlam

GG: Wrestle Kingdom 9 and WrestleMania 31
This is a tie for me because WrestleMania 31 gets bumped based on the live experience of being there in person. Wrestle Kingdom 9 was the best show I watched on TV all year. Both shows felt huge and both had great matches. The overall wrestling was better from the Tokyo Dome, but no one does big events better than WWE.

GG’s previous winners:
2014: SummerSlam
2013: SummerSlam
2012: TNA Destination X
2011: Elimination Chamber
2010: WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Backlash
2008: Wrestlemania 24

Match of the Year

2015 Pro Wrestling awardsDuan: John Cena Vs Seth Rollins Vs Brock Lesnar – Royal Rumble: January 25, 2015
When WWE has been good this year it has usually involved at least one of these three men. Rollins as their top worker, Cena as their franchise player and Brock as the special attraction. These are really the three guys who can lift the company from its lull when given something worthwhile and this was definitely something worthwhile. WWE still does the triple threat better than anyone, and when you have stars of this caliber in it, it’s always going to deliver. The closing moments were genuine edge of the seat stuff.

Duan’s previous winners:
2014: John Cena vs Cesaro – February 17, 2014 Raw
2013: Brock Lesnar vs CM Punk – SummerSlam
2012: Triple H vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania 28
2011: Triple H vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXVII
2010: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Rey Mysterio vs Chris Jericho – The Bash

Alan: Shingo Takagi vs. Masaaki Mochizuki – Dragon Gate “Gate Of Destiny”: November 1, 2015
45-year old Mochizuki delivered a performance in this match that Dave Meltzer called “greater than any Shawn Michaels performance ever.” While that point is certainly debatable, there’s no arguing that this was an all-time classic performance by Mocchy. Right from the very moment the bell rang, he got out of the gates in a manner which instantly let you know this would be special. It was far from a one man show as Takagi was simply outstanding as the cocky, vicious heel looking to put the old man down once and for all. There were so many great moments spliced through the match which added to the story being told and by the time they got to the final chapter of the match, they had the crowd going absolutely bonkers. Stiffness, drama, storytelling, charisma, and a middle aged man doing dives – this had it all.

Alan’s previous winners:
2014: Masato Yoshino Vs Masaaki Mochizuki – January 16, 2014 and The Jimmys Vs The Millennials – September 23, 2014
2013: Kota Ibushi vs Shinsuke Nakamura – G1 Climax Day 4
2012: Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito – NJPW 40th Anniversary Show
2011: Shingo Takagi vs BxB Hulk – Dragon Gate: Pro Wrestling Festival In Kobe
2010: Susumu Yokosuka vs Shingo Takagi – Dragon Gate in Nottingham
2009: 2 Skinny Black Guys vs The Young Buck$ – PWG Threemendous 2
2008: Kenta Kobashi, KENTA, Akihiko Ito, & Atsushi Aoki vs. Kensuke Sasaki, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Kento Miyahara, & Takashi Okita

Big D: John Cena Vs Seth Rollins Vs Brock Lesnar – Royal Rumble: January 25, 2015
I’ve rarely been on pins and needles for a match but there’s something about Brock that does that. Plus, it’s not just him. Cena and Seth were unbelievable here and truly main eventers forever. Cena worked hard and took some insane bumps, I loved the false-injury to Brock, I loved Seth busting out the God’s Last Gift, I loved the absurd sequence that led to the finish – just amazing. 

Big D’s previous winners:
2014: Daniel Bryan vs Triple H – WrestleMania XXX
2013: Brock Lesnar vs CM Punk – SummerSlam
2012: Brock Lesnar vs John Cena – Extreme Rules
2011: Triple H vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXVII
2010: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXV
2008: Edge vs The Undertaker – Hell In A Cell

Alex: Sasha Banks Vs Bayley – NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn: August 22, 2015
This is pro wrestling at its best. When pro wrestling storytelling makes sense and flows from one arch to another, this is what can happen. I’m sure when super fan Bayley showed up in NXT, no one could imagine this match taking place, but staying disciplined, this opportunity came up and the company struck. Bayley finally winning the big one made me happy.

Alex’s previous winners:
2014: AJ Styles Vs Matt Sydal – November 10, 2014

GG: Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs Kazuchika Okada – Wrestle Kingdom 9: January 4, 2015
When I first watched this show, I thought the Nakamura/Ibushi match was better. But after watching it a second time, this match wasn’t only better; it was the best match I’ve seen all year. This was a pretty darn good year for wrestling matches if you watched more than one promotion.

GG’s previous winners:
2014: Adrian Neville vs Sami Zayn vs Tyler Breeze vs Tyson Kidd – NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way
2013: Daniel Bryan vs John Cena – SummerSlam
2012: Brock Lesnar vs John Cena – Extreme Rules
2011: CM Punk vs John Cena – Money In The Bank
2010: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXV
2008: Chris Jericho vs Shawn Michaels – No Mercy

Breakout Star

Duan: Kevin Owens
Let’s be real about this – Owens’ first year in WWE has been way more successful than anyone could have predicted. If someone told you twelve months ago that he would pin John Cena clean on PPV, you would have thought them to be nuts. The fact that he did it on his first night in makes it all the more crazy and I think that set an artificially high bar for the rest of his run. Going into this deal, we would have all taken Owens as a strong midcarder. He’s now solidified that place on the roster and he has the platform to push on from there.

Duan’s previous winners:
2014: Adrian Neville

Alan: Will Ospreay
He’s the definition of a breakout star. Ospreay not only got better and better as the year went on, but as the hype around him began to grow, he grew within and by the end of the year, was having insane matches nearly every time he stepped foot in a wrestling ring. The Essex boy stole the show on Night 1 of the Battle Of Los Angeles in an absolute cracker with Mark Andrews. On home soil, Will has been the star of both Rev Pro and PROGRESS. His four show string of performances on PROGRESS Chapters 20,21, 22 and 23 were reminiscent of Low Ki in 2002 ROH. Has proven himself to be one of the best babyfaces, best flyers and best big match workers in the world this year.

Alan’s previous winners:
2014: AJ Styles

Big D: Kevin Owens
I never thought this – “portly” guy who is very talented but definitely not WWE’s cup of tea would be able to come in, beat the top guy in his first match, and establish himself in the upper mid-card as fast as he did. Granted yes, he has been booked poorly since then, but he’s far from being ruined and I see big things for Kevin in 2016.

Big D’s previous winners:
2014: Sami Zayn

Alex: Samoa Joe
I know you are shaking your head, but hear me out. Joe went from no one paying attention in TNA, then getting released and people were starting to get excited about the potential matches he could have with new independent talent. Then NXT comes calling. Now his work has received critical acclaim for the first time I can remember. Now with WWE having a week heel roster, some view Joe as a potential answer.

Alex’s previous winners:
2014: Seth Rollins

GG: Timothy Thatcher
Being I get to see Thatcher wrestle live three times a year thanks to my buddy John LaRocca booking him for Premier, he’s more so on my radar than most. But the credentials are there and he’s now getting some well deserved attention from wrestling fans who aren’t just the hardest of the hardcores, partially because he won Evolve’s championship and also because WWE featured him in a write-up on Evolve’s 5 breakout stars.

His match with Joe Graves in the Embrace The Grind Challenge was voted Premier’s match of the year.

GG’s previous winners:
2014: The Usos

Big Things In 2016

Duan: Chad Gable
I knew this guy had something from the first time I saw him. I’m not sure there has been anyone since Kurt Angle who has had the pedigree and personality to make it big in WWE the way Gable does. He was already really good when he debuted in NXT and he’s since made bigger week to week improvements than anyone I can remember seeing on screen. The only thing that can hold him back is his size and that should be less of an obstacle to overcome now than at any time in the past.

Duan’s previous winners:
2014: Finn Balor
2013: Seth Rollins
2012: Bray Wyatt
2011: Justin Gabriel
2010: Dolph Ziggler

Alan: El Lindaman
He’s Dragon Gate’s most talented young star and he’s clearly got the promotion behind him. Despite his lack of height, he has a great look and is already supremely popular with the DG fans. His locomotion suplex finisher is a sight to behold.

Alan’s previous winners:
2014: Big R Shimizu
2013: Kalisto
2012: Dean Ambrose and Yuji Okabayashi
2011: Manabu Soya and Takumi Soya
2010: Tetsuya Naito

Big D: Dean Ambrose
Other than Kevin, I DO believe Dean Ambrose will get a more serious push in 2016, or perhaps I certainly hope so. Ambrose really does have the entire package of what they could want in a guy, even more so than Reigns, as well as the experience. Let’s hope WWE actually doesn’t waste his time.

Big D’s previous winners:
2014: China
2013: Roman Reigns and Big E. Langston
2012: ROH folds (I think he misunderstood this category)
2011: Other than Wrestlemania XXVIII? Nothing. (I think he misunderstood this category)
2010: I predict bad things in 2011, including the buyrates and ratings still dropping and ROH fully going under. (I think he misunderstood this category)

Alex: Non-WWE wrestling
Non-WWE wrestling competition breeds quality is one of the lessons we learned from the Monday Night War. While WWE is the clear leader of the wrestling world, other companies have raised their profile and provided quality wresting to their fans. Ring of Honor, PWG, and NXT have consistently lifted the standards of what pro wrestling can be. Increased access to New Japan has expanded many fans’ horizons. I believe that in 2016, the quality of pro wrestling stays at a high level and more and more fans will take notice. Ring of Honor on PPV and NXT selling out Barclay’s may only be the start.

Alex’s previous winners:
2014: Charlotte

GG: Jeff Cobb
Cobb has been working for Northern California indies for a while now and fans who have been able to watch him know how good he is. A tryout in front of Konnon a few years ago may or may not have been his foot in the door to Lucha Underground, but finally, a somewhat national audience will get a chance to see him work. He’ll be one of the major characters in Lucha Underground’s second season as Matanza, Dario Cueto’s brother. 2016 could be the year of Cobb.

GG’s previous winners:
2014: Rusev
2013: Big E. Langston
2012: Antonio Cesaro and Wade Barrett
2011: Brodus Clay
2010: Dolph Ziggler

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