LOU THESZ/RIC FLAIR AWARD
(WRESTLER OF THE YEAR)
1. A.J. STYLES (462) 2.920
2. Kazuchika Okada (285) 2,637
3. Tetsuya Naito (190) 2,610
4. Kenny Omega (79) 1,530
5. Kento Miyahara (10) 189
6. Hiroshi Tanahashi (5) 145
7. Chris Hero (3) 134
8. Volador Jr. (16) 125
9. Kevin Owens (2) 99
10. Shinsuke Nakamura (3) 73
For the second year in a row, "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles is your well-deserved Thesz/Flair award winner. After Dave awarded the Wrestle Kingdom Main Event six stars, I had started to worry about the result for this award and recalled back to the 2014 awards when it felt as though Shinsuke Nakamura won it primarily because of his classic with Kota Ibushi that was fresh in everyone's minds from Wrestle Kingdom 9, even though that's outside the voting period. But thankfully the voters made what I would argue is the right choice and went with AJ once again. His in-ring resume in 2016 is unimpeachable, and he was WWE's promotional MVP. He completely reinvigorated WWE once he made his Rumble debut, and especially once he started main eventing PPVs (or stealing the show if he didn't go on last) against Roman Reigns, John Cena, and Dean Ambrose. An unbelievably gifted wrestler, Styles grew into much more of a complete performer in 2016 and carried Smackdown on his back for much of the year. Thoroughly deserving winner once again, and had an even better Wrestler of the Year resume than he did in 2015.
The current Ace of New Japan Kazuchika Okada finished second in the voting, which makes sense given his position as New Japan's top guy, but I argued during the voting, and would still argue, that Naito, who finished third, is the larger draw and should have finished ahead of Okada. His gates have been consistently strong, and his stable Los Ingobernables de Japon has been selling merchandise hand over fist (to the degree that at the recent New Beginning in Osaka show, there was an added kiosk just for LIJ stuff to keep up with the demand). Naito also won the Tokyo Sports MVP award for 2016, the Japanese version of the Thesz/Flair award. That said, the margin was also very small between two and three.
Because of limited time for all the wrestling out there in 2017, I haven't seen as much AJPW as I might like, but Kento Miyahara finishing top five is a strong finish for the Ace who's done great work revitalizing AJPW's business to a degree this past year. He feels like a more classic Thesz/Flair type than the man I'll get to next.
My own third place selection, Chris Hero, finished 7th overall, which is better than I could have expected for the now Kassius Ohno. I'm glad to see that other voters appreciated his career year in-ring that got him re-signed by WWE even if he didn't have the drawing argument you'd usually expect from a high finisher in Thesz/Flair.
MOST OUTSTANDING WRESTLER
1. A.J. STYLES (341) 2,436
2. Kenny Omega (249) 2,352
3. Kazuchika Okada (172) 1,735
4. Chris Hero (151) ` 1,295
5. Will Ospreay (64) 657
6. Tomohiro Ishii (28) 415
7. Tetsuya Naito (9) 408
8. Io Shirai (19) 312
9. Matt Riddle (3) 146
10. Kushida (1) 145
And it's yet another repeat for the man affectionately called Uncle Allen by many of his fellow superstars. I personally had him third, but there's so much subjectivity to this category, and even beyond the subjective nature, Chris Hero and Matt Riddle simply did not have quite the penetration in the voting pool that Styles and the New Japan guys such as Omega and Okada have, because they primarily worked for smaller promotions that get less eyeballs (and are arguably under-covered in the Observer. Thankfully we have Rev. Kain here to keep everyone abreast of all Evolve news).
Finishing second and third were the two participants in the aforementioned six star match. Even though I'm not a huge fan of his, I think Okada had the better case for that finish. When Kenny is great, he's really, really great, but I think he lacks the consistent greatness you want for Most Outstanding. There's no question that the G1 Climax semi-final was one of the absolute best matches of 2016, but matches like that were few and far between, whereas other guys had such a higher volume of great matches and nearly those same peaks. At least I get where Okada's case comes from, even if I don't agree with the quality of all of those matches. With Omega, it's coasting on a few truly exceptional matches.
On the other hand, someone with incredible volume and high peaks, the self-styled Greatest of All Time, Chris Hero, managed to finish fourth, which is incredibly impressive for a guy who did no work for any of the major promotions. It speaks to how unbelievably great he was this past year that he finished that high.
Someone shamefully left out of my own discussion, Io Shirai, the ace of Stardom, finished 8th. An incredibly well-deserving finish for someone else in a smaller penetration promotion. There are few, if any, better and more consistent big match workers than Io. If there's a disappointing Io World of Stardom title defense, I haven't seen it. Arguably her best match in 2016 came late in December, which is outside the voting period, so she has given herself a great head start to finish well again next year in this category.
My number 2 choice, the greatest rookie in wrestling history, Matt Riddle, finished 9th after his outstanding first full year of great performance after great performance.
Overall, this was a really strong and diverse list. Having representation from four different promotions in the top 10 (and really, more than that when you include guys like Ospreay, Hero, and Riddle who worked so many different places to build their case than merely their home promotions) is awesome.
BEST BOX OFFICE DRAW
1. CONOR MCGREGOR (1,005) 5,206
2. Brock Lesnar (9) 1,302
3. Nate Diaz (1) 1,006
4. John Cena (17) 584
5. Tetsuya Naito (2) 271
6. C.M. Punk 208
7. Bill Goldberg 188
8. Kazuchika Okada 142
9. Hiroshi Tanahashi 63
10. Holly Holm 55
Obviously voting anyone except Conor here is simply objectively wrong, hence his 1,000+ first place votes. His PPV numbers speak for themselves. That's just simple math.
I criticize Brock's drawing in the wrestling, but in UFC, he's undoubtedly a legitimate draw, and so deserves his finish because of the Hunt fight.
At least Naito rightfully beat out Okada when it came to box office draw, even if he didn't top him in Thesz/Flair.
Great to see CM Punk finish in the top 10 here even after getting blasted in his only fight. The fact is that win or lose (and it was definitely lose), that card did shockingly well. Ironically, given all his greatness for a decade in wrestling and his, let's say, lack of greatness, at shootfighting, that's his biggest drawing number you can point to for his entire career. Between Punk and Brock, all wrestlers should go to UFC and become much bigger draws. Imagine what John Cena would pull!
FEUD OF THE YEAR
1. CONOR MCGREGOR VS. NATE DIAZ (677) 3,582
2. John Cena vs. A.J. Styles (38) 940
3. Los Ingobernables en Japon vs. Chaos (47) 848
4. Charlotte vs Sasha Banks (41) 566
5. Gargano & Ciampa vs. Dawson & Wilder (32) 500
6. Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi (57) 386
7. The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler (30) 365
8. Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll (27) 317
9. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada (36) 273
10. Jay Lethal vs Adam Cole (16) 220
Yet another great list here from top to bottom. I'm personally not much of a UFC fan, but I've come to expect that whatever crazy antics Conor gets up to is going to be winning this award now, so I now view second place as ‘first for wrestling', and the rest of the list is a diverse array of excellent feuds.
The first place wrestling finish was John Cena versus AJ Styles, and even if it wasn't in my top three, I completely get why it finished so high. The matches at MITB and Summerslam were both great in different ways, and the feud itself was excellent with electric crowd responses, exciting promo segments where AJ actually came across as Cena's equal throughout, and the themes of the feud about AJ trying to prove that if WWE had made the right choice (aka ‘Signing AJ Styles') fifteen years ago, there would be no John Cena, and AJ would have been the face that ran the place were compelling.
I would personally view the second place wrestling finisher more as LIJ versus New Japan Pro Wrestling, but regardless, Naito's continued frustration about the 200 million dollar project Kazuchika Okada has indeed been a great feud. Whenever you read one of Naito's translated interviews about how unfairly he's been treated and his many complaints about New Japan management, it's always a treat. He's such a thoroughly fantastic character and if they push the feud with the alignments more suited to the way the crowd wants, they could have a new era Austin/McMahon type feud on their hands.
Next up was Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks, which is yet another excellent choice. Their matches were always some of the most visceral and exciting of this year and they have tremendous chemistry as rivals, even if the writing often let them down, which is why, I imagine, it didn't touch the impressive performance by Bayley and Sasha last year of finishing first for wrestling, and managing to do the impossible of actually pushing Conor and Aldo for the top spot, because that had compelling matches but also a compelling feud around those matches, rather than only the former.
DIY versus the Revival finished fifth, and provided two of the best matches of 2016 and a natural rivalry between the ultimate indie geeks against the Top Guys, who have no time for these indie geeks in their NXT.
I will never be upset with voters celebrating the absolute insanity and beautiful technical precision of Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi. A pairing with some of the best in-ring chemistry ever seen in wrestling, it feels like these two will be inextricably linked for their entire careers because of how defining and unique their matches have been.
My first place finisher Dolph Ziggler versus The Miz finished 7th, which I can't be too mad at, because a Dolph Ziggler and The Miz feud finished top 10, plus, you could argue it did actually peak too early in that they kept feuding after No Mercy. I think if Miz wins that match and Dolph leaves for a bit, it could have finished as high as third, but for me there was so many exceptional segments leading up to that No Mercy match that I went with it first.
TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR
1. YOUNG BUCKS (599) 3,801
2. Scott Dawson& Dash Wilder (323) 2,456
3. Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano (21) 1,059
4. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi (69) 689
5. New Day (11) 365
6. Ricochet & Matt Sydal (9) 293
7. Jason Jordan & Chad Gable (2) 273
8. Zeus & The Bodyguard (17) 199
9. Io Shirai & Mayu Iwatani (23) 191
10. Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian 117
I've been positive thus far, but this one is a bit disappointing. Obviously I expected Dave's kayfabe nephews to win yet again, but I had hoped that the Top Guys' absolutely incredible performances this year might have edged them out, or at least been closer in the voting. Aside from that, no real issues with that top 10. Lots of talented teams, and my choices finished 2nd, 3rd, and 7th. At least it will likely lead to a bunch of snarky Scott Dawson tweets for the next six months as Dave suggested on WOR.
1. MATT RIDDLE (190) 1,026
2. The Miz (127) 1,020
3. Juice Robinson (83) 991
4. Alexa Bliss (61) 558
5. Zeus (64) 513
6. Yoshi-Hashi (47) 452
7. Kenny Omega (76) 395
8. Charlotte (35) 393
9. Braun Strowman (26) 356
10. Jeff Cobb (10) 351
Regulators, mount up! It's strange for a rookie of the year candidate to win Most Improved, but I certainly understand the impulse given the development of The Bro in 2016 from an exciting prospect to one of the very best wrestlers on the planet.
The Miz received his well-deserved plaudits here for becoming one of the very best in WWE in 2016 both in and out of the ring.
Juice Robinson is yet another very deserving choice for the top three. The way he's completely come into his own in New Japan after being jobber to the stars CJ Parker in NXT is really incredible and thoroughly unexpected.
I've been riding the Bliss train for way too long to really view her 2016 as ‘improved' because she was already awesome, but to go from not even making a Takeover card when she was in NXT to Women's Champion and star of the division a mere six months from her debut on the main roster certainly makes her a logical choice in this category.
Good to see the Observer Award voters recognizing BRAUNNNN! as well.
BEST ON INTERVIEWS
1. CONOR MCGREGOR (627) 3,468
2. The Miz (106) 924
3. Chris Jericho (32) 909
4. Kevin Owens (36) 787
5. Paul Heyman (35) 495
6. Kenny Omega (39) 376
7. Dominick Cruz (21) 299
8. Enzo Amore (7) 247
9. Matt Hardy (22) 243
10. Tetsuya Naito (18) 226
Unsurprisingly yet again, Conor McGregor also captured Best on Interviews by a mile. Personally, I prefer the promo style of someone like The Miz to Conor's occasionally clever schoolyard trash talk, but the dude sells a lot of PPVs.
The Miz did manage to finish second at least, so that is a positive. The rest of this category seemed a bit off to me. Even if my choices weren't where I placed them, I still had all my top finishers at least in the top 10 in the previous categories, whereas here, Alexa Bliss, AJ Styles (who both did at least make the honorable mentions just outside the top 10), and even my other considerations like Samoa Joe and Jay Briscoe were nowhere to be found. Joe in particular is surprising, but I imagine he'll be well positioned to make the top 10 next year with his great speaking performances on the main roster thus far.
At least the days of Heyman winning this category with 3500 votes for not really having any new material in years is finally over as he finished a distant fifth with merely ~500 votes.
1. CONOR MCGREGOR (381) 2,715
2. Shinsuke Nakamura (270) 2,116
3. Tetsuya Naito (121) 1,227
4. Kenny Omega (46) 558
5. Hiroshi Tanahashi (2) 351
6. Matt Hardy (25) 347
7. Dalton Castle (20) 281
8. Pentagon Jr. (18) 261
9. John Cena (13) 217
10. Rush (25) 180
Don't have a ton to say about this category. This is one where I completely get Conor finishing first, and Shinsuke and Naito are both excellent top choices for the wrestling. Naito in particular is the one that stood out to me this year. There was one six man tag in the time when Naito was still champion where it was genuinely captivating to me how much his star power blew Okada away when they were interacting. Normally Okada comes across like a star, but when he's in there with Naito he shrinks down into just a guy because Naito is such a volcano of charisma. And Shinsuke is always a top finisher in this category for good reason. He's a compelling presence that you can't take your eyes off.
Similarly, there's no question about the charisma of the rest of the top 10 like Kenny Omega, Broken Matt, Pentagon Jr, Rush and Dalton Castle. Not to mention Matt Riddle who finished only 14 votes out of the top 10 and likely moves up higher next year.
BRYAN DANIELSON AWARD
(BEST TECHNICAL WRESTLER)
1. ZACK SABRE JR. (453) 3,273
2. Kyle O'Reilly (282) 2,568
3. Kushida (67) 594
4. Jack Gallagher (25) 422
5. Marty Scurll (32) 399
6. Matt Riddle (18) 383
7. Drew Gulak (12) 363
8. Chris Hero (43) 311
9. A.J. Styles (19) 234
10. Katsuyori Shibata (23) 228
Zack has settled nicely into his role as the New Bryan Danielson in terms of the guy who wins this category every year without a competition. Personally I'm more partial to the Gulak and Yehi (who made the honorable mentions, which is super cool to me for a guy I first saw on tape a couple years ago working a small Georgia indie and now was only 40 votes off a top 10 Observer Awards finish) school of gritty Regal/Rudge style of technical wrestling, but I can certainly see the appeal of Zack's flashier style. Excellent finish for my other choice behind Yehi and Gulak, Gentleman Jack, making the top 4, who melds the flashiness and the grittiness very well like the best World of Sport guys did.
BRUISER BRODY MEMORIAL AWARD
1. TOMOHIRO ISHII (410) 3,044
2. Katsuyori Shibata (337) 2,873
3. Chris Hero (186) 1,545
4. Kevin Owens (42) 646
5. Rush (25) 435
6. Samoa Joe (27) 408
7. Pentagon Jr. (27) 306
8. Tommy End (2) 218
9. Shuji Ishikawa (34) 179
10 Michael Elgin 119
No real surprise in this one. I went more off the beaten path with my choices, but I know that Shibata and Ishii fall out of bed and finish top two in this category, and I can't really argue heavily against them even if I think we've changed what brawling is a bit. As great as Shibata and Ishii are as strikers, they don't really have that wild and out of control feeling that the best brawlers like Mick Foley and Stan Hansen always had. Given the modern conception of brawling being more linked to strong style and striking and violence, that top three makes perfect sense because they bring all three of those things in spades. But for me, give me Su Yung downing a beer, DDTing someone on top of a bar and fighting on the edge of a balcony any day when I'm looking for a brawl.
BEST FLYING WRESTLER
1. WILL OSPREAY (741) 4,467
2. Ricochet (199) 3,276
3, Volador Jr.(70) 870
4. Kota Ibushi (44) 726
5. Mascara Dorada (24) 594
6. Dragon Lee (28) 459
7. Kamaitachi (9) 306
8. Fenix (20) 276
9. Matt Sydal (9) 166
10. Kushida (8) 118
I mean, was there any doubt? After the BOSJ match that had the wrestling world talking, that was inevitable. And there's no real argument against them. Those boys can fly.
1. ROMAN REIGNS (242) 1,516
2. Braun Strowman (72) 719
3. Baron Corbin (57) 564
4. Cody Rhodes (52) 519
5. Sexy Star (53) 481
6. Timothy Thatcher (48) 332
7. Brock Lesnar (25) 247
8. Sheamus (26) 240
9. Dean Ambrose (21) 234
10. Seth Rollins (17) 190
Well.... Do I take the glass half full or glass half empty view here?
On the one hand, Roman ‘overpushed for 3 months and then spent most of the year in the US title scene and taking clean pins' Reigns, BRAUNNNNNNNN (the best part of Raw over these past few months), and The Bantertaker (what meaningful push has he even had? Beating Swagger? He just got released. Beating Kalisto? Dolph does that in like 30 seconds now and is much worse.) finishing top three is kind of ridiculous.
On the other hand, good to see that Cody ‘The Emperor's New Clothes' Rhodes finished fourth. Not to mention my number one choice Timothy Thatcher getting 48 first place votes from some fellow very annoyed Evolve fans (at least it's mercifully over now... thank you Zack! Sorry Stoke. And Rev Kain.).
Nope, I'm going glass half-empty. Those are three very silly top choices.
1. CESARO (217) 1,571
2. Neville (124) 1,106
3. Sami Zayn (108) 865
4. Luke Harper (42) 532
5. Donovan Dijak (49) 448
6. Rusev (32) 247
7. Tomohiro Ishii (9) 190
8. Dalton Castle (14) 176
9. Chris Hero (18) 144
10. Mark Andrews (12) 139
As expected, Cesaro wins this one yet again. I still maintain that he's not actually underrated in terms of underpushed. He's not going to be a top guy, and he shouldn't be a top guy. He's in a pushed tag team act which might be where he belongs on the card. He's a talented dude, no doubt. But main eventers need more than in-ring prowess.
On the other hand, the intensely deserving Neville finished second, and his run as King of the Cruiserweights has proven that right ten times over. Great to see Donovan Dijak finish top five as well, and I assume this year now that he's free of Ring of Honor, he too will prove that right in the way Neville has.
Chris Hero at ninth is the weirdest thing. Do people read the criteria? He was pushed as a top star and won constantly everywhere he worked. Like, he's sensational, but not sure underpushed is the word.
PROMOTION OF THE YEAR
1. NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING (618) 4,215
2. Ultimate Fighting Championship (346) 2,878
3. World Wrestling Entertainment (69) 988
4. Ring of Honor (18) 555
5. Evolve (47) 477
6. Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (19) 425
7. CMLL (4) 405
8. Progress (31) 375
9. Dragon Gate (8) 243
10. Revolution Pro (20) 143
There's an argument for New Japan in the top spot this year. They recovered well from the loss of Styles and Nakamura without it really damaging their ticket figures, and actually had some minor growth. No strong issue there. UFC is more of Ultimate Fighting Conor at this point than a ‘promotion', but they do have Conor, and he makes banks, so I get that as well.
...but ROH finishing over Evolve? In 2017? Did the voters accidentally watch their "Best of 2006" ROH compilations this year before voting? Maybe they were very impressed by ROH's collapsing business and talent exodus. Or the comically out of date television. Or the poor over-priced PPVs. Or New Japan beating all their guys and now running solo shows stateside without them this year. What in the world?
BEST WEEKLY TV SHOW
1. NEW JAPAN WORLD PRO WRESTLING (198) 2,070
2. WWE Smackdown Live (200) 1,626
3. WWE Talking Smack (165) 1,191
4. CMLL Friday Night (79) 1,137
5. Ring of Honor (57) 1,023
6. WWE NXT (68) 898
7. Lucha Underground (52) 813
8. TNA Impact 101
9. WWE Raw (6) 60
Killing me with this one. It's a show of re-run and repurposed PPV matches with JR's stale, washed up, totally lacking in product knowledge commentary over them. Even if they were the greatest matches ever live, how in the world can you put re-runs ahead of Smackdown? I'll assume it was vote splitting with the ‘A+ Show' Talking Smack, I suppose, but man, that's depressing.
PRO WRESTLING MATCH OF THE YEAR
1. HIROSHI TANAHASHI VS. KAZUCHIKA OKADA 1/4 TOKYO (363)
2. Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito 8/13 Tokyo (286) 2,451
3. Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomohiro Ishii 8/6 Osaka (74) 854
4. A.J. Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura 1/4 Tokyo (82) 799
5. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn 4/1 Dallas (55) 721
6. Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay 5/27 Tokyo (49) 669
7. Gargano & Ciampa vs. Wilder & Dawson 10/19 Toronto (60) 636
8. Ricochet & Ospreay & Sydal vs. Young Bucks & Cole 9/3 Reseda (43)
9. Volador Jr. vs. Cavernario Barbaro 8/30 Mexico City (25) 169
10. John Cena vs. A.J. Styles 8/21 Brooklyn (7) 164
The one that really stands out for me on this list is AJ Styles v. Shinsuke Nakamura. It's a great match. I have it above multiple matches on the list. But yet it's the weirdest one to me that made it. I just don't understand having it in your top 3, which is how voting is done. I don't care for the Tana/Okada matches, but I totally get why the people that do like them absolutely lose their mind for them. Same thing with something like the PWG six man in 8th place that I didn't find all that interesting. It's the type of match that other people will love the heck out of because it was only speed and spots on spots on spots. But Shinsuke vs. AJ is a match that feels like it should be in everyone's top 25, but I don't really get it as a top 3 match.
Disappointed that DIY/Revival only finished in 7th place, as it was my MOTY, but I had most of these in my top 15, and stuff gets very subjective the closer you get to the pinnacle.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. MATT RIDDLE (924) 4,773
2. Lio Rush (47) 2,142
3. Fred Yehi (9) 919
4. Shayna Baszler (9) 423
5. Takuya Nomura (2) 415
6. Ben K (29) 337
7. Chihiro Hashimoto (13) 316
8. Rachael Ellering (28) 271
9. Teruaki Kanemitsu (1) 163
10. Daria Berenato (7) 91
Well that was a landslide. As it should be. The Bro isn't just the rookie of the year. He's arguably the best rookie of all time. I'm not sure even the incredible Jun Akiyama had this level of consistent greatness in his first full year.
Rush, Yehi, and Baszler are all excellent choices to round out the top 4. I hadn't seen much of Shayna in 2016, but from what I've seen in 2017 in Stardom as well as against Nicole Matthews in ECCW, she absolutely deserves that placement. She's taken to wrestling like a fish to water. Rachael Ellering finishing in the top 10 is a very pleasant surprise as well. She's really impressed me with how quick she's developed, and really stands out stylistically. She reminds me more of Katsuyori Shibata rather than any fellow women's wrestler.
1. DARIO CUETO (231) 1,656
2. Daniel Bryan (202) 1,561
3. Paul Heyman (124) 1,107
4. Maryse (69) 616
5. Stokley Hathaway (80) 449
6. Renee Young (30) 423
7. William Regal (6) 253
8. Lana (7) 193
9. Gedo (1) 127
10. Catrina (2) 126
I haven't loved Dario's character direction over recent seasons, but his performance is still excellent, so it's a completely understandable choice.
Even if I didn't have him in my top 3, I can't help but be happy for one of my all-time favorites Daniel Bryan finishing second in Best Non-Wrestler of all things. I remember when people never thought he'd make it in WWE and was only a dry technical wrestler, and even I believed that to a degree back then. So nearly winning a wrestling performance award strictly based on not wrestling is mind-blowing, like so much of Daniel's crazy career. And he's definitely someone who deserved this as well.
We always talk about the writing of Smackdown with Ward and James and the performances of people like Miz and Styles and Alexa, but one of the most important and most underrated (myself included at times) is how much better a show with Daniel Bryan as the central authority figure is than one where Stephanie McMahon is. I love Stephanie as a performer, but she needed to go away after the Brie Bella feud because she's too overbearing. At this point, she swallows up the show around her way too often, whereas Bryan is so amazing because like Steph's dad, he's an enabler for the performers, rather than making the show about himself. Miz's reinvention came from him losing his mind on Daniel Bryan, his interactions with Alexa are always a treat, and his interactions with AJ are also always great. His role is to make the people around him better, rather than make the show about himself, and that's what he does. On the other hand, on Raw, everything is about Stephanie, and she's the centerpiece. The Bryan model is a big part of why Smackdown is the better show.
I think this episode of Smackdown on Tuesday showed exactly why Maryse deserved her high finish here. She adds such an important layer to Miz's character and takes him from a great midcard act to a legitimate and credible main eventer. As great as The Miz is right now, he's not viewed on this level without Maryse and her relentless love and devotion to her douche of a husband.
Absolute highway robbery for the great man Stokely "Big Stoke" Hathaway not finishing first in this category. Feels like a heavy shot against the leader and proprietor of the Dream Team that was not deserved. Have these people seen TJ Perkins without him?! (Seriously though, Stokely finishing top 5 based only on Evolve is actually really impressive.)
BEST TELEVISION ANNOUNCER
1. MAURO RANALLO (279) 2,199
2. Corey Graves (172) 1,910
3. Shimpei Nogami (117) 888
4. Jim Ross (46) 756
5. Steve Corino (48) ` 582
6. Joe Rogan (50) 575
7. Kevin Kelly (37) ` 378
8. Daniel Bryan (20) 339
9. Brian Stann (49) 337
10. Lenny Leonard (1) 216
Sure. I've got nothing. Mama Mia indeed.
At least Corey Graves finished second, I suppose.
I loved him for years, but JR finishing fourth in 2017 when his commentary sounds like someone made a JR soundboard is also peak level voting. Lenny Leonard finishing top 10 is great to see, though.
WORST TELEVISION ANNOUNCER
1. DAVID OTUNGA (260) 2,018
2. Matt Striker (119) 1,651
3. Byron Saxton (103) 1,138
4. Josh Matthews (13) 970
5. John Layfield (53) 658
6. Michael Cole (34) 449
7. Joey Styles (32) 271
8. Vampiro (1) 145
9. Jerry Lawler (19) 120
10. Mauro Ranallo (6) 85
No issues with Otunga in the top spot. He is dreadful. Same for Striker, who also adds offensiveness to his general terrible ability to announce professional wrestling.
But outside of that top end, this is the first category that really feels lazy to me in some spots. I've disagreed with plenty, but I think still listing Cole or JBL as worst announcers in 2017 going full Gold Gloves and checking a box because you checked that box last year. Both of them have been reinvigorated since splitting from one another during the draft. Hopefully for Cole at least, his absolute bravura performance at the WWE UK Championship Tournament will keep him off this list next year.
BEST MAJOR WRESTLING SHOW
1. NEW JAPAN WRESTLE KINGDOM 9 1/4 TOKYO (709) 4,001
2. PWG Battle of Los Angeles 9/3 Reseda (125) 1,409
3. WWE NXT Takeover Dallas 4/1 Dallas (64) 907
4. New Japan King of Pro Wrestling 10/10 Tokyo (49) 771
5. UFC 205 11/12 Madison Square Garden (51) 600
6. WWE Cruiserweight Classic finals 9/14 Winter Park (22) 579
7. UFC 202 8/20 Las Vegas (12) 325
8. UFC 199 6/4 Los Angeles (23) 277
9. WWN Mercury Rising 4/2 Dallas (25) 219
10. New Japan Dominion 6/19 Osaka (9) 216
Why are there UFC shows in a "Best Major WRESTLING Show" category? Leaving that aside, this is a strong list. I had Dallas, CWC Finals, and Mercury Rising all in my own top three for the year, and Wrestle Kingdom was really good, if inconsistent at times. Not sure I'm buying Dominion as a top 10 show, but I know some people really liked that interminable Ladder Match.
WORST MAJOR WRESTLING SHOW
1. WRESTLEMANIA 32 4/3 DALLAS 274
2. TNA Bound for Glory 10/2 Orlando 92
3. Bellator: Gracie vs. Shamrock 2/19 Houston 69
4. AAA TripleMania 25 8/26 Mexico City 47
5. WWE Clash of Champions 9/25 Indianapolis 45
6. TNA One Night Only 1/8 Orlando 37
7. WWE Fast Lane 2/21 Cleveland 31
8. TNA Knockouts Knockdown 3/17 (taping date) Orlando 27
9. ROH Best in the World 6/24 Concord, NC 21
10. UFC 200 7/8 Las Vegas 19
I didn't have WM 32 in my top 3, but I've come around to it thinking more about the show. At the time I felt like WM didn't fail as a Wrestlemania necessarily, but the more I think about it, it kind of did. The main event obviously flamed out, and there weren't a ton of high points.
Happy to see Best in the World make the top 10. With the low vote totals in Class B Awards, since you only get 1 vote, I want to take a bit of credit for getting that terrible show in there. Also happy to see my second choice, Clash of Champions get in the top 5. That show is still the worst WWE show of the year for me, even though I've come around on Mania being very bad.
BEST WRESTLING MANEUVER
1. KENNY OMEGA ONE WINGED ANGEL 189
2. Kazuchika Okada rainmaker 123
3. Young Bucks Meltzer driver 95
4. A.J. Styles phenomenal forearm 68
5. Ember Moon eclipse (top rope stunner) 51
6. Tetsuya Naito destino 45
7. A.J. Styles Styles clash 42
8. Will Ospreay Oscutter 37
9. Dawson & Wilder Shatter Machine 36
10. Daniels & Kazarian Best Meltzer Ever 35
I feel like offering commentary on a category when two of the moves are named after the proprietor of the awards is unnecessary. It is a joke category and should be treated as such.
MOST DISGUSTING PROMOTIONAL TACTIC
1. BELLATOR KIMBO VS. DADA 500 FIGHT 198
2. WWE Brock Lesnar doing hardway to Randy Orton 176
3. Aldo Ross (Adam Rose) mug shot T-shirt 46
4. Lucha Underground Intergender matches 39
5. Rizin booking Gabi Garcia vs. Shinobu Kandori 38
6. TNA treatment of Billy Corgan 21
7. WWE redoing Montreal screw job with Natalya and Bret Hart 18
Sasha Banks fake retirement playing off Daniel Bryan 18
9. Rizin booking Kazushi Sakuraba in fights 14
No arguments against that choice for the top spot. I voted for the second place finisher because of my lack of concern for MMA so didn't think about that one, but I do know the events of it, and certainly it is a deserving first place finish. But when it comes to Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic in professional wrestling, the decision to risk Randy Orton's health because they didn't want the bad PR of the safer choice of blading is really awful behavior by WWE that they should be ashamed of.
WORST TELEVISION SHOW
1. WWE RAW 308
2. TNA Impact 165
3. Lucha Underground 107
Completely agree with the top choice there. Way too long, and way too boring for most of the year.
WORST MATCH OF THE YEAR
1. SHELLY MARTINEZ VS. REBEL 3/17 ORLANDO 436
2. Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose 5/22 Newark, NJ 87
3. Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 5000 2/19 Houston 71
4. TNA women's gauntlet match 1/8 Orlando 55
5. Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon 4/3 Dallas 53
6. HHH vs. Roman Reigns 4/3 Dallas 47
I expected that one to win even though I voted Ambrose v. Jericho, and I completely understand the choice. In a vacuum, it's clearly worse, without question. I just think the context of Ambrose vs. Jericho and the platform in which it was bad (longest match on a main roster PPV on a network with over a million subscribers), and how freaking long it was, put it over the top, but holy crap was that Rebel/Martinez match terrible.
WORST FEUD OF THE YEAR
1. TITUS O'NEIL VS. DARREN YOUNG 322
2. Yoshitatsu vs. Bone Soldier 70
3. Roman Reigns vs. HHH 48
4. New Day vs. Anderson & Gallows 46
5. Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon 45
6. Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin 27
7. Roman Reigns vs. Rusev 25
8. NOAH vs. Suzuki-gun 21
9. A.J. Styles vs. James Ellsworth 18
10. Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose 14
Another really strong top 10 here. I'd take issue with AJ vs. Ellsworth on the list, and sub in Charlotte vs. Natalya, but that's a minor qualm since it only got 18 votes, and the rest really were quite awful.
WORST PROMOTION OF THE YEAR
1. TNA IMPACT WRESTLING 412
2. AAA 181
3. WWE 68
4. ROH 51
5. Pro Wrestling NOAH 31
6. Bellator 29
7. Lucha Underground 19
8. What Culture Pro Wrestling 17
I mean, look, I voted for ROH, but TNA was exposed as pretty much being a Ponzi Scheme, so I can't exactly get on my high horse arguing against TNA finishing in the top spot. Same goes for the almost literal dumpster fire that is AAA.
But ROH being behind WWE? Come on now. What even would be the argument for WWE as the Worst Promotion this year? Because Raw is bad? WWE is so much more than Monday Night Raw.
1. GEDO 851
2. Joe Silva 93
3. Ryan Ward 63
4. Paul Levesque 37
5. Vince McMahon 32
6. Hunter Johnston 27
7. Jim Smallman 19
8. Gabe Sapolsky 12
9. Andy Quidlan 11
10. Sean Shelby 10
Seems like only the power of Paul could stop Gedo's reign on top, and since his promotion has largely stunk this year, Gedo won it in a walk. Not like it matters, given the margin, but splitting Ward and Vince (and not including Road Dogg) as the Smackdown team doesn't make much sense.
I stand by Vince/James/Ward as the best bookers, but credit to Gedo for recovering from the loss of Shinsuke and AJ as well as they did. But discredit for his handling of Naito vis-à-vis Okada and his constant flip flopping title reigns. At least WWE only did it with one belt.
And for goodness sake, Hunter Johnson? Seriously? That might be the single most bizarre vote of the exercise. Twenty six people (I assume he voted for himself) said to themselves "I have one vote in this category and I'm going to use it for Delirious." I can't believe that.
PROMOTER OF THE YEAR
1. DANA WHITE 610
2. Takaaki Kidani 244
3. Paul Levesque 66
4. Jim Smallman 65
5. Gabe Sapolsky 23
6. Jun Akiyama 15
Not a ton to say about this category except that Jim Smallman getting 65 votes for promoting Progress is really cool and thoroughly well deserved.
Also Jun Akiyama probably deserved more credit for pulling AJPW back from the brink, but you only have one vote here, so I get it.
1. BROKEN MATT HARDY 483
2. Los Ingobernables en Japon 226
3, Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens 32
4. Marty The Villain Scurll 25
5. Dalton Castle 17
6. Young Bucks 15
Glorious Bobby Roode 15
8. Pentagon Jr. 10
Was there any doubt?
With this win, Matt Hardy becomes only the second person in history after CM Punk to win this category for two different gimmicks. Fitting that that honor is held by two of the most creative minds in wrestling history.
1. BONE SOLDIER 105
2. The Cabinet 86
3. Make Darren Young Great Again 77
4. Shining Stars 71
5. League of Nations 49
6. Hunter Club 42
7. Drifter Elias Samson 28
8. James Ellsworth 19
Mojo Rawley 19
10. Andrade Cien Almas 18
Knew I was forgetting something when thinking of what would win this category, but at least the offensively awful Cabinet finished in second, and in first place's defense, Bone Soldier is obviously very stupid.