John Carbery, Craig Wilson and Brian Damage
It’s time for part two of our end of the year awards, our version of the Slammys. Similar to last year, it’s divided into two parts. Part one was on Sunday and today we’ll put forward our nominations for the following awards:
- Superstar of the Year
- Match of the Year
- Tag team of the year
- Best angle
- Feel Good Moment of the Year
- Worst Character
So, without further ado.
Superstar of the Year
John: AJ Styles. AJ has been the best wrestler in the world for the past three years and in 2016 he had a chance to do what he does better than anybody else in front of the biggest possible audience. He started out his year blowing the roof off the Tokyo dome with my runner up Shinsuke Nakamura in a classic match for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Weeks later he debuted at the Royal Rumble producing one of the biggest pops I’ve ever heard and once he found his feet “The Phenomenal One” took his place as the best main eventer in the WWE, or anywhere for that matter. Nobody else even came close to Styles in 2016 so this was an easy choice to make.
Craig: AJ Styles. He’s running away with nominations in our end of year awards, isn’t he? Smackdown Live has consistently run good TV and PPV since the brand split, AJ Styles has been a big part of that success. I can think of fewer talents who have had a better 2016 than him.
Brian: AJ Styles. Considering his victories over Chris Jericho, John Cena and Dean Ambrose and on top of that winning the WWE title, AJ Styles gets my vote. He consistently has great matches no matter who they are against. 2016 was a big year for the ‘Phenomenal One.’
Match of the Year
John: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn, NXT Takeover Dallas. Like a lot of wrestling fans, I’ve been enamoured with the King of Strong Style for quite a while. Starting out as a stoic shooter and morphing into the most dramatic and compelling performer in all of pro-wrestling, Nakamura is a unique talent that deserves to be exposed to the world. This is the second year in a row I’ve given Nakamura my pick for match of the year. If you haven’t seen his clash with Kota Ibushi from Wrestle Kingdom 9 please check it out, its not only the best match of 2015 its one of the greatest matches of all time. I don’t say that lightly either. So, Nakamura had a lot of hype to live up to when making his WWE debut and he seemed to live up to it during his entrance alone driving the wrestling world crazy with his unique presence. Bell to bell the match was amazing too, Zayn is an incredibly accomplished performer and the two put on a world class display of cutting edge pro wrestling that made the future for both seem so bright. Hype, drama and action, this one had it all and if you haven’t seen it yet give yourself a Christmas present by tracking it down.
Craig: The Revival vs. DIY at NXT Takeover:Toronto. This is a barnstorming match-up. Both teams brought their a-game to this one and it stole the show, on a very good night for NXT. The drama that a two-out-of-three falls match brings to the party undoubtedly helped, but it was the performance of the four superstars involved that really made this one. Johnny Gargano played the ‘Ricky Morton’ babyface in peril as The Revival ran roughshod over DIY before Ciampa and Gargano triumphed in the end and took home the gold. A classic story, updated and told in a magnificent fashion.
Brian: Will Ospreay Vs Ricochet. Definitely has to be the match of the year for a few reasons. Number 1, the match itself was thrilling. 2, the match went viral all over the world and had wrestling fans talking about it for weeks and 3, Vader’s negative comments toward it got the match, and New Japan, even more publicity. The match is well worth the watch.
Tag Team of the Year
John: The Revival. These guys have put old fashioned, bread and butter tag team wrestling back on the map. Obviously influenced by NWA tag teams of the 70’s and 80’s the Revival prove that what’s old is new by being a fresh act in 2016 by bringing back a style of wrestling that was in vogue when they weren’t even born yet. They began the year as NXT tag champs and had a great feud with American Alpha whom they dropped the straps to at NXT Takeover Dallas before quickly regaining them and starting an even better feud with Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano. They stole the show at NXT Takeover Brooklyn 2 and while DIY more than held up their end of the match it was the Revival who looked like the most polished team throughout. They then followed up that classic bout with another at NXT Takeover Toronto where they dropped the titles to Ciampa and Gargano in a 2/3 falls blinder. The track record of tag teams moving up to the main roster hasn’t been great, but I hope the Revival buck the trend in 2017.
Craig: The Revival. Having beaten the drum so many times for more old school styled tag team action, this decision is a no-brainer. Channelling the very best of 70s and 80s NWA tag team wrestling, Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson have had a sensational 2016. Their run with the tag team titles was solid, their defences often spectacular and has seen the pair engage with some of the brightest teams NXT had on offer. Sans titles, I’m looking forward to seeing them chase the gold once again. But when will we see them on the main roster? It cannot be long. Oh to see them on Smackdown Live…
Brian: The Revival. I can’t argue that the Revival is a team that harkens back to the good old days of tag team wrestling from the NWA/JCP years. They are throwbacks and in a very good way. They proved that tag team wrestling can work in this day and age and work effectively.
Best Angle of the Year
John: The Broken Matt Hardy Saga. Matt Hardy somehow made me watch TNA again, that itself is an incredible feat. His post-modern feud and reunion with his brother Jeff/Nero though was compelling stuff. At first, it was an awful train wreck I couldn’t help but watch because it was so plainly awful. Then over time Matt really grew into the Broken role and then the angle jumped the shark in a dilapidated boat and somehow it just all worked. It was absurdist entertainment, it was bad, it was brilliant and most often it was hilarious. Matt, I salute you.
Craig: It’s somewhat slim pickings here so I’m going to have to go with Broken Matt Hardy too. Nothing against the angle, it’s like nothing else in wrestling, but it’s not made me watch much TNA beyond the Hardy segments. Yet, it’s taken the Hardy always deemed as the least interesting and has made him a fascinating character later in his career and has even led to rumours of a WWE return. He clearly now loves and lives the character and is so invested in it, which has led to it being as successful as it is.
Brian: Broken Matt Hardy. This has to win by a landslide for two reasons: number 1, it got people who normally wouldn’t talk or watch TNA wrestling to tune in and number two, it resurrected the career of Matt Hardy. Who knew he had all this charisma and brilliance inside of him? For the first time in the Hardy boyz careers…it is Matt who is outshining Jeff.
Feel Good Moment of the Year
John: Finn Balor wins the WWE Universal Championship at Summerslam. I’ve said on this site before that I’m biased when it comes to Finn Balor. Not only are we from the same country, we’re from the same province. He’s the best pro wrestler my nation has ever produced and watching him win the WWE title a the 2nd biggest PPV of the year was unbelievable. Ireland doesn’t have a tradition of pro wrestling, the independent scene here was actually started by Balor and his contemporaries in the early 2000’s and its incredible that in that time our country has produced three WWE Champions (Balor, Becky Lynch & Seamus). I was over the moon when he took the gold home and my elation was only matched by my devastation when he had to hand the title back due to injury. Still, it was a brilliant moment while it lasted.
Craig: Finn Balor wins the Universal Title. This, too, is a no-brainer. At the brand split, the WWE strapped a rocket to the back of the diminutive Irishman and it was apparent that sooner, rather than later, he would have the Universal title around his waist. On his way to the top, he bested some of the company’s biggest names and what a moment it was when his hand was raised in triumph. An absolute travesty that injury was to prevent us seeing him have a run with the gold, but the moment at SummerSlam when he reached the top of the mountain was the type of moment that wrestling fans love when does this well.
Brian: Kevin Owens winning the WWE Universal title, I know my colleagues, for the most part, chose Finn Balor’s victory but KO winning the belt a couple of weeks later was much more emotional. If you believe the rumors that the whole ending of the match was shrouded in secrecy, even from Owens, it was an emotional moment. The face KO had when he won was truly priceless and showed that he finally arrived.
John: Dean Ambrose. A close runner up is Dolph Ziggler but Dean Ambrose takes the cake for somehow managing to be a bland anarchist character. Ambrose has run out of steam as a babyface and I’m bored to tears by his act at this point. The reason he gets the award from me too is that Ambrose could be so compelling as a heel with the exact same gimmick. Anybody who’s seen his work as a psychotic villain in CZW can tell you the man is wasted in his current position. I’m hoping this is the last time I’ll be giving him an award of this nature and that 2017 will bring a better yield for him.
Craig: Dean Ambrose. His act is now very stale and, with the James Ellsworth issue, is only going to get worse. Isn’t it? I was surprised that the company went with him as WWE champion but was pleased that they pulled that trigger. However, his run was lacklustre and he already feels so, so far away from being champion again.
Brian: Apollo Crews. I mean what is he exactly? Why do we root for him? Why is he not on TV every week? Talk about a guy with an unbelievable amount of talent absolutely wasted…it would be Apollo Crews.
- Superstar of the Year: AJ Styles
- Match of the Year: 3-way tie – Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn/The Revival vs. DIY/Will Ospreay Vs Ricochet
- Tag team of the year: The Revival
- Best angle: “Broken” Matt Hardy
- Feel Good Moment of the Year: Finn Balor wins Universal Title
- Worst Character: Dean Ambrose