John Carbery, Brian Damage, Benjamin Trecroci and Craig Wilson
It’s that time of the year again, it’s time for our end of the year awards, our version of the Slammys. Similar to previous years, it’ll be divided into two parts. This week we’ll put forward our nominations for the following awards:
- Best Newcomer
- Worst Turn
- Biggest Missed Opportunity
- Best Pay Per View
- Female superstar of the year
- Superstar most needing a change of fortune
- Most Likely to Succeed from NXT
So, without further ado.
John: Tie – Velveteen Dream/Bianca Bel Air. I was equally impressed by both Dream and Bel Air in 2017. Bianca Bel Air immediately stood out in the Mae Young Classic and had far superior matches in her debut outings than many who had been performing for years. She has personality, ability and a unique gimmick. So, does Velveteen Dream who I was sceptical about at first. I’d seen the Prince gimmick before and it never worked, be it Goldust in his wilderness years or Prince Iaukea lowering the standard of the WCW Cruiserweight division it just had never worked. Then I watched Dream’s breakout match with Aleister Black and I found my faith in the Dream. For someone so young and inexperienced Dream looked and wrestled like a star in a big-time match and his reworking of Rick Rude elements for the modern scene won me over even more. These two are really great examples of the Performance Centre system, here’s hoping WWE doesn’t let them down when it really counts on the main roster.
Brian: Velveteen Dream is my choice because his feud with Aleister Black was so on point. This was a guy who lost the Tough Enough competition…but worked hard and developed a gimmick for himself that worked and got over. The Velveteen Dream is a character I could easily see working well on the main roster one day as well.
Benjamin: The Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly, Adam Cole, Bobby Fish). While these guys are not newcomers to the world of pro wrestling, they are to WWE/NXT. They came into NXT at a perfect time as there was a big void in top stars in the promotion. The way that they came in through the crowd was perfect at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III in one of the best moments of the year. It was executed perfectly, and they have made an impact in NXT and who knows maybe they will be in WWE very soon.
Craig: Velveteen Dream: I think Patrick Clark has been excellent in this role. I didn’t expect a Prince gimmick to be this good but boy has he made this work. As Brian suggests, his feud with Black was fantastic. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Velveteen, although concerns remain how he’ll get on when promoted to the main roster.
John: Any of Randy Orton’s turns. I’m sure Orton turned at one point or another this year, same as any other year. Will it have made a difference to his work, look, character etc? Of course not.
Brian: Randy Orton’s turn on the Wyatt family was so predictable and uninspired. Orton is a good wrestler in the ring when he really wants to be. His personality is so even-keeled though it kills whatever heat he has in my opinion. Besides, Orton has fluctuated from heel to face back to a heel and then back to a babyface countless times that it really has lost meaning.
Benjamin: Dolph Ziggler. At first, it seemed like a good move to turn Dolph heel but then he just kept complaining about entrances and it would be the guy that new stars like Nakamura and Bobby Roode would debut against and it didn’t help either one of them. He just won the US Title at Clash of the Champions so maybe this will make him “face-ish” again but overall his heel run didn’t do much for him. He probably should’ve just gone away for a couple of months and then returned with a new look.
Craig: Randy Orton. Orton gets the nod from me as well. Ultimately, most things that Orton does has little or no effect on me but the turn and programme with the Wyatt family was both predictable and as dull as dishwater. He constantly seems slap bang in the middle of being a heel and being a face so when he moves further in a particular direction, it has limited results. That programme with Bray Wyatt though…
Biggest Missed Opportunity:
John: Shinsuke Nakamura’s Main Roster Debut. Even the most ardent WWE fanboy would have to admit 2017 was New Japan’s year. Just look at every weekly broadcast of RAW and Smackdown, you’ll see more Bullet Club shirts than WWE shirts. What’s going on in Japan right is is the coolest thing in wrestling and the tastemaker wrestling fans are on the NJPW train. WWE could have easily tapped into the wrestling Zeitgeist by strapping a rocket to NJPW superstar and all around maverick Shinsuke Nakamura and marketing their own brand of the cool that’s sweeping wrestling. Alas.
Brian: Shinsuke Nakamura should be one of the biggest stars on WWE’s main roster. He should have been going through the competition like a hot knife through butter. Instead…they put him in a feud with Jinder Mahal that goes nowhere. Nakamura is a top talent and I hope 2018 will be a rebound year for such a dynamic and unique wrestler.
Benjamin: Bobby Roode. See above with his debut against Ziggler. Didn’t want to be that guy that is already down on Roode. But shouldn’t he be a top guy on Smackdown by now? The WWE put too much stock into his music that “fans love it so don’t make him heel.” He should’ve been the cool, cocky heel that made him the stud on NXT. At some point, Roode and AJ Styles need to cross paths, hopefully, it’s sooner than later. Roode is too damn good to be hanging around the mid-card.
Craig: Shinsuke Nakamura. Benjamin is bang on about Roode but I think the WWE have massively dropped the ball with Nakamura. He could have been thrust straight into the main event on the main roster and no one would have batted an eyelid. Instead, he’s become a pawn in the programme involving Shane O’Mac, Daniel Bryan and Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
Best Pay Per View:
John: NJPW Dominion, Osaka Japan. This wasn’t just the best show of 2017, it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. At five hours it really should have dragged but every match on the card delivered something worth watching. The quality really started to spike upwards with the Young Bucks vs Roppongi Vice for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Titles only to be followed by a great match for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles between War Machine and Guerillas of Destiny. KUSHIDA vs Hiromu Takahashi for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship was excellent and followed by a wild brawl between Minoru Suzuki and Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight belt. The match between Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship would have made for an incredible main event to Dominion and if the show had ended there it would have still been my pick for show of the year. But that outstanding effort was topped by an inhuman 60 minute all time classic between Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. 2017 was an incredible year for in ring wrestling and despite tough competition it belonged to New Japan Pro Wrestling, they do it better than any company on the planet and this show is the evidence that backs up such a statement.
Brian: The best pay per view in 2016, BY FAR, goes to New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 11 this past January. The main event match between Kenny Omega versus Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP title was worth the price of admission alone. New Japan Pro Wrestling is undoubtedly the best in ring show in all of pro wrestling.
Benjamin: Royal Rumble 2017. There were so many great matches in 2017 but sometimes the whole PPVs wasn’t very good with either the undercard or the main event not delivering. Obviously, the AJ Styles vs. John Cena match was the highlight of the show in one of the best matches in years and a feud that felt like it wasn’t finished. Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns in a No DQ match was chaos. The Rumble itself was a fun (minus the Orton win) match with Taker, Goldberg, Tye Dillinger being the highlights.
Craig: I seem to have the casting vote here… I’ll join Brian with Wrestle Kingdom 11. Some absolutely remarkable action on show on this card and, as Brian says, the main event was worth the fee alone. A lot of hype so far for Wrestle Kingdom 12 but it’s got a lot to live up to.
Female Superstar of the Year:
John: Asuka. I wasn’t particularly blown away by a lot of women’s matches in 2017, I just didn’t have the time to keep up with the likes of Stardom etc and WWE’s three divisions were lacking in quality all year compared to 2016 and 2015 for my money. Still, Asuka never let her standards drop. Her match with Ember Moon stole the show at NXT Takeover Brooklyn III and every time she stepped in the ring elsewhere she stood head and shoulders over her contemporaries in terms of ability and presence. Asuka is one of the best wrestlers currently under contract to WWE and I hope the next year brings her plenty of opportunities to show just how good she is.
Brian: Is there anybody other than Asuka worthy of such praise? Perhaps, but Asuka took the NXT’s women’s division and elevated it. She is now on the main roster and still kicking butt and having great matches. 2017 certainly was the year for the Empress of Tomorrow.
Benjamin: Asuka. While she had to relinquish her NXT title because of injury, it didn’t hamper her year. Nobody else is even close to her impact. So far she’s looked pretty good on the main roster and expect some big things for her at WrestleMania and beyond. She seems to one of the few NXT talents that won’t be messed up.
Craig: Asuka. Yeah, this one’s quite the easy category. Difficult to look beyond Asuka here. Whilst she’s looked good on the main roster, she has yet to hit the heights she did on NXT.
Superstar Most Needing a Change of Fortune:
John: Finn Balor. I feel really bad for Finn Balor, he hasn’t been the same since his injury at SummerSlam 2016 and his comeback run has been flat in 2017 and much of it wasn’t his fault. He was lumbered with Bray Wyatt in a feud that went nowhere before being treated like a jobber by Kane and losing his long planned main event match with Brock Lesnar due to WWE creative being both useless and reckless with talent they’re supposed to be developing. I really hope 2018 brings better fortunes for Balor and he finds whatever spark he’s lost. If he were allowed to turn heel and get back some of the magic he developed while leading the Bullet Club in NJPW he just might get back in the swing of things.
Brian: My choice for this goes to Tyler Breeze. Now I know there are a lot of fans who love the whole Breezango tag team, but Breeze is much better than that. This was a guy who consistently stole the show in his matches in NXT. He is one of the company’s best workers and has a ton of charisma. I really want to see Breeze get another shot outside of his comedy routine.
Benjamin: Appolo Crews. This guy is so talented but putting him with Titus O’Neil has done nothing for him. He was big deal on the indys as Uhaa Nation and so far he’s been sadly labeled as just a “happy to be there guy.” Not sure if he needs to go heel and wipe that smile off his face or something else. On NXT they were able to show his backstory and made you root for him, but since day one nobody outside of fans of NXT had no clue who he was and it seems like not many people care to find out either.
Craig: Tyler Breeze. This is a tricky one, a really tricky one. I was going to go for Bray Wyatt but keen to avoid a four-way tie, I’m going for Tyler Breeze. I love the Fashion Files and love Breezango. But, there’s a whole lot more the WWE can do with Breeze and hopefully 2018 is the year that the WWE do just that. Inevitable break-up with Breezango before Breeze goes on to be a big star, would suit me just fine.
Most Likely to Succeed from NXT:
John: Drew McIntyre. Drew is the total package and it’s a crying shame that he injured his bicep during the main event of NXT Takeover Houston. He has an amazing look, real ring presence and developed a great in ring style. He was of course dubbed “The Chosen One” during his first fun with the company before being dumped in the opening matches but WWE should really put their faith in McIntyre once his injury heals because he is a star and is the kind of guy WWE needs in their main event scene.
Brian: Authors of Pain. This is becoming harder and harder to predict because the creative minds in WWE have screwed up some can’t miss stars in the past. This year, I am going to go the safe route and say the Authors of Pain will be a huge success on the main roster in the new year. They are big and bad and have the look that Vince McMahon covets.
Benjamin: Sanity. The main roster is in such need of a faction! They could feud with The Shield, target someone like Bray or Finn or The Hardy Boys. Nikki Cross could run around and get involved with her boys and make a dent in the women’s division as well. They would infuse some excitement into one of the shows. Smackdown would really benefit from four talents like Sanity, but let’s get serious Raw will pick them up.
Craig: Authors of Pain. Part of me is quite surprised they haven’t already been promoted to the main roster. Perhaps the thing that goes against them is that they can still look a little green. Once that’s ironed out and knocked out of them, expect them to make a big impression on the main roster.
- Best Newcomer: Velveteen Dream
- Worst Turn: Randy Orton
- Biggest Missed Opportunity: Shinsuke Nakamura Main Roster debut
- Best Pay Per View: Wrestle Kingdom 11
- Female superstar of the year: Asuka
- Superstar most needing a change of fortune: Tyler Breeze
- Most Likely to Succeed from NXT: Authors of Pain
You can read previous ‘Ring the Damn Bell’s Not the Slammys’ here.