Brian Damage, John Carberry, Benjamin Trecroci and Craig Wilson
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
Brian: My vote goes to Tetsuya Naito of New Japan Pro Wrestling. He had a tremendous 2017 and is arguably that company’s most popular wrestler. After winning the G1 Climax tournament to become the number one contender to Okada’s IWGP heavyweight title…I look for Naito to have an even bigger year in 2018.
John: Kazuchika Okada. The competition this year was stiff even just in NJPW. While Tetsuya Naito was probably the most popular wrestler in Japan for 2017 and Kenny Omega was the biggest star worldwide neither had a better year than Okada. His rivalry with Omega became legend and helped turn Omega into the star he now is, a Midas touch Okada used with everybody he faced in 2017. Every main event and IWGP title match he had felt like it was important and each and every match was unique. Wrestlers like Okada only come around once in a while and at only 30 years of age the best might yet be to come for the Rainmaker which is almost scary to contemplate.
Benjamin: Braun Strowman. Who had a better year than this guy in the WWE? Think about it. He was jettisoned into great main event program with Roman Reigns. Had a title match with Brock Lesnar and now is back in a title match. I’d like to say AJ Styles but the Jinder program pushed him aside for a number of months while Braun was hot all year.
Craig: AJ Styles. Absolute clear bias here but I’m pleased he’s rounded off the year carrying the WWE title. He’s one of the best performers on the WWE roster and I hope he gets a lengthy run with the belt around his waist.
Match of the Year
Brian: I gotta go with Tyler Bate versus Pete Dunne for the WWE United Kingdom title at NXT Takeover: Orlando. These two wrestlers desperately need to be featured more on WWE televsion. They had a match for the ages at Takeover. Pete Dunne, especially, has “superstar” written all over him.
John: Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada, NJPW Dominion 2017. According to Dave Meltzer this was the greatest match of all time, giving it 6 1/4 stars in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. I don’t know if it was the best match I’ve ever seen but it was easily the best match of the year. An unbelievable athletic effort by both with amazing psychology and drama spread out over 60 epic minutes. Omega and Okada showed the whole world what the top tier of wrestling looked like with this one.
Benjamin: Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne. Going into the match, not many people were overly excited. Figured they’ll put on a good show. Then, all of a sudden, the NXT Takeover crowd in Chicago was going insane with every move! It was definitely a highlight of 2017 and hopefully a very bright future for both guys going forward.
Craig: For me, this was the Wargames match at the NXT Takeover of the same name. I wrote about it previously, but this had everything. The WWE updated the match from when we last saw it, changed the dynamic in making it between three teams and packed it full of gripping and hard-hitting action. I was invested in all three-team going into it and completely bought into the match on the night. A remarkable bout.
Tag team of the year
Brian: The Usos had a tremendous year and, in my book, are perhaps the best tag team in the world right now. As far as talent, charisma and over all look…the Usos are the cream of the crop in tag team wrestling.
John: None. I thought on this one for a few days and I just couldn’t honestly pick one tag team out as the best of the year. I’ve seen a lot of great tag matches, but I can’t say I’ve seen one team stand head and shoulders above the rest. The New Day vs The Usos at WWE Hell in a Cell and The Young Bucks vs Ricochet/Taguchi at the G1 Climax finals though were prefect examples of tag team wrestling, hats off to all involved.
Benjamin: The Usos. Like they said, “They got the tag team division on lock!” They really do. Their feud with The New Day was one of the more entertaining feuds of the year. They finally let The Usos show some emotion as they showed a sign of their relatives with a Samoan Swat Team nastiness that was never seen with them. While they were always a great team, this new attitude propelled them into the one of the best in all of wrestling.
Craig: The Usos. Tag team of the year, arguably in main roster match of the year and probably feud of the year too. They even had Book or Cook treatment previously, in many instances the superstars featured in that have gone on to be released by the company! Mercifully, the WWE, instead, turned the pair heel and they’ve never looked back. For the first time, I actually care about the Usos as an act. More than deserving of tag team of the year.
Brian: Velveteen Dream trying to get Aliester Black to say his name in NXT. The angle stretched over a few weeks and really helped build up Velveteen Dream as a star. The build-up was perfectly done and when Black finally said his name…Velveteen became a star!
John: Chris Jericho attacks Kenny Omega. What’s old is new. The beatdown by Chris Jericho of Kenny Omega at the NJPW World Tag League finals was very old school, it reminded me of how matches were built up for old NWA supercards. It had a vicious heel beating a firey babyface to a bloody pulp and it left me salivating at the prospect of their Wrestle Kingdom 12 match. They followed it up with a chaotic press conference where they brawled and cursed each other’s names. Jericho and Omega have built hype for their match more effectively than anybody else this year. The Royal Rumble might be coming up but Alpha vs Omega is the must see match for January 2018.
Benjamin: Festival of Friendship (Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho). Maaaaan this was so good. It was a throwback to some good old-fashioned storytelling. Everything about it was great from the music, Jericho’s little hat, the set. Excellent. Then when KO turned it was heart-breaking for Jericho. If only this would’ve culminated in a world title match at WM. But instead, Goldberg won the title from KO and Ugh…
Craig: Jason Jordan being announced as Kurt Angle’s son… I kid, that was hideous. For me, the festival of friendship. It was silly, overblown and ridiculous. But, more importantly, it had a fantastic finishing angle. Also, that painting of the two of them… This just pips Velveteen Dream and Aleister Black angle in NXT, just…
Feel Good Moment of the Year
Brian: The return of Katsuyori Shibata to New Japan at the G1 Climax finals. The date was August 13th, 2017 and Shibata made a surprise return to New Japan after suffering a near fatal head injury a few months earlier. As Shibata made his way down the entrance…you could see wrestling fans in tears. Shibata then got in the ring and said…”I’m alive.” and walked out to thunderous applause.
John: Tyler Bate becomes the first WWE UK Champion. Take it from me, Tyler Bate is a very nice young man and very humble despite his achievements and acclaim. I’ve heard rumours that he wasn’t even supposed to win the UK title but he was so popular with the crowd in Blackpool and so talented in the ring that plans were scrapped and the youngest competitor in the field was pencilled in to the historic spot of first champ. I can believe it, Tyler played the babyface role so well I was even happy to see him beat my favourite UK star Pete Dunne in the final of the tournament which told a brilliant story with a happy ending. My favourite of the year.
Benjamin: AJ Styles winning the WWF Title in Manchester. For a number of reasons, this was great. But also for the people of Manchester who had gone through a horrible tragedy at the Ariana Grande shooting, it was great to see them celebrating in a huge setting. It was the first time the WWE Championship had changed hands outside of the US. It was so fitting and great to see that title back in the rightful hands of AJ Styles.
Craig: AJ Styles wins title in Manchester. The crowd reaction to this is glorious. No one really expected this change at this time. I doubted that Mahal would carry the title into 2018 but I didn’t see the switch taking place at a Smackdown Live show in Manchester. But glad it did. It’s great to see the reaction of the fans in attendance. None of them expected it either.
Brian: It has to be Jason Jordan as Kurt Angle’s illegitimate son. Granted, I really like Jordan and I really think he will be a major player in WWE someday. I think the idea of him being Angle’s son was a bad move and gave Jordan heat…but not the kind you want from fans. The kind that fans just don’t care about you at all.
John: Enzo Amore. I was never a fan of Enzo and Cass’s shtick, but I could certainly appreciate why it was so popular. The catchphrase was easy to repeat and Enzo’s trash talking had a bit of bite to it. When he turned heel this year though everything I found annoying about him was amplified. Enzo isn’t hateable, he’s unlikeable. His promos aren’t ire-inducing but they are boring and his matches are the pits. There’s more than one word to describe him such as lame, tired, whack and irrelevant. Take your pick.
Benjamin: Natayla Neidhart. I’d like to say Jason Jordan, but lately he’s starting to warm up to me. The execution was horrible, and it still makes no sense that he’s Kurt Angle’s son. But he’s still better than Nattie. She’s that nosy aunt that wants to get all into your business and give you her wisdom. She doesn’t bring anything to the table and while she’s very talented in the ring. She needs to go away. Not real sure what this newest angle at Clash of the Champions was all about, but it seemed like she was turning heel, but she already was. I don’t know and don’t care.
Craig: Jason Jordan. Who in their right mind thought this was good? Splitting a tag team with potential up in order to make Jordan Angle’s son. The crowd reaction to Jordan since has spoken volumes. Wonder how his pairing with Seth Rollins will turn things around for him.
- Superstar of the Year: Tetsuya Naito, Kazuchika Okada, Braun Strowman, AJ Styles
- Match of the Year: Tyler Bates vs Pete Dunne
- Tag team of the year: The Usos
- Best angle: Festival of Friendship
- Feel Good Moment of the Year: AJ Styles wins WWE Title in Manchester
- Worst Character: Jason Jordan