By Mark Worrall @Hoohoowozza
Male of the Year – AJ Styles – Some may say Styles had a better 2016, and there would be a genuine argument for that, however for me AJ Styles continues to carry this promotion forward. Every match that involves Styles will always be considered good, great or simply brilliant. At 40 years of age AJ shows no signs of slowing down and has even allowed Jinder Mahal to have a decent match, although he is limited to that AJ title match! AJ Styles match against Brock Lesner was simply great and for me there is no doubt that Styles is my man for WWE male of the year.
Female – Alexa Bliss – Being the first female to hold both Raw and Smackdown titles, the former valet to Blake & Murphy on NXT as really took the women’s division by storm and put herself on top. Ok, so there may be a case for Charlotte and that would be valid. However, Miss Bliss has defined her character, to which she is strong and her promo work is second to none. With a Championship belt for most of 2017, whatever colour it may be, Alexa surely wins my vote for female of the year.
Tag Team – The Uso’s – A heel turn was simply genius for the Uso’s whose old act had simply gone stale. A fresh look and gimmick can sometimes bring out the best in a performer, and the Uso’s don’t give damn attitude, in turn seems to be getting them back over as faces. The performances of the Uso’s have seen some terrific matches, none better than their match against the New Day at Hell in a Cell. A great year for the five time champs, my tag team of the year.
Match of the Year – Pete Dunne V Tyler Bate – NXT is a part of WWE isn’t it? As far as I am concerned this match blows anything else from 2017 away! Yes, the AJ Styles/Lesner came a close second, but for me there are other circumstances for this match being my match of the year. To begin with, the two wrestlers involved are not what you would consider regular NXT roster members, and still spend a lot of time in their native UK. So for these guys, who are both in their early twenties, to go out into a wrestling hotbed of a city such as Chicago, and put over a match such as they did, and have the crowd lap up every move just shows what talented youngsters the UK have produced. Stunning match that still looks great several views later, this surely is my favourite WWE match of the year. Oh, and Pete Dunne is from my home city! With Tyler just a few miles away!!!!
Brand of the Year – Smackdown – Difficult one for me as I do not watch Raw or Smackdown! So I have to go from the PPV’s or highlight shows or podcasts I listen to. I chose Smackdown simply because of AJ Styles, the best in ring performer the WWE has. Also, being a two hour show may help if I were to watch it. Raw has too many big names and can sometimes seem too clustered at times. So it is Smackdown for me, and that’s about it!
PPV of the year – Hell in A Cell – There are no start to finish excellent PPV’s from WWE, so we have to take the best from what we can. This PPV was actually very enjoyable, with no bad match other than the Jinder/ Nakamura match, and two outstanding Hell in a Cell matches that really made this PPV one of the best of the year with the Uso’s and New Day putting out an excellent opening match that was simply a wonderful and tireless performances from the two best tag teams in the company. To the main event with the usual high flying antics of Shane McMahon, desperate to outdo himself in every show he performs in, to the excellent heel turn of Sami Zayn! My favourite show of 2017.
Male of the year – Kazuchika Okada – The IWGP Champion for the whole of 2017, the ace of New Japan has been simply brilliant as the Champion whose title defences have bought us top quality matches that a company champion should have. Seven title defences this calendar year, Okada as fought off challenges from Minoru Suzuki, Evil, Cody, Bad Luck Fale, two incredible matches with Kenny Omega and a career ending match with Shibata which was simply my match of the year. With that resume and Okada’a sheer dominance, and with a simple basic wrestling style that only he can do so brilliantly, there is no question that Okada is NJPW’s male of the year.
Tag Team – War Machine – A rather biased choice I suppose, personally I am a big fan of the American duo who have dominated a struggling heavyweight tag division. Instinctively I thought about the Young Bucks at first, however they fill a later spot and my heart went with War Machine who look like their NJPW days may be coming to an end, however their New Japan run as definitely put them on the wrestling map.
Match of the Year – Okada v Shibata – My favourite match of 2017, the main event of the Sakura Genesis show would unfortunately be Katsuyori Shiabata’s final match in wrestling after he suffered a head injury after headbutting his opponent Okada. This match had everything you could possibly want from a wrestling match. Shibata’s constant offence and striking prowess could simply not put Okada away who soaked up the oncoming offence until he found a moment to nail Shibata with his patterned ‘Rainmaker’ to put his challenger away. Five star match which is a must see.
PPV of the year – Dominion – It would be the back end of the show that would really deliver and make this show of the year with a great main event that saw Okada and Omega fight out a classic one hour time limit draw, and Hiroshi Tanahashi capturing the IWGP Intercontinental title from Tetsuyo Naito. For me the IWGP Junior heavyweight title match between Hiromu Takahashi and Kushida, with the latter winning the title was the match of the night with a great Junior heavyweight match that was on par with any heavyweight contest this year. A really great show that is worth anybody’s time.
US & UK Indy’s
Male of the Year – US/Keith Lee – A huge 2017 for the American whose journey across the world has seen him rise through the Indie ranks and it is a matter of time until he is snapped up by WWE or NJPW. His matches in Evolve have been terrific, and my one time of seeing live was at a Fight Club Pro event in July when he put over local talent Omari in a great match from a man whose size does not stop him from doing anything and ridiculously allows him to perform moves like a man half his size. 2018 will be his year.
UK/Pete Dunne – Ok, so Dunne is signed to a WWE contract, however he still works the indie scene so I still categorize him in that field. 2017 saw Dunne elevate higher than any other, his reign as Progress champion saw him top Britain’s top promotion for two thirds of the year. His entrance, his matches and his character make him stand out and you feel a star is in the building every time he is performing. Nothing has stopped the Birmingham youngster and he really has had a breakout year. The best British wrestler around today.
Female – US/Mia Yim – Not having seen a lot of US female wrestling I found this category difficult, however having seen Mia Yim a couple of times this year and knowing how good she is in the ring this was my choice. If you consider her two matches in the Mae Young classic, for which both were very good, the former TNA star travels the indie circuit worldwide and always puts out a good match.
UK/Jinny – Nearly went Toni Storm here until I realised she is Australian! Jinny is a great character heel who naturally draws great heat. She appears on most promotions shows, and while her character remains mostly the same, she carries it off tremendously. A great year in the ring surely it is a matter of time until she is wearing the Progress gold.
Tag Team US/Young Bucks – No question here who deserves this, The Bucks, who brilliantly self promote are without doubt the greatest tag team in the world at the moment. Having held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight titles, the PWG tag titles and the ROH tag titles this year alone, sometimes simultaneously. Their antics outside the ring, alongside the Bullet Club have also raised their profile. Brilliant in the ring, their 2017 has simply been one of their best.
UK/CCK(Brookes/Lycos) – Chris Brookes took a young, rather small wrestler in Kid Lycos, formed a tag team and brilliantly set the UK tag team scene on fire. The rise of CCK throughout 2017 has been, well simply remarkable. A team with the size difference should not work, but it does and the difference in size is how this team works with their ridiculous sometimes sick tag moves, 2017 has seen them win gold at Progress and also take the CZW tag titles at the same time. Plagued by injury towards the back end of the year, Kid Lycos as had to take some time off to recover. 2017 has been the year of CCK and I do not see things being any different in 2018.
Match of the Year – US/Joey Janella v Marty Janetty – This was not about the match, but about the two people involved. The Rockers legend Marty Janetty, somehow talked into a match with the US madman Janella was the main focus of a show simply built around this one match that headlined Joey Janella’s spring break at Wrestlemania weekend. A great show in itself, the headlining match was more of a spectacle than a great match but I loved it.
UK/4 team elimination – The Bigger Picture v Star Talent v Scarlet & Graves v The Hunter Brothers – My recent Kamikaze Pro review from December 3rd will tell you everything about this match, which was simply brilliant. Four teams, giving everything to put over a match at a local show just shows the talent that was in the match and the performances that were given by all eight wrestlers. A stunning main event, finished off with a title change was easily my pick for match of the year.
Show/Event of the year – FCP project mayhem night one – I sat ringside for this event that was simply off the charts as complete wrestling shows go. Opening up with Chris Brookes defending and retaining his Fight Club Pro championship in a great four way match, the show went from strength to strength with the main event featuring British Strong Style taking on Eita, Cima and Masaaki Mochizuki representing DragonGate from Japan. If that was not enough, the end of the show featured another match, in a ring opposite the regular ring, built only for this match that featured a death match between Callous Hearts (Clint Margera/Jimmy Havok) v Drew Parker & Ricky Shane Page that was simply nothing I had ever seen before! A brilliant show from start to finish