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Pro Wrestling in 2016: End of the Year Awards
By Matthew Thomas Posted in Culture, Sports on December 29, 2016 0 Comments
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2016 was pretty wild for pro wrestling. After all, this was the year that saw both A.J. Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura leave Japan and win championship gold in WWE and NXT respectively. For women’s wrestling, 2016 was also historic; Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair broke barriers by not only competing inside Hell in a Cell, but to be the first women to ever main event a pay-per-view card. 2016 will go down as the year that broke Matt Hardy, saw Billy Corgan briefly run TNA (and do a great job at it), and introduced us to the freakin’ WWE Universal Championship.

As 2016 comes to a close, Foleyfield podcasters Mick Rouse and Matthew Thomas take a fond look back at the year that was in the world of pro wrestling.

Nominees for Best Male Star:

  • A.J. Styles (Current WWE Champion, made WWE debut)
  • The Miz (Current and 2x WWE Intercontinental Champion)
  • Kenny Omega (First ever foreigner to win G1 Climax, IGWP Intercontinental Champion)
  • Kevin Owens (Current WWE Universal Champion, WWE Intercontinental Champion)
  • Seth Rollins (Return from injury, 1st overall pick of 2016 WWE Draft)

Mick’s Pick: A.J. Styles
A.J. Styles began 2016 by putting on one of the best matches of the year at NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 10, and then followed that up with arguably the best rookie season WWE has ever seen. At this point in his career, it is no longer a question of if A.J. Styles will put on a fantastic match; it’s a question of if A.J. Styles will put on the greatest match we have ever seen.

Matthew’s Pick: Kenny Omega
Kenny Omega takes the award for really owning an entire 12-month period in wrestling. Look back to January 4, the day after Wrestle Kingdom 10. Omega had just dropped the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship to Kushida the night prior, and it was on that night that Kenny would seize control of the Bullet Club by turning on A.J. Styles and announce his entrance into the heavyweight division. Omega would proceed to become the first ever foreignor to win the G1 Climax and has made the Bullet Club brand more far-reaching than ever before. The argument against Styles, who is a close second, is that his year didn’t really pick up until beating John Cena clean at SummerSlam 2016. For these reasons, I’m giving the Cleaner the edge here. Omega is one of the best in the world in the ring and on the mic. Well deserved.

Nominees for Best Female Star:

  • Charlotte Flair (Current and 4x Raw Women’s Champion, final WWE Diva’s Champion)
  • Sasha Banks (3x Raw Women’s Champion)
  • Asuka (Current NXT Women’s Champion, currently undefeated)
  • Becky Lynch (Inaugural SmackDown Live Women’s Champion)
  • Alexa Bliss (Current SmackDown Live Women’s Champion)

Mick’s Pick: Charlotte Flair
Anyone looking for a crash course in Heel 101, look no further than 2016 Charlotte Flair. Her ring presence and mannerisms are top notch and still getting better with every week. On top of that, her rivalry with Sasha Banks will surely go down in history as one of the best feuds ever – male or female. All the more impressive when you remember that Charlotte first got in the ring less than five years ago.

Matthew’s Pick: Charlotte Flair
Charlotte gets the clean sweep here. Her ability to own her character, generate authentic heat from the crowd, and help carry a seven-month program with Sasha Banks (in which nearly every match was great, mind you), Charlotte absolutely deserves to be a four-time Women’s Champion.

Nominees for Match of the Year:

  • A.J. Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the IGWP Intercontinental Championship (Wrestle Kingdom 10)
  • A.J. Styles vs. Dean Ambrose for the WWE Championship (TLC)
  • Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks for the WWE Women’s Championship (WrestleMania 32)
  • Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet (BOSJ 2016)
  • The Revival vs. DIY for the NXT Tag Team Championship (NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II)

Mick’s Pick: The Revival vs. DIY (NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II)
The Revival had a banner year and no other match better captured what makes the duo so exciting as their showdown with DIY in Brooklyn. However, it takes two to tango, and DIY certainly cemented themselves as true players in the tag team division by the end of the night. Combine the larger-than-life atmosphere that the Barclays Center always brings to NXT cards, plus Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks marking out int he crowd at every big spot, and you have easily the best match of 2016.

Matthew’s Pick: A.J. Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (Wrestle Kingdom 10)
This was a phenomenal (pun intended) match on the grandest stage that NJPW has to offer. If you are new to New Japan and would like to get caught up on the great matches that this company had to offer this year, I suggest you start right here (and then proceed to Okada/Tanahashi from the same night). Two veterans giving a five star-worthy performance, this match had all the spots, kicks, and swagger that one would expect given the marquee names.

Nominees for Best Tag Team:

  • The New Day
  • The Revival
  • American Alpha
  • The Young Bucks
  • DIY

Mick’s Pick: The Revival
The Revival has been able to accomplish the one feat deemed impossible in NXT: remained showered in boos while producing four to five-star matches on a weekly basis. 2016 has seen an influx of fantastic tag teams, but the Revival have solidified themselves as one of the top three tag teams of the last decade.

Matthew’s Pick: The New Day
I’m going to go outside the box a bit here with my New Day pick. I say that because I’m choosing the New Day less for any four or five star matches that they put on, but more so because the entertainment value that they were able to provide for the better part of 2016. We’re talking about a team that entered the WrestleMania 32 stage from a giant box of cereal dressed as Dragon Ball Z costumes. That, coupled with the fact that they did break Demolition’s 28-year-old record to become the longest reigning tag team champions in WWE history, the New Day have easily had the best 2016 of any tag team in wrestling.

Nominees for Best Current NXT Star:

  • The Revival
  • Shinsuke Nakamura
  • Samoa Joe
  • Asuka
  • Tye Dillinger

Mick’s Pick: The Revival
Shinsuke Nakamura came into NXT with so much hype and with such a bang that it’s difficult to decipher whether he’s overrated or if his greatness has become boring. On the other side of the aisle, Asuka has carried the women’s division without a true contemporary. Then there’s the Revival, who not only reinvigorated tag team wrestling, but are progressing it as well. Long live the Revival.

Matthew’s Pick: Samoa Joe
Shinsuke Nakamura is too obvious of a pick here, even with his fantastic match with Sami Zayn at NXT TakeOver: Dallas. However, I’m going to go with Samoa Joe here. Since turning heel on Finn Balor, Joe has been the “Brock Lesnar of NXT” and completely destroyed opponents – Nakamura included. The latter victory crowned him the first ever two-time NXT Champion. For a man who surely didn’t need any time on a development brand, Joe certainly took the reigns and made the most of it.

Nominees for Best Indie/Non-WWE Star:

  • Kenny Omega
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi
  • Will Ospreay
  • Ricochet
  • Kazuchika Okada

Mick’s Pick: Kenny Omega
There are zero Kenny Omega matches listed amongst our final-five contenders for Match of the Year (please feel free to send all flames to our twitter account), but we could have easily filled out half our list with only Omega matches from the G1 Climax alone. Perhaps more impressive is how Kenny has continued the success of the Bullet Club after the departures of Finn Balor, A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows in the last two years.

Matthew’s Pick: Kenny Omega
As Mick stated, there are no Kenny Omega matches nominated for our Match of the Year list. However, the Cleaner has been so consistent over 2016, really any of his matches could have been been included in the top five and one would be hard-pressed to argue against it. Given that I have already awarded Omega as the Best Male Star of 2016, this was an easy pick for me.

Nominees for Most Improved:

  • Charlotte Flair
  • Broken Matt Hardy
  • Baron Corbin
  • Alexa Bliss
  • The Miz

Mick’s Pick: Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss is undoubtedly the biggest steal of the WWE Draft. Originally thought to be a warm body to fill out a thin women’s division, Bliss has become a believable champion and an integral part to the fresh and exciting SmackDown Live brand.

Matthew’s Pick: Charlotte Flair
Alexa Bliss might be the surprise of the year, but Charlotte Flair has noticeably been the most improved. Look back to where she was both in the ring and on the mic during her PCB days as a face and then compare that to where she is now as arguably Raw’s best heel and a four-time Women’s Champion, the sky is the limit for Charlotte if she keeps this up.

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