Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The 2015 Bloggie Awards

Will Sasha Banks put her stamp on any Bloggies this year?
Photo Credit:
Welcome to the 2015 Bloggie Awards, presented to the best in the wrestling industry for the last calendar year. Announced within are the winners of these awards, but before we begin, here's what the Bloggies are and aren't:
  • The Bloggies are NOT a measure of who drew money or drove business. Look to the Observer for that scope.
  • The Bloggies are NOT a measure of kayfabe accomplishment. Pro Wrestling Illustrated has that covered like a boss.
  • The Bloggies are NOT crowd-sourced or openly voted upon. They're chosen by me and me alone, so if anyone has a problem, take it up with me.
  • The Bloggies ARE a measure of who did the most to advance the ART of wrestling. Who told the best stories? Who talked with the silverest of tongues? Who wrestled the best matches? Who had the biggest emotional impact? These are the questions that these awards have set out to answer.
Now, without further ado, the following will list both the nominees and the winners in a combined post for the first time in the awards' history. Why? Various reasons. Anyway...

Wrestler of the Year - This is the award for the wrestler who excelled highest critically inside and out of the ring.
Previous Winners:
2009 – Chris Jericho
2010 – The Miz
2011 – CM Punk
2012 – Daniel Bryan
2013 – The Shield
2014 – Sami Zayn

The nominees this year are:
  • Bayley  - She was shunted into the Sami Zayn role from last year except if Zayn was allowed to win his first title defense. She showed great pluck as the lead character in NXT as well as WWE's only true babyface.
  • Dalton Castle - What started out as a low-card intro gimmick lit Ring of Honor on fire and arguably sparked its hottest feud. Castle arguably was as good in the ring as he was during promos and his intros as well.
  • Fenix - Even though Fenix wasn't anywhere near gold until Ultima Lucha, he was probably Lucha Underground's most important tecnico all first season. His feud with Mil Muertes was a high point of wrestling all year.
  • Kevin Owens - He was an incredible top Champ for NXT even though his run was short, and he made the RAW roster's midcard palatable, even if slightly. He's a goddamn miracle worker.
  • The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods) - Nominated under The Shield corollary, New Day evolved from a Vince McMahon-doesn't-understand-Black-people gimmick to the only reason to tune into RAW some weeks.
  • Pentagón, Jr. - Few wrestlers projected as much fear and awe as Señor Cero Miedo did. He was as dynamic a character in Lucha Underground as anyone.
  • Sasha Banks - She was arguably the most important wrestler in NXT from the moment Sami Zayn lost the NXT Championship until she put Bayley over at Takeover: Unstoppable.
And the winner is... Sasha Banks! - This decision was harder than it would have been in, say, August, but Banks made the most of her year before being "promoted" to RAW. Even when she was tasked with being part of a poorly-assembled, corporately-mandated "revolution," she worked her ass off and made people want to see her.

Ricky Steamboat Award - Named for one of the most universally respected and beloved professional wrestlers of all-time, this award is for the wrestler who excelled the most between the ropes during matches to tell stories and build characters through the physical art of professional wrestling.
Previous Winners:
2009 – Christian
2010 – Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson
2011 – Dolph Ziggler
2012 – ACH
2013 – Daniel Bryan
2014 – Sami Zayn

The nominees this year are:
  • AJ Styles - Even without his New Japan work, Styles strapped the load to his back and turned in some of the best performances in the ring of the year, lucha ropes be damned.
  • Cesaro - Even though he was pretty much injured the last third of the year, he turned in a resume in the first eight months that would make even '80s Ric Flair jealous. And he did so in two completely different ways.
  • Fenix - Whether on Lucha Underground or in the indies, Fenix delivered the pyrotechnic satisfaction with emotional depth when he stepped between the ropes.
  • John Cena - Cena's United States Championship Open Challenge was one of the best things on RAW all year. Strange how a guy already established as The Man in the 13th year of his career turned in his finest in-ring campaign to date.
  • Sasha Banks - Banks participated in the best or second best match in every Takeover event this year except for the one she wasn't booked at. I don't give a shit if she had time to practice those matches or not, that's impressive.
And the winner is... Sasha Banks! - Few matches had the emotional depth or tautness as her matches with Bayley, and I would listen to arguments that the one she had with Becky Lynch at Takeover: Unstoppable was better than both of them. I may not agree with it, but I'd listen. She even kept her working boots on when she got to RAW, and it shone through the terrible, recursive booking. In a year with exceptionally good performances from several wrestlers, Banks' stood out.

Talker of the Year - For the wrestler who showed the most prowess at inciting a crowd, building a story, or entertaining the audience via the spoken word.
Previous winners:
2009 – CM Punk
2010 – The Miz
2011 – CM Punk
2012 – Damien Sandow
2013 – Zeb Colter
2014 – Stephanie McMahon

The nominees this year are:
  • Dario Cueto - Even if the authority figure NPC is kinda played out, Cueto's gusto and devilish inflection always made him welcome on the screen.
  • Enzo Amore - The Smack Talker Skywalker is as good at working the microphone as Sami Zayn is at working between the ropes. This past year may have been his best overall body of work.
  • Kevin Owens - WWE got a taste of how unconventional yet effective Owens can be with a stick in his hand. Being able to make people interested in Randy Orton should be commended.
  • Mark Briscoe - What he speaks may barely qualify as English, but it's so entertaining and animated that he has to be nominated.
  • Truth Martini - Jay Lethal owes a lot of his aura to Martini and his gift of gab.
And the winner is... Enzo Amore! - Amore was a staple for NXT broadcasts all year, and he was asked to up the serious quotient in his material towards the end of the year, which he did with great results. He's become one of the most well-rounded mic-men in the game today.

Independent Wrestler of the Year - For the wrestler who excelled the most outside the confines of the corporate environment, thus promoting the critical and artistic growth of wrestling.
Previous Winners:
2009 – Austin Aries
2010 – Claudio Castagnoli
2011 – Sara del Rey
2012 – Rachel Summerlyn
2013 – Chuck Taylor
2014 – Candice LeRae

The nominees this year are:
  • "Dirty" Andy Dalton - He's been an anchor for Inspire Pro as the top heel, and he's been doing fine work in his given role. Few understand how to draw heat on the indies like he does.
  • Eddie Kingston - While his role in Chikara has been muted, he took on a bigger role across the Midwest to great acclaim.
  • Jimmy Rave - He's been at the vanguard of the Georgia indie explosion. Arguably, he's the most valuable single worker to any region in the country.
  • Kimber Lee - She started the year controversially, but her work in Beyond and Chikara has been nothing short of tremendous.
  • Timothy Thatcher - Thatcher deserves credit for not only helping to cultivate the #grapplefuck in EVOLVE, but also taking and expanding it elsewhere.
And the winner is... Jimmy Rave! - Hey, I said Rave was the single most valuable wrestler to any region in the country for a reason. He's provided a spotlight for Georgia's emergence as an elite territory, and with that spotlight, he's put his working boots on to back it up.

Tag Team of the Year - For the tandem that in addition to displaying optimal entertainment value and wrestling prowess on their own, also displayed the best teamwork and cohesion as a unit both in and out of the ring.
Previous Winners:
2009 – Chris Jericho and the Big Show
2010 – The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin)
2011 – The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson)
2012 – The Super Smash Brothers (Player Uno and Stupefied)
2013 – The Young Bucks
2014 – The World's Cutest Tag Team (Candice LeRae and Joey Ryan)

The nominees this year are:
  • Chad Gable and Jason Jordan - Their body of work is short compared to the other teams, but they've put on some of the most exciting matches in NXT since getting together. Plus, they have weirdly charismatic chemistry with each other backstage.
  • Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady - They may be the least-talented workers among the teams nominated, but they get what it is to be a team. Plus, the non-match stuff is top notch.
  • The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) - They've found such a great niche and formula working tag matches, and it has resulted in some of the best stuff on WWE cards all year long.
  • The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch) - They were able to slyly switch alignments without losing anything off their fastball. One of the most genuinely entertaining acts going in NXT right now.
  • The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) - Stock Young Buck nomination. Seriously, unless you're Jim Cornette, you can't deny how important the Bucks are to wrestling everywhere.
And the winner is... The New Day! - Coming out on RAW and doing extended skits each week is one thing, but New Day, Big E and Kingston at least, have held up their ends in the ring as well, providing one of the finest overall acts in WWE all year long.

Manager of the Year - For the character who did the best to enhance another wrestler's status and artistic value without actually being a full-time wrestler.
Previous Winners
2012 – Veronica Ticklefeather
2013 – Chris Trew
2014 – Sidney Bakabella

The nominees this year are:
  • The Boys - Their role was mainly to function as extensions of Castle, first as his "servants" and second as the manifestation of his angst while feuding with Silas Young. Bet you didn't think you were going to get deepness vis a vis THE BOYS today on TWB, did you.
  • Catrina - She was such an important presence and spark for so much plot advancement in Lucha Underground that it's hard not to argue that she's as essential to the show as Fenix, Pentagón, or especially the wrestlers she manages.
  • Chris Trew - He's not the Future Manager of the Decade for nothing, people. He's instant crowd noise for any character he manages.
  • Sidney Bakabella - He may have been compromised to a permanent end by his former charge, Oleg the Usurper, but Bakabella continued his pay-window-reaching ways in 2015.
  • Truth Martini - Again, Jay Lethal may not have been as important to the ROH narrative if not for Martini giving his character some well-needed heat.
And the winner is... Catrina! - I can't think of a non-wrestler attached to an actual worker who was more important to any narrative that Catrina was. She was as much a factor in the complex world of Lucha Underground as anyone.

Group of the Year - For the group, stable, or cadre of wrestlers who best exemplified teamwork, continuity, and entertainment value.

Previous Winners:
2009 – Team FIST (Chuck Taylor, Gran Akuma, Icarus)
2010 – Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (Claudio Castagnoli, Ares, Tursas, Sara del Rey, Daizee Haze, Tim Donst, Jakob Hammermeier, Lince Dorado, Pinkie Sanchez, Dieter von Stiegerwalt)
2011 – Not Given
2012 – The Submission Squad (Davey Vega, Evan Gelistico, Gary Jay, Pierre Abernathy)
2013 – The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins)
2014 – Sidney Bakabella's Wrecking Crew (Blaster McMassive, Flex Rumblecrunch, Jaka, Max Smashmaster, Oleg the Usurper, Sidney Bakabella)

The nominees this year are:
  • Angelico, Ivelisse, Son of Havoc - They may have feuded amongst each other, but it did make for some of the most compelling, non-supernatural storytelling in Lucha Underground.
  • Crown and Court (El Hijo del Ice Cream, Ice Cream, Jr., Jervis Cottonbelly, Princess Kimber Lee) - Their ebb and flow during the Challenge of the Immortals served as the perfect underdog story. It had a great mix of pathos, romance, action, and comedy.
  • The Disciples of Death (Barrio Negro, Catrina, Mil Muertes, El Sinestro del Muerte, Trece) - They were maybe the most important stable in wrestling in terms of sheer relevance to the plot.
  • The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods) - Honestly, turning Vince McMahon's vaguely racist idea of what African-Americans should be in wrestling into the most entertaining, amusing, and consistent part of the show each week deserves every medal.
  • The Nightmare Warriors (Blind Rage, Frightmare, Hallowicked, Silver Ant) - Hallowicked and Frightmare sported a great new look and bloodthirsty fearsomeness to back it up. Silver Ant's addition to the group added a great element of tension.
And the winner is... The New Day! - Honestly, it'd be hard to top what New Day has done as a stable in WWE without being the actual original unbroken version of The Shield. Even then, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins weren't as proficient on a musical instrument or had the rhythm to gyrate sensually on the apron.

HOSS of the Year - For the wrestler who exemplified the essence of HOSS with nobility, pride, and massive feats of strength.
Previous Winner:
2014 – Rusev

The nominees this year are:
  • Blaster McMassive - Muscles! Topes! BEARD!
  • Braun Strowman  - How can someone be SO BIG.
  • Cesaro - He picks big people up and puts them down.
  • Keith Lee - Imagine the FEATS OF HOSS he could do on the goddamn Moon, where he lives?
  • Rusev - Русев хитове. Русев повтаря?
And the winner is... Cesaro! - He could pick up the Empire State Building and I wouldn't think that much of it because I'd expect him to pick up the Burj Khalifa. He's the textbook definition of HOSS. I think he may get taken for granted because he makes it look so easy.

The New to Me Award - For the best rookie or heretofore new wrestler to major promotions known to me in the last year or so.
Previous Winners:
2009 – Sheamus
2010 – Wade Barrett
2011 – Mia Yim
2012 – Mark Angel/Angelosetti
2013 – The Estonian Thunder Frog
2014 – "Smooth Sailing" Ashley Remington

The nominees this year are:
  • Alexa Bliss - She went from sell-only, glitter-soaked babyface to raging, manipulative heel mastermind so quickly that I'm surprised those observing her didn't break their necks. 
  • Chad Gable - He burst on the scene quickly in the second half of the year and did so at the level of a 2001 Kurt Angle. How?
  • Dana Brooke - As quickly as Bliss improved, Brooke did so in less time. She's become one of NXT's most fully-formed characters in such short time.
  • Kevin Condron - In his first year as a real character with actual story weight and matches, Condron was probably the most important wrestler in Chikara.
  • Moose - He went everywhere except NXT and wowed every crowd he performed in front of.
And the winner is... Kevin Condron! - He came into his first really big year as a "thing" pulling off a complex story and finding in short order an identity in the ring. It was a strong year for rookies/newish wrestlers, but Condron was surprisingly an easy choice.

Comedian of the Year - For the wrestler/act that has done their best to make people laugh and master the art of wrestling comedy.
Previous Winners:
2009 – Santino Marella
2010 – Santino Marella
2011 – Colt Cabana
2012 – 3.0
2013 – Los Ice Creams
2014 – Damien Sandow

The nominees this year are:
  • Los Ice Creams (El Hijo del Ice Cream, Ice Cream, Jr.) - Chikara's comedic standbys got to be in real action this year, but they still were able to inject laughs into COTI action.
  • Pimpanela Escarlata - Lucha Underground's only exotico added levity whenever he appeared on the show, and did so with great results.
  • The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods) - It's amazing how much New Day broke down the paradigm that funny wrestlers couldn't be serious in-ring competitors or important parts of the narrative in WWE this past year.
And the winner is... The New Day! - Honestly, this award may be the biggest testament to New Day's 2015. It's one thing to be able to cut a promo or wrestle well, but to do wrestling comedy as well as these three guys have is incredible.

Feud of the Year - For the rivalry between two or more wrestlers or groups of wrestlers that best exemplified storytelling or match quality.
Previous Winners:
2009 – CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy
2010 – Kevin Steen (and Steve Corino) vs. El Generico (and Colt Cabana)
2011 – CM Punk vs. John Cena
2012 – Daniel Bryan vs. Kane
2013 – Antonio Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn
2014 - Chikara vs. The Flood

The nominees this year are:
  • Angelico vs. Ivelisse vs. Son of Havoc - In addition to being one hell of a team, their issues within the group made for some compelling storytelling.
  • Bayley vs. Sasha Banks - The emotional rollercoaster this feud put fans on was just intense.
  • Chikara vs. Kevin Condron - As one-sided as this feud was, Condron made it worth following and worth noting with his green-headed fly tenacity and showmanship.
  • "Dirty" Andy Dalton vs. Matthew Palmer - Few feuds feature the babyface threatening to kill the heel and be justified in it.
  • Fenix vs. Mil Muertes - Lucha Underground pitted life and death against each other with this feud, and the men themselves made it work.
And the winner is... Bayley vs. Sasha Banks! - This feud was only "hot" for about three months, but it produced two of the finest matches in NXT history, provided immense emotional catharsis, and built upon the groundwork the two had been laying since they both debuted in NXT.

Announcer of the Year - For the announcer who best was able to convey the action in the ring with clarity, charm, and bemusement.
Previous Winners:
2009 – Matt Striker
2010 – Bryce Remsburg
2011 – Excalibur
2012 – Bryce Remsburg
2013 – Excalibur
2014 – Eamon Paton

The nominees this year are:
  • Al Getz - As a color man for the Scenic City Invitational, he was as informative and engaging as someone commenting on wrestlers people were probably seeing for the first time should be.
  • Corey Graves - Graves became WWE's next great heel color commentator over the last year, realizing the potential that he showed as a wrestler in a different area.
  • Dan Wilson - He did almost perfect play-by-play for the Scenic City, elevating the material and making the wrestlers feel familiar to the viewer, even if it was the first time they were exposed to them.
  • Eamon Paton - He continued to provide a steady, informative, engaging voice for Inspire Pro Wrestling.
  • Rich Brennan - It would be reductive to say Brennan's only here because he doesn't have Vince McMahon in his ear, but not anyone can be a good play-by-play commentator by himself. Brennan has "it," and he showed it in 2015.
And the winner is... Eamon Paton! - It's hard not to stick with Paton, who provides a great soundtrack for Inspire Pro's intrepid in-ring action for newcomers and veterans alike.

Moment of the Year - This award is for the point on a show that provided emotional impact, memorability, and contribution of overall quality to the show.
Previous Winners:
2009 – Jeff Hardy gives CM Punk a Swanton Bomb from the top of a ladder in the ring to the announce table
2010 – The Nexus debuts
2011 – CM Punk exits Chicago with the WWE Championship held hostage
2012 – Matthew Palmer leaps from the balcony at the Mohawk and takes Rachel Summerlyn with him
2013 – Mark Henry suckers John Cena into believing he'd retire and attacks him
2014 – Chikara is reborn at National Pro Wrestling Day as the promotion's faithful, led by the Submission Squad and Icarus, beat back The Flood

The nominees this year are:
  • Angelico leaps from interminable distance onto a member of The Crew during the Trios Championship Tournament final - I still can't believe he didn't break every bone in his body jumping from that height over that distance in that match.
  • The Four Horsewomen of NXT embrace after Bayley defeats Sasha Banks at Takeover: Brooklyn - Did it expose the business? I don't care. It was an emotionally fulfilling coda to the Horsewoman Era in NXT.
  • Johnny Mundo unexpectedly throws Alberto el Patron through Dario Cueto's office window - The fact that it was Mundo, a man with a passive reputation, and that it was done so jarringly and suddenly combined to make it one of the signature moments in Lucha Underground's first season.
  • Samoa Joe makes the save as Kevin Owens beats down Sami Zayn at the end of Takeover: Unstoppable - The follow-up may have been lacking, but seeing Joe step into the arena for the first time, after years of being a non-factor in TNA, and actually commanding respect was chilling.
  • Sasha Banks steals Izzy's headband during the ironman match at Takeover: Respect - Gotta respect a heel who's so on her game that she resorted to stealing swag off a young child.
And the winner is... Sasha Banks steals Izzy's headband during the ironman match at Takeover Respect! - It was the perfect storm. Bayley's superfan in arguably the most important match of her favorite wrestler's life gets the one piece of swag that's most alike to her idol swiped by her hated rival. I don't know if it was improvised or whether they went over it beforehand, but it felt like such a spontaneous dick move that it needs to be honored.

Promotion of the Year - For the company who best furthered the creative, critical, and/or qualitative boundaries of professional wrestling in the calendar year.
Previous Winners:
2009 – ECW (WWE)
2010 – Chikara
2011 – Chikara
2012 – Anarchy Championship Wrestling
2013 – Beyond Wrestling
2014 – Chikara

The nominees this year are:
  • Beyond Wrestling - Denver Colorado's crew kept building upon its momentum, continuing to stake its claim as the premiere indie on the East Coast.
  • Chikara Pro Wrestling - While the COTI felt like a diversion, the end of the season made the entire venture make sense and cap off another fine year for the purveyors of fun-time, Americanized lucha libre.
  • Inspire Pro Wrestling - Inspire has ostensibly won over Austin and continued to make waves nationally with its massive cards and massive personalities. 2015 picked up where 2014 left off.
  • Lucha Underground - LU was, in a word, transformative. It brought wrestling into episodic, seasonal format, and played around with a lot of things other companies weren't bold enough to try.
  • WWE NXT - It's so funny to think this show is owned by the same people who produce RAW, isn't it? The weekly television is pretty good, but the Takeover specials were all guaranteed masterworks. It was amazing to observe as a critic and especially as a fan.
And the winner is... Lucha Underground! - NXT did so much good with traditional formulas, but LU's boldness to try things that other companies won't, or maybe can't, and to succeed at it without losing what makes it a wrestling promotion, is what puts it over the top.