Monday, January 9, 2017

The 2016 Bloggie Awards

Matt and Jeff Hardy, shown here flanking Ryback, are two of your big winners this year
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Welcome to the 2016 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. Dig in, enjoy, and feel free to disagree if you will.

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
2015 – Sasha Banks

This year's nominees are:
  • AJ Styles
  • Asuka
  • Heidi Lovelace
  • Johnny Mundo
  • Matt Hardy
  • Matt Riddle
  • The Miz
And the winner is... Matt Hardy!
I know TNA is kind of a joke nowadays. The company is in shambles behind the scenes, going through ownership and network changes that might sink other companies. However, to ignore great things happening there because LOL DIXIE or LOL CORGAN or LOL NAZIS is disingenuous and unfair to the wrestlers who may be creating great work. Matt Hardy is like Mike Trout putting up monster numbers for bad Angels teams. Why ignore that creative output because his bosses are turds? The truth is Hardy, with his broken persona and the action at the Hardy Compound, has done more to further the art of professional wrestling than anything TNA has done since the X-Division Three days. He's pushing boundaries, and he's not settling for resting on the edge either. He is the driving force in all aspects. He deserves this award.

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
2015 – Sasha Banks

This year's nominees are:
  • AJ Styles
  • Drew Gulak
  • Fred Yehi
  • Johnny Gargano
  • Matt Riddle
And the winner is... Fred Yehi!
I'm not a hipster, I swear. When I tell you that I knew about Yehi before anyone else did, it's not out of exclusionary jealousy. I want you all to enjoy his work. I want you all to be in the same club I am. Yehi has worked hard to get this point, and now that he's gotten to EVOLVE, the whole world is seeing what I have been since I stumbled upon him on YouTube years ago. I couldn't be more proud. He has stepped up to the plate, working hard from the opening match to the main event. When it looked like Zack Sabre, Jr. was trending down, he got maybe the best EVOLVE match of the year out of him. He doesn't just do the Catch Point stuff, but he adds in flair and panache. He gets the crowd involved. Anyone not respecting Yehi is in BIG TROUBLE.

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
2015 – Enzo Amore

This year's nominees are:
  • AJ Styles
  • Dario Cueto
  • Enzo Amore
  • Heidi Lovelace
  • The Miz
And the winner is... The Miz!
Another year, another frame with Miz doing God's work on the microphone. Some guys talk well, talk smoothly, but would you rather have Stephanie McMahon clearly speaking and getting heat on people who will never be able to give her a receipt, or would you rather have Miz tripping over some words occasionally but bringing fire that few can replicate? Some people do massively great character work through things other than talking, but Miz is just God-level, especially this year jousting with Dean Ambrose, Zack Ryder, and Dolph Ziggler on the stick.

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
2015 – Jimmy Rave

This year's nominees are:
  • Chris Hero
  • Drew Gulak
  • Heidi Lovelace
  • Jimmy Rave
  • Matt Riddle
And the winner is... Matt Riddle!
Few wrestlers have meant as much to the independent scene as Riddle has this past year, and it's only his first full one in the biz. He gets pro wrestling, and because of that, he's been able to not only take the ball in EVOLVE and run with it, but make the most out of his appearances in other promotions. Even if he had a public falling out with one of them, his presence has been a net good for the health of indie wrestling and also for the quality of programs inside shows, both in and out of the ring. Riddle proved in 2016 that he's as good a flagbearer for independent wrestling as anyone now that guys like Hero, Gulak, and Lovelace (and Kimber Lee and Tommy End) are all going to WWE.

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)
2015 – New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods)

This year's nominees are:
  • American Alpha (Chad Gable and Jason Jordan)
  • DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa)
  • The Hardy Boys (Jeff and Matt)
  • New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods)
  • The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson)
And the winner is... The Revivial!
They do go hard as their theme song suggests, and their work at, well, reviving tag team wrestling in NXT has continued down a stellar path. They participated in no fewer than four Match of the Year candidates against American Alpha and DIY (two apiece), and their uncanny knack for old school tactics have made them an easy watch every time in the ring. They've also been able to generate real heat, which for many critical favorites today has been a tall task.

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
2015 – Catrina

This year's nominees are:
  • Catrina
  • Famous B
  • Paul Ellering
  • Stokely Hathaway
  • UltraMantis Black (as Nazmaldun)
And the winner is... Stokely Hathaway!
Big Stoke shocked the world when he showed up in EVOLVE, but he was a welcome addition, making TJ Perkins more palatable as a character right away and adding some intrigue to Timothy Thatcher when his title reign had started to hit a bit of doldrums. His big promos are only exceeded by his facial expressions. He's been, low key, one of the best additions EVOLVE has made in the last year.

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)
2015 – New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods)

This year's nominees are:
  • Broken Hardys (Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, King Maxel, Reby Sky, and SeƱor Benjamin)
  • Catch Point (Drew Gulak, Fred Yehi, Hot Sauce Williams, Matt Riddle, and TJ Perkins [and Stokely Hathaway])
  • heXed Men (Frightmare, Hallowicked, Icarus, Jigsaw, Kobald, Kodama, Mark Angelosetti, Obariyon, and UltraMantis Black)
  • New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods)
  • Worldwide Underground (Jack Evans, Johnny Mundo, PJ Black, and Taya)
And the winner is... the Broken Hardys!
It's easy to gush about how Matt Hardy has been great this year, but a lot of his brilliance has been supported by great performances from Brother Nero, Sky, Benjamin, and even his son, who has shown a natural proclivity to the biz from such a young age. The whole Hardy entourage deserves applause for how brilliantly they've done in 2016, putting positive eyes on TNA for the first time in a LONG time.

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
2015 – Cesaro

This year's nominees are:
  • Braun Strowman
  • Cesaro
  • Jeff Cobb/Matanza Cueto
  • Keith Lee
  • Mil Muertes
And the winner is... Braun Strowman!

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
2015 – Kevin Condron

This year's nominees are:
  • Daria Berenato
  • Lio Rush
  • Matt Riddle
  • Officer Warren Barksdale
  • Rock Lobster
And the winner is... Matt Riddle!
Again, Riddle has proven himself the new face of EVOLVE and a potential anchor for pro wrestling and it's only his first year in the biz. He's a fucking natural, maybe the most natural talent to step into the business since, dare I say, Kurt Angle? Even if he never goes to WWE, he can become one of the biggest and most important wrestlers in the world in the near future, and his rookie year is only the start of brilliance.

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
2015 – New Day

This year's nominees are:
  • Chuck Taylor™
  • Los Ice Creams
  • Kikutaro
  • New Day
  • Officer Warren Barksdale
And the winner is... Chuck Taylor™!
Look, anyone who takes a conga line of chops from people trained or otherwise, especially one from a dang baby, deserves to be lauded for commitment to comedic wrestling. The entire idea for the character has been inspired, and Taylor™, who only bears a striking resemblance to Stokely Hathaway and nothing more, NOTHING MORE, has taken off with it.

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
2015 – Bayley vs. Sasha Banks

This year's nominees are:
  • AJ Styles vs. John Cena
  • Chris Hero vs. Matt Riddle
  • DIY vs. The Revival
  • Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz
  • Heidi Lovelace vs. Kimber Lee
And the winner is... DIY vs. The Revival!
In many ways, this feud was all about the WWE's struggle with NXT. Meta storytelling can sink or swim, especially with WWE writers at any level dealing with it, but it stayed pretty much a traditional feud without losing that feeling it was a struggle for the soul of NXT. Balance like that deserves recognition. Sure, the matches were tremendous, some of the best in WWE all year. However, the Revival's presence as prick heels worked so much better here than it did even against American Alpha, and Johnny Gargano especially proved that he was one of the best babyfaces in all of wrestling. Even more stunning was the interpersonal relationship work between Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. This feud was the best thing WWE presented all year, even more than the Cruiserweight Classic.

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
2015 – Eamon Paton

This year's nominees are:
  • Corey Graves
  • Dasher Hatfield
  • Excalibur
  • Mike Quackenbush
  • Tom Phillips
And the winner is... Mike Quackenbush!
The best play-by-play man in the business used to be the Master of 1000 Holds. As it turns out, one CAN both know how to apply and describe those holds with great precision and excellence simultaneously. Quack provided and informative and engaging soundtrack for Chikara viewers, both old and new alike, and he had excellent chemistry with any color commentator paired with him, from Rod Diamondfire to Sidney Bakabella to even Joey Styles (and that's all I'll say about that EXTREME moron in this column). Up-and-coming PBP guys would do worse than to get a Chikaratopia sub and listen to what Quack is slinging.

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
2015 – Sasha Banks steals Izzy's headband during the ironman match at Takeover Respect

This year's nominees are:
  • AJ Styles makes his entrance at the Royal Rumble
  • The Miz gives Dolph Ziggler a Miz Participation Award
  • Sendai Girls win King of Trios
  • Shinsuke Nakamura appears on the NXT Tron to challenge Sami Zayn
  • UltraMantis Black proclaims "I remember everything!"
And the winner is... Sendai Girls win King of Trios!
The Sendai Girls winning the whole thing was kinda telegraphed from the beginning, and it still felt like a huge, huge deal, a testament to how well-executed a moment was. Chikara wanted to have women win the tournament, but any old team might not have flown. It was knowing the history of the Sendai Girls and having a wrestler like Meiko Satomura, only one of the best in recorded history, anchor the team, and the crowd was ultra-receptive to it.

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
2015 – Lucha Underground

This year's nominees are:
  • Beyond Wrestling
  • Chikara
  • Lucha Underground
  • WWE Smackdown
And the winner is... Chikara!
Chikara's fourth win in this category will be controversial only to the people who don't follow it. The promotion had a heck of a campaign in 2016, making its wrestling academy its de facto home to great success and hitting on its adventures outside of Philadelphia. Its top story, the heXed Men invasion, hit every single note perfectly from first to last show, and other ancillary stories were executed well as well. It provided something for everyone, engaged fans wherever it went, and heck, the wrestling was pretty good too. Chikara did quite well for itself in 2016, indeed.