Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The 2017 Bloggie Awards

The Wrestler of the Year!
Photo Credit:
It's that time of year again, when I give out my awards for the best stuff to happen in wrestling in a calendar year. The Bloggie Awards are back, baybay! Before I start, a primer on 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.
And now, the awards, with nominees and winners!

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
2016 – Broken Matt Hardy

This year's nominees are:
  • Asuka
  • Braun Strowman
  • Drew Gulak
  • Kenny Omega
  • Nick Gage
  • The Miz
  • Tetsuya Naito
  • Toni Storm
And the winner is... Drew Gulak!
I thought long and hard about this, and honestly, in a weird year, why not go with the weirdest candidate possible? Gulak has flirted with most valuable wrestler in his promotion before, and contrary to popular belief, he didn't just do it via his excellent ring-work. In fact, the Drew Gulak for a Better Combat Zone era portended this win because the Drew Gulak for a Better 205 Live is an updated version of it. Of course, Gulak brought the goods in the ring, even if it was at a lower level than in 2016, when he was one of the top two guys in my entire purview of wrestling, but it was his work that made 205 Live and the cruiserweight division in general must-see that put him ahead of the pack. Whether it be getting over PowerPoint presentations or giving Enzo Amore an improved tag team partner on interviews, Gulak did so much heavy lifting to elevate 205 Live even if he was never really the focal point from a booking standpoint.

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
2016 – Fred Yehi

This year's nominees are:
  • AJ Styles
  • Johnny Gargano
  • Tomohiro Ishii
  • The Usos (Jimmy and Jey)
  • Zack Sabre, Jr.
And the winner is... Johnny Gargano!
Gargano picked up where he left off last year and kept going upwards. He finished up his run as a tag team worker with the best match at Takeover: Chicago against the Authors of Pain (yeah, I said it), and then after some time off to sell a beating from his now-former tag partner Tommaso Ciampa, he seamlessly transitioned into an ace singles worker on the NXT roster. It's possible that he was in the best tag match (the aforementioned AOP match) and best singles match on the NXT roster in 2017 (vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas at Takeover: Brooklyn). When the bar for match quality in NXT is stratospherically high to begin with and you clear it twice in two separate divisions, you're a special worker. Gargano has become the surest thing in NXT and possibly WWE.

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
2016 – The Miz

This year's nominees are:
  • Drew Gulak
  • Juice Robinson
  • Nick Gage
  • Samoa Joe
  • The Miz
And the winner is... Drew Gulak!
Anyone surprised by this hasn't been paying attention or were lulled into a false reality when Gulak was mostly called upon to wrestle and not necessarily talk in EVOLVE last year. However, the heights to which he rose on the mic and the opportunities he got may be surprising, especially since Miz, Samoa Joe, Enzo Amore, Alexa Bliss, Kevin Owens, and Chris Jericho all had strong years on the mic in the same company. Gulak's command of timing, both as a solo act and complementing Amore, helped him win the award this year.

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
2016 – Matt Riddle

This year's nominees are:
  • Joey Janela
  • Keith Lee
  • Matt Riddle
  • Martina the Session Moth
  • Nick Gage
And the winner is... Nick Gage!
Honestly, Gage going back to jail in 2016 was bullshit. Yeah, I know the hot piss test was a violation of his parole, but at the same time, pot should be legal everywhere, and everyone imprisoned for it should be let go from jail. That being said, Gage picked up where he left off, providing a strong presence for multiple promotions. He was the most important guy for Game Changer Wrestling in the second half of the year, which is saying something cuz Joey Janela was still working them. Few people on the indies have the electric buzz that Gage has without any corporate backing whatsoever.

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)
2016 – The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson)

This year's nominees are:
  • The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar)
  • The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus)
  • Best Friends (Chuck Taylor and Trent)
  • New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods)
  • The Usos (Jimmy and Jey)
And the winners are... The Usos!
The Usos have always been great tag workers, even when everyone got sick of them in their bullshit WWE babyface character trappings. However, they not only stepped up their games after turning to a harder edge character-wise, but they ascended even higher in the ring, putting on some of the best tag matches not only in WWE, but in the world. Their feud with New Day almost made Smackdown worth watching every week instead of just for the PPVs.

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
2016 – Stokely Hathaway

This year's nominees are:
  • Catrina
  • Cousin Mikey
  • Paul Ellering
  • Stokely Hathaway
  • Zelina Vega
And the winner is... Stokely Hathaway!
Big Stoke wins the award for the second year in a row because the man just doesn't stop hustling. His work in EVOLVE could have netted him at least a nomination if not the win, but he went and owned the Powerbomb TV indie circuit with his iteration of the Dream Team there. He's even in North Carolina as part of the burgeoning CWF Mid-Atlantic promotion. He's not just omnipresent either; he gets his guys more over than they would be without him, even naturally talented dudes like Jonathan Gresham or MJF.

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)
2016 – The Broken Hardys (Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, King Maxel, Reby Hardy, and SeƱor Benjamin)

This year's nominees are:
  • The Dream Team (John Skylar, Jonathan Gresham, MJF, [and Stokely Hathaway])
  • LOS INGOBERNABLES de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, Tetsuya Naito [and Daryl])
  • The Miztourage (Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, The Miz, [and Maryse])
  • New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, [and Francesca])
  • SANitY (Alexander Wolfe, Eric Young, Killian Dain, and Nikki Cross)
And the winners are... LOS INGOBERNABLES de Japon!
New Japan had a very good year, but even among the overall up-and-down excellence, LIJ stood out. Naito was one of the most entertaining main event guys across any promotion, Takahashi did great work for the juniors, and EVIL's rise up the card was something to behold. Plus, Daryl becoming a pop culture icon in Japan counts for something.

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
2016 – Braun Strowman

This year's nominees are:
  • Braun Strowman
  • Cesaro
  • Keith Lee
  • Otis Dozovic
  • Tomohiro Ishii
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
2016 – Matt Riddle

This year's nominees are:
  • AJ Gray
  • Bianca Belair
  • Lars Sullivan
  • Razerhawk
  • Travis Huckabee
And the winner is... Lars Sullivan!
I had a tough time choosing out of this field, because it was stronger than in previous years, but Sullivan gets the nod because he just sort of came out of NXT's Performance Center body quagmire and went straight into Braun Strowman overdrive. By the end of the year, he had a lot of people believing he could carry not only NXT, but a main roster brand with his combination of intensity and rage (roid rage?) as a monster to be reckoned with.

Santino Marella Award (formerly the 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
2016 – Chuck Taylor™

This year's nominees are:
  • Kikutaro
  • Los Ice Creams (El Hijo del Ice Cream and Ice Cream, Jr.)
  • New Day
  • Ugly Ducklings (Cousin Mikey, Lance Lude, and Rob Killjoy)
And the winners are... The Ugly Ducklings!
The Ducklings definitely are serious competitors between the bells, but honestly, comedy doesn't just mean you're coming relief. The group, led by the energetic Cousin Mikey on the outside, provide an electric and enthusiastic boost to any card they're on. Point blank, they put smiles on faces.

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
2016 – DIY vs. The Revival

This year's nominees are:
  • Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns
  • Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega
  • New Day vs. the Usos
  • Ophidian/Ourobouros vs. The Whisper
And the winner is... Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns!
By the time SummerSlam rolled around, they'd been feuding and in singles matches against each other off and on since Fastlane, and unlike most WWE feuds of that ilk, most people weren't tired of them yet. They came together for not only some of the most intense matches of the year, but some of the biggest and most impactful moments, most of them surrounding an ambulance, which in the past has been a cursed item for WWE.

Commentator 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
2016 – Mike Quackenbush

This year's nominees are:
  • Booker T
  • Corey Graves
  • Michael Cole
  • Percy Watson
  • Tom Philips
And the winner is... Corey Graves!
Yeah, I know this may be more an indictment of not watching much of non-WWE programming this year, but at the same time, whom else would I have nominated? Lucha Underground's commentary team is awful. New Japan on AXS TV is dreadful. Besides, Graves may be the best color commentator going, hitting a groove that hasn't really been seen since the salad days of the late Bobby Heenan. WWE has had a down year on the whole, but commentary is a plus, and Graves has led the vanguard.

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
2016 – Sendai Girls win King of Trios

This year's nominees are:
  • Braun Strowman flips over an ambulance containing Roman Reigns
  • Keith Lee pounces Josh Briggs into the bottom rope, breaking it
  • Kenny Omega counters the Rainmaker by going limp
  • Kevin Owens gives Chris Jericho a new "List" with only Jericho's name on it, betraying him during the Festival of Friendship
  • Undertaker leaves his duster and hat in the ring as he leaves WrestleMania for possibly the final time
And the winner is... Braun Strowman flips over an ambulance containing Roman Reigns!
If you wanted a singular moment where a dude just came out and made everyone think of him as "the guy," it was this eminently replayable instance where Strowman tipped over an ambulance. It was already perhaps the WWE segment of the year (depending on how one felt about the Festival of Friendship) with Strowman whipping Reigns' ass around the arena screaming "I'M NOT FINISHED WITH YOU YET!" But the visual of Strowman going full Hulk (Incredible, not Hogan) and throwing over an emergency vehicle stuck with not only me, but a bunch of other viewers who if they weren't fans of Strowman by then became ones instantly.

Promotion/Brand 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
2016 – Chikara

This year's nominees are:
  • Beyond Wrestling
  • Chikara
  • New Japan Pro Wrestling
  • NOVA Pro Wrestling
And the winner is... WWE NXT!
NXT has always been WWE's prestige arm, but at times, it's fallen by the wayside, needing guide dogs to get it from Takeover to Takeover. In 2017, the brand put together at least nine straight months of excellent weekly television in addition to the manically awesome slate of Takeovers. Again, each Takeover was excellent in its own way, but weekly television wasn't necessarily bound to them. Not only did great matches happen serially, but wrestlers got chances to shine even without the promise of matches happening for them at the tentpoles. NXT did a lot to dispel its criticisms of prior years and really hit a high note last year.