Posted December 21st, 2015 by jshannon

Ringside Remembrances: MY Year-End Awards

Jay Shannon draws upon five decades as a devout wrestling fan to look at the past, present and future of professional wrestling.

It’s that time of year, once again. Time for my personal choices for the Year End Awards. After some serious confusion, last year, I want to make it clear that these choices do not necessarily represent the viewpoints or choices of anyone else at 1Wrestling.com.

Rookie of the Year: Chris Melendez

The Sarge isn’t the first one-legged professional wrestler but he may well be the best of that unique group of “disabled wrestlers”. Melendez had his first substantial feud against Eric Young, this year, and came back to win the final battle. With training by D’Von and Bubba Ray Dudley, plus further training by Mr. (Ken) Anderson, Melendez has the potential to become a top tier star very soon.

Announcer of the Year: Matt Striker

Matt joined Vampiro for Season One of Lucha Underground. His vast knowledge of moves and backgrounds nearly rivals though of “The Professor” Mike Tenay and the later, great Gordon Solie. Striker is able to inject humor without becoming campy. His enthusiasm seems more sincere than many of the other announcers around the business. Strike is set to be at the desk for Season Two but it is unclear just who will join him to call the action.

Manager of the Year: Truth Martini

The House of Truth has been on a serious roll, this year. Their Crown Jewel, Jay Lethal, held both the World and TV titles. Donovan Dijak took the Top Prospect award, earlier in the year. Joey Daddiego (formerly J. Diesel) has teamed with Dijak to become a viable threat to the tag team titles. Truth recently added the lovely Taylor Hendrix to their little family, rounding out a good group of talented people. Truth cuts excellent promos and helps fill in any gaps that his men might have, regarding “stick work”. Truth has the Golden Touch and any man or woman that he assists is almost guaranteed a winning run.

Female of the Year: Nikki Bella

The Knockouts/Divas/Women’s Divisions have exploded in the last couple of years. TNA has been rebuilding its female roster. WWE has drawn upon NXT to flesh out what had been a talent-poor group. The Divas Revolution has injected much needed life into the WWE’s group. Nikki Bella was seriously responsible for making the division grow. Most fans dismissed her, initially, as being “too pretty” to equal women like Beth Phoenix, Lita, Trish Stratus and such. Nikki surprised everyone by setting the new record for longest-reigning Divas Champion. While she did drop the title, to Charlotte, almost everyone expects Nikki to return and take back the belt, after recovering from her current injury.

Tag Team of the Year: New Day

Ok, I know they are annoying as all get out but their success can’t be argued. They are entertaining and quite talented, in the ring. The fact that they have won over the crowd, despite being a Freebird Heel team says a lot about their collective abilities. Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E were somewhat lost, individually, in their career paths. Since coming together, they have faced some of the best that WWE currently has to offer and came out on top (most of the time). They even defeated 24-time tag team champs, The Dudley Boyz.

Wrestler of the Year: Jay Lethal

I was so torn between Jay and Seth Rollins. Seth shocked the wrestling world when he won the World title and then re-shocked everyone by being a double champion. Lethal, on the other hand, ended the 2-year winning streak of Jay Briscoe and also held two titles at the same time. Both men are excellent on the microphone, though Jay is definitely just a step ahead of Rollins. Seth worked some great matches since winning the WWE World title and US Title. Jay defended the World and TV title against multiple top-tier opponents from Ring of Honor AND New Japan. The addition of the New Japan opponents was the final piece that swayed me over to giving this award to Lethal. My current ultimate Dream Match is to someday see Jay Lethal vs Seth Rollins as the main event of Wrestlemania.

Nickname of the Year: “Vampire Chicken” (Tomoaki Homma—New Japan)

Homma has close-cropped bleached blonde hair. He is New Japan’s ultimate Underdog. Homma has been wrestling for almost 20 years (beginning in Big Japan Pro Wrestling in May, 1997). Anyone who has seen Homma in action will have been impressed with this older performer’s ability to stay in step with kids much younger than he is. Homma would likely do well in the US, and may well get his chance, in the near future.

Weekly Show of the Year: WWE’s Monday Night Raw

Raw has been going strong for almost 23 years. The best talent, announcers and surprises have run through the Flagship first. Raw could have gotten stale, many times over, but it continues to evolve. The announcers have changed from two announcers to three. Jerry Lawler launched the franchise but he has moved to Smackdown and JBL and Michael Cole have been joined by Byron Saxton. Raw is the show by which all other programs are and probably ever will be judged.

Best Pay Per View of the Year: Wrestlemania

This one seems so obvious. It’s the longest reigning yearly show (started in 1985). It gets the largest crowds and the most coverage, both inside and outside the wrestling world. Nearly 77,00 fans filed into Lebi’s Stadium in the Bay Area of Northern California to watch Undertaker defeat Bray Wyatt, Sting fall to HHH, and Seth Rollins cashed in Money in the Bank to defeat Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar for the World title. WWE gave us 9 epic battles that kept us on the edge of our seats, for the whole night. It was listed as one of the better Wrestlemanias and definitely the top show of the year.

Return of the Year: Alberto Del Rio

Alberto got in some trouble with WWE and got the boot. He reinvented himself as Alberto El Patron and tore up Ring of Honor and Lucha Underground. Del Rio was a shocking return at Hell in a Cell, as he dethroned John Cena for the United States title. Del Rio is currently involved with a feud against Jack Swagger. His star is beginning to rise, once again.

Shocker of the Year: Pentagon Jr’s “Master” is revealed

Since the launch of Lucha Underground, Pentagon Jr. has dedicated his brutal victories to a mysterious teacher. Tons of people were under consideration to be the man (or woman) behind Pentagon’s viciousness. The answer finally came during Pentagon Jr.’s match against Vampiro. Vampiro had been critical of Pentagon for breaking arms, over the months. Pentagon pushed Vampiro into battling him at Ultima Lucha 2015. The ulta-violent match saw light tubes, tables, thumbtacks and other assorted “toys”. Pentagon, Jr. defeated Vampiro. Vampiro then demanded that Pentagon break his (Vampito’s) arm. Pentagon did it and then shrieked for his Master to reveal himself. Vampiro slowly rose and let everyone know that it was HE that had guided Pentagon to this level of insanity. Everyone, especially Matt Striker, were stunned by the announcement. WWE, TNA and RoH could learn a thing or two from the way Lucha Underground built up this storyline for the “Gotcha!” ending.

Tragic Loss of the Year: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

We lost several great men and women, this year. It’s always shocking to hear about the loss of a hero. Piper’s passing was completely unexpected and that is what made it all that more tragic. Piper had been looking better than he had in years. His acting career was back on track (several movies were in various stages of pre and post production, when he died). Piper’s son, Colt, is just really beginning his own career and his dad was thrilled at his son’s future. I remember the first text (from my good friend, Darren) saying “Piper is gone”. Several more texts and e-mails followed from friends both inside and outside of the business. It just didn’t (and still doesn’t) seem real. I do send my thanks out to Piper for making wrestling interesting and fun for so many years. May your rest be a blessed and peaceful one.

Match of the Year: Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns (vs Seth Rollins)—Wrestliemania

Brock vs Roman was an excellent battle. Two huge bulls going at each other, full speed. If the match had just been between the two of them, it may well still have taken Match of the Year. However, when Seth Rollins came out of left field to inject himself in the match and quickly “steal” the World title ftom the two men who had given their all, the match level shot through the roof. The fact that Seth continued to hold the strap until his injury proves that he was the perfect person to hold the belt, at the time. Of all the matches at this year’s Wrestlemania, it’s this impromptu Triple Threat that will be talked about, years from now.

Feud of the Year: Bullet Club vs New Japan

There were quite a few great feuds, this year. Bray vs Roman, Brock vs Undertaker, Adam Cole vs Kyle O’Reilly, etc… However, the deepest feud revolved around this generation’s answer to the n.W.o., the Bullet Club. Led by A.J. Styles, the group composed primarily of North American wrestlers rode into town and quickly took gold. Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows took the Heavyweight tag belts, the Young Bucks took the Junior tag straps. Kenny Omega took the Junior Heavyweight title. The group added a couple of Japanese stars, as well as the son of Scott Hall. The group utilizes catch phrases and gestures from both D-X and the n.W.o.. No one, so far, has been able to topple this rogue group, though just about everyone in Japan is trying their best.

Storyline of the Year: TNA’s World Title Series

This one started when Matt Hardy defeated Drew Galloway in a Triple Threat Match that also included Ethan Carter III. Jeff Hardy was the special guest ref and he got into it with Ethan. Carter then filed an injunction against TNA and Matt for the outside interference. Matt surrendered the World title and a 32 PRESON tournament was set up. I stress Person, since 4 women (Gail Kim, Awesome Kong, Brooke and Madison Rayne) were included in the matches. Kong and Gail made it through to the round of 16 but no further. As of the time I type this, the Semi-Finals and Finals were set to go just after the first of the year. The final four include: Matt Hardy, Ethan Carter III, (Bobby) Lashley and Eric Young. It may be a bit predictable that hardy vs Carter will be the final match but the tournament has thrown in numerous surprises and launched a few new feuds. Kudos to TNA for making a tournament interesting and fresh, for several months.

Disappointment of the Year: Sting finally comes to WWE.

Sting was the only major player to have never worked for WWF/WWE. When Sting finally agreed to fight in WWE, the fans were thrilled. I wasn’t. I wanted him to keep that distinction of never working for Vince and crew. Sting was immediately put into a program with HHH. The match was decent but it got bogged down with members of D-X and the n.W.o.. Sting lost. Sting later came back to battle Seth Rollins, for the World Title. Unfortunately, Sting got seriously injured in the match and may never return. Fans were denied, twice, seeing Sting reach the top of the mountain. Sting’s legacy was seriously tarnished by this ill-advised trip to the WWE.

Who to watch in 2016: Global Force Wrestling

Normally, I would mention a single person, like Bayley or P.J. Black, but I think Jeff Jarrett’s new organization could well upset the apple cart, as it relates to professional wrestling. Jarrett has working relationships with numerous established groups and could well be creating something that would rival the National Wrestling Alliance of the 1960s and 70s. If Jarrett’s dream could be truly realized, he just might have something that could rival the WWE (in a few years). Talent exchanges used to be the norm during the “Territory Era”. Jarrett is trying to bring that back with connections in Japan, Mexico, Canada, Mexico and even Europe. All Jarrett needs is a solid broadcast deal and GFW would be what WCW should have been. Time will tell.

In Conclusion:

2015 was a great year for wrestling. Tag Team wrestling saw a rebirth, as did female wrestling. 2016 is likely to be a year of change as many of the “old guard” finally give in to retirement to make way for the next generation of superstars. I so look forward to the new year and what it has in store for us rabid wrestling fans.


–Jay Shannon

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