Monday, December 22, 2014

The Enuffa.com 2014 Year-End Pro Wrestling Awards

Welcome to the Enuffa.com Year-End Awards for pro wrestling!  I'll talk a little about the major events of the past year and then get to the Awards section, which includes my picks for every year I've been watching this wacky stuff.



Well, we've come to the end of 2014.  It was quite a roller coaster year for wrestling fans, as WWE presented the good, the bad, the awful, and seemingly everything in between.

The biggest story of 2014 is probably the advent of the WWE Network, which while drawing very disappointing numbers thus far, is nonetheless a game-changer.  Offering every PPV of the year for only $9.99 a month seems like a no-win prospect given how expensive traditional PPV is, but WWE took the gamble that the low price tag and the vast content library would draw enough subscribers to make up the difference in volume.  As of now they're about 300,000 subscribers shy of breaking even.  Hopefully in 2015 they'll grow the library and be able to attract more fans.  Of course presenting consistently entertaining programming week-to-week would help.  They sadly don't seem to grasp that concept. 

WWE was on both sides of the fence as far as being in touch with its audience.  At times they clearly listened to the fans, albeit begrudgingly (case in point the Daniel Bryan saga), and at times they were totally oblivious (Batista anyone?).  NXT has emerged as a viable third brand that presents simple, cutting-edge wrestling featuring exciting young stars eager to make a splash.  The third brand has consistently outshone its main roster counterparts, as it's booked by former wrestlers such as Dusty Rhodes and Ricky Steamboat, and overseen by Triple H who truly seems to "get it" as long as he's not an on-air character.  What's sad is I almost fear the top NXT stars being called up because the main roster creative is in such a shambles.  I trust the NXT team much more than their RAW/SD counterparts to utilize talents properly.  That's not a good thing.


The main roster was in a very promising place just after WrestleMania, and unfortunately due partly to injuries and partly to general creative incompetence, now struggles to present weekly shows that are even watchable.  It's seriously a chore to sit through three hours of RAW, and there's almost no urgency to anything happening on the show.  Feuds drag on endlessly, matches are the same week after week, the show's format is beyond outmoded, and promos are so overly scripted and stilted none of it feels genuine.

What should have been Daniel Bryan's crowning year was unfortunately cut short by nagging injuries, and even after neck surgery he developed elbow issues from which he still hasn't returned.  Let's hope he can get back in the ring in early 2015.  The company hasn't found anyone yet that elicits the same type of crowd response as the Yes man.

2015 is promising to be the year of Roman Reigns.  Or at least that's what WWE would like to happen.  Personally I still don't think Reigns is ready to succeed John Cena as the top star in the company.  He still needs repackaging, he still needs a new and more diverse moveset, he still needs help with promos, or more accurately, needs to be allowed to cut his own promos rather than following a badly written script.  All the things I said in my Roman Reigns piece a few months ago are still true, and Reigns lost three months of development to a hernia.  I'm very skeptical that Reigns will be able to build the connection with the fans that he needs, in such a short time.

Now for a big picture observation: WWE has always been at its best when challenged by outside forces, and for the first time in a long while it seems like that could actually happen again.  Sure there's no single wrestling entity the size of WCW to take WWE head-on, but between CM Punk leaving WWE, "breaking the internet" with his remarkable tell-all podcast interview, and bringing his fanbase to UFC; Alberto Del Rio leaving the company and signing with Ring of Honor (Del Rio is the first former WWE Champion to sign with the upstart Indie promotion); and New Japan Pro Wrestling offering a similar subscription service for even less money than the WWE Network, WWE may see multiple organizations competing for their audience.  Couple that with Jeff Jarrett's launching of Global Force Wrestling and distributing New Japan's January PPV, TNA managing to survive and hoping to rebuild, and Brock Lesnar likely exiting WWE in favor of an MMA return, and WWE may finally be forced to fight a little for its viewership, for the first time since 2001.  This is a good thing, as the wrestling juggernaut has fallen deeply into complacency and doesn't seem to understand basic wrestling logic anymore.  Oh, right I forgot - they're "sports-entertainment."  Hey Vince, STOP TRYING TO MAKE "SPORTS-ENTERTAINMENT" HAPPEN.  No one is ever going to refer to the art of pretend fighting by that term.  Ever.  It's pro wrestling.  It's always been pro wrestling.  It will always be pro wrestling. 

PROWRESTLINGPROWRESTLINGPROWRESTLINGPROWRESTLING.

Ok, enough jibber-jabber.  At this time I'd like to present the Enuffa.com 2014 Year-End Awards!

I really only concern myself with six categories: Wrestler of the Year, Tag Team, Match, Feud, Major Show, and Promotion of the Year.  My picks are generally based on quality of work, impact on the business, and a little (but not much) on personal preference.  But I like to think my picks are pretty objective.

Promotion of the Year - As I mentioned above, I'm really hoping that 2015 sees some bona fide competition for WWE.  That being said WWE still presented the most consistent product (at least in North America) and had very little competition.  I'm excited to peruse some New Japan stuff, as I've heard nothing but good things about it. 

But for now this award goes to: WWE






Major Show of the Year - One show really set the tone for the direction WWE was supposed to take in 2014.  A new Champion with a massive following, several new stars ready to shine, an optimistic future.  Then everything got effed up by injuries and the creative team forgot what they were doing.  But for two nights everything seemed to be going beautifully.

The Best Major Show of the Year was: WrestleMania XXX






Feud of the Year - Again, this feud should've lasted basically the whole year but due to injury one side of it was rather half-assedly co-opted by someone who didn't make any sense in the same role, and the feud died a slow, painful death.  Initially though it made for some highly compelling TV.
 
My award for Feud of the Year goes to: Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority






Match of the Year - There's a theme here.  An unlikely hero's crowning achievement.  The beginning of a new dynasty.  70,000 standing in jubilation.  The little guy conquering The Machine.

The 2014 Match of the Year is: Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan (4.6.14)





Tag Team of the Year - WWE's tag division has seen something of a resurgence.  While the various matchups have been presented ad nauseum, at least the Titles mean more than they did from 2004-2011, which was exactly "dick."  One team stood above the rest for the majority of the year.  Two likable third-generation wrestlers named Jimmy and Jay delivered several breakout performances in 2014. 

The award goes to: The Usos






Wrestler of the Year - This is the most difficult category to award.  I know who absolutely, by all rights should've won this.  It was 100% his year.  It was his time to shine.  I hope he gets another chance like this upon his return.  His name is Daniel Bryan.  But in May a neck injury sidelined him for the rest of 2014 and we still don't know when he'll be back.  After the master plan was derailed we ended up with several stars who had good years, but no one who had a great year.  WWE has been inconsistent in building up the remaining roster, and it feels like we have an overabundance of parity.  But one rising star had probably the best year of his young career and broke away from a stable to become the top full-time villain in the company.  He's generally been the only heel to truly act like a classic wrestling bad guy.  Cowardly, smarmy, opportunistic, eager to take shortcuts. 

His name is: Seth Rollins






Okay, now that I've presented this year's crop of winners, I'm going to retroactively include my picks for past winners, dating back to my first full year as a fan of this bizarre form of entertainment - 1987.  Think of this as an extensive set of BluRay Extras.


1987
Wrestler of the Year - Ric Flair
Tag Team of the Year - Hart Foundation
Match of the Year - Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat (3.29.87)
Feud of the Year - Four Horsemen vs. SuperPowers/Road Warriors
Major Show of the Year - WWF WrestleMania III
Promotion of the Year - WWF

1988
Wrestler of the Year - Randy Savage
Tag Team of the Year - Road Warriors
Match of the Year - Team Powers of Pain vs. Team Demolition (11.24.88)
Feud of the Year - Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger
Major Show of the Year - WWF Survivor Series
Promotion of the Year - NWA

1989
Wrestler of the Year - Ric Flair
Tag Team of the Year - Demolition
Match of the Year - Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair (5.7.89)
Feud of the Year - Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk
Major Show of the Year - NWA Great American Bash
Promotion of the Year - NWA

1990
Wrestler of the Year - Ultimate Warrior
Tag Team of the Year - Hart Foundation
Match of the Year - Brian Pillman & Tom Zenk vs. Midnight Express (5.19.90)
Feud of the Year - Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger
Major Show of the Year - NWA Capitol Combat
Promotion of the Year - WWF

1991
Wrestler of the Year - Ric Flair
Tag Team of the Year - Legion of Doom
Match of the Year - Rockers vs. Orient Express (1.19.91)
Feud of the Year - Undertaker vs. Ultimate Warrior
Major Show of the Year - WCW/New Japan SuperShow
Promotion of the Year - WWF

1992
Wrestler of the Year - Randy Savage
Tag Team of the Year - Steiners
Match of the Year - Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith (8.29.92)
Feud of the Year - Sting vs. Vader
Major Show of the Year - WWF SummerSlam
Promotion of the Year - WWF

1993
Wrestler of the Year - Vader
Tag Team of the Year - Steiners
Match of the Year - Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect (6.13.93)
Feud of the Year - Sting vs. Vader
Major Show of the Year - WCW SuperBrawl III
Promotion of the Year - WCW

1994
Wrestler of the Year - Bret Hart
Tag Team of the Year - Headshrinkers
Match of the Year - Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (3.20.94)
Feud of the Year - Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart
Major Show of the Year - WWF WrestleMania X
Promotion of the Year - WWF

1995
Wrestler of the Year - Diesel
Tag Team of the Year - Owen Hart & Yokozuna
Match of the Year - Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog (12.18.95)
Feud of the Year - Dean Malenko vs. Eddie Guerrero
Major Show of the Year - WWF Survivor Series
Promotion of the Year - WWF

1996
Wrestler of the Year - Shawn Michaels
Tag Team of the Year - Harlem Heat
Match of the Year - Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind (9.22.96)
Feud of the Year - Undertaker vs. Mankind
Major Show of the Year - WWF King of the Ring
Promotion of the Year - WWF

1997
Wrestler of the Year - Steve Austin
Tag Team of the Year - The Outsiders
Match of the Year - Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker (10.5.97)
Feud of the Year - USA vs. Canada
Major Show of the Year - WWF SummerSlam
Promotion of the Year - WWF

1998
Wrestler of the Year - Steve Austin
Tag Team of the Year - New Age Outlaws
Match of the Year - Undertaker vs. Mankind (6.28.98)
Feud of the Year - Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon
Major Show of the Year - WWF SummerSlam
Promotion of the Year - WWF

1999
Wrestler of the Year - Steve Austin
Tag Team of the Year - Kane & X-Pac
Match of the Year - Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boyz (10.17.99)
Feud of the Year - Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon
Major Show of the Year - WWF Backlash
Promotion of the Year - WWF

2000
Wrestler of the Year - The Rock
Tag Team of the Year - Edge & Christian
Match of the Year - Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (2.27.00)
Feud of the Year - Triple H vs. The Rock
Major Show of the Year - WWF Fully Loaded
Promotion of the Year - WWF

2001
Wrestler of the Year - Steve Austin
Tag Team of the Year - Dudley Boyz
Match of the Year - Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon (6.21.01)
Feud of the Year - Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit
Major Show of the Year - WWF WrestleMania X-7
Promotion of the Year - WWF

2002
Wrestler of the Year - Kurt Angle
Tag Team of the Year - Los Guerreros
Match of the Year - Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit vs. Edge & Rey Mysterio (10.20.02)
Feud of the Year - RAW vs. Smackdown
Major Show of the Year - WWE SummerSlam
Promotion of the Year - WWE

2003
Wrestler of the Year - Brock Lesnar
Tag Team of the Year - World's Greatest Tag Team
Match of the Year - Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit (1.19.03)
Feud of the Year - Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar
Major Show of the Year - WWE WrestleMania XIX
Promotion of the Year - WWE

2004
Wrestler of the Year - Chris Benoit
Tag Team of the Year - America's Most Wanted
Match of the Year - Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit (3.14.04)
Feud of the Year - Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley
Major Show of the Year - WWE WrestleMania XX
Promotion of the Year - WWE

2005
Wrestler of the Year - AJ Styles
Tag Team of the Year - MNM
Match of the Year - AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe (12.11.05)
Feud of the Year - AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels
Major Show of the Year - WWE Vengeance
Promotion of the Year - TNA

2006
Wrestler of the Year - John Cena
Tag Team of the Year - AJ Styles & Christopher Daniels
Match of the Year - Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness (8.12.06)
Feud of the Year - John Cena vs. Edge
Major Show of the Year - WWE No Way Out
Promotion of the Year - Ring of Honor

2007
Wrestler of the Year - John Cena
Tag Team of the Year - Briscoe Brothers
Match of the Year - Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness (6.7.07)
Feud of the Year - Bryan Danielson vs. Takeshi Morishima
Major Show of the Year - ROH Driven
Promotion of the Year - Ring of Honor

2008
Wrestler of the Year - Samoa Joe
Tag Team of the Year - Beer Money Inc.
Match of the Year - Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair (3.30.08)
Feud of the Year - Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels
Major Show of the Year - ROH Take No Prisoners
Promotion of the Year - Ring of Honor

2009
Wrestler of the Year - Randy Orton
Tag Team of the Year - JeriShow
Match of the Year - Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (4.5.09)
Feud of the Year - CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy
Major Show of the Year - TNA Turning Point
Promotion of the Year - WWE

2010
Wrestler of the Year - Randy Orton
Tag Team of the Year - Hart Dynasty
Match of the Year - Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (3.28.10)
Feud of the Year - Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Major Show of the Year - WWE WrestleMania XXVI
Promotion of the Year - WWE

2011
Wrestler of the Year - CM Punk
Tag Team of the Year - Beer Money Inc.
Match of the Year - John Cena vs. CM Punk (7.17.11)
Feud of the Year - John Cena vs. CM Punk
Major Show of the Year - WWE Money in the Bank
Promotion of the Year - WWE

2012
Wrestler of the Year - CM Punk
Tag Team of the Year - Team Hell No
Match of the Year - CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan (5.20.12)
Feud of the Year - CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan
Major Show of the Year - WWE Extreme Rules
Promotion of the Year - WWE

2013
Wrestler of the Year - Daniel Bryan
Tag Team of the Year - The Shield
Match of the Year - John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan (8.18.13)
Feud of the Year - Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority
Major Show of the Year - WWE SummerSlam
Promotion of the Year - WWE

Phew!  Ok, we're caught up to the present day.  Seriously though, if you haven't seen the Ring of Honor matches I mentioned above, SEEK THEM OUT.  They're two of the best matches I've ever seen and represent some of Daniel Bryan's best work.

That's all for my Year-End Awards here at Enuffa.com.  Please comment below with your thoughts, and have a happy and safe holiday season!

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