Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Enuffa.com 2015 Year-End Pro Wrestling Awards

Welcome to Enuffa.com's 2nd Annual Year-End Awards!


2015 was largely quite a shitshow if you're a WWE fan.  For the second straight year the product started off on a completely tone-deaf note, as Roman Reigns was pushed as the company's central figure for the first few months, despite soft fan support and a poorly defined character.  Even after the long-awaited return of Daniel Bryan, Vince stayed the course in building Reigns as the #1 Contender at WrestleMania, and fan relations took a big hit.  Bryan was booked as an afterthought, Reigns won the Royal Rumble, and both he and The Rock met the wrath of a pissed-off live crowd.  This caused WWE to hedge their bets for 'Mania, as the Showcase of the Immortals was not Reigns' crowning moment as originally anticipated.  Instead Mr. Money in the Bank Seth Rollins swooped in, joining the Reigns-Lesnar match in progress, and walked away with the strap.  Thus began a banner year for Mr. Rollins.  Or at least a banner year by WWE standards.

As has been the case over the past five years or so, WWE's booking in 2015 has been full of scripted promos, confusing angles, and 50-50 nonsense that gets no one over.  Their way around the consequences of that is to rely heavily on stars from the past to sell the big events.  But what happens when those established guys aren't around?  Well, WWE's shortsightedness came back to bite them in a big way in November, when not only was John Cena on hiatus, but Randy Orton, Cesaro, and WWE Champion Seth Rollins went down with injuries, leaving massive roster holes (Daniel Bryan, Tyson Kidd and Nikki Bella were already on the shelf by this time).  The depleted roster, coupled with horrid booking and go-nowhere storylines has led to some of the company's lowest RAW ratings in two decades, and fan enthusiasm up until Roman Reigns' WWE Title win was about the weakest I can remember.  WWE needs to seriously re-examine its strategy if they hope to turn things around in 2016.  With Reigns at least it seems they're doing just that, as his character has been given a more aggressive edge and he finally got the job done against Sheamus.

When I speak of all these WWE-related issues I'm of course only speaking for the main roster, as NXT became a full-fledged alternative brand in 2015.  Triple H's former developmental territory got everything right that the main roster got wrong (in particular the incredible Women's division), presenting a simple, streamlined, wrestling-heavy product that has attracted a rabid fanbase.  NXT reached a huge milestone in August, selling out the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, also the site of SummerSlam.  That this little upstart brand was able to sell out a major arena is truly amazing, and the hungry roster delivered in spades, arguably upstaging their main roster counterparts that weekend (Another TakeOver special is planned for WrestleMania weekend next year).  NXT is so much better at pushing new talent in fact, that being called up to the main roster often hurts, or at least stagnates, a wrestler's career.  Case in point Neville, who has scarcely been involved in a meaningful feud since his RAW debut in March.


It's becoming more and more apparent that Triple H is far more in tune with his audience than Vince, and I'm not sure what it's going to take for the elder McMahon to realize that his approach simply doesn't work anymore.  The company will seemingly be in good hands once Vince steps down, but the question is, will WWE be damaged beyond repair by the time that happens?

Where WWE struggled to present a consistently watchable product, things in New Japan were a totally different story in 2015.  NJPW presented some of the best wrestling I've ever seen, including no fewer than a dozen Match of the Year candidates and an absolutely amazing flagship show.  This was the year I became a New Japan fan first and a WWE fan second.  Not since 2004-2008 Ring of Honor has a wrestling product totally captivated me the way NJPW did in 2015.  It is unapologetically a pro wrestling product, unfettered by goofy storylines, authority power struggles, or forced, unfunny comedy bits.  New Japan treats pro wrestling like a real sport contested by accomplished athletes where championships matter and all feuds are settled in the ring.  Between the watershed WrestleKingdom 9, the fantastic Dominion, and the tremendously enjoyable G1 Climax tournament, New Japan gave us hours upon hours of entertainment in 2015.

As for the other three major promotions, Ring of Honor slowly but surely continued to grow, assisted by a blossoming relationship with New Japan (the ROH Championship will be decided at WrestleKingdom 10); TNA somehow got yet another stay of execution with a Pop Network deal; and Lucha Underground announced their second TV season, bolstered by new signee Rey Mysterio.  For two of those promotions I expect 2016 to be a prosperous year.  See if you can guess which two....


Anyway, moving on to the Year-End Awards!  In addition to the original six categories from last year (Wrestler, Tag Team, Match, Feud, Major Show, and Promotion of the Year), I've added two new categories - Most Disappointing Show, and Woman of the Year.  I've also retroactively added them to past years at the bottom.  Enjoy!  (You can check out the 2014 edition HERE)


Promotion of the Year

This is no contest at all.  One promotion gave us so many great matches, multiple A-grade PPVs, and some of the most exciting and colorful stars in the business, while the others trailed far behind.

The winner is: New Japan Pro Wrestling





Major Show of the Year

One of the biggest examples of NJPW's brilliance in 2015 was its flagship PPV, which blew every other event out of the water and made me realize that even after thirty years I can still be utterly wowed by a wrestling show.  This was one of the best wrestling events I've ever seen.

The winner is: NJPW WrestleKingdom 9





Most Disappointing Show

For the second straight year WWE began the proceedings with a frustrating, defiantly booked misfire of a PPV.  Much of this event's issues stemmed from the same tone deafness as the 2014 edition, where the "wrong guy" won the big 30-man match, and multiple fan favorites were ignored.  Aside from a wonderful Triple Threat Title match the 2015 edition of this annual tentpole was among the worst in history.

This dubious distinction goes to: WWE Royal Rumble 2015





Feud of the Year

No one feud really shined through this year, sadly, so there are numerous pretty good rivalries to choose from.  I'm going with a feud that was booked very simply, over the company's most prestigious Title.  The key matchup in this feud was built over a year and when the payoff arrived it was a thing of beauty that elevated both men.

The winner is: AJ Styles vs. Kazuchika Okada (NJPW)





Match of the Year

2015 certainly brought us no shortage of MOTY candidates.  WWE had some truly spectacular in-ring action, like the Lesnar-Cena-Rollins Triple Threat at the Rumble, Reigns vs. Bryan at FastLane, three Cena vs. Owens classics, Rollins vs. Ambrose at Elimination Chamber, and Rollins vs. Cena at SummerSlam.  NXT kept right up with and in some cases upstaged the main roster, providing two bona fide Sasha Banks-Bayley clinics and a pair of excellent Balor-Owens main events.  But it was New Japan that racked up a veritable litany of unbelievable bouts.  Tanahashi-Okada at WK9, Ishii-Honma at New Beginning, Styles-Ibushi at Invasion Attack, Kushida-O'Reilly at Best of the Super Juniors, Goto-Nakamura and Styles-Okada at Dominion, and a bevy of great G1 Climax bouts including Tanahashi-Ibushi, Tanahashi-Styles, Nakamura-Okada, and finally the amazing Tanahashi-Nakamura final.  But one match stood above the rest, absolutely rocking my socks off, and it took place at the beginning of the year.  This Intercontinental Title bout was 20 minutes of wrestling perfection by two of the best in the world.

The award goes to: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi at WrestleKingdom 9





Woman of the Year

This is a new category, and one I'm pleased to add (I've retroactively awarded this for past years - see below).  Women's wrestling has historically been treated as an afterthought, or worse, as an eye-candy segment sandwiched between two more important matches.  But in 2015, beginning in NXT, the female stars were once again presented as legitimate athletes who can captivate an audience just as well as the men.  Stars like Paige, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Bayley, Asuka, and Nia Jax have helped redefine mainstream North American women's wrestling, and their influence is being felt on the main roster (albeit presented much more clumsily by the RAW/Smackdown writers).  I'm hoping that in 2016 we could see a Divas Title match co-headline (or even main event) a main roster PPV.  NXT Respect proved that the audience is ready for such a milestone.  Which brings me to our winner.  This woman is as complete a package as WWE has in their employ.  She possesses the in-ring acumen, the stage presence, the confidence, and the character ownership of a Ric Flair, a Shawn Michaels, a Trish Stratus, hell even a Rock.  She is currently one of my top five favorite wrestlers on the roster, and I've never said that about a female wrestler before.  I sincerely hope the main roster crew knows what they have, because pushing her as anything less than one of the faces of the company would be a waste.  Alongside our 2015 Wrestler of the Year winner, this woman is as good as it gets in WWE right now.

Her name is: Sasha Banks





Tag Team of the Year

Speaking of character ownership, our Tag Team of the Year took a horribly ill-conceived, go-nowhere babyface gimmick and turned it into the best damn heel gimmick on the show.  This team is consistently the most entertaining act in WWE, and I could see money in keeping them together for years, a concept that sadly has been missing for most of the last two decades.  Tag teams used to stick together long-term, and the Tag Team Titles were once the top championship a pair would seek to win.  The Road Warriors, The Midnight Express, Demolition; these were all tandems who had no intention of branching off into singles careers.  Tag team wrestling was their thing, and it was a big money draw.  WWE has finally realized in recent years that having a healthy tag division is vital to the success of the product, and in 2015 that division was actually one of the best things about the company.  And this team currently stands atop that division.

The winners are: The New Day





Wrestler of the Year

This candidate spent most of 2015 as his company's top man but was sadly booked like a 2015 heel, meaning he lost non-title matches constantly and was dressed down numerous times by his on-air boss.  Still he proved himself an MVP, turning in a tremendous in-ring body of work, growing leaps and bounds on the mic, and presenting himself as a true villain, rather than a "cool" heel.  He also became the first man to hold the WWE versions of the World and US Titles simultaneously.  He missed the last two months after being sidelined with an injury, but was still head and shoulders above his peers in 2015.

For the second straight year the award goes to: Seth Rollins




That wraps it up for 2015, but below are my awards for every year since I started watching this stuff.  I retroactively adjusted a few things since at this time last year I was not familiar with the New Japan product, but in a few cases they deserved an award.  Unlike the Oscars, my wrestling awards do not exist in a vacuum....



1987
Wrestler of the Year - Ric Flair
Tag Team of the Year - Hart Foundation
Woman of the Year - Sherri Martel
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWF Saturday Night's Main Event #10 (Savage vs. Steele, Battle Royal)
Promotion of the Year - WWF


1988
Wrestler of the Year - Randy Savage
Tag Team of the Year - Road Warriors
Woman of the Year - Elizabeth
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWF WrestleMania IV
Promotion of the Year - NWA


1989
Wrestler of the Year - Ric Flair
Tag Team of the Year - Demolition
Woman of the Year - Sherri Martel
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWF Royal Rumble
Promotion of the Year - NWA


1990
Wrestler of the Year - Ultimate Warrior
Tag Team of the Year - Hart Foundation
Woman of the Year - Sherri Martel
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWF Survivor Series
Promotion of the Year - NWA


1991
Wrestler of the Year - Ric Flair
Tag Team of the Year - Legion of Doom
Woman of the Year - Sherri Martel
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWF Survivor Series
Promotion of the Year - WWF


1992
Wrestler of the Year - Randy Savage
Tag Team of the Year - Steiners
Woman of the Year - Elizabeth
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
Most Disappointing Show - WCW Halloween Havoc
Promotion of the Year - WWF


1993
Wrestler of the Year - Vader
Tag Team of the Year - Steiners
Woman of the Year - Alundra Blayze
Match of the Year - Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect (6.13.93)
Feud of the Year - Sting vs. Vader
Major Show of the Year - WWF Royal Rumble
Most Disappointing Show - WWF WrestleMania IX
Promotion of the Year - WCW


1994
Wrestler of the Year - Bret Hart
Tag Team of the Year - Headshrinkers
Woman of the Year - Alundra Blayze
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWF SummerSlam
Promotion of the Year - WWF


1995
Wrestler of the Year - Diesel
Tag Team of the Year - Owen Hart & Yokozuna
Woman of the Year - Alundra Blayze
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWF King of the Ring
Promotion of the Year - WWF


1996
Wrestler of the Year - Shawn Michaels
Tag Team of the Year - Harlem Heat
Woman of the Year - Sunny
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWF SummerSlam
Promotion of the Year - WWF


1997
Wrestler of the Year - Steve Austin
Tag Team of the Year - The Outsiders
Woman of the Year - Chyna
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
Most Disappointing Show - WCW Starrcade
Promotion of the Year - WWF


1998
Wrestler of the Year - Steve Austin
Tag Team of the Year - New Age Outlaws
Woman of the Year - Sable
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWF Survivor Series
Promotion of the Year - WWF


1999
Wrestler of the Year - Steve Austin
Tag Team of the Year - Kane & X-Pac
Woman of the Year - Chyna
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWF WrestleMania XV
Promotion of the Year - WWF


2000
Wrestler of the Year - The Rock
Tag Team of the Year - Edge & Christian
Woman of the Year - Stephanie McMahon
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWF King of the Ring
Promotion of the Year - WWF


2001
Wrestler of the Year - Steve Austin
Tag Team of the Year - Dudley Boyz
Woman of the Year - Lita
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWF Invasion
Promotion of the Year - WWF


2002
Wrestler of the Year - Kurt Angle
Tag Team of the Year - Los Guerreros
Woman of the Year - Trish Stratus
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWE Survivor Series
Promotion of the Year - WWE


2003
Wrestler of the Year - Brock Lesnar
Tag Team of the Year - World's Greatest Tag Team
Woman of the Year - Trish Stratus
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWE SummerSlam
Promotion of the Year - WWE


2004
Wrestler of the Year - Chris Benoit
Tag Team of the Year - America's Most Wanted
Woman of the Year - Victoria
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWE SummerSlam
Promotion of the Year - WWE


2005
Wrestler of the Year - AJ Styles
Tag Team of the Year - MNM
Woman of the Year - Trish Stratus
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
Most Disappointing Show - ECW One Night Stand
Promotion of the Year - TNA


2006
Wrestler of the Year - John Cena
Tag Team of the Year - AJ Styles & Christopher Daniels
Woman of the Year - Mickie James
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWE Survivor Series
Promotion of the Year - Ring of Honor


2007
Wrestler of the Year - John Cena
Tag Team of the Year - Briscoe Brothers
Woman of the Year - Gail Kim
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWE Night of Champions
Promotion of the Year - Ring of Honor


2008
Wrestler of the Year - Samoa Joe
Tag Team of the Year - Beer Money Inc.
Woman of the Year - Awesome Kong
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWE Survivor Series
Promotion of the Year - Ring of Honor


2009
Wrestler of the Year - Randy Orton
Tag Team of the Year - JeriShow
Woman of the Year - Maryse
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWE Royal Rumble
Promotion of the Year - WWE


2010
Wrestler of the Year - Randy Orton
Tag Team of the Year - Hart Dynasty
Woman of the Year - Natalya
Match of the Year - Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (3.28.10)
Feud of the Year - Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Major Show of the Year - NJPW WrestleKingdom IV
Most Disappointing Show - WWE SummerSlam
Promotion of the Year - WWE


2011
Wrestler of the Year - CM Punk
Tag Team of the Year - Beer Money Inc.
Woman of the Year - Beth Phoenix
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWE WrestleMania XXVII
Promotion of the Year - WWE


2012
Wrestler of the Year - CM Punk
Tag Team of the Year - Team Hell No
Woman of the Year - AJ Lee
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWE SummerSlam
Promotion of the Year - WWE


2013
Wrestler of the Year - Daniel Bryan
Tag Team of the Year - The Shield
Woman of the Year - AJ Lee
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
Most Disappointing Show - WWE Battleground
Promotion of the Year - NJPW


2014
Wrestler of the Year - Seth Rollins
Tag Team of the Year - The Usos
Woman of the Year - Paige
Match of the Year - Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan (4.6.14)
Feud of the Year - Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority
Major Show of the Year - WWE WrestleMania XXX
Most Disappointing Show - WWE Royal Rumble
Promotion of the Year - NJPW

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