Every year, The Viewies® prove to be the definitive awards handed out during the wrestling calendar. With an eventful 2016 already halfway in the books, who are the favorites to capture the awards? Without further ado I give you the 2016 Mid-Year Awards; The Pre-Viewies®.
Lethal is running away with the most important award of 2016. He just went over the year mark as ROH World Champion and he continues to be the most well-rounded wrestler in the world. He isn't quite the worker that guys like AJ Styles, Kazuchika Okada or Seth Rollins are, but he is still very good in the ring. On the mic he is simply the consistently best promo in wrestling. He is unlike anybody else in wrestling from an entertainment standpoint and he continues to dominate every main event in Ring of Honor.
Honorable Mention: Kazuchika Okada, Kento Miyahara, Tetsuya Naito, Will Ospreay, Shingo Takagi
Best Babyface: Kazuchika Okada
Not a tremendous year for babyfaces so far, 2016 has really been the year of the heel, but Okada stands out right now as the most successful babyface. He successfully defended the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship at the Tokyo Dome against his great rival Hiroshi Tanahashi, and although he lost the championship to Tetsuya Naito, he regained it at Dominion. This should really be Dean Ambrose's award to lose heading into the second half of 2016, he is easily poised to become the biggest babyface in the world.
Honorable Mention: Kento Miyahara, Dean Ambrose, Bayley, Jay Briscoe, Ricochet/Prince Puma
Best Heel: Testuya Naito
Before he turned heel, Naito just wasn't clicking with NJPW audiences in a major way. There was no questioning he was a great in-ring wrestler, but his white-meat personality wasn't enough to get him over the top. Turning him heel and becoming the leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon has transformed his career. He has become the number one villain in the company, had a run as IWGP World Heavyweight Championship and filled a critical void for NJPW after the departures of Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles. Chris Jericho is probably the best pure heel in wrestling, but lacks the main event credibility of Naito.
Honorable Mention: Jay Lethal, Chris Jericho, Roderick Strong, Matt Hardy, Shingo Takagi
Best Technical Wrestler: Timothy Thatcher
This is an award that many people just naturally give to Zack Sabre Jr. The case for Sabre Jr. is obvious, nobody moves as fluidly in-between holds as him. However, technical wrestling is so much more than that, to be a great technical wrestler you have to show a lot of fire and intensity in your matches. Zack is a great, great wrestler, but most of the time he looks like he couldn't give less of a s*** in the ring. I know that gives him a smooth, cooler-than-cool confident look, but for me, I prefer guys that look like they are killing themselves in the ring. Thatcher is 95 percent as good as Sabre Jr. when it comes to trading holds, but Thatcher also doubles as probably the most intense wrestler in the world and has been the EVOLVE Champion for almost a year, so he gets the nod.
Honorable Mention: Zack Sabre Jr., Drew Gulak, Kyle O'Reilly, AJ Styles, Shingo Takagi, Marty Scurll, Kyle O'Reilly
Best Brawler: Chris Hero
Hero is a true wrestling vagabond, applying his craft all over the world for whoever will pay him. He is such a gifted all-around wrestler that it feels wrong to pigeon-hole him into one role as a brawler, but he has had some excellent matches in 2016, and it is his striking ability that sets him apart. Every Hero match is pretty much the same, they start off trading holds but eventually things devolve into a straight brawl, with Hero expertly stringing together elbow strikes, forearms, kicks and clotheslines. He is the foremost purveyor of the strong style wrestling that came to prominence in the early-90s in AJPW with the likes of Jumbo Tsuruta and Mitsuharu Misawa.
Honorable Mention: Yuji Nagata, Katsuyori Shibata, Kevin Owens, Jay Briscoe, Bobby Lashley
Best High-Flyer: Will Ospreay
2016 has been a terrific year for Ospreay. He became the first British wrestler to win the Best of the Super Jrs. Tournament and has had arguably the best matches of 2016. Only Ricochet can really match his natural athleticism in the ring, and Ospreay has really put all that athleticism together and become a superb worker in the ring. Ospreay has always been capable of performing jaw-dropping moves in the ring, but now he is working longer and more important matches against top talent. He may have surpassed Sabre Jr. as the most popular wrestler in Britain and has all the tools to make it even bigger on the international stage.
Honorable Mention: Ricochet/Prince Puma, Sami Zayn, Matt Sydal, AJ Styles
Best Powerhouse: Daisuke Sekimoto
Strange to see a Japanese wrestler in here right? The squat Sekimoto is built like Michael Elgin and has become probably the most popular wrestler on the Japanese indie wrestling scene as the ace for Big Japan Pro Wrestling. What really put him over the top was the fact that he won the Champions Carnival (AJPW's version of the G1 Climax) and had a great match against Kento Miyahara for the Triple Crown Championship. His partner in BJW, Yuji Okabayashi, might actually be even better but he lacks the top of the card success that Sekimoto has had. Cesaro is a better wrestler than either of them but he hasn't been healthy for the entire year.
Honorable Mention: Yuji Okabayashi, Cesaro, Michael Elgin, Brian Cage
Best Tag Team: The New Day
There are tag teams that have better matches than The New Day, but no tag team in wrestling is asked to do quite as much as The New Day. Every week they go out on RAW and have to be entertaining and original on the microphone, and more often than not they deliver. The New Day have revitalized the WWE Tag Team division and most of their matches have been good, if not the best match on every card. No tag team means so much to the company they work with more than The New Day.
Honorable Mention: Enzo and Cass, The Revival, The Young Bucks, Great Bash Heel, American Alpha, War Machine, Strong BJ
Best Female Wrestler: Santana Garrett
A hard award to give out. Bayley is probably the most popular female wrestler in the world, but lost the NXT Women's Championship and wasn't on the last Takeover. Charlotte has the best position to win the award, but inconsistencies in her booking have hurt the fact that she has been the Women's Champion for the entire year. I will go with Garrett, who has been everywhere in 2016. She is a very good wrestler and has made appearances for various top promotions. Her biggest claim to fame is capturing the Wonder of Stardom Title and holding it through May, making her the most successful female in Japanese wrestling this year. In addition she has appeared in NXT, wrestling with Asuka and Emma, and has appeared in AAA. It's a good battle for the award, but Garrett has the lead right now.
Honorable Mention: Asuka, Bayley, Charlotte, Io Shirai, Sienna
Most Charismatic: Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura has come into the United States and taken over NXT, and it is all because of his jaw-dropping charisma. Just his entrance alone is enough to get him over; the guy is just so gifted in his walk and mannerisms that it almost doesn't matter what he does in the ring (and he is quite good at that). Clearly Nakamura has a better chance at getting over with American audiences more than any other Japanese wrestler, and that is all because he is so charismatic he doesn't even really have to talk to get over.
Honorable Mention: Jay Lethal, Dalton Castle, The Young Bucks, Finn Balor, Dean Ambrose
Best on Interviews: Jay Lethal
ROH's promo style is very old-fashioned; they tape the most important promos backstage and let the guys really cut loose. This contrasts with WWE and TNA, who mostly have the big promos done in the ring in front of a live audience. Lethal has been tremendous on promos since becoming champion, and similar to the style in which they are filmed, Lethal has an old-fashioned delivery and promo style. He got over originally by impersonating Flair and Savage, and that influence really comes through with his wild and engaging promos. It makes his promos wholly unique in the current world of scripted promos and reading off Teleprompters.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose, The New Day
Match of the Year: Dragon Lee vs Kamaitachi-NJPW Fantastica Mania 2016 Day 6
The culmination of a great Fantastica Mania, Dragon Lee and Kamaitachi absolutely tore the house down with their match. These two high-flyers feuded often in CMLL and had many great matches, but they put on an incredible effort for their first match against each other in Kamaitachi's native Japan. Dragon Lee was so impressive in this match and he wrestled so hard, it looked like he was destined to injure himself, and unfortunately he would have to take time off later in the year after suffering an injury. The match also included one of the best finishes I have ever seen in wrestling, a mind-blowing move that is still hard to visualize, even after seeing it dozens of times. 2016 doesn't have a run-away MOTY like 2015 did, but I think right now Dragon Lee vs Kamaitachi has set the highest standard.
Honorable Mention: AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura-NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10, Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi-NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10, Marty Scurll vs Will Ospreay-RPW High Stakes, Michael Elgin vs Kenny Omega-NJPW Dominion, Zack Sabre Jr. vs Will Ospreay-EVOLVE 58.
Note: This week's installment of The 50 Greatest Wrestlers of the Last 50 Years is going to be delayed due to the long weekend. #25 on the countdown will be revealed on Monday, July 4.