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Welcome to the most prestigious award show of the year, the fifth annual release of The Viewies®! The Viewies® are when I hand out my awards, from best match to wrestler of the year, to worst television announcer. Just a heads up that if you hate NJPW you probably shouldn’t read past this first introductory paragraph. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!
Wrestler of the Year: Kazuchika Okada
This is about as easy of an award to give out. What hasn’t Okada done in 2017? He has held the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship for the entire year, while being part of some of the best matches in the history of the industry. It’s amazing how every wrestler seems to have the best matches of his career when he is working with Okada, isn’t it? More importantly, Okada has been the face of the company while NJPW enjoyed a banner year domestically and achieved more success internationally than at any other time in their history. If you need an example of Okada’s brilliance, check out his match a few weeks ago in Australian against a local wrestler. Okada comes into Melbourne and is treated like a total superstar by the Australians and he has a very good match that makes the local wrestler, Slex, look like a top star. It is very reminiscent of the days of Ric Flair and the NWA when the world champion would come into a local territory and make the local wrestler look like a major star.
Honorable Mention: AJ Styles, Masaaki Mochizuki, Kento Miyahara, Kenny Omega, Tetsuya Naito
Best Babyface(s): The Bullet Club
While technically heels in Japan, The Bullet Club have been the biggest difference makers in the United States wrestling market. While they will never have the platform that WWE’s biggest stars have, The Bullet Club, now in their third incarnation, have been the most impactful stars when it comes to selling tickets. When Ring of Honor normally goes to Chicago, they typically sell around 800 tickets. The Bullet Club and Kenny Omega were announced for their iPPV in Chicago earlier this year and suddenly they sold upwards of 2,400 tickets. No other stars are making that kind of an impact on ticket sales in the world, not to mention the amount of merchandise that they sell at those shows.
Honorable Mention: AJ Styles, Kento Miyahara, Kazuchika Okada, Brock Lesnar, Volador Jr.
Best Heel: The Miz
This was a difficult award to give out to the shades of gray that so many of the top stars occupy today. If we are going by a traditional definition, Roman Reigns is the top heel in wrestling, because he is the biggest star that generates the most heat from the fans. However, since he isn’t really positioned as a heel in storyline, it’s hard to give him the award. The Miz succeeds in his role as a the smarmy, obnoxious star better than anyone. He is often not given the best material to work with, but whether he was working with John Cena, or LaVar Ball, he has tried his best to make every segment he is in entertaining.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Owens, Andrade Almas w/Zelina Vega, Rush
Best Technical Wrestler: Zack Sabre Jr.
A true independent wrestler, Sabre has turned down offers from WWE and appears all over the world wrestling his unique style. Generations ago there were hundreds of wrestlers practicing the smooth, intelligent, British-style, but today Sabre is one of only and handful of practitioners. Sabre’s knowledge of wrestling holds and flexibility is unmatched, but what is most impressive about his wrestling style is how he gets the most out of the smallest facets of a match. A rest hold for most wrestlers could be the climax of a Sabre Jr. match.
Honorable Mention: Marty Scurll, Tetsuya Naito, AJ Styles, Roderick Strong, YAMATO, Kenny Omega, Minoru Suzuki, Ricochet
Best Brawler: Tomohiro Ishii
Really competitive year with a lot of good talent having the best years of their career; but I’d have to give the award to the old standby, Tomohiro Ishii. What Ishii lacks in physical gifts he makes up for in intelligence and toughness. Top matches against Naito, Omega, Tanahashi, Keith Lee, Sabre Jr. Ishii wasn’t even pegged to have a lot of success in NJPW and lost most of his matches, but the reliability of his forearm shots and impenetrable toughness still make him a crowd favorite.
Honorable Mention: WALTER, Masaaki Mochizuki, Suwama, Samoa Joe, Katsuhiko Nakajima
Best High Flyer: Will Ospreay
Maybe a handful of wrestlers are better at their peak than Ospreay, but I’m not there was a more consistently great performer than Ospreay. As he gets older he will take more of his smaller matches off, but for the most part in 2017, Ospreay was going to give you the spectacular whether it was in front of 200 fans in the UK, or in front of 10,000 fans in Japan. Ospreay’s athleticism has been coupled with consistent improvements year-to-year on his selling, pacing and charisma. One can only expect great things from the 24 year old in 2018.
Honorable Mention: Ricochet, Dragon Lee, Volador Jr., Rich Swann, Kota Ibushi, Matt and Nick Jackson
Tag Team of the Year: The Young Bucks
This is similar to naming The Bullet Club as the top babyfaces of 2017; no other team meant more in wrestling in 2017. WWE has a lot of good tag teams right now but none of them impact attendance or sell merchandise the way the Young Bucks do. Outside of WWE The Young Bucks are the most popular act by leaps and bounds in the United States, and their ability to market themselves and constantly remain in demand is second to none. In addition, they continue to have excellent matches wrestled at a frenetic pace that no other team can match on a consistent basis.
Honorable Mention: The New Day, The Usos, reDRagon, CIMA and Dragon Kid, Sheamus and Cesaro,
Woman Wrestler of the Year: Asuka
Asuka has done a lot of things in WWE that I didn’t think I would see; most importantly getting over with a majority of the audience without really uttering a word. Asuka’s reputation as a killer is not based on her physical size, but in her high-quality work and her deadly kicks. There are still some questions about how WWE is going to book her going forward, but on the strength of her NXT run alone, she deserves this award.
Honorable Mention: Io Shirai, Toni Storm, Alexa Bliss, Charlotte, Kairi Sane
Match of the Year: Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11
This was the match that kicked off what a lot of fans feel like has been the best year in the history of the industry for high-quality matches. The first major encounter between Omega and Okada in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 11 quickly became a legendary match and helped further establish NJPW outside of Japan and established Okada and Omega as names that even casual fans were aware of. You could really pick any match from their trilogy, but historically the first one feels the most important; part of the reason the second and third matches were so great were because of the story that was told in their first match.
Honorable Mention: Omega vs Okada II, Omega vs Okada III, Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi at G1 Climax Day One, Pete Dunne vs Tyler Bate at NXT TakeOver, Will Ospreay vs KUSHIDA, Best of the Super Jrs. Final.
Worst Match of the Year: Jinder Mahal vs Randy Orton at Battleground
What Randy Orton should win this award? Should it be the Punjabi Prison Match, or the House of Horrors Match at Payback? Granted the shortcomings in both matches cannot really be blamed on Orton, but I think they were easily the two worst major matches I have seen in 2017. I think the House of Horrors Match is conceptually worse since it just didn’t seem like a real wrestling match and came off as corny, but considering the Punjabi Prison Match was for the WWE Championship and was in the main event of a PPV, I think it is a bigger failure. Hopefully in 2018 Orton will stay away from matches with bizzare stipulations.
Honorable Mention: Orton vs Wyatt-Chamber of Horrors, Bill Goldberg vs Kevin Owens
Best on Interviews: Chris Jericho
Jericho doubles as the most charismatic wrestler as well as the best talker in wrestling. Whether it was coining several catchphrases, working as a snivelling heel or turning babyface, Jericho can do it all as a character thanks to his charisma and tireless efforts to reinvent himself. Jericho’s promos during his feud with Kevin Owens during the early months of 2017 were strong enough on their own to win this award, but he has topped himself in recent weeks with his work against Kenny Omega.
Honorable Mention: John Cena, The Miz, Paul Heyman, Cody Rhodes, Kevin Owens
Most Charismatic: Chris Jericho
Honorable Mention: John Cena, Tetsuya Naito, Marty Scurll, Dalton Castle, Ultimo Guerrero, Chuck Taylor
Most Overrated: Alexa Bliss
The definition I’m using for most overrated is for the wrestler who seems to be valued greatly by the fans, who I just don’t see as being talented enough to warrant that evaluation. I don’t hate Alexa Bliss; I think she is good in her role and does a solid job on promos. I don’t think she is a very good worker, and other women in WWE, such as Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte and Asuka, have more charisma and stronger characters if they are booked correctly. When they have been shuffling the Women’s Championship around like a hot potato, I don’t really see why Bliss is the one who has warranted a lengthy title reign.
Honorable Mention: Matt Riddle, Adam Cole, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt
Most Underrated: Masaaki Mochizuki
I wrote two weeks ago about Mochizuki being the most underrated wrestler in the world, so I won’t take up more time writing about him here. Just know that he is really freakin’ good.
Honorable Mention: Jurn Simmons, Jay Lethal, Roderick Strong, BxB Hulk, Naomichi Marufuji, Everyone on 205 Live that isn’t Enzo
Best Television Announcer: Corey Graves
It was clear pretty early that WWE was high on Graves as an announcer and he has shown why over the last few years by showcasing knowledge in versatility in a variety of roles. Being an announcer in WWE is tough due to the control Vince McMahon exercises over the role and the often forced use of WWE buzzwords. Graves manages to sound natural and enthusiastic in his role and even though he is a heel, he feels the most trustworthy when it comes to describing the product. Although he has only been doing it for a couple years, he is WWE’s top color commentator and seems to get every job that is available to him.
Honorable Mention: Excalibur, Kevin Kelly, Nigel McGuinness, Mauro Ranallo, Lenny Leonard
Worst Television Announcer: Booker T
Since replacing Byron Saxton on RAW, Booker T has been downright incomprehensible most of the time. He repeats himself, he rambles, it is hard to tell if he is a babyface or a heel, it is really unclear just exactly what role Booker T is supposed to be serving. Having charisma as a performer does not always translate to being a great television announcer, and Booker T is a perfect example of that.
Honorable Mention: Josh Matthews, Michael Cole, JBL
Promotion of the Year: NJPW
This is a slam-dunk easy choice. NJPW constantly turned out the best wrestling matches of 2017, some of the best feuds and storylines, and also increased their business significantly both domestically and abroad. It has been a long time since a wrestling company had as much positive news in one calendar year.
Honorable Mention: Dragon Gate, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Ring of Honor, PROGRESS Wrestling
Feud of the Year: Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada
The feud between Okada and Omega is probably the biggest non-WWE feud to take place since perhaps the closure of WCW. Between their three major singles matches throughout the year, each of which told a different story and were wrestled a different style, and Omega’s promos and exposure to fans are the world, this will probably go down historically as the most important feud of 2017, even if some feuds, like Lesnar vs Goldberg, were bigger draws.
Honorable Mention: Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens, KUSHIDA vs Will Ospreay, Cody Rhodes vs Dalton Castle
Here are a bunch of random other awards I’m giving out:
Best Major Show: NJPW Dominion
Worst Major Show: WWE Battleground
Best Finishing Move: Kenny Omega-One Winged Angel
Best Gimmick: Drew Gulak-Powerpoint Presentation/Hatred of Flying
Worst Gimmick: Bray Wyatt-Backwoods Creep
Best Comeback: Joe Doering wins AJPW Triple Crown Championship after beating cancer
Biggest Disappointment: Jinder Mahal beats Shinsuke Nakamura
Star Ratings for Clash of Champions:
AJ Styles vs Jinder Mahal: **½
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens vs Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton: **½
Natalya vs Charlotte: **
The Bludgeon Brothers vs Breezango: *
The Usos vs Rusev and Aiden English vs The New Day vs Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable: ***½
Bobby Roode vs Dolph Ziggler vs Baron Corbin:***¼