2017 Most Improved

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mrjoshdude
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2017 Most Improved

Post by mrjoshdude » Thu Nov 23, 2017 1:24 pm

Trying to condense my list for most improved down to 3 but I'm really struggling. Feels like a lot of wrestlers have made major improvements from last year to this year. I'm down to 8 so I still need to cut 5 but I feel bad thinking about cutting any of these names as they all deserve some recognition for their improvements. My current shortlist is:


EVIL - Started coming into his own late last year but absolutely hit it big this year. He's had some of my favourite under the radar matches this year particularly during the G1. He finally seems to have gotten his character down too, he still has the wacky neon fingers and scythe but in the ring he's really toned down the goofiness and is coming across way more badass this year. I think it has to be said too that in a year he's totally surpassed SANADA in almost every way, that's impressive!

Juice Robinson - Probably the obvious choice for New Japan, when you look at him last year compared to this year it's absolutely astounding. His ascension up the card is one thing but his ability to keep improving himself along with it has been extremely impressive to watch. Compare his most recent match with Kenny or even his NEVER title match with Goto earlier in the year with any match he had last year and it's easy to see how much Juice has improved since 2016.

Hirai Kawato - When Kawato first debuted I didn't think much of him, he seemed scrawny and didn't look to have much natural ability. He still doesn't have much natural ability but that's part of his charm. He wrestles sometimes like he's got two left feet but my word if he isn't better than half the main roster anyway. He's one of the best in the world at the 'fiery babyface that never wins but never gives up anyway' shtick. He might even be my favourite hot tag in the business right now.

Hana Kimura - Like Kawato, Hana debuted last year so obviously there was going to be some improvement. I certainly didn't expect it at this level though. She's becoming one of the top acts in Stardom and I think a lot of that is due to her character work, although she has improved a lot in-ring too. Her ability to work completely different characters depending on the promotion has also been very impressive. What holds Hana back for me is I feel like she's helped a lot by Kris and Kagetsu and the rest of the Oedo Tai in terms of her matches and her character work.

Keith Lee - I'm not sure if Keith has actually improved at all or if he's just been given the opportunity to show it this year. Regardless, when you look at Keith Lee's 2016 compared to his 2017 you can't ignore him for this award. He's burst onto the indie scene around the world quicker and hotter than even Matt Riddle did last year. I can't think of a single match he had last year than can stack up to the 20th best match he had this year. Easy choice for a spot on the ballot and should probably be the favourite to win the award outright.

Takehiro Yamamura - Yamamura is a guy where you see the exact point in his improvement, which is awesome. He's a guy Dragon Gate had tons of expectations for but was mostly not really meeting them. So early in the year he gets a bit of a whipping from Mochi and essentially gets told to get good or get out. When you look at Yamamura's year from that point it's obvious which option he chose. He is always a highlight of any multiman tag and is a fucking god in Korakuen. He's been in some of my favourite singles matches too against Mochi, Big R, and T-Hawk. Shame about the injury late in the year but that doesn't affect his contendership for this award imo.

Braun Strowman - I could go one way or another on Braun, sometimes I feel like he should be number 1 but other times I don't really feel like he should be on the list at all. I think this is because I don't know if Braun has actually improved at all or not. I think maybe he's just had some excellent booking this year and the crowd has gotten behind him. He's obviously improved to some degree though as he's had some of my favourite WWE matches of the year. I just can't help but wonder how much is his improvement and how much is crowd reaction and good booking.

The Velveteen Dream - Not only would Dream not have been on this list until about a week ago, I didn't even know who he was until then. I don't watch NXT TV but I tune into the TakeOver shows if I have time. And with only the pre-match video package and the match itself, I saw in about 20 minutes or so one of my favourite wrestling storylines of the year. And when you consider this guy was essentially nothing a year ago, you have to consider that a massive improvement. What I loved about the Black match is that he showed both enormous character and in-ring skill. The Velveteen Dream has become the complete package for a wrestler in under a year and that deserves some recognition.


Well there you go, that's my shortlist. Currently thinking Juice/Keith/Yamamura but I'm still not sure. Any thoughts on who you think I should cut? Or any names I hadn't thought of? It's a tough year all-round for awards I feel, I'm looking forward to seeing other people's takes on this one.

Angry216
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by Angry216 » Thu Nov 23, 2017 2:18 pm

I agree with all of this. I would also add TK Cooper, but his injury I think will hurt his chances a lot. But definitely think he should be considered in some sense.

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cbacon87
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by cbacon87 » Thu Nov 23, 2017 3:21 pm

I don't know as they'd be contenders, but the AOP merit a mention at least. Their last meaningful 2016 match was with TM61 and I remember that being fairly short and limited still, the stuff with DIY was where they started to settle I would say.

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mlev76
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by mlev76 » Thu Nov 23, 2017 3:46 pm

No one will like this, especially here, but by the very definition of the award, and the largest gulf crossed from last year to this, the winner should be Jinder Mahal. He was wrestling low level indies last year and is ending this year a former WWE champion. That's a far greater climb than anyone listed above.

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mrjoshdude
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by mrjoshdude » Thu Nov 23, 2017 5:25 pm

Angry216 wrote:I agree with all of this. I would also add TK Cooper, but his injury I think will hurt his chances a lot. But definitely think he should be considered in some sense.
TK Cooper is a good choice, totally slipped my mind. I'll probably leave him off my ballot but if he hadn't been injured and had continued at the pace he started the year at then he could potentially have topped it.
cbacon87 wrote:I don't know as they'd be contenders, but the AOP merit a mention at least. Their last meaningful 2016 match was with TM61 and I remember that being fairly short and limited still, the stuff with DIY was where they started to settle I would say.
Are the AOP in their rookie year? I don't remember seeing much of them until this year, but then I don't pay as much attention to NXT as I'd like to so I could be totally wrong here.
mlev76 wrote:No one will like this, especially here, but by the very definition of the award, and the largest gulf crossed from last year to this, the winner should be Jinder Mahal. He was wrestling low level indies last year and is ending this year a former WWE champion. That's a far greater climb than anyone listed above.
In last year's WON issue announcing the awards, Meltzer wrote about the Most Improved Award saying:

"This is based on making the biggest strides in ring work during the previous year. This should not be for someone who was already good, but was given a bigger push".

I think this excludes Jinder. He's just as good as last year (not very good) in every respect, he was just pushed a lot more this year. The award is mostly based around in-ring improvement to which I would say Jinder has made next to none.

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cbacon87
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by cbacon87 » Thu Nov 23, 2017 6:24 pm

mrjoshdude wrote:
cbacon87 wrote:I don't know as they'd be contenders, but the AOP merit a mention at least. Their last meaningful 2016 match was with TM61 and I remember that being fairly short and limited still, the stuff with DIY was where they started to settle I would say.
Are the AOP in their rookie year? I don't remember seeing much of them until this year, but then I don't pay as much attention to NXT as I'd like to so I could be totally wrong here.
2016 was rookie year, but they only showed up on TV in June that year.

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mlev76
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by mlev76 » Fri Nov 24, 2017 2:06 pm

mrjoshdude wrote:
mlev76 wrote:No one will like this, especially here, but by the very definition of the award, and the largest gulf crossed from last year to this, the winner should be Jinder Mahal. He was wrestling low level indies last year and is ending this year a former WWE champion. That's a far greater climb than anyone listed above.
In last year's WON issue announcing the awards, Meltzer wrote about the Most Improved Award saying:

"This is based on making the biggest strides in ring work during the previous year. This should not be for someone who was already good, but was given a bigger push".

I think this excludes Jinder. He's just as good as last year (not very good) in every respect, he was just pushed a lot more this year. The award is mostly based around in-ring improvement to which I would say Jinder has made next to none.
Last year, he was wrestling barely passable matches (even earlier this year he was doing the same). By the end of this year, he'll have wrestled decent to good matches with Zayn, Nakamura and Styles. I think he's clearly improved in the ring and out even if he's not what I or most anyone considered a good/great worker.

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rovert
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by rovert » Fri Nov 24, 2017 10:16 pm

Alexa Bliss was pretty limited at the turn of the year in the ring. She's a lot more fluid in ring and leagues better at bumping and feeding. Before her small body/limbs was an impediment in the ring was very slow in getting back to her feet.

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mrjoshdude
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by mrjoshdude » Fri Nov 24, 2017 11:36 pm

rovert wrote:Alexa Bliss was pretty limited at the turn of the year in the ring. She's a lot more fluid in ring and leagues better at bumping and feeding. Before her small body/limbs was an impediment in the ring was very slow in getting back to her feet.
Alexa is a great choice, I think maybe she slipped my mind because I liked her a lot last year too. I imagine she'll get a lot of love in this category.

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rovert
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by rovert » Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:18 am

Velveteen Dream is probably my actual pick. At the turn of the year, he was "playing pro wrestler" but now he is inhabiting his character in and outside the ring. Check out his Cagematch one of NXT's most clear and deliberate attempts to develop a wrestler. Go through who he has been working with this year:
https://www.cagematch.net/?id=2&nr=16353&page=4

It is something NXT didn't use to do and I called it out on here 2 years ago or so. But now NXT IS putting former top indie guys with up and comers/trainees.

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Joe Lanza
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by Joe Lanza » Sat Nov 25, 2017 6:02 am

Keith Lee has been really good for a number of years, fwiw.

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thecubsfan
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by thecubsfan » Sun Nov 26, 2017 7:13 am

I want to suggest Shane Strickland, but I don't know enough of to know if the leap in performances took place last year or this (and watching his LU stuff just confuses my mind.)

I think Soberano would be the rightful Mexican candidate, but that's less him actually improving and more CMLL letting him have more freedom. Maybe Australian Suicide is the best AAA candidate but there's no great pickings there. Arez is the best Mexico indie candidate, just by steaying healthy and getting more singles matches but I'm not sure he'd get much notice even in a Mexico only situation.

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ScorpioCorp
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by ScorpioCorp » Sun Nov 26, 2017 10:10 am

thecubsfan wrote:Maybe Australian Suicide is the best AAA candidate but there's no great pickings there.
What has Suicide been up to this year? I remember enjoying his feud with Daga from last year & he came back to Australia for a bit to have some good matches which also happened last year.

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thecubsfan
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by thecubsfan » Sun Nov 26, 2017 5:22 pm

He's now a heel. He doesn't quite fit the rudo wrestling style, but it's helped him show a personality. He feuded with Bengala, and last week's TV episode was built around him challenging for the cruiserweight title.

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Grammarian
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Re: 2017 Most Improved

Post by Grammarian » Mon Nov 27, 2017 12:48 am

Last year, I ended up voting for Juice in one of my Most Improved spots, and I just don't like voting for someone in this category in successive years (like Miz voters tend to do). I like the suggestion of Velveteen Dream. Voting for someone from the joshi scene sometimes feels pointless, but I would also consider HZK for this category. Perhaps Chihiro Hashimoto or Konami.
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