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2017 WRESTLING OBSERVER AWARDS
Voting is now open for the 38th annual Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards.
Voting will close on January 18, 2018 with results published later in our annual double awards issue.
Voting is only open to Observer subscribers. With the addition of online subscriptions, to vote, you have to send your name, and whether you are subscribing by print or on-line so we can double-check. If you are an online subscriber, please send a receipt from your last order. You can submit ballots by mail, e-mail or fax.
These awards cover the period from December 1, 2016 through December 30, 2017, so we are going to start with 2018 covering it as the calendar year, which also means the results won’t be up until later than most awards. So keep that in mind while voting that December 2016 counts.
If you've got any thoughts on the awards, you are encouraged to send them in to email@example.com for publication on the Observer web site.
These awards every year get more mainstream coverage than any pro wrestling awards aside from the exclusively Japanese Tokyo Sports awards.
Just to clarify the major awards, the Lou Thesz/Ric Flair Wrestler of the Year award is open only to working pro wrestlers. The MMA MVP award is similar to the Thesz/Flair award in that it should combine importance to business and drawing power with success in the cage. For both MMA and pro wrestling, there is a separate award for the best in-ring performer, the Most Outstanding Wrestler and Most Outstanding MMA fighter. The MMA award is for purely who had the best year in the ring or the cage, throwing out business considerations, and the Most Outstanding is for who had the best matches over the past year and was the best in-ring wrestler, throwing out business considerations.
There are still some combined MMA/pro wrestling awards such as Best Promotion, Promoter of the Year, Feud of the Year, Best Show and Best Drawing card, because essentially business goals of both pro wrestling and MMA are the same–drawing money and putting on good shows.
In regard to actual competitive (non-worked) matches, the main categories are Most Outstanding MMA fighter and MMA Match of the year. They are open to all MMA rules promotions. Most Outstanding MMA fighter of the year should be based entirely on success in fights during the time period.
Both performance in the ring as well as drawing power, marketability, value to the promotion and significance during the year among both shoot and worked matches should be considered for the big two awards.
Most Outstanding Wrestler is purely the best in-ring, bell-to-bell performer. Anything that takes place in a legitimate match situation should not be considered.
Best Box Office Draw is self-explanatory. It's open to everyone whether participating in worked or legitimate matches. This is for the person who moves ticket sales, TV ratings and/or PPV sales.
Tag Team of the Year and Most Improved are both limited to worked promotions.
Feud of the Year is about drawing money, creating excitement and delivering in the ring. Shoot feuds and worked feuds are both eligible. Best on Interviews and Most Charismatic are also open to both worked and shoot promotions.
Best Promotion is open to worked and non-worked companies. Match of the Year is only for worked matches. Rookie of the Year is open to only pro wrestlers making a major promotion professional debut after September 1, 2016. Best and Worst TV announcer and Best and Worst Major show are also open to both worked and shoot promotions.
Because they’ve awards have gotten so big in recent years with so many responses, we’ve had to change things this year. Going forward we are very much limiting category A awards and far more awards will be Category B.
"CATEGORY A" AWARDS. PICK A FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD PLACE FINISHER IN EACH CATEGORY. POINTS WILL BE AWARDED ON A 5-3-2 BASIS. THE WINNER OF THE AWARD IS DETERMINED BY TOTAL POINTS.
1. LOU THESZ/RIC FLAIR AWARD - This is open to pro wrestlers, for a combination of everything, being both important and influential this year in a positive manner from a business perspective, combining both box office impact as well as strong match quality in worked matches. Last year's top three were A.J. Styles, Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito.
2. MMA MOST VALUABLE FIGHTER: This is also for a combination of fighting inside the ring and importance outside in a positive manner from a business perspective as well. Last year’s top three were Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz and Michael Bisping.
3. MOST OUTSTANDING WRESTLER: This is based on working ability in the ring only. Simply, the best workers in the world on a consistent basis over the past year. Drawing power, charisma and push shouldn't be considered. Last year's top three were A.J. Styles, Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada.
4. MOST OUTSTANDING FIGHTER: This should be based on in-ring ability and wins against the top level of competition during the calendar year. Last year's top three were Conor McGregor, Stipe Miocic and Michael Bisping.
5. TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR - For the best working and most valuable tag team during the previous year. Last year's top three were The Young Bucks, The Revival and Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa.
6. BEST ON INTERVIEWS - Who has given the best interviews on a consistent basis over the past year? Reputation from previous years shouldn't be taken into consideration. It should be based on work over the course of the year as opposed to one or two memorable interviews. Last year's top three were Conor McGregor, The Miz and Chris Jericho.
7. PROMOTION OF THE YEAR - Should be based on which group put together the best live and television product on a consistent basis, and secondarily, the ability to sell that product at a high level. This means box office and marketing combined with product quality. Theoretically, the top pick should be a company at or near the top on both categories. Last year's top three were New Japan Pro Wrestling, UFC and WWE.
8. BEST WEEKLY TV SHOW - Weekly television shows are the only ones eligible, not monthly shows, specials or individual episodes of a specific program. This is for the best consistent program. The shows have to be produced with the idea they are a weekly ongoing show and not a short-term mini-series. In other words, the Friday, Monday and Tuesday CMLL shows count as three different shows and are all eligible. Ultimate Fighter or Lucha Underground, even though they didn’t run 52 weeks, are eligible. Talking Smack is also eligible as would be WWE pre-game shows for Raw and Smackdown, but not for PPVs. Something like G-1 Climax or Cruiserweight Classic are not eligible because they were not scheduled to be year-around continuing long-term shows. Last year's top three were New Japan World Pro Wrestling, WWE Smackdown Live and WWE Talking Smack.
9. PRO WRESTLING MATCH OF THE YEAR - Pick the three best matches, in order, from the time period. Remember, matches from last December are eligible, but nothing after November 30th from this year is eligible. Please list both the date and location of the match, because some matches were held many times during the year. Last year's top three were Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada from January 4 at the Tokyo Dome, Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito from August 13 at Tokyo Sumo Hall and Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomohiro Ishii on August 6 in Osaka Edion Arena.
10. MMA MATCH OF THE YEAR - Pick the three best matches, in order, from the time period listed. Again, please list both the date and location of the match. Last year's top three were Robbie Lawler vs Carlos Condit on January 2 in Las Vegas, Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz from August 20 in Las Vegas and Dong Hyun Kim vs. Polo Reyes from June 4 in Los Angeles.
"CATEGORY B" AWARDS. PICK ONE IN EACH CATEGORY. WINNER CHOSEN ON THE BASIS OF FIRST PLACE VOTES.
1. BEST BOX OFFICE DRAW - Based on drawing big houses (or for that matter selling tickets to small houses as the case may be), buy rates and/or television ratings. Ring work shouldn't even be considered. Last year's top three were Conor McGregor, Brock Lesnar and Nate Diaz.
2. FEUD OF THE YEAR - This should be based on a combination of having a compelling storyline along with having great matches that should strengthen the box office. Last year's top three were Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz, John Cena vs. A.J. Styles an Los Ingobernables en Japon vs. Chaos.
3. MOST IMPROVED - 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. Last year's top three were Matt Riddle, The Miz and Juice Robinson.
4. MOST CHARISMATIC - What person had to do the least to get the most out of it? Who do crowds naturally react to emotionally even before the person does anything? Last year's top three were Conor McGregor, Shinsuke Nakamura and Tetsuya Naito.
5. BRYAN DANIELSON BEST TECHNICAL WRESTLER AWARD - This is for having the ability to use high level technical wrestling moves within the context of building a great worked pro wrestling match. Last year's top three were Zack Sabre Jr., Kyle O’Reilly and Kushida.
6. BRUISER BRODY MEMORIAL BEST BRAWLER AWARD - This is for the wrestler who uses brawling tactics to put together the best matches during the previous year. It's not for a guy who does brawling matches that aren't any good. Last year's top three were Tomohiro Ishii, Katsuyori Shibata and Chris Hero.
7. BEST FLYING WRESTLER - This is for the wrestler who does the most innovative and solidly executed flying maneuvers within the context of putting together great wrestling matches. This is not for simply the hottest daredevil moves, which are sometimes hit and sometimes miss. Last year's top three were Will Ospreay, Ricochet and Volador Jr.
8. MOST OVERRATED - The wrestler who gets the biggest push, despite lacking ring ability or charisma. Last year's top three were Roman Reigns Braun Strowman and Baron Corbin.
9. MOST UNDERRATED - The wrestler with the most ability, who, for whatever reason, doesn't get a push commensurate with their ability. This should be based on this past year, and not a business reputation earned in prior years. Last year's top three were Cesaro, Neville and Sami Zayn.
10. ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - This is based on ring performance, not how someone is pushed or necessarily even long-term star potential. By the standards of the category, a rookie is someone who hasn't had a regular job with a full-time wrestling company before September 1, 2016. Top contenders for this award are Yuya Aoki, Tetsuya Ito, Junta Miyawaki, Yuki Yoshioka, Katsumi Takashima, Yusuke Okada, Natsuko Tora, Yuki Ueno, Henare, Naomi Yoshimura, Katsuya Kitamura, Austin Theory, Shota Umino, Ren Narita, Tetsuhiro Yagi, Takato Nakano, Myron Reed, Kid Lykos, Tomoyuki Oka, Leo Tonga, Travis Huckabee, Lacey Evans, Bianca Belair, Reina Gonzales, Taynara Conti, Microman, Zacarias and Gaillito. Last year's top three were Matt Riddle, Lio Rush and Fred Yehi.
11. BEST NON-WRESTLER PERFORMER - For the best performer on a television show who isn't a traditional wrestler, whether they be a management figure, a woman who doesn't wrestle, or a traditional manager. Last year's top three were Dario Cueto, Daniel Bryan and Paul Heyman.
12. BEST TELEVISION ANNOUNCER - Last year's top three were Mauro Ranallo, Corey Graves and Shimpei Nogami.
13. WORST TELEVISION ANNOUNCER - Last year's top three were David Otunga, Matt Striker and Byron Saxton.
24. BEST MAJOR SHOW - This should be a major show, as opposed to a TV taping or house show, although TV specials like Saturday Night's Main Event or Ultimate Fight Night are eligible. Last year's top three were New Japan Wrestle Kingdom on January 4 at the Tokyo Dome; PWG Battle of Los Angeles day two on September in Reseda and WWE NXT Takeover on April 1 in Dallas.
25. WORST MAJOR SHOW OF THE YEAR - Last year's top three were WWE WrestleMania 32 on April 3 in Dallas; TNA Bound for Glory on October 2 in Orlando and Bellator Gracie vs. Shamrock on February 19 in Houston.
26. BEST WRESTLING MANEUVER - Last year's top three were Kenny Omega’s one winged angel, Kazuchika Okada’s rainmaker and Young Bucks Meltzer driver.
27. MOST DISGUSTING PROMOTIONAL TACTIC - Last year’s top three were Bellator’s promotion of the Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 500 fight, WWE’s Brock Lesnar elbows to Randy Orton and Aldo Rose (Adam Rose) marketing his mug shot as a T-shirt.
28. WORST TELEVISION SHOW - Last year's top three were WWE Raw, TNA Impact and Lucha Underground.
29. WORST MATCH OF THE YEAR - Last year's top three were Shelly Martinez vs. Rebel on March 17 in Orlando, Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose on May 22 in Newark, NJ and Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 5000 on February 19 in Houston.
30. WORST FEUD OF THE YEAR - Last year's top three were Titus O’Neil vs. Darren Young, Yoshitatsu vs. Bone Soldier and Roman Reigns vs. HHH.
31. WORST PROMOTION - Last year's top three were TNA (for the tenth straight year), AAA and WWE.
32. BEST BOOKER - Last year's top three were Gedo, Joe Silva and Ryan Ward.
33. PROMOTER OF THE YEAR - Last year's top three were Dana White, Takaaki Kidani and Paul Levesque.
34. BEST GIMMICK - Last year's top three were Broken Matt Hardy, Los Ingobernables en Japon and the Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens best friends gimmick.
35. WORST GIMMICK - Last year's top three were Bone Soldier, The Cabinet and Mark Darren Young Great Again.
36. BEST WRESTLING BOOK - Last year's top three were Ali vs. Inoki by Josh Gross, Accepted by Pat Patterson and Bertrand Hebert and The Roddy Piper Story by Ariel and Colt Toombs.
37. BEST PRO WRESTLING DVD/STREAMING DOCUMENTARY - Last year's top three were Seth Rollins: Redesign, Rebuilt, Reclaim, Thank You Daniel and The Resurrection of Jake Roberts.