Here at Pro Wrestling Ponderings we are proud of our efforts to represent all corners of the wrestling world in our coverage, something we will attempt to prove with our 2016 Year End Awards. A host of PWP writers past and present as well as some special guests were invited to make their picks for each category and if our mission statement holds true, the next week results should prove interesting. First up it’s Male Wrestler of the Year!
Barry Murphy: Will Ospreay
Pro-wrestling wow’d me this year, in a way it hasn’t in some time. Will Ospreay is a huge part of that, with his awe-inspiring flying and under appreciated story telling ability.
Dylan Hales: Chris Hero
This year Hero solidified himself as the greatest independent professional wrestler of all time. He did this by being a major draw and great match producing machine for promotions all over the western world. He worked matches with teenagers, fellow independent wrestling legends, rookie prodigies and hometown heroes, and consistently delivered regardless of opponent, setting or place on the card. Excluding Matt Riddle, no indie wrestler had a year that was nearly as impressive and anomalous.
Eamonn Bell: Pentagon Jr.
From brilliant matches like the triple threat with Mil Muertes and Prince Puma, to the blistering finale of ‘Six to Survive’, to his killer tags with Fenix during BOLA, Pentagon put together a fantastic body of work this last year. In addition to just the matches, it’s the sense of chaos and anarchy he brings that really stands out. He has that Austin-esque quality of being someone pursuing their own agenda with no regard for the rules of wrestling and it makes him incredibly compelling to watch. I don’t know if I could honestly say Pentagon was the best pure wrestler in 2016, but for me the skeleton ninja luchador was easily the coolest. CERO MIEDO!
Eddy Cornelison: AJ Styles
He started the year off having, in my opinion, the best match at Wrestle Kingdom 10 with Shinsuke Nakamura and will be finishing it as WWE Champion. AJ has gone from a top guy in New Japan to a top guy in WWE, which is especially impressive considering their propensity for not pushing smaller talents or those that aren’t homegrown.
Eric B: AJ Styles
AJ spent most of 2015 picking up gold before jumping to WWE. He had a classic against Shinsuke Nakamura, did well for himself in the Royal Rumble and won the WWE Title. He is one of the best all-around wrestlers in the world, and this was one of his best years.
Jennifer Logsdon: Chris Hero
Hero has taken to calling himself ‘The Greatest of All Time’ and it’s hard to argue with him in my view. Be it putting on match of the night in PWG, AAW or Evolve; winning tournaments such as the first-ever Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament in AAW and his first Ted Petty Invitational win in IWA Mid South; or being willing to work with and help out younger wrestlers, Chris Hero has had a banner year. Ironically enough, he has come up short in his quest to win championship gold in places such as AAW, yet when it comes to Hero it hardly matters. His diverse style, off the charts charisma and winning smile all combine to make ‘That Young Knockout Kid’ the best in the world for 2016 and stake a claim as the greatest of all time.
Justin Houston: AJ Styles
Because the WWE is a bloated factory of ill-conceived, shit-brained ideas, AJ Styles is both the second biggest heel and third biggest babyface on Smackdown Live. He also does comedy stuff brilliantly and has delivered several chest-beating, truth-spewing tirades that remind you of one simple fact: there is only one AJ Styles. He’s like Daniel Day Lewis playing eight different characters in a Zack Snyder movie. You’re just like, ‘Ugh, this mostly sucks… but man, that guy can do anything!’ Except commentary. He is hilariously awful at just, like, talking. Promos? Solid. Talking like a regular dude? SYSTEM FAILURE. Quick! Elbow someone! He’s not perfect. He is, however… AY. JAY. STAAAAALLS. *smug pose*
Honorable Mentions: Finn Balor, Hallowicked, Chris Jericho, Chris Hero, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Christie, me.
Matt Waters: Chris Hero
Even as a die-hard Hero mark all the way back in the formative days of the ‘Young Knockout Kid’ gimmick I had no idea he was capable of becoming this good. For a wrestler to put in a god-level year in the 18th(!!!) year of their career is mind boggling. See his matches against Matt Riddle, Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jr. and basically anybody that any company wanted to put in front of him in 2016 for proof.
Mike ‘Papa’ Hales: Chris Hero
Hero has wrestled an incredible number of fine matches with many great opponents all over the world. His command of the ring is unmatched. Chris makes every other wrestler he works with better.
Stu Rodgers: Will Ospreay
I have gone on record already this year saying I think Ospreay has had the best year as far as the indies go, in addition to his work in Japan. Of course since losing the title in PROGRESS he hasn’t won a match in the promotion but all the matches he has been involved in have been excellent, most notably with Americans Matt Riddle and Adam Cole. His debut match in New Japan, albeit a losing effort against KUSHIDA was a tremendous outing and of course he went on to win the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, which included that match with Ricochet. An amazing effort all round. And all of that is not to mention his work stateside for Evolve, PWG and ROH.
So that’ll do it for Day One of our Year End Awards. Don’t see your pick represented? Feel free to leave a comment! Or if you want to tell one of these dumb-dumbs what a dumb-dumb they are click their name to tweet them. No promises on replies though.