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 results should prove interesting. Our second category is Female Wrestler of the Year!
Alex Torres: Heidi Lovelace
In the piece of writing I was most proud of during my tenure with PWP, I talked about why Heidi’s AAW Heritage Title reign mattered to me. Wrestling inter-gender matches in places like Alpha-1 and Chikara allowed her to be a star. That’s certainly not the only way to do it, as both companies later proved, with Heidi main-eventing shows alongside Kimber Lee and Shayna Baszler. The most important thing here, as it was with her title reign, was the willingness of these companies to make women the stars. It’s not good enough to be a good wrestler; women cannot be confined to one match on the card at a time. Companies all over allowed Heidi to battle her friends and to defend their honor, to overcome adversity, to demand answers, to defeat the bad guys. She has taken the ball and run with it. She commands the room. She wrestles as if her life depends on it, and often looks as if she’d sacrifice her life to win. It was that passion that brought her to the table, it was that passion that earned her the love of fans everywhere, and it’s that passion that’ll see her through her next chapter. If there’s any justice in this world, Heidi Lovelace will make millions off wrestling, and we’ll be lucky to see her be a star on a bigger stage.
Barry Murphy: Nixon Newell
Charismatic, likeable and very polished in the ring, Nixon Newell has more of an upside than almost anyone on the indies; male or female.
Dylan Hales: Su Yung
The most aesthetically interesting character in all of wrestling, Su Yung is also the only performer I can think of who wrestlers completely as her character. Also my pick for 2016’s best brawler, Su was the most consistent and best former for Shine all year.
Eamonn Bell: Asuka
In 2016 nobody was ready for Asuka. The unbeaten NXT Women’s Champion has become a spectacle to watch and, even more than Pentagon, feels like she’s gone beyond regular face or heel characterisation, equally natural making Bayley tap out or beating down Nia Jax. She’s also managed to anchor the division as it transitions between generations and deals with main roster call-ups. She seems untouchable in the ring and it’ll be a huge moment when someone finally beats her for the belt.
Eddy Cornelison: Sexy Star
While I haven’t seen as much of her work toward the end of the year, I absolutely loved her match with Mariposa and she managed to win the Lucha Underground Championship so she’s the first woman to win a major American promotion’s world title, assuming you believe Lucha Underground is still a major promotion. Too bad she may be leaving the business because I really did enjoy her work, and I’m not big on inter-gender matches but she was definitely great to watch.
Eric B: Io Shirai
In the fantastic Joshi scene, and women’s wrestling in general, Io Shirai has been one of the most consistent names. She is a top tier talent, and puts in work that is rarely rivaled.
Jennifer Logsdon: Mia Yim/Jade
In a year where Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch and Asuka have gotten so much (deserved) attention, my pick for female wrestler of the year is someone who works for TNA, a company that still just about manages to survive. When she’s not kicking ass on television, she’s a mainstay of SHIMMER, AIW, WSU and various other independents. However, this year, Yim caused a stir when she spoke about the domestic violence she endured a few years ago. Her story was on such well established sites as the Huffington Post and Yahoo!, and it spread through the wrestling community. The majority of the reaction was an outpouring of love and support. In an effort to spread more awareness of domestic violence and use her story to creative positive change, she partnered with Safe Horizon, an organization that helps victims and survivors. Donations were made in her name to the organization, and dozens of fans and wrestlers alike painted their left ring fingernail purple for the ‘#PutTheNailInIt’ movement. In TNA, Jade won her first Knockouts Championship in April, although she lost it a little over a month later to the newcomer Sienna. In the fall, it appeared that Gail Kim had handpicked Jade to become her ‘successor’, when Rosemary interrupted and ultimately won the vacant championship. This feud is likely to continue in 2017. Despite her lack of gold on the independent scene, everywhere she goes, Mia Yim has stellar matches. She has risen to become on of the best in America, male or female, but thanks to her willingness to be open about her past, there is more discussion about domestic violence in wrestling and less tolerance of turning a blind eye to those who are perpetuating it. Mia Yim is a true role model for women (and men) everywhere.
Justin Houston: Sasha Banks
Appreciate her now because she will be dead soon. Like, super soon. She takes every nasty bump in every single match she’s in. Bump hoarder! LEAVE SOME BUMPS FOR OTHER PEOPLE! Comparing her to Charlotte would be silly. She’s better at literally everything except being tall and blonde with a famous daddy. Charlotte is much better at those than Sasha. Their rivalry has been HHH/Foley for this generation, and this generation doesn’t fucking want to sit through that shit again. It was awful. Foley made it palatable, as does Sasha by in large. However, her ego is too big to be a ‘people’s champion’ type. Fans chanted Sasha’s name for months trying to get her the belt, then she won it and was all, ‘I DID THIS! BECAUSE I’M SO GOOD!’ That is… not what happened. But you are super good, and you really benefitted from Becky and Bayley getting severely watered down. So yaaay, you win.
Honorable Mentions: Asuka, Kimber Lee, Yosuke♡Santa Maria, My eight year old daughter who’s getting really good at all the Milano Collection A.T. submissions I teach her.
Matt Waters: Charlotte Flair/Sasha Banks
While my heart wants to go another way here, it’s pretty difficult to discount the success these two have had on the biggest stage wrestling has to offer. It doesn’t matter how and why they got to main event a PPV, they’re the first women to do it for the biggest company in the world, and given the abhorrent treatment of women in the WWE over the years, that’s huge. I don’t care that they traded the belt back and forth so much. I don’t care that Charlotte almost murdered Sasha a couple of times. I don’t care that Smackdown has an objectively better women’s division. Charlotte and Sasha broke new ground in 2016 and made legitimate history.
Mike ‘Papa’ Hales: Su Yung
Su Yung has the most unique wrestling persona in the business. She is great at selling and bumping, and her sudden offensive explosiveness is amazing.
Stu Rodgers: Nixon Newell
I’ll admit now, I don’t watch much female wrestling, but from what I have seen of Nixon in inter-gender matches, she’d be my pick.
That wraps up our second day of awards. Feel somebody deserving didn’t get a mention? Let ‘er rip in the comment section, friendo! As always feel free to tweet our contributors by clicking on their names. Stay tuned for day three, Tag Team of the Year!