Above: One Half of Duckman's Feud of The Year - The Briscoe Brothers
Happy Nearly New Year everyone! The end of 2011 is in sight and that means only one thing – lists. Who doesn’t love a good list? Either reading or writing one. Lists are awesome. You can’t go through the day without making some kind of list, from the humble shopping list all the way to the complex and well planned assassination hit list. It’s lists, lists and more damn lists!!
As a species we aren’t able to end a year without organising and highlighting the best and worst of the previous year. We then must present said best and worst in list format for other humans to consider. Don’t believe me? Look around you. The TV is full of the best of the year ‘talking heads’ shows, radio is just the same and of course every website you frequent is bursting at the seams with hot list action.
I know in the past I’ve claimed to be the wrestling writer who will buck the trend and not follow the crowd but cut me some slack guys, I love making lists of stuff just as much as the rest of you! It’s an inbuilt human character trait that you just can’t reverse, no matter how much you protest. I can’t fight human nature guys. So we go with Duckman’s best and worst of pro wrestling in 2011!
Wrestler of the Year:
This was actually a much tougher decision than I originally thought. When you talk about a ‘wrestler of the year,’ I automatically think of the guy who has had the best in-ring performances this year. But there’s also the question of their promo skills, money drawing ability and other indefinable factors to consider (star power, importance to the promotion etc). So after a lot of thought I’ve decided that the best overall wrestler this year has been Randy Orton – controversial I know, let me explain.
I only decided on Orton after realising just how much he’s done in WWE this year and how important he’s been from an in-ring point of view. His series of matches with Christian were awesome. He worked hard to put over younger talent like Cody Rhodes and Dolph Ziggler and he also got some great matches out of Mark Henry while putting him over at the same time. Look at how much Orton has done to help up and coming talent compared to Cena. Add in his intense promo style and the superstar reaction he gets for everything he does and I think, as a complete wrestler, Randy Orton has been the best in the world this year.
Honourable mentions: CM Punk, Davey Richards, Akira Tozawa, Prince Devitt, Eddie Edwards, El Generico, Kevin Steen, Hiroshi Tanahashi
Tag Team of the Year:
This is one of the awards where you can simply ignore WWE and TNA. You need to have a ‘division’ of tag teams, not just a few guys thrown together because you’ve got nothing for them to do. So stick your Air Boom and Mexican America (or whatever that horrendous gimmick is called) up your arse. This is the award for real tag teams and folks, they do exist. You just need to know where to look and I’ve been looking at PWG and there I found the Tag Team of the year. The team known in TNA as Generation Me but more well known on the indy scene as The Young Bucks.
The Bucks get my vote for simply being the best heel tag team in wrestling this year. Honestly, I’ve never truly wanted to punch a heel in the face as much as I want to hit Matt Jackson while he’s cutting one of his smirking, gum chewing, we’re better than you because we’re TV stars promos. That’s without factoring their incredible matches in PWG while defending the ‘ugliest championship belts in the world’ against an array of different teams. Plus they won the DDT4 tag tournament and also were involved in one of the best moments of the year – the return of Super Dragon to PWG.
EVERY Young Bucks match I’ve seen this year in PWG has had me jumping out my seat, marking out like an idiot and just shaking my head in disbelief that a team that talented and that entertaining were let go by TNA. Perfect timing, innovative double team moves, play the heels to perfection and always leave the crowd wanting more. Tag Team of the Year without a shadow of a doubt.
Honourable mentions: The Kings of Wrestling, The Briscoes, Steen/Tozawa, Bad Intentions, RockNess Monsters.
Match of the Year:
This was a straight shootout between two matches. Both had incredible crowd reactions, brilliant spots, convincing near falls, drama, intensity, passion and made the guys involved look the best damn wrestlers in the world. It was either a WWE Title match that had more people talking than any WWE Title match in a decade. Or a ROH World Title match that really put the two combatants on the map and showcased a style of wrestling that gave us all a glimpse into the future of professional wrestling.
In the end I’ve gone with the match that came together in a perfect storm of build up, crowd reaction and execution of the match itself – CM Punk vs. John Cena, WWE Title Match, Money in the Bank PPV.
Honourable mention: Davey Richards vs. Eddie Edwards (ROH Best in the World 2011), El Generico vs. Kevin Steen (Ladder Match – PWG Steen Wolf), The Young Bucks vs. Steen/Tozawa (PWG DDT4 Final), Kings of Wrestling vs. Steen/Tozawa (PWG DDT4)
PPV of the Year:
2011 has seen WWE PPV buy rates plummet to earth quicker than a sky diver using an anvil for a parachute and it’s no wonder. Just think about how few good PPVs they have actually put on. Wrestlemania had the spectacle but was really fucked in terms of booking and match placement. Summerslam was ok but the start of fucking up the CM Punk angle. Survivor Series was a one man show and even then The Rock could only increase PPV buys by 10,000 from last year!
They did a lot of the B Shows I can’t even remember the names of, let alone who had a match with who. MITB was probably the best PPV show WWE put on this year, but it wasn’t my favourite.
TNA…well…yeah TNA PPV is used as a vehicle to hype the follow week’s TV. Don’t ask me how that business model even makes any sense. People are going to pay $50 for what is essential a commercial for a free TV show? Yeah, ok.
In the US I think it’s been a great year for ROH on IPPV with one show in particular standing out above all others. So my PPV of the Year was ROH Best in the World 2011.
Honourable mentions: WWE Money in the Bank, WWE TLC, ROH Final Battle 2011, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 5.
Non- PPV Show of the Year:
Or as I should call it – the best PWG show of the year award! In fairness ROH, Chikara, NJPW and Dragon Gate have all produced great non PPV shows this year. But for me it’s PWG who have stood head and shoulders above all other promotions with their non PPV releases. The names of the shows alone should be enough to win the award. “The Perils of Rock and Roll Decadence,” is possibly the greatest name for a show EVER in the history of pro wrestling! It wasn’t that show that took the prize this year though. My vote for best non-PPV show of the year goes to PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles 2011 tournament.
The best one night tournament show I’ve seen for years. Incredible matches all over the card and one of the best main event matches this year with Kevin Steen and El Generico clashing in the final. Plus in my ultimate ‘feel good wrestling moment of the year,’ a young kid at ringside wearing an El Generico mask became the star of the whole show during the main event. It’s must see viewing guys, trust me on that!
Honourable mentions: ROH Supercard of Honor 5, ROH Death before Dishonor 9, ROH Manhattan Mayhem 5, PWG DDT4, PWG Eight, PWG Steen Wolf, Chikara King of the Trios Tournament.
Promotion of the Year:
I thought this would be a really easy choice but PWG have entertained me so much in the last 6 months that they nearly got the vote. If I didn’t vote for ROH I couldn’t look myself in the mirror. Plus they’ve got on TV, put on some great feuds and matches and brought back Kevin Steen. My promotion of the year – ROH.
Honourable mentions: PWG, NJPW.
Feud of the Year:
It’s tough to consider any WWE feuds for this award. Simply because they burn through months worth of angles in weeks and the storylines they do try to tell tend to meander all over the place with little to no consistency or continuity. TNA have actually done a better job this year with their feuds. Sting vs. Hogan was what it was but at least they told a story that made a bit of sense and had a pay off. Jeff Jarrett and Kurt Angle would have got the nod if they didn’t do the angle involving the kids. So once again I’m looking to the independent scene, in particular ROH and a tag team feud that really caught my eye this year. My feud of the year for 2011 is The Briscoes vs. The All Night Express.
I’ve always believed that a good feud should end with both participants being more over than they were before they started. In this case the feud made the ANX into legitimate Tag Title contenders and further cemented the legacy of The Briscoes as the baddest tag team on the planet. This feud had a great double switch with The Briscoes going heel and ANX turning babyface. The matches were always great, the early matches being straight up tag matches about athletic competition which eventually evolved into more and more violent fights until the feud ended after six months with a crazily violent Ladder War 3 match. All four guys worked incredibly hard to make this feud memorable and the booking was pitch perfect. Plus I’ve never seen more convincing blade jobs than the ones Rhett Titus and Jay Briscoe did during the more violent matches at the end of the series. Awesome stuff.
Honourable mentions: Prince Devitt vs. Kota Ibushi, Davey Richards vs. Eddie Edwards, Steve Corino vs. Kevin Steen, CM Punk vs. John Cena, Kevin Steen vs. The Young Bucks.
Biggest Shock of the Year:
It’s been a year of shocks in professional wrestling – the death of Randy Savage, CM Punk’s pipe bomb promo, Kevin Nash having a half decent ladder match and NOT rupturing most of the major muscles and ligaments in his body. It does always seem that any big shock of the year in wrestling has a tragic element to it and this year was no exception. The biggest shock of the year for me in 2011 was the retirement of Edge.
I’ve never been a fully fledged Edge-head but the man was a damn talented wrestler who had forged a hall of fame career over the past 10 plus years. It would be ridiculous in the extreme to ignore the huge hole that was left in the WWE’s main event scene when Edge retired. I think it was the suddenness of the announcement and the promos by Edge that really drove home how shocking this was. One of the top guys in WWE was done, like that, no big send off, no ‘one more match.’
It was proof once again of how fragile life and the human body is and how much I take for granted the risks all wrestlers take when they step into the ring. It reminded me that while all those crazy ladder matches and TLC battles entertain the hell out of me, they shorten the careers of the guys involved. More than that it was just a damn shame to see a talented and entertaining guy forced to leave the profession he’d given his whole life too and risked his health for.
Biggest Let Down of the Year:
Unfortunately, just like tragedy, disappointment does tend to follow wrestling around on an all too regular basis. I’m not talking people dying or having to retire – I’d be a real dick if I complained I’d been let down by Randy Savage dying! The biggest let down for me this year was something that started with so much promise, made me care about WWE again and looked like it might create a new money drawing established main event star. My biggest let down this year was the booking of CM Punk post MITB.
It started so promisingly but in the end, thanks to over booking on a scale that would make Vince Russo blush, all we got was a mess of Vince McMahon being fired, Kevin Nash, text messages, HHH, more texts, John Laryngitis, more texts, a new WWE Title being created, more texts, numerous Title switches, more texts, the Miz, R-Truth, more texts, walk out, texts, stipulation matches that no one believed or care about, more texts and at the end of it all SOMEHOW CM Punk remained over! How the hell he did that is beyond me. Also, WHO THE FUCK WAS EVERYONE TEXTING? No one has explained that to me yet. Maybe next year.
WWE had the hottest angle in YEARS on their hands and in the course of three months fucked it in the ass to such a scale that even Chyna would complain about it being uncomfortable! Seriously, I truly believe if HHH and the rest had stayed the fuck out of the whole angle and they just let the thing run for 3 months with Punk as the renegade WWE Champion they could have seen a big turn around in their business. Instead the cut the legs out from under it and then when a low TV rating is returned involving Punk they can say he can’t draw. Yeah, no fucking shit guys, cause you BOOK HIM NOT TO! Such a missed opportunity to do something fresh, new, groundbreaking and possibly bring back a lost generation of wrestling fans…still, at least HHH and Nash got to have a PPV match…
Most Improved Wrestler of the Year:
Let’s brighten the mood here. Enough talk of disappointment. There’s been a lot of wrestlers who have improved this year. Be it Davey Richards on promos or Cody Rhodes finally buying some fucking knee pads! Mark Henry was a revelation in his 5 yearly push and I almost gave him the nod but for me the most improved wrestler in 2011 is Akira Tozawa. I watched Tozawa grow from a nervous looking, non-descript lower card dude on DGUSA to become one of the most fun, entertaining, exciting and down right awesome wrestlers in the world. His matches in PWG were a revelation and his team with Kevin Steen never failed to entertain me. Tozawa is a guy I’ll be following closely from now on to see if he can go from indy darling in the States to a legit top draw in Dragon Gate now he’s back in his home promotion.
Least Improved Wrestler of the Year:
Sorry TNA fans but I’m going with Mr Anderson as the least improved wrestler of 2011. Granted, the blame for most of that can be laid at the feet of TNA who turned Anderson so many times and over such a short period of time it felt like he started a show as a heel, turned face halfway through and then went heel again to end the show…every week…for three months. With each turn people cared less and it appeared Anderson did too.
In the ring he’s still just the right mix of boring and sloppy to render most of his matches pointless. When he’s in there with a Kurt Angle or another top worker he doesn’t look too bad. Left to his own devises on Impact and it’s a different story. The guy just doesn’t seem to have the co-ordination required to be a wrestler. Anderson was a hot prospect for TNA but now he’s just another ex-WWE guy treading water and going nowhere.
Future Star Award:
This is the easiest call of the year. Future star in 2012? Dolph Ziggler. The man has everything needed to be a main event star, great look, excellent mic skills and one of the best workers of his generation. He survived The Spirit Squad, he can survive anything WWE’s creative team throw at him in 2012. I see money in Ziggler and I hope WWE does too. If Ziggler isn’t either WWE or World Heavyweight Champion in WWE by this time next year I will eat my own head.
So there you have it guys. The list to end all end of year lists I’m sure you’ll agree! You should try making your own end of year list, it’s a lot of fun!
If you’re interested in some more of my wrestling opinion and comment (let’s be honest, who the fuck isn’t) then be sure to check out our Marks for Xcellence podcast over at www.mfxpodcast.com – it’s one of these articles only I’m reading it out loud and there’s another dude there to make it less boring! We’ve also got a new Facebook page you can ‘like’ and of course you can follow me and the MFX show through Twitter @WLHDuckman
Anyway, enough blatant self promotion from me! I hope you guys have a fantastic New Year’s Eve and get heroically drunk. Me? I’m off the booze and will instead be seeing the New Year like a normal person – going to be at 11pm and ignoring the whole thing!
Thanks for reading, keep supporting Wrestling’s Last Hope (twitter, here, like the Facebook page) and I’ll see you all in 2012 for more of the same wrestling opinion, discussion and general bullshit you’ve come to know and tolerate from me this year!
Until next time...