THE APOSTLE AWARDS [Best Wrestling of 2016]: A ‘Phenomenal’ Year.
Welcome to our first annual Apostle Awards! To come up with the very Best of Everything in Pro Wrestling for 2016, we asked 14 members of the Ringside Apostle congregation to vote. And, damn did we have answers — answers that ranged from the highest mountaintop of World Wrestling Entertaiment to the epic tradition of the New Japan Pro Wrestling rising sun, right down to the sweaty #HolyShit(!) bingo halls of Reseda, CA.
Do you agree with our selections? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Pissed at anything we missed or marked out to? Let the Apostles know we “Suck” or that we’re “Awesome!” over @GodHatesGeeks on Twitter. For now, enjoy what we have to offer, because you know we’re just #TooSweet.
***MATCH OF THE YEAR***
1. Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito [NJPW G1 Climax Semis]
Nearly a unanimous decision for the congregation, Omega/Naito in the semifinal of the 19 Day epic that was New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax, was also our highest recommendation of 2016. “Before you write your list, watch this match now!” It was also the fight that made me feel beyond stupid for having stopped watching NJPW after AJ, The Club, and Nakamura defected to the big time. Fellow congregant Ryan Davis told me this epic battle between two of the biggest heels was “Piper/Flair for the new generation”. But I’m gonna 1-up that notion: the match was Omega’s high-flying nuttiness of Pillman, strength, intensity (and groaning) of DDP, acrobatic “strong style” of Muta, and scrappiness of Benoit to the Los Ingobernables member’s submission expertise of Flair meets a high-flying variant of Piper’s sheer evil. Yes. Kureijī!!! While Omega eventually went on to beat Goto–in another blockbuster–to become the first gaijin to win G1, if any match in 2016 was 5-stars, it was his war with Naito.
2. *TIE* A.J. Styles vs. John Cena [SummerSlam ’16] / A.J. Styles vs. Dean Ambrose [TLC ’16]
3. #DIY vs. The Revival [NXT TakeOver: Toronto]
Honorable mention: Will Ospreay v. Ricochet [Best of the Super Juniors], Kota Ibushi v. Cedric Alexander [CWC Semifinal], Samy Zayn v. Shinsuke Nakamura [NXT TakeOver: Dallas], Sasha v. Flair [HIAC ’16], Adam Cole & The Young Bucks v. Ricochet, Matt Sydal, & Ospreay [PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2016].
***BRAND OF THE YEAR***
1. Smackdown Live!
The Apostles have spoken and named Smackdown Live brand of the year, or rather, the A-SHOW BAY-BAY! It may have shorter run time and not as many Superstars as RAW, but, man, can they pack it inside of a 2-hour broadcast. They have such stellar talent the likes of A.J. Styles (has yet to deliver anything lower than 5-stars), Dean Ambrose, Becky Lynch, also my personal favorite, and soon to be second wife, Alexa Bliss. Upstarts from NXT, American Alpha, Vaudevillains, Apollo Crews–and that’s not even touching on seasoned vets Cena, Orton or Miz. With fan favorites like Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan running the show there’s nary a blemish on the weekly broadcast; solid booking and surprising swerves add onto the brand, not to mention great PPVs, and–sometimes–an even great post-game show, Talking Smack.
3. Lucha Underground
***PPV/EVENT OF THE YEAR***
1. NXT TakeOver: Dallas
In 2016, NXT solidifed itself as the benchmark of indie/crossover wrestling. With three potential arguments for “Event/PPV of the Year”, NXT’s TakeOver: Dallas was the excitement that kicked it all off: Finn Balor going full demon mode on the not-to-be-taken-lightly Samoan Suplex Machine/Palonishian Terminator was a sheer thrill of great highs of incredible in-ring work. The second match that had me fanboying out like a middle school girl to the early days of Bieber Fever, had to be the Japanese Queen of Music Asskicking, Asuka vs. the dangerous hugger, Bayley.
(cont.) It was, without question, yet another installment of women’s wrestling coming full circle and outperforming the men on various levels. Lastly, match on the night for me was also one of the Apostles’ MOTY nominees, the NXT debut of “The King of Strong Style” Shinsuke Nakamura vs. NXT veteran Sami Zayn. Sweet Christmas! Did these two make the ring sing with fluid chemistry of working styles, complimenting each other with every strike, kick, lock-up, submission and chain-grappling combo. I was literally sweating watching this wrestling version of Apollo Creed vs. Rocky! Follow NXT, my fireflies. BZW.
2. Cruiserweight Classic [CWC]
3. *TIE* PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2016 / NJPW G1 Climax 26
Honorable mention: SummerSlam 2016, NXT TakeOver: The End, TLC ’16, ROH All-Star Extravaganza 16.
***MANAGER OF THE YEAR***
1. Paul Heyman
Why Paul Heyman? Simply put, in an era where kayfabe is all but dead and buried like Impact on payday, Heyman makes us believe that all of this matters. He pulled us in like the best of the carnies, suspended our disbelief and made us believe that every match counted, that the predetermined outcome scripted in a writer’s room was nothing more than a figment of our own imaginations. Why Heyman? Because he sold us on the dream matches, the indestructability of his “client Brock Lesnar” and the very epitome of a great showman and storyteller. The former Paul E was every great manager of the past rolled into one this year and he reminded us all just what an important role that character plays in making this whole business work.
3. Xavier Woods
Honorable mention: Paul Ellering, Lana.
***COMMENTATOR OF THE YEAR***
1. Corey Graves (RAW, NXT, 205 Live)
Jim Ross. Kerry Bawler. Tony Sheeabony. Some of the more memorable wrestling commentators in history; what does Graves have in common with them? Thankfully not much. Corey has been a breath of fresh air. No moronic, near incoherent babbling when excited (OHBAWGAWD, HEIZBROKKENINHAFF!), no drooling over female superstars like a teenager with hormones on overdrive (lol.. he calls breasts puppies, GET IT?!), and no Herculian exaggerations (Tony once kept increasing The Giant/Big Show’s weight throughout a match). He’s concise, knowledgeable, and has fantastic wit, making him the best “heel commentator” since Punk (I detest him now, but dammit did I enjoy his stint as a commentator). It sucks that his wrestling career was sidelined as it was beginning, but in retrospect, we can say: Graves is dead, long live Graves.
2. Mauro Ranallo (Smackdown Live!, NJPW on AXS, CWC, 205 Live!)
3. Matt Striker (Lucha Underground)
Honorable mention: JBL.
***CRUISERWEIGHT/JR. HVYWT OF THE YEAR***
1. Brian Kendrick
Not so many wrestlers get a third stint in the most popular company on the planet, but Kendrick has paid his dues for nearly 16-years all over the globe. His charisma is top-notch and has always caught fan’s hearts, heel or face. It’s almost fair to mention that he started the Cruiserweight class way back Attitude Era and other feds during his career. Crazy, but this great singles competitor actually held the WWF Tag Titles (with Paul London) longer than anyone but Demolition before there ever was A New Day. All this backstory brings me to the CWC event and the importance of making the new show (205 Live) another stepping stone for new talent and progress. I have always enjoyed watching #HeelKendrick wrassle, and had the opportunity to catch him live at a TNA event. His new gimmick suits him very well. His crafted movesets are well polished. It won’t be long before we see Brian with the giant purple strap over his shoulder once again!
2. Rich Swann
3. Cedric Alexander
Honorable mention: Ricochet, Will Ospreay.
***HEEL OF THE YEAR***
1. Charlotte Flair
What can I say about the current RAW Women’s Champion, Charlotte? She is 100% a chip off the old block. She’s become just as good and just as vicious a heel as her legendary father–a man she has made cry twice, mind you–in his heyday. Yelling at her own manager; commanding approval from the WWE Universe peasants. Plus, her rivalry with Sasha Banks is quickly becoming the thing of Legend. The first female Hell in the Cell. The first ladies championship match that was Falls Count Anywhere. And, now, this Sunday at Roadblock (**plug** check out our upcoming Year-End Wrap-up Show following the ppv **plug**), a 30-minute Iron Woman match. And the sheer craziness about it all is that Ms. Flair’s been around less than two years. Amazing.
2. The Miz
3. Kenny Omega
Honorable mention: AJ Styles, Chris Jericho, Tetsuya Naito, Kevin Owens.
***COMEBACK OF THE YEAR***
1. Broken Matt Hardy
Aaaaaaaaaaahhh!!! Ooooooooohh!! Ahhhhhhhh!!! I just had a PREmonEEEEtion. The one shining moment of the year, the single reason they are not obsolete, for TNA has been the emergence of the disheveled Broken Matt Hardy. Sure, we were forced to endure the monstrosities known as the “Final Deletion” and the “Great War”, but in the end we were able to bear witness to the single greatest character ever created by a Hardy and after 20-years, Matt’s PREmonEEEtion of broken brilliance finally shone through. Eeeeeeeeeh!! Yeeeeeeees!! Aaaaaaahaaaaaaa!!! Now reunited with the Nefarious Brother Nero, the Broken Hardy’s have proven without a shady of a doubt that they are the greatest tag team in all of space and time. Greater than the Bucks of Youth or the Day of the New or any other tag team that you may think of in all of professional wrestling. It may possibly be the one thing in TNA that doesn’t deserve to be “Deleted”. I think it’s safe to say that the Broken Brilliance of Broken Matt has been the greatest comeback of the year if not in all of space and time. Brother Moore… I knew you’d win!!
2. Shane McMahon
Honorable mention: Mickie James.
***FACTION OF THE YEAR***
1. The Bullet Club
The Bullet Club has grown greater throughout the years. This year, Kenny Omega took the reigns of BC from A.J. Styles earlier this year. He went as far as to create a subdivision group–hell, a faction within a faction–within the B.C. known as The Elite with the Young Bucks (and later, “The Dream Team” with Adam Cole). For the longest time, the comparisons between The Bullet Club and that of Degeneration-X and the New World Order have been spot-on: beat-downs, ref bumps, outside interference, spray paint, “clickiness”, and *ahem* SUPERKICKS!!! It’s no secret these guys are fans of these legendary past factions. What makes it even more great is to get co-signs from these legends, while remaining synonymous within the WWE. Guys like Styles, Finn Balor (formerly Prince Devitt), Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows represent the globally large faction on the biggest brand in professional wrestling. I believe this great faction will come into full formation down the road–and the place will be WWE.
***WOMAN WRESTLER OF THE YEAR***
This year’s winner shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Although Sasha and Asuka have done great work this year, they just didn’t match the consistency and strength of Charlotte Flair. In 2016, “The Genetically Superior Athlete” had a well-timed debut on the main roster as well as an immediate push to the title. Her athleticism is unmatched in the women’s division and she has yet to have a bad match. She’s managed to look strong even during her losses and, as JD mentioned above, done some amazing character work in the process. Combine these things along with her excellent heel work on the mic and there’s no denying she’s this year’s winner.
Honorable mention: Sexy Star, Alexa Bliss.
***TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR***
1. The New Day
When was the last time a tag team in the WWE went from near laughingstock (“New Day.. Sucks!”) to the most endearing part of the RAW program (#NewDayRocks!)? Billy & Chuck? Welllll, this trio –operating under the “Freebird Rules”, obv — is just as colorful; Kofi, Xavier and Big E are just as much as a social media hit as a hit in the ring. They even managed to make the #2 Team on this list’s old runningmates and big time free agents, The Club, look bad. After becoming the winningest tag team in WWE history the other night, it’s a wonder more of “if” than “when” The New Day will ever give up those titles.
2. Young Bucks
Honorable mention: American Alpha, The Revival.
***HEEL TURN OF THE YEAR***
1. Sean Farrell turns on the Ringside Apostles Chat [#outtanowhere]
Nobody saw it coming — which makes it all the more sweet. Some would say #TooSweet. I came to the Apostles, the smiling white bread baby face. I marked out for Indy darlings coming to WWE and NXT. I loved all wrestling companies. Even TNA. I was an apologist for great workers in bad feuds and even worse ran companies. All was smiles and thumbs up. But, slowly, things started to change. First it was an accidental spoiler here, a slip there. Then I volunteered for assignments, and then “something” came up. Leaving my fellow Apostles to pick up the slack. When nobody was looking, I besmirched WWE 2K17, showed my open disdained for the much-loved Young Bucks. Chairs swinging everywhere. Nobody was safe! 2016 was the year of the heels. AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, Adam Cole, and…Me. “Say hello to the bad guy!
2. James Ellsworth
3. AJ Styles
Honorable mention: Kenny Omega.
***GIMMICK OF THE YEAR***
1. Broken Matt Hardy
See “Comeback of the Year”, up above.
***JOBBER OF THE YEAR***
1. James Ellsworth
The man formerly known as “Pretty” Jimmy Dream is actually a near 15-year veteran of the squared circle. Straight out of high school, Ellsworth went into wrestling school where he was trained by Axl Rotten. He decided that he was going to focus on being the best “selling” man in wrestling, where his first ever match was a losing effort against a young Mickie James. He has also worked with legends such as Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Tommy Dreamer, and The Rock N Roll Express. He has done everything in wrestling including starting and running his own promotion called Adrenaline Championship Wrestling. But, by far, it was his RAW debut in WWE in a squash match against Braun Strowman that put him on the map — where, even though he lost miserably, he won over the crowd and became an internet sensation with his never-say-die attitude and catchphrase. “Any man with two hands has a fighting chance!”
2. Dolph Ziggler
3. Heath Slater
Honorable mention: Everyone that spent money on “that broken AF game”, WWE 2K17.
***ENTRANCE OF THE YEAR***
1. Bobby Roode
Screw the choir entrance… Not really; Bobby Roode has the best entrance theme in the WWE right now. I can already hear you whining, Nakamura fan: “oh, what about Shinsuke’s entrance? What about the violin one?”… What about it?? Glorious Domination has that great, over- the-top quality that cheesy late 80’s and early 90’s rock songs had. Seriously, it’s the perfect montage song. Need more proof? Next time you’re having a crappy day, think you can’t do one more lap on the treadmill, or feel you can’t finish one more set at the gym, play the song and you’ll pull through. Just like in a montage.
2. Shinsuke Nakamura
3. Dalton Castle
Honorable mention: TJ Perkins, Finn Balor.
***FINISHER OF THE YEAR***
1. Flying Corkscrew Stunner [Ember Moon]
Ember Moon’s awe-inspiring top rope corkscrew stunner–originally known as the “O-Face”–is now known as “The Eclipse”. This move perfectly complements the intense style of Moon who is a graduate of Booker T’s wrestling school. It’s just the kind of thing that will no doubt lead her to the top of NXT, and as I’ll predict right now the NXT Women’s Championship by the end of 2017.
2. Kinshasa [Nakamura]
3. Styles Clash [AJ Styles]
Honorable mention: Grand Amplitude [American Alpha].
***RIVALRY OF THE YEAR***
1. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair
See “Heel of the Year” up above. WHOOOOOOO!!!
2. #DIY vs. The Revival
3. *TIE* AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose / AJ Styles vs. John Cena
***DEBUT OF THE YEAR***
1. AJ Styles [Royal Rumble ’16]
2. Shinsuke Nakamura [NXT]
3. Enzo & Cas [RAW]
Honorable mention: Bobby Roode [NXT].
***OVERUSED MOVE OF THE YEAR***
“Suuuuuupppperrrrrrkiiiiiccck!” – Steve Corino/Mr Wrestling IV
Shawn Michaels, the HBK himself would pick his spot, tune up the band–and then with one swift motion–end the match. “Sweet Chin Music” and a 1-2-3. He used it to win multiple titles, and used it to drop that albatross Marty Janetty. But today? People doll out Superkicks like they’re sold in bulk. Be it Dolph Ziggler using three per match, The Uso’s one of four moves they use per match or those spot monkeys, The Young Bucks, who use no less than ten thousand per match. It’s even worse on the Indies. You get a superkick, and you get a superkick and YOU get a superkick!
3. German Suplex
***WRESTLER OF THE YEAR***
1. AJ Styles
This one came down to the wire, y’all. There is only one other person that is worthy of being called “the Best Wrestler on the Planet” — A.J.’s successor as the leader of Bullet Club, Kenny Omega. Kenny has been having a fantastic 2016 after jumping A.J. at New Year’s Dash. He’s gone from being IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion to winning the Intercontinental Championship to holding the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Titles with the Young Bucks to (as Moody mentioned up top), becoming the first gaijin to win the grueling G1 Climax tournament to main-eventing Wrestle Kingdom and possibly winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in a little over 2-weeks from now. On top of that, he’s managed to wrestle GHG’s “Match of the Year” against Naito and be embroiled in the hottest feud in wrestling today with New Day’s Xavier Woods.
So why A.J. Styles over Kenny? After years of wowing us in TNA—where he held both incarnations of the top belt multiple times, won the X-Division title six times and completed both the TNA Triple Crown and Grand Slam championships—he left the company he built and stepped his game up. If there was a championship, he held it, everywhere from England’s Revolution Pro to NJPW. At Wrestle Kingdom 10 he battled Nakamura for the IWGP IC belt, a bout that almost everyone thought was going to be MOTY. That’s right; AJ put on a MOTY candidate four days into 2016. After being tossed from the Club, the man formerly known as Mr. TNA would make his WWE debut at the Royal Rumble to one of the biggest pops evah…
(cont.) He could only go up from there, giving us another MOTY contender against John Cena at SummerSlam that saw SuperCena pull out new moves. Styles still wasn’t done, ending the first brand-exclusive PPV (Backlash) by defeating Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Championship. And just a week ago, he and Ambrose had yet another MOTY challenger in their TLC face-off at the titular PPV. He’s the “Champ That Runs the Camp”, the “Heel That Seals the Deal” and your Apostle Awards’ Wrestler of the Year.
2. Kenny Omega
3. Shinsuke Nakamura
Honorable mention: Charlotte Flair, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens.