THE APOSTLE AWARDS [Best Wrestling of 2017]: All the Stars, Aligned.
Calling all smarks across the globe: It’s the second annual Apostle Awards! To come up with the very Best of Everything in Pro Wrestling for 2017, we asked 10 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 #OneSweet.
***MATCH OF THE YEAR***
1. Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada I-III [NJPW Dominion, Wrestle Kingdom 11, G1 Climax 27]
How could one of the most compelling storylines of the year featuring the two best wrestlers in the world NOT bring us three insane matches that collectively make our Match of the Year? We started the year off with the infamous 6-star (10-Bible) match. And just when we thought there was nowhere we could go from there but down, Dominion brought us a 60-minute masterclass of a draw (which Uncle Dave gave 6 ¼ stars). …And then the G1 happened. My personal favorite of the three (though II is objectively the best match), the B-Block Final was 25-minutes of fast-paced brutality and I loved it. I even shed a tear at the ending. It was a good year for wrestling, y’all
2. Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne [NXT TakeOver: Chicago]
3. Donovan Dijac vs. Keith Lee [PWG Battle of Los Angeles, Night 2]
Honorable mention: AJ Styles vs. Cena (WWE Royal Rumble), War Games: SAnity vs. Authors of Pain & Roderick Strong vs. Undisputed Era (NXT TakeOver: WarGames), New Day vs. Usos (WWE Battleground, Hell in a Cell, SummerSlam), Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega (NJPW G1 Climax 27 Finals), Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream (NXT TakeOver: WarGames), The Hardy Boys vs. The Young Bucks (ROH Supercard of Honor), Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe (WWE SummerSlam), Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki (NJPW New Beginning).
***BRAND OF THE YEAR***
1. New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Pro Wrestling obviously wins best promotion of the year. No company has a better long term booker/matchmaker/storyline builder than NJPW. Gedo is a genius and as long as he is handling things on the creative side, NJPW will remain on top. NXT once again makes the #2 slot, followed by PWG. It’s funny how SmackDown Live had several votes last year, yet only one this year. Maybe they should go back to letting HHH and Ryan Ward handling everything as SDLive in 2017 reeked of Vince McMahon/Kevin Dunn interference.
***PPV/EVENT OF THE YEAR***
1. *TIE* 1. NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11 / NXT TakeOver: War Games
If you had any doubt in your mind that Kenny Omega is one of THE best professional wrestlers today, then his unforgettable bout with Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 11 surely erases that thought. Moreover, January’s Wrestle Kingdom was a brilliant display of badassery and brutality, with a second half filled with near perfect matches for the IC, Junior Heavyweight and Openweight championships.
While that level of excellence made it difficult for any PPV in the 11 months following to top, I give you War Games. It was easily the most memorable event for NXT in a highly consistent PPV year. Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream were on fire from the moment they walked through the curtains and nearly stole the show, until fans witnessed an insane main event. SAnity’s Killian Dain pulled off some crazy spots in the two-ring cage, in an unforgettable match that likely set the stage for a new “Undisputed” era in every smark’s fav WWE brand.
2. PWG All-Star Weekend
3. NJPW G1 Climax 27
Honorable mention: WWE Survivor Series, NJPW Dominion, NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III, PWG BOLA 2017.
***MANAGER OF THE YEAR***
1. Paul Heyman
“Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Paul Heyman…and I am the advocate for the Beast Incarnate, BROOOOOCK LESNARRRRR!” With that opening salvo you know you’re in for one hell of a promo. Real recognizes real and the Apostles, for a second year in a row, have named Paul Heyman manager of the year. The man can quite literally sell ice to an Eskimo, as a mouthpiece to Lesnar his verbal sparring is usually that of must see TV. If anything, that promo of his that got interrupted by a proposal didn’t break his stride; he just dogged on the soon-to-be-groom, all the while making The Beast look that much stronger and getting back to business at hand.
2. Zelina Vega
Honorable mention: James Ellsworth, Paul Ellering.
***COMMENTATOR OF THE YEAR***
1. Corey Graves (RAW, Smackdown)
2. Mauro Ranallo (NXT)
3. Nigel McGuiness (NXT, 205 Live)
Honorable mention: Don Callis (NJPW).
***CRUISERWEIGHT/JR. HVYWT OF THE YEAR***
I know many would say Ricochet, Takahashi or Ospreay had a more dominant year. But Kushida proved why he still deserves to be at the top of the mountain as far as Super Juniors/Cruiserweights are concerned, overcoming some horrendous early year defeats to Takahashi to go onto win the super-stacked Best of the Super Juniors tournament trophy (with a classic final against Ospreay), the Ring of Honor TV title, to the eventual Super Junior strap. Not to be forgotten, the former “King of the Cruiserweights” and now departed(??) Neville had just as dominant a reign as WWE CW champion– so dominant, it forced star Austin Aires to look for work elsewhere.
3. *TIE* Enzo/Will Ospreay
Honorable mention: Hiromu Takahashi, Ricochet.
***HEEL OF THE YEAR***
1. Kevin Owens
2017 could be called the year of KO. Whether you love him or hate him, you couldn’t deny he was always in the middle of the most entertaining angles. He started the year by helping his best friend Chris Jericho win the US Title and KO held on to his Universal Championship, until losing to Goldberg at Fastlane in March. We also saw some of the years best storylines routinely revolving around Mr. Owens. His Best Friends program with Jericho was arguably Y2J’s best in ring and promo work in a about a decade. He also convinced his former best friend to come back to the dark side when Sami Zayn helped Kevin defeat Shane O’ Mac at Hell In A Cell, and his memorable feud with AJ Styles over the US Championship. Even after all that the most remembered moment from the WWE in 2017 will be the headbutt heard around the world when he viciously attacked 72-year old Vince McMahon.
2. The Miz
Honorable mention: Alexa Bliss, Minoru Suzuki, Cody, Zack Sabre Jr., Tetsuya Naito.
***COMEBACK OF THE YEAR***
1. Kurt Angle
Who sucks now? Something had to be done to shake up the sad-sap disaster that was the constant begrudging of Mic Foley at the jaws of Stephanie McMahon. While Kurt Angle‘s current tenure as RAW GM hasn’t been perfect (see: Jason Jordan), it’s certainly been an improvement, and Kurt opened even more eyes as a more suitable than expected replacement at TLC for Roman Reigns in The Shield. Angle was bad-ass, and let’s hope 2K18’s DLC bonus legend (who wrestled both Del Rio & Cody this past year, mind you) can get those legs underneath him one more time for his pending Mania confrontation with HHH.
2. The Hardy Boyz
3. *TIE* Drew McIntyre / Paige
Honorable mention: Minoru Suzuki/Suzuki-Gun.
***FACTION OF THE YEAR***
1. The Elite/Bullet Club
Don’t underestimate the power of YouTube and Hot Topic. Bullet Club managed to hold off LIJ this year to keep its Faction of the Year crown. The Being the Elite YouTube channel expanded from just vlogs and karaoke from Kenny and the Bucks to the creation of entire storylines that affected actual in-ring product, like the replacement of Adam Cole with Marty Scurll (I still can’t believe a ghost won War Games—shouldn’t he have just phased through everyone?) and the Raw Invasion, which led to them “liberating” Jimmy Jacobs. Their merch makes up the majority of the Pro Wrestling Tees top sellers (and they had to start a separate PWT store for Being the Elite), signed a deal with Hot Topic, dethroned Rick & Morty as Warm Subject’s highest selling shirts, added Arrow’s Stephen Amell to the group and Funko announced Bullet Club Pops. Oh, and they’re putting up their own money to find a 10,000-seat venue just to prove Dave Meltzer wrong about ROH never being able to sell-out a building that size. A little Cease and Desist from the Fed ain’t stopping this train.
2. Los Ingobernables de Japon
3. Undisputed Era
Honorable mention SAnity.
***WOMAN WRESTLER OF THE YEAR***
1. Alexa Bliss
What can I say about Alexa Bliss? Well for starters, Little Miss Bliss elevated herself to the top of the RAW Women’s division and DDT’d Bailey all year long on her way to that spot. I’ll be it she’s completely different from Charlotte, she has proven to be the best heel on the entire women’s roster. On top of that, she actually connects with the fans, which happens to be a rarity for the women’s roster for some reason. Did I mention that she’s incredibly hot? Yeah that too. Truly of the goddess of the WWE.
3. Kairi Sane
Honorable mention: Peyton Royce, Ember Moon, Charlotte.
***TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR***
1. The Usos
Uce! Uce! Uce! I don’t get it. “Day one Ish!” Like “we’ll be there around 3-ish for lunch”? USO Penitentiary? Are they the wardens? The guards? But they’re beating people up. So they’re Heels? Or are they faces? Which one is which? One of them is a member of the “keeps my shirt on in the pool” club (hi Baron!) and one is on Total Divas – lot (might be the same dude). USO’s started the year off losing to comedy acts like Slater & Rhyno, the Hype Bros, and also had spots in the illustrious André Battle Royale on the Mania PreShow. Stellar start. But they quickly turned a corner thanks to a rather entertaining feud with American Alpha (miss them yet?), and especially with The New Day. These two teams work so well together that they elevated the USO’s and revitalized the New Day. That’s impressive. They even won a solid match against Raw’s Tag Team Darlings The Bar! With three title runs (at 215 days and counting total), the USO’s are well deserving of this award. Uce! Uce! Uce! All Day Uce! Uce!
2. Young Bucks
3. The Bar
Honorable mention: War Machine, The Hardy Boyz.
***HEEL TURN OF THE YEAR***
1. Tommaso Ciampa on Johnny Gargano [NXT TakeOver: Chicago]
It all started when #DIY were announced as a team to enter the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament. The team was one of the most exciting to watch on NXT, the hits came hard and fast and their hearts were even bigger making them the no-brainer favorites of NXT. They had slobberknockers with the Revival, Authors of Pain; they even went to war with themselves during the Cruiserweight competition. But when the loss to the AoP at NXT TakeOver: Chicago became too much for Ciampa to bare he turned on a dime.. all the while with an apathetic look on his face; as Gargano tried to plead with his best friend, Ciampa wasn’t hearing any of it before being launching him into a table and disbanding #DIY. Like your favorite celebrity couple, you just couldn’t believe they’d broken up.
2. Sami Zayn [WWE Hell in a Cell]
3. The Festival of Friendship [WWE RAW]
Honorable mention: Enzo [WWE No Mercy]
***GIMMICK OF THE YEAR***
1. Glorious (Bobby Roode)
You could call 2017 a pretty Roode Year. He dominated in NXT ever since beating Nakamura at TakeOver: San Antonio in January until his call up towards the end of 2017. Bobby has come a long way since his time as 1/2 of the redneck cowboy team of Beer Money in TNA. Ever since debuting in WWE, Roode has taken in the persona of a cocky and arrogant sparkly-robed heel. He was routinely getting the loudest pop from the NXT crowds — aided by the catchiest entrance theme in decades — and that notion still continues on Tuesday nights — only with a bit of sweeter “babyface” arrogance.
2. Daryl (Hiromu Takahashi)
3. Broken/Woken (Matt Hardy)
Honorable mention: Velveteen Dream, The Villain (Marty Skurll), The Modern Day Maharaja (Jinder Mahal).
***JOBBER OF THE YEAR***
1. Dolph Ziggler
Remember when Dolph Ziggler was part of the most popular group in WWE and how we all lost our shit when he cashed in his MITB to become champ? Yeaaaaah, those were fun times; but unfortunately for Ziggler they are LONG gone. Since getting injured and losing his title all those years ago he’s been on a solid downhill slide. That “it” factor he once had has been replaced by one gawd awful gimmick after another.
That’s the thing about good ol’ Ziggy though, despite the dumpster fires he’s been given to work with, the man commits to all of it. It’s because of this commitment that he keeps getting chances. Unfortunately for him, they’re all chances to fail. If there’s one thing in the WWE you can count on it’s Dolph Ziggler treating every match like its his Wrestlemania moment, giving it his all and ultimately losing. Whether it’s a clean pin, count out, DQ or tapout, we all know the man is going to lose — except in a random Smackdown Live in Atlanta against arguable BITW, A.. J.. Styles. Sigh.
***BREAKOUT WRESTLER OF THE YEAR***
1. Braun Strowman
2. Aleister Black
3. Marty Scurll
***RIVALRY OF THE YEAR***
1. Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega
2. The Usos vs. The New Day
3. Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho
Honorable mention: Johnny Mundo vs. Rey Mysterio Jr., John Cena vs. Roman Reigns, Young Bucks vs. The Hardy Boyz.
***DEBUT OF THE YEAR***
1. Adam Cole/Undisputed Era [NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III]
2. Marty Scurll in Bullet Club [ROH War of the Worlds]
3. Suzuki-Gun [NJPW New Year’s Dash]
***OVERUSED MOVE OF THE YEAR***
1. Suicide Dive
Sure sure, everyone does chops, suplexes, dropkicks and school boy roll-ups these days. But what we’re talking about is a move that you see so often, it’s like a steak at a seafood joint. So overdone it’s almost a crime: The Suicide Dive, The Superkick and the Canadian Destroyer. I will argue that the CD doesn’t belong on this list. I don’t care how many Indy wrestlers and Indy Darlings do this move. If you’re not Petey Williams? It’s just a flip over piledriver. Hell, John Cena whipped one out once upon a time. But you won’t see Big John flying thru the ropes into the deer-in-headlights opponent(s) ringside as you come barreling thru the top two ropes. But man alive, the Superkick. Yes yes, we all know and love HBK tuning up the band (stop Ziggler, just… stop), even using it to retire (for a while) the Nature Boy himself. But it’s become a transition move. Like the DDT before it, if you’re going to Devalue it from a crushing fatal blow to a contest of how many per match can be used, it’s just a damn shame. But, since you guys are alll a buncha of Hot Topic Zombies and loOOoOve the Young Bucks, the Superkick placed second behind the Tope Suicida? Me.. I call shenanigans.
3. Canadian Destroyer
***WRESTLER OF THE YEAR***
1. *TIE* Kazuchika Okada / Kenny Omega
How do you separate the two? When Dave Meltzer deemed Okada/Omega I the “Greatest Match of All Time” — 6 effing Stars — no one expected the pair of New Japan athletes to conquer the whole damn wrestling world again. And again. The trifecta that became Okada/Omega I-III brings up an interesting debate, one that gave this fanatical wrestling clubhouse, the Ringside Apostles, zero conclusion. What means more, Okada’s impeccable and still going title RAIN, or Omega’s global impact that made it cool to be a smark and stamped New Japan as the place to be not named WWE?
Alone, Kazuchika Okada had a slightly better solo match run, but Kenny became a bigger star that gave NJPW a bigger plateau; NJPW BLEW THE FUCK UP in 2017, with 80% of the credit to The Cleaner; he also won the first ever US title, having a pair of great matches against Elgin and Ishii at the Long Beach G1 Special; had another classic with Naito in the G1 Final. But.. Okada made everyone and their mama look good, adjusting his style to every one; not one Okada match looks the same, even having a great match with Fale; he had a 40-minute ECW like brawl with Suzuki; had a straight-up strong style slugfest with Shibata all while taking the meanest headbutt of all time (that almost killed the guy who threw it); hell, Kazuchika just wrestled fuckin SLEX in Melbourne City and made that guy look like Ric Flair… he also matched high flying with an anime character who also happens to be one of the BITW (Tiger Mask Ibushi)… Oh, and Okada gave Cody his first great match. I hate ties (lies!), but this one between these two WRESTLING GODS feels justifed — if not righteous.
3. AJ Styles