Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wrestling Observer Awards 2006 Ballot

Lou Thesz/Ric Flair Award (Wrestler of the Year)
1. Mistico2. Edge3. Bryan Danielson

Mistico carried his promotion to a strong year, which is my traditional definition for this award. Edge and Danielson carried their promotions, but WWE and ROH didn’t have a particularly strong year. John Cena and Perro Aguayo, Jr. were also central to their promotions’ success and merit consideration.

Most Outstanding Wrestler
1. Bryan Danielson2. KENTA3. Samoa Joe

Danielson was the best wrestler this year as far as consistently putting on great matches, and KENTA wasn’t far off. Joe wasn’t as prolific this year but had another strong year as well.

Best Box Office Draw
1. Matt Hughes2. Tito Ortiz3. Mistico

If the current estimates for Hughes vs. B.J. Penn are accurate, Hughes had an amazing year at the box office. Even if they aren’t, he did a huge buy rate against Royce Gracie and surely his fight with Georges St. Pierre also did very well. Ortiz did big buy rates against Ken Shamrock and Forrest Griffin, and a big TV rating as well. If his fight with Chuck Liddell fell in the voting period, he would win. Mistico helped CMLL to a tremendous year at the box office.

Feud of the Year
1. John Cena vs. Edge2. Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley3. Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock

All three of these feuds are pretty similar: great talking and believable hatred, with not the greatest results in the ring. I like a good story told through a feud, and all three of these had that in spades. Edge vs. Cena was a success on every level, and even led to some great matches later in the year. It elevated both men. Watching Foley and Flair go back and forth was a real pleasure. Ortiz and Shamrock sold their fights well and helped UFC have its best year ever.

Tag Team of the Year
1. Mark and Jay Briscoe2. Latin American Xchange3. Super Dragon and Davey Richards

The Briscoes had great matches with a tremendous variety of teams in 2006, and were the best in ring tag team in the world. LAX was TNA’s hottest act and produced great matches as well as great angles and interviews. Dragon and Richards had a really good run in PWG.

Most Improved
1. Jay Briscoe2. Mark Briscoe3. Edge

I remember finding the Briscoes to be good dating back many years, but watching them this year was a revelation. They have gotten so good and really taken their games up another level. Edge was the recipient of a bigger push this year, but he made that push through his own improved performance. His improvement came with a push, but I don’t think the improvement was a mirage. Johnny Nitro tries really hard and has improved a lot as well I think.

Best on Interviews
1. John Cena2. Mick Foley3. Konnan

This is quite the competition, with some great talkers missing the list. Cena is phenomenal on the mic, and is able to excite the crowd with just about any material. Foley had another really strong year in feuds with Edge and Ric Flair. He might even have won if he were around all year and given as much time as Cena. Konnan is just as good as the other two, even without as much focus on him.

Most Charismatic
1. John Cena2. Edge3. Tito Ortiz

Cena has the most off the charts charisma. I’ve been watching Edge for years, and when I saw him live this year it was striking just how much charisma he now magnifies. Tito Ortiz also has great charisma and gets a big reaction just by appearing at an event.

Best Technical Wrestler
1. Bryan Danielson2. Roderick Strong3. KENTA

Danielson runs away with the award, and I’m not sure where to go from there. Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit are probably the two best technical wrestlers in the United States, but both were inactive for significant periods this year.

Bruiser Brody Memorial Award (Best Brawler)
1. Finlay2. Homicide3. Samoa Joe

Finlay is such a pleasure to watch, and I’m glad WWE gave him a decent sized push this year. He is great at having believable brawls, even with greater limitations than guys in other promotions. Homicide and Joe are also great brawlers, although I didn’t think Joe had as good of a year this year as he did last. Chris Benoit always merits consideration, but he was out for too long this year.

Best Flying Wrestler
1. Jack Evans2. A.J. Styles3. Matt Sydal

Evans has been the most spectacular flyer for years, and he has learned to integrate spectacular moves into great matches better than in previous years. Styles continues to be incredible smooth in his flying, and Matt Sydal has the same attribute.

Most Overrated
1. Vince McMahon2. Batista3. Jeff Jarrett

Vince McMahon did nothing to justify his massive self-push, producing bad angles and bad matches. Batista continues to be pushed based on his physique and he gets good pops, but he brings little to the table. Jarrett wasn’t as overpushed this year as in some past years, but featuring him in title match main events continued to be a deterrent to getting more fans into TNA.

Most Underrated
1. Shelton Benjamin2. William Regal3. El Generico

WWE has buried Benjamin for so long that they have convinced even many of Benjamin’s previous supporters that he isn’t that good. I’m still unconvinced. Benjamin has too much ability and potential to be a lower card nobody. Regal continues to be slotted really low on the card, but he always outperforms expectations when given the opportunity. People don’t even know who Generico is, and he is so good. He doesn’t even get much of a push on the independents.

Promotion of the Year
1. Ultimate Fighting Championship2. Ring of Honor3. CMLL

UFC wins this easily, combining great shows with tremendous business success. ROH put on great shows in its own right, without the phenomenal business. CMLL had a great business year as well promoting traditional pro wrestling.

Best Weekly TV Show
1. Ultimate Fighter Season 32. Pro Wrestling NOAH3. CMLL

The Ortiz-Shamrock dynamic made Ultimate Fighter 3 a great show to watch. As far as presenting good wrestling matches, CMLL and NOAH were the best.

Shootfighter of the Year
1. Georges St. Pierre2. Mirko Cro Cop3. Matt Hughes

St. Pierre’s win over Matt Hughes was the most impressive MMA performance of the year, and he added a victory over B.J. Penn as well. Cro Cop looked absolutely dominant in winning the Pride Grand Prix, and I suspect he will win this category over St. Pierre. It’s really close. Hughes had a great year in his own right and would be first if he had defeated St. Pierre.

Worked Match of the Year
1. KENTA vs. Naomichi Marufuji 10/292. Samoa Joe & B.J. Whitmer & Adam Pearce vs. Super Dragon & Chris Hero & Necro Butcher 4/223. Davey Richards & Super Dragon vs. Jack Evans & Roderick Strong 3/4

I just watched KENTA-Marufuji, and I hope I’m not overrating it, but that was an amazing match. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the ROH-CZW six man, and Richards/Dragon-Evans/Strong was another really fun match.

Shoot Match of the Year
1. Matt Hughes vs. B.J. Penn 9/232. Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin 4/153. Matt Wiman vs. Spencer Fisher 5/27

Hughes-Penn is my favorite type of MMA fight. One guy establishes his dominance over the other and looks to have the fight handily in control. Then the other guy is able to exploit a weakness in the other man and pull out a totally unexpected victory. In the past we’ve seen the weakness come in the standup game or submissions. In this case, it was stamina. Ortiz-Griffin was an incredible spectacle live, a back and forth hard fought war. Wiman-Fisher was another close, exciting fight with a spectacular finish.

Rookie of the Year

I just haven’t seen enough of most of the candidates this year.

Best Non-Wrestler
1. Konnan2. Jim Cornette3. Armando Alejandro Estrada

Konnan wins this easily. He is so good on the mic and they put him in an act that can get over again this year. Cornette is also a pretty clear second for me, as he is very strong on the mic even if he didn’t have as much to work with as far as material as Konnan. Third is tough. Armando gets my vote even though he hasn’t been given as many opportunities as he could be. I miss Prince Nana, I love Julius Smokes, and I think Kevin Federline also deserves credit.

Best Television Announcer
1. Jim Ross2. Mauro Ranallo3. Jerry Lawler

Ross had a really strong year. Perhaps the realization that Vince McMahon might get rid of him at any time for no reason loosened him up, but he feels more motivated to do a good job than he has in a while. Ranallo has improved a lot the past few years, and it’s really a shame he has parted ways with Pride. Lawler had deteriorated in recent years, but I think he really improved this year and he’s a lot of fun to listen to again. I was torn on whether to list JBL here. He’s entertaining as hell, but he also does damage to a lot of people in the process. He narrowly misses for me.

Worst Television Announcer
1. Jonathan Coachman2. Todd Grisham3. Joey Styles

Coachman and Grisham are both unbearable. Styles is a good announcer but WWE did a number on him this year and he was bad more often than not. I don’t expect he’ll get many votes here, but I thought he clearly had a worse year than Michael Cole.

Best Major Wrestling Show
1. Pride Real Deal 10/212. UFC 65 11/183. UFC 59 4/15

Pride’s spectacular US debut was easily the pro wrestling/MMA highlight of the year for me. The fights weren’t as strong as most UFC shows, but the production and feel of an event I’ve watched on DVD and PPV for years finally coming live was incredible. UFC 65 and 59 were both great cards featuring electric main event atmospheres and strong undercards. It really was a strong year as far as great shows. Pride Final Conflict, PWG Battle of Los Angeles, WrestleMania, and a number of ROH shows also deserve mention.

Worst Major Show of the Year
WWE Royal Rumble 1/29

I don’t know if I would consider WWE’s B shows to be major shows any more. The Rumble still is, and it was a major disappointment.

Best Wrestling Maneuver
KENTA Go to Sleep

This wins narrowly over Homicide’s Cop Killa for me.

Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic
WWE exploits and exploits and exploits and exploits Eddie Guerrero’s death

There aren’t as many contenders this year as there usually are, which is good. Unfortunately, the winner may very well be the most disgusting promotional tactic in Observer Awards history.

Worst Television Show

WWE puts the most resources into Raw, but the result is the most insulting and least enjoyable wrestling shows of the year. I’m not suggesting that is the rule. My point is that the worst of the worst are usually Raw shows, even if there are also good, bad and average editions of the show. On average there may be worse shows, but Raw wins for the most infuriating lows.

Worst Match of the Year
11/19 Sting vs. Abyss

Luckily I’ve developed a tremendous ability to block bad matches out of my head, so I don’t remember many matches that were truly awful. This match was an insulting disaster as far as the way it was put together and the booking, so I’ll give it the nod.

Worst Feud of the Year
DX vs. McMahons

This feud presented bad matches, bad angles, and indirectly buried tons of people.

Worst Promotion
World Wrestling Entertainment

It was another insulting, destructive, nepotistic disaster of a year for WWE.

Best Booker
Gabe Sapolsky

The booking of almost every worldwide wrestling promotion was bad. The booking of ROH was good. ROH wins.

Promoter of the Year
Dana White

This is the easiest selection of the entire ballot. 2006 belonged to Dana White. UFC’s rapid ascent was truly remarkable. Antonio Pena and Paco Alonso also had great years. As an aside, this isn’t an appropriate category to celebrate ROH. The promoter of the year should have great business success promoting the product, and ROH just didn’t have ambition comparable to the major contenders for this award.

Best Gimmick

LAX was probably TNA’s greatest creative success in 2006. It was carried by the perpetually undervalued Konnan, and was a fun gimmick that elevated everyone involved.

Worst Gimmick
D-Generation X

It was the best gimmick in wrestling almost ten years ago, but now it’s two 40 year old men acting like teenagers and some of the lamest jokes you’re ever going to witness. Dishonorable mentions to Faux Kane, Crossdressing Vito and Voodoo Kin Mafia.

Best Pro Wrestling Book
Tangled Ropes by Superstar Billy Graham

Of the major releases this year, I read the books by Shawn Michaels, Eddie Guerrero, Billy Graham, Bill Watts, and the two major American ECW books. Graham’s book is the most deep, touching and informative of the year, and is one of the better books of the past few years. If I had to rank three picks, the Watts book would come in second place and the Guerrero book in third.

Best Pro Wrestling DVD
The American Dream: The Dusty Rhodes Story

This was a really fun nostalgic ride, with lots of great promos and some good matches as well. The BS meter was also lower than on some of the other major releases. The Bret Hart and Brian Pillman DVDs also deserve mention.


Anonymous tyson said...

Its impossible to comment on every category so I'll nitpick a little bit. Vince McMahon can never, ever, ever, be Overrated. It's just not possible. I'd put Paul Heyman in that position before Vince personally. Or Sting. I've seen a handful of Briscoes matches. They are far and away the best tag team I've seen in the past 5 years (excluding alot of japanese wrestling as I dont tape trade; bad experiences :( ). I honestly feel Jeff Hardy should be a candidate for most improved. For as much flack as he got when signed he has done nothing short of deliver quality matches and good feuds since his return to WWE. As much as I hate him, HHH is underrated. Thank god for TNA because without it LAX and Homocide never see the light of day, both excellent talents and deserving of many awards. Ortiz should be up for fighter of the year, he is the total package and along with chuck the face of UFC, the hands down most successful MMA group of the past year, he has to win the charismatic award if he cant win st. pierres award. I'm not sure if this is the full ballot or just how you voted, so if some of this comes off as awkward, I'm going on the premise as if this were the ballot. In closing, you gave Joey Styles a really really raw deal. HOW IS TNA'S #1 USED CAR SALESMAN DON WEST NOT THE WORST ANNOUNCER????? Name the damned award after that man. He's the infomercial man. Those IMPACT shows would be alot more entertaining, if 1) I didn't feel like they were trying to sell me something every single show, and 2) if we could have one episode where some wrestler isnt mysteriously tied up or laid out in the back in a short cutscene. Was Eric Young vs Traci Brooks in a bikini match not in the voting period for worst match?

11:45 PM  
Anonymous tyson said...

Worst Gimmick
D-Generation X

This is the part I don't get about your voting. DX drew crowds, sold merchandise, and were still able to attain decent ppv buys and was a financial success as far as WWE is concerned. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion but when it comes to a 'worst of' award my feeling is you should vote based on what or was not successful as opposed to voting by personal opinion. It just takes credibility away from the awards/newsletter. Not that there really is a ton out there for it, but Dave is usually who the media turns to as the "#1 booger eater". Thanks Cowherd.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Dave S. said...

I think you give Cena WAY too much credit. I don't find him all that charismatic, and I think there are at least 10 guys in WWE who cut better promos than he does. Don't you notice how he rips off his entire speaking style from the Rock? His mannerisms, the cadence of his voice, the type of jokes he makes; all of it is a direct ripoff of the Rock. Now, if you're going to rip all that off from someone else, you might as well rip it off from the best (which the Rock is), but I don't think doing an imitation of the Rock every week should qualify someone as charismatic. Also, the fact that he is ridiculously overexposed does not help matters.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Kane said...

Todd, I'll jump in and say that, for the areas I can comment on ( I don't get to see any Mexican wrestling, I've never watched much UFC although you are right that it was company of the year for the sheer increase in numbers, and while I would love to see some ROH cards, as the write-ups always sound just terrific, I've never been able to catch any of them, or the Japanese circuit for that matter.)I can't find too much fault with the stuff you voted for. I wouldn't have thought of McMahon as 'Overrated' but, when you factor in the absurd total of hours which were spent on pushing his character, feuds and spasms of evilosity ( a new word, but a fitting one, I think ), it just about makes the nut. He qualifies because half the year was spent in elevating a man ( and a son ) who has no in-ring future, who brings nothing to the table beyond the same tiresome nonsense which had it's sell-by date around 1998, and because it inevitably led to the reformation of DX, which, while I understand Tyson's point as far as dollars earned via merchandising, I think did much more harm than good in it's rampant saturation of already over-exposed characters, it's snide burial of just about every worker in the company, and, significantly, it's de-emphasizing of the title ( Cena is, without a question, and despite his obvious faults, the company's biggest star and since the exhumation of DX's dick jokes, the title belt has been almost an after-thought, in particular since Edge was finally taken out of the program and, hmm, put into one with DX. Admittedly, the lack of contenders was at issue as well, but it's obvious that Cena was back-burnered in a way because the program had to revolve around date rape and AIDS jokes). I can see Tyson's point on both Heyman (although it is hard to really say much about his ECW booking, because he always had to clear it with...Vince McMahon), and Jeff Hardy, who has proven, so far, to be a much more valuable worker than I would have thought when he was first signed. I'd say most surprising, and I do think the fact that he and Nitro have been elevating each other within their feud says a lot about both of those fellows (while, oddly, Melina has been somewhat ignored, which is strange if only because she, in the beginning, was booked to be the 'star', not her beau.)for the future. I wouldn't call Shelton 'underrated' so much, as he is highly thought of, but I'd certainly say 'undervalued', and while his limitations are clear (his mic skills poor, and not much chance to develop, and maintain, a strong character although, thank christ, they did kill off his 'mom') his talent is such a joy to watch, I cannot fathom how they haven't found a way to use him yet. They should have put him together with Edge and Orton, and made him the 'silent assassin' or some such thing. His recent re-team with Haas proves that his mean streak is still effective. I still say Edge as Wrestler of the Year (I've never seen Mistico) as he was really the fulcrum of what did work well in WWE all year long, and the fact that, as you pointed out, his success had as much to do with his own work, charisma, and ambition as it did with the booking decisions (I find it inexcusable his first title run was so short...although it may have been a long-term decision to salvage Cena just when it looked as though everybody over the age of 12 was turning on him violently. Understandable, but still...). Cena must deserve a bit of credit, as well, because he was able to overcome a number of his own shortcomings, and a virulent if not undeserved backlash against him, and continue to work very hard in the ring. I've come around to him in many ways, if only due to the fact that, as dumb as it may sound, I think he's a 'good champ'. They need that desperately when, as you mentioned, Batista is a month or two away from being utterly unsalvageable. Cheap pops are nice, but even Ron Simmons can get those these days. I think the acknowledgement of Konnan/LAX is on the mark, as well, and, funny enough, I almost wonder if Kevin Federline has a future within WWE. You've mentioned it before, and I am starting to see it too, that he has an undeniable heel charm in the ring, and he clearly isn't afraid to play his character to a crowd which is 100% hostile to him. That takes some doing, and he may have actually found his niche.
Finally, I would say that I do not buy the argument that 'personal opinion' shouldn't enter into the ballot process. What is a 'Best of..' list, if not the collection of personal opinions anyway? There's no wrong or right in any of's all a conversation starter. Lighten up, Francis.
Anyway, there you have my two cents. Have a good holiday, Todd.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous tyson said...


Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Todd just doesn't like DX, not that I do, I just feel that when something can be considered a financial success it can't be the worst act or gimmick.

On the back end of that with as much money as they spent advertising DX it's truthfully unfair to say whether or not it was a success outside of keeping HBK alive for another year.

5:32 PM  
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7:23 PM  

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