wrestling / Columns

Watry’s 2016 Year End Awards

January 4, 2017 | Posted by Justin Watry

Hi, I’m Justin Watry. You may remember me from such classic columns as March 2012’s “WWE WrestleMania 28: Sheamus Should Defeat Daniel Bryan in Less Than a Minute” and October 2015’s “WWE NXT: Bobby Roode, You’re Next.”

Backstory

In the coming days, 411mania will present their annual year end awards for the professional wrestling circuit. I placed my votes and gave explanations awhile back, so you can read all of those when the time comes for each column to be posted. Before then, I will be handing out a few of my own awards that were NOT listed. Think of these as the best of the rest…or whatever. As always, the words expressed in this column are just my opinion and my opinion alone. Let’s get to it!

Most Unexpected Match Outcome Of The Year

5. Every single Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte match after WM32 – Honestly, I could never call it. I had Charlotte retaining at WrestleMania 32, but from there? Ha, it was a crap shoot. I think I missed every prediction during their Summer/Fall feud.

4. Seth Rollins defeats Roman Reigns clean at Money in the Bank – Hindsight being what it is, you can always write about matches after the fact. In the moment though, it was shocking. Roman Reigns was going to be WWE World Champion for a long, long time. Until his Wellness suspension was known. Oh, and Seth FREAKIN’ Rollins was back! All bets are off then.

3. Zack Ryder wins the IC Championship – What was this? Seriously, I remember the betting odds placing him as the favorite to win, and I thought it was a joke. I was all set to rant on the oddsmakers and blah, blah, blah. Well, silly me. Somebody must have known something because Ryder ended up winning a ladder match at Mania to win the IC Title. Shocking indeed.

2. Chris Jericho over AJ Styles – Mania was full of shocking results (most are rectified the next night on RAW). Right at the top of the list was Chris Jericho beating AJ Styles. Yeah, it ultimately didn’t matter. Yeah, Styles ended up beating him 24 hours later on Raw to become #1 contender to Roman Reigns. Yeah, I get it. Still, this was pretty much the definition of BS. Jericho 100% did not need to win this at all, and if he was ‘for the boys’ as much as he likes to claim, he would have outright refused this outcome. He didn’t. Either it was his idea or he had no issues going through it because Styles lost his first ever WM match – one that was universally predicted to go his way. A shame really.

1. Bill Goldberg beats Brock Lesnar in a flash – Survivor Series was just last month, but the shock waves are still being felt. Like it was yesterday, I recall Lesnar and Goldberg staring each other down…and then that was it. I expected a fairly quick bout but certainly not with that result. In a lot of ways, it is still unbelievable. Bill Goldberg, after 12 years away, returns to best the dominant and streak breaker Brrrrrock Lesnar in November 2016. Only in pro wrestling, am I right? Wow. Love it or hate it, this one was certainly unexpected in a year full of surprising moments.

Debut Of The Year

Note: I am not counting one off appearances years ago, without a contract.

5. TJ Perkins – It is a shame his run on RAW faltered so badly. I blame Mick Foley and his horrible introduction to the cruiserweights for how poorly the division has been handled. In any event, everything after the Cruierweight Classic finale has been either bad or average or barely passable. At the forefront of the failing division was the champ, TJ Perkins. Still, he deserves a top five rankings because his WWE Network stuff was so great, and it was nice to see another talent leave TNA Impact Wrestling and shut up his former bosses. I have not given up on him; the potential is there.

4. Kota Ibushi – My pick to win the Cruiserweight Classic and the STAR of the entire project. Make no mistake folks. If he was signed to a deal and pegged for RAW, he would have won the tournament. Alas, Kota is not quite ready to commit, so that meant more one off appearances in the future (and then losing). If there is anybody out there poised to be a big signing for WWE/NXT in 2017 or even 2018, this is your man.

3. Bobby Roode – Glorious! The minute Bobby Roode (and Eric Young) ditched TNA in early 2016, I said he had BETTER be in Dallas for WrestleMania 32 weekend. Do not waste any time and miss out (again). Get that man in contact with WWE officials and start talking. Sure enough, there was no wait at all – Roode was already headed to Dallas and got a brief camera shot at the live NXT Takeover event. The live crowd popped, just as I did. It was happening. After years of me (and others) telling the world how he belonged in the big leagues, his opportunity had arrived. Just a few months after I said as such in an October 2015 column, haha…

2. Shinsuke Nakamura – More will be written about him vs. Sami Zayn in future columns. No spoilers though! Until then, I can say this: Nakamura made one heck of a first impression on me during his debut entrance at NXT Takeover: Dallas. I was not aware of his career, outside of Youtube clips and highlights, so I was an open book. Show me what all the talk was about! Prove it to me! Let me judge if the hype was real or not! Come on Nakamura! Well, I was hooked from the get go and haven’t looked back since. He is amazing.

1. AJ Styles – I loved the way WWE presented his debut. I loved the fact that it was at number three in the Royal Rumble. I loved the fact that it was in TNA Country down in Florida. I loved that it was following yet another Dixie Carter blunder a few days earlier. I loved that it was straight against Roman Reigns (a sign of things to come). I even loved the way WWE did not show his entrance video but only let the music and Reigns’ reaction tell the story. Unfamiliar music, the WWE World Champion looking shocked, and an eruption from the fans?! WHO COULD IT BE?!?! WHAT WAS HAPPENING? Then AJ Styles appeared and everybody lost their mind. I loved it. Phenomenal debut.

Promo Of The Year

5. Bill Goldberg returns – WWE hit a home run this past Fall. Not with Raw. Not with Smackdown. Not even with the WWE Network live specials. Those were more like singles with an occasional double or triple mixed in there. The full blown grand slam came from Goldberg coming back. Everything was done to present him as a MAJOR star returning and building up a dream match with Brock Lesnar. Something we had not seen in over 12 years. Despite the constant crying about him coming from WCW and perceived politics against him behind the scens, he actually had a dominant one year WWE run in 2003-2004 and in 2016, he picked up where he left off. That began with an emotional promo on Raw from Colorado. Bill Goldberg has never been the best talker or even said much at all. On this one night though, he was truly Da Man. Just slightly better than the awesome Paul Heyman/Brock Lesnar sit down interview. Kudos to them as well.

4. Sami Zayn/Shinsuke Nakamura hype – Yes, I am including video packages (One Versus All Royal Rumble Match video was also really cool). This was just so well done by NXT. It highlighted why Sami Zayn wanted this match so bad, just as much as it spelled out how important Nakamura was. I won’t spoil the Match of the Year rankings for everybody, but it was the perfect way to kick off their match in Dallas – with a brilliant hype video. Enjoy…

3. Big Cass and Enzo show up on RAW – Admittedly, I did not show much love for Big Cass and Enzo in my 2016 Year End Awards. As great as they are, the two never won the NXT Tag Team Titles, kinda just ‘left’ there earlier in the year without much fanfare, and their WWE run has yielded decent/average results so far. My belief is they are being set up for a big moment at WrestleMania 33, hence the stalling of their championship aspirations. Either way, none of that mattered the night after Mania when they finally showed up on RAW and let the world hear their voices and recite the all-too-clever catchphrases. The Dudleyz stood there and took the verbal abuse from the newcomers, and it made for a great promo.

2. Dolph Ziggler puts his career on the line – Back in September, Dolph Ziggler and The Miz had one of the most memorable Smackdown LIVE segments of the year. There two had wrestled a million times and had enough ho-hum segments to last a lifetime However, a few months ago, their never ending story line finally clicked. With both men’s parents in the audience and the world watching on television at home, the two took their long standing rivalry to a whole new level. With Ziggler wanting ONE MORE IC Championship match at No Mercy, he put all he had left – his career. No more gloating from The Miz. No more excuses. No more cheating. No more. Ziggler was willing to risk it all to reclaim a title he once held and also to get back his glory days in the wrestling business. Tons of heart, tons of passion, tons of drama, tons of realism. This promo deserved much more recognition than it initially got.

1. The Miz/Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack – Make no mistake folks, this was ALL about The Miz. Daniel Bryan, while knowing what was going to happen, was fidgeting and twirling in his chair nervously the entire time. He was schooled and showed just how great a promo can be when the intensity is kicked up a notch. Worst of all, the heel was correct in his words, not the face. Sorry Bryan, his ‘logic’ made no sense and didn’t help that he had to retire months earlier because of the exact thing he was trying to defend. Made no sense. The Miz chewed him up and spit him out in two minutes flat, only leading him one option – to walk away. I showed this promo to a few casual wrestling fans that knew of the retirement and Miz’s heel persona. They were in awe and nearly in tears over Bryan having to sit there and take it. That is how you know a promo was effective, when casual fans buy into it. Back to the point though, Bryan was simply the recipient of the words…the words spoken by The Miz. My top two promos of the year go to the current IC Champion. Somebody has always been underutilized and a guy who absolutely should get another shot at the main event scene. Here’s to hoping that chance comes in 2017. With the brand split in full effect, there is no reason he shouldn’t be next in line after AJ Styles to lead Smackdown LIVE.

The Shane McMahon Section

Everything about Shane McMahon returning to RAW in February. Everything. Moment of the year, RAW segment of the year, return of the year, feel good ovation of the year, surprise of the year, shock of the year, crowd reaction of the year, match announcement of the year, etc. Heck, I was going to give it promo of the year as well but decided to give others a spotlight just for the sake of changing it up. I already about how vital Shane McMahon’s return to WWE was, but it needs to be repeated one more time. This was massive, massive game changer for the company. When they needed it most, they went into their bag of tricks and pulled out a rabbit. The ace in the hole. The ‘break glass in case of emergency’ move had been move, and it was unbelievable. Shane returning. The Detroit crowd. The look of Stephanie McMahon and Vince McMahon when his music hit. THE SHOES! The standing ovation. The Undertaker match tease. The Heck on a Deck announcement. The Mania implications. All in the span of about 20 minutes, WWE had completely flipped the script, and in the world of wrestling, that is all it takes. Twenty minutes, everything had changed. Wow, the goosebumps have not gone away ten months later. Here comes the money…

SUMMARY: Okay, those are the awards you will NOT see discussed on this website. Until then, enjoy the Year End In Review fun. Be kind and respectful as always. I will be back with a 2017 Wishlist next week, as well as making an announcement I have been wanting to make for years! So excited.

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