wrestling / Columns

The 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards: Part One – The Best Non-Wrestlers of 2017

January 9, 2018 | Posted by Larry Csonka
Daniel Bryan Shane McMahon Smackdown

Welcome back to the Wrestling Top 5, year-end awards edition! What we are going to is take a topic, and all the writers here on 411 will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, and the end, based on where all of these topics rank on people’s list, we will create an overall Top 5 list. It looks a little like this…

1st – 5
2nd – 4
3rd – 3
4th – 2
5th – 1

It’s similar to how we do the WOTW voting. At the end we tally the scores and get our overall top 5! It’s highly non-official and final, like WWE’s old power rankings. From some of the best and worst, the 411 staff is ready to break down the awards! Thanks for joining us, and lets get down to work.

 photo NonWrestler_zpsbhwk6kop.jpg

This award is open to managers, commentators, bookers, on air authority figures and the like. If they are an active part of the wrestling business (not as an in ring performer) they are eligible.

Kevin Pantoja
5. Booker T
4. Paul Ellering
3. Jim Smallman
2. Zelina Vega

1. Dario Cueto – As long as Lucha Underground is producing shows, you may as well rename this the Dario Cueto Award. Since season one, Dario has easily been the best non-wrestler in the business. Lucha Underground didn’t have the best year, but Dario was still dynamite every single time he was on screen. He’s consistently fun and remains a breath of fresh air in the world of authority figures. He’s not really a babyface of a heel. He’s a man who likes violence and that motivation drives almost every decision he makes. The season ended on a cliffhanger revolving around him and it worked. When other authority figures become a focal point, it sucks. Dario’s the best and that didn’t change in 2017. It probably won’t in 2018 either. Special love must go out to Zelina Vega for being an old school type manager who has had success.

Rob Stewart
5. Matt Striker
4. Corey Graves
3. Renee Young
2. Dario Cueto

1. Daniel Bryan – Okay, these first two days were the hardest for me, and this one in particular came down to “Well… who are some folks I kind of dig?”. But Bryan seemed the obvious choice here, as he remains an entertaining force on Smackdown Live, even in the post-Talking Smack era (where he often killed it). The perpetual “What does Bryan’s future hold?” postulating is always interesting, and his playing against Shane McMahon has been well done so far. Even this far into his “retirement”, Daniel Bryan remains one of the most intriguing men in the game.

5. JBL
4. Daniel Bryan
3. Renee Young
2. Brock Lesnar…kidding! Paul Heyman

1. Corey Graves – Considering I was one of the first to recognize the talent of Corey Graves and how much he excels on the WWE Network, it is only fair that I place him at the top of the list for 2017. He is arguably the Voice of WWE Network. I still think Michael Cole is the Voice of WWE. However, that may not be true for much longer. Even if it is sad that Graves had to retire from in-ring competition at such a young age, he has more than turned that negative into a huge positive. Very cool of him to stay in the business and ADD to the product in so many different ways. Besides him, the field was kinda lacking in 2017. The usual suspects shined but nothing noteworthy.

Ken Hill
5. William Regal
4. Renee Young
3. Dario Cueto
2. Paul Heyman

1. Daniel Bryan – Bryan has been one of the better on-air authority figures in some time simply due to the fact that despite his uber-popularity with the WWE audience, he doesn’t put himself front and center in the storylines he’s involved with unlike those with the McMahon surname. The fact that he’s fighting to keep from devolving into a bitter, jaded retiree whom lashes out at active competitors that come at him like The Miz just as much as he fights the urge to simply jump back in the ring to handle his problems (not that WWE would let him at this point) only serves to make him a more sympathetic figure in my eyes and in the eyes of many, which doesn’t make this much of a difficult pick in my opinion.

Jake Chambers
5. Catrina
4. James Ellsworth
3. Maryse
2. Dario Cueto

1. Melissa Santos – I didn’t think it was possible for a Non-Wrestling Personality to leap over Dario Cueto as long as that genius of a man was appearing on Lucha Underground, but this year I can’t help but inch the ring announcer on his show, Melissa Santos, just slightly above him. As always her announcing was a top-notch fusion of “communications school” exuberance and the classic pro-wrestling style, with just a subtle nudge of inflection with each name announced that helped illustrate key aspects of their personality. In Season 3 of Lucha Underground, her romance angle with Fenix let her flex an acting muscle, and damn, she was good; displaying a range that included toughness, humour, bravery, sweetness, fear, anger and romance with as much nuance as you’ll ever see on professional wrestling television. Add in her actual participation in a mixed tag team match with Fenix against tormentor Marty the Moth and his sister, the badass Mariposa. This was the kind of one-off performance that most Non-Wrestlers eventually take part in, but rather than a jerk or bitch getting her comeuppance, Santos was awesome here as a daring, vulnerable, and cunning participant in the layout and story of the match, without ever really needing to really “wrestle” at all.

Larry Csonka
5. Stokley Hathaway
4. Corey Graves
3. Lenny Leonard
2. Zelina Vega

1. Dario Cueto – It’s no secret that one of the things that I hate the most about modern day wrestling is the authority figure. Over the years I feel that it has not only become a booking crutch for some promotions, but has also made them very lazy in their writing and storytelling. So when I saw that Lucha Underground was going to have an authority figure and that he was going to be some actor with no experience in the business, I rolled my eyes and feared for the worst. I am glad to say that I was completely wrong about him, and not only do I feel that Dario Cueto is the top non-wrestling performer in the business today but he’s one of my favorite overall performers on TV. What I love about “El Jefe” is that he’s not the cookie cutter evil owner. He is a man that opened a temple to watch people fight to entertain himself. He loves money, he’s not above paying people off, he’s not above changing his own plans if it ends up pleasing himself or causing pain to the performers he’s not a fan of. He also has a monster brother locked in a cage that eats people’s faces. Seriously though, the man is a great performer, he’s well written, his performances are awesome and the presentation of Dario Cueto has proven that you can do an authority figure that doesn’t feel like a retread or a cliché. He’s the glue that held Lucha Underground together, and if removed from the product, would cause a he change that no one could fill.

AND 411’s TOP 5 Non-Wrestlers of 2017 ARE…

T-4. Renee Young8 points

T-4. Zelina Vega8 points

3. Corey Graves9 points

2. Daniel Bryan12 points

1. Dario Cueto17 points