wrestling / Columns

The 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards: Part Six – Best PPV/Major Shows of 2016

January 7, 2017 | Posted by Larry Csonka

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.

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Jake Chambers
5. WWE Payback
4. EVOLVE 55
3. NJPW WrestleKingdom
2. NJPW G1 Climax 26 – Day 17

1. NJPW G1 Climax 26 – Day 18 – As much as I personally love Lucha Underground’s wacky style of television, and have been a fan of WWE goofiness most of my life, I’m a sucker for professional wrestling that is actually presented like a real sport. This is why most fans love tournaments and battle royals that have clearly competitive rules in contrast to the arbitrary cycles that most mainstream pro-wrestling matches use over and over. New Japan’s now gigantic G1 tournament has the most clear league-like athleticism of anything in wrestling, every win or loss has a tangible objective effect, and there are no friends or enemies, or no more than there would be in a NBA or World Cup soccer game. Of course, this is not news as the G1 has been around for decades, but rarely does the point system fall into place so dramatically with matches on the final nights that pay off perfectly as it did in 2016. I thought it was going to be tough for them to top the fantastic drama at the end of Day 17, but with the top 3 matches of Shibata vs. EVIL, Elgin vs. Nakajima, and Naito vs. Omega all having potential consequences for whoever would win, and the escalation of that old fashioned “strong style” intensity whipped me up into a fanboy frenzy that culminated in a thrilling ending and stunning victory.

Mike Chin
5. WWE Money in the Bank
4. NXT Takeover: Toronto
3. Lucha Underground: Ultima Lucha Dos
2. NXT Takeover: Dallas

1. NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II – When I was compiling my column on the best WWE matches of the year, I was struck by how many matches from this show I had in the running. Though I’d argue #DIY vs. The Revival from Toronto and Zayn-Nakamura from Dallas outshone any individual matches from Brooklyn this year, the preceding #DIY-Revival clash and the Asuka-Bayley rematch were each solid four-star-plus pieces of business, I was more positive about Nakamura-Joe than many critics (and particularly marked out for Nakamura’s entrance), No Way Joe overperformed in the opener, and Bobby Roode’s debut (particularly that entrance) was–well–glorious. This was such an easy, fun show to watch, with a historically important title change and debut to boot to make it the clear top pick in my book.

Paul Leazar
5. RoH Final Battle
4. NXT TakeOver: Toronto
3. WWE Battleground
2. NXT TakeOver: Dallas

1. NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10 – Man, this show featured the murderer’s row of main events. The top three matches of this show were all over four and a half stars. Shibata and Ishii beat the living crap out of each other, and Shibata got to cement his status as one of the top guys in the company. Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles tore the house down in their first time encounter for the Intercontinental Title, and Okada finally got the big win over Tanahashi to become the new ace of the promotion, and win back the IWGP Heavyweight Title in an absolute classic. There were a ton of great shows to watch this year, but nothing came close to touching one of the first shows of the year.

Jack McGee
5. NJPW Dominion
4. NXT Takeover: Dallas
3. NXT Takeover: Back to Brooklyn
2. NJPW King of Pro Wrestling

1. WWE Cruiserweight Classic Finals – While the execution of the division has lacked on the main roster the Cruiserweight Classic was a great experiment, and the WWE Cruiserweight Classic Finale was an awesome show, easily the WWE show of the year for me and an easy contender for overall show of the year.

Kevin Pantoja
5. WWE Backlash
4. Evolve 60
3. NJPW Invasion Attack
2. NXT TakeOver: Toronto

1. WWE Cruiserweight Classic Finals – For the second straight year, neither a traditional WWE Pay-Per-View nor an NJPW event tops my list. WWE’s Crusierweight Classic was a lot of fun but things got kicked up a notch in the finals. The show ran just two hours and only featured four matches, but they all delivered. First, Zack Sabre Jr. and Gran Metalik had one of the better clash of styles matches in recent memory. Then, Kota Ibushi and TJ Perkins put on an incredible match that was the best in TJ’s career and best of Kota’s 2016. There was a fun tag match involving #DIY before things got capped with a strong finals pitting Metalik against Perkins. Not only was it was a great finals, but you had the added bonus of Triple H bringing back the Cruiserweight Title and the emotional impact of TJ’s win. Everything on this show was great, even if they eventually fumbled the division.

Robert S. Leighty Jr
5. Cruiserweight Classic Finals
4. WWE Extreme Rules
3. NXT Takeover: Toronto
2. NXT Takeover: Back to Brooklyn

1. NXT Takeover: Dallas – The show that stole the show from WrestleMania. The card was 5 matches and there wasn’t a clunker in the group. American Alpha/Revival delivered pure tag team goodness and that was followed with a better than expected Aries/Corbin match. The show was stolen next with Nakamura and Zayn tearing down the house with a strong Match of the Year Contender. The crowd was in awe of Nakamura within seconds of walking through the curtain as he showed more charisma than most of the guys who wrestled 2 nights later at Mania. Asuka murdered Bayley to win the NXT Women’s Title which put her on top of a division she has cleaned out in dominating fashion. Finally, Joe and Balor continued their great feud with a hell of a match. Joe bleeding hard way and firing up as the doctors kept trying to fix his wound was a great visual. The same for Finn’s Texas Chainsaw inspired entrance. It was like splitting hairs between the 3 NXT Shows, but I just loved the Dallas a bit more.

Chad Perry
5. WWE Survivor Series 2016
4. NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10
3. NXT TakeOver: Dallas
2. WWE Cruiserweight Classic Final

1. ROH All-Star Extravaganza VIII – Not only was this the best show ROH had put on in ages, I got to say I was there live. ROH’s long awaited return to Massachusetts saw an incredible variety of matches, all of which delivered in a big way. The lowest rated match for me was 2.75 and I awarded two matches with a ****3/4. Ladder War was a spectacle that in a weaker year of wrestling would have taken a lot more MOTY votes. Along with that, Dragon Lee vs Kamaitchi, put on a spectacular match that was on par with their CMLL/NJPW from January.

Jack Stevenson
5. WWE NXT Takeover: Toronto
4. NJPW Dominion 6.19
3. Dragon Gate Kobe Pro Wrestling Festival 2016
2. WWE Cruiserweight Classic Final

1. WWE NXT Takeover: Dallas: In all honesty, the Cruiserweight Classic Finals, Kobe Pro Wrestling Festival and Dominion were the top three shows of the year pound for pound, but Takeover: Dallas had a huge advantage over them in that it took place on a WrestleMania weekend where WrestleMania itself turned out to be a massive disappointment, thus leaving it as the standout card from those few days. I still look back on that weekend as the best on the whole wrestling calendar, it’s the one you look forward to all year round and it’s a bloody marvelous time of pro wrestling hedonism, even if the centerpiece event under-delivers. I watched NXT Takeover live at a ridiculous hour in the morning in the UK, I was hopped up on too much sugar heavy soft drink, I was already jittery with excitement for WrestleMania the next day, and as such I enjoyed every match about 35% more than I would have done if they’d taken place on a random show in the middle of September. It’s not like Takeover: Dallas was a show entirely reliant on ‘Mania buzz to carry it along, either. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn would have been superb even if it had taken place in an igloo in front of five bemused Eskimos, The Revival and American Alpha tore the house down in the first of their excellent trilogy, and the main event was, for me, comfortably the best Finn Balor-Samoa Joe match of them all, with Joe’s blood-streaked face and the referee’s desperate attempts to patch him up while the action raged on around him only adding to the drama, although I understand why it frustrated others. But, most importantly, every match was imbued with the sort of celebratory, optimistic atmosphere that could only occur on the wrestling equivalent of Christmas Eve. It was a great show which I enjoyed in a sort of frenzied excitement that I didn’t experience again for the rest of the year, and probably won’t at all until the corresponding weekend in 2017.

Mike Hammerlock
5. Cruiserweight Classic Finals
4. ROH All-Star Extravaganza VIII
3. PWG Battle of Los Angeles – Night 2
2. NXT Takeover: Dallas

1. NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10 – It kicked off with the Young Bucks winning a frenetic four-way IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Title match and finished with Kazuchika Okada finally conquering Hiroshi Tanahashi on New Japan’s biggest stage. Along the way jay Lethal defended his ROH title against Michael Elgin, KUSHIDA beat Kenny Omega for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship and Tomoaki Honma got a major win, taking the IWGP World Tag Title with Togi Makabe. Katsuyori Shibata and Tomohiro Ishii then kicked the whole event up to another level with Shibata taking Ishii’s NEVER Openweight Championship. They took stiff to another level. Yet the highlight of the night was Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles reminding anyone who might be vague on the concept exactly who the two best wrestlers on the planet are. Spoiler alert: it’s them.

Larry Csonka
5. NJPW Dominion 2016
4. NJPW Invasion Attack 2016
3. NJPW King of Pro Wrestling
2. WWE Cruiserweight Classic Finals

1. NJPW WrestleKingdom 10 – The first part of the show, while there were some good matches to be had, was really rough from a creative aspect, lazy in fact. For those that want to defend NJPW and the lazy booking by saying, “but they present themselves as pure sport” as opposed to WWE or something similar, that is out the window with this show, and I say that as someone who loved the company. Some of these things were good ideas (the Cody Hall stuff got the reaction they wanted) but then they kept doing the same old shit, and as it went on it meant less and less; it’s diminishing returns. It needs to be fixed and downgraded. With that being said, we had some really good to great wrestling. The IWGP tag match was good, the opener and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title were very good, and the final three were a murder’s row of excellence which really brought the show to another level. Even with the issues I had, the overall show was excellent and worthy of your time. I personally have issues with some of the choices as outlined above, but at the end of the day the top matches delivered big time, they told great stories and I was very pleased when the show was completed. Depending on how you rate/opinion matches, there are two five star matches on the show (one for me, but the other is close). It’s the match quality in the big matches that takes the good, but creatively flawed undercard, worth your time. You always hear wrestlers talk about how venues feel magical (like Madison Square Garden), but as the years go on and I watch these home stretch matches at the Tokyo Dome, I swear some deals with the devil were made. It’s fascinating to see a show go from good to amazing as if a switch was simply flipped, and made the show a can’t miss event.

AND 411’s The Best PPV/Major Show of 2015 ARE…

T4. NXT Takeover: Toronto12 points

T4. NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II12 points

3. NJPW WrestleKingdom 1020 points

2. WWE Cruiserweight Classic Finals24 points

1. NXT Takeover: Dallas27 points

* The Biggest Disappointment of The Year: The WWE Cruiserweight Division – 28 points
* The Best Non-Wrestler: Dario Cueto – 45 points
* The Best Tag Team of The Year: The Revival – 45 points
* The Worst PPV/Major Show of The Year: WrestleMania 32 – 23 points

* The Best Female Wrestler of The Year: Charlotte – 44 points
* The Best PPV/Major Show of The Year: NXT Takeover: Dallas – 27 points
* The Best Promotion of The Year: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 8)
* Most Outstanding Performer 2016: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 9)

* The Best Match of The Year: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 10)
* Most Overrated Performer 2016 : TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 11)
* Most Underrated Performer 2016 : TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 12)
* The Best Wrestler of The Year: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 13)