Well, we’re about three quarters of the way through January (already?), so you don’t have much time to delay if you want your Best of Whatever 2014 list to be even close to relevant. Right on cue, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has their annual year-end list of the best and worst (sorry, Brandon) that wrestling had to offer. Wrestling Observer’s awards have been around in some shape or form since 1980, and the list of winners and losers is a storied Who’s Who. And in a standout year for New Japan Pro Wrestling, wrestling critic Dave Meltzer and the readers of WON have decided that 2014’s wrestler of the year was the King of Strong Style himself, Shinsuke Nakamura.
This is Nakamura’s first time as Wrestler of the Year, ending the three-year streak of fellow NJPW star Hiroshi Tanahashi. In fact, NJPW stars were the top four vote recipients – Nakamura, Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, and AJ Styles. Daniel Bryan was WWE’s top man, coming in at fifth place. The complete list of winners and runners-up can be found over on Reddit, but here’s a cursory rundown of some of the noteworthy items found in this year’s balloting.
- The Young Bucks finally win Tag Team of the Year. They’ve been making a strong case for about three to five years, depending on how much PWG you watch, so it’s good to see them get the recognition.
- Daniel Bryan’s nine-year reign as Best Technical Wrestler comes to an end due to his lengthy rehab for various injuries. This year’s winner was Zack Sabre, Jr., a British standout who does most of his work in Pro Wrestling NOAH.
- Lucha Underground gets their first accolade as Prince Puma (a.k.a. Ricochet) takes home the prize for Best Flying Wrestler. This is his second win, also taking the award in 2011.
- Cesaro wins Most Underrated for the second year in a row. But he’s a weird European millennial, so what do we know? Oh, by the way… do you know who was the last wrestler to win Most Underrated before Cesaro? That’s right, it was Tyson Kidd. FACT.
- New Japan wins Promotion of the Year for the third year straight. If you saw any of Wrestle Kingdom, this probably won’t surprise you.
- Match of the Year honors go to AJ Styles and Minoru Suzuki for their G1 Climax qualifier. I talked about it in my NJPW Top 5 for 2014, so go check that out if you haven’t already.
- In news that no one could have ever seen coming, all three members of the 2014 Raw announce team were the top vote-getters for Worst Television Announcer. JBL took first place, with Jerry Lawler in second and Michael Cole in third. William Regal takes home his second straight honor for Best Television Announcer.
- WWE lays claim to Best Gimmick (Rusev and Lana) and Worst Gimmick (Adam Rose).
- More worsts for WWE include Worst Weekly Television Show (Monday Night Raw), Worst Match of the Year (for John Cena and Bray Wyatt’s cage match at Extreme Rules), and Worst Feud of the Year (Brie Bella vs. Nikki Bella).
I’m not seeing any glaring faults with these picks. I would have loved to see Daniel Bryan take home Best Technical Wrestler for AN ENTIRE DECADE, but that’s hard to do if you’re inactive since May. They’ll probably end up naming the award after him in the long run, anyway. And I know that Dave Meltzer’s preference for Japanese wrestling over its American counterpart is a punchline at this point, but watch Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi from earlier this month and tell me he’s not onto something.