It seems like this gets said every year, but this year has really flown by. I swear, just the other day, I was preparing to watch New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom 11 and also make some Royal Rumble predictions, and now, here we are, with six months of the year in the bag.
With 2017 half over, I wanted to take a look back and give out some half-year awards. I won't sit here and tell you that I've watched every bit of wrestling there has been, but I can confidently say that I've seen enough to do an awards column.
Pro wrestling is a subjective sport to begin with, but it needs to be known that these are merely my opinions, and they shouldn't be taken as gospel. If you have different choices as your winners, and I'm sure many of you will, please feel free to hit me up with your picks. Honestly, it could be fun to see a broad range of picks.
You ready? I'm ready. Let's do this.
Tag Team Of The Half-Year: Matt & Jeff Hardy
You simply cannot deny what they've accomplished this year. They came into 2017 as the Impact Tag Team Champions, and nobody beat them for the belts, as they had to vacate them when their contracts expired. They went to Ring Of Honor, where they won the company's Tag Team Titles at Manhattan Mayhem 6. Even though the title reign was only four weeks long, they were able to add RoH to the list of promotions that they've become champions in. Then, of course, they returned to WWE at WrestleMania, winning the Raw Tag Team Titles in their second Ladder Match of the weekend (they dropped the RoH titles to The Young Bucks in one the night before). Three title reigns, done in three different major (to differing levels) promotions. That's pretty much unheard of these days. On top of the title reigns, they were setting the wrestling world on fire with their "Broken" Matt and Brother Nero personas while with Impact. They continue to tease bringing those characters to WWE one day in the future, and if it happens soon, you have to assume they'll be the favorites to win the year-end award in this category in my year-end version of this column.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): War Machine (Raymond Rowe & Hanson), The Usos, Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta), The Revival, The Young Bucks, Authors Of Pain, Mustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate), DIY, American Alpha, Cesaro & Sheamus
Feud Of The Half-Year: Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy & Reby Hardy vs Impact Wrestling
This one could have gone to a few different pairings, but in the end, I had to go with the one that has gotten the most heated in real life, and one that seems to flare up again every week or so. It's fair to say that the Hardy brothers were, perhaps, the best part of the Impact Wrestling product. They were the ones bringing in extra eyeballs to the television shows. They were the ones bringing in extra views for the company's YouTube videos. Any sort of half-competent company should trip all over themselves to try and keep that act under contract, wouldn't you think? Well, as we've all learned by now, Impact isn't exactly the most well-run organization in the world, no matter who the boss happens to be, so the Hardys were allowed to walk right out the door. Normally, that's the end of a story. Wrestlers leave wrestling promotions all the time. Impact being Impact, though, decided they wanted to continue making decisions that only made them look bad. They jumped right into legal battles with the Hardy brothers over just who owned the "Broken" gimmicks. Different members of the front office have gotten into back-and-forth fights on Twitter with the Hardys, as well as Matt's wife, Reby. The entire thing has been ridiculous, and it's still going on to this day, several months later. It's a feud that has ruined how wrestling fans will forever look at owls. What other feud in wrestling history can you say that about?
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Jimmy Havoc vs Will Ospreay, Johnny Mundo vs The Mack, Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens, Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega, Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman, Asuka vs Nikki Cross vs Ruby Riot, Tyler Bate vs Pete Dunne, American Alpha vs The Usos, Drew Galloway vs Matt Riddle, Darby Allin vs Ethan Page
Event Of The Half-Year: Wrestle Kingdom 11
Through the years, Wrestle Kingdom has grown to become the second-biggest event of the wrestling calendar. It's the match quality that helps to set it apart from everything else, though, and this year was no different. The show's final four matches could all be considered Match Of The Year candidates, and its main event (Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega) broke Dave Meltzer's star rating scale. Up and down the card, there is absolutely something for every type of wrestling fan to watch and enjoy. There is great storytelling, amazing high flying action, hard-hitting brawls, technical wizardry, spectacle, comedy, and everything else under the sun. Ideally, it's the type of card that Vince McMahon would love to deliver for WrestleMania, but that certainly hasn't always been the case, especially in recent years. Every year, I get wrestling fans asking me about where to start if they're looking to start watching New Japan, or Puroresu in general. They see the buzz that it's getting, and they want to see what it's all about. Because of that "something for everyone" vibe, I always recommend that they go out of their way to see Wrestle Kingdom. You're not guaranteed to like the entire show, but you'll find something somewhere that blows you away, and then you can search for more matches involving those people or those styles. If you're reading this and looking to start watching stuff beyond what airs on North American television, remember these words in six months when it's time for Wrestle Kingdom 12.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Pro Wrestling Guerrilla's Only Kings Understand Each Other, PROGRESS: Orlando, WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament (Day Two), Royal Rumble, New Japan's New Beginning In Osaka, New Japan's Dominion, wXw 16 Carat Gold (Day One), wXw 16 Carat Gold (Day Two), EVOLVE 84, NXT Takeover Chicago
Wrestler Of The Half-Year: Kazuchika Okada
If you've been reading my work through the years, you know that I have no shortage of praise for this man and his in-ring work. At the age of 29 (he won't be 30 until November), he's already one of the all-time greats in this wonderful sport we all love so much. No, I'm not kidding. The last time I watched a singles match of his and didn't give it at least three stars would be March 23rd... 20-mother-funking-13. Think about that very carefully. Think of how difficult it would be to step into a ring and have good-to-great matches EVERY SINGLE TIME you do it, no matter who your opponent is. On numerous occasions, he was able to pull "lesser" workers to good matches. It shouldn't even be possible to do things like that. His 2017 started off with the Wrestle Kingdom classic against Kenny Omega, but from there, he's had classics against Minoru Suzuki, Tiger Mask, Katsuyori Shibata, and then Omega again. That's not even counting him being involved in an eight-man tag that many are calling a Match Of The Year candidate. If he remains healthy, do you realize how good someone's second-half of 2017 is going to have to be to top him for Wrestler Of The Year? Someone like AJ Styles, who many feel is the best wrestler alive today, would need to have the greatest wrestling match to ever happen, and then follow it up with match after match after match that are ranked right up there, too... and even then, he might not win the award, because Okada will probably be having great matches for the next six months, too. You can't see me right now, but I'm actually shaking my head as I type this, thinking about how crazy good Okada has been in the ring.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Asuka, Neville, Marty Scurll, Kenny Omega, Tyler Bate, Bobby Roode, Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, Alexa Bliss, Zack Sabre Jr
Match Of The Half-Year: Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega - Wrestle Kingdom 11
What can I really say about the match that hasn't already been said by everyone, myself included? One of the biggest wrestling debates in recent memory has been about which Okada vs Omega match was better. After Wrestle Kingdom, people didn't think that one could be topped. After their rematch at Dominion, many felt that they did go out and top the original. Obviously, seeing that I chose one over the other for this award, I've made my decision on which match I feel is better. Their first match absolutely blew me away. Fans often (incorrectly) feel that Japanese wrestling delivers on the in-ring product, but lacks the emotional connection that WWE can deliver. The "big fight" vibes Okada matches have show how wrong that line of thinking is. They grab fans by the throat and don't let go. This match was the epitome of that. There were several stories surrounding the build of the match, and for the match itself. Omega was, mostly, a Junior Heavyweight and was coming up the card to challenge for the top title in New Japan. Omega's finisher, One Winged Angel, was pushed as being such a deadly move that it only needed to land once to finish a match, and Omega did everything he could to land it. It wasn't just a normal match where they wrestle for 15-20 minutes, then a finisher comes out of nowhere. No, "The Cleaner" knew he had the right move to end it, and he wanted to hit it pretty much from the opening bell. Why waste time, you know? Catching a lot of folks off-guard with how good the match was helps this one out. They had a blank canvas to work with, while their second match had all the expectations in the world. When you're able to just go out there without those astronomical expectations, it probably makes things easier for the wrestlers, and it makes things more fun for the viewers. We get caught up in things more that way. Look, I'm not saying their second match wasn't great (I do have it listed in the Honorable Mentions, after all). I'm just saying that if Okada/Omega 1 was a perfect 10.0, then Okada/Omega 2 was a 9.9, with a 9.8 being as low as I'd be willing to go.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): KUSHIDA vs Hiromu Takahashi - Wrestle Kingdom 11, Tyler Bate vs Pete Dunne - NXT Takeover Chicago, John Cena vs AJ Styles - Royal Rumble, Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega - Dominion, Ricochet/AR Fox/Sami Callihan/Jason Cade/Dezmond Xavier vs Will Ospreay/Marty Scurll/Drew Galloway/Lio Rush/Ryan Smile - WrestleCon, Kazuchika Okada vs Katsuyori Shibata - Sakura Genesis, Ilja Dragunov vs WALTER - wXw 16 Carat Gold Tournament Final, Tetsuya Naito vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - Wrestle Kingdom 11, Timothy Thatcher vs Zack Sabre Jr - EVOLVE 79, Authors Of Pain vs DIY - NXT Takeover Chicago
There we have it. Five awards, looking back at the year that was to this point. All five winners will be difficult to top in the second half of the year, for various reasons. As I said earlier, I want to hear from all of you. I want to know who your choices for Tag Team, Feud, Event, Wrestler and Match Of The Half-Year are. Hit me up in the comments section below, on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), or by carrier pigeon and let me know what you think.