Hello, you landed once again on Planet Kayfabe making orbit around its home here in the NoDQ Galaxy. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. It is December 1. It is officially the Christmas season and I'm here to spread Yuletide cheer to all you good boys and girls who read Planet Kayfabe every week. This week I don't quite have the tale of the Three Faces of Foley visiting baby Vincent during his nativity with gifts of balloons, female entertainment and sock puppets.
Since it is December, you know what else that means... In this edition of P.K. I dig into the 18th annual NoDQ Year End Awards. I run down the categories. Give my selections and why. Keep in mind, I'm writing this before the final polls are even released, so for all I know some of my selections won't even be options when it comes voting time. This is just who I personally selected. Let's get started...
MALE SUPERSTAR OF THE YEAR: AJ Styles
I pretty much spoiled this in my Thanksgiving column, but in my opinion AJ Styles should repeat and win this award. I'm curious if he will because some people tend to vote for a new face rather than another repeat of last year, but AJ Styles has been WWE's MVP once again this year. He is the face behind multiple superstars' best matches. John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Shane McMahon and even Jinder Mahal. Their best matches this year were with this man -- AJ Styles. You could also argue that he squeezed the best match at WrestleMania out of Shane McMahon, too. To me the choice is clear.
FEMALE SUPERSTAR OF THE YEAR: Asuka
Asuka is a recent call-up to the main roster, but I am including her NXT tenure in this which I assume is fair game since NXT shows, matches and wrestlers have won past awards. Asuka held the NXT Women's Championship for 523 days, as it is recognized officially, and during her run there was never a better woman to hold the title. She'd probably still be holding it today if she never got injured, but since coming on the main roster the WWE has kept he strong despite really entering a big feud just yet.
TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR: The Usos
Jimmy and Jey as a heel team had somewhat of a breakout year despite being with the company since 2009 and making their television debut in 2010. They were a fun babyface team for a while, but the act, like anything else in wrestling, grew stale. In the fall of 2016 they turned heel for the first time since 2011. This year, for the sixth straight year, they were part of the pre-show at Wrestlemania. This year, I hope they actually get a spot on the main card. Their heel run saw a reinvented Usos team the capped off with a great program with The New Day. Now it appears they have turned face again. I would have liked for the team to get more than a year and change out of their heel run, but if they can take their reinvented personas and give it a good babyface spin maybe they'll be fine. We'll see. I'm personally glad they didn't turn and go back to the old pigeon holed Usos gimmick. They're much more relatable just being themselves and the change has rejuvenated their careers.
FINISHER OF THE YEAR: Styles Clash
Not much to say here. It is my favorite finisher in WWE today. Early on there was fan concern if WWE would even allow AJ to do this move. I'm glad he can. In my opinion it is the best finish in WWE today.
ANNOUNCER OF THE YEAR: Renee Young
I'm not sure if backstage announcers and pre/post-show hosts even qualify, but seriously... I mean come on. Which one of the group of assholes that we have to listen to every f***ing week deserves to win an award? The answer is none of them. They all suck and they're all terrible. Maybe Corey Graves isn't "terrible" but he's not as good as some people make him out to be in my opinion. He's just better than whatever couple idiots he happens to be sitting next to on a given show. Renee Young is a great host who is great in her role and actually has some shred of an individual personality unlike most of the commentators and backstage interviewers who are all homogenized cookie-cut WWE robots who say the same stupid shit every week. Renee is the clear choice for me here.
MATCH OF THE YEAR: AJ Styles vs John Cena for the WWE Championship (Royal Rumble)
There's that name again... These two always had great chemistry. John Cena tied what WWE recognizes as Ric Flair's record of being a 16 time world champion in this match. If I gave star ratings on my PPV wrap up, this would have gotten a 5/5 from me. The match went about 25 minutes. It's about as great a 25 minute match you're gonna see from two veterans of the ring who just mesh well together. It wasn't too short and it certainly wasn't too long. Since this match was so early in the year it may have flown over your radar a bit as a Match of the Year candidate, so I suggest going back and watching again.
PPV OF THE YEAR: Royal Rumble
The Royal Rumble is usually the PPV I look forward to the most. You could say it is my favorite of the classic PPV's but this isn't a bias choice. If anything I've been hard on recent Rumble's. This year the event bounced back with a couple great matches including the aforementioned classic above and the actual Rumble match was good as well. The only thing I take back from the actual match was that I almost forgot Randy Orton won it just because he's had such a lackluster 2017. He would challenge for Bray Wyatt's WWE Championship at WrestleMania in what was probably the worst match on the card and his year continued with a few more boring programs and bad matches (one of which I will get to soon). It's too bad. I didn't think I'd actually ever be sympathetic towards a guy like Orton who WWE has always overrated his star-power and always protected him because Vince always saw him as a big star but... he is a somebody. He may not be as huge as WWE tried portraying him as, but he deserves better than the shit he's been served in 2017. Granted he makes it obvious that he hates being a babyface. He always has. He usually only seems to give a shit when he's a heel and in the main event. I want to see this guy doing more than dancing with the likes of Rusev who like it or not has turned into a comedy character and also having to put over Jinder Mahal for the love of holy shit.
BREAKOUT SUPERSTAR OF THE YEAR: Braun Strowman
"I'm not finished with you!" With that one line during his program with Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman became a legitimate star in WWE. This guy should have won the Andrew The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, but instead Mojo Rawley won it because he is friends with New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski and WWE thought that they'd get some sweet pub on SportsCenter. Little do they know it's f***ing 2017 and no one f***ing gives a shit about ESPN or SportsCenter anymore so it doesn't even matter. Those puppet strung talking heads could mention this very column and I probably wouldn't notice and I probably wouldn't gain one extra follower on Twitter from it because ESPN is so irrelevant. But... WWE once again chose a potential pop culture blurb over good booking. Luckily Strowman survived and he's been one of the more popular wrestlers in WWE this past year despite this being the era where your big plodding monsters are met with "boring" chants and yawns. Braun Strowman is something WWE needs in this era, though. In a time where a lot of top wrestlers look like fitness instructors with long hair and beards, he looks like what a classic wrestling monster should look like -- a killer. His ability to stand out had caused him to break out and is my nomination for this award.
CATCHPHRASE OF THE YEAR: "I'm not finished with you!"
On April 10, Braun Strowman was the face of one of the biggest backstage beat downs in WWE history. The segment that saw him take it to Roman Reigns fresh off the massive heat he got for beating the Undertaker and bragging about "retiring" him made Braun an instant star. Is there an echo in here?
It was the beat down that wouldn't end. Just when you thought it was over and Roman was stretchered into the ambulance to be rushed to a hosp...er.. excuse me a "local medical facility" Braun came back shouting that line that caught on with the audience. Again... when you thought it was over he exited the ambulance and proceeded to lift it and flip it on its side. WWE did everything right here. Watching that beast flip over the ambulance with Roman inside made Braun come off as such a huge star and the timing was perfect. Fresh of Wrestlemania, despite WWE never officially turning Roman Reigns heel the fans wanted nothing more than to see the smug chosen one who sent The Undertaker home get destroyed and Braun was the perfect guy and all that perfect segment needed was a catchphrase to get make it even more memorable. The segment today has over 17 MILLION views on YouTube.
FACTION OF THE YEAR: The New Day
The act has grown stale a little, but they're still popular and their program with the Usos made their year. Plus, who else could I really give this to? The Shield reunion just started, especially if you want to count it when Roman Reigns returned from his illness to mark the first official Shield match which was just a couple weeks ago. Also, the reunion hasn't been that great just yet. It needs more time. It's been just... okay.
This November marked 3 years for The New Day and while the crowd still reacts and merchandise still sells I don't see an ending in sight. For a while people have speculated when this team is going to break up and in my opinion, if they know what's good for them they should just stay together forever. If they break up, what's going to happen? Xavier Woods would just be another guy on the lower part of the card. Kofi Kingston would just be your smiling babyface like he used to be floating around the US and IC title scene. Who knows what would happen with Big E. Probably similar to Kofi only on a different brand. I doubt after playing a goofy character for so long they would just break him off as a serious heel and expect it to get over.
Its a situation where the sum is greater than the parts. The New Day are in a good spot where they are on weekly television, get regular promo time and make a damn good living on merch alone, so I doubt any of them want the train to end and it looks like it's going to keep rolling for a while. They're my pic for Faction of the Year.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: Kurt Angle
Without question. Gone from the WWE since 2006 many wondered if we would ever actually see Kurt return to the WWE at this point. In 2017 he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and assigned the General Manager role of Monday Night Raw. This year also saw his return to the ring at the TLC pay-per-view. To me Kurt is the obvious choice, although the Hardyz comeback was also awesome, though it fizzled after a while and Jeff's injury put a halt on things. Who knows... maybe BROKEN Matt will win this award next year?
HEADLINE OF THE YEAR: Kurt Angle makes his in-ring return to WWE
2 days before the TLC event, the news broke: due to an illness, Roman Reigns would be unable to compete in the main event of TLC. His replacement? Raw General Manager Kurt Angle. Fans didn't even know if Kurt was even cleared to wrestle in the company to begin with. This news came as a shock and turned what would have been perhaps seen as a throw-away event into a must see for all fans.
THEME SONG OF THE YEAR: "Square Hammer" by Ghost from NXT TakeOver San Antonio
I didn't go with a wrestler's theme here so I'm not sure how much this has a shot at winning, but this is a great song by one of my favorite bands and I'm glad the group got some exposure by having their latest single be used for a TakeOver theme song. The song is from their 2016 EP "Popestar" which mostly consists of cover tunes, but this is one new original song that leads off the album. Hard hitting and catchy. Love it.
BABYFACE OF THE YEAR: Goldberg
I wrote a whole column about the serious issues this company has with booking strong, likable babyfaces that the fans can get behind. When Goldberg returned it was almost like he never left. He got to end his career on the right foot and was a true heroic babyface that oozed with charisma in an era sorely lacking that ability to just come off as a star with your look and personality alone. I got into this more in my Thanksgiving column if you want to check it out. Even though Bill's time didn't last long in 2017, but I can't really think of another stand-out babyface. I mean, I suppose I could give AJ Styles another award. He wouldn't be that bad of a choice and I honestly wouldn't be shocked if he wins this when the final results are revealed, nor would I complain. However, this is my choice.
HEEL OF THE YEAR: Kevin Owens
Kevin has played a good asshole this year. He had a memorable pairing with Chris Jericho last year where you got to see more of a somewhat comedic side of K.O. while remaining a bad-guy. On February 13 the "Festival of Friendship" marked the end of their pairing in a memorable segment to where the already heel Kevin Owens turned serious heel on his former best friend Chris Jericho.
Mid-year Owens was traded to SmackDown where he entered a feud with SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon. Perhaps the most memorable segment of the feud didn't even involve Shane, when Vince McMahon made his return on a September 12 episode of SmackDown Live where Vince was assaulted by Owens. A beat down that began with a stiff headbutt that resulted in the 72 year old Vince heavily bleeding.
It's been a pretty good year for Owens. He's pretty much always remained in a featured feud at any point throughout the year. He hasn't been world champion since Goldberg defeated him for the Universal Championship in February, but he hasn't exactly fallen from that spot in the time being. If anything he's primed for another world title run in the near future. In this era, it's not the most important thing, though. Look at his feud with Shane. It was the biggest thing on the show and their match at the Hell in a Cell PPV was the 40 minute main event while Jinder Mahal's world title defense vs Nakamura was a 12 minute glorified TV match in the middle of the card somewhere.
FEUD OF THE YEAR: Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg
Maybe the '24' special is some influence, but this is my pick for feud of the year. I really enjoyed the Goldberg comeback after initially I admit my hopes weren't that high. I underestimated how much the fans really cared for him to comeback and I also underestimated how great a minute long Goldberg match really could be. His match with Lesnar at Wrestlemania was about as great a 5 minute match you could ask for. If it were any longer it would have been too long. What we saw was two massive super powers colliding into a quick entertaining match featuring two big guys displaying their power. I loved it. I mean, if you saw this on paper and were expecting Flair vs. Steamboat, I'm not sure what to tell you.
WORST SUPERSTAR OF THE YEAR: Jinder Mahal
Look, I can't say I didn't give him a chance but with Jinder as world champion my feelings and the feelings of many who enjoyed Smackdown in 2016 greatly changed in 2017 to the point where they'd probably say Raw was the superior show this year and I'd agree. The thing is, Jinder was nothing more than a piece of market pandering and a poor one at that. WWE wanted to expand their base in India and it seemed like the decision was made overnight and BAM! Jinder was WWE Champion.
Some compare this run to JBL becoming a world champion well over a decade ago and I think that's a poor comparison. JBL as Bradshaw and other incarnations was never a joke jobber like Jinder was for his entire WWE career. JBL was just a midcarder who was never portrayed as a serious main eventer before the days of there being two world titles and the main event level of the roster in the late 90's and very early 2000's was very deep. Jinder Mahal was getting beer thrown in his face by Rob Gronkowski one week and was made #1 contender for the WWE Championship the next... litterally.
His run gave us months of boring matches and bad promos. He never really grew into the role and fans never took his seriously as a world champion. He worked with some very good workers like Randy Orton and Nakamura and had terrible matches with them. It took AJ Styles to somehow squeeze a decent match out of the guy.
Every week it seems I have to hear wrestlers put over Jinder in interviews to the point where I'm starting to think Jinder knows where dead bodies are buries or he has dirt on every last member of the roster. While I don't expect anyone to bury him, please... spare me all this nonsense about how he turned his career around and how inspiring it is. The business is a WORK. He was booked to become a world champion. He didn't go from a shoot loser to a shoot champion. He held that belt simply because WWE tried to pop India with a Canadian of Indian decent.
The funny thing is, the rags to riches story of Jinder isn't that bad, but ya know what would have made it work? A little bit of a build. Like, maybe have him win the Andre Battle Royal and try to turn him babyface rather than going the cliche foreign heel route. Why a babyface? Because the story of starting from the bottom and climbing to the top on a slow build is a good babyface story and Indian fans typically cheer the top babyfaces. They aren't like Canadian fans who were still going to cheer Bret Hart when he turned heel.
So, sorry Jinder. From what I hear you're a nice guy. You're a cool dude in real life. Great. That's wonderful. Let's catch dinner some time. However as a fan, this world title run has been brutal to watch.
WORST MATCH OF THE YEAR: Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton (Punjabi Prison Match for the WWE Championship)
After the Punjabi Prison matches WWE has had, I can't think of a worse concept in WWE history, but they went back to this well of boiled excrement with the rise of Jinder Mahal. How fitting. This match was a boring half hour that I hope we never have to sit through again. Minus 2 stars if I had to give it a rating. The crowd wasn't into it and you could barely see a thing because of this ridiculous contraption they have surrounding the ring. What were they thinking? The Great Khali showed up for the first since since 2014 and no one cared. I don't even remember how long his return lasted. Was he even on another show after this? If he was it shows how poorly effective it was if even I can't remember and if he wasn't why was he brought back just to get involved with this bullshit? f*** this match.
WORST PPV OF THE YEAR: Battleground
WORST STORYLINE OF THE YEAR: Jason Jordan revealed to be Kurt Angle's illegitimate son
Angles like this simply don't work in 2017 and I'm not sure if it even would have worked in the pre-internet age. So hokey and lame. The crowd never bought in despite Kurt doing his damnedest to sell the angle. I'll give him that. Jason Jordan is a fine wrestler, but this story has put him in a bad position and has only exposed his weaknesses as an inferior talker and bad actor.
I often hear Steve Austin use the phrase "handed an anvil". That's what this is. I heard some people say "just be happy that a new young star is getting a push". Why should I be happy when I know from the start that the push is going to fail? If they want to push him -- great! Do they have to push him behind such a horrible storyline? The guy doesn't stand a chance. As I write this it appears he's in the middle of a heel turn and we'll see if that turns his fortunes around. They still have to work a lot of pro-wrestling trickery to do and logic holes to rip open to explain aborting this angle. That's what I hate about stories like this. You can't just drop it if it doesn't get over. Once you make someone someone's stage family you can't just quietly move on from the storyline and expect fans to not notice.
MOST OVER-UTILIZED SUPERSTAR OF THE YEAR: Jinder Mahal
At the risk of coming off as piling on, the reasons for this are simply the same I listed above for "Worst Superstar of the Year". A large part of the reason he earned that nomination from myself is due to WWE hot-shotting Jinder to world champion status and shoving him down the fans' throats for the better part of this year. His run saw a decline in Smackdown ratings and attendance and overall interest in the show and no real measurable growth if any in India to boot so, this push was hardly a success at all.
MOST UNDERUTILIZED SUPERSTAR OF THE YEAR: Luke Harper
This seems to be the popular choice. From Mick Foley, to Daniel Bryan to Edge they've all said that Luke Harper is the most underutilized talent in WWE today. I agree. He's a big guy with a unique look that can also move well in the ring and is a decent promo when given the opportunity. As a singles competitor it seemed Harper had some traction with the fans, but WWE never really pulled the trigger on him in any sort of serious way. He will be 38 years old in a few weeks this December, so I'm not sure if he will ever really get a serious push at this point.
However he recently reunited with Rowan to form The Bludgeon Brothers. It's too soon to see what becomes of this team, but it's hardly fresh. We've seen these guys as a tag team and we've seen them together with Bray Wyatt in The Wyatt Family. The only thing that's really new is their music and officially dropping their first names. If it becomes a big deal good for him and good for them. Hopefully it all works out in the end because there was a window in WWE this year where they could have pulled the trigger on a serious Luke Harper singles run and we never really got it.
There you have it. My nominations for the 2017 NoDQ Year End Awards. Thank you once again for joining me. Who were your nominations? Do you agree with mine? Leave a comment below or tweet me @PlanetKayfabe
Thanks again for reading everyone. I appreciate you taking the time to sit back and read these columns. You can be certain that when you see one of these posted that you're going to get 100% of my opinions and not some quick half-ass blurb just to get something out there. So, your comments are greatly appreciated whether you enjoy it or have a critical comment to help improve future pieces. I read all your thoughts and reply to as many as I can.
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That's all for now. I'm Paul Matthews for NoDQ.com See you next time!