The EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING is upon you here on Christmas Day! Merry Christmas to my long-time readers, many readers whom I've gained along the way, and many newer readers that I've gained since joining NoDQ.com during August 2020. I'm very grateful for my readers and with that, I always try to provide columns to post on Holidays. My theory is that after everyone eats a Thanksgiving meal or opens presents at Christmas, there is a ton of downtime to potentially hop on a computer and check things out... With everyone having Smartphones now, that is very likely. Thus, you'll log into NoDQ and say "hey, there is a NEW Tito column posted" in an unexpected tone.
And usually for the Christmas themed columns, I'll have some sort of special theme to incorporate with Pro Wrestling based on Christmas. Of course, last year, we did my Annual Predictions Column on Christmas instead and we'll debut said Predictions column on December 31st when that time arrives. For any of my newer readers, I usually make 15 bold predictions on the pro wrestling business for the future year but I also review my previous year's predictions.
I wrote this column initially on Saturday morning, 12/19/2020, and my intention of the column was do present a WISH LIST for Pro Wrestling. Many of you make Christmas lists or receive Christmas lists for presents to obtain on Christmas Day. In my head, this column would have represented a "Christmas Wish List" for things that I'd want Santa Claus or some higher power to deliver to FIX various parts of the wrestling industry.
And then I tuned into NoDQ.com on Monday and saw Damn Fine Wrestling's 2021 WWE Wishlist column posted and I immediately smacked my head. DFW beat me to the punch and great minds think alike... Rather than just post another Wish List on NoDQ.com, I'm going to insert my 2020 Wrestling Awards in there as well...
Thus, you'll be receiving my Annual Tito Awards + My 2021 Wish List for today's column...
Ho ho ho....
The 2021 Mr. Tito Awards for Pro Wrestling
I want to emphasize HEAVILY that these are MY AWARDS and are not affiliated with the NoDQ's Annual Awards which you, the readers, have a say in. The Tito Awards are like a dictatorship... It's my call and my choices alone. Remember, you cannot spell "dictatorship" without the word "Tito". Hence why these are called the "Tito Awards".
NOW - This year was the hardest award show to construct. 2020 was difficult not only because of COVID-19, but because the in-ring products were kind of weak. You could blame the lack of crowds but we did have crowds from January through mid-March and the energy for WWE, AEW, and NXT events still wasn't there. People forget how bad both WWE and AEW were through late 2019 and that carried onward into 2020. Viewership and attendance dropped for BOTH promotions during late 2019...
And it's not like we didn't have QUANTITIES of wrestling... RAW, Smackdown, AEW, and NXT mostly had their regular television shows and their Pay Per Views. There was a lot to choose from but nothing really significant. It is the lack of QUALITY that caused the 2020 viewership declines, NOT COVID-19. WWE and AEW had a monopoly on sports viewership from mid-March through July as other sports leagues quarantined. On top of that, curfews and shutdowns forced most Americans to stay inside and were thus available to watch RAW, Smackdown, NXT, or AEW Dynamite... The FACT that they didn't shows you that they didn't want to watch this crap.
What I'm saying is that 2020 was a difficult year to select, through no fault of my own. The QUALITY as NOT there despite the promotions mostly dishing out its usual quantity. This is why having good Creative and Talent Development teams are important.
Onto the awards.
TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR - Young Bucks You gotta give it to them... For the most part, they brought high energy to all of their matches and they were usually like trainwrecks where you couldn't stop watching. I'm also awarding them this honor because Tag Team wrestling was mostly terrible for 2020 and they were involved with the best tag matches of this year.
BEST PROMOTION - WWE I'm giving it to the WWE specifically for one reason and one reason only... Wrestlemania 36. The media was on the attack during the early days of COVID-19 and were badmouthing Vince McMahon in attempts to guilt him into cancelling Wrestlemania 36. However, the only thing Vince did was cancel the live event in Tampa Bay. What he gave us instead was a 2 night show at the Performance Center that worked... It gave you 2 solid nights of entertainment at a time when most sports leagues were closed up and we came out of that highly appreciative of what the WWE did. AFTER THAT, it proved that Pro Wrestling could still limp along during 2020 within a bubble and no crowds. That call to still have Wrestlemania 36 and entertain the fans when we needed it the most earns them this award. AEW was way too chaotic for 2020 and I just look at Miro, Brodie Lee, FTR, and Matt Hardy struggling to matter as evidence to me that this promotion needs more maturity of its management.
MATCH OF THE YEAR - AJ Styles vs. the Undertaker - Wrestlemania 36 I'm well aware that this was more like cinema than a wrestling match. And I don't care. This was the Undertaker's LAST match and it was executed perfectly within the expectations of his character and AJ Styles was the perfect bump man. It was a great revenge match, as AJ Styles was one of the few characters to even mention Taker's personal life in his promos. Within the Boneyard, these two went at it and were physically laying into each other. Undertaker punched through a freakin' window! This match was more entertaining than anyone else's match, hence it receives my award.
FEMALE WRESTLER OF THE YEAR - Sasha Banks The Boss is back! Sasha had a rebound year after some apparent drama last year following Wrestlemania 35 where she disappeared for a while. She returned as a heel and it put her character on the right tracks again. Her partnership with Bayley was fun and helped mold Bayley into a capable heel. Just solid work all year from Sasha inside the ring and better yet for her, that smile is back on being a pro wrestler. She's having fun again... And lucky for her, the Mandalorian Season 2 was a huge hit and she has some leverage to now be consistently pushed as a top name instead of losing to Iconics in a tag match just over a year ago.
MALE WRESTLER OF THE YEAR - AJ Styles From his Boneyard match with the Undertaker to that classic Smackdown match with Daniel Bryan... All AJ Styles continues to do is be consistently good inside the ring. I thought about Drew McIntyre or Randy Orton for this award, but both guys bored me in top spots throughout the year. Styles never bored me and even in his later age, he's still one of the best in-ring workers we have ever seen. I would have liked for him to stay on 1 brand to deepen his roots within a show, but again, you can move this guy around and he'll be great everywhere.
MR. TITO's PHAT Christmas Wishlist for Pro Wrestling
I wish that both WWE and AEW would STOP blaming the COVID-19 Pandemic for Lower Numbers When the quarantines began, it forced everyone to stay inside and actual nightly curfews were imposed along with bars & clubs being forced to close. Therefore, more than ever, fans were stuck at home to participate in watching the 85 million Cable/Satellite subscriptions that they bought to watch USA Network or TNT. Furthermore, the Sports Leagues were mostly shut through July. Meaning that from mid-March through July, WWE and AEW had the marketplace all to themselves. They blew it. BAD QUALITY booking is the blame for RAW, Dynamite, NXT, and Smackdown all seeing viewership declines during 2020. Great wrestlers can make something out of nothing and don't need fans in attendance to get a promo or a great match in front of no fans.
I wish that fans would stop this "Chris Benoit to the WWE Hall of Fame" nonsense. Chris Benoit killed his wife and his own flesh & blood, for God's sake. I understand that Chris's career before he killed his family was amazing. Look, I wrote about the guy for over 8 years before his passing. I KNOW. But what he did was horrible and that negates him ever appearing in WWE's Hall of Fame. Should the WWE own up to piling on some brain damage for Chris and forcing him to work through injury... Sure, but I don't think that they wanted him to kill his family. If you are so hung up on the WWE Hall of Fame thing, then start following the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame who actually has Benoit in their Hall and the Observer readers upheld that nomination. You'll just have to put up with things like Kenny Omega getting elected early... Have fun!
I wish fans would lay off Chris Jericho. I meant it on my 12/8/2020 Column entitled "Why Do Fans Hate Chris Jericho Now?". People are calling him "fat" and "old" without realizing that being a Pro Wrestler in your late 40s and now 50 is difficult. The FACT is that Chris Jericho, up and until dropping his AEW Title to Jon Moxley during early 2020, was GREAT. The guy proved that he had a few drops left and him being the 1st ever AEW Heavyweight Champion legitimized not just that title, but AEW as a promotion. Since losing the Moxley, Jericho has done the "time honored tradition" of putting other talent over. Do we like Orange Cassidy? Who knows? But that's who Tony Khan wants put over, so please stop blaming Jericho. The weight criticism is stupid... You try doing sit-ups after bumping in that ring for 30 years. Jericho looks fine... Many of you need to look into a mirror yourselves while Jericho looks back on the past 30 years of amazing accomplishments.
I wish that AEW would use Jim Ross more backstage. In my opinion, Tony Khan and the EVPs need to read Jim Ross's first book, Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling and just read about what Ross did for Midsouth, WCW, and especially for WWE. He was the glue that was organizationally holding things together and as far as talent evaluations are concerned, nobody was better. The petty Vince McMahon and the WWE Corporation have disregarded that talent and they've SUCKED ever since they demoted him. Look at the WWE now... They are STILL riding on the Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton fumes and they would take back John Cena and Batista if they were interested. That's a fact. If I were AEW, I'd seriously consider having Ross build them a mini-farm system somewhere to gift them with well scouted and then trained superstars for the future.
I wish that both AEW and WWE would make better investments into making more unique ring music. Releasing Jim Johnston and not finding a good replacement for his talents has eroded the WWE's presentation. Listen to Dolph Ziggler or Miz's theme music... You tell me if you'd listen to that on your iPhone while driving down the road. I wouldn't... I'm blasting Razor Ramon, Degeneration X, Chris Jericho, and many other themes on my music devices often. Steve Austin is one of the greatest draws of all time but when you hear that glass shatter, it's ON! The music doesn't have to have singing... It just has to fit with the wrestler's character and attitude. Randy Orton's music is SO TERRIBLE! At least if you're going to get someone signing, find someone legitimate like Motorhead (I know that Lemmy is no long with us, just using him as an example).
I wish that pro wrestling would realize that Women's wrestling is closer to the WNBA than it is NBA. I don't care how hard both WWE and AEW tries... They'll never get beyond more than 30% of their fanbase being female fans. And that is probably stretching it, as most female fans in attendance are Moms bringing their kids to shows, girlfriends being dragged to shows, or daughters of Dads who are big wresting fans. In the past, there were larger female audiences but that was during the 1980s when wrestlers were just like Hair Band members and pushed their sex appeal to party after the show. That's not happening now, as 70% of your audience is now male... There's a reason why Sable drew more numbers than ANY female performer today. Within all of the promotions, there are only a few who can consistently put on great Women's matches (basically, the 4 Horsewomen + Asuka). Other than that, we've had to endure many subpar matches. If watching women perform athletically at a high level was a draw, then the WNBA would have bigger numbers. It doesn't, and that also signals why other female sports leagues don't exist. I say this as a supporter of the talents of the 4 Horsewomen + Asuka, but the rest of the division is thin and AEW's Women's Division is a total dumpster fire.
I wish that Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez would join AEW's Creative Team already. Seriously you two, stop trying to fool all of us... You have a vested interest in seeing AEW succeed. Not just for your Wrestling Observer newsletters' sake, as more successful promotions equals more subscribers... No, you have personal friendships with any talents who participate in New Japan or California Indy promotions. On top of that, your former financial writer, Chris Harrington, works for AEW as their VP of Business Strategy. I want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with rooting for friends. However, there is when it impairs your judgment on how you cover AEW versus WWE as a legitimate news publication. How is it that you leak every detail out for the WWE and barely reveal any backstage happenings of AEW? It's just not consistent... So with that, join the AEW Creative Team already. For 2021, I want to see how successful both of you really are at pushing the type of wrestling that you like to see within AEW. You gave Kenny Omega 6-7 stars during his tenure in New Japan but nothing so far with AEW. Your New Japan-like booking could help him, right? It could help many others... I want to see both of you place your New Japan LOVING money where your mouths are and present that type of booking for AEW. Take off the masks and let's do it! Think about how big those 18-49 Demos could be with your help!
I wish that people would give credit to Vince McMahon rather than blaming him. Yes, I'm well aware that he is President/CEO and Board Chairman. The "buck stops here". But with that, have you seen the WWE's financials lately? RECORD profits. And how about those big TV deals that he scored last year? $2 Billion+ combined from the FOX and USA Network deals. That's insane. On top of that, the WWE Network is great... So your complaints about the WWE are what again? That it is claimed that Vince McMahon is shredding up scripts backstage from Creative just hours before shows? Has anybody ever thought that Vince McMahon has spread himself too thin because he has to? Vince made a major mistake, as I elaborated in my 12/1/2020 Column on placing Talent Developmental responsibilities onto Triple H and he's stuck with him because HHH is family. However, more needs to be expected from Triple H who clearly has the work ethic for that job but not the creativity. He just isn't being given strong talent from the NXT system as OVW and FCW gave him in the past under Ross and Laurinaitis. With that Talent impairment in place, Vince is making the most of it. His 70+ year old arse wouldn't be over-extending himself if he didn't have to.
I wish that TAG TEAM wrestling would be taken seriously again. And this isn't just a WWE criticism... Yes, Vince dislikes Tag Team wrestling but he's always thinking in a financial light because within a Tag match, he has more money inside that ring to pay wrestlers than singles competition. And then when 1 Tag Team member gets hurt, he has not only lost a Tag Team attraction but stuck with 1/2 of the members and figuring out how to use them. THAT SAID, he doesn't know his own history... Wrestling promotions are strong when the midcard's Tag Division is strong. It keeps fans hanging onto shows but Tag Divisions also help form a built-in farm system for the WWE. Where did Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels come from again? With AEW, they just have no respect for the traditions and logical rules of Tag Team wrestling. Referees are idiots in their tag matches and wrestlers don't respect the simple logic of who the "legal man" is during matches. FTR went from being fundamentally sound as a functioning tag team to having to work with AEW's nonsense nightly.
I wish that WWE would consider hiring highly knowledgeable Wrestling Fans to join their Creative Teams. No, I'm not pimping myself out this time around... I'm good here in my role as online writer and wrestling critic. I have 2 names to give you, one of which is a sincere nomination and is not brown-nosing. In my opinion, just based on seeing their managerial skills, their communication abilities, knowledge of wrestling past and present, and their motivations... I believe that the WWE should seriously consider looking at NoDQ's Aaron Rift and Fightful's Sean Ross Sapp as members of the WWE Creative Team, if not Lead Writers. I'm very serious when I say that... Watch their post-show Video Podcasts each night after every wrestling shows. Both guys have a positive attitude, they are both articulating great points, and you can tell that both LOVE the business. It would be honors for both Aaron and Sean to take on such a job and they have good wrestling minds to handle it. Based on both of them handling successful websites, it shows that they have the managerial and organizational skills as well.
Say what you will, but Online Writers, Podcasters, and Video Content Producers could be a hotbed of Creative Team recruitment if the WWE wanted it to be. REMEMBER, Vince Russo was a WWE Magazine writer before the WWE pulled him into their promotion. Before that, guys like Jim Cornette and Paul Heyman were ringside photographers before they were wisely recruited to become managers. Just saying, ANYONE who puts HOURS upon HOURS of their own free time to cover wrestling already has that built-in work ethic that the WWE wants... But spending that many hours proves the love and dedication to the wrestling business, too.
I wish that the 18-49 Demographic would stop being mentioned, ever again. Seriously, AEW... You are bragging about a recent 0.45 demo that scored you just over 500,000 fans of your total 995,000 viewing for a recent AEW Dynamite. Is it really that good? And most of your numbers are drumming up the 18-35 chunk of that demo and they are the ones abandoning Cable/Satellite more quickly than any other demographic. If you have a plan on how to hook those type of fans, then I'll praise you. The reason why many Cable/Satellite channels are losing money is due to the LOSS of that demographic no longer caring to be price gouged by Cable/Satellite companies. I was 35 years old when I cut the cord with Cable more than 5 years ago, as Comcast seriously jacked up my Triple Play (phones, internet, Cable) up by $50 per month and that wasn't just due to a special deal expiring. I got rid of the phones and cable completely and it has never felt better. There are many like me, but for the youngest part of that demo, they NEVER subscribe to Cable/Satellite. On your best day, your 0.45 scored you just over 500,000 fans... So? You still can't consistently get over 1 million viewers to even matter.
I wish that both WWE and AEW would listen to Jim Cornette more often and legitimize his nuts & bolts opinions on in-ring and presentation for wrestling events. If you can stop being a snowflake for once and just listen to Jim Cornette break down matches, presentation, and simple logic of a wrestling show... You'd learn something. Jim Cornette has been around Mid South, World Class, NWA/WCW, WWE, TNA, and Ring of Honor... But on top of that, he did decent with shoestring budgets for Smokey Mountain Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling while trying to market in areas that were someone economically deprived. He joined Ring of Honor when it was declining and helped them to score the Sinclair deal to keep Ring of Honor alive. Yes, Jim takes things over the top and probably has legitimate Anger Management issues (he has sought counseling for that). But when it comes to breaking down a wrestling match or storyline, the man is still top notch. Both WWE and AEW should have their top management listening to his podcast when he breaks down wrestling events. AGAIN, get over Cornette making fun of your wrestlers and just listen to how he breaks down matches. He knows his stuff and he's giving you advice FOR FREE on his podcast. Normally, what he's saying should cost you something in consulting fees.
I wish that WWE had a program to enlist veterans to become more involved with their product. Could someone please tell me what Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson did before becoming members of the WWE management team? Oh yeah, that's right, they were wrestlers... Right now, the WWE only has 2 former wrestlers on their Creative and/or management staff and that is Triple H and Michael PS Hayes. They never replaced Patterson or Brisco in their key roles and in my opinion, that has hurt the WWE throughout the years. For the last 15 years, the WWE has seen Mick Foley, Edge, Christian, Kurt Angle, and just recently, the Undertaker retire... But why haven't they joined some kind of program where they could develop into legitimate Creative Team members? Edge & Christian continually got themselves over despite looking exactly the same throughout the years. Both guys are smart and know how to work... Mick Foley was a former creative worker. Kurt Angle is one of the best promo guys to ever walk the planet. Why isn't that being tapped into??? Undertaker has an amazing mind for the business and is totally respected. Why isn't he being added to the Creative Team? WWE is losing generations of top veterans who could still contribute backstage and keep the business going. Instead, they are relying on non-wrestling Hollywood talent to provide ideas and that causes Vince McMahon to need to step in more than he should.
Have a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a GREAT HOLIDAY season. I love and appreciate all of my readers. THANK YOU for reading my columns.
So just chill... Until the next episode!
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