- Part 1: Auxiliary Awards
- Part 2: Best Gimmick, Von Erich Award, Rich Flair Award, Next Big Thing, Comeback of the Year, Most Improved, Sid Eudy Award, Most Underutilized, Most Underrated, Most Overrated, F.O.A.D. Award, "Enough Already" Award
2nd Annual Marshall Pro Wrestling Awards
Prince Nana (ROH)
* Even though Armando has the catch phrase, Nana knows how to work a crowd like no other. He's got a good balance of being entertaining while knowing exactly what to do to prevent the crowd from cheering his antics, something that most heels with that good of a schtick are completely unable to do. He unfortunately left Ring of Honor in the Summer of 2006 for undisclosed reasons (which I'd still like to know), and it hasn't been the same without him. Sure, it forced ROH to repackage Rave and gave them the motivation to give him the heel push he deserves, but it's still going to be weird watching Rave and not seeing Nana yelling out his name and jawing with the fans at ringside.
Readers' Choice: Armando Alejandro Estrada. He's quite charismatic and has a good personality. Too bad WWE doesn't book him enough like a traditional heel manager.
Honorable Mention: Lita (WWE RAW), James Mitchell (TNA). Lita was excellent in her role and did some of the best mic work of her career as Edge's token whore. Mitchell continues to put on an incredible show on the mic, unfortunately he's stuck managing the poor man's Kane, so nobody really takes too much notice.
Given to the best booked feud in 2006.
CZW vs. ROH (ROH)
* Those of you reading this who followed it on the Ring of Honor DVDs will probably agree with me wholeheartedly on this choice. The feud was booked perfectly and made ROH fans give a crap about CZW, which I thought would be impossible. It benefitted both promotions in that it gave ROH a hot high-profile angle that carried them through the first half of 2006, and gave CZW a little more attention and recognition. Whether or not they deserve it is another story. The first appearances, the "unscheduled" brawls, the run-ins, the satisfactory conclusion with the Cage of Death match at "Death Before Dishonor IV," and the incredible epilogue of a bloody but sensibly worked barb wire match between B.J. Whitmer and Necro Butcher made this the perfect feud. It also reminded us all, once again, of how simple it is to book an "invasion" storyline and how horribly WWE dropped the ball with their own "WCW/ECW" invasion in 2001.
Readers' Choice: TIE - Edge vs. John Cena (WWE RAW); ROH vs. CZW (ROH/CZW); Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James (WWE RAW). As noted previously, Edge's performance saved Cena's main event spot and made him an even bigger star than he already was. Stratus and James, a feud in a women's division that fans were largely apathetic about, was quite possibly the best women's feud in WWE ever.
Honorable Mention: - Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels (TNA), Homicide vs. Colt Cabana (ROH). Joe/Styles/Daniels was very easy to do considering their past run-ins in Ring of Honor...which was tied into the feud, however never mentioned directly by name for whatever reason. Homicide and Cabana's feud ended early in 2006 (having carried over from the Fall of '05) and was tremendously booked while providing fantastic matches.
PROMOTION OF THE YEAR
Ring of Honor
* 2005 was probably a better year in terms of overall show quality for Ring of Honor, however the momentum they carried over to the first half of 2006 (complete with the must-own "Milestone Series" DVDs) made it an intriguing promotion to follow. Booker Gabe Sapolsky knows how to book a feud and build to a match, which shouldn't really have to be a tremendous compliment, but with the people WWE and TNA hire to do their Creative, it's unfortunately the highest compliment one can receive. Even at their worst, the overall quality of wrestling blew away TNA, and its smart but sensible presentation of angles and storylines (keeping it mostly in the ring) made it a joy to watch...unlike WWE, which was very frustrating this year.
Readers' Choice: TIE - Ring of Honor; Total Nonstop Action.
Honorable Mention: Pro Wrestling NOAH, CMLL. Despite what people may try to tell you, NOAH's more or less become the number one promotion in Japan, capturing the most mainstream attention of any organization in Japan. Considering the history of New Japan and All-Japan in that country, it's pretty amazing - considering the past few years of New Japan and All-Japan, not so much. CMLL had a banner year, drawing record crowds by putting Mistico in the main event, who is probably the best single draw of the past ten years.
Given to the best high-flyer.
Jack Evans (ROH)
* No other wrestler in the United States does what Jack Evans does, and his high-flying is impressive even when it's put up against lucha (which I never really took to anyway) and the Japanese flyers in the Dragon Gate promotion. The kid's crazy as shit, and he can provide insane and memorable moments in the context of a match while not just making it a total spotfest, which is nearly impossible to do.
Readers' Choice: TIE - Jack Evans (ROH) & AJ Styles (TNA). AJ still continues to be one of those guys that's so good, people get used to it and seemingly forget how good he is. Hopefully his heel turn in 2007 makes things a little more interesting.
Honorable Mention: Rey Mysterio (WWE Smackdown), Mistico (CMLL). Rey continues to be the only guy his size who can wrestle a larger man and make a win look believable to the fans, even if his title reign was HORRIBLY booked (didn't he go something like two months as champion without winning a match?). As mentioned before, Mistico has captured the attention of fans in Mexico like no other wrestler in recent memory, and comparisons to Mysterio (even though Mysterio never drew the crowds Mistico drew in Mexico in 2006) are inevitable.
Given to the best "technical wrestler".
"American Dragon" Bryan Danielson (ROH)
* Any other year, the default choice is either Chris Benoit or Kurt Angle. Unfortunately, Benoit was out much of the year nursing injuries and taking some well-deserved time off, while Angle for much of the year was too busy being insane and denying his drug problems to put on great match after great match. That being said, even if Benoit and Angle had worked a full schedule, Danielson still would've won it this year. His uber-heel Bob Backlund schtick was ridiculously entertaining and provided some of the best matches for 2006 (and arguably THE best matches). His reign as ROH Champion might have even topped Samoa Joe's run in 2004, which is saying quite a bit. Dave Meltzer has referred to him as a "pro wrestling artist," and while that phrase might look ridiculous, it's hard to argue against it.
Readers' Choice: TIE - "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson (ROH) & Chris Benoit (WWE Smackdown).
Honorable Mention: Nigel McGuinness (ROH), Kurt Angle (TNA). McGuinness made the British style work in the context of North American wrestling, and is everything that people always wanted Doug Williams to be but wasn't. Angle needs to retire so badly that I was tempted not to even moninate him out of principle.
Samoa Joe (TNA)
* This was one of the tougher calls, as Finlay had a tremendous year with his brawling style. However, Joe is able to give every match he has that big fight feel, which puts him over the top. He's also a slightly better worker than Finlay by a hair, and is a little more creative in his brawling.
Readers' Choice: Fit Finlay by a landslide. I can't really take issue with that choice.
Honorable Mention: Necro Butcher (ROH/CZW/IWA-MS), Homicide (ROH/TNA). It's a mistake to write off Butcher as a crap hardcore pro wrestler, and a lot of indy promotions in the United States seemed to have realized that. While there's a difference between good brawling and garbage wrestling, Butcher's able to both quite well. Homicide is one of the better overall workers in the US, and shows that when he's booked into a straight-up brawl he's still able to carry his weight and then some.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Given to the wrestler who was most valuable to his promotion in 2006.
Edge (WWE RAW)
* For some, this award was a tough call. For myself, there's no doubt in my mind that Edge is the guy most valuable to his company. His run in 2006 not only established him as the industry's best heel since Ric Flair (and yes, I'm including HHH and The Rock in that statement) but also saved the company's top star from being booed out of arenas across the United States. No other worker this year came even close to single-handedly doing as much for his promotion as Edge did, even if other guys had slightly better matches. Samoa Joe provided great moments, matches and feuds - but without him, TNA would still by and large be TNA. The same could be said for Homicide and Bryan Danielson in Ring of Honor, who have guys in their promotion who could quickly and easily take the respective spots they occupy. Edge, on the other hand, is irreplaceable. Without Edge, WWE would have had to completely nix the push of the guy they've thrown everything behind for the past two years (Cena), and wouldn't have had anyone in line to take his place. That, for me, is the difference maker.
Readers' Choice: TIE - Homicide (ROH); Samoa Joe (TNA). It was very close between these two and Edge.
Honorable Mention: "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson (ROH).
Blood Generation [Masato Yoshino, Naruki Doi, & CIMA] vs. Do Fixer [Genki Horiguchi, Ryo Saito, & Dragon Kid] (ROH Supercard of Honor 4/1)
* I've read a lot of people dog this past year for not providing quality matches, though I think those individuals just weren't looking hard enough. That's not to say they need to go all out and spend money on DVDs, but even WWE had some spectacular matches on their lower-end pay-per-views that went largely unnoticed due to bad booking and, subsequently, poor buyrates. For me, 2006 had far more memorable matches than 2005, and deciding the winner of this award was a tough call to make. What it came down to, however, is that the Blood Generation vs. Do Fixer six-man tag match was indescribable, and one of those matches I could show to ANYBODY and have them go "wow." It instantly made all six men involved recognizable stars among hardcore American fans, even though due to their commitments to their primary promotion (Dragon Gate) they didn't become regulars in the States. If you haven't done so already, you owe it to yourself to see this match.
Readers' Choice: TIE - Blood Generation vs. Do Fixer; Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels - X-Division Title match (TNA "Against All Odds" 2/12). Though not as good as the other three-way they had in 2005, this match was still incredible to watch given how well their program was booked.
Honorable Mention - Low Ki vs. Necro Butcher (IWA-MS 4/1), Chris Benoit vs. Fit Finlay (WWE "Judgment Day" 5/21), Roderick Strong vs. Nigel McGuinness (ROH "Death Before Dishonor" 7/15), Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness (ROH "Unified" 8/12), Naomichi Marufuji (c) vs. KENTA for the GHC Heavyweight Title (Pro Wrestling NOAH 10/29/06), Edge vs. John Cena TLC Match (WWE "Unforgiven" 9/17), Bryan Danielson vs. KENTA (ROH "Glory By Honor V Night 2" 9/16/06), Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle (TNA "Turning Point" 12/10/06), Paul London & Brian Kendrick vs. Dave Taylor & William Regal vs. MNM (Joey Mercury & Johnny Nitro) vs. Matt & Jeff Hardy - Ladder Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship (WWE "Armageddon" 12/17/06)
TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR
LAX (Homicide & Hotstuff Hernandez; TNA)
* I covered much of this in Part 2, when the team was awarded "Best Gimmick." They have the personality and booking to draw better than those involved in feuds for the Heavyewight Title, and put on great matches to boot. If TNA was doing better as a promotion, you'd see a lot more comparisons to the Midnight Express and The Freebirds, and in my opinion both would be fair comparisons to make.
Readers' Choice: TIE - Jay & Mark Briscoe (ROH); Paul London & Brian Kendrick (WWE Smackdown). The Briscoes made their return in 2006 and were even better than they were before Mark had his debilitating motorcycle accident in 2004. Which is saying quite a bit, because even back then they were freaking great. London and Kendrick suffer from being in a company that just doesn't care about tag team wrestling anymore, but that didn't stop them from busting their asses and putting on great performances.
Honorable Mention: AJ Styles & Christopher Daniels (TNA), Austin Aries & Roderick Strong (ROH). Styles and Daniels were a ridiculously entertaining team, and it's a surprise they weren't put together sooner. Aries and Strong had as good of a championship run as you could ask for.
WRESTLER OF THE YEAR
Bryan Danielson (ROH)
* It's the toughest call I've had to make for the awards. Edge had a banner year and solidified himself for years to come with excellent performances. Samoa Joe continued his reign of terror in TNA, putting on great match after great match. Danielson, however, was slightly more brilliant than the other two in his heel portrayal, in-ring work, and carrying of the company's top honor. In an era where title reigns really don't mean much other than to say which guy is going to be consistently in the main event, Danielson (with ROH's booking) had a fantastic reign that made him synonymous with the word "champion." Maybe it's just me being a little too old school, but God do I miss that, and I'm incredibly glad that someone like Danielson was able to revive that in this day and age. For that and other reasons, your Wrestler of the Year for 2006 by a nose - "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson.
Readers' Choice: Edge. Hard to argue that.
Honorable Mention: Samoa Joe (TNA).
Welp, that's all she wrote, folks. Hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it. Here's hoping 2007 gets off to a great start.
Wait, Kevin Federline just wrestled John Cena. Nevermind.
- 2nd Annual Marshall Pro Wrestling Awards, Part 3 - The Big 'Uns (Conclusion)