The 411's: 2005 Year-End Wrestling Awards
Posted by Stephen Randle on 02.06.2006
Hit the lights, roll out the carpet, it's the only awards show you should not miss.
Hey, better late than never.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to that old 411 tradition, the annual Year-End Awards! I'm your host, Stephen Randle, and Billy Crystal only wishes he had my style and panache. The 411 staff have worked tirelessly to bring these awards to you live, and in high definition. I know you're all wondering who the 411 Wrestler of 2005 was, but first, we've got some other awards to give out to some deserving wrestlers. Join us, won't you?
A reminder, these awards were voted on by a majority of the 411 staff, and represent their consensus choice. Measures were taken to ensure accurate voting. So no recounts.
Breakout Superstar of 2005
Long a fan favourite while still maintaining the persona of a despicable heel, in 2005 Christian Cage broke out not just once, but twice. In the early part of the year, he made great strides on the mic, and seemed primed for a big feud with WWE Champion John Cena, which led to his very first Pay-Per-View world title shot in his WWE tenure. After this, however, Christian was almost immediately de-pushed, to the point that he never won a single match, and his interview segments, including a big featured one in his hometown of Toronto, resulted in interruptions and beatdowns.
Late in 2005, Christian's contract with WWE expired, and he chose not to resign. Instead, he quickly signed with TNA, and was immediately propelled into a top spot on the card, rewarding him for his prodigious talent at getting the fans to react to him. Many have said that the signing of Christian in TNA may well have been one of WWE's larger mistakes, but only time will tell.
Honourable Mentions: Ric Flair, Austin Aries, Samoa Joe
Underachiever of 2005
Shelton Benjamin spent most of early 2005 as the Intercontinental Champion. In fact, he held the title for around eight months. He also participated in some of the best matches of 2005, including the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania, and what is often called the best TV match of 2005 against Shawn Michaels during the Gold Rush tournament. Why, then, would 411 see fit to hang the albatross of "Underachiever" around Shelton's neck?
It's because of a little thing called potential. Shelton has so much of it, but he never seems to be allowed to use it. His reign as Intercontinental Champion was non-descript, as he fought such luminaries as Gene Snitsky before quietly dropping the title to Carlito in an unpromoted TV match. Following the loss, Shelton amassed many more losses, and often did not even appear on TV. The memories in the minds of fans of his victories over Triple H, and his impressive moves in the Money in the Bank match and Michaels matches, have grown dim. Shelton has plummeted down the card, stuck in a "losing streak" gimmick, and in recent weeks, WWE has added a new element to his character: his mother, played by an actress, berating him on TV about his losing streak. Whereas last year, the future seemed bright for Shelton, this year, the outlook is far murkier.
Dishonourable Mentions: Matt Hardy, Muhammad Hussan
Rookie of the Year
Mr. Ken Kennedy
Originally debuting as Ken Anderson, this phenom burst onto the scene in mid-2005 with a clever catchphrase, a charismatic gimmick, and an impressive finisher. Kennedy was quickly earmarked for success, and his trademark repetition of his last name became a favourite "bit" throughout the world of wrestling. When word came down from on high that Vince McMahon himself loved Mr. Kennedy, he was immediately thrust to the forefront of Smackdown, giving fans hope for the near future of wrestling. An ill-timed injury has briefly sidelined Kennedy, but recently he has returned to Smackdown, in a guest commentator role, to keep him on TV and fresh in the fans' minds. Ken Kennedy has the look, the charisma, and the ability to go far in WWE, and it is with great hope and great pleasure that 411 presents him with this award.
Honourable Mentions: Chris Masters, Bobby Lashley, MNM, Samoa Joe
Female of the Year
Trish began the year by winning the Women's Title at New Year's Revolution, a title she would not relinquish for the rest of 2005. Trish also began the year as a heel, having perfected her persona over 2004, and proceeding in 2005 to use it to her advantage in feuds with Lita and Christy Hemme. A back injury demanded time off, during which the women's division clearly suffered. This was made evident when Trish returned and immediately raised the quality and quantity of actual women's wrestling on Raw. Her storyline with new Diva Mickie James has been some of the most interesting episodic television seen in WWE for a while, and that's not just because of the lesbian overtones. Trish has long proven herself to be the center of professional women's wrestling in North America, and in 2005, there were none better than her.
With TNA since its inception, "Cowboy" James Storm and "Wildcat" Chris Harris have been the standard for tag team wrestling for several years. In the early months of 2005, however, their popularity was waning due to them having been faces, and dominant faces, for their entire run. The answer to regaining their spark was simple: a heel turn. Now, anyone can turn heel, but AMW took the heel turn and made it their own, including a critically acclaimed "funeral" segment for Team 3D which is still talked about today. AMW recaptured the NWA tag titles shortly after their heel turn, and continue to hold them, with a big feud with Team 3D that has been in the making for months. In an era where tag team wrestling has almost become a shadow of its former south, AMW stands head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd to grab this award.
Honourable Mentions: MNM, The Naturals
Storyline of the Year
Batista Turns On Triple H, Then Beats Him 3 Straight PPVs
When it became apparent that Randy Orton, who had been a lock for the WrestleMania 21 main event match for over a year (and had been pushed towards such since Summerslam), was not connecting with the fans enough to warrant the spot, WWE was very, very fortunate to find a diamond left behind in Evolution. Enter Batista, who had spent the last few months of 2004 showing a sly sense of humour, an intelligence rivaling his mentors Triple H and Ric Flair, and a vastly improved moveset. Fans latched on to the muscleman, and Batista did not drop the ball. He carved his path straight to the Mania main event with a dominating victory in the Rumble match, but meanwhile, his opponent and friend Triple H was scheming to get out of facing the motivated monster. Triple H began playing mind games with Batista, in an attempt to make him believe that Smackdown's champion JBL was stalking the big man, trying to get Batista to jump to Smackdown and challenge for that title. But everywhere Triple H turned, it seemed that Batista was one step ahead, leading to a contract signing where Batista emphatically gave Smackdown and Triple H the "thumbs down", leaving the champion laying.
After Batista won the title at WrestleMania, the Game just wouldn't leave him alone. The two had a decent rematch at Backlash, centered around Triple H's belief that Batista feared the Pedigree. After Batista escaped with the title again, Triple H vowed to finally take back his title in "his" match, Hell in a Cell. With the odds stacked against Batista, he and Triple H tore down the house and convincingly pinned Triple H for the third straight PPV, a feat which few can boast. This is the feud that made Batista, and led to a year where Triple H, following the defeats, stayed largely out of the spotlight for the rest of the year, for the first time in a long time.
Honourable Mentions: Matt, Lita, and Edge vs the Internet, CM Punk wins the ROH Title on his "last" night in the promotion
Worst PPV of the Year
WWE Great American Bash 2005
For the second year in a row, and the second year of its WWE existence, Great American Bash takes home the award for being so bad, so pathetic, so useless, that to mention its very name drives some men mad. In fact, Great American Bash was so bad, that it appeared on every single ballot but one, and 90% of those votes were first-place ones. That's a new level of bad.
How bad was it? This was the PPV where Animal and Heidenreich defeated MNM to become WWE Tag Team champions, a decision panned by many. This was the PPV that featured the culmination of the infamous Undertaker vs Muhammad Hassan feud, which involved followers dressed not unlike terrorists attacking Undertaker, getting Hassan banned from the airwaves by UPN, and leading to the last appearance ever of Hassan, as Undertaker essentially killed him. Oh, and the match sucked (but that went without saying tonight). Because of this, since Hassan was supposed to face Batista at Summerslam for the title, quick rewrites ended up with a main event that was five minutes long, sucked, and ended when Batista beat up JBL and Orlando Jordan with a steel chair for no particular reason. That's how bad it was.
In the summer months, it often seems like WWE Creative takes a short break. Too bad there's five or six PPV's within three months at that point, and WWE Great American Bash, for two consecutive years, has faced the brunt of that horrible run.
Dishonourable Mentions: WWE New Year's Revolution, WWE No Mercy, WWE No Way Out
PPV of the Year
ECW One Night Stand
A minor upset going against the monolith that is WrestleMania, but it's hard to argue that ECW wasn't the favourite PPV of nearly every wrestling fan in 2005. When WWE announced that they would be doing a "tribute" PPV for ECW, there were many, many questions. Most people felt that WWE would "sanitize" the ECW product, and then fill the PPV with WWE Superstars, showing the dominance of their own promotion.
But when the night came, there was magic in the Hammerstein Ballroom. The PPV had the look of ECW, it had the atmosphere of ECW, and it even had Joey Styles, the voice of ECW. The matches weren't five-star classics by any means (though Masato Tanaka vs Mike Awesome drew accolades and Match of the Night honours), but they had a unique energy about them. Among the high points were the aforementioned Awesome-Tanaka match, Super Crazy's balcony moonsault, Paul Heyman and RVD "shooting", The Sandman's entrance complete with a licenced version of "Enter Sandman", and the spectacularly emotional brawl to end the night. It had a serious "once in a lifetime" feel, with surprises abounding, and most importantly, it was entirely ECW, with ECW standing tall in the end, surrounded by the fallen bodies of WWE wrestlers. Other PPV's may have had the workrate, the glitz, the glamour, but ECW: One Night Stand had the energy, and it translated into rave reviews, and it truly deserves the award for PPV of the Year.
Honourable Mentions: WWE WrestleMania 21, TNA Unbreakable
Worst Match of the Year
Teddy Long vs Eric Bischoff - WWE Survivor Series 2005
Words can't really do justice to how stupid this match was, but the fact that it was one of only six matches on a Big Four PPV just added to the inherent lameness, and when a match consists of two non-wrestlers with a non-wrestler distracting the referee and is decided by a run-in, well, you just have to give this match it's horrible due. From 411's archives, here's recapper extraordinare J.D. Dunn with his play-by-play.
Trash talk to start. Long dances and avoids Bischoff's attacks. Palmer Cannon gets on the apron and distracts the refs, so Bischoff takes off his black belt and chokes Long out with it. The crowd treats the "match" with it's due respect. Teddy Long counters a sleeper with THE SHOE OF DISMEMBERMENT! Bischoff gives him a thrust to the throat. The crowd is about to riot, so the Boogeyman comes out and chokes Bischoff with his bare hands. He gives Bisch the Death Penalty (Pump-handle Slam) and slides out of the ring backwards. Long covers for the win at 5:24. I guess it was "no DQ?".
Dishonourable Mention: Coach vs Batista - WWE Taboo Tuesday 2005
Match of the Year
Kurt Angle vs Shawn Michaels - WWE WrestleMania 21
A match so good, it was Match of the Year in March. Hell, it was probably Match of the Year when they announced it. Put it on the biggest stage of them all, have Kurt and Shawn cutting gold promos leading up to it, and then let them pull out all the stops, and there's no doubt that you'll see a wrestling classic. The match was so good, that the rematch even got votes for Match of the Year. From the 411 archives again, here's J.D.
Shawn slaps him right in the mug to start! Angle takes him down into an amateur ride. They wind up in the ropes for the break. Shawn pulls him down into a side headlock. Crowd gets behind Angle. Angle backdrop suplexes him, but Shawn maintains control. Now it's a dueling chant by the crowd as Shawn rides him back down and gives him a cauliflower ear with the headlock. Angle forces to the corner, but Shawn takes him right back down. That segues to a short-arm scissors. Angle powers up, but Shawn counters to a sunset flip for two. Back to the headlock. Ross and Lawler marvel at how HBK has dominated the wrestling aspect against Angle. The ref has to pull Michaels off Angle as they wind up in the ropes. That enables Angle to blindside Michaels and put him in the anklelock. Shawn rolls out of it, and they go over the top. Shawn sets up the announce table, but Angle stops him and Angleslams him into the turnbuckle! Sick. Angle goes to work on the back and gets a series of two counts. He wraps his legs around Michaels in a bodyscissors. Shawn fights out of it but falls victim to a belly-to-belly suplex. Another gets two. They slug it out, and Shawn slaps him in the face again! Angle makes him pay by ripping his head off with a clothesline. Angle goes for a belly-to-belly off the second rope, but Shawn shoves him to the mat. Michaels goes up for the flying elbow drop…ANGLE MOVES! Angleslam? NO! Michaels armdrags out of it. Angle charges, so Michaels dips the shoulder and backdrops him over the top. Shawn follows him out with the FLYING CROSSBODY TO THE FLOOR! Crowd is rooting for Angle again. This is like the anti-Brock/Goldberg. Angle catches Shawn on the ropes and tries to German Suplex him off the apron through the announce table. Neither man budges, so the ref tries to pull them apart. Michaels lowblows Angle to a heel reaction. Angle winds up on the Smackdown announce table, so Shawn springboards into a corkscrew splash -- and the table doesn't break! Both men crawl back in before the ten count. Michaels wins a slugfest and gets the flying elbow. KIP UP! Crowd is split 50/50. Michaels with an atomic drop. He slams Kurt and goes up for the flying elbow drop. This time it hits! Michaels tunes up the band. SWEET CHIN MUS-NO!! Angle counters to the ANKLELOCK!!! Shawn crawls to the ropes but can't make it. He rolls through, but Angle hangs on. Shawn reaches for the ropes…and makes it. Mixed reaction for that. Angle goes for the Angleslam, but Shawn counters to a sunset flip. Angle rolls through that into the anklelock! Holy crap! Shawn rolls into a victory roll position! ONE, TWO, THRE---NO! Shawn with another attempt at Sweet Chin Music! NO! Angle grabs the ankle and reverses to an Angleslam! He goes up for the moonsault. MICHAELS MOVES! Angle is out, so Shawn goes up. Angle suddenly pops up and delivers the ANGLESLAM OFF THE TOP! ONE, TWO, THRE-NO! Michaels kicks out again. Kurt grabs Michaels by the face and yells at him to tap out. Michaels shrugs him off and hits SWEET CHIN MUSIC! ONE, TWO, THRE-NO? Kurt dubiously gets his shoulder up right at three, which Ross and Lawler pass off as the fault of a biased Smackdown referee. Shawn struggles to his feet. Suddenly, Angle pops up and grabs the anklelock. Shawn pushes him away, but Angle holds on. Again, Angle holds on. Michaels lunges for the ropes, but Angle pulls him back to the center. Michaels lunges again, but Angle lays down and scissors the leg. Michaels holds out as long as he can, but after a good forty-five seconds, he has no choice but to tap out at 27:25. Everything people expected and more. I'm not saying it was flawless, but it's a definite front runner for Match of the Year.
Honourable Mentions: Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe vs Kobashi
Worst Wrestler of the Year
And so we've come to this. Orlando Jordan was a jobber on Velocity until one day, for no particular reason, JBL made him his Chief of Staff, despite Orlando possessing little in the way of charisma or in-ring ability outside of a token punch-kick offense. Dividends were soon to come, as Orlando captured the US Title from John Cena in early 2005. Of course, JBL interfered liberally for the win and Cena went on to win the WWE Title the next month, but hey, Orlando had a title. And he held that title for months, largely because he never defended it. Oh, I'm sorry, there's at least one US Title defense on his record worth mentioning: a horrid PPV affair against Heidenreich, a fellow "Worst Wrestler" candidate. Eventually, Orlando ran up against Chris Benoit and...beat him, in a bad match despite Benoit's best efforts. A month later, WWE wised up and had Benoit beat Jordan for the US Title, in 35 seconds on PPV. Then, they had Benoit beat him three more times in under a minute. Jordan was dead in the water, and somehow, this meant he turned face to get back into the US Title hunt, with rumours of a new "bisexual" gimmick in the wings. For someone who spent the year hanging out with the then-WWE champion, winning the second-most important belt on Smackdown, feuding with Benoit, Orton, Cena, and Booker T, Orlando Jordan has displayed a complete lack of ability comparative to his position. His matches, when he had any, were unmemorable. His mic work was average at best. And if he disappeared from our screens today (which he won't), I doubt anyone would really miss him.
But damn, he looked good in a suit.
Dishonourable Mentions: Heidenreich, Snitsky
Wrestler of the Year
Are you surprised? You shouldn't be. Fresh off winning 411's Breakout Superstar of 2004, Batista went on a tear in 2005. He won the Royal Rumble. He won the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. He beat Triple H cleanly at three straight PPV's, including a highly-rated Hell in the Cell match. Then he moved to Smackdown and established himself as the dominant figure on the show, showing that WWE was right to trust in his, up until months ago, largely unproven abilities.
Batista wasn't just another generic WWE big guy, as people had feared when he started out. In fact, Batista has come so far that people forget his horrible gimmick as Deacon Batista, or his terrible matches with other big men like Kane. Batista used his size and strength, and added a surprising amount of wrestling ability. His power moves were impressive, and he showed with wrestlers like Benoit, Triple H, Randy Orton, and Eddie Guerrero that he could work longer matches without having to be carried.
And Batista connected with the fans. He had a sly charisma about him, that showed when WWE allowed him to speak following the loss of Randy Orton from Evolution. Batista wasn't just a dumb jock, he was smart. He was cool. He consistently proved that no matter how smart a heel was, Batista was always one step ahead (see: Triple H, JBL, Melina). And the fans loved him for it.
So let's run through it. Wrestling skills. A massive amount of charisma. Memorable feuds. A year full of personal accolades, including holding the World Title for nearly nine months, and only vacating due to unfortunate injury. Sounds like 411's Wrestler of 2005 to us.
Honourable Mentions: Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Kurt Angle
And that's our show, we hope you enjoyed it. And if you didn't, well, you're entitled to your opinion. That's what makes 411 great. Many thanks to all the 411 writers who voted, and to Ashish and Larry for never yelling at me for not getting this done before now. Join us next year, hopefully a little earlier, when we find out what the best (and worst) of 2006 were.