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2018 Pro Wrestling Awards

2018 pro wrestling awards

It’s the last of our FGB Awards for the year – check out our 2018 Pro Wrestling Awards.

You can read our 2018 boxing and MMA awards.

Here are the categories:

Most Outstanding Wrestler
Show of the Year
Match of the Year
Breakout Star
Who’s Next

Participating in the awards are Duan (@DuanDub), Alan (@Alan4L), Cadillac Don (@DonCameron), and myself as well as new additions. We’ve added Stefano Summa (@SteSumm), Nick Mahmood (@HayabusaCT), and Brady Childs (@HPJoker) to our panel.

Most Outstanding Wrestler

Duan: Walter
The big man did everything there was to do on the indies this year, winning all the titles that mattered and being one of the most consistent big match performers anywhere in the world.

Duan’s previous winners:
2017: Kenny Omega
2016: AJ Styles
2015: Jay Lethal
2014: Seth Rollins
2013: Daniel Bryan
2012: CM Punk
2011: Dolph Ziggler
2010: John Cena
2009: Chris Jericho
2008: Jeff Hardy

Alan: Walter
He’s the guy I think of when I think of 2018 wrestling. He conquered PROGRESS, PWG and OTT all while doing his usual great stuff in wXw, stealing the show at Spring Break with PCO and being in demand by any indy who needed a big match. His OTT run has been his best stuff though. Six matches that were perfect for exactly what they needed to be at the time in telling an overall story and delivering something special in each one. His 2018 reminded me of Big Van Vader’s 1993 – he was The Man.

Alan’s previous winners:
2017: Kazuchika Okada
2016: Kazuchika Okada
2015: Yuji Okabayashi
2014: Tomohiro Ishii
2013: Kazuchika Okada
2012: Kazuchika Okada
2011: Daisuke Sekimoto and Akira Tozawa
2010: Chris Hero
2009: KENTA
2008: Shingo Takagi

Don: Kenny Omega
I had written something up about Johnny Gargano as my pick, but I couldn’t oversee Omega. As an honorable champion in NJPW, with the way he treats the title and switches back and forth between English and Japanese when talking to the crowd, he’s one of the most svelte wrestlers I’ve seen in and out of the ring.

Don’s previous winners:
2017: Asuka
2016: AJ Styles

Stefano: Walter
The Austrian big hoss definitely established himself as the “final boss” to go through across different promotions and continents, having amazing and buzz worthy performances against a plethora of differently styled opponents (from Thatcher to Ospreay, passing through the likes of Zack Sabre Jr., PCO, Devlin and Ishii). His recent deal with the WWE NXT UK brand seems the ideal cherry on a tremendous cake he prepared throughout the whole year.

Nick: Will Ospreay
He started off the year at the Tokyo Dome winning the IWGP Jr. title and then he continued with notable bouts against Hiromu, Adam Brooks, and Marty Scurll. He hurt his neck, and was doubtful for WrestleMania weekend, but was cleared and performed in 7 matches in 3 days. Then came his performance at the BOSJ, and his title loss to Hiromu at Dominion. Afterwords he kept up his amazing matches regardless of size including must-see bouts against Tyler Bate, Walter, Jay Lethal, and two tag matches against the Golden Lovers. He was consistent and stole the show almost every time.

Brady: Will Ospreay
Choosing between Ospreay and Kenny Omega is a tough decision that goes beyond whether you prefer peak match quality or quantity. While Omega’s peaks may be considered higher, Ospreay has a dearth of MOTY quality matches including at the Tokyo Dome, against Okada, against Matt Riddle at the WWN Supershow, KUSHIDA, Hiromu Takahashi, WALTER, and in tags against The Golden Lovers. I’m not able to watch every match under the sun, but I’ve heard about several MOTY level performances Ospreay has had in the UK and Australia that I’ve failed to catch. The frequency of Ospreay’s high-end output puts him ahead of the IWGP champion in my book for the most outstanding wrestler of 2018.

GG: Kenny Omega
I wasn’t always the biggest fan of Kenny Omega’s style, but he won me over completely in 2018. He had to have set some sort of record for great matches this year.

GG’s previous winners:
2017: Kazuchika Okada
2016: AJ Styles
2015: AJ Styles
2014: Adrian Neville
2013: Daniel Bryan
2012: CM Punk
2011: Dolph Ziggler
2010: Daniel Bryan
2009: Chris Jericho
2008: Chris Jericho

Show of the Year

Duan: NXT TakeOver: New Orleans
The TakeOver magic continued again this year and even with a couple of shows which fell short of its normal impeccably high standards, they remain the most consistently brilliant supercards going with 3 out of the 5 in the discussion for show of the year. New Orleans gets the nod from me as the highlight of Wrestlemania week.

Duan’s previous winners:
2017: NXT TakeOver: Chicago
2016: Progress Brixton
2015: Ultimo Lucha
2014: Payback
2013: SummerSlam
2012: TLC
2011: Money In The Bank
2010: WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Judgment Day
2008: WrestleMania 24

Alan: OTT WrestleRama II
WALTER vs. Devlin, KUSHIDA vs. Strickland, Ishii vs. Juice, Starr vs. Thatcher and a CRAZY trios opener with six of the young Irish lads absolutely smashing it. No other show I went to in 2018 had the energy of this one. It was a ridiculously hot summer’s night in Dublin, only topped by the heat in that building.

Alan’s previous winners:
2017: Wrestle Kingdom 11
2016: Wrestle Kingdom 10
2015: Wrestle Kingdom 9
2014: NJPW G1 Climax Day 7
2013: NJPW G1 Climax Day 4
2012: NJPW King Of Pro Wrestling
2011: PWG DDT4
2010: PWG Seven
2009: PWG Threemendous 2
2008: ROH Supercard Of Honor 3

Don: WWE Evolution
Hard to believe a show in which Nikki Bella was in the main event (against champ Ronda Rousey) would be my favorite, but the Becky Lynch/Charlotte Flair match was one of my favorites of the year. With the finals of the Mae Young Classic won by Toni Storm over Io Sharai, and the return of Trish Stratus and Lita, this show kept my attention from beginning to end.

Don’s previous winners:
2017: NXT TakeOver: WarGames
2016: NXT TakeOver: Dallas

Stefano: All In
It may not have been the best show overall in 2018, but it did have great matches (Page vs. Janela, Cody vs. Aldis, Omega vs. Penta and, to a degree, Okada vs. Scurll), excellent performances (Bandido) and, most of all, made a big impact in the independent wrestling business. Both in the immediate term, with an exceptional turnout at the Sears Centre, and in the long term, giving a huge boost to the careers of many wrestlers and the All Elite Wrestling project that will be the talk of 2019.

Nick: Wrestle Kingdom 12
This event is going to be considered every year, but in 2018 it was probably the most anticipated one yet. With the Alpha vs Omega bout, the height of popularity of Tetsuya Naito, the middle of the historic reign of Okada, and a dream 4-way match for the Jr. title, this was never going to be topped.

Brady: NJPW Dominion
2018 pro wrestling awardsDuring a time when the show of the year often feels a closed and shut case after January 4th, the New Japan boys topped themselves this summer with a stellar show littered with enjoyable matches almost from top to bottom (don’t forget about the clunker of a NEVER Openweight three-way between Elgin, Taichi, and Goto.) The show opened with a stellar junior heavyweight tag match with El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Roppongi 3K, continued in typical New Japan fashion with easy to watch tag matches, hit a slight bump in the road with the NEVER three-way, but immediately bounced back with an awesome IWGP tag title bout with EVIL & SANADA facing The Young Bucks, a short feature match featuring lucha legend Rey Mysterio Jr. teaming with fellow Gods Jushin Thunder Liger and Hiroshi Tanahashi before his departure to The Big Trump Fundraiser, Will Ospreay and Hiromu in a wonderful sprint that could’ve been a MOTY candidate if given more time, and an old-school brawl with Chris Jericho and Tetsuya Naito. Of course, Dominion was topped with perhaps the most impressive modern wrestling performance with Kenny Omega beating Kazuchika Okada in a 64-minute match with absolutely no downtime that you wouldn’t see during a normal match.

GG: NJPW Dominion
Featuring the best match I’ve ever seen in my life (sorry Stone Cold vs Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13), Dominion delivered like no other wrestling show in 2018. And there were some damn good wrestling shows.

GG’s previous winners:
2017: G1 Special in USA Night 1
2016: Wrestle Kingdom 10
2015: Wrestle Kingdom 9 and WrestleMania 31
2014: SummerSlam
2013: SummerSlam
2012: TNA Destination X
2011: Elimination Chamber
2010: WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Backlash
2008: Wrestlemania 24

Match of the Year

Duan: Kota Ibushi Vs Hiroshi Tanahashi – G1 Climax Final
The perfect final to an incredible G1. I was split going into this one over who I felt should win, but the story they were able to tell with just their wrestling was so good that by midway through the match I was 100% convinced that it needed to be Tanahashi, while also at the same time feeling disappointed that that meant that Ibushi had to lose. There are few matches ever which elevate both participants the way this one did.

Duan’s previous winners:
2017: Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada – Wrestle Kingdom 11
2016: The Revival vs DIY – NXT TakeOver: Toronto
2015: John Cena vs Seth Rollins Vs Brock Lesnar – Royal Rumble
2014: John Cena vs Cesaro – February 17, 2014 Raw
2013: Brock Lesnar vs CM Punk – SummerSlam
2012: Triple H vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania 28
2011: Triple H vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXVII
2010: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Rey Mysterio vs Chris Jericho – The Bash

Alan: Kota Ibushi Vs Hiroshi Tanahashi – G1 Climax Final
The match that combined emotion, drama, stakes and technical execution better than any other this year. Two masters at work.

Alan’s previous winners:
2017: WALTER vs Ilja Dragunov – wXw 16 Carat Final
2016: Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi – Wrestle Kingdom 10
2015: Shingo Takagi vs. Masaaki Mochizuki – Dragon Gate “Gate Of Destiny”
2014: Masato Yoshino vs Masaaki Mochizuki – January 16, 2014 and The Jimmys Vs The Millennials – September 23, 2014
2013: Kota Ibushi vs Shinsuke Nakamura – G1 Climax Day 4
2012: Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito – NJPW 40th Anniversary Show
2011: Shingo Takagi vs BxB Hulk – Dragon Gate: Pro Wrestling Festival In Kobe
2010: Susumu Yokosuka vs Shingo Takagi – Dragon Gate in Nottingham
2009: 2 Skinny Black Guys vs The Young Buck$ – PWG Threemendous 2
2008: Kenta Kobashi, KENTA, Akihiko Ito, & Atsushi Aoki vs. Kensuke Sasaki, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Kento Miyahara, & Takashi Okita

Don: Johnny Gargano Vs Andrade “Cien” Almas – NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia
This was a tough one, but as I did not see Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada at Dominion in June, I’m going with Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas at NXT Takeover Philadelphia in January. This was the kind of back and forth match — in which I didn’t know who was the favourite to win — that really got me invested. It just kept on going and going, and getting better and better. It really proved how great both men could be.

Don’s previous winners:
2017: Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada – Wrestle Kingdom 11
2016: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn – NXT TakeOver: Dallas

Stefano: Kenny Omega Vs Kazuchika Okada – NJPW Dominion
There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing a story arc find its climax with many callbacks to previous episodes, a solid build throughout and incredible performances on top of all of it. This was it for the Okada vs. Omega saga; a perfect example of how pro wrestling can be seen as a legitimate art form if done right, regardless of cultural barriers and prejudices.

Nick: Kenny Omega Vs Kazuchika Okada – NJPW Dominion
The bar was set so high at Dominion in 2017 that the fear was it could never live up to it. Three previous matches, all different and great in their own way. But this was a grand finale with Omega finally reaching the pinnacle of his career winning the IWGP title. The best of three falls stip didn’t hurt the match either, as the falls all made sense.

Brady: Kenny Omega Vs Kazuchika Okada – NJPW Dominion
As mentioned above, this might be the most impressive modern wrestling performance since NOAH and All Japan’s heyday or since Ric Flair’s 1989. Wrestling for 60 minutes is really hard, and these guys kept the crowd’s interest during the entire match and paced the matched beautifully. An absolute masterpiece.

GG: Kenny Omega Vs Kazuchika Okada – NJPW Dominion
I am not the biggest fan of long matches. I can respect the ability to work a long match and keep the crowd, but I’d much rather watch a match in the 20-25 minute range. This match is the exception. It was a brilliant masterpiece that kept me from looking at my phone. I think I was even tipped off that Omega won the match as I didn’t watch it live, but it didn’t matter. It had multitudes of everything.

GG’s previous winners:
2017: Kenny Omega Vs Kazuchika Okada – Dominion
2016: Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi – Wrestle Kingdom 10
2015: Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs Kazuchika Okada – Wrestle Kingdom 9
2014: Adrian Neville vs Sami Zayn vs Tyler Breeze vs Tyson Kidd – NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way
2013: Daniel Bryan vs John Cena – SummerSlam
2012: Brock Lesnar vs John Cena – Extreme Rules
2011: CM Punk vs John Cena – Money In The Bank
2010: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXV
2008: Chris Jericho vs Shawn Michaels – No Mercy

Breakout Star

Duan: Jonathan Gresham
I feel Gresham really figured out a way to make his matches seem unique and special on any show he was booked for this year and that’s not an easy thing to do with the sheer volume of great wrestling at the moment. Now that he’s built that rep, I think we’re going to see him more and more as a dream match guy who people will pay to see matched up with the best talent from all over.

Duan’s previous winners:
2017: The Young Bucks
2016: Rich Swann
2015: Kevin Owens
2014: Adrian Neville

Nothing in wrestling caught me off guard as much as the #STRONGHEARTS story. CIMA taking his crew to WRESTLE-1 and DDT and turning those promotions on their heads, boosting interest to massive degrees… it deserves all the credit in the world. The cool thing is 2018 was only the start.

Alan’s previous winners:
2017: WRESTLE-1
2016: Matt Riddle
2015: Will Ospreay
2014: AJ Styles

Don: Cody Rhodes
Who’da thunk it? I knew the guy was talented but he really made a name for himself once he left the WWE. And with a name like “Cody”, which I chuckled at when hearing that was his new moniker. But he won the NWA championship, main-evented a New Japan show against Kenny Omega, and is now IWGP United States champion in NJPW. He’s smooth on the mic, and has a “big thing” aura about him.

Don’s previous winners:
2017: Pete Dunne
2016: Broken Matt Hardy

Stefano: Mustafa Ali
Whether as a perfect foil to Buddy Murphy in an underrated trilogy on 205 Live or as the latest underdog sensation on SmackDown, the Chicagoan has finally showed his full potential on the larger WWE platform and he seems more than ready to become a full fledged star on the main roster for years to come.

Nick: Jay White
White was slotted at the top of the card immediately from his return after excursion, but felt like it was a bit forced with matches against Tanahashi and Omega. In fact, many lamented the U.S. Title lost prestige with his winning it. He and Page put on a fantastic match, albeit being slotted in a death spot at Strong Style Evolved. Then came his feud with Juice where he tweaked his character from his silent brooding type, to an arrogant selfish heel. His performance at G1 cemented his status, and the subsequent takeover of Bullet Club along with Gedo put him in another stratosphere.

Brady: Bandido
2018 pro wrestling awardsBandido debuted with PWG right before WrestleMania weekend in New Orleans where he shined. The Elite gave him a platform at All In for him to springboard into the forefront of the independent wrestling fan’s consciousness and has parlayed this success into a Ring of Honor contract. Only 23, Bandido has a chance to become one of the most popular wrestlers outside of WWE in years to come.

GG: Will Ospreay
I don’t know that many would see Ospreay’s year as a breakout year because he’s been a major star for a few years now, but I see his 2018 as an elevation to main event level, no matter where he wrestles. High flyers get typecast as junior heavyweights and often don’t get taken seriously at the main event level. Ospreay toned down the high flying a bit, built his body up, and showed me that he’s a big time player at the heavyweight level. I’d have Hangman Page as just a hair beneath him.

GG’s previous winners:
2017: Andrade Cien Almas
2016: Jeff Cobb
2015: Timothy Thatcher
2014: The Usos

Who’s Next

Duan: The Rascalz
There’s room at the moment for a new breakout tag team and I think the duo of Wentz and Xavier are best equipped to take up that mantle. I saw them wrestle live for the first time this year and there is something there that with the right opportunities I think can be big.

Duan’s previous winners:
2017: Nikki Cross
2016: Pete Dunne
2015: Chad Gable
2014: Finn Balor
2013: Seth Rollins
2012: Bray Wyatt
2011: Justin Gabriel
2010: Dolph Ziggler

Alan: Scotty Davis
A combination of being appallingly gifted, youth (he’s just turned 18), nerves of steel (nothing fazes him) and having a lot of influential people in his corner from Will Ospreay to Jordan Devlin – Scotty will get all the opportunities in the world in 2019. I expect some BIG matches for him in OTT and in the UK.

Alan’s previous winners:
2017: Darby Allin
2016: Takuya Nomura
2015: El Lindaman
2014: Big R Shimizu
2013: Kalisto
2012: Dean Ambrose and Yuji Okabayashi
2011: Manabu Soya and Takumi Soya
2010: Tetsuya Naito

Don: Hangman Page
I hadn’t seen or heard much about him prior to 2018, but he had a breakout performance in the G1 Climax, especially in matches against Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi.

Don’s previous winners:
2017: Velveteen Dream
2016: American Alpha

Stefano: Utami Hayashishita
Women is the name of the game on this one, as I debated whether to assign it to Ronda Rousey or Utami Hayashishita. I’ve then decided to go with the Japanese rookie. Ronda has had an excellent year on different fronts (the technical one the most impressive to me), no doubt. However, she’s already reached a certain degree of stardom (no pun intended) due to her past and the push she had. Instead, Utami has “only” showed fountains of talent for such a young wrestler, without getting to achieve yet great goals that seem within her reach. If everything goes right, she’s going to be bigger that Asuka, Kairi and Io.

Nick: Rush
Rush’s charisma knows no language barriers. When I saw his brawl with L.A. Park at Arena Mexico, all I wanted was for him to compete in the States and Japan. Now being brought in by both MLW and ROH, look for him to really break out. I expect NJPW to also use him more after Fantastica Mania, but that is really up to Rush, as he’s making quite the comfortable living in Mexico. He’ll either take the path of Austin Idol, by staying mostly in one area, or take risks and make a real name for himself outside of Mexico.

Brady: Dragon Bane
Dragon Bane is a 19-year-old future superstar in Mexico that primarily works for IWRG (a kick-ass promotion that also has Tortugas Ninja). Check out his matches vs. Aramis on YouTube and the kid is smart enough to not go to up north.

GG: A-Kid
Thanks to YouTube, we get to see matches from all over, including from Spain. When the A-Kid phenomenon happened, I, like most everyone who hadn’t seen him yet, had to check out his match with Zack Sabre Jr. A-Kid was a classic hometown babyface being bullied by the nasty heel. It was wrestling like I watched as a kid. With all the indy talents being scooped up by the promotions, maybe we’ll see A-Kid in the states in 2019.

GG’s previous winners:
2017: Jungle Boy (Jake Perry)
2016: Karl Fredericks
2015: Jeff Cobb
2014: Rusev
2013: Big E. Langston
2012: Antonio Cesaro and Wade Barrett
2011: Brodus Clay
2010: Dolph Ziggler

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