The 2nd Annual Puroresu Representin’ Awards: The Winners!
The 2nd Annual Puroresu Representin’ Awards are now in the books, and with all the votes counted it’s time to reveal this year’s winners. I’m going to do it differently this year, listing both my winners (my personal picks, decided before voting began) and the voters’ winners (who won in the ballots) and some post-result comments as well. Click below to see who the winners are!
We’ll go by category order…I’m listing the top 3 vote getters and “Others” to indicate others who received votes.
Rookie Of The Year (Men)
My Winner: Hiromu Takahashi
There really wasn’t much of a rookie crop among the men that I knew of this year, in fact exclude Soshun (coming off a long injury layoff) and Takumi Soya (missed about 5 months due to injury) and that seemed to narrow it down to roughly 3-Takahashi, Takaaki Watanabe & Daichi Hashimoto. Ultimately I went by match results and activity to give the nod to Takahashi. Hashimoto has only won in tag team matches and being in ZERO1 limits his matches and exposure, that’s why I didn’t pick him.
2nd Place: Daichi Hashimoto
3rd Place: Soshun
Note: Takumi Soya was left off due to missing most of his rookie year so far due to injuries and his return not happening until after the grading period ended and voting was nearly over. He will be eligible next year.
Vote Winner: Daichi Hashimoto, 74%
While I can see what most of you were probably taking into account with this vote, I slightly disagree. Yes, I have high hopes for Daichi and believe he is a future superstar in the making, but he has yet to win a singles match (his couple wins are in tag team matches) and mainly competing in ZERO1 limits both ihs exposure and ring time.
2nd Place: Hiromu Takahashi, 20%
3rd Place: Takaaki Watanabe, 5%
4th Place: Soshun, 1%
Rookie Of The Year (Women)
My Winner: Yuzuki Aikawa
I already hear the “nuthugger” chants and the like, thinking I couldn’t help but be swayed by the power of the bouncy-bouncys or my being a fan of her even before she was a wrestler, but it’s legit. Thanks to Ice Ribbon & Stardom among others there was a lot in this category and some very good rookies too, but in the end Yuzuki was the no-brainer choice. She’s improved dramatically since her debut, has become the top star in Stardom (well, not named Nanae Takahashi anyway) and even won a title to top it all off. And even promotes her own events and still finds time for some modeling on the side. Diva she might be, but don’t mistake her for a typical WWE Diva. Unless it’s the post-career-turnaround Trish Stratus.
2nd Place: Yoshiko
3rd Place: Mochi Miyagi
Vote Winner: Yuzuki Aikawa, 37%
One of a few we generally agreed on, it was close at first but she got enough late support to pull away and be the best of a very good rookie class of women & girls over the past year, mostly from Ice Ribbon & Stardom-2 promotions that seemed to have done a good job of turning girls & young women into capable wrestlers.
2nd Place: Mochi Miyagi, 16%
3rd Place: Yoshiko, 12%
Others: Haruka, 10%; Arisa Hoshiki, 7%; Eri Susa, 6%; Maki Narumiya & Saki Kashima, 3%; masu-me, Neko Nitta & Yoko Bito, 1%
Most Improved/Breakout Wrestler (Men)
My Winner: Seiya Sanada
The first of a few difficult choices. I was debating quite a bit between Sanada and KAI because both really had breakout years, but in the end I gave the ever-so-slight nod to Sanada largely because of his 2 All-Asia Tag Team Title reigns with Manabu Soya and his Champions Carnival performance, which led to a Triple Crown shot on the final day of the ranking period (he lost to Suwama). But in the end Sanada seemed to come from out of nowhere while I had been expecting KAI to do it for a good year or so. But I’ll be honest, there are no wrong choices between at least 7 or 8 of the nominees.
2nd Place: KAI
3rd Place: Atsushi Aoki
Vote Winner: TIE-Kotaro Suzuki & Akira Tozawa, 15%
When I last checked the totals earlier in the day, Tozawa had a narrow lead but Suzuki got enough votes to tie for the lead. Tozawa really broke out over the last 3-4 months upon returning to Dragon Gate from a training excursion to the US, no longer saddled with a comedy gimmick and becoming a fast-rising member of Blood Warriors, even earning a couple of title shots. He came up short but has picked up some key wins in the process. Suzuki, long a capable tag team wrestler, finally had a huge singles breakout and has become a dominant GHC Jr. Heavyweight Champion in NOAH.
3rd Place: Seiya Sanada, 13%
Others: Pac, 13%; KUSHIDA, 9%; Ricochet, 7%; KAI, Atsushi Aoki & Kuuga, 4%; Manabu Soya, Shuhei Taniguchi & Yasu Urano, 1%. 2 write-ins also received 1% of the total vote: Kota Ibushi & Akira Joh.
Most Improved/Breakout Wrestler (Women)
My Winner: Tsukasa Fujimoto
Man, this one was painfully hard. Yeah, I could’ve taken the easy way out again and picked Yuzuki Aikawa, and I nearly did because of how much she improved, but I just couldn’t overlook Fujimoto’s breakout and then some. She went from getting good to basically the face (and quite pretty face too) of Ice Ribbon in addition to pulling off the promotion’s version of the Triple Crown (holding all 3 titles simultaneously. But her defning moment in my book may have been in May when she retained the ICEx60 Singles Title against Tsukushi, that pretty much clinched it-had Tsukushi won I might’ve put her #1, I almost thought I left her off which would’ve been a big mistake. The little powerhouse has really become something special and I have very high hopes for her.
2nd Place: Yuzuki Aikawa
3rd Place: TIE-Tsukushi & Leon
Vote Winner: TIE-Leon & Tsukasa Fujimoto, 20%
Another one that came down to the final moments. Leon also scored perhaps the upset of the year when she beat Kaori Yoneyama to become the JWP Openweight Champion and possibly keep the High Speed Title alive, a feat for which Natsuki*Taiyo probably owes her a round. Fujimoto had her time at the top of Ice Ribbon before, but this go-around she has truly become the face of the promotion and improved considerably, not only becoming a dominant champion but also starting to have some success in other promotions-she doesn’t show up much but she’s starting to win when she does, even if it’s just against lower-level competition. Can’t go wrong with either one. Much to my surprise, the only one here who didn’t get a single vote was Kagetu.
3rd Place: Chii Tomiya, 16%
Others: Kaori Yoneyama, 15%; Yuzuki Aikawa, 14%; Tsukushi, 9%; Yumi Ohka & Yoko Bito, 3%; Hanako Nakamori, 1%.
Tag Team Of The Year (Men)
My Winner: Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson
The most no-brainer of them all. Tokyo Sports clearly got it wrong, Bad Intentions clearly was THE tag team in Japan this year. They’ve held the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles the entire grading period and then some (since June 2010), they recently added the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, they’re fast closing in on the longest-reigning IWGP Champs ever (just a month or two to go) and Bernard had some notable singles success to top it all off. All that’s missing? Yeah-the All-Japan titles. And some love they hopefully will get this year from Tokyo Sports, because Bad Intentions is, as Bernard likes to say, “ICHIBAN!”
2nd Place: Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi
3rd Place: Seiya Sanada & Manabu Soya
Vote Winner: Karl Anderson & Giant Bernard, 57%
Tokyo Sports, are you listening? The fans have sent a clear message: GET IT RIGHT THIS YEAR. I think that’s enough said.
2nd Place: Kota Ibushi & Kenny Omega, 13%
3rd Place: TIE-Ryusuke Taguchi & Prince Devitt and Seiya Sanada & Manabu Soya, 7%
Others: Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi, 6%; Taiyo Kea & Akebono, 5%; Atsushi Kotoge & Daisuke Harada, 2%; 3 with 1%
Tag Team Of The Year (Women)
My Winner: Kayoko Haruyama & Tsubasa Kuragaki
Maybe it’s due to the obvious lack of depth, but the joshi tag team divisions, when the right teams get together, are very competitive. This was a tough choice but their having a long sustained JWP & Daily Sports Tag Team Title reign was enough to give the top JWP duo the nod in my book over OZ Academy’s top teams of Manami Toyota & Carlos Amano and Chikayo Nagashima & Sonoko Kato. I wanted to give Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi some love too but their first International Ribbon Tag Team Title reign bordered on disaster. Their 2nd reign started too late for consideration. Note that although they seem to be a good team I left out Yuzuki Aikawa & Yoko Bito due to lack of time and matches together.
2nd Place: Manami Toyota & Carlos Amano
3rd Place: Chikayo Nagashima & Sonoko Kato
Vote Winner: Mio & Io Shirai, 30%
If this were more of a popularity contest I’d agree. As good a team as the sisters are, they’ve never really had success in terms of titles and they lately have seemed to be veeering a bit farther apart, especially indicated by Io now intending to focus on singles competition and their teaming more now with Kana in both tag team and trios matches. They’re good, but not the best this past year-they were one of only 2 teams in the poll to not win a title.
2nd Place: Emi Sakura & Ray, 21%
3rd Place: Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi, 18%
Others: Manami Toyota & Carlos Amano, 14%; Hikaru Shida & Tsukasa Fujimoto, 10%; Chikayo Nagashima & Sonoko Kato, 4%; Kayoko Haruyama & Tsubasa Kuragaki, 3%; Yumi Ohka & Hiren, 1%
Jr. Heavyweight Wrestler Of The Year (Men Only)
My Winner: TIE-Prince Devitt & Pac
I ultimately couldn’t pick just one here. Devitt was the dominant junior in New Japan until losing his title to Kota Ibushi near the end of the grading period, while Pac has been an unstoppable Open The Brave Gate Champion in Dragon Gate and is now breaking out big-time in tag teams with Masato Yoshino. Had Devitt retained the title or won it back from Ibushi already I would’ve given him the sole nod. The biggest thing keeping Ibushi off my top spot here? DDT. Had he been in any of the Big 3 his accomplishments have him an easy top 3, probably the winner. But his staying in DDT and thus doing his fair share of comedy matches, while very entertaining, does waste some of his talent and potential.
2nd Place: Kotaro Suzuki
3rd Place: KAI
Vote Winner: Kota Ibushi, 54%
Wow, blowout. Not to mention he really didn’t shoot up the ranks until late spring and BEST OF THE SUPER JUNIOR. He’d been good before that, but I think a lot of people overlooked the total body of work that both Devitt & Pac put together over the past year in favor of just the last 2-3 months of Ibushi. Ibushi has already established himself as the early favorite for next year, but for this year I felt it was too little too late, just not enough to overcome the top 2.
2nd Place: Prince Devitt, 24%
3rd Place: Kotaro Suzuki, 10%
Others: Pac, 8%, KAI & Ricochet, 2%, Seiya Sanada, 1%. Ryusuke Taguchi received 1% via write-ins.
Heavyweight Wrestler Of The Year (Men Only)
My Winner: Takashi Sugiura
Rather easy. Most dominant champion of the past year, defended his title against outsiders too, only coming 3 weeks short of holding it the entire grading period. And technically he’s a Jr. Heavyweight! But he’s here due to his mainly competing against Heavyweights, some much bigger than him. And until Go Shiozaki in July, none could stop him. Enough said. And it was just enough to get my nod over Suwama.
2nd Place: Suwama
3rd Place: Hiroshi Tanahashi
Vote Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi, 36%
Yes, Tanahashi had a great year and is having probably his best-yet IWGP Heavyweight Title reign and re-affirmed his status as the most popular man in puroresu, but I felt that while some of his defenses were great (never any complaints about a Tanahashi-Shinsuke Nakamura singles match for the belt), Sugiura & Suwama were just a little better.
2nd Place: Takashi Sugiura, 14%
3rd Place: TIE-Daisuke Sekimoto & Satoshi Kojima, 13%
Others: Suwama, 9%; Yuji Nagata & Dick Togo, 6%; Makabe & Masaaki Mochizuki, 1%
Comeback Of The Year
My Winner: Kenta Kobashi
The most no-brainer of them all. Yes, during the grading period he competed in only one match, but that’s beside the point. This is Kenta F’n Kobashi we’re talking about. The Perfect Champion. The indomitable Burning Spirit. Maybe the closest thing to God in puroresu. He’s now beaten back countless major injuries, health issues, and even cancer. And although it took 19 months to make his latest comeback, it’s once again happened and I couldn’t be happier. And yes, the missus (his new wife, singer Mai Mizuki) deserves a share of this honor because she played a big role in this comeback.
2nd Place: Soshun
3rd Place: Hamuko Hoshi
Vote Winner: Kenta Kobashi, 47%
In my book based on the vote results, a lot of people got this one wrong. Yes, Keiji Muto had a nice comeback from serious knee injuries, but nobody had to overcome more than Kobashi. It should not have been as close as it was.
2nd Place; Keiji Muto, 34%
3rd Place: Taku Iwasa, 10%
Others: Shu Shibutani, 5%; Kzy & Hamuko Hoshi, 1%. Hiroyoshi Tenzan received 1% via write-ins. Note that Sayaka Obihiro’s pending comeback was announced after the ballots had been compiled and thus too late for inclusion. She will tentatively be eligible next year, as will Takumi Soya.
Promotion Of The Year (Men)
My Winner: New Japan
There’s a good reason I consider New Japan the #1 promotion in puroresu today-actually more than one. It’s the biggest, has many of the top stars, they run the biggest events, the most prestigious tournaments, and much more. They’ve certainly put the disastrous Antonio Inoki years of the late 1990s-early 2000s well behind them and show no signs of letting up as the best in Japan. And using YouTube to its fullest extent doesn’t hurt either! All-Japan really got hurt in my book by the Voodoo Murders scandal involving the backstage assault on Nobukazu Hirai (Super Hate) and subsequent suspensions of TARU, Minoru & MAZADA that also led to the faction being disbanded. TARU remains suspended and Hirai, to the best of my knowledge, remains hospitalized. There have been no recent updates on his condition.
2nd Place: All-Japan
3rd Place: NOAH
Vote Winner: New Japan, 64%
2nd Place: TIE-DDT & NOAH, 10%
Others: Dragon Gate, 7%; All-Japan, 5%, Osaka Pro, 2%; Big Japan & IGF, 1%
Promotion Of The Year (Women)
My Winner: Ice Ribbon
Bigger isn’t always better. Emi Sakura’s little promotion that could is proving that, they are getting bigger but they’re doing it the right way-slow & steady. They’ve got their own school where they run matches, they go on the road just often enough, they space out their major events enough, and they keep roducing a lot of new talents-some don’t work out but there always turn out to be a few future superstars & buried treasures. I may not like Emi much as a wrestler and sometimes as a promoter/matchmaker, but as a trainer and operator of Ice Ribbon she definitely is doing something very right.
2nd Place: JWP
3rd Place: Stardom
Vote Winner: Ice Ribbon, 55%
2nd Place: Stardom, 13%
3rd Place: JWP, 11%
Others: Sendai Girls, 8%; WAVE, 7%, OZ Academy, 5%; REINA, 1%. Only Diana got no votes.
Overall Wrestler Of The Year (Men)
My Winner: Takashi Sugiura
If I extended the grading period another week or two this might be different, but almost nobody was on the level the Japanese Kurt Angle was on this year-It’s True. He became one of the faces of NOAH and truly a fighting champion, defending against outsiders and men much bigger than him, and setting records in the process. No, he doesn’t have the charisma or the perhaps wide appeal of the other top wrestlers but in the ring he’s all business and his 19-month reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion, which did end near the grading period, was enough to make him my top man of the year.
2nd Place: Suwama
3rd Place: Hiroshi Tanahashi
Note: I give Daisuke Sekimoto an Honorable Mention for his accomplishments before the period ended-his Fire Festival victory and becoming the first NWA Pan-Pacific Premium Heavyweight Champion (ZERO1 USA calls it World Premium though…here we go again) would’ve made him Top 3 if it happened earlier.
Vote Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi, 37%
2nd Place: TIE-Prince Devitt & Takashi Sugiura, 16%
Others: Daisuke Sekimoto, 9%; Satoshi Kojima, 8%; Go Shiozaki, 5%; Suwama, 3%; Masaaki Mochizuki, 2%; Pac & Shinjiro Otani, 1%. Kojima placed 5th thanks to write-in votes. Seiya Sanada also got 1% via write-ins.
Overall Wrestler Of The Year (Women)
My Winner: Tsukasa Fujimoto
Again a tough choice but not as tough as some others. A lot of it has to do with her success in Ice Ribbon and her spot as the face of the promotion, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. When CHIKARA invited Ice Ribbon stars including Fujimoto to compete in the USA, they noted how she was the promotion’s top star, and although Fujimoto hasn’t had much success outside Ice Ribbon, in the promotion nobody can melt the ice cube that she is in the ring. I certianly wouldn’t put her on a pedestal with the likes of Trish Stratus & The Fabulous Moolah among other great women wrestlers, but Fujimoto clearly has learned from those among others and very nicely combined beauty, brawn and most of all, success. Innocent Candies Evolution indeed. She is my female wrestler of the year and deservedly so.
2nd Place: Kaori Yoneyama
3rd Place: Leon
Vote Winner: Kana, 34%
Again, I think back to Mio & Io Shirai here and think Kana mainly got the popularity vote. She is one of the most popular female wrestlers, at least among those not named Yuzuki Aikawa, and she had a great overall year again but she didn’t have the one thing all the other women on the list have/had over the past year-a singles title. Yet. That could come soon in SMASH but it’s the only real reason I disagree with this vote. I still like her a lot, she has a great mix of sex appeal (especially in full business attire with those glasses) and butt-kicking ability and business-savvy to match. If she just had that title already I’d have ranked her much higher…that upcoming SMASH Diva Championship match just didn’t come about in time. If she wins it then it’ll at the very least make her the early favorite for next year’s top honor.
2nd Place: Kaori Yoneyama, 16%
3rd Place: Nanae Takahashi, 12%
Others: Tsukasa Fujimoto & Aja Kong, 11%; Leon, 7%; Yuzuki Aikawa, 5%; Ran Yu-Yu, 3%. Only KAORU got no votes, probably hurt by missing the last few months of the grading period due to injury, which cut short her impressive OZ Academy Openweight Title reign.
And there you have it! Thanks to all who participated in this year’s voting and congrats to all the winners.
OK folks, at last the floor is now yours. NOW you can comment on who you voted for, why, etc. Just remember to keep it clean!