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General thoughts about 1997


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  • 2 weeks later...

Just got this in the mail today and I'm already through disc 1. This is the first yearbook I've picked up and will probably be picking the rest up as time and money permits. 1997 is a fitting one to start with because this is the year I got into wrestling. I was 9 or 10 and home alone one night when I ended up flipping to WCW Saturday Night. It was a segment that involved the Giant and I was hooked. There wasn't a gradual progression for me either. The next day I begged my parents to take me to the video store and over the next few weeks I rented every wrestling video they had, while figuring out the tv schedules for every promotion and recording all of it. To this day WCW Saturday Night has a special place in my heart and is my favorite television show from any promotion, no matter the quality of wrestling on any given episode.

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  • 1 month later...

Well, I've hit the half way point of the year. For the first time on the yearbooks, I feel we have both WWF and WCW as the top of the promotions. WWF has been so captivating with Bret Hart turning heel, the rise of Stone Cold over the course of each week and to a lesser degree Shawn being such a asshole as he slowly turns heel. WCW still has the NWO going strong and the focus has been mostly on Hogan, Savage and the Wolfpac so don't really notice those other guys who inflated the group. They are showing great patience with Sting versus Hogan and Sting is crazy over with the crowd without saying a word. Lawler in ECW is the most interesting thing they got going. Jerry is such a pro working dual promotions as a face in USWA and a heel elsewhere. WrestlePalooza segment was fantastic. We have had a few American indies show up which I will assume will be bigger going forth with loss of SMW and soon USWA. They haven't delivered for me yet though.


Promotions in Japan and Mexico aren't as strong as previous. Mexico has had some fun six mans with Santo/Casas but we have yet to get the great matches like Dandy/Satanico. New Japan has provided some good Jr. Heavyweight matches but Ogawa's arrival is a big turn off for me. All Japan seems only be about Misawa/Kobashi/Kawada and the booking of their matches can be perplexing. We haven't seen much of anything from their undercard. Joshi for me has been Kudo as everything else has been forgettable. FMW maybe one of the more entertaining groups right now though their matches aren't the prettiest. Tamura in Rings is a guy to watch. I just have a certain dredge about this format of pro wrestling and the effect of MMA on Puro. Plus, I miss Fujiwara head butting guys.


Thing I probably noticed the most of this yearbook is how "top heavy" promotions are as far as being featured. This is been a great WWF year but that's really down to Hart Foundation/Austin/Michaels. We aren't seeing great little matches from anyone else. WCW is still mostly about the NWO outside a few cruiserweight/TV title matches on set. All Japan has no undercard. I can't remember any NJPW heavyweight matches not involving Hash. This could be down to 1997 being a loaded year and what is chosen but it feels like the undercard guys start to got unnoticed more with the primary focus on the main eventers.

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CMLL was the best promotion in the world in 1997 with the best TV. I'm not sure why that doesn't come through on the yearbook. One of CMLL's major strengths that year was the undercard and the time given to each match so that you got a lot of quality matches on each episode. It's actually a better year than 1990 despite '89-90 being my absolute favourite period for lucha.

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I am about to start Disc 30, and "Bittersweet Symphony" as the menu music is fitting. I feel like I'm entering the final part of a 120-hour movie. More than any yearbook, I feel like there's a real story here -- new stars emerging, old stars falling, wrestling styles and promotions gaining prominence and losing prominence. Such a historic year and also such a great year for wrestling action. It really is the best yearbook of them all. I'm a little worried about what lies ahead, but I still look forward to revisiting it with an open mind.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am about to start Disc 30, and "Bittersweet Symphony" as the menu music is fitting. I feel like I'm entering the final part of a 120-hour movie. More than any yearbook, I feel like there's a real story here -- new stars emerging, old stars falling, wrestling styles and promotions gaining prominence and losing prominence. Such a historic year and also such a great year for wrestling action. It really is the best yearbook of them all. I'm a little worried about what lies ahead, but I still look forward to revisiting it with an open mind.

I couldn't have said things better. What a gripping year as far as WWF/WCW. Really some amazing must see TV that draws you in. WWF is on the rise but cracks are in place for WCW. We have now lost our stable group in USWA which leaves a big whole for US indies. I think it's been a mixes bag for ECW and the US minor groups have not caught on yet. The major groups in Japan are having their issues. Some good stuff from FMW. The down year in Japan has seen stuff like Rings provide some of the better matches. I'm just so low of confidence as far as the shoot wrestling going forward with the emergence of Pride. It will be interesting to see how steps up in 1998.

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  • 5 months later...
  • 8 months later...
  • 7 months later...

I believe the '97 forum pre-dates the board changeover--the dates and stuff were all in the subject description, which was a feature that was eliminated in lieu of tags. Loss went back and added tags to the 1996 forum but sort of petered out in February of '97. I use the "Sort by start date" option to more or less ensure I'm in the right thread.


I mentioned this in the match thread but since there's music talk here, great call on "Date w/ Ikea" by Pavement for disc 4. My favorite song of theirs and a better out-of-the-box pick than playing "Cut Your Hair" again.

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  • 7 months later...

So was this the best Yearbook so far? I have to say…no, I ended up liking ’96 better, to my own surprise. Possibly both of the Big Two promotions had their best years of the ‘90s, and it was an outstanding, return-to-form year for lucha as well. But it seems a lot of other places took a step back. ECW had some of its best segments in its history as well but by the end of the year seemed to be running on creative fumes. All-Japan had an all-time opening and a very strong RWTL to close out, but in-between completely lost the plot. New Japan had some good (or great) juniors action with a real who-gives-a-shit main event scene revolving around NWO Japan. And then you had AJW, which took more like 50 steps back and was pretty much on the verge of going under. So it wasn’t all rosy, and the result is something slightly less inspiring than ’96 which seems to be the “deepest” of the Yearbooks so far. That said, a surprisingly strong December, even from the dead-in-the-water WWF, has me excited to see what’s coming in ’98. Plus I can’t let the Excite Series guys stay ahead of me for too long. On with the Awards!


Dave did some restructuring this year: Best Box Office Draw is a singular award to replace Best Babyface and Heel. Apparently those were dumped due a combination of the changing wrestling landscape and Dave’s frustrations over misinterpretation of those awards’ intent, which was to focus on drawing money more than just loud fan reactions. Best Manager is gone, because the manager is dead (though not dead enough that there aren’t candidates for Worst Manager). Dave dumped Most Unimproved because the thing just went to Hogan every single year—as someone not encumbered by that bias, I’m going to overrule Dave for the first time and continue to vote on this, because I think it’s something that merits thought. Best Major Show moves from Category B to Category A. I missed this last year, but Most Obnoxious was dumped for 1996—no big deal, it was going to Shawn Michaels this year in a landslide. And Dave added two shoot awards (Best Shooter and Best Shoot Fight) to Category B, which I won’t be discussing.



WRESTLER OF THE YEAR (Mitsuharu Misawa)

1. Shinya Hashimoto

2. Steve Austin

3. Bret Hart

Even though AJPW’s year ended strong and NJPW’s heavyweight stuff wasn’t even noteworthy enough to make the Yearbook, I think I have to go with Hash over Misawa here. He had the bigger main events with Ogawa and managed to carry a non-wrestler to two pretty darn good matches, which I don’t think anyone else could have done. Even though the WWF spent all year at #2, what singular entity from WCW is deserving of a vote? WCW won because it was an ensemble of stars. Sting wasn’t active, and Hogan in the final two months was starting to show signs of being a burden more than a benefit. Austin was the most compelling figure in American wrestling throughout the year, and Bret was a big part of the reason why.



1. Kiyoshi Tamura

2. Jun Akiyama

3. Shinya Hashimoto

It takes a lot for me to consider a shootstyle guy for this award but Tamura was too awesome to be ignored. Like I said in one of the reviews, he would have been a tremendous wrasslin’-style worker if he had any inclination at all to work that style. Misawa had the Greatest AJPW Match Ever, yes, but also some of the most disappointing AJPW matches ever. I noticed that in every Misawa/Akiyama match on the set, Akiyama either outworked Misawa or did most of the heavy lifting while Misawa sold on the floor. And again, two really good matches with Naoya Ogawa. Hash is really one of the greatest carriers in wrestling history, he should be mentioned in the same breath as guys like Flair and (by reputation) Michaels.


BEST BOX OFFICE DRAW (Hollywood Hogan)

1. Hollywood Hogan

2. Shinya Hashimoto

3. Steve Austin

Still, despite the documented issues cropping up from October onward, it seemed like WCW was breaking company gate records left and right as the year went on, climaxing with Starrcade. Hash could have taken #1 if the series with Shamrock came off, but he still did a good job with what he had. Actually this all seems like a pretty topic to “vote” on, which is inherently subjective.


FEUD OF THE YEAR (Steve Austin vs. Hart Foundation)

1. Steve Austin vs. Hart Foundation

2. Diamond Dallas Page vs. Randy Savage

3. Jushin Liger & co. vs. Shinjiro Otani & co.

The feuds and programs in Japan seemed…I dunno, vague, this year? Lots of stable wars, which is great, but there didn’t seem to be one singular personal issue that stood out. Misawa-Kobashi was more of a “rivalry” than a feud and despite a great finish, I didn’t get a big sense of advancement over the Misawa/Akiyama-Holy Demon Army tag feud. Plus the big singles match bit the big one. Austin-Harts is pretty much a runaway winner anyway, since it provided at least two MOTYCs and provided for compelling television every week, oftentimes completely carrying the Raw program due to the WWF’s lack of depth. DDP and Savage are two of WCW’s best-matched workers since Sting and Vader and was the best thing about the overall NWO-WCW feud.


TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR (Misawa & Akiyama)

1. Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue

2. Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama

3. Kenta Kobashi & Johnny Ace

A clean sweep by All-Japan—tag wrestling was dead in WCW, full of really bad to mediocre teams in the WWF, the Outlaws weren’t really over yet, and the other promotions were marked more by six-mans and multi-man tags with it being too hard to pick two and only two guys. Any incarnation of Kaientai D*X could probably have gotten a vote on merit, though.


MOST IMPROVED (Tatsuhito Takaiwa)

1. Kazushi Sakuraba

2. Tatsuhito Takaiwa

3. The Rock

Takaiwa was certainly a new force in the juniors division with some really unique and soon-to-be-imitated offense. Sakuraba’s matches at the end of the year pushed him ahead though, and have me wanting to seek out more Kingdom, as I really like the more urgent style with legal punches to the head and fewer points. Rocky probably hasn’t put it together as a worker yet but turned himself into a pretty compelling presence as the year went on, eventually overshadowing Faarooq entirely.



1. Shane Douglas

2. Stevie Richards

3. Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon

Hey, three ECW votes, how about that. If we had Yearbook footage worth watching we probably could have voted for three bankrupt AJW ladies, too. I’ve heard ECW as having peaked at Barely Legal and jumped the shark immediately after—I don’t quite know about that, as the initial WWF invasion stuff was some of the best booking in the promotion’s history. But by the end, with a fearsome WWF contingent of RVD, Sabu, Fonzie, and Lance Wright, it seemed like a promotion on fumes. Douglas was mostly intolerable as an interview and didn’t provide much in the way of good wrestling—and the year was building to a triumphant World title win in his hometown in what I now realize is a rather pale imitation of the Sid/Shawn title turnaround, which didn’t quite work because he’s a shitty babyface. I feel bad for Richards’ neck injury but in the end, his work as a “serious” wrestler just indicates to me that the Clueless Putz or cartoon-character RTC Guy is the role he deserved. It’s staggering how much apathy Furnas & LaFon generated in any role—you’d think they’d be two guys that Heyman could work wonders with, but even he couldn’t make anyone really care about them.



1. Steve Austin

2. Bret Hart

3. Mick Foley

No one else is particularly close to these three. Foley may not be the wrestler with a finger most on the pulse of where wrestling was going like he was in ’95 and ’96, but his sitdown interviews were still captivating and he continued to walk the line between being funny and scary, while playing more roles. Bret probably delivered the year’s single best interview when he turned heel and delivered all kinds of incredible character work, all while drawing either incredible babyface pops or nuclear heat depending on where he was. Not every one of Austin’s segments was a winner, particularly at the end of the year, but he was the perfect foil for Bret and was capable of making even the lamest idea something that you wanted to at least keep watching.



1. Steve Austin

2. Sting

3. Hollywood Hogan

See above about Austin wanting to make you see what he’d do even during less-compelling segments, like the New Year’s Baby stuff with Goldust or the back-and-forths with Rocky before people cared about him. Sting was one of the biggest TV draws around despite wrestling two matches and never talking—kind of the definition of charisma. Hogan could still generate a reaction by blowing his nose and still mattered more from an objective, dollars-and-sense standpoint, but got more grating as the year went on and he actively hurt a number of segments in the last quarter. Not a big deal, just the biggest PPV and TV main events in company history, but enough to slide him down to 3rd.



1. Kiyoshi Tamura

2. Volk Han

3. Atlantis

Atlantis is a bit of a reputation pick but he did have the year’s best non-shootstyle technical match, and I have no problem believing he was one of the best mat workers in lucha during an outstanding year. I don’t know if it’s quite right to give Tamura the nod based on charisma for a Technical Wrestling award, but he did have something to him, some sort of urgency, that added to the match when he would take things to the mat.



1. Mick Foley

2. Steve Austin

3. Masato Tanaka

There’s a good chance that Foley and Austin will be finishing 1-2 here for the next two years, at least in some order—even as wrestling gets marginalized the WWF will have plenty of great brawls for us involving these two. Tanaka continued to stand out among the myriad FMW garbage brawlers, combining heated brawling with good transitions, comebacks, and advanced offense making for a standout hybrid worker.



1. Rey Misterio, Jr.

2. Taka Michinoku

3. El Hijo del Santo

There’s good chance that Rey will be finishing…yeah, see above. Taka may not be as consistently spectacular as Sasuke (though that spaceman plancha is something else) but he’s a far better all-around talent and better at logically incorporating flying into his matches. Whether it was perception or not, Santo seemed to step up his game as well—like Taka and Otani, he had some dives that looked like they *hurt* in addition to just looking pretty, especially against Felino.


MOST OVERRATED (Hollywood Hogan)

1. Roddy Piper

2. Triple H

3. Prince Iaukea

There will come a time when Hogan is a worthy nominee, maybe as soon as 1998. But he’s not there yet. Piper was used well at some points, not so well at others, but there was not a single point all year where he was in a match that I really wanted to see. HHH wasn’t *bad* and had some very good matches with Foley in a good overall feud, but like the Stanford University marching band he’s about a quarter as clever and hilarious as he obviously thought he was. Rocky Maivia should have been a shoo-in for #3, but he redeemed himself with his push late in the year, a push that a lot of people were groaning about when it started. So we’ll go with the Poor Man’s Rocky instead, as Iaukea almost completely kills the TV title—actually, the fact that he was immediately de-pushed back to his previous jobberrific levels ended up doing even more damage to the belt.



1. Juventud Guerrera

2. Chris Benoit

3. Flash Funk

Surely WCW could have come up with something for Juventud to do—for various reasons he may have had the most upside of all the non-Misterio Mexicans on the roster. Benoit was marginalized against the NWO despite being a Horseman and spent most of his time in a side feud with Jeff Jarrett that didn’t do much for him, before having to feud with Raven’s Flock while Raven continually backed out of matches due to a legit injury, which while not a bad heel tactic got really old really quickly. And again, it didn’t do much for Benoit to beat up on the Lodis and Riggses of the world. Funk deteriorated badly in McMahonland, and it’s hard to say if he was underpushed because his work didn’t live up to expectations or if his work started suffering because of a lack of push.




2. WWF

3. WCW

This might have been the most enjoyable year for lucha on a Yearbook since the height of El Dandy in 1990, with some classic title matches, spectacular action involving minis, and the Santo-Casas-Felino stuff. The Big Two really were in a dead heat with each other, with similar problems as the year went on, but while they couldn’t touch WCW for depth or random TV matches, Austin and the Harts were just that compelling with each other with just enough other good upper-mid-card acts like Mick Foley, Undertaker, and Vader to give the WWF the nod for second place. WCW could create some great set-piece angles but the week-to-week booking wasn’t nearly as strong.



1. WWF Monday Night Raw

2. WCW Monday Nitro

3. CMLL on Televisa

Just from reading Meltzer’s reviews, there were a lot of I-don’t-give-a-shit New Japan TV matches involving NWO Sting, Buff & Norton, and a tired Keiji Muto that even Dave didn’t seem all that high on. The live-TV factor for Raw and Nitro and all the backstage chaos in both companies ended up creating an element of danger and unpredictability that hadn’t been seen on any wrestling television outside of Memphis. Again, the week-to-week booking gives Raw a slight edge.


MATCH OF THE YEAR (Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin, 3/23)

1. Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Kenta Kobashi (AJPW, 1/20)

2. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin (WWF, 3/23)

3. El Hijo del Santo vs. Negro Casas (CMLL, 9/19)

4. Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs. Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (AJPW, 12/5)

5. Toshie Uematsu vs. Yoshiko Tamura (GAEA, 7/19)

6. Torneo Cibernetico (CMLL, 4/18)

7. El Samurai vs. Koji Kanemoto (NJPW, 6/5)

8. Volk Han vs. Kiyoshi Tamura (RINGS, 9/26)

9. Jushin Liger vs. Shinjiro Otani (NJPW, 2/9)

10. Rey Misterio, Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero (WCW, 10/26)

11. Volk Han vs. Kiyoshi Tamura (RINGS, 1/22)

12. El Hijo del Santo vs. Felino (CMLL, 7/4)

13. Ultimo Dragoncito & Cicloncito Ramirez vs. Damiancito el Guerrero & Pierrothito (CMLL, 3/14)

14. Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust, & The Legion of Doom vs. The Hart Foundation (WWF, 7/6)

15. Hayabusa, Ricky Fuji, & Ricky Morton vs. Mike Awesome, Hisakatsu Oya, & Mr. Gannosuke (FMW, 5/13)

16. Yuki Ishikawa vs. Daisuke Ikeda (BattlArts, 4/15)

17. Torneo Cibernetico (CMLL, 3/18)

18. Bracito de Oro, Cicloncito Ramirez, & Mascarita Magica vs. Damiancito el Guerrero, El Fierito, & Pierrothito (CMLL, 10/3)

19. Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Kenta Kobashi (AJPW, 10/21)

20. Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue vs. Hayabusa & Jinsei Shinzaki (AJPW, 11/23)

A sign that ’97, while greatly enjoyable mostly for the Monday Night stuff, maybe wasn’t the magical year I thought it was. There are more “novelties” on this list than probably any other MOTY list of mine (even though in the early years I didn’t vote past 3). These are all great matches of course, but in ’96 and ’92 especially I had to make some painful cuts whereas here, things fall into place a little more clearly and I actually had to do some digging through threads because I didn’t have enough matches tagged as “MOTYC” in my reviews to make 20. Still, the high-end stuff is great and the WWF continued to hit it out of the park when it had the opportunity to do so (the next two cuts were the two big fall Undertaker matches). In addition to the fun novelty-type matches like the wacky FMW 6-man and the stuff with the minis, we had a surprise GAEA match between two youngsters. We had a classic juniors match that holds up well, IMO, against any other high-end NJPW juniors match despite the colder reaction from others on it. And of course at the top we have my favorite AJPW match ever.



1. Naoya Ogawa

2. Don Frye

3. Bill Goldberg

Ogawa and Frye were almost instant stars. Granted, it was because of their backgrounds, but there are worse spots to debut than opposite Hashimoto. Frye didn’t get that luxury but was immediately a gripping figure just because his style and persona were so unique for a shooter. Goldberg wasn’t technically eligible because Dave cut the debut time off at 9/1, but whatever—he’s a handful matches into his pro career at this point and is already carrying himself as a star and showing great athleticism, even if he’s as raw as Nikita Koloff was in 1984. Guys who debuted in ’97 who could have been eligible with footage include Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Super Dragon, Ultimo Dragon’s first trainee class including guys like CIMA and SUWA, Tomoaki Honma, and Chad Collyer.



1. Jim Ross

2. Tony Schiavone

3. Mike Tenay

With the coalescing of wrestling television in general in the U.S., our options for Best and Worst Announcer are getting thinner and thinner. I admit to being entertained by Ross’ almost open disdain for the WWF’s direction in the late part of the year—“Boy, the WWF has champions it can really be proud of!” When he got the opportunity to call a big match, he could still bring the goods, and formed what turned into a very good team with Vince and Lawler. Schiavone had some great moments like the aftermath of the Hennig-Flair angle but was also hurt by Bischoff’s policy of not cluing in the announcers on plans at other times, and we saw our first glimpses of the “greatest night in the history of our sport!” Schiavone of the late ‘90s that we all made fun of. Tenay still did a good job of getting over the luchadores and juniors without the really annoying aspects of Joey Styles.



1. Eric Bischoff

2. Rick Rude

3. Lee Marshall

See above—I had to struggle to come up with three BAD announcers. The worst guys were some of the people who worked USWA and Music City, but I don’t know who any of those guys were. Bischoff was in a tough spot in being a heel play-by-play man and having to get WCW guys over while also ripping on them, but I don’t think heel play-by-play ever works and it didn’t work here. And even babyface Bischoff was a tough listen. Rude was pretty bad in both promotions he did commentary for, very similar to AWA Ray Stevens in that he spoke in platitudes in cliches but never actually contributed anything specific to get a wrestler over. Just the occasionally amusing double-entendres. Lee was Lee, something out of a 1980’s movie about wrestling rather than an actual wrestling announcer.



1. Canadian Stampede

2. CMLL Aniversario

3. Slamboree

There were actually more bad big shows than good ones this year, which is a little alarming considering how many of them there were. Most WWF PPVs suffered from the lack of roster depth, WCW PPVs suffered from main events that were often poorly booked on top of being badly worked, and similar depth issues hit All-Japan and AJW. NJPW’s Dome shows, and they ran a lot in several different places, didn’t seem particularly blowaway and had a lot of shoot or worked-shoot stuff on them—some of which was good, some of which was bad. Stampede solved the depth problem by limiting the show to 4 matches and keeping bad workers hidden in the 10-man tag, and had the best atmosphere of any major show of the year. The Anniversario is carried by a legendary main event but I feel like CMLL has to be represented somewhere. Slamboree was WCW’s best feel-good show of the year and probably its best-worked main event on top of the straight-ahead, “right” result.



BEST WRESTLING MOVE (Diamond Cutter): They were calling this the move of the ‘90s on WCW TV and I don’t think they were wrong—at least the move of the second half of the ‘90s after the power bomb was the move of the first half. It seemed like 3/4 of the wrestlers in the business started doing impersonations of it just like everyone’s doing STO variations now. But it makes sense, as Page and Austin got the move over great as an instant knockout that could occur at any time—it was almost like what Choshu did for the Japan style in the mid-1980s.


WORST MAJOR WRESTLING CARD (NWO Souled Out): There were some bad cards in ’97 but this might have been the only one not to have *any* redeeming, must-see match. You have to admire the effort put into this but it simply didn’t work on any level. Bad commentary, bad wrestling filled with so much gaga bullshit that none of it really meant anything, and an attempted show-saving ladder match that was nice but didn’t really “save” much.


MOST DISGUSTING PROMOTIONAL TACTIC (WWF interview with Melanie Pillman). Not even up for debate. All the constant bait-and-switching as far as match announcements seem downright quaint by comparison. Even Meltzer has stopped caring about that even though Starrcade may have set a new record for such practices. The Melanie interview is possibly the worst idea put to film in the history of the Observer to this point.


FAVORITE WRESTLER (Chris Benoit): Bret Hart being a mark who takes himself too seriously is a feature, not a bug, and it was never clearer than in 1997. I tend to bristle at the suggestion that Hogan wouldn’t have made it without Piper to play off of and don’t really buy it as truth. But I do think Bret was vital in making Steve Austin, in multiple ways.


LEAST FAVORITE WRESTLER (Hollywood Hogan): I’m counting the days until I get to WM14 and Shawn Michaels can just go away.


WORST WRESTLER (Hollywood Hogan): These Hogan-centric awards are getting silly at this point. Hogan had some awful performances but also some damn good ones, like the Nitro match with DDP and Bash at the Beach. Steve McMichael, as much as I kind of like the big oaf, was a walking danger to himself and everyone around him but still kept getting pushed.


WORST TAG TEAM (The Godwinns): The heel Deliverance Godwinns got a lot more tolerable. Skull and 8-Ball of the DOA got yet another plum spot despite doing nothing to earn it on merit.


WORST TELEVISION SHOW (USWA): Another tough call with fewer options. I think the USWA had just enough intriguing stuff on it to escape getting the award even if the promotion was dying. Shotgun Saturday Night, especially once it became a regular B-show, really exposed the WWF roster as a whole. Raw was often great, but take away the main eventers and you didn’t have much left.


WORST MANAGER (Sonny Onoo): Not really any good ones to choose from, hence the demise of the Best Manager Award. I actually think Onoo was better here than he was in ’95, so I’ll go with the useless James Vandenberg, who didn’t even get to use any borderline R-rated inside jokes in his promos to entertain the boys. Take that away, not that it was much more than eye-roll material to start with, and he had nothing.


WORST MATCH OF THE YEAR (Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper, 10/26): Definitely the worst PPV main event, but the worst match I think has to go Sabu-Sandman at November 2 Remember, which was an embarrassment to wrestling as a whole. Just long set-ups for big garbage spots, almost every one of which was blown. Not just bad, but a scary indictment of where a lot of people thought wrestling was headed.


WORST FEUD (DOA vs. NOD vs. Boricuas): This one produced a few WMOTYCs in its own right. One of the most nothing feuds of all-time, featuring 12 people with the only thing that was over being the DOA’s motorcycles.


WORST ON INTERVIEWS (Ahmed Johnson): YUH, GUW’N’, DUN. YUH, GUW’N’, DUN. All three U.S. promotions had enough good talkers that it could afford to marginalize the guys who couldn’t. All, seemingly, except Ahmed.


WORST PROMOTION (USWA): I know it gets a rep in a few years, but the Big Japan stuff made W*ING look high-end. Fascinating that New Japan would be willing to do business with them at all.


BEST BOOKER (Paul Heyman): Heyman definitely lost quite a bit off his fastball—he, Sullivan, and Taylor all seemed to be fresh out of ideas in the second half of the year, and television began to look like repeats. The WWF didn’t have a singular booker, so I’ll have to split the award between Vince Russo (!) and Jim Cornette, who worked shockingly well together in presenting a product that was fresh and dangerous with a ‘90s feel, but with enough traditional booking that it was still a wrestling program—at least until the winter when Cornette left creative, people started leaving, and the guys who were staying were all hurt.


BEST PROMOTER (Riki Choshu): New Japan ran some big-money Dome shows not just at the Egg Dome but also in Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka. Hard to argue with that kind of success even if the heavyweight matches that didn’t involve Hashimoto against an outsider seemed pretty underwhelming.


BEST GIMMICK (Steve Austin): The Three Faces of Foley were genius and I’m not sure to what extent it had ever been done before in wrestling. The third persona and the lack of a loser-leaves-town-type catalyst separated it from Uvalde Slim and other guys-disguised-in-a-mask angles.


WORST GIMMICK (Goldust): Rockabilly was a horrible misfire right out of the early ‘90s. The crazy thing is the identity of Honky’s protégé was a semi-hot topic on Prodigy and RSPW at the time, and the whole idea went to hell about half a second after Gunn walked out. There were a lot of people hoping it would be Disco Inferno, but in hindsight that seems like a pipe dream.


MOST EMBARRASSING WRESTLER (Goldust): I’m going to have to agree. We were past the era of wacky outdated ‘80s gimmicks and qualms about overpushes aside, wrestling was still pretty meritocratic by necessity due to the ongoing Wars, so there are again fewer options here than, say, 1994. The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust was sort of compelling because you didn’t know what crazy shit he’d do next and because Dustin was so committed to shocking people, but I can’t imagine trying to explain it if a non-fan happened to see him on TV.

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