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2000 Awards

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1. CMLL's WWF-inspired Crash TV format proves to be entertaining
2. Osaka Pro is one of the best promotions in wrestling
3. Joshi veterans aren't as bad as expected
4. New Japan shows brights spots amid Inokism
5. There was so much garbage wrestling that I finally learned to appreciate a good ol' Death Match

I guess you could call me a traditionalist when it comes to lucha libre. I don't like anything that deviates from the way lucha was in the 80s and 90s. But I did find myself enjoying CMLL's television booking for the simple fact that traditionally there wasn't a hell of a lot of continuity to CMLL TV. They would simply film Arena Mexico and Arena Coliseo shows and if you were lucky there was an apuesta feud going on to provide some sort of weekly serialization. The TV booking in 2000 didn't produce a ton of great matches but it was refreshing to see them try their hand at compelling weekly TV with the advent of PPV broadcasts. The high point was definitely Pierroth electrocuting Villano which I thought was a tremendous angle. 

Osaka Pro went from a promotion that I thought was better than Toryumon and BattlARTS to one of the best promotions in wrestling. I love it when small promotions have strong runs so the success of Osaka Pro was right up my alley. With a limited roster, the promotion produced an eclectic mix of shoot style, WWF action, lucha libre, and traditional Japanese juniors wrestling. One of the true bright spots in 2000 wrestling.

I was expecting the Joshi veterans to be pitiful but they really weren't that bad. The match choices were cherry-picked, of course, but all these years removed it's possible to look at this phase in a Devil Masami or a Dynamite Kansai's career and not be despondent about the physical state of the workers and how much they'd declined but enjoy some of their in-ring smarts and the Showa vs. Heisei current than ran through 2000 Joshi. I particularly enjoyed the Showa heel faction in GAEA and loved the work of Hokuto and Ozaki as a tag team.

The final choice is a bit of a personal one but I don't think I would have been able to enjoy some of the Death Matches from 2000 if garbage wrestling hadn't been so prevalent around the world. I'm not a fan of garbage wrestling or arena brawling but it was inescapable in 2000 and you really had to live with it otherwise there wasn't much left to enjoy.


1.  Shinya Hashimoto has an awful year
2. The All Japan split  and NOAH's new direction
3. Televisa editing CMLL matches and CMLL being pre-empted for the Olympics
4. Steve Austin's return to the WWF
5. The Tarzan Boy rudo turn is drawn out for an eternity

I know people enjoyed the matches in the Ogawa feud, but to me one of the great aces and great champions of Japanese pro-wrestling had an entire year of his prime ruined by shitty booking and petty politics. 

The only good thing about the All Japan split was that it lit a fire under Kawada's ass. Apart from that, All Japan was a better product in the first half of the year than either post-split All Japan or NOAH. The former was at least bolstered by the return of Tenryu and the interpromotional matches with New Japan but I did not like the direction of NOAH whatsoever. I understand that Misawa wanted to break away from the stereotype of All Japan being old professional wrestling and present a more modern angle & story-driven product but the presentation was garbage and the wrestlers weren't used to putting over stories or angles. 

Televisa's editing made sense in terms of the weekly digest format it was trying to present but it was noticeable how harmful the clipping was when compared the full-length FOX Sports matches. As far as the Olympics go, it's unclear how much of the Anniversary Show build-up and event we would have seen but missing out on Wager vs. Casas was a huge disappointment. 

Austin's return to the WWF should have been huge but instead it signaled the end of the WWF's strong 2000 run. The WWF was simply more creative with Austin out having been forced to position wrestlers like Benoit, Jericho and Angle in the main event scene along with The Rock and Triple H. Austin returned with an atrocious angle where he basically came across as a homicidal maniac. His PPV matches were average at best and featured backstage films that weren't much better than WCW Monster Truck angles. And he had ring rust on top of everything. 

The Tarzan Boy rudo turn was teased just as he was improving as a tecnico worker but it was still an interesting idea given that the Arena Mexico crowd never took to him and often booed him. But for some god unknown reason, they elected to draw out the rudo turn over several months and several different promotions. One of the worst and most excruciating rudo turns of all-time almost killed the goodwill that Tarzan Boy had engendered by improving in the ring. 

More to come when this post gets approved. 

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1. Chris Benoit
2. Triple H
3. The Rock
4. Low Ki
5. Homicide

Benoit matched up well with just about everyone he faced and quickly adapted to the WWF in-ring style. Obviously, you don't want to praise the guy too much but I think he was the best wrestler in the US during 2000. Triple H ran him a close second but Benoit was the better technical wrestler.

Triple H's 2000 run has had its fair share of critics over the years but I thought it held up. It's not an all-time great run but it features a lot of strong character work, good selling, and decent execution. Above all, I felt that he mastered the WWF main event style. The WWF style is so heavily choreographed that it can be difficult to make it appear natural but for the most part that's what Triple H did. Like the company itself, the first half of 2000 was better than the latter half but I don't think it took the shine off his year.

The Rock wasn't the most gifted in-ring technician but there's no denying his charisma and presence. He knew his way around the ring well enough and did a good job with scripted bouts. He also exuded plenty of chemistry with his fellow main eventers which is what drove the WWF's creative success prior to Austin's return.

Low Ki and Homicide produced some of the most intense wrestling I saw all year long and that's why they get the nod here. Low Ki had wee little kinks in his game mostly involving excessive offense but I think he pulled off the martial arts influence well which isn't easy to do in the US. Homicide surprised me with his wrestling ability. He had an aggressive persona and cut strong promos and backed it up in the ring in a really physical, intense way. 

If we're talking honorable mentions, Jericho enhanced his reputation in my eyes. He was much better than I remembered him being. I would have liked to have seen a little more consistency outside of his key feuds with Triple H and Benoit but they stuck him in some pretty awful programs. Tajiri was pretty good as was Little Guido. Corino probably deserves a mention too even though I'm not very fond of ECW.


1. Cactus Jack vs. Triple H, 1/23/00
2. Low Ki vs. Homicide, 8/19/00
3. Super Crazy vs. Tajiri, 1/21/00
4. Low Ki vs. Homicide, 5/27/00
5. Chris Benoit vs. Triple H, 10/22/00

The Cactus Jack/Triple H Street FIght was hands down the best US match of the year and the only one I could really see competing for the overall MOTY.  It was simply the complete package in terms of delivering on the buildup and pre-match promos. 

I loved the intense grappling in the Low Ki/Homicide bouts and Tajiri vs. Super Crazy gave me a finer appreciation for garbage wrestling. Benoit had a few PPV matches that I liked. In the end, I went with the Triple H one since I felt they were the two best wrestlers squaring off against each other. 

I'd be lying if I said it was the best year for US wrestling matches but you can see a clear pattern from my choices with the various rivalries being represented. The total number of great matches was down on years prior but there were still a lot of workers who had strong chemistry together. The year simply lacked depth in large part to the massive decline in WCW match quality.


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1. Kenta Kobashi
2. Toshiaki Kawada
3. Yuki Ishikawa
4. Super Delfin
5. Dick Togo

I went back and forth on #1. Up until the All Japan split, Kobashi was the best heavyweight in the world while Kawada's year had been nothing special. After the split happened, Kobashi began working a new style that I didn't enjoy and which seemed to make his health problems more pronounced than they had been in All Japan. The split lit a fire under Kawada's ass and he was by far the better of the two during the second half of the year. He delivered a number of high-quality performances and seemed reinvigorated by working against new opponents such as Tenryu, Sasaki and Nagata. The matches may not have been comparable to the work Kawada did in his prime but relative to 2000 standards they were excellent. However, when I sat down and thought about, it dawned on me that Kawada didn't have a single performance all year that was as masterful as Kobashi's performance against Takayama and that was what inspired my choice.

Ishikawa was the best mat worker in Japan in 2000 which means a lot to me. He had a hell of a feud with Murakami though I didn't like the singles match as much as everyone else. It was still a killer feud, though. 

Super Delfin was the best juniors worker in Japan in 2000. He reached a level where you could honestly claim that he was a master of his craft. Up until this project I had no idea how good he could be on the mat. That was the biggest revelation about Delfin. I get the impression that he sort of disappears after 2000 but talk about saving your best for last. Togo was a great foil as the veteran Osaka Pro heel and an outstanding worker all year long. 

Honorable mentions go to Ohtani and Kanemoto, who propped up the NJPW juniors division all year long and made it much more violent and interesting than I expected, Sasaki for his great run as the NJPW ace, and Murahama for his sensational rookie year.


1. Kenta Kobashi vs. Yoshihiro Takayama, AJPW 5/26/00
2. Toshiaki Kawada vs. Genichiro Tenryu, AJPW 10/28/00
3. Super Delfin vs. Takehiro Murahama, Osaka Pro 5/7/00
4. Super Delfin vs. Takehiro Murahama, Osaka Pro 6/18/00
5. Toshiaki Kawada vs. Kensuke Sasaki, NJPW 10/9/00

These picks may seem strange but I wasn't that high on a lot of the more renowned matches from 2000. Kawada vs. Sasaki is the only conventional pick, I suppose, but the other matches reflect match-ups that stood out to me. They were all fantastic contests. Kobashi vs. Takayama is fresh in my mind because of its tremendous focus on submissions and striking and the wonderful selling that Kobashi did. Kawada vs. Tenryu is simply a dream match-up for fans of those two wrestlers. Delfin vs. Murahama was almost comparable to Liger vs. Sano in the impact that it had on me as a juniors match-up. And Kawada vs. Sasaki was your summer popcorn flick/Hollywood blockbuster choice. Y'know, the smart action flick that people love to trumpet. 

Honorable mentions could have gone to a host of Osaka Pro matches, some BattlARTS tags and a few other matches here and there. It wasn't a great year for Japanese men's wrestling but as a niche project it threw up some cool stuff. 

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1. Ayako Hamada
2. Kaoru Ito
3. Aja Kong
4. Meiko Satomura
5. Command Bolshoi

I really wanted to give this to Kaoru Ito because if you ever watched her during her Peter Pan pixie elf days there's no way you'd ever predict that she would rise to prominence as the ace of All Japan Women's wrestling, and actually be compelling in the role due to her fearsome double foot stomp. But her rise to the top didn't feel like the biggest story in Joshi in 2000. Ayako Hamada had a year for the ages. She was fiery and passionate and had some huge wins. She worked for a small promotion but her passion made it feel like the big leagues. AJW didn't get as much mileage out of Ito's rise to the top as they could have but there's no denying the fierceness of Hamada's personality. 

Aja was Aja. She was still arguably the top talent in women's wrestling and a major obstacle to girls like Satomura and Hamada achieving their dreams. Satomura felt underutilized in GAEA. She was protected but it didn't feel as though Chigusa built on her breakout 1999 year. She was still a major talent in women's wrestling, however, and added another chapter to her epic feud with Aja. 

Bolshoi was the heart and soul of the struggling JWP promotion and was a brilliant general and worker in-ring. Almost like a female version of Delfin without a strong promotional run to build off. Mariko Yoshida should have made this list but unfortunately her promotion left her out in the cold.


1. Ayako Hamada
2. Meiko Satomura
3. Momoe Nakanishi
4. Chikayo Nagashima
5. Azumi Hyuga

I would have bet you anything you like prior to this project that Satomura was the most outstanding youngster in 2000 but it simply wasn't the case. She was outstanding in the feud against Aja but that was early in the year and didn't lead anywhere. Hamada kept rising and rising... Clearly, ARSION outbooked GAEA but regardless of that, Hamada outshone Meiko as a performer and a personality. Momoe was awesome in a secondary role in AJW and reminded me of why she was such a dynamo. Nagashima mostly shone against Ozaki but it was one of my favourite match-ups in wrestling and I love her move set. Hyuga had a ways to go before she would reach the top of women's wrestling but the potential was there. I could see an argument for Ran Yu Yu over her based on the weight of their work. Tamura was knocking on the door as well but was another who would improve with time. Joshi seemed like it had a pretty exciting future in 2000 with so much young talent on the scene. Sadly, it looked a bit too rosy given the mismanagement going on behind the scenes.


1. Etsuko Mita, Mima Shimoda & Kumiko Maekawa vs. Kaoru Ito, Momoe Nakanishi & Nanae Takahashi, cage match. AJW 11/23/00
2. Aja Kong vs. Meiko Satomura, GAEA 5/16/00
3. Aja Kong vs. KAORU, GAEA 2/13/00
4. Manami Toyota vs. Kaoru Ito, AJW 9/17/00
5. Akira Hokuto & Mayumi Ozaki vs. Chikayo Nagashima & Sugar Sato, GAEA 12/17/00

Aja vs. Meiko felt like the surefire choice here as it was a modern-day version of Jumbo vs. Misawa but at the end of the day the cage match felt more dramatic and emotional to me and that's what Joshi is all about, drama and emotion. The impressive thing about the cage match was that the catalyst for the match was an extremely shitty angle where Maekawa turned on her partner, Tomoko Watanabe. The angle was embarrassingly poor but the match was hellfire. 

Aja vs. KAORU was a surprise package and an example of a great garbage match, and boy did 2000 have its share of garbage wrestling. Wonderful selling in the bout. Toyota vs. Ito probably meant more to me than other folks but I loved the journey and the end result. And Toyota had a great year and deserved to be represented in some way. 

The last pick could have gone to any number of matches. LCO had at least half a dozen matches that could have qualified regardless of their nauseating style. I went for this match because I didn't now Ozaki and Hokuto had it in them and it was a great showcase for Nagashima vs. Ozaki, which I loved as much as any other pairing in 2000. 

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