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Feud of the Year: Undertaker vs Mankind
Also Nominated: NWO vs The World, Sabu vs Taz and Shane Douglas vs The Pitbulls
Not a huge amount of competition in this category (in the Wrestling Observer awards the NWO storyline won best and second worst), but the few that did make it all deserve a mention. Douglas vs the Pitbulls is a great heat magnet and for all of the problems the NWO angle was pushing the boundaries. But for a feud that produced memorable, if not always great, matches and saw both guys get the best out of each other – Undertaker vs Mankind is a fun program. For a feud that spawned a Buried Alive match and a Boiler Room brawl match, it deserves its place.
Tag Team Of The Year: The Eliminators (Perry Saturn and John Kronus)
Also nominated: Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon, Owen Hart and The British Bulldog, The Gangstas, The Outsiders and RVD & Sabu
A mixed year for tag team wrestling. The WWF division, for a large part of it, was dire and WCW had a strong division but few memorable matches. But leave it to ECW to save the say. Sabu/RVD vs Furnas/Lafon produced two of the best matches of 1996, and the Eliminators vs The Gangstas feud – while not particularly nuanced – was consistently good. The Elimninators win it for consistency, with their strong finisher and stronger workrate.
Non-Wrestling Act Of The Year: Bill Alfonso (and his fucking whistle)
Also nominated: Jim Ross, Nick Patrick and Eric Bischoff
A strong category if you looked hard enough. Ross was probably a bit of a stretch but Bischoff deserves credit for not only being the lead man on the best TV show of the year, but also the genesis of a really strong heel turn. I tried my hardest to vote for Nick Patrick, who’s heel referee role has been an absolute riot, but it was impossible not to give the 1995 Non-Wrestler of the year the award again for just being so consistently annoying. Taz was an act ECW fans should’ve cheered, thanks to Fonzie they never did.
Worst Match Of The Year: Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage (Halloween Havoc)
Also Nominated: Sandman vs Raven (November to Remember), Doomsday Cage (Uncensored), Goldust/Warrior (April), Jake Roberts vs Jerry Lawler (Summerslam), Page vs Booty Man (Uncensored), World War 3 main event and the Summerslam Tag Team eliminator.
As always, a lot of contenders – you can read Rory’s run down of his top 10 worst matches of 1996 here. Hogan vs Savage wins it in part because it had all the hallmarks of a massive match and it missed those, but it also wins it because it was downright awful. Nearly ten minutes of comedy opening up WCW’s biggest match in years, but even worse was when the pair started trying; the action was sloppy. The WWF weren’t wrong about these two, drawing power or not both were staring down the wrong side of over the hill.
Best Show Of The Year: Great American Bash
Also nominated: Bash At The Beach, Survivor Series and Big Ass Extreme Bash.
There’s a few good shows this year, but Great American Bash really stands out from the rest. A quality show from start to finish featuring a series of really good matches, but perhaps more critically a series of top angles that were brilliantly executed. Everyone remembers Nash powerbombing Bischoff through the stage, but Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit reuniting is great and the finish of Steve McMichael turning on Kevin Green is a big surprise.
Worst Show Of The Year: Summerslam
Also Nominated: Uncensored, In Your House It’s Time, Hog Wild, Hostile City Showdown, World War 3 and Slamboree.
There is some real competition in this one! They all have their place in some ways – Hog Wild is an abhorrent follow up to Bash At The Beach, World War 3 and Uncensored are both infuriating, and Hostile City Showdown is easily the most negative/frustrated we’ve been about an individual show. But Summerslam is one of the WWF’s biggest shows of the year, and the litany of bad matches and a main event where the wrong guy won makes it quite the one to beat.
Rising Star Of The Year: Steve Austin
Also Nominated: Glacier, Taz, Stevie Richards, Diamond Dallas Page, Rey Mysterio Jr.
A wide category that includes “most improved” and “best newcomer” – but Steve Austin takes this category and quite rightly so. Rey Mysterio was excellent, Diamond Dallas Page improved a hell of a lot but in terms of a rising star there was only one choice. While history will say it was his King Of The Ring promo, Austin’s year only really got going in October during his feud with Bret Hart. Within weeks Austin was perhaps the most genuine act on wrestling television. He hit 1997 as one of the hottest commodities in the industry – no mean feat up against the NWO.
Non-Match Segment Of The Year: The vote was split across three Outsiders angles prior to Bash At The Beach
Also Nominated: Steve Austin dismantles Bret Hart in a promo on Raw, Sabu and Taz confrontation at November To Remember, Brian Pillman at ECW Cyberslam, Shane Douglas/Pitbulls angle from October
Lots of quality stuff here, all deserved a mention. In the end we went for three separate Outsiders angles. Del nominated the Great American Bash angle where Hall and Nash pushed about Eric Bischoff before Nash powerbombing him through the stage. I went with the angle on Nitro 8 days later where Nash and Hall stormed the ring with Baseball bats in a great closing angle. Rory went with the bit at Bash At The Beach with Hogan’s promo. All very worthy moments.
Flop/Fail Of The Year: Fake Razor/Fake Diesel:
Also Nominated: The NWO, Jeff Jarrett, Loch Ness, Vader
I voted for Vader… as I felt the Razor/Diesel angle deserved a spot in the next category, but it’s hard to deny that this whole thing was a gigantic bust. Promoted for weeks as this revolutionary angle, instead it managed to fall flat even before it started. The angle that it debuted in was almost embarrassing, as was Rick Bognor’s impersonation of Razor Ramon. The gall of Vince McMahon to think the angle would work with different wrestlers is almost shocking. I wrote a full piece about the angle here.
Worst Booking Decision Of The Year: World War 3 Main Event
Also Nominated: Mass Transit, Lex Luger, Hogan vs Piper, The Giant’s heel turn, Eric Bischoff’s heel turn, Fake Razor/Diesel, ECW Shootfights, WWF Tag Title division
A lot of contenders for this one. ECW shootfightswere awful, as was the general state of the WWF tag division, but the main event of World War 3 was one of the most infuriating and frustrating things I’ve ever watched in wrestling. From nobody going after the four members of the NWO in the match to Lex Luger who – after all of that, looked like he finally might get the trigger pulled on his career, with a group of fans ready to explode for him. Of course, he got dumped out by Giant. Read my review of that show here.
Promotion Of The Year: WCW
Promo Of The Year: Scott Hall
Also Nominated: Arn Anderson, Ric Flair, Steve Austin & Hulk Hogan
We split the votes here, so my vote for Hall won it. Not sure Hogan or Flair were in the running, but Arn Anderson had been as consistent as they come in 1996, and Steve Austin was getting over thanks to his talking ability. But for me the NWO was over thanks to the cool factor of their top acts. And when you looked at it hard enough, only one of those top acts was actually cool…
Match Of The Year: Shawn Michaels vs Mankind (Mind Games)
Also Nominated: Rey Mysterio vs Psicosis (Bash At The Beach), Shawn vs Diesel (IYH: Good Friends, Better Enemies), Bret Hart vs Steve Austin (Survivor Series), Rey Mysterio vs Juventude (ECW: Big Ass Extreme Bash), RVD/Sabu vs Kroffatt/Furnas, Benoit vs Taskmaster (Great American Bash)
I wrote a piece on my top ten matches of 1996 here, and I think they’re all in it. I went with Shawn vs Diesel (in part thanks to a clean finish) but Michaels vs Mankind is a barmy match up also. Read the full piece.
Worker Of The Year: Dean Malenko
Also Nominated: Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio Jr, Shawn Michaels
I thought Michaels should’ve won this one, given how every good match in the WWF in 1996 he was in. Although Rory and Del voted for Michaels as MVP below on the same criteria. Malenko was brilliant for WCW though, wrestling usually the best matches on most WCW cards against a variety of opponents – Malenko had no character (some would say that was no accident!) but he was a great worker, and that got him over.
MVP Of The Year: Shawn Michaels / Scott Hall
Also Nominated: Arn Anderson, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Hulk Hogan
So… Rory and Del voted for Michaels as I said above… but for me the MVP of the year is Scott Hall. The best angle of 1996 was the NWO angle, and his run in May/June was a crucial part of how the angle was received. Hall had left the WWF in a void, he ended 1996 as one of the most popular acts in North America. Why? Because he was just that damn good.