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Much like in 1994, four of us did a round-table end of year show (which you can listen to above) going through what is now about fourteen categories talking through the best and worst of the year. Below is essentially a written companion piece to the show, the people doing the voting are Bob Bamber, Chris Lacey, Tom Martyn and Wayne Lythgoe.
Feud Of The Year: Raven vs Tommy Dreamer
Also nominated: Arn Anderson vs Ric Flair, Dean Malenko vs Eddie Guerrero, Hulk Hogan vs The Dungeon Of Doom, Bill Alfonso vs ECW, Hulk Hogan vs Vader
Dean Malenko vs Eddie Guerrero was a phenomenal set of matches, but in terms of a feud that was often times compelling, elevated both participants and seemingly pulled everyone on the ECW roster into it’s vortex, overlooking Raven vs Dreamer was impossible. A rivalry that showed no sign of slowing, despite lasting the entire year and (by and large) still managed to stay relevant. Tommy Dreamer’s trip from pretender to the real deal in the eyes of ECW fans was complete this year. Testimony that WWF didn’t get one nomination, and WCW only got Hogan vs Vader because it drew money (and even then, it should’ve done more.
Read More: The Guerrero - Malenko Classic
Tag Team Of The Year: Harlem Heat
Also nominted: The Public Enemy, The Eliminators, The Pitbulls, Owen Hart & Yokozuna.
Not a vintage year for tag team wrestling, even in a winning effort the Heat were victim to oftentimes horrendous booking and went from rising to somewhat irrelevant at the end of the year. That being said they are the package, and without any real opposition from the WWF and some good stuff in ECW but nothing outstanding, the Heat take it. For talent, if nothing else.
Read More: The State Of Tag Team Wrestling In The Mid-90s
Non-wrestling act of the year: Bill Alfonso
Also nominated: Joey Styles, Steve McMichael, Eric Bischoff and Sunny
Joey Styles excelled as commentator in ECW, with admittedly no competition to speak of, but to overlook the volcanic heat Bill Alfonso received in the ECW arena would be heresy. Arriving in the Spring as the representative of the Philadelphia State Athletic Commision, Alfonso’s upholding of the rules to the letter – along with his ability to be an absolute dick – quickly saw him rocket to the #1 heel spot within a company that doesn’t do heels. Aligning with Taz was a great moment and finally that heat could be transferred to an in ring act.
Read More: How Did Referee Bill Alfonso Become The Hottest Heel Act In ECW?
Worst Match Of The Year: Bret Hart vs Bob Backlund (Wrestlemania)
Also Nominated: Lots, including every Renegade match, most King Mabel matches, Wahoo McDaniel vs Dick Murdoch from Slamboree and the World War 3 main event.
Difficult category to pass comment on as there are so many possibilities. Renegade and Mabel were a theme (and we’ll get to them more later). As for why Bret vs Backlund made it – it was an awful match as is – the I Quit stipulation and the addition of Roddy Piper as special guest referee took away far more from the match than anyone could’ve imagined. Bret vs Backlund at Survivor Series in 1994 shows these two can go, but this wasn’t the time.
Read More: WCW Rip Off The Ultimate Warrior With The Renegade
Best Show Of The Year: ECW November To Remember
Defined as any PPV, TV show or live event. Also nominated: First episode of Nitro, ECW Gangstas Paradise (September), The Royal Rumble and Starrcade.
Not a vintage year for pay per views, at all. The worst category is significantly longer. ECW November To Remember was a very good show, featuring a number of very good matches that each appealed to a slightly different part of the fan base. Lucha, extreme, the return of Sabu (in a personal favourite against Hack Myers), Steve Austin vs Mikey Whipwreck and more. The first Nitro is a fantastic show, definitely the best “TV” of the year.
Read More: ECW November To Remember 1995 Review
Worst Show Of The Year: Bash At The Beach
Also nominated: King Of The Ring, Wrestlemania, World War 3, Halloween Havoc, Uncensored, In Your House 4, Clash Of The Champions 30 (January).
Wow – what a depressingly long list (and there’s probably one or two more shows that could be added on to this). Bash At The Beach was longer than In Your House 4, less “oh what the fuck are they doing?” than King Of The Ring, and more expensive than the Clash Of The Champions. Bash At The Beach is a three hour bore fest. There’s reasons against many of these shows, but Bash At The Beach is the second worst show we’ve covered in the project (after Battlebowl 1993, which will take some beating).
Read More: WCW Bash At The Beach 1995 Review
Rising Star Of The Year: Chris Benoit
Rising star a “catch all” that includes: “Best Newcomer”, “Most Improved” and “Rising Star”. Also nominated: Brian Pillman, Hakushi, Psicosis, Buh Buh Ray Dudley, Eddie Guerrero and Diamond Dallas Page.
Note (Hakushi aside) the lack of WWF names in this list. A difficult category to comment on given how broad it’s range is – there’s an argument to say Benoit was already a star when 1995 came around, for example. A number of compelling options here – Brian Pillman was involved in three of the best ten matches of the year, Diamond Dallas Page’s character came on leaps and bounds. But Chris Benoit, as we will discuss later, showed why he was a star – improving his character immensely within ECW before joining the Four Horsemen.
Read More: Building A Star - How Chris Benoit Was Made In ECW In 1995
Best (Non-match) Segment Of The Year: Taz’s “Fuck Taz? Nah, Fuck You” Promo from ECW November To Remember
Also Nominted: Cactus Jack’s “Cane Dewey” promo, Steve Austin’s “Dusty” promo in ECW, Lord Steven Regal educates “Earl Robert” Eaton in British life, Lex Luger walks out on Nitro, Terry Funk returns to the ECW Arena, Ric Flair’s “Be Fair To Flair” segments, Shawn Michaels collapses on Raw.
Lots to take in for a category that didn’t feel like it had much going for it initially. All of the nominations here are great shouts (The Regal/Eaton segments are comedy gold), as is the Be Fair To Flair stuff. But if we’re going to talk about a moment that really stood out, Taz’s promo at November To Remember was fantastic, from the heart and absolutely the right move in aligning with Bill Alfonso.
Read More: Terry Funk Returns To ECW - One Of The Great Forgotten Segments
Flop/Fail Of The Year: King Mabel
Also nominated: The Renegade, The Dungeon Of Doom, WCW, Monster Trucks and Diesel.
An argument Diesel should’ve walked this category, but this was a two horse race between the worst thing in WCW (Renegade) against the worst thing in the WWF (King Mabel). Renegade, at least, was a hideously over-pushed mid-card act. Mabel’s position in the final of King Of The Ring and the main event of Summerslam means he takes this one.
Read More: King Mabel - WWF's Biggest Mistake In 1995?
Talker Of The Year: Cactus Jack
Promotion Of The Year: ECW
Match Of The Year: (Joint) Ric Flair & Sting vs Brian Pillman & Arn Anderson (Fall Brawl); Chris Benoit vs Al Snow (February 7th – ECW Hardcore TV)
Also Nominated: Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon (Summerslam), Johnny B Badd vs Brian Pillman (Fall Brawl), Arn Anderson vs Ric Flair (Fall Brawl), Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko (May 2nd – ECW Hardcore TV), Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko (August 29th – ECW Hardcore TV), Dean Malenko vs Too Cold Scorpio (March 21st ECW Hardcore TV), Ric Flair vs Randy Savage (Great American Bash)
Probably best to head to our “Best Matches Of 1995” article for more context on these. As for the two on top, the Flair/Sting vs Pillman/Anderson match is tag team wrestling perfection, with Flair whipping up a frenzy on the apron. I voted for Benoit/Snow as it was a fantastic match fought at an electric pace. Both absolutely fantastic and (not for the first time tonight) Eddie Guerrero can consider himself damn unlucky he went away empty handed.
Worker Of The Year: Chris Benoit
Also nominated: Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Bret Hart
All very deserving of their nomations. Personally I voted for Michaels (his matches against Razor Ramon and Jeff Jarrett were 2 & 3 in my WWF matches of the year), but Benoit – aside from his match of the year against Al Snow, was so repetitively excellent when we saw him. There’s some very good matches between him and Eddie Guerrero on WCW Saturday Night in late 1995 too.
MVP Of The Year: Cactus Jack
Also nominated: Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair and Sting
(I voted for Michaels in this one, too). I glossed over it in the Talker Of The Year (as we did on the show), largely because Jack was miles out in front on this one. Very difficult to bemoan him this award, his promos, every single month, were at a standard most could only dream of. As a face andas a heel he was captivating, his brawls at times were very good too. Michaels can count himself unlucky, mind.
Read More: The Heartbreak-Out Kid - Why 1995 Was Right For The Shawn Michaels