Dot Net readers were allowed a single vote each of the 2016 awards categories. The following are the results of our poll for Best Male Pro Wrestler along with our staff comments. Thanks to everyone who took part in the voting.
(1) AJ Styles (70 percent)
(2) Kevin Owens (6 percent)
(3) Kenny Omega (5 perent)
(4) Shinsuke Nakamura (4 percent)
(5) Chris Jericho (3 percent)
Others: 12 percent
Jason Powell’s Thoughts: Styles was a landslide winner. And while he’s a deserving winner, it’s obvious that our readers skew heavily to the North American product, as Kenny Omega certainly deserved a stronger finish, and some would argue the top spot overall. In fairness, I didn’t see a number of the independent or Japanese wrestlers listed frequently enough to fairly assess their body of work.
Zack Zimmerman’s Thoughts: Who’s your Hero? It’s Chris Hero. No wrestler on earth was put in a position to have more good matches in 2016 than Chris Hero, and nobody delivered in every one of those shots with consistency like Chris Hero. You can look to top level stars across the US, Japan, Mexico, and UK, and you’ll find maybe a couple of top-tier matches a month for each. Or you can look to Chris Hero, who delivered a couple of top-tier matches every single week, with everyone from the most buzzworthy indie stars to the most under-the-radar up-and-comers in the game. Simply put: he best without a doubt. Honorable mention to Matt Riddle, who put together a stellar body of work in 2016, made even more remarkable by the fact that he’s probably eligible for Rookie of the Year honors as well.
Darren Gutteridge’s Thoughts: Ring work has not been the reason for the general apathy towards the product this year. That meant that this award was a little harder to pick than it first appeared, but ultimately AJ Styles had to take it home. In 12 months, he went from being a fun surprise in the Royal Rumble to the defending WWE Champion, almost entirely through sheer force of in-ring ability. AJ Styles would not be denied in 2016, and who are we to stand in his way of yet another award!
Haydn Gleed’s Thoughts: Although I appreciate the work of Will Ospreay and Matt Riddle, at this point in their careers they haven’t performed on the highest platform. They are more than talented enough to excel when they reach that point, but they have not been given that opportunity at this time. My best male pro wrestler for 2016 is a man who for almost a decade was like Ospreay and Riddle, having consistent and well praised matches all around the world, but this year had the opportunity to do it on the main stage and has smashed it out of the park. That man, of course, is AJ Styles.
Jake Barnett’s Thoughts: Kenny Omega had a fantastic year. I don’t always enjoy his character work, because I find it a bit too gonzo at times, but I can’t argue with his work in the ring throughout 2016. He was at the top of his game the entire year, winning the G1 Tournament, as well as having memorable victories over New Japan mainstays like Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Kushida on his way to becoming the #1 Contender for the IWGP Championship. It was a breakout year in terms of Omega’s visibility and popularity, and only time will tell how far he can ride the wave.
John Moore’s Thoughts: As far as the wrestling I’ve watched, AJ Styles gets the nod here. The key moment for this category was WWE Payback where we got that amazing AJ Styles vs. Roman Reigns match. Let’s face it, AJ Styles could have a three star match with a broomstick, so when he’s in there with a world class strong-style talent like Roman Reigns (yes! Roman is actually a good in-ring wrestler), he can produce magic. One can argue, that the only reason TNA stayed relevant all of those years, was due to AJ Styles anchoring the main events of every show when they needed him. Remember at one point there was an AJ Styles vs. Kurt Angle match almost every month and they were all stellar. AJ did the same with Roman this year and never stopped.
Will Pruett’s Thoughts: My awards voting is getting downright repetitive at this point. The best male pro wrestler in 2016 was AJ Styles and it’s hardly close. Styles started the year with a highlight performance (caping off an amazing two years) in NJPW. Styles then came to WWE and seemed to take a small step back before becoming himself again. Styles had standout matches with Roman Reigns, John Cena, Dean Ambrose, and so many others. His 2016 has been awesome.