Dot Net readers were allowed a single vote each of the 2016 awards categories. The following are the results of our poll for the MVP of Pro Wrestling along with our staff comments. Thanks to everyone who took part in the voting.
(1) AJ Styles (56 percent)
(2) Matt Hardy (17 percent)
(3) Chris Jericho (9 perent)
(4) Charlotte (4 percent)
(5) Kevin Owens (3 percent)
Others: 11 percent
Jason Powell’s Thoughts: This was a two-man race. Styles ran away with the fan vote, but Matt Hardy’s introduction of the Broken Universe was bold and, more importantly, made fans take notice. Even those who despised the polarizing Broken Universe matches still went out of their way to at least sample it, bringing eyeballs to the TNA product. This was no small feat in 2016, as the company had its best year creatively, yet they still couldn’t move the ratings needle or create much of a buzz until Hardy’s antics made everyone take notice. Yet while Hardy was clearly the MVP for his company and shook up the wrestling industry like no one else, I give the nod to Styles simply because he was the most consistent performer on the biggest stage and anchored the Smackdown brand. Honorable mention to John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Undertaker, who remain the biggest stars in WWE despite working lighter to extremely part-time schedules.
Darren Gutteridge’s Thoughts: Though Samoa Joe was just as important to NXT’s successes this year, his Herculean efforts on top of the card haven’t been matched elsewhere on the brand, leading to a year of slightly decline for the yellow brand. AJ Styles, however, has turned everything he’s touched into gold this year. He showed us what Royal Rumble surprises can really do. He gave everyone a reason to watch Smackdown. And most importantly of all, he got even jaded hardcore fans interested in a John Cena feud! In 2016! That is someone WWE can’t afford to be without, thus making AJ Styles my pick for the MVP of Pro Wrestling this year.
Will Pruett’s Thoughts: When I look for a MVP in WWE in 2016, my search begins and ends with AJ Styles. Styles has become the centerpiece of Smackdown and elevated a roster that looked less than stellar after the draft to something special. Styles has shown exceptional ability as both a heel and a babyface. He has shined on the mic beyond anything I imagined. Add in his great matches against Shinsuke Nakamura and John Cena (Wrestle Kingdom 10 and SummerSlam) and AJ was the most valuable performer in wrestling in 2016. Lucky for us, he didn’t go to TNA (remember that whole kerfuffle?).
Zack Zimmerman’s Thoughts: WWE in 2016 is such a machine that there is no single performer without which the company would not continue business as usual. By contrast, NJPW saw the exodus of Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson and, for all intents and purposes, Kota Ibushi. Not to mention aging and injured ace Hiroshi Tanahashi. Because of that, Kazuchika Okada gets my MVP vote for being the tent post and standard bearer around which NJPW was able to reinvigorate itself. Honorable mentions to Tetsuya Naito (who has a strong case for being the winner of this award outright) and Kenny Omega, who stepped up big and exceeded expectations at nearly every opportunity.
Jake Barnett’s Thoughts: This is always a tough category because there is an MVP in every promotion, and comparing them directly is difficult because they work in different environments under different circumstances. I think you can make a solid case for both AJ Styles and Tetsuya Naito for being the MVP this year, and my personal pick is AJ Styles. His ascension to the top of the card seemed more unlikely at the beginning of the year, and remaining there all the way into 2017 after winning over important people inside the WWE, as well as WWE fans with his performances. He was able to play a big part in making Smackdown entertaining despite it’s thin roster, and pre-brand split he was able to get an exciting title feud out of Roman Reigns, which is something that very few can boast.
Haydn Gleed’s Thoughts: In the wrestling business it’s very rare in this day and age to have somebody who truly moves the needle when it comes to ratings or drawing people into a product. For me that’s the purist definition of most valuable person to a wrestling company. The only wrestler who you can truly say has brought people back to the product consistently over 2016 was Matt Hardy and his broken character. Fans who hadn’t watched Impact or turned their back on the product tuned in to see the Broken Universe, which gave TNA exposure that it would never have had without Hardy.
John Moore’s Thoughts: The title “Most Valuable” should go to the person who went above and beyond to carry their company on their backs. This year had two, but I’m going to settle on AJ Styles for his consistently proving to be the “go-to guy” in the main events. AJ had a great year. He started it at the Tokyo Dome, popped up during the Royal Rumble, became number one contender almost immediately after WrestleMania, and ultimately became WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The moment where AJ became WWE’s most reliable main event worker was at WWE Payback, of all places, where he had that stellar match with Roman Reigns. The other person I was contemplating putting in this spot was Matt Hardy, who did similar things with TNA, but from an entertainment perspective as both Big Money Matt Hardy and Broken Matt Hardy.