By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Dot Net readers were allowed a single vote each of the 2017 awards categories. The following are the results of our poll for Best Babyface along with our staff comments. Thanks to everyone who took part in the voting.
1. AJ Styles (42 percent)
2. Johnny Gargano (23 percent)
3. Braun Strowman (9 percent)
4. Kenny Omega (5 percent)
5. Shinsuke Nakamura (4 percent)
Others: 17 percent
Jake Barnett’s Take I really enjoyed Johnny Gargano’s babyface work. The great tag title matches earlier in the year as a member of DIY, the heartbreak of Tommaso Ciampa turning on him, and then leading the charge late into the year as an underdog babyface hero make Gargano an easy choice. He’s one of the few characters in WWE that is allowed to be a true babyface without ambiguity, and he has taken advantage of it.
Will Pruett’s Thoughts: This is a harder and harder category to fill out every year. I’ll pick Braun Strowman as my top babyface of 2017. Every time I saw him live, fans were enthusiastic about his destruction. Everything he did worked perfectly and he was the guy WWE should have had hold the Universal Championship for the year. Braun is an amazing charismatic athlete and is the future of WWE.
Zack Zimmerman’s Thoughts: Johnny Gargano might be the best babyface in wrestling. His promo game leaves a bit to be desired but he has a genuine innate charisma, a stellar ability to sell, and the real underdog factor. He’s almost too white-meat where some folks may turn on him against edgier heels, but that doesn’t hurt him in this category. Honorable mention to AJ Styles as a brand-leading face.
John Moore’s Thoughts: Paul Levesque (Triple H) has mentioned in interviews and the conference call that this guy is one of the best babyfaces in the industry. I’ll second that and say that Johnny Gargano is the best babyface of 2017. This goes back to the DIY days. The guy is the master of the hope spot and is the best at making the viewer care when he gets beat up. Tommaso Ciampa has had a great heel run in 2017 and he only showed up as a heel on television for no more than ten minutes max, probably even five. This is mostly due to him terrorizing Johnny Gargano that one time which goes into how great of a babyface Gargano is when the heel he’s working against can miss half the year.
Haydn Gleed’s Thoughts: For a company like WWE that has traditionally been a babyface company over the years, 2017 wasn’t a strong year for babyfaces on the main roster. Historians will look back and call it the Roman Reigns effect. Johnny Gargano in NXT has been built into the perfect babyface for the fans to really back, but it’s only been in the later part of 2017 that the story arc started. My pick for best babyface of 2017 goes to Travis Banks from Progress Wrestling, who had a tremendous year in the ring firstly as part of the South Pacific Power Trip and then a string of main event matches. The story arc that developed between him and Pete Dunne culminating at Progress’s biggest show at Alexander Palace in September was great.
Jason Powell’s Thoughts: Styles is a fine choice for the top spot. He really is the face of the Smackdown brand and it’s tough to find fans who dislike him. I wasn’t sure where Strowman fit. Technically, he worked most of the year as a heel, but the fans loved the big stunts and cheered him over most of his opponents. Gargano finished ahead of Strowman in my rankings and is right there with Styles for the best babyface in the business. The only thing standing in the way of Becky Lynch being a top three babyface is the Smackdown creative team.
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