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We need to talk.... about the 2024 Wrestling Observer Awards

1- Will Opsreay was the Man of the Year

The biggest winner in this years awards was obviously Will Ospreay. His six awards is the most since Kurt Angle in 2002 and now with 18 overall WON Awards in his career, it puts him joint 5th with Kenta Kobashi on the all time list with only Ric Flair (39) Mitsuharu Misawa (20) Steve Austin (20) and Hulk Hogan (19) with a higher tally of Observer Awards

In a year where the main champions of the “Big 3” promotions had flawed cases for Flair/Thesz with Okada, who was my leader after Q1, being stuck in the trios division after losing the IWGP belt to SANADA who himself had a flawed case because he’s SANADA, Reigns, who was the favourite in this award on July 31st to the point that people were searching for possible alternatives to the Tribal Chief, had THAT Summerslam match vs Jey Uso and then became inactive afterwards and MJF, whose Q4 was one of the main indictments of the downfall of quality in AEW’s booking in the second half of 2024, the feeling was whoever won Most Outstanding would also win WOTY and Will Ospreay has indeed joined an elite list with Ric Flair (86, 89) Mitsuharu Misawa (97, 99) Kurt Angle (02) Hiroshi Tanahashi (12,13) A.J Styles (15, 16) Kazuchika Okada (17) Kenny Omega (18) in winning the WOTY/Most Outstanding double and also in winning Match of the Year for the Jan 4 match against Kenny Omega completes the Triple Crown which actually doesn't see the list of those to have won WOTY, Most Outstanding and MOTY that much smaller than those that have done the double with only AJ Styles out of those to have done the double not in the Triple Crown club

Also, Ospreay has become the fourth person to win Flair/Thesz in a year where they didn’t  win a major World Title (the other three being Akira Maeda (87) Chris Jericho (09) Shinsuke Nakamura (14)

2- Triple H was Best Booker by default

Let’s be honest about Paul Levesque and his booking. It’s competent and it’s logical (the Roman/Cody/Rock story aside) which is something that all bookers should strive for. But “Levesqueball” is also very dull. It is very much like what NXT was pre-going live on USA Network every Wednesday night but this time round the big events are not glossing over that fact like the phenomenal Takeovers did.

Tony Khan’s failure to make it four in a row in this award can be attributed to a few things. His inability to pivot when injuries wrecked plans showed his weaknesses as a booker. The fact that AEW had 5 feuds in the Worst 10 showed the downslide in Khan’s booking last year with each one showing the weaknesses TK has.

From relying on wrestlers opinions too much in the case of MJF/Cole and Jericho/Cole (tbf the latter wasn’t that bad a feud imo, just that the PPV match stunk) Outcast vs Originals dying a death when Jamie Hayter got injured and Khan didn’t know how to pivot, Lee/Strickland not having a match despite the break up of the team in December 2022 and Miro/CJ being an example of not knowing how to book someone who doesn’t want to lose a match.

3- MJFism didn’t work

While MJF won Most Charismatic and almost won Best on Interviews only losing to Eddie Kingston by 42 votes which was the closest margin of victory in the Category A section of the awards which have points system in the vote count, MJF and MJFism didn't fare well in the awards.

With Worst Feud and Worst Gimmick going to the shenanigans that were in MJF's Q4 last year, it was obvious that MJFism didn't work

You're probably asking what MJFism is. Well,  for those who don’t get the reference, it’s a play on Inokism which was a philosophy of Antonio Inoki which saw NJPW have it’s worst years in the 00’s  and in this case MJFism was the most in your face attempt at “sports entertainment” in AEW's history which failed artistically and at the box office.

As a fan of MJF and as someone who loves the origin stories that are linked to his character and as someone who didn’t mind the original Cole/MJF story at it’s birth, it went absolutely downhill once the Devil’s mask came into AEW programming on a regular basis.

Hopefully MJF can look at these results and get back to how vintage MJF was

4- The warning signs for WWE are there to see

While WWE’s 7 awards is the highest in the Best section since 2011, the warning signs for the  next 11 months are there to see in these awards. The fact that 3 PLE’s in the final third of 2023 were in the Worst Major Card and that anything Vince McMahon related was mentioned 3 times in the Most Disgusting Promotional list tells you that a magnifying glass is set to cast above WWE in the next 11 months should people choose to hover it

While the upsurge in business in Q1 could also be attributed to Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens vs The Blooodline, which won Best Feud, while the tag team of SamiKO were placed down the card post Mania because WWE, Cody held the fort during the year when he was effectively put in a holding pattern until Roman turned up to work again. The increase in house show attendance in 2023 with Cody as the man as the perennial main eventer on those shows was worthy of a US/Canada MVP year with the chaos of Cody/Rock/Roman which has shown the WWE fanbase and Cody’s connection can’t be considered in the timeframe of these awards, it was Cody’s work in 2023 that saw the WeWantCody “movement” 

I am going to be honest with you guys, when I read that Nick had won this award, my initial reaction was to mutter the words “oh f*** off”. If the Observer issue with these results had come out at 1:15 instead of 2:15 UK time, the people at the bread aisle in the local Morrisons would have had a bit of a shock.

Why the profanity then? First off, is Nick Khan really responsible for the upturn in fortunes in WWE’s box office. If anything the man in charge of house shows/live events should be the WWE representative in this category with the upwards trend in attendance in the past year which is (let me look at WIkipedia) RoadDogg?

Second, the specialist subject of Nick Khan is TV contract negotiations. It’s what got Vince McMahon to trust Nick in the first place after he negotiated the FOX/Smackdown deal for WWE and with the Smackdown/USA deal under-delivering to the point the stock price went down and while the Netflix deal isn’t in the period of time voters were reflecting on, that feels very week the more you reflect on it.

Finally, I struggle to get past the handwaving Nick did on the allegations against Vince when interviewed by Bill Simmons as well as the stuff that might be coming out in 2024. Enough from me talking about this, let’s  see what @mongo_ebooks said on twitter about the Best Booker and Promoter Awards.

5- The VOW MOTY poll was correct

One of the features the VOW MOTY Poll review I did last month was noting how eerily similar it is to the Top 10 of the Observer MOTY Award and Cagematch’s Top 10 MOTY in past years and once again the stars aligned in his particular award

Also in the VOW list, it was noteworthy that there were no votes for WWE matches that took place post-Labor Day weekend and the Worst Big Major Show list bore out the opinion that Q4 in Titanland was not good at all

6- Is NJPW doomed?

That Ospreay’s five of his six victories were the only victories from NJPW tell it’s own story.

Perennial winners in these awards during the “5 star era” of the company, the fact that Will Ospreay won all of NJPW’s in these awards shows how lacking in depth they were last year. But it's the victory in another award that showed how bad their year was compared to others.

SANADA’s win in Most Overrated is actually the second in three years with his former tag teammate EVIL being the 2021 winner but before that the last time a negative award went to NJPW was in 2005 when the company won Worst Promotion. This was a time when NJPW fans on internet forums hated Dave Meltzer because of perceived bias towards Pro Wrestling NOAH. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

The last time NJPW didn’t win an award in the WON Awards was 2010 the year before the golden era of the company started and New Japan actually went 8 years without winning an Observer Award and if Danielson vs Sabre Jr. in February is bettered by a match outside Japan 2024 might see NJPW go empty handed in these awards, the positive ones that is

Now while the chances of Worst Promotion for NJPW doesn’t seem likely in 2023 as long as NWA is a thing ( more on them later) despite the less than stellar start to the year, the loss of Ospreay and Okada does not bode well for a company that is trending downwards right now.

7- Have people been brainwashed by Dominik Mysterio?

There was a fear amongst people that follow awards like this that NXT would feature strongly with Bryan Alvarez becoming a big advocate of the show on B&V but this didn't happen. 

Shawn Michaels only finished 8th in Best Booker, NXT finished higher in Worst TV Show than Best TV Show and non of the NXT rookies won Best Rookie with AJPW’s Yuma Anzai taking the honours but in the case of Dominik Mysterio he was the best case from NXT considering the time he spent there in 2023

Dominik’s "improvement" was realistically on the same scale as crops during a heatwave. The majority of singles matches Dom had in NXT were with Dragon Lee and having a bad match with Dragon Lee is almost impossible and you can't judge the "improvement" of Dom from his time on NXT on Cagematch ratings considering the NXT fan base spend more time on Cagematch than I do which is saying something. The fact he is being hidden in multi-man tags on RAW the majority of time tells you what the man who was voted Best Booker really thinks of him.

8- There’s two things AEW will always do better than WWE

An all-AEW Top 4 and 7 of the Top 10 shows that the current AEW announcing roster is the ultimate “Murderers Row” of announcers topping 1992 WCW with their line up of announcers.

Excalibur is turning into a Top 10/15 of all time now he’s comfortable with being a television announcer. Ian Riccaboni might actually qualify for Most Underrated under the criteria set considering he’s spending his Saturday Nights commentating on the ROH pre-tapes instead of live on Collision. Nigel McGuinness after trying to figure out how to heel it up has found his stride as a heel announcer. It’s  just Kevin Kelly that hasn’t lived up to expectation with his work on Collision but his solid work in the first few months of the year put him in the Top 4. 

With Booker's duty of care into his work on Tuesdays as good as his duty of care to female wrestlers at Reality of Wrestling, Booker is a deserving winner of this award. Kevin Patrick wasn’t good as a lead announcer but he was put in a position that he was always going to fail with no experience at wrestling and being pulled from his gig as interviewer to call matches especially after Jimmy Smith did an OK job before.

Michael Cole is Michael Cole and Corey Graves has the charm of a war crime and with Vic Joseph, whom to be fair is saddled with having to put up with Booker every week rounding up the 5 WWE announcers on this list, if AEW’s announcing roster is the equivalent of the 1927 New York Yankees, the WWE announcing roster is the equivalent of the current Sheffield United midfield.

The one thing despite the shift in momentum of the Big 2 American companies that AEW will always have is that the PPVs/PLEs for the most part always deliver (no 5 match PPV cards in All Elite land) with 5 AEW big shows in the list compared to WWE’s one but a lot of people were surprised with which AEW show won out.

It's weird to say that a show with two Top 10 MOTY contests was a surprise winner but with All Out having 3 ***** matches and being a palate cleanser in the wake of a turbulent week in the wake of actions of CM Punk, people thought All Out would be our winner but even All In got more votes which surprised even me, an attendee of the spectacle at Wembley Stadium.

With 3 shows from September onwards in Worst Show’s Top 10 it's a good indicator that WWE’s final third of the year was not good at all. It might also be a sign that the minimalist approach to shows outside the Big 5 shows might not be as popular as people think (yes I'm looking at you Elimination Chamber)


The National Wrestling Alliance stunk in 2023

From it’s awful PPVs to having Tyrus and then EC3 as its champions and even the cocaine spot which might have cost them a spot on the CW Network, NWA in 2023 was not good. Even if a portion of the votes for Worst Promotion came from people that haven’t watched a second of NWA wrestling, the vibes and optics of the promotion have not been of the promotion that claimed to be hot in 2019 when NWA started to make positive waves

With NWA making Tyrus their world champ to target the Fox News demo which to explain to British readers is like Progress making Lee Anderson their World Champion (not gonna lie as much I can't stand 30p Lee, he would still be better option than Spike Trivet) and his match against EC3 was the true Worst Match of 2023 and not Bray Wyatt vs LA Knight with that match winning Worst Match feeling like a big case of punching down from the Observer voters no matter what you thought of Bray's matches.

Samhain getting so many votes with it's awful show name which sounds like a group that would have got Maury Terry all worked up in the 80's and awful action and the only thing you can say about THAT cocaine spot is that the only thing it was missing was Matt Riddle (also it really did look like that none of the people involved in that skit had ever been near the Columbian matching powder at any time of their life) it was truly a year to forget for NWA.

10- This is the kick up the backside that Tony will need

To go full circle on these awards, Tony Khan for the first time since 2020 failed to win Best Booker and with all those entries in awards like Worst Feud that are influenced by bad ideas of bookers it was a deserving failure and if Tony is irate at the electoral results at the time of seeing them first thing in the morning on the east coast, hopefully he slept on it and realised why he can’t call himself the reigning Best Booker for the next 52 weeks and that it motivates him in 2024 to bring the feeling back to All Elite Wrestling.


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