Now that all the ballots have been returned and the polls are about closed on the 2017 Southern California wrestling year end awards, I’ll make my ballot public and explain my choices as I do every year. For those who don’t know the awards are decided by a combination of a webpoll that is open to everyone and ballots being sent to a panel of voters. The voters with the ballots pick a first, second, and third place in every category.
This year I felt there were some really tough choices in a few of the categories. Wrestler of the Year and the Most Outstanding Wrestler awards were particularly tough, and in each case I actually changed my mind several times before I submitted my votes. In some other categories I felt there was a clear number one, but deciding on a second and third was difficult. A lot of this can be attributed to the rising quality of wrestling across the board over the last few years. In terms of match quality, and even just the amount of wrestling available any given weekend in Southern California, we are living in a golden age. There has never been a time period in the region’s history where it has been better to be a wrestling fan.
I know some people who were around during the territory period might argue against my last point, as for a lot of people wrestling was always best when they first got into it, but a lot of shows now have better matches top-to-bottom than all but the best shows of 40 years ago. Nowhere is the quality more evident than the Rookie of the Year voting.
Every year recently it seems like that year’s rookie class might be the best ever. Then the next year looks even better. Obviously we can’t predict the future and say how anyone will end up or would end up being on a gold card auctions, but in terms of raw talent right now, the 2017 rookie class is the best ever. Any one of this year’s nominees could have won the award in some prior years.
The last few years have seen a real boom period in independent wrestling. In terms of Southern California, 2017 should be considered one of, if not the best year for independent wrestling ever. Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and the Alternative Wrestling Show have probably had the best years in their long histories, PCW Ultra has stepped up their shows, and Bar Wrestling has been a fantastic addition to Southern California pro-wrestling. Championship Wrestling from Hollywood greatly expanded it’s reach, now airing in almost 40% of all homes in the United States. Additionally Empire Wrestling Federation is still in one of its better periods since the late 1990s, and Maverick Pro, FIST Combat and Rival Pro have added to the scene as well.
Not everything was great in 2017. The San Diego scene took a blow with the demise of Finest City Wrestling (though Ground Zero appears to have picked up the pieces nicely). Other promotions such as Knokx Pro, UEW, OWA, and UIPW all had various issues that stopped them from running regularly as well.
Here are my votes for the 2017 Southern California Wrestling Awards:
Promotion of the Year:
- Pro Wrestling Guerrilla – The greatest promotion in Southern California history had their greatest year to date. Their last five shows of 2017 were incredible and easily the best run of shows ever. They continue to sell out in minutes and the exposure their shows get blows away anything else in the area by miles.
- Alternative Wrestling Show – I felt AWS had its best year in its history as well. In terms of match quality they were second to only PWG and they didn’t have a bad show.
- Lucha VaVoom – Picking a 3rd was hard as there were a lot of choices that I felt were fairly equal. I ended up with Lucha VaVoom as they still draw the biggest crowds in Southern California and they are still reaching a different crowd and expanding the wrestling scene rather than catering to the same group of fans.
Wrestler of the Year:
- Joey Ryan – This was probably the toughest award to pick this year. I didn’t think there was one blow away candidate and a great argument could be made for all eight nominees, just as a great argument against could be made for all eight. It was a struggle to pick between my top four B-Boy, Eli Everfly, Joey Ryan, and Tito Escondido as one really deserving candidate would be left off. I ended up going with Joey Ryan as I felt if he was taken from the scene it would have made the biggest negative impact. He wrestled for a wide range of promotions in the area, and was the biggest, or one of the biggest draws for each show he was on. While he does a lot of comedy matches, comedy matches are difficult to pull off but he managed to do it.
- B-Boy – This seemed to be a somewhat quiet year for B-Boy, but looking through our monthly rankings he was the only one to win wrestler of the month more than once (3 times) and much like 2016 he did a great job helping to elevate younger wrestlers.
- Eli Everfly – He has become one of the wrestlers where you see him on a show and you know you are going to get at least one good match. He held the FCW Lightweight and XRT titles as well as the Santino’s Submission title. He also had six matches nominated for Match of the Year.
Women’s Wrestler of the Year:
- Ruby Raze – This was a pretty easy choice, She likely wrestled twice as much as any other women’s wrestler in the region, won the AWS Women’s tournament, held the FIST title, and was wrestler of the month five times.
- Heather Monroe – Heather Monroe keeps getting better and better every time I see her. She had a really good year and has really developed a good character as well.
- Sage Sin – She wrestled a lot in the region and held a few titles. She was normally pretty solid in most of her matches as well. I didn’t vote for any of the other women as I didn’t think any had a lot of matches.
Most Outstanding Wrestler:
- B-Boy – I voted for B-Boy based on his ability to have so many other wrestler’s best matches. He brought out the best in pretty much all of his opponents.
- Keith Lee – He only had maybe a dozen matches in Southern California, but what a dozen it was. His match with Dijak at PWG’s BOLA was given five-stars by Dave Meltzer.
- Eli Everfly – As I mentioned on the Wrestler of the Year section, if Eli Everfly is on the show you are guaranteed at least one good match. He had another fantastic year in terms of match quality, and has the most Match of the Year nominations.
Tag-Team of the Year:
- True Grit – These guys broke out in a big way in 2017. They wrestled almost everywhere and really had some nice matches. By the middle of the year they gelled as a team and kept improving throughout the year.
- The Young Bucks – They didn’t have as many matches in 2017, only having wrestled for PWG and New Japan in the area, but no other team on the list can touch them in terms of quality.
- PAC 3 – I though their storyline with Dicky Mayer was one of the highlights in CWFH and they were one of the better parts of the show. They didn’t really wrestle outside of the promotion, but they probably had the biggest impact on the promotion they are in.
Rookie of the Year:
- Jake Atlas – This was a pretty easy choice. Jake Atlas is so good right now people don’t believe he is a rookie. He is going to be great.
- Chris Bey – Chris Bey would have been the only real competition for Jake Atlas had he been in the area more. This guy is another wrestler that is going to be so good.
- Alonzo Alvarez -The pack gets a lot closer here, but I felt Alonzo Alvarez was the most solid of the rest.
Match of the Year:
- WALTER over Zack Sabre Jr. – PWG
- Kenny Omega over Tomohiro Ishii – New Japan
- Keith Lee over Donovan Dijak – PWG
Going into 2018 I’m going to go with Douglas James or Brody King for Wrestler of the Year and Delilah Doom as Women’s Wrestler of the Year.
Those are my thoughts, then again I once voted for a guy named Skate Devil for Rookie of the Year over B-Boy…
The actual 2017 Southern California Wrestling Awards will be announced on January 25th.