With the balloting now completed and the awards issue a week away, it’s time to take a list look at the Wrestler of the Year Award, renamed this year the Lou Thesz/Ric Flair award.
It’s a wide open field this year because, unlike most years, which have multiple strong candidates, this year has multiple candidates that come close, but nobody that would have won the award in any previous year.
Two years ago, when it was a four-man field (all of whom would have been good winners), we went back in a number of categories and tried to make comparisons. This year, the top candidates are Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, HHH, Brock Lesnar, Keiji Muto, Yuji Nagata, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Tito Ortiz, Rock, Bob Sapp, Yoshihiro Takayama, Genichiro Tenryu and Manami Toyota. For purposes of comparisons, I’m going to first eliminate Benoit (no PPV main events, nor a strong draw, didn’t wrestle the entire year, and the only thing he has going for him is workrate and there are other candidates stronger), Guerrero (for the same reasons as Benoit, plus he was even lower on the totem poll then Benoit in WWE), HHH (a big star who was pushed, but probably overall did more harm than good), Ortiz (one match, no matter how well it did at the box office, does not win Wrestler of the Year, and there are a half dozen stronger shoot candidates this year) and Toyota (a great worker and Hall of Famer, but women’s wrestling just isn’t popular enough and she isn’t a big enough star, and that’s a major part of this award).