2 OUT OF 3 FALLS
Another Precinct Heard From
Well, unlike Rick, I'm proud to be a smart fan and equally proud of my snooty attitude toward wrestling. I'm proud to get tapes from Japan and Mexico, go to indy shows and not limit my knowledge of the business to what I see Monday and Thursday nights.
Of course, if you're content to be a WWF lemming, more power to you. That's not for me, just like I prefer art house movies to Hollywood blockbusters and black-and-white comics to most of the stuff churned out by Marvel and DC.
From that "on high attitude," here are my year-end awards, gleaned from the votes I cast in the Observer Awards.
Wrestler of the Year - Kenji Mutoh (AKA The Great Muta). Written off by many puroresu experts, Mutoh had a career-rejuvenating year, having many Match of the Year quality matches (see below) and becoming the first "outsider" to win All Japan's Triple Crown. He even managed to put over a maneuver (the shining wizard) that looks hopelessly dopey.
Runners Up: Steve Austin and Kurt Angle
Tag Team of the Year - Kojima and Tenzan. The longest-reigning IWGP champs in New Japan history. They continue to astound, even as the company tries to break them up.
Runner Up: Rey Bucanero and Ultimo Guerrero. The Lucha Libre Midnight Express, constantly coming up with new moves and helped (along with former mentor El Satanico) keep CMLL hot during most of 2001.
Best on Interviews - Ric Flair. We all know why.
Runners Up: Steve Austin and Paul Heyman.
Most Overrated - The Rock. Whether it's matches (same old or same old) or interviews ("Finally.Cookin'"), you can set your watches by our friend, the Scorpion King.
Runners Up: Bill Goldberg and Kevin Nash
Most Underrated - Chavo Guerrero Jr. He may have gotten his well-deserved push had Uncle Eddy not been fired. But for now, he's in Tough Enough land, perhaps to be seen in six months or so.
Runners Up: Ultimo Guerrero and Ricky Marvin.
Match of the Year - Mutoh vs. Hiroshi Hase (6/4/2001). On paper, this should have been disastrous - two former tag team partners wrestling for 45 minutes, one with chronically bad knees and the other isn't even a full-time worker anymore. But, just like real sports, you don't have matches on paper. These two put on an amazing clinic, evoking images of Funk-Brisco from the 1970s.
Runner Up: M2K vs. Taru and Stoker Ichikawa (12/2000). Yes, I love Stoker Ichikawa. Yes, I love Taru. But this was no comedy matches. The speed punks from M2K killed the two funny wrestlers, who managed to stay alive, near fall after near fall. When Stoker gets the win (thanks to Cima), the whole building erupted and I popped for my heroes like an eight year-old.
Best Second - William Regal. Yes, he's a wrestler, but he's so much more effective as spokesman, whether a face or heel. And, as everyone says, the best facials in the business.
Runner Up: Stacy Kiebler. She'd win if she wasn't with the Dudleys.
Best TV Show - CMLL on Galavision. So what if I can't speak Spanish. You can follow the action and guess what, there's actual wrestling on the show. Go figure.
Runner Up: Smackdown over Raw, since the advantage of being taped helps hide a multitude of sins.
Favorite Wrestler - Dr. Wagner Jr. The consummate rudo. He manages to vary his attire, despite even his trademark logo on the hood. And he's talented enough to work in Mexico and Japan on a regular basis.
Runners Up: Stoker Ichikawa and Shocker.
Least Favorite Wrestler - Kevin Nash. Please Vince, let him stay with the two-bit upstart companies. He's more trouble than it's worth.
Runners Up: Bret Hart and Bill Goldberg.
--- In the non-wrestling category ---
Best Film - Moulin Rogue. A postmodern potpourri of sound and color.
Best DVD - Almost Famous Bootleg. Cameron Crowe's psuedo-autobiography was a great movie and having his mom on the commentary track makes this all the better.
Best Superhero Comic - JSA (DC Comics). Just because the team is over 60 years old means you to have make the book stodgy and stale and Geoff Johns doesn't.
Best Indy Comic - Blue Monday (Oni Press). A hilarious slice-of-life book featuring wacky teenagers stressing about life, love and new wave music.
Best Video Game - Final Fantasy X. Square keeps managing to reinvent the game that made console RPG playing in the US.
Best Radio Show - Tony Kornheiser Show on ESPN Radio. Who needs to talk about sports on sports talk radio? Not Mr. Tony.
Best TV Show - Buffy. A musical? In the year 2001? And it worked!
Best Book (Fiction) - Pale Horse Coming by Stephen Hunter. The latest 'Hot Springs' novel finds Swagger in a chain gang that would have made Cool Hand Luke blanch.
Best Book (Non Fiction) - Jay's Journal of Anamolies. A collection of weirdness from the magazine founded by actor/magician Ricky Jay (one of David Mamet's regulars).
Best Sports Moment - Game Seven, World Series. Not even a national tragedy is enough for me to root for a New York team. Call it "getting back to normal."
There you have it - a year in a nutshell. Now, let's not look back on it for a really long time, since the bad outweighs the good by an infinite degree.