Best Heavyweight Wrestler of 2011
Love him or hate him my personal #1 is Hiroshi Tanahashi. I know everyone dislikes Tanahashi well guess what if he had to have any year as his own this was it. His longest IWGP Heavyweight reign which he held for the whole year following WRESTLE KINGDOM V, and taking on challengers after challengers. Tanahashi even solidified his name one of the top defenders of the IWGP belt next to Yuji Nagata & Shinya Hashimoto. In terms of holding a belt and solidly competing month after month it has to go to Tanahashi.
#2 will be going to the All Japan Ace Suwama. Suwama had a solid run as the Triple Crown Champion for most of the year and managed to prove match after match that he is top talent in All Japan. Suwama had two very solid standout matches in 2011 against both Yuji Nagata & Jun Akiyama. Though he ended up losing to Akiyama, Suwama still looked solid in the encounter. Even after losing the belt he has actually managed to have stepped up even more. 2012 could be in the makings to be another strong year for Suwama.
My official #3 Heavyweight would then be Takashi Sugiura. Sugiura like Tanahashi in a way, had a solid run as GHC Heavyweight Champion coming out of 2010 and into 2011. Sugiura was a fighting champion for NOAH and no one can take that away from him.
Honorable Mentions: Jun Akiyama, Seiya Sanada & Yuji Nagata
Best Junior Heavyweight of 2011
#1 KENTA – 2011 definitely had to be the breakout year for him. KENTA jumped from the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Champion with Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and 2011 saw the formation of NO MERCY [NMC] in which KENTA led. NMC was leading a revolution in a way, to change the ideology of NOAH. To bring a new wave for the promotion. One of the big waves saw KENTA becoming the #1 contender for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. Then who could forget him making it all the way to the Finals in the Global League tournament, KENTA definitely proved that even though he is a Junior that he could hang with the bigger dogs.
#2 is Muneori Sawa, you know he should be my #1, but KENTA just did too much in the year. But 2011 could be called the year for Sawa as well. Not only was 2011 the final year for Sawa as a pro wrestler, but he went on a storm wrestling all around the world and had fun doing it. Sawa is a one of a kind wrestler in which he can wrestle both with the comedy side and then turn it around and legit shoot on his opponents. It is sad to see Sawa go, but he went out on a bang.
#3 – Dick Togo. It was sort of hard to pick who my #3 would be, but Togo just like Sawa retired from competition in Japan in 2011 and had some fantastic matches in the year. Wrestling his former friends and talent from all around the world.
Honorable Mentions: Prince Devitt, Kota Ibushi & Masaaki Mochizuki
Best Rookie of 2011
Undoubtedly is Daichi Hashimoto. Not may young talents have come into the business and have not only gotten as much press as this young man, but has gotten so many high profile matches in under a year (or even 5 years into their careers).
#2 Takumi Soya – Takumi, who is the younger brother to Manabu Soya, came into All Japan with a head of steam. Showing a lot of potential and even a few moves that young rookies never get to show off. If you have not seen Takumi wrestle yet, I definitely recommend that you put him on your watch list in 2012. Takumi is actually taller and bigger than his brother (though not billed that way) and if 2011 was any indication of what Takumi brings to the ring, 2012 should be exciting.
Best Tag Team of 2011
This is honestly the hardest category for me to pick from, I am honestly split between two teams as my #1 choice, but after thinking it through with the matches I enjoyed most this year I have to give the nod to Team Dai Nippon (Team BJW) as the #1 team of 2012. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi the very powerful teacher and student combo have really shed their names away from BJW in 2011, by jumping head first into All Japan Pro-Wrestling and really making names for themselves. Many thought they would never see Sekimoto get the recognition he deserved in one of the bigger promotions, but after this year he has solidified his name for sure.
This would then make “Bad Intentions” my #2.
#3 – “es” Seiya Sanada & Manabu Soya
Best Singles Match of 2011
#1 – Triple Crown Championship Match: Suwama vs. Jun Akiyama [Oct. 23rd/AJP]
~ A great match with a lot of history riding behind it. Akiyama had always looked to be in line to win the Triple Crown Championship a little over 10 years ago, but due to the All Japan/NOAH split Akiyama would never get to hold the belt. Take us almost 12 years later and Akiyama appears in All Japan, and the buzz began to swirl with Akiyama aiming for the title that had eluded him for years. The big issue though stood with the reigning champion Suwama who is the definitive ace of the promotion and a very strong competitor. Suwama already took out one of the strongest outsiders in Yuji Nagata months earlier and that showed how hard Suwama would fight to keep the belt in All Japan.
There was a lot of emotion going into this match and during. For someone like me who has been a big fan of Akiyama since he was in All Japan this was something that was long overdue.
#2 – IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito [Oct. 10th/NJPW]
~ Tanahashi the current ace of New Japan and Naito who is looked at as the next generation ace for promotion. Both guys share a similar background in their idols being Keiji Mutoh and both share almost the same styles if you take Tanahashi back a few years into his career. Both have/are high flyers, can lock submissions out of nowhere, and can back it up with ring awareness. This match came down to experience vs. hunger for more. Tanahashi looking to remain with his status in the promotion and Naito looking to take the big leap forward as the go to guy in NJPW. In the end, the match was very solid and Naito even had the best of the current champion on more than one occasion. Definitely one to see from the year and definitely not an end to their feud which could possibly see a rematch in 2012.
#3 – GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Kotaro Suzuki vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima [March 5th/NOAH]
~ A great match between two solid Junior Heavyweights. Nakajima is definitely known as someone who can bring his all to a match and Suzuki backed it up with everything he had. This match had plenty of spots and big bumps. In the end there would be a decisive winner and us the fans where in for a treat.
Best Tag Match of 2011
#1 All Asia Tag Team Championship Match: “es” Seiya Sanada & Manabu Soya vs. “Team BJW” Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi [March 21st/AJP] – The moment I saw this match I knew it was going to be one of the most solid contenders for Match of the Year and it has still stood up to me watching again here recently. Great back and forth action and it was all around a fun match, then you add the fact that they had this match on multiple times this year. All very solid, but their first title match stands out to me as the one you have to see.
#2 Keiji Mutoh & Kenta Kobashi vs. Takashi Iizuka & Toru Yano [ALL TOGETHER/August 27th] – The dueling moonsaults enough said right there. It may not have been the best all around match of the year, but with the crowd in love with the team of Mutoh & Kobashi it made this match stand out a lot more.
#3 Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi vs. Suwama & Takumi Soya BJW/December 18th] – It is sort of crazy to think that I could put a rookie in one of my matches of the year, but you know what Takumi is on a whole other level compared to alot of people. He does more moves than any normal rookie and still has a long way to go in terms of reaching his height. Sekimoto & Okabayashi have yet to do any wrong in my mind, both great talents and some of the best workers in the business today then you have Suwama who is the ace of All Japan. I recommend this match a lot.
Best Event of 2011
#1 ALL TOGETHER [8/27] – The 3 biggest promotions in Japan coming together for a charity show for the major Northeastern Earthquake that occurred in March. Lots of dream matches and wrestlers came together for the big show and it was so successful that a second is planned to happen in late February 2012.
#2 AJP Pro Wrestling Love in Ryogoku vol. 13 [11/23] – Suwama vs. Akiyama, es vs. BJW, good show all around.
Top Promotion of 2011
#1: All Japan Pro-Wresling – AJP
#2: Big Japan Pro-Wrestling – BJW
#3: New Japan Pro Wrestling – NJPW