The Wrestling Roundtable: A Look Back At 2006

Douglas Nunnally

Douglas Nunnally: Welcome, wrestling fans, to the first edition of The Wrestling Roundtable for 2007! For those of you who have never read TWR before, this is a wrestling roundtable discussion between columnists and special guests on recent issues in pro wrestling. Fun stuff, huh? On the panel today, we have Tim Wronka (author of From The Eye Of The Dragon), Matthew James (author of The Intricate Spectrum), Lee Baker (author of 500 Words…), and Nate Granville (moderator of the WWE section of The Wrestling Asylum). Definitely an exciting panel for today’s topic which is the best of 2006 in pro wrestling, a year noteworthy for a bunch of reasons certainly. We’ll be looking at ten specific awards from the 2006 TWV Wrestling Awards (which you can view yourself by clicking here), discussing the winners of those awards, and who the individual panelists voted for. All right guys; let’s kick it off with the Most Improved Of The Year award which Jeff Hardy won for his, I guess, triumphant return to WWE this year. What do you guys think about that & who did you each vote for?

Tim Wronka: It’s hard not to agree with Jeff Hardy, though I do recall voting for Umaga & Bobby Lashley over him. Still though, Hardy had a tremendous half year in WWE and he looked tons better here than he did in TNA. Say what you want to about WWE, but there was something about the promotion that obviously lit a fire under him that really helped him step up his game. His first match back with Edge was tons better than his first match in TNA with AJ Styles and he was consistent ever since then. So while I think that Umaga & Lashley had a better year than Hardy, it’s not hard to see that Hardy definitely improved over this last run in WWE and TNA.

Lee Baker: I do agree that Hardy has looked considerably better in WWE than he did in TNA and all credit to him. However, in my eyes, Hardy has always been capable when his mind is right so for me, it’s been more about getting his head right than actual improvement. My pick is Johnny Nitro. Along with Hardy, he has made the Intercontinental Title division interesting again and he’s gone from being arguably carried by Joey Mercury in MNM to a singles star in his own right. I see a bright future for him and his improvement in 2006 was considerable.

Nate Granville: Well I have to agree that Jeff Hardy is one of the most improved of the year, but there have been some others who aren’t better than him necessarily, but certainly improved more than him. I think Bobby Lashley has improved the most of the year. If anyone remembers when he first came in, he was just demolishing the SmackDown! tag team division all by himself. Sure, he threw some good suplexes during that time, but other than that, he didn’t know what the hell he was doing in the ring. Then all of the sudden a great (and I mean great) wrestler came along in Finlay. Finlay took Lashley under his wing throughout the spring and summer of 2006 and made him look like a star. I know Lashley still isn’t ready for the main event (though for some odd reason he is in the main event), but he has improved more than Jeff. My other pick would have to be Johnny Nitro. He has been improving since 2005 as well, but 2006 was his biggest year as far as improvement goes. Nobody thought he could be a singles wrestler let alone carry Cena to a good match and have such an interesting long feud with Jeff Hardy. So yeah, my three picks were Bobby Lashley, Johnny Nitro, and Jeff Hardy, in that order.

Matthew James: I sort of see things a little differently to you guys. I do think Jeff had a tremendous come back year, but I don’t think he so much improved as he just started trying again. I think Nigel McGuiness and Davey Richards are the two most improved guys of 2006. They both acquired new dimensions when it comes to in ring work and their gimmicks; understanding their art form more then before. Jeff more or less just returned to a standard that he should have been at all along, but stopped trying. I also agree that Johhny Nitro is another who improved and is continuing to improve.

Douglas Nunnally: Some pretty good points here and I praise all four of you for not even uttering the name Ken Kennedy. Of all those names though, I definitely have to jump on the Nigel McGuinness bandwagon. Hardy, Nitro, and Lashley all improved, but not like Nigel McGuinness who went from having matches in the mid-card that no one remembered a week later to being in epic main events with Bryan Danielson that nearly won Match Of The Year in a lot of places. That’s an astounding difference right there and I think as much as people praise Danielson, no one will say it was simply because of him. But enough of Most Improved, let’s move on to the next award which was Comeback Of The Year which was also won by Jeff Hardy. There were definitely a lot of patterns in this year’s voting which will see later with a certain heel main eventer. Though I know a lot of your votes, what do you guys think about Hardy winning Comeback and was there anyone else who maybe was a better candidate in your eyes?

Lee Baker: Again, I agree that Hardy’s comeback has been impressive, but surely the comeback of the year has to go to Finlay. The guy is in his late 40’s and has been away from the ring for a few years, yet he’s been one of the most consistent wrestlers of the year. His feud with Lashley helped to elevate the youngster to new heights and Finlay’s status in the upper mid-card has been secured through his top performances

Tim Wronka: I agree with Lee. Hardy definitely improved this year, but as far as comeback goes, Finlay did the most. Now while it may not seem that way to more casual fans (which we seemed to have a lot of throughout the voting process), Finlay easily did the most this year. What’s important to note is that everything he did was to benefit other workers and rookies. Finlay worked several programs this year with Lashley and really built up the man’s confidence. The same could be seen for Batista as well as other workers. So Finlay was my first vote. My second vote had to go to Sting. For me, Sting was easily one of the best things TNA had going on this year. I was there live a year ago when he made his return and I have never been part of a more surreal moment in any wrestling show I’ve been to. He was able to sustain a year long feud with Jeff Jarrett and company and even slimmed down 20 pounds before he won the NWA title. It was a storybook comeback in many ways and despite some illogical booking along the way, Sting had a great comeback and has really helped TNA out. And just to note, Hardy was my third vote and there’s not much more I can say about him.

Matthew James: I really have to agree with Tim, Finlay’s comeback was astounding! I think he exceeded what anyone would have thought. He didn’t just come back; he returned and almost in that instant was one of the top ten wrestlers in the world. He has put on stellar matches with some most others struggle to have decent matches with, all while teaching at the same time. I can’t think of anyone other guy that has comeback from the sort of problems he has had and been quite that stellar. I wouldn’t just say Finlay had the best comeback of the year, but one of the greatest comebacks of all time. It’s not too often you hear of some returning at his age and still being absolutely on top of their game and having the biggest year in their career.

Nate Granville: I have to agree with everyone here that Finlay definitely had the best comeback of 2006. He came back and proved that age doesn’t matter when you’re looking for a top guy in your promotion. Even when he was in WCW, he wasn’t used as one of the main guys on the show; he was just an undercard wrestler. But when he returned, he looked better than ever. And I have to agree with Tim about Sting having another great comeback as well. Though he didn’t have any “wrestling classics” in his return, Sting did solidify the main event scene and brought some prestige to the company. He was definitely one of the most over guys in TNA ever since he returned. So my three picks are Finlay, Jeff Hardy, and Sting all in that order.

Douglas Nunnally: I hate to be repetitive, but to me, it was Finaly and then everyone else this year. Sting, Hardy, Takayama, et cetera; none of them even touched Finlay’s comeback this year and if Finlay can keep this up for another year or two, no doubt it will be among one of the best comebacks ever along with the likes of Jushin Liger and Eddie Guerrero. It goes without saying that with all that time off and his age, Finlay’s comeback is all the more impressive. But now let’s move on to Speaker Of The Year and by a wide margin, Edge was clearly who people thought was the best talker of the year. Your thoughts?

Matthew James: Edge had a fantastic year all around for mine, but I am not sure he was the top speaker. Edge was fantastic no doubt, but for my tastes, he didn’t deliver any money promos. The man who I have to give it up for in 2006 was Mick Foley for his promos leading into WrestleMania, One Night Stand, & against Flair as they were all fantastic. I can barely think of anyone who puts things across so well quite like Foley. I also think Jim Cornette as always was a fantastic speaker in his authority roles in 2006, but the stand out for me this year was the hardcore legend himself Mick Foley.

Nate Granville: I think without a doubt Jim Cornette has been the best speaker of 2006. Mostly from his ROH work, which has been gold, but even in TNA he’s had some entertaining promos. The way he can just ramble but still keep his composure and still be so fluent and entertaining is pretty unique as far as mike work goes. So yeah, Jim Cornette would be my top pick. My second choice would have to be Mick Foley. Like Matt said, Foley’s had some awesome promos leading up to WrestleMania, One Night Stand, and SummerSlam. I think his promo with Terry Funk had to be promo of the year. My third pick would have to be JBL. Ever since he became a commentator, he’s just been on fire in terms of speaking. He fits color commentator so well. So my three picks are Jim Cornette, Mick Foley, and JBL in that order (with two honorable mentions in Sting and Mark Henry).

Lee Baker: I think it’s quite telling that the people mainly mentioned so far have been either non-workers or part timers. Foley was terrific and Cornette is always of good value, but in my opinion, there is a lack of great mike talent out there at the moment. For that reason, my pick is an active wrestler whose mike skills could potentially take him to the top tier of the WWE. That man is Ken Kennedy.

Lee Baker: His promos during the feud with the Undertaker were fantastic and he brings a freshness to the mike that we haven’t seen in a while. As I said, Foley and Cornette are great, but they always have been. Kennedy is someone new and fresh so he gets my vote.

Nate Granville: It’s okay if you like Ken Kennedy’s mike work, you have every right to. But to say he was the best mike worker of 2006 is absurd. He’s the most textbook mike worker I’ve seen since Randy Orton meaning his promos aren’t unqiue in any way. Sure, he uses an old school microphone and screams his name really loud, but what else? As far as I’m concerned, Kennedy’s mike works is drastically overrated.

Lee Baker: I wanted to vote for someone who had stood out from the pack. Foley was superb, but he was only around for a few months. Cornette is always great value, but he’s been doing that for 20 years. Kennedy is someone who has stood out from the sea of WWE mediocrity & shown some personality and I for one appreciate that. I take your point, but the WWE is so lacking in personality and above average mike skills that I’m just pleased to see someone capable with a mike in his hand

Tim Wronka: Alrighty, first off, I hate you guys for saying everything I wanted to. But, all that aside, my overall thoughts on the talkers of 2006 is that there were really no memorable promos. Sure, there was the occasional speaker who came along and said something of merit, but there wasn’t that Rock or Foley promo that people will remember for years to come. As far as Kennedy goes, he really is overrated to no end, but both Lee and Nate had some good points, though I’m more keen to thinking Kennedy is generic. And just one name I wanted to mention was Triple H. He didn’t do anything big, but he was able to do a 180 on his promos. He went from being the annoying heel to the guy who could really fire up a crowd. It was nothing special, but it speaks volumes on the guy’s ability to change with the times.

Douglas Nunnally: Ken Kennedy’s still a hot topic it seems. Anyway, Jim Cornette this year was on fire with the mike and if you haven’t seen any of his promos from the ROH-CZW war, you definitely don’t know what you’re missing. That’s all I’ll say about him. Looking to the future though, if they can set Great Khali up with some subtitles like he had in The Longest Yard, there is no way he will not be winning Speaker Of The Year for 2007, especially if they add in “????” every now and then. Moving on to something similar though, what were your picks for Personality Of The Year (manager, commissioner, general manager, backstage interviewer, etc.) and what did you guys think of Paul Heyman picking up this one?

Tim Wronka: We were so close to not hearing that name!

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