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NJPW News: Kazuchika Okada voted Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Most Outstanding Wrestler for 2017

626   //    16 Mar 2018, 07:20 IST

The fans have spoken: no one can touch this man in terms of in-ring quality
The fans have spoken: no one can touch this man in terms of in-ring quality

What’s the story?

The Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards for 2017 have been released, and needless to say it was a very good year for NJPW’s top star. Kazuchika Okada took home many awards for this past year, including the one for Most Outstanding Wrestler.

In case you didn’t know…

Unlike the Ric Flair Award, which is given to the best ‘all-around wrestler’ that excels in every aspect of being a pro wrestler, the award for Most Outstanding Wrestler goes to whichever wrestler is voted the best ‘worker’ in the ring.

In other words, this award recognizes that wrestler that has the best match quality and does the most amazing things inside the ring (and above it, in some cases).

Previous winners of the overall Wrestler of the Year Award were not always Most Outstanding Wrestler, as there have been cases where the top star in a company in a given year isn’t also its best in-ring worker that year.

For example, Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger won this award three years in a row, despite not being his company’s biggest star at the time.

Previous winners of this award include Liger, Kenta Kobashi, Rey Mysterio (Jr.), Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson/Daniel Bryan, Tanahashi, and of course, AJ Styles. Also, only one woman has ever won this award, and that was Manami Toyota back in 1995.

The heart of the matter

Okada was voted the Most Outstanding Wrestler of 2017, though he wasn’t without competition. He was followed closely by the likes of Kenny Omega, AJ Styles (the only WWE wrestler in the top 10), Naito, Kota Ibushi, KUSHIDA, Will Ospreay, and Zack Sabre Jr.

All of these men had spectacular matches throughout 2017, but from the fan’s voting, it’s clear that Okada was better than all of them once he stepped into the ring.

Kazuchika Okada winning this award was likely based on how many outstanding matches he had in 2017. From his 6-star performance at Wrestle Kingdom 11 to several instant classics throughout the calendar year, Okada’s in-ring abilities are simply spectacular.

The man has truly grown into one of the most mesmerizing wrestlers on the planet, and the fact that fans voted him as the best worker in 2017 is further proof of that.

What’s next?

Kazuchika Okada is currently the longest-reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion of all time, having both the longest single reign and having held the belt for the largest combined number of days than anyone else.

This, coupled with how well he’s doing in his matches, it proof of just how good of a wrestler he is, and how much faith NJPW’s bookers, promoters and other key people have in him.

Author’s take

Don’t get me wrong; Okada had a spectacular 2017 and reached new heights as a performer during that year. However, as a worker, I personally think that Kenny Omega out-did Okada in many respects. Omega has a greater degree of dynamism to him and seems to be able to wrestle in different kinds of matches with more success.

In this particular case, I think that Omega was the most outstanding wrestler of 2017, even if Okada was a bigger draw for NJPW in general.

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Alex is a lifelong professional wrestling fan that loves to write about it just as much as he enjoys watching it.
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