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Strong Style Spirit Awards for 2005 - NJPW


nWoHulkster

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Наградите на най-известния англоезичен сайт за New Japan. Гласувани са от фенове (и аз бях там, и аз гласувах :) ). Доста са добри като краен резултат:

Heavyweight MVP:

1. Shinsuke Nakamura

2. Masahiro Chono

3. Hiroyoshi Tenzan

4. Hiroshi Tanahashi

5. Kazuyuki Fujita

6. Yuji Nagata

7. Manabu Nakanishi

8. Yutaka Yoshie

9. Tatsumi Fujinami

10. Osamu Nishimura

Hiroyoshi Tenzan's two year grip on the award ended, but not by the man many (like me) expected. It was Shinsuke Nakamura, the young generation ace, who took the award, barely beating out heavy favourite, Chono. Nakamura didn't hold any singles titles this year, but headlined the first Tokyo Dome show of 2005 and won, plus reigned with the IWGP Tag Team Title up to October. Also, and perhaps an important factor, Nakamura showed regular signs of maturing as a wrestler, such as an incredible performance in March, when he was thrown to the wolves so to speak, working his longest match (by far) ever against Kojima. This was a sixty minute draw, and many people felt he outwrestled and outshined the industry's 2005 MVP. Nakamura also had a good G1 showing, losing only to seniors Fujita and Chono, the latter defeat coming in the semi final round. Chono just missed out, as mentioned, in something of a surprise, as the veteran not only won the G1 Climax this year and had a massive return to form again, but captured the IWGP Tag Team Title with Tenzan in October. Although his in-ring skills are not what they once were, Chono contributed a lot to New Japan this year, and he is the only constantly active heavyweight legend left on the New Japan mat (Fujinami and Choshu being part-timers at the moment). Tenzan finished third, a solid showing after winning the award in 2003 and 2004, but his singles track record was again up-and-down, the story of his life. He hasn't lost directly at all since the G1 though, and is finding his footing again as one half of the IWGP Tag Team Champions with Chono. Tanahashi finished fourth, and there was just a 12 point margin between fourth spot and seventh spot. Tanahashi won the New Japan Cup, as easy as that tournament may be to forget, and with Nakamura held on to the tag belts for a long time, while winning back the IWGP U-30 Openweight Title. Had he not slumped in the second half of the year, he might have finished higher. Kazuyuki Fujita, for all his detractors, finished fifth, due to his IWGP Heavyweight Title reign and runner-up spot in the G1. Nagata just missed the top five, and like Tenzan, had an up-and-down year in singles, but in the Choshu system, will be hoping for something more stable. Nakanishi, who got just 3 points last year in the MVP vote, scored 82 this year, a sign of what a good resurgence he's had. There was a big gap after him, with Yoshie finishing eighth. Yoshie has the talent and popularity, he just needs the push that would surely launch him up the rankings. Fujinami had a good comeback year, with a better-than-expected showing in the G1, finishing ninth, while Nishimura edged out Kendo Kashin and Minoru Suzuki to take tenth.

(2002 winner: Yuji Nagata)

(2003 winner: Hiroyoshi Tenzan)

(2004 winner: Hiroyoshi Tenzan)

Junior Heavyweight MVP:

1. Tiger Mask

2. Koji Kanemoto

3. Minoru

4. Black Tiger

5. Jushin Thunder Liger

6. Hirooki Goto

7. Wataru Inoue

8. Gedo

9. Ryusuke Taguchi

10. El Samurai

For the second time, Tiger Mask was voted Jr. MVP. He also took the award in 2003, after winning the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title for the first time that year. In fact, for the entire four years of these awards, this category has been won by the individual who controlled the belt that year, even Minoru Tanaka as the uninspiring Heat last year (he had a much better year in 2005, but not the singles success to go with it). Tiger Mask won by a fair margin above Kanemoto, who has been the reliable veteran this year, forever strong, and helping create new poster boys for the division (Hirooki Goto and Black Tiger). Minoru, who had a very resurgent year in the ring and won a lot of popularity, took third, 16 points ahead of Black Tiger. Black Tiger's main success came later in the year, and if he can hold this form after he returns to Japan, he could be a contender to win the award next year. Liger, ever reliable also, took fifth. Just missing the top five was the junior division's prodigy, Hirooki Goto, who had a super year, scoring pins over seniors like Kanemoto, El Samurai, and Kakihara, and capturing the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Title with Minoru. Wataru Inoue could easily have won this award, had his year not been riddled by injuries. Wataru won the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Title with Kanemoto in a memorable match, had some very strong defenses, then they dropped the belts in the match where Goto pinned Kanemoto. Right after, Wataru entered the Best of the Super Jr., and many signs pointed to him winning the tournament, but a Scott Norton powerbomb in Italy concussed him badly. Despite a return in September, some stiff offense from Takaiwa revived the injury, and Wataru is still sidelined, but if he can get over it soon, 2006 could be his big year. Gedo also fared well, after a strong year for him personally, both in tags and singles matches. Taguchi made the top ten, but since he was away from New Japan for most of the year, wasn't able to rank high. Maybe next year. El Samurai, forever the overlooked junior in New Japan, had a very good year and some people recognized this, as for the first time, he ranked in this award. It has been a good year for the juniors, and they will be hoping to take it to another level next year. The big question going into 2006 though, is whether "Junior Charisma" Koji Kanemoto will still be in New Japan.

(2002 winner: Koji Kanemoto)

(2003 winner: Tiger Mask)

(2004 winner: Heat/Minoru Tanaka)

Tag Team MVP:

1. Shinsuke Nakamura & Hiroshi Tanahashi

2. Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan

3. Minoru & Hirooki Goto

4. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi

5. Koji Kanemoto & Wataru Inoue

6. Jado & Gedo (34)

7. Manabu Nakanishi & Kendo Kashin

8. Hiro Saito & Tatsutoshi Goto

9. Togi Makabe & Toru Yano

10. Tatsumi Fujinami & Osamu Nishimura

New Japan probably had its best year of tag wrestling in 2005 since the TenKoji era, and there was much more emphasis on tag matches than singles compared to the last couple of years. Both tag divisions, heavyweight and junior, were activated this year. The heavyweight division was controlled by Nakamura & Tanahashi for much of the year, but it wasn't until September that the tag division really got the focus it deserved, and since then things have accelerated. The junior tag division was set alight by Kanemoto & Wataru's brief reign, but their successors, Minoru & Hirooki Goto, have done an excellent job at the top. To the surprise of few, Nakamura & Tanahashi's ten month reign as IWGP Tag Team Champions won them this award by a huge margin of almost 100 points, ahead of the team who dethroned them, Chono & Tenzan. Nakamura & Tanahashi won the belts in a spectacular match against Kensuke Sasaki & Minoru Suzuki last December, and also defended them in Mexico, before finally dropping them to ChoTen. ChoTen have been an unstoppable force in the tag division since reforming in September, where they beat Fujita & Nagata, and since winning the title, have conquered most opposition thrown at them, in non-title matches. Minoru & Hirooki Goto landed third place, and have developed a reputation where just about any title defense from them is going to be something worth seeing. Nagata & Nakanishi were a very strong combination, and that landed them fourth, while Kanemoto & Wataru's excellence, albeit brief due to Wataru's injuries, meant they finished fifth. Last year's runner-up team, Jado & Gedo, missed the top five this year, despite being in two of New Japan's best tag matches, but they have failed to find their old form, their win-loss record not what it used to be. Undercard favourites, Hiro & Goto, were recognized for a great year, often as individuals rather than a tag match though (such as Goto's stirring G1 campaign). Makabe & Yano were a short-lived team due to Makabe's injury, but one that showed potential to be something after a very good display against Nakamura & Tanahashi in May. They finished ninth, with Team Muga rounded out the top ten.

(2002 winners: Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan)

(2003 winners: Jushin Thunder Liger & Koji Kanemoto)

(2004 winners: Yoshihiro Takayama & Minoru Suzuki)

Singles Best Bout:

1. Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Satoshi Kojima (2/20)

2. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (1/4)

3. Satoshi Kojima vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (3/26)

4. Black Tiger vs. Koji Kanemoto (10/30)

5. Masahiro Chono vs. Kazuyuki Fujita (8/14)

6. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (8/7)

7. Koji Kanemoto vs. Minoru (6/13) (42)

8. Satoshi Kojima vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (5/14)

9. Yuji Nagata vs Toshiaki Kawada (8/8)

10. Tiger Mask vs. Jushin Thunder Liger (2/20)

It wasn't New Japan's greatest year for singles matches, partly due to a smaller emphasis on singles match this year (for example, not one major singles match between August's G1 and Brock vs. Nagata on 12/10) and also due to a G1 that was very solid throughout, but didn't have the blowaway matches that the last few did. However, there were many matches nominated and voted for, and it was the second Tenzan vs. Kojima match of their recent three match series that won it. This was the historic IWGP Heavyweight Title and Triple Crown double title match, with the finish that still has people wondering exactly what happened. Tenzan would go on to win the blowoff match in May at the Tokyo Dome, a match that also ranked, but that was unable to recreate the heat and intensity of their February clash. This marks the third year than Tenzan has won this award, showing that he can still bring the goods in big singles matches. Behind Tenzan vs. Kojima was the new generation fight that began New Japan's year, Nakamura vs. Tanahashi. It was a big gamble to let this match headline, but it was easily the best match of that show and got good feedback from fans and the press. In third was Kojima's only defense of the IWGP Heavyweight Title, the 60 minute draw with Nakamura. No one expected this to go broadway, and few expected Nakamura to perform as well as he did in this challenging environment. In fourth was a recent match, where Black Tiger defended his two junior crowns against Koji Kanemoto in a major breakthrough match for him, that lit up Kobe World Hall. For the first time in the SSS Awards' four year history, a G1 final did not win this award, with Chono vs. Fujita having to settle for fifth. This was maybe the hottest G1 final of the 2000s, but was a different style of G1 final compared to recent ones, less of a great match and more of a dramatic spectacle. Nakamura vs. Tanahashi part two from the G1 just missed the top five, and was a very different type of match to their first, but even hotter in terms of crowd response. Kanemoto vs. Minoru from the Best of the Super Jr., a tremendous match, ranked surprisingly well (matches from cable tapings usually get overlooked, as Nagata vs. Tanahashi from this April has been), while Nagata vs. Kawada (which I personally found disappointing) finished ninth, and Tiger Mask vs. Liger from February tenth.

(2002 winner: Masahiro Chono vs. Yoshihiro Takayama ~ 8/11/02)

(2003 winner: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Jun Akiyama ~ 8/17/03)

(2004 winner: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi ~ 8/15/04)

Tag Team Best Bout:

1. Jado & Gedo vs. Koji Kanemoto & Wataru Inoue (3/4)

2. Koji Kanemoto & Wataru Inoue vs. Jado & Gedo (3/21)

3. Shinsuke Nakamura & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kensuke Sasaki & Minoru Suzuki (12/11/04)

4. Shinsuke Nakamura & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan (10/30)

5. Koji Kanemoto & Wataru Inoue vs. Minoru & Hirooki Goto (5/14)

6. Shinsuke Nakamura & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi (11/3)

7. Shinsuke Nakamura & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Scott Norton (3/13)

8. Minoru & Hirooкi Goto vs. Koji Kanemoto & El Samurai (7/18)

9. Shinsuke Nakamura & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Yuji Nagata (1/30)

10. Tiger Mask & Ultimo Dragon vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Black Tiger (6/4)

Like I said above, I think 2005 was the best year for New Japan tag wrestling since the TenKoji era, with quality stuff from both weight classes. Some top notch matches like Nakamura & Tanahashi vs. Nakanishi & Norton (which maybe should have ranked) missed the top ten, showing how much competition there was. The award was dominated by one match... well, two matches with the same teams. In March, Kanemoto & Wataru defeated Jado & Gedo in a 34 minute classic to win the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Title, a match where Inoue bled buckets at Korakuen. Jado & Gedo were granted a rematch in Amagasaki at the end of the tour, a match with much buzz that drew 5,200 fans, and which the babyface team also won. This one went 44 minutes and was also of world class quality, and as you can see from the results, there wasn't much between these two. The 3/4 match won it, 20 points ahead of 3/21, but it was clear what tag program was most popular this year. Since I changed the voting period last year, Nakamura & Tanahashi's IWGP Tag Team Title win from Osaka last December was eligible, and that finished third, ahead of ChoTen's title win over Nakamura & Tanahashi from October. Minoru & Hirooki Goto ended Aniki & Wataru's junior tag reign at the Tokyo Dome in May, that match claiming fifth, ahead of Nakamura & Tanahashi vs. Nagata & Nakanishi from a November SXW taping (I haven't seen this yet, it was Nakamura & Tanahashi's farewell match as a team). One of my favourite tags this year, Minoru & Goto vs. Kanemoto & El Samurai from July, finished eighth, Nakamura & Tanahashi's big defense over Tenzan & Nagata from January ninth, and the dream junior tag from Italy in tenth.

(2002 winner: Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Osamu Nishimura ~ 6/5/02)

(2003 winner: Yutaka Yoshie & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Koji Kanemoto ~ 8/24/03)

(2004 winner: Jado & Gedo vs. American Dragon & Curry Man ~ 3/12/04)

Young Lion Prize:

1. Hirooki Goto

2. Naofumi Yamamoto

3. Akiya Anzawa

4. Hiroshi Nagao

5. Yujiro

2005 Young Lion Cup winner, Hirooki Goto, had a fantastic year, continuing to mature and becoming one of the best young wrestlers in the world. Goto was active not only in the young lion scene, but also in the junior division, where he took some important scalps. This award looked to be a one horse race, until late blooming young lion Naofumi Yamamoto suddenly took off in October. Yamamoto has suddenly gone from being the underachieving youngster to a possible ace candidate, and although it couldn't win him the award, he scored over 200 points and was Goto's closest rival. Akiya Anzawa is another fantastic talent who had grown up a lot this year, entering the junior division, and he finished third. Hiroshi Nagao is also improving, though not quite as quickly as the three above him yet, and he secured fourth, just above Yujiro, who also progressed very well this year.

(2002 winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi)

(2003 winner: Shinsuke Nakamura)

(2004 winner: Ryusuke Taguchi)

Foreign MVP:

1. Brock Lesnar

2. Black Tiger

3. Scott Norton

4. Matt Morgan

5. Harry Smith

6. Sangre Azteca

7. Mark Jindrak

8. Ron Waterman

9. Charlie Haas

10. Lizmark Jr.

No major surprises in this award, with Brock Lesnar and Black Tiger, the hot newcomers to New Japan, controlling things. Lesnar didn't win as easily as some may have expected, as Black Tiger has made an impact this year, but the IWGP Heavyweight Champion won by a comfortable margin. Scott Norton, who is winding down, but remains a solid figure, finished in third, ahead of Matt Morgan, who pinned Nagata in his debut match, and has started to setting in. Harry Smith hasn't been seen lately, but showed a lot of potential this year, and he secured fifth with ease. Sangre Azteca has been an excellent addition to recent tours, a benefit of the New Japan/CMLL working agreement, and apparently his New Japan stays have helped improve his position on CMLL shows. Jindrak has settled in quite well and is becoming very popular with Morgan, so he got a fair few votes. Ron Waterman was an enigma, winning the disasterous Ultimate Royal in January, then doing well under regular pro wrestling format, then just disappearing after the summer tour. He managed eighth, while one timer Charlie Haa and Mexican G1 winner, Lizmark Jr., rounded out the award.

(2003 winner: Josh Barnett)

(2004 winner: American Dragon)

Technique Award:

1. Shinsuke Nakamura

2. Osamu Nishimura

3. Yuji Nagata

4. Hiroshi Tanahashi

5. Minoru

6. Koji Kanemoto

7. Masahiro Chono

8. Tatsumi Fujinami

9. Hirooki Goto

10. Takashi Iizukа

The guard has changed! Nishimura's three year monopoly of this award has been ended by Nakamura, who secures yet another award. Nishimura has had a very quiet year minus the same spark of previous ones, and combined with Nakamura's continuing growth, means Nakamura was able to grab this award (though barely) from Mr. Muga. Nakamura excels on the mat, the match with Kojima a shining example of what he can do. He can finish matches with a number of submissions, like his favourite cross armbreaker, triangle choke, and recently debuted Tepito. Nagata finished third, just like last year, while Tanahashi dropped from second to fourth this time. Minoru sealed fifth, one point ahead of rival Kanemoto. Chono, who can still work the mat very well when he wants to, as shown in the G1, managed seventh, Fujinami eighth, Hirooki Goto ranking in another award with a ninth place spot, and "Submission Master" Iizuka in tenth.

(2002 winner: Osamu Nishimura)

(2003 winner: Osamu Nishimura)

(2004 winner: Osamu Nishimura)

Fighting Spirit Award:

1. Masahiro Chono

2. Hiroshi Tanahashi

3. Wataru Inoue

4. Shinsuke Nakamura

5. Yutaka Yoshie

6. Hirooki Goto

7. Hiroyoshi Tenzan

8. Yuji Nagata

9. Manabu Nakanishi

10. Akiya Anzawa

The tradition of this award having a different winner each year continued, with comeback king Chono winning the Fighting Spirit (or Toukon) Award for 2005. His revival led to an unlikely G1 win over Fujita, a match that had incredible emotional impact, and despite being unable to win the IWGP Heavyweight Title in his acquired challenge (thanks to Brock Lesnar's arrival), he compensated for that by taking the IWGP Tag Team Title the same month. The "strong" Chono returned this year, a wall for younger wrestlers, and he finished above last year's winner Tanahashi, who always shows fighting spirit, like when he fought through the G1 in pain. Wataru Inoue is one of the most charismatic wrestlers in New Japan, and that is why he finished third, and Nakamura sealed fourth, one award he couldn't clinch. Another fan favourite, Yoshie, rounded out the top five, with fiery Hirooki Goto taking sixth. The third generation's Tenzan, Nagata, and Nakanishi followed, and then a man possessed by toukon, Akiya Anzawa.

(2002 winner: Osamu Nishimura)

(2003 winner: Hiroyoshi Tenzan)

(2004 winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi)

Image Award:

1. Hiroshi Tanahashi

2. Masahiro Chono

3. Yutaka Yoshie

4. Shinsuke Nakamura

5. Jushin Thunder Liger

6. Kendo Kashin

7. Minoru

8. Hirooki Goto

9. Ryusuke Taguchi

10. Hiroyoshi Tenzan

Everyone's apparent secret love interest, Hiroshi Tanahashi, won the Image Award for the third year running. Seemingly, Tanahashi is ikemen enough to win this award each year, although Chono didn't trail by much. The Flying Tank in pink, Yoshie, put up a challenge, as did the new generation ace, Nakamura, while old favourite Liger managed fifth. Kashin was able to rank, and just 10 points separated #6 and #10. I'm not sure if I'll keep this award next year, as it doesn't seem very relevant.

(2003 winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi)

(2004 winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi)

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