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Strong Style Spirit Awards 2006


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Eжегодните награди на най-известният англоезичен сайт за New Japan вече са факт.

Thank you to everyone who entered the 2006 Strong Style Spirit Awards, which were in fact the fifth year running for them. For the first time, there were no incentives offered for entering the awards. This reduced the voting number quite a lot, but close to 60 people still sent their ballots, and dare I say it, but I feel the awards this time are more genuine from people who follow the product seriously, and not just an attempt from many at grabbing freebies. Some people decided not to vote in certain categories, which is fine and something I agree with if you don't feel you can put together a top five for something. The "Tag Team Best Bout" was one example that some skipped, and in reality New Japan had far more high quality singles matches than tags in 2006 (the year before, one could argue it was the opposite). When I opened the voting, I said I would consider whether to run the awards next year based on how many voted. What I planned was to keep them going if 30 or more people voted without incentives offered, and since closer to 60 did, I'll probably keep them going. So here are the results, as voted by the New Japan fans of this community, with some comments of my own...


Heavyweight MVP:

1. Hiroshi Tanahashi (149)

2. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (116)

3. Yuji Nagata (105)

4. Giant Bernard (80)

5. Manabu Nakanishi (29)

6. Masahiro Chono (24)

7. Naofumi Yamamoto (19)

8. Shinsuke Nakamura (16)

9. Riki Choshu (9)

10. Takashi Iizuka (8)

2002 winner: Yuji Nagata

2003 winner: Hiroyoshi Tenzan

2004 winner: Hiroyoshi Tenzan

2005 winner: Shinsuke Nakamura

And so Tanahashi gets the Heavyweight MVP award for the first time and its no surprise really. Long-term success has been absent in recent years within New Japan, but Tanahashi has been on an upward climb ever since his short excursion to TNA, which was the catalyst for his rise to the top in New Japan. He had a big slump in the second half of 2005 all the way up to the excursion, even losing a singles match to Iizuka in December '05, then when he came back, he defeated Nagata and despite failing to win the New Japan Cup for a second time, falling to Nagata in that, he quickly became New Japan's top priority with Nakamura away. Although his title capture didn't come in the way most hoped or expected, a win over Lesnar, who did a runner, the tournament win over Bernard in July was still a good and heated first IWGP Heavyweight Title victory for him. He stumbled in the G1 by not even reaching the semis, which many believe is why he only finished third in the Tokyo Sports MVP category, but it was back to business right after it, with wins over the tournament winner, Tenzan, and his greatest rival, Nakamura, in two highly rated matches. Tanahashi looks set to have a bright 2007 and not only has he made progress with his win/loss record, but also in the ring. Tenzan finished second after a strong close to the year. He lingered with Chono, but then won the G1. Despite failing to win the title from Tanahashi after that, he wasn't put on the shelf like before, quickly betraying Chono and forming GBH, a faction made up of he, Koshinaka, and some young wrestlers who are going to benefit from being with those two. To end the year, Tenzan reunited with Kojima and won All Japan's Real World Tag League, and is set to headline the Tokyo Dome tomorrow, so he looks like he could have a prosperous 2007.

Yuji Nagata finished third, despite no title or tournament wins. Nagata placed high simply because he was outstanding in the ring, having good matches with almost every opponent thrown at him, the match with Bernard in April one that showed a newly motivated Nagata and a much improved Bernard at the same time. Nagata's lack of trophies in recent times is disappointing, but no matter how many big matches he loses, his quality of performance in the ring always means that fans recognize him as a top star, as these results show. Bernard himself finished fourth after an excellent first year in New Japan. Bernard had arrived in Japan the previous year for All Japan, and despite big pinfall wins over many of All Japan's big names, performance-wise he didn't really accelerate until arriving in New Japan, his matches with Nagata and Tanahashi really boosting his stock in the company. New Japan placed him as their long-term foreign ace with a victory over the departing Scott Norton in March, and unless Bernard books a trip back to an American promotion, his value to New Japan is just likely to go up and up in future. The top five was rounded off by Nakanishi, another one like Nagata who many believe doesn't get the success he should, but who remains popular anyway. Unlike Nagata, Nakanishi is now part of what, if politics ease up, could become a franchise team for two promotions, Wild Child (with Takao Omori), Nakanishi is also the new priority of WRESTLE LAND, where he is really excelling with a Rikidozan-meets-clumsy Nakanishi character. Chono, Yamamoto, Nakamura, Choshu, and Iizuka rounded out the top ten. Last year's winner Nakamura was away for much of the year, so didn't rate too highly. Iizuka was the surprise entrant into the top ten, but his standing did improve last year, especially after a strong showing in the G1 Tag League, when he choked out Choshu.


Junior Heavyweight MVP:

1. Koji Kanemoto (155)

2. Minoru (148)

3. Tiger Mask (83)

4. Jushin Thunder Liger (65)

5. Milano Collection AT (51)

6. Ryusuke Taguchi (15)

7. El Samurai (13)

8. Gedo (12)

9. Wataru Inoue (9)

10. Prince Devitt (6)

2002 winner: Koji Kanemoto

2003 winner: Tiger Mask

2004 winner: Heat/Minoru Tanaka

2005 winner: Tiger Mask

As in the ring, 2002 winner Kanemoto and 2004 winner Minoru were closely contested in the voting, leaving Tiger Mask in a distant third place. Minoru ended the year as the king of the junior division, but Kanemoto controlled it from May to December. Had Kanemoto not performed so well in the G1, reaching the semis and having probably more good matches in the tournament than anyone, Minoru probably would have taken this easily, but it was Kanemoto's time. A long reign for Minoru should capture him the 2007 prize. Last year's winner, Tiger Mask, was down in third as mentioned, having lost the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title, but retained the NWA Jr. Heavyweight Title for most of the year, going through much of the young junior talent, then coming out on top (so far at least) of a feud with Milano. Liger ranked well again, as he always does despite limited success nowadays, while newcomer Milano easily made the top five after making an impactful start to his New Japan career by taking off Tiger's mask every day. Taguchi and Samurai began positions 6~10 after their good IWGP Jr. Tag run, Taguchi also performing well in the Best of the Super Jr. tournament. Gedo has been a solid performer again and finished eighth, while Wataru finished ninth and was a disappointment last year, unable to find the form he had before a series of head injuries kept him out long-term. Newcomer Prince Devitt, the first foreign dojo graduate in years, edged out Jado for the last spot.


Tag Team MVP:

1. Jado & Gedo (96)

2. Yuji Nagata & Naofumi Yamamoto (69)

3. Manabu Nakanishi & Takao Omori (68)

4. Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan (64)

5. Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii (61)

6. Masahiro Chono & Shinsuke Nakamura (44)

7. Togi Makabe & Shiro Koshinaka (37)

8. Giant Bernard & Travis Tomko (30)

9. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Koji Kanemoto (29)

10. Koji Kanemoto & Wataru Inoue (25)

2002 winner: Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan

2003 winner: Jushin Thunder Liger & Koji Kanemoto

2004 winner: Yoshihiro Takayama & Minoru Suzuki

2005 winner: Shinsuke Nakamura & Hiroshi Tanahashi

Despite placing well every year, Jado & Gedo have never managed to win the Tag Award, but became the first junior team since "The Unbeatables" in 2003 to win it this time. It wasn't the best year for tag matches, but there were plenty of good teams, and the return of the G1 Tag League brought tag wrestling back into the limelight after Chono & Tenzan had sat on the belts for a long time. Nagata & Yamamoto were one of the best performing teams of the year, the teacher/student combination forming in January and having some very impressive matches, despite failing to win any gold. Wild Child are the team to watch if they stay together, currently holding the IWGP Tag Team Title. Interpromotional politics are the main barrier that could stop them becoming the next big team in Japan, but if that is overcome, these two could dominate 2007 and could collide with the newly reformed TenKoji. ChoTen did rank well, despite splitting and idling with the belts a lot. No one could beat them and that stands for something, as New Japan's most successful tag team ever had what may be their last year ever as a team, unless Chono lures Tenzan back to his side in future. Yano & Ishii reached the top five, a big accomplishment as they are still very much a midcard team. But they were the impetus for the tag division last year when it had grown stagnant under ChoTen's rule, the two forming a new heel team that has clicked really well. Although they haven't really been able to beat any all-star type teams yet, they may reach a point soon where they can, as their teamwork keeps improving. Chono & Nakamura's G1 Tag League win got them sixth place, but they didn't follow up on that, as Nakamura focused on challenging for singles gold on the following tour, and we've yet to see what else Chono & Nakamura-gun can produce as a team. Makabe & Koshinaka are another team, like Yano & Ishii, who have regained some interest for the tag division. They had a bloody feud with Yano & Ishii that got good reviews, but have since gone on to join that team in Tenzan's GBH and have instead picked feuds with Choshu & Akebono and members of the Apachy Army like Kanemura. Bernard & Tomko, Tanahashi & Kanemoto, and Kanemoto & Wataru rounded out the top ten.


Singles Best Bout:

1. (G1 Climax Final) Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Satoshi Kojima (8/13) (78)

2. Yuji Nagata vs. Koji Kanemoto (8/12) (75)

3. (New Japan Cup Final) Yuji Nagata vs. Giant Bernard (4/30) (66)

4. (Best of the Super Jr. Final) Tiger Mask vs. Minoru (6/18) (60)

5. (IWGP Jr.) Koji Kanemoto vs. Minoru (10/9) (47)

6. (IWGP Heavyweight) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (10/9) (38)

7. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Satoshi Kojima (8/10) (25)

8. (IWGP U-30) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Naofumi Yamamoto (2/12) (15)

9. Yuji Nagata vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (4/29) (14)

10. (IWGP Jr. & NWA Jr.) Tiger Mask vs. Minoru (3/11) (12)

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)

2005 winner: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Satoshi Kojima (2/20/05)

For the second year running, it was TenKoji that took the award! Not as a team of course, but as opponents, the great rivals capping off the G1 with a very dramatic match at Sumo Hall that ended when Tenzan dropped Kojima at such a disgusting angle on his head that even the referee looked stunned. This resumes the trend of G1 finals winning this award, a trend that was briefly interrupted last year by those two men in a double title match. As you can see, this is also the fourth year in a row that the Tenzan had the best singles match, as voted by the readers. In my opinion, 2006 was New Japan's best year for singles matches since 2004, and excluding G1s, the best year for singles matches in a long time. Nagata vs. Kanemoto that ranked second was probably a better match than Tenzan vs. Kojima, but tournament finals or title matches often have the advantage of being the "big match". Nagata vs. Bernard, the final of New Japan's other singles tournament, came fourth, while the junior tournament final, Tiger Mask vs. Minoru, came fifth. All of New Japan's big singles tournaments had hot finals last year. #6 to #10 was dominated by Tanahashi, whose matches with Tenzan, Kojima, Yamamoto, and Yamamoto all placed, while the other Tiger Mask vs. Minoru match, not as widely seen as their Super Jr. final, was deservedly placed in the top ten.


Tag Team Best Bout:

1. (IWGP Tag) Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Yuji Nagata & Naofumi Yamamoto (3/19) (68)

2. Minoru & Masaaki Mochizuki vs. Koji Kanemoto & Wataru Inoue (7/30) (42)

3. (IWGP Jr. Tag) Minoru & Hirooki Goto vs. El Samurai & Ryusuke Taguchi (2/19) (35)

4. Yuji Nagata & Naofumi Yamamoto vs. Yoshihiro Takayama & Minoru Suzuki (10/9) (34)

5. (IWGP Jr. Tag) El Samurai & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Koji Kanemoto & Wataru Inoue (3/19) (32)

6. Brock Lesnar & Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Riki Choshu & Akebono (2/19) (31)

7. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Koji Kanemoto vs. Minoru & Milano Collection AT (10/29) (29)

8. (IWGP Jr. Tag) El Samurai & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Jado & Gedo (5/7) (28)

9. (IWGP Tag) Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Shiro Koshinaka & Takao Omori (1/4) (26)

10. Yuji Nagata & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Naofumi Yamamoto (2/4) (24)

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 (3/21/04)

2005 winner: Jado & Gedo vs. Koji Kanemoto & Wataru Inoue (3/4/05)

2006 wasn't the best year for top quality tag matches as I said, but there were some good ones. ChoTen vs. Nagata & Yamamoto at Sumo Hall last March was Yamamoto's coming-of-age party, his first major match and one where he won Sumo Hall over by surviving a beating by ChoTen for over 20 minutes, before finally succumbing. In second place was the CTU anniversary show main event of Minoru & Mochizuki vs. Kanemoto & Wataru, which capped off what may have been New Japan's most entertaining event of the calendar. Samurai & Taguchi junior tag title defenses grabbed #3 and #5, their matches really the highlight of early last year for the tag scene, while another Yamamoto education match from October, against the reformed Takayama & Suzuki team, took fourth. This was the only award that Brock Lesnar got a place in too, his match (teaming with Nakamura) against Choshu & Akebono coming sixth and a great preview to what turned out to be a flop of a match with Akebono. If I had a "Most Hated" award though, Lesnar would surely have clean sweeped it.


New Wave Award:

1. Yujiro (130)

2. Prince Devitt (126)

3. Tetsuya Naito (72)

4. Mitsuhide Hirasawa (68)

5. Takashi Uwano (64)

(Previously Young Lion Prize)

2002 winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi

2003 winner: Shinsuke Nakamura

2004 winner: Ryusuke Taguchi

2005 winner: Hirooki Goto

Only five candidates for this, and it was probably always going to be a race between Yujiro and Devitt. I thought Naito, one of the most promising New Japan rookies that I've ever seen, might challenge a little more, but probably will in the 2007 awards, as he's likely to start getting high profile matches this year. Yujiro edged out Devitt to win the award, with Hirasawa and Uwano rounding out the top five.


Technique Award:

1. Yuji Nagata (129)

2. Minoru (81)

3. Koji Kanemoto (79)

4. Takashi Iizuka (61)

5. Milano Collection AT (51)

6. Shinsuke Nakamura (37)

7. Jushin Thunder Liger (29)

8. Naofumi Yamamoto (28)

9. El Samurai (16)

10. Hirooki Goto (15)

2002 winner: Osamu Nishimura

2003 winner: Osamu Nishimura

2004 winner: Osamu Nishimura

2005 winner: Shinsuke Nakamura

The Technique Award was one always dominated by Nishimura until 2005 when he had a quiet year and Nakamura took the prize, thanks largely to a mature showing in a 60 minute match with Kojima. This year it was Nagata's return to form that captured him the award for the first time, with Minoru, another who has always lurked around the top five area, a distant second. Like in everything else, Minoru and Kanemoto competed strongly in this award, Minoru just edging out Aniki, unlike in the Jr. MVP award. Iizuka's resurgence earned him a good spot in fourth, while Milano's high impact start in New Japan and the remnants of his llave style mixed with other things he has learned, meant he reached the top five. Nakamura failed to reach the top five this year, but again he was away for most of 2006. Although he has bulked up, Nakamura is still quick and using submissions, so could compete again in the next awards. Liger, Yamamoto, El Samurai, and Hirooki Goto were the other four.


Fighting Spirit Award:

1. Hiroshi Tanahashi (118)

2. Yuji Nagata (83)

3. Koji Kanemoto (75)

4. Naofumi Yamamoto (67)

5. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (51)

6. Yujiro (31)

7. Giant Bernard (30)

8. Manabu Nakanishi (25)

9. Tomohiro Ishii (24)

10. Togi Makabe (16)

2002 winner: Osamu Nishimura

2003 winner: Hiroyoshi Tenzan

2004 winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi

2005 winner: Masahiro Chono

Tanahashi's spirited rise to the top earned him the Fighting Spirit Award by 35 points, ahead of a highly motivated Nagata. This is the second time Tanahashi has won this award, as he did likewise in 2004 when he was an upstart. Kanemoto's great performance in the G1 meant he was up there, while Yamamoto's never-say-die attitude in his breakout year earned him many votes, despite his horrendous win/loss record. Tenzan's third G1 win in four years, against all odds again as he'd done nothing much of note in singles prior to the G1, gave him fifth spot. Young lion Yujiro is impressing everyone and he ranked well. Look for 2007 to possibly be his breakout year in the same way 2006 was Yamamoto's, as Yujiro is starting to be positioned in junior programs now and was selected to accompany Tanahashi and Iizuka to All Japan the other day. Bernard, Nakanishi, the very spirited Ishii, and fiery Togi Makabe rounded out the top ten.


Image Award:

1. Hiroshi Tanahashi (111)

2. Minoru (88)

3. Milano Collection AT (65)

4. Masahiro Chono (63)

5. Shinsuke Nakamura (55)

6. Giant Bernard (37)

7. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (33)

8. Jushin Thunder Liger (22)

9. Koji Kanemoto (13)

10. Toru Yano (12)

2003 winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi

2004 winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi

2005 winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi

The Image Award aka Hiroshi Tanahashi (U-30) Award was won by... Minoru. Just kidding, as Tanahashi's big abs and pretty face continue to appeal to the male-dominated readers of Strong Style Spirit. Minoru was his closest contender this year, the suave CTU ace putting up a spirited challenge, but finishing well short of Tanahashi. Milano is quickly becoming a favourite in New Japan as the raging heel of the junior division, and ranked third. Chono's entrance and appearance are timeless, much like Liger's, and he ranked well in fourth, Liger also in the top ten. The newly bulked up Nakamura finished fifth, the "Black Savior" looking very much a heavyweight nowadays. Bernard, Tenzan, Kanemoto, and Yano were the others that placed in this award.

Като цяло съм доволен, добре са се получили нещата. Както обикновено и аз дадох своят вот в тази класация, а той изглеждаше така (трябваше да даваме по пет позиции, но тук ще кажа само първата, която съм дал):

Heavyweight MVP: Giant Bernard

Junior Heavyweight MVP: Koji Kanemoto

Tag Team MVP: Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii

Singles Best Bout: (New Japan Cup Final) Yuji Nagata vs. Giant Bernard (4/30)

Tag Team Best Bout: Yuji Nagata & Naofumi Yamamoto vs. Yoshihiro Takayama & Minoru Suzuki (10/9)

New Wave Award: Prince Devitt

Technique Award: Yuji Nagata

Fighting Spirit Award: Yuji Nagata

Image Award: Hiroshi Tanahashi

Изобщо получи се доста доволна година за New Japan. Посещаемостта се покачи, booking-a стана по-стабилен и добър, качеството на мачовете се вдигна, задкулистните проблеми се намалиха драстично, дойдоха нови & добри придобивки (Bernard, Devitt, Milano, Akebono, Ishii, че дори и Tomko е полезен), върнаха се кечисти (Takayama, Choshu, Taguchi, Koshinaka), outside кечисти правиха добри участия (Suzuki, Omori, Sai, Apache кечистите), двата brand-a Wrestle Land & Lock Up се развиха добре, завързаха се връзки с други федерации (All Japan, Dragon Gate, Zero-One MAX & Apache Army), почти всички кечисти получиха добро развитие на образите и сега са в по-добро състояние отколкото в началото на годината, пак се създаде класическата stable war атмосфера (New Japan Sekigun/Army vs BLACK vs GBH vs най-различни outside формации), връзката с CMLL си остана стабилна, направи се опит за сдушване с TNA & WWE, New Japan се върна по Евроспорт след години отсъствие и т.н. Единственото наистина лошо нещо беше голямата купчина от простащина наречена Brock Lesnar, но дори и ефекта от това беше заличен от добрия title reign на Tanahashi, който title reign най-после донесе стабилност на титлата. A да, кофти беше също, че в началото на годината напуснаха няколко полезни кечиста като Scott Norton, Osamu Nishimura, Yutaka Yoshie & Tatsumi Fujinami, но какво да се прави. Поне отсъствието им бързо се покри. Сега се надявам 2007 да е дори още по-добра и дано Katsuyori Shibata най-после да миряса и да се прибере у дома. Също няма да откажа повечко Takayama & Suzuki, завръщане на Sasaki & Nakajima и Sekimoto в New Japan, както и някой друг мач атракция на Kurt Angle евентуално. Дано!

P.S. Миналогодишните награди: http://forums.wwe-bg.net/index.php?showtopic=2584

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