Results by our readers/fans. Article and opinions by Lucha Central Senior Editor Eric Mutter.
You may remember almost two months ago that we here at Lucha Central introduced our own awards for the 2018 year in Lucha Libre. Well, it’s time to find out who got the gold!
First we took nominations. In any category where no nominee received more than 75% of the nominations, the top 3-4 nominees in the category were then added to the final ballot. Then, site visitors were able to vote on which of the finalists they wanted to win in the category.
And now, we’ve tallied the votes, checked them twice and we have our first ever winners for the Lucha Central End of the Year awards. In some cases, there was a far and away winner. In others, the vote came down to a mere 1-2 percentage points.
Are you ready to see if your favorites won and get Lucha Central Senior Editor Eric Mutter’s takes on each as well?
Let’s begin working out way through these bad boys, and we start with one of the closest battles we saw in the voting.
Best Use of Luchadores by a Non-Lucha Libre Promotion
WINNER: Pro Wrestling Guerilla (34.9%)
It’s fitting that this race was so close given that PWG, MLW and Impact all heavily featured luchadores as top stars in 2018. In the end though PWG gets the nod, largely thanks to them turning Puma King into a budding star in the US while also strapping the rocket to Bandido’s back in an unforgettable Battle of Los Angeles tournament. Fun fact; I’m pretty sure Pentagon and Fenix have held the Tag Championships from all three promotions in the last year.
1st Runner Up TIE : Major League Wrestling (32.5%) & Impact Wrestling (32.5%)
US Independent Lucha Promotion of the Year
WINNER: Pro Wrestling Revolution (50%)
It’s a landslide victory for PWR and it should come as no surprise to anyone. The California lucha promotion has been a lucha staple for years now and seems to be a nice safe haven where lucha legends and luchadores from AAA and CMLL can all compete with little to no issues. From legends like Atlantis, Octagon and Fuerza Guerrera to today’s hottest stars like Dragon Lee, Rey Fenix and Penta Zero M, to their alliance with All Japan that has seen Ultimo Dragon and Super Crazy compete in PWR rings regularly, top stars mixed with great California talent and graduates of their own PWR Training Academy leads to exciting cards top to bottom with a unique mix not found anywhere else in the U.S. independent lucha scene. It’s also the place where Último Panda wrestles regularly, and you can’t beat that.
1st Runner Up: Martinez Entertainment (Texas) (25%)
2nd Runner Up: Mucha Lucha Atlanta (MLA) (13.2%)
3rd Runner Up: GALLI (Chicago) (11.8%)
Best Weekly Lucha TV or Streaming Show
WINNER: Lucha Underground (34.5%)
Hot damn, this was even closer than the first category! This was frankly a weak year for weekly lucha shows, with LU arguably having their worst season, CMLL Super Viernes fluxing from awesome to awful on a week to week basis and AAA’s TV schedule being so confusing. I’m still not sure if we’re judging it based on the Twitch shows, the YouTube show (featuring matches shown live on Twitch), the former Televisa turned TV Azteca show, the Space show; you get the picture. In the end I think that allowed LU’s likely final season to sneak through despite polarizing it’s audience. Of course it doesn’t hurt that even with a down season LU still produced several memorable matches and closed strong with a great Ultima Lucha IV.
1st Runner Up: CMLL Super Viernes (33.3%)
2nd Runner Up: Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide (32.1%)
Rookie of the Year
WINNER: Super Astro Jr. (CMLL)
In a way this is kind of by default because there were hardly any rookie luchadores last year; hell technically speaking Super Astro Jr. isn’t even a rookie in the traditional sense (he counts because last year was his first year in CMLL as opposed to his first year period). Without question though he was the most impressive newcomer, wowing in CMLL undercard matches throughout the year, even when CMLL restrictions were fighting against him. Whether CMLL ever allows him out of the undercard or he has to seek his fortunes elsewhere can be debated, but there’s no doubt that Super Astro Jr. is going to be a star at some point.
(And before you ask: Hijo del Vikingo was working full time for AAA in 2017)
1st Runner Up: Audaz
Most Improved Luchador
WINNER: Cuatrero (37.8%)
Another tight category and, between you and I, the first one you voters got wrong! I mainly say that because I’m not sure what Cuatrero had to improve on; the dude was great in 2017, with the only difference in 2018 being he got more singles matches. Meanwhile Hijo de LA Park, a legitimate question mark who many felt only got booked because of family connections (which was true), proved he deserved the shots he was given by having several memorable performances between AAA, CMLL and even MLW, while La Hiedra went from a luchadora holding back matches to a competent performer with upside. Cuatrero is certainly a talented guy who deserved an award or two, but this seems to be a case of him winning not so much because of his improving skill but his improved push. Either way he’s got the trophy.
1st Runner Up: Hijo de LA Park (34.1%)
2nd Runner Up: La Hiedra (28%)
Surprise of the Year
WINNER: LA Park, Penta Zero Me and Rey Fenix wrestle for AAA and CMLL at the same time (56%)
The only arguments you could make about the number one choice not being the number one choice is a) you believe LA Park returning to CMLL was the catalyst for Park, Pentagon and Fenix working everywhere (it was to a degree) and b) you were floored by Konnan rejoining AAA. The first argument isn’t strong enough to override the significance of what Park, Pentagon and Fenix did and Konnan returning to AAA, while big, is mitigated by the fact most people expected he’d likely return one day. Oh, and then there’s the simple fact that there’s never been a case of three of the biggest lucha libre stars today being able to go from the two biggest promotions back and forth and no one raising a fuss. That’s not just shocking; it’s revolutionary and the most fitting landslide of all the landslides from these awards.
1st Runner Up: Konnan returns to AAA (19%)
2nd Runner Up: LA Park returns to CMLL (15.5%)
3rd Runner Up: Penta Zero M/Pentagon Jr. returns to AAA (9.5%)
Most Spectacular Luchador
WINNER: Rey Fenix (56.1%)
I get the feeling this wouldn’t have been as lopsided if Laredo Kid and Vikingo had been able to get momentum earlier in 2018. Hell I’d honestly argue they were better than Fenix during the last several months of the year, when both Vikingo and Laredo got the rockets strapped to them by AAA and Laredo in particular started having great matches every time he walked out. This is award for all of 2018 though and aside from missing December due to injury, no luchador was more consistent in delivering top notch performances then Fenix, who has at least one great match from every promotion he stepped foot into.
1st Runner Up: Hijo del Vikingo (24.4%)
2nd Runner Up: Laredo Kid (13.4%)
3rd Runner Up: Aerostar
Trio of the Year
WINNERS: Nueva Generación Dinamita – Cuatrero, Forastero and Sansón (40.2%)
Yet another case where this award likely turns out differently if Laredo, Myzteziz and Vikingo start teaming together earlier in 2018. It’s a testament to how great they were together for the final two months of the year that they got as close as they did to winning this thing. Alas the Dinamitas were always going to be hard to top. Only Poder del Norte (who clearly remains underrated according to this poll) was as consistently good as Cuatrero, Forastero and Sansón were in 2018 and Brava, Cota and Santana at least had decent teams to work with all the time. The CMLL Trios division at this point is pretty much just the Dinamitas and Los Guerreros Laguneros, who don’t often wrestle due to the lack of rudo vs. rudo matches; in other words Cuatrero, Forastero and Sansón basically spent the year mostly fighting thrown together teams. It would’ve been easy for them to fall into bad habits, but the trio was instead a consistent high point for CMLL in an inconsistent year. Now if only CMLL could give them a great team to feud with.
1st Runners Up: Los Jinetes del Aire – Hijo del Vikingo, Laredo Kid and Myzteziz Jr. (24.4%)
2nd Runners Up: Poder del Norte – Carta Brava Jr., Mocho Cota Jr. and Tito Santana (22%)
3rd Runners Up: Los OGT’s – Averno, Chessman and Super Fly (13.4%)
Tag Team of the Year
WINNERS: The Lucha Brothers – Penta Zero M/Rey Fenix (69%)
The only issue I have with the voting here is that Rey Escorpión and Texano Jr. got no love despite being AAA’s most consistent tag team in 2018. And that was despite them being held down by La Máscara’s soul crushing Los Ingobernables rip off. Of course that doesn’t change the fact that Escorpión and Texano’s Rey de Reyes opponents were the rightful winners and should continue to be for the next several years. That’s just what happens when you win the Tag Titles in every promotion you’re in while putting out great matches almost every night. The Lucha Brothers dominated winning the Impact World Tag Team Titles, MLW Tag Team Titles and Crash Tag Team Titles. And that was BEFORE they decided to truly dedicate themselves to tag team wrestling for 2019! With the brothers adding AEW to their list of global promotions, 2019 could be their year as well! (Also…look for their own Lucha Brothers Brand clothing company launching in 2019 too!)
1st Runners Up: MexaBlood – Bandido/Flamita (19%)
2nd Runners Up: Los Ingobernables – Rush/Terrible (6%)
3rd Runners Up: Los Mercenarios – Rey Escorpión/Texano Jr. (6%)
Promotion of the Year
WINNER: Lucha Libre AAA (47%)
If you had told me a year ago that this vote would’ve ended up where it did I don’t think I would’ve believed you; after all CMLL was in the midst of warming up for a strong first half of the year and AAA honestly looked to be the worst promotion on the planet. It all flipped; CMLL drowned under their own booking incompetence during the second half of the year while Konnan returned to AAA, bringing a bunch of talent and creative energy with him. The rest is history. This isn’t to say that AAA has completely righted the ship; there are still many aspects the promotion could improve on. But despite that and the awful start to 2018, the promotion’s work from April through December was strong enough to make it the the winner amongst voters.
1st Runner Up: CMLL (33.7%)
2nd Runner Up: The Crash (19.3%)
Lucha Libre Event of the Year
WINNER: AAA Triplemania XXVI (60.7%)
And here is the show that is largely responsible for why AAA took home the last award. I know people who only saw clips of this show through Botchamania think this was a shit show where Vampiro lost his mind. In reality, Triplemania XXVI was not only a great show, it was arguably one of the three best shows I saw in all of 2018 and the first great Triplemania since…I don’t even remember! Frankly I think it sums up AAA’s 2018 perfectly; there were definitely some bumps (the lumberjack match, Fenix nearly beheading Marisela Peña on an errant dive) but in the end it featured some outstanding matches (the ladder match and the trios street fight being among my favorite), a few strong angles and a memorable conclusion. It’s the rightful winner. I will quibble on the second place spot though; the CMLL Aniversario was fine, but it featured only one sure fire great match while Ultima Lucha IV Part Two featured three, as well as the usual unforgettable season ending montage.
1st Runner Up: CMLL 85th Aniversario (22.6%)
2nd Runner Up: Lucha Underground Ultima Lucha IV Part 2 (16.7%)
Rudo of the Year
WINNER: Rush (54.1%)
All due respect to Fantasma and Kross (who are both great at what they do) but this wasn’t close and shouldn’t have been. After two years where Rush looked unmotivated, he roared back in 2018 thanks to his never ending feud with LA Park and a CMLL Aniversario headlining match where he teamed with Cavernario against Matt Taven and Volador Jr. But even when he wasn’t doing that Rush looked less like the guy who settled into his comfort zone in 2016 and 2017 and more like the lightning rod from 2014 and 2015 who became the most despised luchador in Mexico. In my opinion he was the best full time luchador in CMLL during 2018 and he seems poised for bigger things this year now that he’s splitting time between Ring of Honor and CMLL.
1st Runner Up: El Hijo del Fantasma (25.9%)
2nd Runner Up: Killer Kross (20%)
Tecnico of the Year
WINNER: Fenix/Rey Fenix/King Phoenix (70.7%)
Man it’s good to see Soberano make it onto one ballot. He had no chance of winning anything after a slight step back from his 2017 run, but it’s still nice to see some recognition for one of lucha libre’s better performers. In the end though this was always going to be Fenix; the man got over in AAA, Arena Mexico, Arena Naucalpan; pretty much every place he wrestled in last year. The only place he wasn’t a tecnico was Lucha Underground, and even then, he may as well have been because the fans kept cheering him anyway. A no doubt about it choice.
1st Runner Up: Rey Mysterio (Jr.) (22%)
2nd Runner Up: Soberano Jr. (7.3%)
Match of the Year
WINNER: Cavernario vs. King Phoenix – CMLL Leyenda de Plata Final (56.1%)
It tells you something about how strong 2018 was in lucha from a match quality standpoint when Cavernario and Fenix had TWO stone cold classics, and only one made the list (I’m still not sure how that happened. People must’ve loved that first Oro-Cuatrero match more than me). The best one did at least get its rightful recognition though. Whereas the first match between Fenix and Cav back in June was more of a high flying sprint, the battle for the Leyenda de Plata felt like one of those end of the movie action scenes where everything is left on the table. And it was; Fenix went so crazy in this match that he actually injured himself and lost the whole month of December. The match meant that much, and the end result showed it. The funny thing is this match did far more for Cavernario than it did for Fenix in my book. Everyone already knew Fenix was one of the three best luchadores in the world; meanwhile Cavernario was a guy who many considered a “great CMLL luchador” but was questioned as someone who could hang with someone of Fenix’s caliber. Go back and look at the reactions to their first match being made; people legit doubted Cav could keep up with Fenix. 2018 was a great year for Cavernario overall (so great that it’s stunning this is really the only award he’s getting) but the Fenix matches were the most important. They didn’t just make him a star; they solidified his credibility as one of the five best luchadores in Mexico.
1st Runner Up: Poker de Ases – El Hijo del Fantasma vs. LA Park vs. Pentagon Jr. vs. Psycho Clown – AAA Triplemania XXVI (40.2%)
2nd Runner Up: Ángel de Oro vs. Cuatrero – CMLL Homenaje a Dos Leyendas (3.7%)
Luchadora of the Year
WINNER: Taya Valkyrie (48.8%)
It’s probably unfair to say that 2018 was the year it all came together for Taya, who I already considered to be one of the better luchadoras in the world anyway. But in some ways 2018 was the year it did all come together for her. She had another killer season in Lucha Underground and ended season four possessed by a god. She had an outstanding feud with Tessa Blanchard in Impact Wrestling that culminated in her winning the Impact Knockouts Championship. And then she capped it all off by returning to where it all began in AAA and winning the Luchadoras Bracket of the Lucha Capital tournament. I think there’s a strong argument you can make for Taya’s protégé Lady Shani, who had a tremendous feud of her own with Faby Apache and shaved Apache’s head at Triplemania, but it’s hard to argue against Taya’s strong 2018 all across the globe.
1st Runner Up: Lady Shani (36%)
2nd Runner Up: Keyra (15.1%)
Luchador of the Year
WINNER: Penta Zero M (37.8%)
I have my qualms on this one! I have nothing against Pentagon/Penta/whatever you want to call him; he had a great year between his runs in AAA, CMLL, Impact, Lucha Underground, MLW, PWG, The Crash and probably fifteen other promotions I’m forgetting about. My issue is that a) Fenix had the more impressive year work rate wise to me and b) LA Park had a far, FAR bigger impact, both in terms of drawing box office for both AAA and CMLL and most importantly opening the door for Fenix and Pentagon to do the same. I would’ve had Park and Fenix go one and two with Pentagon going third if it had been up to me. It isn’t up to me though; it’s up to the people and there’s no question Pentagon is a popular dude and, I can’t stress this enough, had an outstanding year in his own right. He’s more than deserving of Lucha Central’s first Luchador of the Year award and I expect he’ll continue to battle it out with Fenix for years to come.
1st Runner Up: LA Park (30.5%)
2nd Runner Up: Rey Fenix (22%)
3rd Runner Up: Rush (9.8%)
Those are the 2018 Lucha Central End of the Year awards sports fans. Hope you enjoyed and are now excited to vote on the 2019 End of the Year awards!
LEAVE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE WINNERS AND RUNNER UPS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!