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The Henries: Smark Henry's Official Midyear Awards, Part 2

Welcome back to the second part of our official midyear awards - the Henries! For those of you who missed it, here's part 1. For those of you who came from there, let's get right started with the remaining awards!

Yes, you read that right. In one of the more shocking things that happened on Lucha Underground, Bael ended up getting killed off. Now, Lucha Underground is not your typical wrestling show, so it has a little more leeway for things like this. However, when Cueto announced that the Crew would suffer from some form of punishment, someone getting their face ripped off was probably not on top of everyone’s mind. Bael is not a big star, so this isn’t a really big loss for them. Still, it was a pretty shocking moment to see him meet a grisly fate at the hands of Dario Cueto’s monster brother.

Rest in Peace, Bael. We hardly knew ye.

Lucha Underground has made waves in its maiden season, and one of the most captivating storylines coming from the Temple has been the battle between Mil Muertes and Fenix. When Fenix locked lips with Catrina on that episode of Lucha Underground, it sparked a war between him and the Man of a Thousand Deaths. It’s your classic clash of tropes—speed against power, life against death. Since then, the two luchadors have engaged in some of the most amazing matches in the Temple. Who can forget their spin on the traditional casket match, called Grave Consequences? What about Mil Muertes throwing Fenix to his “death” through a warehouse roof? The two have been fighting for a reason, and it’s been a wonderful journey seeing their tale unfold.

New Japan Pro Wrestling kicked things off with a bang with Wrestle Kingdom 9, setting a high standard for wrestling in 2015. Several other shows have come close, but none were able to top the WrestleMania of Japanese wrestling. From showcasing the frenetic pace of the junior heavyweights, to seeing wrestlers live their dreams out (man, who didn’t mark out when Honma finally won a match!?), Wrestle Kingdom 9 had it all. To top it all off, the wrestling was superb, with several matches going beyond a 4* rating (translation: many people find them very good), one of which you’ll see later on in the Henries. For many, it was their first foray into NJPW, and Wrestle Kingdom 9 proved to be the hook that reeled fans in.

Speaking of Wrestle Kingdom 9, this was the match that catapulted it into the sphere of elite, high-quality wrestling show. Nakamura and Ibushi put on a wrestling clinic for the world to see, topping off their initial encounter with another great match. The story here was that Ibushi just moved into the heavyweight division, but Nakamura would not take him seriously due to his previous involvement with a "joke" promotion (Dramatic Dream Team, or DDT). Ibushi took it to his senior, though, matching him knee for knee in an intense bout. When Nakamura struck him with a knee, Ibushi struck harder in return. Ibushi's high flying background clashed with Nakamura's stiff style, and that resulted in an amazing 25 minutes of wrestling. Nakamura still prevailed in the end, but he acknowledged Ibushi's valiant effort at the end of their match. Despite taking the loss, Ibushi certainly earned the respect of Nakamura and the fans, proving that he belongs among NJPW's elite.

Alberto El Patron made an immediate impact upon his arrival at Lucha Underground, delivering a promo that would make waves across the wrestling world. From the first word out of his mouth, Alberto's emotion was on full display, as he put his heart out in front of the fans. It's that kind of promo that gives you the feels and makes you identify with what he went through in his unfortunate exit from WWE. It's a promo that is better watched than described, so here it is in its entirety:

Let’s get it straight: there are many wrestlers deserving of this award. AJ Styles has been killing it in both New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor. Seth Rollins has been putting out great match after great match since the year began, whether he was simply Mr. Money in the Bank or the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

But no one does it more consistently than the reigning, defending United States Champion, John Cena.

No, this isn’t just #LOLCenaWins, trust us. The Male Wrestler of the Midyear Award goes to the man who consistently puts out in-ring classics, and no one has done that more consistently in the first six months of the year than Cena. Yes, AJ Styles gets to do that in two promotions and have a bigger volume of work in the process, but consider the most important thing Cena’s done for the WWE this year: he’s managed to resurrect the once-lowly United States Championship and turn it into what is pretty much a main event title.

Sure, it’s because his name is John Cena, and yes, you can put the title on any big name and get some prestige from the move, but it’s a totally different thing to actively maintain and grow that prestige. Would you believe us if we told you this time last year that Cesaro, Rusev, Kevin Owens, and John Cena fighting for the U.S. title would be a huge deal? We think not. There are at least three Match of the Year candidates from his title run alone, and that doesn’t even include things he’s done outside of being U.S. Champion, such as the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Royal Rumble.

The newest member of Team BAD (Beautiful and Dangerous > Best At Dominating) is actually pretty good. Sasha Banks won the NXT Women’s Championship last February at NXT TakeOver: Rival, setting off Sasha’s greatest hits tour leading up to her main roster debut on the July 13 episode of RAW. As NXT Women’s Champion, Sasha Banks has main evented NXT—a rare feat since we all know that it’s not everyday that a women’s match main events a show. To add to that, Sasha Banks co-starred in the match of the night at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, which was her title defense against Becky Lynch—the latter of whom had a star-making performance herself.

Her unique blend of charisma, swagger, and grace both in and out of the ring has propelled her to a level of popularity among the smarkiest of us. What’s surprising is that she’s only 23 years old, but that she’s been in the business for at least five years. Her Backstabber, which segues into her submission finisher, the Bank Statement, is one of the sequences we enjoy watching right now, too. We at the Smark Henry offices are so excited to see her involvement in the main roster Divas division. It’s about damn time Sasha Banks showed up and showed everyone who the Boss is.


That's it for our midyear check on the best of wrestling in 2015. Be sure to check back towards the end of the year as we release voting for the actual Henries—remember, these are just midyear awards. We've still got 6 months of wrestling to come, and things may change. In the meantime, what do you think of these awards? Do you agree with them or would you have given them to someone else? Let us know in the comments section below!

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