It is officially 2017, which means it is time to reflect on the past 365 days. The Squared Circle Sirens staff has come together to create awards for the amazing things that have happened in the world of women’s wrestling in 2016. The writing team has picked their winners, and some personal favorite nominees and we will tell you about those throughout the next few days. But most importantly, we will be opening fan choice awards where you can vote for your favorites in each category. So read on, and be on the lookout for polls in the future. Leave us comments! Tweet us! Who’s right? Who’s wrong?
In this write up, we focus on the TNA Knockout of the Year. This award focuses on the accomplishments, storylines, and fan reactions of what happened on Impact, and Pay-Per-Views.
First, the Nominees….
Casey’s Pick: Jade
When I think of TNA Knockouts in 2016 the first name that comes to mind is Jade. In the beginning of the year Jade not only captured the TNA Knockouts title for the first time ever after defeating Gail Kim and Madison Rayne in a triple threat match but she also became Queen of the Knockouts after winning the TNA One Night Only Knockouts Knockdown gauntlet match. She continued to be the top Knockout in the company as she entered into a feud with Maria Kanellis, which saw Jade break away from The Dollhouse and turn face. Jade refused to lay down for Maria and hand her title over to the then Knockouts Commissioner which lead to Maria introducing her bodyguard Sienna into TNA.
While Jade ultimately lost the TNA Knockout’s title to Allie and faded away a bit she ended the year strong teaming up with Gail Kim and being her choice to face Rosemary for the Knockouts Title inside a steel cage at the end of the year.
Jade solidified herself as a top Knockout in 2016 and she was apart of the top matches in TNA. She’s my choice for Knockout of the year.
Dave’s Pick: Rosemary
If you want to look at someone who has dived in head first into a wrestling persona and thrived in it, look no farther than Rosemary. The former Courtney Rush has had herself one hell of a 2016. She signed to TNA in January and immediately transferformed herself into Decay’s leader, Rosemary. Along with Crazzy Steve and Abyss, she quickly asserted herself as a force in TNA. What was started in 2015 in SMASH wrestling as a tormented/demented soul, was turned up a notch in TNA with her facepain and creepy promo work. While she didn’t do a lot of wrestling early on in 2016 for TNA, she was omni-present alongside her Decay teammates always causing trouble. With Rosemary’s help, Decay would go on to win the TNA tag titles from Beer Money and also having several memorable battles with the Hardy Boys. The highlight of the war with the Hardys was an epic fight on the Hardy compnond in North Carolina where Rosemary stole Matt Hardy’s son, Maxel. Moving on, Rosemary would end the year defeating Jade in a steel cage match for the TNA Knockout’s title. While the in-ring work of TNA’s Knockout division hasn’t produced a lot of highly rated wrestling matches, Rosemary had had several memorable moments in TNA and has let her character speak for itself. She’s completely dropped her former name of Courtney Rush and wrestles everywhere as Rosemary. It’s really hard to even compare Courtney Rush to Rosemary, because the two are nothing alike. TNA has also done a good job giving her character a backstory which was explained by using flashback vingettes showing Rosemary’s childhood and what lead her to be the way she is. Rosemary made an angle with Bram memorable and that alone is worth an award in my book.
Scott’s Pick: Allie
I have been a huge fan of Cherry Bomb for a long time. I’ve always thought she was very underrated. So, when news broke in March that she signed with TNA, I was ecstatic. In April, the Knockout Knockdown 2016 aired with her, wrestling as Laura Dennis, defeated Velvet Sky before losing in the gauntlet match in the main event.
She debuted on the May 24th episode of Impact telling the crowd that her name was Allie and she was the apprentice to the First Lady of Wrestling, Maria. Her in ring debut would be the following week after EC3 made an impromptu match pitting Sienna and Allie against Gail Kim and Jade as a “punishment” to Maria for the way she had acted since becoming the leader of the Knockout Division. Throughout the match, Allie spent little time in the ring. While she was in the action, however, the commentary team made sure the audience knew that Allie wasn’t a wrestler. Over the next few months, Allie didn’t spend time in the ring, but alongside Maria being the best assistant/apprentice she could be.
In August, Sienna had to defend the Knockout Title in a 5-way match against Jade, Marti Belle, Madison Rayne and Allie. Allie spent much of the time hiding behind Sienna, however, her one big offensive move was a stunner on Gail Kim. She inadvertently hit Sienna with a baton while trying to take it away from Marti. That distracted Allie enough for Marti to hit her with it, knocking out Allie onto a prone Madison Rayne. The other girls didn’t realize what was happening and Allie scored the three, winning the Knockout Title. The crowd erupted in support of Allie and Maria stood on the outside in disbelief at the result of the match.This was a turning point for Allie. Prior to this, she was really just a supporting role for Maria. However, at this moment, she endeared herself to the Impact crowd. The following week, Allie SUPER excited because she was getting a celebration. In the ring, however, Maria proceeded to berate Allie about how she ruined everything. Maria let her know, the celebration wasn’t for Allie, but her opponent. After threatening Allie with her job, Maria told Allie lay down so she could pin Allie to “win” the belt for a second time. During this entire segment, the crowd and commentary was fully in support of Allie.
Allie would continue to be berated by Maria and her Lady Squad. However, Allie finally had enough on the December 1st episode of Impact where she slapped Maria after being called a loser and being told she can’t do anything. The following week, Allie tells Maria and Laurel Van Ness that Braxton Suttor has been training Allie and she is ready to wrestle Laurel. Allie defeated Laurel in a fun match that showed Allie’s training much to the dismay of both Laurel and Maria.
This was a really great year for Allie. She debuted with a television wrestling company, has been included in a storyline lasting over half of the year, and added the TNA Knockout Championship to her list of accomplishments. I’m just ready for Allie to really bust out the skills we all know Cherry Bomb has.
Dennis’s Pick: Maria Kanellis-Bennett
9 matches. Nine. How does someone with nine matches become a contender of an “of the year” award. Simple. You become the focal point of the division , and that’s exactly what Maria Kanellis-Bennett did. Maria came into the Knockouts division and stated that she was there to save the knockouts division, and she did overtake it.
Since the moment Maria walked into TNA, her focus was entirely on Gail Kim, and after sitting out of the Lethal Lockdown match between the Dollhouse and what was supposed to be Gail Kim, Velvet Sky and Maria. Gail Kim was heart-set on getting her hands on Maria. Maria, on the other hand, was focusing on taking over the division, becoming champion, and not having to wrestle if she didn’t have to. Week after week we received promos from Maria, and in March, then TNA President, Billy Corgan, created a ladder match with every knockout in the match with the winner becoming the head of the knockouts division. After sitting out the majority of the match, and getting a few strikes in, Maria would go ahead and climb the ladder and become the Head of the Knockouts division.
Flash forward and bringing in new allies of Allie and Sienna, Maria would go ahead and do whatever she could to keep the knockouts title in her trio. When Allie would “accidentally” win the championship, the next week Maria would make Allie lay down and would pin her to become the knockouts champion. This finally put Gail Kim vs Maria on the map and at Bound for Glory after more than 9 months of build, we finally saw Gail Kim get her hands on Maria. Although Maria would not win, Maria stayed at the forefront when Brandi Rhodes had attacked Maria and the two traded offense against each other to finish out the year.
At the end of the day, like it or not, Maria was the focal point of the division. She quickly became the top heel and was on Impact every week. We’re not saying that Maria is the most technically sound wrestler, nor are we saying that she had the greatest matches. But Maria was given a ball, and she ran with it. She consistently gave some of the best women’s promos in TNA and consistently continued to be someone that you loved to hate in TNA.
And the writer’s choice winner for TNA Knockout of the Year…
2016 has been a great year for a lot of women. But one of the women that made the most of it is Gail Kim. The pioneer of the TNA Knockout division, Kim has maintained a very prominent spot among the women of TNA.
Gail Kim entered 2016 in her 5th Knockout Title reign, which started in July 2015. Throughout the first quarter of the year, Gail spent the majority of her time running up against members of The Dollhouse, primarily Jade. With how talented both of these women are, any time they were able to step into the ring together, was a good time for the fans. In mid-March, Jade was able to walk away from the triple threat Championship with the KO Gold defeating both Gail Kim and Madison Rayne. Throughout the rest of the year, Kim spent most of her time against members of Maria’s Lady Squad including Sienna, Laurel Van Ness, and Allie.
In October at Bound For Glory, Gail Kim became the first woman to be inducted into the TNA Hall Of Fame. Christy Hemme returned to TNA for the evening thanking Gail for creating a team in the locker room. She introduced Taryn Terrell who thanked Gail for helping for shape her career and teaching her so much about wrestling. Christy then introduced Awesome Kong who spoke about how Gail elevates everyone who she steps into the ring with to a new level. Dixie Carter is out next and Dixie explains how Gail not only helped to build the KO division, but she defines it. She talks about how Gail Kim helped to build the Knockout division into the greatest women’s division of all time. With family at ringside, Gail Kim makes her way into the ring for her acceptance speech. A video is shown of highlights of her career. She talked about how all of the lows in her career, made all of the highs that much better. Later in the evening, Gail Kim defeated Maria in a no disqualification match to regain the KO title tying Angelina Love for a record 6 title reigns.
Mid-November Gail made her way to the ring for an interview segment with something important she needed to say. She explained how important everything has been in TNA. She brought Jade to the ring to talk about how Jade is the future of the business. Decay interrupts the segment and Rosemary enters the ring and lays out both Gail Kim and Jade. The following week, Gail is back out to try finish what she wanted to say last week. Due to an injury in her No-DQ match against Maria at BFG, she is no longer able to give 110% in the ring. Because of this, she decided to voluntarily relinquish the Knockout Title. In December, Jade and Rosemary met inside a steel cage to battle for the vacant championship with Gail Kim at ringside. Although Gail was very clearly supporting Jade, it would be Rosemary that would get the pin and take the belt that has meant so much away from Gail Kim.
While the year ended on a down note, you can’t deny that this year has been fantastic for Gail Kim. Record-tying KO Reigns, very prominent storylines, and an induction into the Hall of Fame are things that most Knockouts will only dream of. But for Gail Kim, it was a reality in 2016.