Following a defiant seventh-round knockout of previously unbeaten Jose Pedraza (22-1, 12...
2005 African-American Wrestler of the Year
NEW JERSEY—When I started thinking about who I would personally choose to be the African-American Wrestler of the Year for 2005, I really didn’t have to think that long and hard about it. After all, now that we are in the year 2006, you can count the number of prominent Black wrestlers on one hand. However, that’s a debate that I may take up another day. My point is that even though I am certainly not the authority on Afrrican-American professional wrestlers, I think that I can still say a little something about it.
In years past, this “award” would certainly go to Booker T. After all, he will be remembered as one of the best all around talents to set foot in a wrestling ring. Also, a subject that I will take up another day. Besides, there are others in recent memory that would deserve the award, such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, D’ Lo Brown, Jazz, etc. All for different reasons in different years, but all deserving, nonetheless.
That brings me to this year, and the recipient of my self-appointed African-American Wrestler of the Year for 2005, Shelton Benjamin. After all, Shelton captured the WWE Intercontinental Championship late in 2004, and held it all the way to the middle of 2005. An eight month title reign, to be exact, until the brass decided that Carlito Carribean Cool was the guy to continue with the baton, for whatever the reason would be. Benjamin has also been able to hold his own in 2005 with two WWE icons such as Triple H and Shawn Micheals.
The former IC champ has come a long way from his college days at the University of Minnesota. Once he stepped out from under Kurt Angle’s wing, Shelton has been able to prosper on his own, and with a possible “attitude” change in ‘06, at the very least, he will stay in the loop with the WWE. However, his success in 2005 will be hard for him to duplicate. Benjamin will have to continue to impress the upper echelon of the WWE, and with Vince McMahon at the helm, things like that aren’t easy to do for several reasons. Much luck to him, though. After all, he is my pick for the 2005 AA Wrestler of the Year.
I did consider someone else for this award, and his name is Monty Brown. NWA-TNA’s rising star will have to make some extra steps in ‘06 to officially land on the pro wrestling landscape, but there’s no reason why that can’t happen. Assuming that the Jarrett family(owners of the company) is on the level, Brown will get his opportunity to get to the next level. Let’s just see how he handles it.
In some other developments, it seems that Mark Henry has finally made a return to action. While I have not always agreed with his skits, i.e. his “romance” with the geriatric former wrestler Mae Young, Henry has always had the capability to be a big-time player. His biggest obstacle will be staying healthy enough to do it. Injuries and ineffectiveness with the creative team has set Henry back, but it appears that he is now ready to impress once again in ‘06. He could very well be a prime candidate for next year’s award. However, we have said this about him before. Now is the time for the “World’s Strongest Man” to put up or shut up.
There is one other serious candidate for next year’s award, and a serious one. Keep on the lookout for Bobby Lashley. This guy is huge. Lashley is a 2-time national wrestling champion, not to mention a 2-time Armed Forces wrestling champion. His star will rise throughout 2006, as he was involved in thhe big 10-man elimination match at Survivor Series just a few weeks ago. How far this guy can go is really up to him, but once again, with Vince McMahon running things, I have to see it to believe it. I will give Vince a chance with this behemoth, before I make any snap judgements. It will be interesting to see Lashley’s development over the next year, whether it is on Smackdown’s roster, or Raw..
There is hope that some of our African-American talent jumps to another plateau in 2006. While it is hard to make quantum leaps in this business, these guys are certainly capable of giving it their best efforts. I have always believed that the bottom line with Vince McMahon and any wrestling promoter for that matter, is the dollar signs at the end of the night, and it doesn’t matter what color they see to get there. Having said that, I have never been fully convinced that there isn’t a good ol’ boys network in the game. However, in 2006, you do have a group of guys that are poised to make history – a little Black history, that is.