The awards were created to recognize the individual achievements of a select few wrestlers who exemplified in a specified criterion. The awards are given on a yearly basis in various categories such as Best Overall Wrestler, Most Outstanding Wrestler, Best Tag Team, Most Improved, Match of the Year, etc.; there are also a handful of awards to recognize the dubious distinctions in the business during that year such as Most Overrated and Worst Worked Match. Currently, there are thirty-seven categories that are actively assessed every year and ten that are no longer active. The awards are voted for by the readership of the newsletter, which includes various insiders of the industry, such as promoters, agents, and performers, as well as journalists, historians, and fans.
The awards are organized into two classes. For "Class A" awards, voters indicate their top three choices. First choices are awarded five points, second places three points, and third places two points. The choice with the most points overall wins. For "Class B" awards, voters simply indicate their top choice.
Over the years, various institutions of mixed martial arts have become eligible to win some awards that seemed as though they were more deserving than the conventional wrestler. This led to, in 1997, the creation of Shootfighter of the Year and Fight of the Year to recognize MMA achievement specifically, but some awards remained intact for MMA to win, due to the similar business aspect between both sports (i.e. Best Box Office Draw and Promotion of the Year). In the December 3, 2007 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, it was announced that from that year onwards, mixed martial artists are no longer eligible for the Lou Thesz/Ric Flair Award, thus reserving it for professional wrestlers only. Shootfighter of the year was renamed to Most Outstanding Fighter to match a new award called MMA Most Valuable Fighter, which is similar to the Lou Thesz/Ric Flair Award except it is for mixed martial artists.
National Wrestling Alliance
New Japan Pro Wrestling