2018 was an interesting year for the WWE to say the least. It was full of things we never thought we’d see, like Daniel Bryan returning to the ring, or The Undertaker coming back. 2018 also had its ups, and certainly a lot of downs, but we can look into 2019 with hopes that it’ll be a great year. Last year I wrote my wrestling awards, and I’m looking to keep up the tradition. So without further ado, here are my wrestling awards for 2018.
Superstar of the Year: AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, Tommaso Ciampa
Winner: Seth Rollins
While AJ Styles held the WWE Championship for 11 months in 2018, nobody’s had a better 2018 than Seth Rollins. He may have had a slow January, his year kicked off with a monster performance in the Elimination Chamber gauntlet match, wrestling for 65 minutes. He then brought more prestige to the Intercontinental Championship, having barn-burning matches against The Miz, Finn Bálor, Elias, Dolph Ziggler, and Drew McIntyre for the better part of six months. Rollins would have some more fun with his Shield brothers before Roman left for treatment and Ambrose stabbed him in the back. Seth Rollins is set to have an even bigger 2019, and we should hopefully see him as the Universal Champion soon.
Woman of the Year: Alexa Bliss, Charlotte Flair, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch
Winner: Becky Lynch
Honestly, it couldn’t be anyone other than Becky. It wouldn’t feel right. Becky’s had a slow start to her 2018, with an okay performance in the Rumble, then being on the Mania preshow. She had a good showing in the Women’s MITB ladder match, then SummerSlam happened. After losing to Charlotte, she kicked the crap out of her former friend in a failed attempt at turning Becky heel. Instead, that moment turned Becky into the badass she should have been all along. She won the title at Night of Champions, had a MOTY candidate against Charlotte at Evolution, invaded RAW and had her nose broken, which made her even cooler in the eyes of the fans. Becky Lynch’s sudden rise shows how powerful the fans can be, and that everyone needs to remember who The Man is.
Tag Team of the Year: The Usos, The Bar, The New Day, AOP
Winner: The Bar
The Bar became the second team to win both the RAW and Smackdown tag team titles, and have had great matches against the likes of New Day and the Usos. Yes, they got squashed at WrestleMania, but they’ve bounced back on Smackdown Live, quickly becoming one of the standard bearers of the division. Also, that rap battle was hilarious. They dressed up as Run DMC and parodied Ice Ice Baby. That might be one of the funniest segments of the year. 2019 will look to be a great year for The Bar, and will hopefully be at the forefront of Smackdown Live after the superstar shakeup.
Breakout Star of the Year (Male): Velveteen Dream, Tommaso Ciampa, Drew McIntyre, Buddy Murphy
Winner: Tommaso Ciampa
Wow Ciampa, what a year you’ve had. He did great heel things like cost his former best friend his job, then would have the feud of the year with that ex friend. He’d go on to win the NXT Title and has had great matches against Johnny Gargano, Velveteen Dream, and Aleister Black. Ciampa also loves to eviscerate people on twitter (seriously, his twitter feed is gold). Whenever Ciampa goes up to the main roster, they better get ready for the best heel champion since CM Punk.
Breakout Star of the Year (Female): “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, Carmella, Shayna Baszler, Nia Jax
Winner: “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey
Ronda may have had one of the best rookie years of all time. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone naturally grasp Pro Wrestling this well since Kurt Angle. She hasn’t had a bad match. One of my favorite Ronda matches this year was at Money in the Bank, because it showed how great she is at selling, and being able to come back. Ronda could have an even better 2019, and be part of the first ever women’s WrestleMania main event.
Comeback of the Year: Tommaso Ciampa, Drew McIntyre, Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio
Winner: Daniel Bryan
I mean come on. Starting the year retired from wrestling, and ending it as WWE Champion. Yes, his return was dull at first thanks to a crappy feud with Big Cass, but it really began to pick up steam thanks to a feud with The Miz, and D-Bry pulling out of Crown Jewel, which allowed him to win the WWE Championship. Yes he turned heel, but I hope that we get a solid 2019 for Bryan, and a decently long title reign.
Feud of the Year: Seth Rollins vs Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe, Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa, and Becky Lynch vs Charlotte Flair,
Winner: Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa
This feud combined both great action and storytelling. The fans unanimously despised Tommaso Ciampa after he stabbed Johnny Gargano in the back, but we had to wait on the feud while Ciampa recovered from ACL surgery. But once he came back, the fire was lit and wouldn’t stop burning. Each of these matches were brutal, and had something different to bring to the table and told the story of Johnny Gargano’s descent into darkness. The first match was about Johnny getting his job back and revenge on his former friend. The second match was about Johnny going to that dark place after Ciampa threw his wedding ring in the arena. Then the third match, was about Johnny going to that dark place, and it coming back to cost him. Now it seems that a heel DIY reunion is in the works, but we’ll have to see about that in 2019.
WrestleMania Moment of the Year: Daniel Bryan’s Entrance, Undertaker’s return, Asuka’s streak ending, Nakamura’s Heel turn
Winner: Undertaker’s Return
While Daniel Bryan coming back was awesome, and Asuka’s streak snapped was a good shock, nothing made me feel more than hearing that bell toll at WrestleMania 34. I had legitimate goosebumps when the lightning struck the ring and John Cena’s being frozen in terror while The Undertaker made his way to the ring. He crushed John Cena in 3 minutes, but man those were an entertaining 3 minutes. His subsequent feud with Triple H & DX was not, but it was still nice to see The Undertaker avenge the biggest loss of his career.
Potential Breakout Star of 2019 (Men’s): Lars Sullivan, Drew McIntyre, Matt Riddle, and Punishment Martinez
Winner: Lars Sullivan
Drew had an okay 2018, and will have a strong 2019. But I’m giving this nod to Lars Sullivan. Lars Sullivan had a great 2018 in NXT, and it didn’t really get going until the 6 man North American Title Ladder Match at TakeOver: New Orleans, where he murdered everyone in the match. Normally, you wouldn’t think of big dudes in ladder matches, but Lars Sullivan, along with Killian Dain had a coming out party in that match. Lars Sullivan would also go on to challenge Aleister Black at TakeOver Chicago, and was put over as the most dangerous challenger to Black’s NXT Championship. He spent the rest of 2018 killing more people on NXT, and now has his sights set on the main roster. Regardless of which brand he goes to, he should go on a killing spree, and as long as he isn’t ruined by the end of the year, he could be in the world title picture.
Potential Breakout Star of 2019 (Women’s): Ember Moon, Lacey Evans, Nikki Cross, and Candice LeRae
Winner: Nikki Cross
Nikki Cross is awesome. She’s the psychopath on NXT, and will be the missing piece for SAnitY to be whole again. She had an awesome match against Shayna Baszler at TakeOver: Chicago, and was a part of the Gargano-Black feud. Although she had a women’s title match against Becky Lynch on Smackdown in October, whenever Nikki gets called up to the main roster, Smackdown better get ready. Things are about to get a lot crazier.
Promo of the Year: Reigns relinquishes the title (10/22 Raw), Heyman’s interview (8/6 Raw), John Cena calls out Undertaker (3/12 Raw), The Usos “Sideline” promo (2/27 Smackdown), Daniel Bryan announces that he’s cleared (3/20 Smackdown)
Honorable Mention: The Bar vs Usos Rap Battle
Winner: Roman Reigns relinquishes the title (10/22 Raw)
This promo literally shook the Wrestling World, and shattered the fourth wall. Roman Reigns announcing to the world that he was battling leukemia for a second time, was one of the most emotional moments in the past few years. There were people crying, and the people who were booing realized that despite issues with Roman Reigns as a character, Joe Anoi’i as a man is the hero WWE has been looking for. I don’t necessarily agree to have this announcement as a part of a storyline, but I liked that Roman got the chance to tell the world rather than a notification on your phone. This promo was the ultimate babyface turn for Reigns, and whenever he comes back the fans are behind him.
Most disappointing 2018 (Male): Andrade “Cien” Almas, Bray Wyatt, Elias, Rusev
Winner: Andrade “Cien” Almas
Almas had one of the biggest and sharpest declines of 2018. At the start of the year, he took part in a Meltzer rated 5 star match at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia, defending his NXT Championship against Johnny Gargano. He lost his NXT Title in another classic at TakeOver: New Orleans, then everything fell apart. He had a great debut against AJ Styles in a losing effort, then got in an underwhelming feud against Rusev and Lana, then disappeared from TV for months. 2019 NEEDS to be the year of Andrade “Cien” Almas. He is a great heel, and a run at the top of the card would do him a lot of good.
Most Disappointing 2018 (Female): Bayley, Asuka, Naomi, Sasha Banks
Sweet Jesus WWE. They had one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world, then they ruin her. She started the year strong. She won the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match, punching her ticket to a dream match against Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania. Then she lost. Yes, just because Mania was in NOLA, another streak had to end and it just so happened that Asuka was undefeated. Then she ate back to back losses to Carmella, and did nothing for 5 months. She may have won the title at TLC, but now 2019 should be all about repairing the damage that happened in 2018.
Shocking Moment of the Year: Daniel Bryan announces he’s cleared (3/20 Smackdown), Undertaker’s entrance at WrestleMania, Roman Reigns announced his leukemia, (10/22 Raw), and Bobby Lashley’s return
Winners: Daniel Bryan getting cleared, and Reigns’ leukemia announcement
I normally don’t do co-winners, but I honestly couldn’t pick between those two. One is in a moment of triumph, finally getting a chance to get back in the ring. Then on the opposite side of the coin, is a moment of tragedy, with Roman Reigns being away for an indefinite amount of time. First, let’s talk about Daniel Bryan. Nobody expected Bryan to be cleared to return, and everyone was overjoyed when ESPN broke the news. The one person who the fans wanted back, is back. And he’s had an okay 2018, but he’s gained back the championship that he’s never lost in a matter of seven months. Now, to take things in a more depressing tone. In October, Roman Reigns announced to the world that his leukemia has returned, and he had to relinquish the WWE Universal Championship. Both of these moments are the most shocking moments in the last few years, and I don’t think anything can top them.
Best Pay-Per-View: Any NXT TakeOver, WWE Evolution, Royal Rumble, WrestleMania 34
Winner: NXT TakeOver: New Orleans
Of all the great pay-per-views that happened this year, I’d have to pick TakeOver: New Orleans. It was a perfect show. The ladder match was an entertaining spotfest full of bone shattering action, and made Lars Sullivan into a star. I mean hitting a Freak Accident onto another person crunched under a ladder speaks for itself. Roderick Strong’s shock heel turn was a great swerve for the fans, and kept Adam Cole protected after a brutal ladder match. Shayna Baszler may have sent Ember Moon out on a sour note, but she’s the most dominant woman in NXT right now, and this match was the start to her 2018 dominance. Aleister Black winning the NXT Championship, one year after his TakeOver debut was the perfect way to cap off his first year in NXT. Then the main event, combined brutal weapon shots, great storytelling, and insane action. Gargano-Ciampa was a great feud in 2018, but now I hope they’d be a better team in 2019.
Worst Pay-Per-View: Backlash, Crown Jewel, Extreme Rules, Fastlane
Winner: Crown Jewel
While Backlash was completely awful and even provided storyline continuity, Crown Jewel should not have happened due to the massive political backlash in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Then the show itself was really, really bad. Nakamura was on the preshow, Brock killing Braun Strowman in like 2 minutes, then SHANE. McMAHON. WON THE BEST IN THE WORLD TOURNAMENT. That was ridiculously stupid. Then there was the clusterf**k that was the main event. Triple H hurt himself and finished the match (huge props to you trips, hope your recovery is going well). Kane got his mask punched off, and it was just a slow, really bad match. It was not fitting the return of the Heartbreak Kid, and could’ve been the last time we got to see Kane, who deserves a much better retirement match.
Worst Match of the Year: DX vs The Brothers of Destruction (Crown Jewel), Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe (Backlash), Triple H vs The Undertaker (Super Show-Down), Nia Jax vs Alexa Bliss (Backlash)
Winner: DX vs The Brothers of Destruction (Crown Jewel)
What makes this match truly awful isn’t just how slow, or old the wrestlers looked. It wasn’t the botches or Triple H hurting himself. What is truly damning about this match is that it kicked the legacies of 4 legends to near death. This was a match that was 20 years in the making. Everyone wanted DX to take on the Brothers of Destruction, but once they finally clashed, dear god it shouldn’t have happened. The aforementioned botches, Triple H tearing his pectoral, but still finishing the match because he’s a man, and just The Undertaker and Kane looking like shadows of their former selves. This was a complete waste of Shawn Michaels’ return, and we can only hope that they don’t bring back any other legends for their next Saudi shows.
Match of the Year: Johnny Gargano vs Andrade “Cien” Almas, Gargano-Ciampa Trilogy, Seth Rollins vs The Miz (Backlash), and Becky Lynch vs Charlotte Flair (Evolution)
Honorable Mentions: Elimination Chamber gauntlet match (2/19 RAW), WarGames Match: Undisputed Era vs Ricochet, Pete Dunne & War Raiders (NXT TakeOver: WarGames), Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs Triple H & Stephanie (WrestleMania), Becky Lynch vs Charlotte Flair vs Asuka (TLC), Seth Rollins vs Elias (Money in the Bank) Brock Lesnar vs Daniel Bryan (Survivor Series),
Winner: Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa (NXT TakeOver: Chicago)
Honestly, I could’ve picked any of the Gargano-Ciampa TakeOver matches, but this one takes the cake. The action was intense from bell to bell, with no slow point at all throughout the match. There were also some great moments. The fan calling Ciampa the Devil, both men battering each other with weapons, the handcuff spots, and the recreation of Ciampa’s betrayal really tugged at the heartstrings. Tommaso Ciampa spitting on Johnny Gargano’s wedding ring and chucking it across the arena, was one of the biggest acts of heel heat of the year. Ciampa won thanks to a DDT on the exposed ring mat, and honestly was the perfect way to end TakeOver: Chicago. With no music, and the fans’ stunned silence turning into a chorus of boos for Tommaso Ciampa, the best heel in WWE.