With just eleven days left in 2015, and with no major shows left in any wrestling calendars, it’s about time to cast an eye back on the year and pick out the best and the worst that 2015 had to offer. Throughout the remainder of 2015, I’ll be posting a series of Awards articles. Everyone’s doing it: WWE’s got their Slammys, the Wrestling Observer has their ubiquitous awards, so why not add Back Body Drop’s name to the hat?For the record, these are obviously my opinion, and my opinion only, and come from a year where the vast majority of my wrestling viewership has been based off of WWE and NXT (with the odd TNA show here and there). So don’t shout too loudly if you disagree with these picks, and feel free to chime in with your picks.
Lets start out Saturday Night’s Main Event Style, with one of the top awards!
WWE Wrestler/Performer of the Year: Kevin Owens
(Honourable Mentions: Finn Balor, Sasha Banks)
This was a fairly tricky one here – in WWE this year, nobody has had a consistent year where they’ve either displayed, or been given the chance to show consistency. John Cena was moved away from the main events (largely speaking) and had a run of surprisingly good matches in his United States Open Challenges… Brock Lesnar’s been around in fits and spurts, but not for long enough to be considered for this… and the guy who spent the majority of the year as champion was portrayed as a joke for the vast majority of his tenture.
That leave us with the choice of three people who have been in NXT for some point of this year; Finn Balor debuted in NXT in October 2014, and spent the first half of 2015 in the NXT title picture, winning a number 1 contender’s tournament before losing against Kevin Owens in March, before getting another shot and unseating Owens at the WWE’s “Beast in the East” special in July in Japan. Since then, Balor’s held onto the title whilst teaming with Samoa Joe to win the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic (which then segued into a feud with Joe). However, partially through choice, Balor remains in the NXT roster, with not even a murmur of a potential call-up to WWE.
Sasha Banks was largely credited with NXT’s women’s division creating the spark for what turned out to be a creatively devoid “Divas’ Revolution” in WWE, but her in-ring work in the black-and-yellow brand was easily the highlight of the year. Starting 2015 with a disqualification loss to Charlotte in a NXT Women’s title match, Banks won the title at February’s TakeOver event in a four-way, defeating Charlotte in a match that also involved Becky Lynch and another NXT stand-out, Bayley. Banks would successfully defend against Charlotte and Lynch, before having a two-match series against Bayley which was the “passing the torch” moment, with Bayley unseating Banks at NXT’s TakeOver event in Brooklyn over SummerSlam weekend. As one half of the first ever women’s match to headline a WWE special event (since NXT specials aren’t on pay-per-view), Banks showed her worth to the company, thoroughly justifying her call-up to the main roster. If only that call-up hadn’t seen her lumbered as part of Team B.A.D. in a “revolution” that played out like Stephanie McMahon was forcing school children to be friends with each other. Unless there’s a drastic change in the main roster, Sasha will easily be up their with Cesaro in 2016’s “Most Underrated” awards, that’s for sure.
And the winner is… Kevin Owens. Granted, this may be a controversial choice, but out of the three here, Owens is the only performer to enjoy success in both of the company’s “Universes”. Finishing 2014 as a debutant in NXT (with a nasty broken nose, courtesy of CJ Parker), Owens won the NXT title in controversial Brock Lesnar-style in February, obliterating Sami Zayn. A rematch against Zayn ended in a no-contest in similar fashion, highlighting Owens’ character as a “prizefighter”, only willing to fight when there was something for him to gain, and capable of doing anything to get the result he wanted. By the time Owens lost his NXT title to Finn Balor, he’d already debuted on Raw and had defeated John Cena in his first match in at the Elimination Chamber special. Two losses to John Cena followed there, as Owens drifted into feuds with Cesaro and Ryback, leading to Owens winning the Intercontinental title. Granted, Owens would drop that belt before the end of the year, but given the impact he made in WWE and NXT throughout the year, and the lack of impact made by just about everyone else, K.O. gets the win.
Finally, although I’ve already given some honourable mentions, here are some near misses for this award: Sami Zayn (just too many injuries); Samoa Joe (if he’d gone to NXT full time, creative may have had more for him, but his initial debut which saw him work outside dates sort-of muddied the waters); Bayley (injuries contributed to a stop-start first half 2015, but she ended the year in style).