After picking out the top performer in 2015 in WWE (and believe me, it didn’t match the Slammys!), it’s time to rattle through a few more year-end awards. As ever, these are obviously my opinion, and my opinion only…
These awards 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.
Feud of the Year: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks
(Honourable Mentions: Kevin Owens vs. John Cena; Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens; Roman Reigns vs. the Fans; Monday Night Raw vs. Ratings)
Obviously those last two are tongue in cheek, but you can see where we’re aiming at here. The year started with the story of Brock Lesnar ploughing through John Cena and Seth Rollins to book his place at WrestleMania 31 as champion; before ultimately losing to a cashing-in Seth Rollins. From there, the main event storylines went south for a while, with Rollins’ reign as champion being one that could quite only be described as unconvincing. Looking a little further down the card, Kevin Owens’ debut on the main roster was certainly impactful, but despite having the upper hand over Cena in the early days, he was never able to prise the United States title away from him. By the time Owens had dropped the NXT title and moved up to the main roster full time, the proverbial shoe was on the other foot, and Cena was well and truly on top. Sticking with Owens, before his call-up from NXT, he was involved in a reprisal of a feud from his indie days, with his storyline against Sami Zayn well and truly cementing his character. Granted, this feud started off incredibly one sided, with Owens getting a rare title win via referee stoppage. Unfortunately, injury and subsequent call-up curtailed this feud.
Bayley vs. Sasha Banks was a fairly short-term storyline, but was defined by two stellar matches that stole the show for NXT in the second half of 2015, and also made history as the first womens’ match to ever main event a special event in North America. August’s Takeover: Brooklyn match was the highlight of WWE’s entire SummerSlam weekend, with Bayley winning the NXT Womens’ title before successfully defending it in a 30-minute Iron Man (woman?) re-match that headlined October’s Takeover: Respect event. The core of the storyline was something that you could say that a lot of the WWE fanbase could relate to, as Banks repeatedly underscored how Bayley “would never be champion”, in much the same way a schoolyard bully would chide their target.
Most Underrated: Cesaro
(Honourable Mentions: Tyson Kidd, Sasha Banks)
If you’ve been watching WWE for a while, you’ll see a trend emerge. For pretty much the whole of his entire run in WWE since his debut in April 2012, Cesaro has largely found himself as the talented, but underappreciated talent whose pushes have been somewhat benign, with Cesaro enjoying a run with the US title. but was never really taken seriously. Similarly, a run with Jack Swagger as the Real Americans saw him as a secondary figure, at least until WrestleMania 30 came around, but whatever push he had afterwards slowly dwindled down, culminating in a tag team with Tyson Kidd at the end of 2014. That team was resurgent in 2015, with Kidd and Cesaro putting together a fine body of work as a tag team, before a severe neck injury to Kidd derailed that team. Cesaro spent the remainder of the year drifting around the midcard, with a United State Open Challenge against John Cena being the highlight of the Cesaro’s second half of the year, before a shoulder injury in late November ended his 2015 prematurely.
As for Sasha Banks – if you’re wondering how someone can go from a runner-up in Performer of the Year to Underrated… take out the NXT run, and you’re left with yet another talented worker being ignored in the WWE roster. With any luck, 2016 will be Sasha’s year – but unless something changes politically, I wouldn’t bank on it (sorry…)