BackBodyDrop wraps up 2014 with our final awards at 2014, including some of our wishes for the year ahead. And a positive word to say about Grado too!
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.
Match Of The Year: Sasha Banks vs Bayley (NXT Takeover: Brooklyn)
(Honourable Mentions: Banks vs Bayley/Takeover: Respect; Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns/Seth Rollins/WrestleMania 31)
One of my resolutions for 2016 is to be more diverse in the wrestling that I watch, primarily so that my picks for this don’t come from one particular company!
Plenty of words have been written about how this match stole the entire SummerSlam weekend, and really shone the light on the difference between how NXT and the main roster treats their women’s divisions. The follow-up match between the two at Takeover: Respect was just as good, but given that that was booked to last half an hour and had the inherent flaws of iron man matches, this one just about edges it.
Worst Match Of The Year: Los Villanos vs Psycho Circus (TripleMania 23)
(Dishonourable Mentions: Gauntlet For The Gold – TNA Bound for Glory 2015; Intercontinental Championship match – Elimination Chamber 2015)
TripleMania was one of the shows outside of the auspices of WWE that I took a look at, and typically, it was a bit of a stinker. At least I wasn’t the only one! Coming off the back off of my first live exposure of Lucha Libre at the Lucha Future event in London the prior month (and a lot of promotion by MLW Radio’s Court Bauer), my interest was piqued. Sadly, the entire event was pretty much a bomb – poor production values, Matt Striker tweeting viewers asking for status updates, and a main event angle that cut off abruptly.
And then there was this match; featuring the Villanos (with a combined age of over 150), it was a shambles in every sense. The Villanos were barely mobile, and if I said “it had to be seen to be believed”, it would just tempt you to look for it on YouTube. So don’t… just believe everyone who’s put this down as the worst match of 2015!
As for the dishonourable mentions – let’s just say that 2015 wasn’t exactly a good year for multi-man matches. TNA’s version of the Royal Rumble was nothing more than a joke, and the IC-title Elimination Chamber match completely fell apart. In front of a live, worldwide audience, no less!
Show Of The Year: NXT Takeover: Brooklyn
(Honourable Mentions: NXT Takeover: London; WrestleMania 31)
As above; NXT’s Takeover events have become reknowned this year for being consistently good, with no out-and-out bad matches taking place under a Takeover banner. Largely speaking, the same could be said for the main WWE pay-per-views, as the trend of “low expectations = decent show, high expectations = disappointed fans” fit into place for the majority of WWE specials. WrestleMania gets the honourable mention for falling in line with that trend, particularly given the surprise ending with Seth Rollins claiming the title.
Disappointment Of The Year: Daniel Bryan’s Injury
(Honourable Mentions: Grado/TNA/British Bootcamp 2; Divas Revolution)
Oh, Daniel Bryan. Where do we start here? WrestleMania 30 ended with him reprising the role of Chris Benoit ten years earlier, winning the main event in a 3-way and lifting the WWE title. Barely two months later, Bryan vacated the title due to a neck injury, and was out of action until his return at this year’s Royal Rumble. Of course, Bryan didn’t win… and fast forward to WrestleMania, he lifts the Intercontinental title in a ladder match. Unfortunately, as with 2014, less than two months later, Bryan again had to vacate the title, and spent the rest of the year on the shelf, with a run as judge on Tough Enough being his only other notable actions in 2015.
Speaking of reality TV shows, whilst WWE’s revival of Tough Enough was questionable at best, TNA crowned their second British Bootcamp winner at the end of 2014, with Mark Andrews following in the footsteps of Spud. The majority of that second season was centred around the antics of Grado, perhaps the most popular competitor in the Scottish ICW group, and something of a cult hero (even if he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea). So of course, the guy who didn’t win would get more TV time on Impact; and this being TNA, they were unable to strike while the iron was hot, with Grado finding himself extremely limited to the role of comedy jobber in the company. Still, at least he didn’t get a godawful, shortened name (isn’t that right, Mandrews?!)
And we all know what went wrong with the Divas Revolution. This is what happens when you give the WWE writing team the cream of the crop from NXT and expect them to change their playbook to suit. Poor, poor showing, but sadly, it wasn’t anything that we didn’t realistically expect.
Best/Worst Quick Picks
Commentator: Rich Brennan/Michael Cole
Colour Commentator: Corey Graves/Byron Saxton
TV Show: NXT/Raw
Angle: Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor contract signing/Paige bringing up Reid Flair into a pointless storyline
Non-Action Show: Breaking Ground/Tough Enough
(if we considered WWE and NXT as separate promotions, WWE would have taken TNA’s position as the worst promotion of the year)
Finally – The Wish for 2016: Mainstream Gets Good, Options Get Better
It’s no fun being a wrestling fan when the mainstream product (WWE) is embarrassing to watch. It makes it hard to want to be a fan, and it almost makes you even more of a social outcast (particularly when the storylines you’re explaining have plenty of glaringly stupid plot holes!)
Plenty has been said (and will continue to be said) about how much of a chore Raw is to sit through every week. The three-hour format will continue to be a barrier to entry to new fans and will also continue to drive away existing fans until changes are made. WWE isn’t about to shorten Raw every week, but there are things they can do to make it better.
On other channels, Ring of Honor should continue to grow from strength to strength, whilst TNA has yet another new dawn in January with their switch to POP TV. At least it can’t get much worse than what they had with Destination America, going from supposedly being the focus of the network to being hurried off of it in almost record time. Oh, and Lucha Underground has a second season starting too (but when will they launch internationally… if ever?)
Other wishes: a moratorium on the passing of legends – the second half of 2015 in particular was pretty rotten. Dusty Rhodes, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Nick Bockwinkel, all taken away from us.