Newcomer of the Year | Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey signing with WWE was an event in and of itself. She’s a former Olympic athlete and UFC champion. Her signing was one of the most high-profile signings (and worst kept secrets) in WWE history. From her debut at the Royal Rumble, and her debut match at WrestleMania alongside Kurt Angle (to def. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon), to her historic main event at Evolution (WWE’s first all-women’s pay-per-view) and run as RAW Women’s Champion, arguably nobody has generated more buzz, or had a more significant rookie year than Rousey.
Tag Team of the Year | The Bar (Sheamus, Cesaro)
WWE’s Tag Team Division is brimming with potential, but suffers greatly from lackluster booking (after all, even The Bar was booked to lose their titles at WrestleMania to Braun Strowman and a 10 year-old named Nicholas). Despite this, Sheamus and Cesaro were arguably the most visible and successful team on the WWE’s main roster in 2018, having remained either champions or contenders on both RAW and SmackDown!
Favorite Superstar of the Year | Becky Lynch
With 36.8% of the vote, “The Man” Becky Lynch edged past Finn Bálor (31.58%) to claim the fan-voted title of Favorite Superstar of the Year.
NXT Newcomer of the Year | Ricochet
Few stars in all of the WWE were as exciting to watch as Ricochet. En route to becoming the North American Champion, Ricochet worked exciting programs against the Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole and The Undisputed ERA.
Show of the Year |
October 28, 2018
The long overdue moment for WWE to solely feature its female talent came in the form of WWE Evolution. The show was perhaps a natural progression to the “Women’s Revolution,” but it may have also been the company’s response to backlash for events hosted in Saudi Arabia, where female talent was not permitted for promotion or competition.
Evolution featured seven matches, including a tag match marking the return of legends Trish Stratus and Lita, a 20-woman Battle Royal, the Mae Young Classic II finals, a RAW Women’s Championship match between Ronda Rousey (c) and Nikki Bella, and a Last Woman Standing match for the SmackDown! Women’s Championship between Becky Lynch (c) and Charlotte Flair.
Comeback of the Year | Daniel Bryan
Three years ago, nobody would have predicted Daniel Bryan would make a triumphant return to the ring after a suspected career-ending neck injury. Bryan announced his clearance to compete after years of intense rehabilitation to the fans’ delight. Brie Bella (wife) was brought in for an angle against The Miz and Maryse – and after months in pursuit, Daniel Bryan finally captured the WWE Championship before debuting a new, darker character.
Non-Wrestler of the Year | Renée Young
Renée Young capitalized on a guest-commentary opportunity to became the first-ever full-time female color commentator for WWE. She found her home on WWE’s flagship show, Monday Night RAW alongside Michael Cole and Corey Graves.
Cruiserweight of the Year | Mustafa Ali
“The Heart of 205 Live!” Mustafa Ali is an anomaly. He spent the year turning in 5-star matches, but never captured the gold. The buzz he generated transcended 205 Live, the WWE’s Cruiserweight-only show on the WWE Network. By the end of year, Ali was an official part of the SmackDown Live! roster and claimed a victory over WWE Champion Daniel Bryan.
Most-Improved Wrestler of the Year | Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch came into the WWE as popular member of the “Four Horsewomen” a couple years ago. She was the inaugural SmackDown Women’s Champion and somwhere in the middle, she fell into mid-card territory. No more. At WWE SummerSlam, Lynch turned on the WWE Universe and Charlotte Flair, and catapulted her career to new heights. She became the star to watch in 2018 and her potential feud with Ronda Rousey is heavily rumored to main event WrestleMania 35.
Valet of the Year | Zelina Vega
Zelina Vega, a fan turned superstar, remains the most intriguing valet in WWE. She made her debut on SmackDown Live alongside her client Andrade “Cien” Almas. In her short run, she’s cementing her name, while tangling with the likes of The Bella Twins, Maryse and The Miz, and more on the roster. The moment Vega hits her true stride, I believe she’ll be in contention for Woman or Superstar of the Year.
Moment of the Year |
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
January 28, 2018
Just a few short years ago, when WWE fans were reacting to a 15-second women’s match with “#GiveDivasAChance,” a 30-woman, over-the-top rope Royal Rumble match seemed impossible. With the exceptions of Chyna, Beth Phoenix, and Kharma, only three women had ever entered a Royal Rumble match – so history was there for the making.
The match featured stars likes Sasha Banks (who lasted nearly 55 minutes in the match), Becky Lynch, Nia Jax, Ember Moon, Bayley, Mickie James, Naomi, Natalya – and returning icons of the division like Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Holly, Beth Phoenix, and the Bella Twins.
Bálor Award | Mustafa Ali
“The Heart of 205 Live” strikes again – this time with his theatrical entrance. His face guard, Iron Man-like heart and entrance theme generate excitement for the superstar I’m calling “one to watch” in 2019.
NXT Tag Team of the Year | The Undisputed ERA
Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, and Roderick Strong remained the dominant force of the NXT Tag Team division in 2018. From their defeat of Moustache Mountain to become two-time champions, to their fending off of the War Raiders (Hanson and Rowe) to their incredible WarGames match with Ricochet, Pete Dunne and the War Raiders, the Undisputed ERA remained the undisputed best.
Pipebomb! of the Year | “I Am My Own Woman” – Becky Lynch
The “Relentlass” Becky Lynch, “The Man” had the biggest year of her career. In the process of that, she delivered a promo that flirted with reality.
…it [SummerSlam] was supposed to be MY time! IT had fought my way for months and earned my way into a singles match…I pictured myself raising that title above my head, saying that I AM MY OWN WOMAN – that I am a top star – that I put SmackDown Live’s women’s division on the map…
…and you guys [fans] act like you’re with me but were you the whole time? There was no ‘hashtag Give Becky a Chance,’ and when Charlotte Flair weaseled her way into my title match…YOU still sold out SummerSlam, didn’t you?
…Somehow I have been made an afterthought, and you think that after a few nights of praise that’s all gonna change? I don’t buy it because you’re a generation of all talk and no action.
…this was supposed to be my time …my opportunity to be champion – and not, not because any of you decide that ‘Becky Lynch’ finally deserves it…because I SAY I deserve it, because I SAY I’m the best!
NXT Woman of the Year | Shayna Baszler
Shayna Baszler was quick to become NXT Women’s Champion after Asuka departed the division for RAW. Her Mae Young Classic rivalry was renewed with Kairi Sane, but ultimately, Baszler toppled her rival at Evolution to become the first two-time NXT Women’s Champion. Not to mention, Baszler’s dominant in-ring style makes her an exciting main-roster prospect with thought provided to a showdown with Ronda Rousey.
NXT Superstar of the Year | Tommaso Ciampa
This is a no-brainer. NO star in NXT was on the level of Tommaso Ciampa. He was hands-down the star to watch in 2018. On July 25, Ciampa defeated Aleister Black to become NXT Champion. Since then, he engaged in a bitter, personal rivalry with Johnny Gargano that spanned several months and featured some of WWE’s most vicious, well-worked matches to date (i.e. Chicago Street Fight, Last Man Standing).
Feud of the Year | Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano
Another obvious selection. No feud in 2018, or perhaps in the past decade, was as well crafted or executed than Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano. It was program where the heel excelled and the fan-favorite could not overcome. The encounters between the two cemented the legacies of both men as integral parts of WWE’s present (in NXT) and future. These two have had a defining rivalry already, imagine the possibilities on a grander stage (i.e. WrestleMania).
Match of the Year |
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair
Last Woman Standing
October 28, 2018
Becky Lynch entered the first-ever “Last Woman Standing” match against Charlotte Flair as SmackDown Women’s Champion. At this point, the rightful main event of the show had a months-long, highly personal rivalry built into it. Charlotte and Becky’s history dated back to their simultaneous debuts on Monday Night RAW, and they were two stars who’d come to be known for their in-ring work, power, and representation of the women’s division.
The match ran nearly 30-minutes and was widely acclaimed by fans across the board. It became an instant classic, and a timeless symbol of the progress made by women in sports entertainment, more specifically the WWE.
RAW Woman of the Year | Ronda Rousey
“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey’s arrival on WWE’s flagship show immediately elevated the RAW Women’s Division. Women like Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair, Asuka, and Alexa Bliss laid the foundation for an elevated division – Rousey’s arrival meant the division needed to ascend higher. Her name recognition alone brought new eyes to the product and female main-events were solidified as commonplace. From Rousey’s WrestleMania debut, to her time as RAW Women’s Champion, her spot at the top became an undeniable part of Monday nights.
SmackDown Woman of the Year | Charlotte Flair
“The Queen” Charlotte Flair is undeniably good. Her pedigree meant she had a high bar to reach. I’d dare to say she’s surpassing it. At this fairly early stage in her career, Charlotte tied Trish Stratus’ record-setting Women’s Championship record (7-times), she’s been continuously included in match or feud of the year discussions, and she’s been a participant in many of the division’s “first-ever” events and matches. Her legacy is solidly cemented – so it would be hard to deny “The Queen” the title of woman of the year, especially given her accomplishments, this year alone (ending Asuka’s streak in a WrestleMania classic, tying Stratus’ record, her performance at Evolution, and controversial first encounter with Ronda Rousey).
The Icon Award(s) |
Luna Vachon, of the famed Vachon Family, entered then-WWF in 1993 as the valet of Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania IX. Her debut feud with “Sensational” Sherri Martel was Vachon’s career-defining introduction.
Luna’s unique look and in-ring competency led her into a series of matches against the legendary Alundra Blayze, and a pairing with Bam Bam Bigelow. Vachon became the first woman to ever be featured in a WWF video game in 1994.
Vachon returned to the WWF in 1997, alongside “The Artist Formerly Known as” Goldust. Within months, Vachon found herself in a tense rivalry with Sable. Her feud with Sable is one of the most well-documented accounts of the antics that would see Luna go uncrowned (albeit deserving) champion in WWE.
Luna’s career included additional rivalries or pairings with Ivory, Jacqueline, Marc Mero, and Gangrel. She’s also one of the few women to challenge for the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
[Personally, I have always considered Luna a woman ahead of her time – and I wish the circumstances surrounding her involvement in WWF had been different. I believe she deserved better. Luna deserved to carry the division, if only once.]
Andre the Giant
All wrestling fans know the name “Andre the Giant,” and if they don’t, they know of what is arguably the most iconic moment in professional wrestling history – the moment Hulk Hogan famously body-slammed the 520-pound “Eighth Wonder of the World” at WrestleMania III.
Born in France, Andre the Giant went on to become one of the most iconic and beloved wrestlers of all time. He was a one-time WWF World Heavyweight Champion, the first-ever WWE Hall of Fame inductee, and a cross-over star known for his appearances in Hollywood (most notably for his role as “Fezzik” in the 1987 film The Princess Bride).
RAW Superstar of the Year | Seth Rollins
Seth “freakin” Rollins came to RAW in 2018 to “Burn it down!” Rollins was the most consistent performer on the red brand. He was the most heavily featured and promoted, and competed for an hour and five minutes (1 hour, 5 minutes – you read that right) in a two-hour gauntlet match on the first RAW of 2018. He engaged in various feuds throughout the year and spent much of his time as the Intercontinental Champion. His final feud of the year, against Dean Ambrose, marked a chapter in his career.
SmackDown Superstar of the Year | Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch went from being a Royal Rumble participant on January 28, through the mid-card to SmackDown Women’s Champion, to becoming “The Man” of WWE. Lynch had a career renaissance and emerged as the most popular star in the company. She delivered her best in-ring and mic. work this year, and gave widely praised performances in what many are calling the match of the year. Love or hate her, Lynch’s arrival at the top wasn’t planned – and that’s what makes her a transcendent superstar.
Lynch joins Trish Stratus (2006) and AJ Lee (2012) as only the third woman to earn this distinction. Each of these women created moments (or a year) in which they became noticeably equal, or superior, to men on the roster.