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2015 Rif Rasslin Awards

2015

Hello, and welcome to the fourth annual edition of the end of year awards. This is a blog in which I look forward to writing with much anticipation. Sure it’s hard work, but I tend to think of it as a labour of love. I’m as pumped up about writing this as I was back in 2012 when the first ever end of year awards were written.
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This year I’m going to do something a little different. With the introduction of the WWE Network back in January (in the UK), it’s given me access to watch NXT programming, which is aired exclusively on the network. NXT is one of the best things going in the WWE today and it deserves the recognition, so I’ve decided to include the NXT roster in the awards.
Superstar of the year: John Cena (Runner up: Seth Rollins)
Previous winners -2012: CM Punk/ 2013: Daniel Bryan/ 2014: Dolph Ziggler
The legendary John Cena is the stand out winner for this year’s Superstar of the year. Cena is in a completely different role to what he was five years ago. He has re-invented himself and been an all-round better performer in 2015. He deserves the recognition for that. It was weird seeing Cena win the United States Championship at WrestleMania, a title which he hasn’t held since 2005, but look at the bigger picture. He has brought some legitimacy to the United States Championship and its division each week by allowing younger talents to showcase their talents. It’s because of that we get to see the “Cesaro Section” every week.

Everyone has their opinion on John Cena. I’m no different. Not a massive fan of the guy but I respect the hell out of him. Perhaps the open challenges with the US title are his way of giving back to the business and help others burst down the door. His series of matches with Kevin Owens tore the house down at both Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank. Matches against Rusev at Extreme Rules and Payback were two quality bouts, despite the finishes. His match at SummerSlam was a show highlight, and the amount of classic he’s had on Raw were must see attractions. I actually find myself re-watching them just because of how quality they were.

Defeating Rusev at WrestleMania may have turned people away, but the performances since them have been dubbed as classics by many. John Cena is my pick for the 2015 Superstar of the year.
I was so proud of Seth Rollins when he won the title at WrestleMania. I’m going to say that that was my pick for moment of the year. The reaction he got when he sprinted down the ramp still gives me goose bumps just thinking about it. As talented as he is, there are some things which kept Rollins from winning the top award. First off, I felt he was hurt by boring feuds with the likes of Randy Orton and Kane. Both of which seemed to drag on for too long. That’s not his fault. He made the best of a bad situation, it’s just the way he was booked. I would like to have seen him get a few clean victories under his belt. Yes he’s a heel and heels cheat, but that’s not always the case. It would have made him look a whole lot stronger as champion had he won without any outside interference.

Feud of the year: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley (Runner up: John Cena vs. Kevin Owens)
Previous winners -2012: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan/ 2013: CM Punk vs. Paul Heyman / 2014: Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority
This is one of these feuds where both wrestlers were elevated because of it. The story was great. Bayley started out the year with the goal of becoming NXT Women’s Champion in mind. She came up short at Takeover Arrival, but she eventually earned a shot against Banks at Takeover Brooklyn where they had the best women’s match in WWE history. Two months later, they made history by competing in a 30 minute Ironman match at Takeover Respect. According to those in attendance both girls were on the receiving end of a 20 minute standing ovation. That sums it all up. They were both elevated as a result of it all.

I loved the Cena/ Owens feud. They introduced Owens to the main roster via Cena’s open challenge on Raw. I’m still amazed that he beat Cena clean in his first match on the main roster. Cena won two matches straight and that was the end of it. There was so much more they could have done. They could have easily have added more layers to the story but it wasn’t to be. The matches were some of the best all year, but the story just wasn’t as strong was Bayley & Sasha.

Match of the year: John Cena vs. Kevin Owens – Money in the Bank (Runner up: Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins – Royal Rumble)
Previous winners – 2012: Undertaker vs. Triple H-WrestleMania 28/ 2013: Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk-SummerSlam/ 2014: The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield-Elimination Chamber
What a fantastic match that was. It’s the sort of match which reminds me why I watch and respect professional wrestling. They had an impressive showing at Elimination Chamber but this was much better. They did some of the same spots from the first match, but were able to mix in some believable nearfalls to keep the fans on the edge of their seats. The announcers put over how much of a classic this was and it was exactly that. One of the best matches in Cena’s career whiles Owens proved that he belongs on the main stage. I was on the fence over who would win, I went for Owens, but I see why they went with Cena. Owens winning was one of those shocking moments that you had to see to believe. Having Owens defeat a major star like John Cena in such a clean fashion shows how much faith management have in him. Having him cheat to win would have tarnished the match in my eyes. It paid off as he went on to become the Intercontinental Champion later down the line.

The triple threat match at the Rumble was a classic. It was originally going to be a straight up one on one with Brock and Cena, so adding Rollins made things fresh because we’ve seen Brock/Cena so many times before. I’ll always remember this one moment where Rollins took out Brock with an elbow drop from the top role through the announce table. Then when Brock made his comeback, he was a beast that went on to finish Rollins to retain the title. I remember thinking that Rollins was going to cash in but he never did. Still, it was a thrilling match.

NXT Match of the year: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks – Takeover: Brooklyn (Runner up – Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch – Takeover: Arrival)
It’s funny when I look back on all the Takeover shows this year the women matches have stolen the show. That’s a testament to how talented the girls are down in NXT. Women’s wrestling is on the rise and I look forward to the future.

The Takeover: Brooklyn match was an absolutely fantastic wrestling match. It wasn’t just great for women’s wrestling, but for wrestling in general. They delivered and told a good story with Sasha working on Bayley’s injured hand. The reverse hurricanrana off the top rope by Bayley was picture perfect and that reaction for the Bayley to Belly was incredible. It’s right up there with some of the biggest reactions in the sport’s history. What I liked most was the ending when both girls embraced in the ring. That was real emotion right there and it was something they’ll treasure forever. Bayley has come a long way from her fan girl gimmick. I’m so pleased for her and the likes of Sasha, Becky, Paige and Charlotte for proving that the women can step up to the plate. In a sport which is deemed fake by others, moments like that are as real as it comes.

The Four Way match at Arrival was also exceptional. All four girls worked extremely hard with each one of them having a shining moment and no one was hogging the limelight. Sasha Banks going over was the right call in my opinion. It wouldn’t be foolish to think that we’ll be seeing a re-match between these four at a WrestleMania one day!

Tag Team of the year: The New Day (Runners up: The Lucha Dragons)
Previous winners -2012: Team Hell No/ 2013: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns/ 2014: The Usos
No one comes close. The New Day are the greatest tag team in WWE today. When they originally formed up, back in November 2014, I was happy for them, especially for Kofi Kingston because his act was getting stale and he had fallen so far down the ladder since 2011. Xavier was just another face on the roster and Big E was stalling around the mid card after dropping the Intercontinental title to Bad News Barrett. The original conception of the New Day required the trio to be over positive babyfaces, months later, they were heckled with chants of “New Day Sucks”. WWE heard the chants and turn the guys heel. On an episode of Table for 3, they talk about the origins of the gimmick and all the dealings they had behind the scenes. Woods asked creative to give them at least three months to pull it off and if it failed, it failed. Big E didn’t think it would bomb because he was confident that their chemistry would shine though. Kofi also talks about how weird it is having kids telling him he sucks because he was presented as a babyface since his debut. You can tell that they are as close as brothers. I like the fact they’ve turned a negative into a positive, it also shows that management has faith in them which is refreshing in this instant success mentality world we live in. The New Day have become one of the best things about WWE in 2015. I’m more than happy for them. They really do ‘rock’!

I’ve gone with Lucha Dragons as the runners up, rather than The Prime Time Players. Yes they were the tag team champions but they haven’t done enough to really stand out as the champions. I feel that next year we’ll see more from the Dragons, perhaps a run as the tag champions because they are quickly become more popular with the crowd. Kalistro has that something special about him, it reminds me of the time I first saw Rey Mysterio wrestle and I’m seeing it here with Kalistro. The rest of the tag division has been hit & miss. The Usos dealt with Jey being injured for six months. Kidd and Cesaro are both hurt and the Accession are a far cry from their NXT days.

Pay Per View of the year: WrestleMania 31 (Runner up: Hell in a Cell)
Previous winners-2012: Extreme Rules/ 2013: SummerSlam/ 2014: WrestleMania 30
The big reason why WrestleMania was good is because matches had time. Some good promos were a part of it too. If you rush things it hurts. I will remember this show as the night Seth Rollins became the first guy to cash in MITB at WrestleMania. I enjoyed WrestleMania. What more can I say about that ending? As a fan of Rollins, I was so happy for the guy. I still remember when they were teasing the split of the Shield early last year and everyone was quick to figure out what the laid ahead for Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, but no one really mentioned Rollins. He was cast aside in the background. He was the best performer in WWE, in my eyes last year, and now he’s reaping the rewards. They gave us one of those WrestleMania Moments they always talk about with him cashing in the briefcase like that. It’s never happened at a WrestleMania before, so that’s awesome to see. Be proud of this show, WWE. It was a massive success.

I rank Hell in a Cell as the second best pay per view of the year behind WrestleMania 31. It was a show which exceeded my expectations and WWE deserves a ton of credit for that. Hell in a Cell proved that WWE can still knock it out of the park, they just need to do it on a more consistent basis. Alberto Del Rio’s return was a complete surprise, I didn’t see it coming. And the ending, involving The Wyatt Family and Undertaker, left us on a cliff hanger ending which is rare in modern day WWE programming.

Diva of the year: Sasha Banks (Runner up: Nikki Bella)
Previous winners-2012: Eve Torres/ 2013: AJ Lee/ 2014: AJ Lee
I believe that in a few years’ time, Sasha Banks is going to be ranked right up there with the very best that women’s wrestling has to offer. When you’ve got guys like Jim Ross, Paul Heyman and Mick Foley calling someone ‘the future’, it’s hard to ignore them. Sasha has the potential to be mentioned in the same breath as Trish Stratus, Lita, Bull Nakano and The Fabulous Moolah. She’s so talented and at only just 23 years of age, she’s got a very bright future ahead of her. Her star is only going to continue shinning now that she’s on the main roster.

Nikki Bella has been pushed more than any other woman on the roster with her record 301 day reign as Divas Champion, but that doesn’t mean she was the best female performer. I’m not a fan of both Bella Twins at all and I’ve never been shy about sharing my thoughts on them, but Nikki does deserve a lot of credit as she’s come leaps and bounds since her 2008 debut. She’s improved a lot in the ring although, she’s convincing as a bitchy heel and her promos are best heard when you mute the telly. There has been a lot said about John Cena being in Vince’s ear when it comes to her record title reign, I don’t know what to say about that. I just don’t think Cena is the type of guy to play politics, I just think Vince wanted to rub AJ Lee out the record books in spite of CM Punk.

Comeback of the year: The Dudley Boys (Runner up: Alberto Del Rio)
Previous winners -2012: New for 2013/ 2013: Goldust/ 2014: Hulk Hogan
Since Bubba Ray Dudley appeared in the Royal Rumble the question on everyone’s lips was ‘When’s the Dudley Boys coming back?’ That happened the night after SummerSlam. What an ovation they got from the Brooklyn crowd where they were quickly put into the tag title picture with The New Day. The Dudleys are an experience team who have won it all. Having a legendary team of that calibre is only beneficial for the tag team division.

I must be honest and say that Del Rio’s return at Hell in a Cell was a complete surprise. I’m amazed that in this day and age it wasn’t leak online so credit is due for keeping his return under wraps. There was always questions regarding his status with Lucha Underground, but here he is back in the WWE. He left under controversial circumstances so it’s nice to see him get a second chance. I’ve always rated him as a worker.

TV Show of the year: NXT (Runner up: Monday Night Raw)
Previous winners-2012: Monday Night Raw/ 2013: NXT/ 2014: NXT
What else can you say about NXT that hasn’t been said before? It ticks all the right boxes for me. It’s a well booked and well produced product. The fact that they’ve just had a UK tour illustrates just how big NXT is becoming. What I like most about NXT is that they’re prepared to give everyone a chance, you don’t see the same faces every week, unlike on the main roster. It’s almost like a traditional wrestling show where it focuses on the in-ring action rather than constant backstage/ in ring promos. It isn’t always great, the story development is far greater than Raw and Smackdown. I can honestly see NXT expanding its programming in the future.

Honestly, Raw is the runner up because I needed a runner up. Smackdown doesn’t feel like an important show anymore. Let’s hope the move to the USA Network can change it’s fortunes

Worst feud of the year: Dolph Ziggler & Lana vs. Rusev & Summer Rae (Runner up: Seth Rollins vs. Kane)
Previous winners-2012: Kane vs. John Cena & Zack Ryder/ 2013: Big Show vs. Triple H & Randy Orton/ 2014: Brie Bella vs. Nikki Bella
What did this feud accomplish? Nothing, that’s what! It did nothing for nobody. It was a total mess without a real ending because Lana announced her engagement to Rusev (lucky fucker) in real life even though she was shagging Dolph Ziggler in the WWE Universe. Another reason why this feud bombed was Ziggler taking time out to film a movie which leads to some awkward moments where Lana was on her own against Rusev and Summer Rea without any back up. Lana as a babyface bombed. Vince had high hopes to make Lana the centre piece of the divas division, but it wasn’t going to happen. Her double denim attire looked like something out of the 80’s. I guessed this was going to lead to Lana costing Dolph a big victory while siding with Rusev, but that didn’t happen as Lana broke her wrist and the feud was dropped. Lana did get back with Rusev, Summer is with Breeze and Dolph’s future is left in limbo. A brutal storyline which did more harm than good.

One of the reasons why Rollins didn’t have a great title reign was because of this long, boring feud with Kane. It was so silly with the whole Demon Kane and Corporate Kane angle. It was such a stupid storyline. They had a match at Hell in a Cell where Rollins won and the stipulation was that if Demon Kane lost Corporate Kane would be fired. I’m glad Rollins got the win cleanly because it’s the right thing to do. Just hope they make him look stronger on TV. I also hope Kane isn’t in the title picture again. I respect Kane for all he’s done in his career, but he’s knocking on 50 and doesn’t have exciting matches anymore.

Worst match of the year: Eva Marie vs. Billie Kay – NXT, September 2, 2015 (Runner up: Intercontinental Championship Elimination Chamber match – Ryback vs. Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Mark Henry vs.King Barrett vs. R-Truth)
Previous winners-2012: John Cena vs. John Laurinaitis-Over The Limit/ 2013: 10 Divas Tag Team match-Survivor Series/ 2014: Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio-Elimination Chamber
NXT has evolved into something a little more than “developmental.” It’s its own brand and is more “get comfortable with how WWE TV works” developmental than “learn the basics of wrestling” developmental. Cagey two-year veteran Eva Marie didn’t seem to be comfortable with either version. This was demonstrated with a throwaway match against Billie Kay. Kay hits a suplex and covers, and … Eva forgets to kick out. Well, she kicks out at about five. The referee stops halfway down and has to wait for her to roll over. The best part? It was left in the show. The fans picked up on it straight away and showered her with boos. To NXT’s credit, they turned it into a storyline. The referee wanted to suck up to Eva so he helped her win (or avoid losing, I guess) on purpose — and Eva became a sort of corporate teacher’s pet. She and Bayley had a surprisingly good NXT Women’s Championship match later in the year. Even if Eva goes on to be the greatest of all time, we’ll always have the No Kickout!

The crowd was dead for the majority of the Elimination Chamber show and this was evident during the second Chamber match. I don’t blame them as the match was very average. I did like how Sheamus was able to jam his pod’s door with his celtic cross necklace, it was selling the idea that he could have got out at any time. He should have released himself as soon as Ziggler was eliminated so he could catch Ryback by surprise. Listen to their reaction when Ryback pins Sheamus, becomes IC champ and holds his first-ever singles championship. Daniel Bryan hands over the Intercontinental title to “The Ryback” and the crowd went meh. They watched six guys who are ostensibly supposed to be the most important people besides whoever’s in the title match wrestle a lengthy, gimmicked cage match full of props and violence, culminating in a babyface defeating a dastardly heel and winning the title formerly held by the former most popular person in the company. Watching Mark Henry breaking up pin was hilarious as this was an ELIMINATION CHAMBER match!
I can still hear Dolph Ziggler shouting out instructions……

Worst Pay Per View of the year: Royal Rumble (Runner up: Fastlane)
Previous winners-2012: Hell in a Cell/ 2013: Battleground/ 2014: Royal Rumble
I will always remember the 2015 Royal Rumble as the show where Vince give a massive FUCK YOU to the crowd. The Rumble match was so poorly booked with the likes of Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler being dumped out rather easily. The crowd turned their backs on the match once Bryan was eliminated and booed Reigns when he won it. I’ll always remember The Rock’s face when he heard the boos. He was stunned by it. Aside from the Triple threat match, everything else on the card was forgettable.

For the life of me I honestly can’t remember anything else that happened at Fastlane aside from Reigns v Bryan and Rusev defeating Cena. That sums up how forgettable this show really was.

Best Talker of the year: Kevin Owens (Runner up: Bray Wyatt)
Previous winners-2012: CM Punk/ 2013: Paul Heyman/ 2014: Paul Heyman
When Kevin Owens speaks, you listen. From his work in NXT in the first half of the year to making a statement on the main roster in the latter half. Owens has proved that he has the gift of the gab. I’d like to see him get more opportunities on the mic because Owens is a master talker.

Bray Wyatt is a really solid promo guy. I just think that he’s gotten stale recently. I think back to the build up to WrestleMania when Undertaker wasn’t on TV and he had to carry the feud himself. That showed how skilled he is, just needs to refreshing up his act.

The ‘Next Big Thing’ award: Bayley (Runner up: Finn Balor)
Previous winners-2012: Wade Barrett/ 2013: Roman Reigns/ 2014: Bray Wyatt
I love Bayley. She’s so much fun. What I love most about Bayley is that she loves what she does. She does it all with a smile on her face and that’s so refreshing to see. You just can’t help but smile along with her whenever she appears on the telly. She’s got such an inviting quality about her. I remember an interview with Brock Lesnar where he said that wrestling was his job, that isn’t the case with Bayley. Wrestling is her life and it’s so clear to see. I must admit and say that I didn’t think she’ll ever become as huge as she is. I still remember her fan girl gimmick where she used to geek out whenever she saw one of the bigger names. It was fun for a while, but I didn’t think it would amount to anything.

How wrong was I?

She’s worked hard and reaped in the rewards. Her feud with Sasha Banks helped her. I remember attending a NXT live event early this month in Newcastle and the amount of Bayley merchandise flying off the shelves was crazy. She’s going to be like the John Cena of the divas division when she gets promoted. WWE have found their poster girl for the divas division for years to come.

Finn has such a bright future just like Bayley. The Demon facepaint entrance is such a cool visual and it’s damn near impossible to take your eyes off him. That’s star power right there! He may be the NXT champion, but I feel that his lack of promo ability does hinder him. He needs more opportunities on the mic in order to improve, and once he does, I’m sure he’ll get more comfortable doing them.

Face of the year: John Cena (Runner up: Bayley)
Previous winners-2012: John Cena/ 2013: Daniel Bryan/ 2014: Dolph Ziggler
Cena had some of the best matches of his life in 2015. He wasn’t involved in the title picture either (aside from SummerSlam), so it was some getting used to after seeing him as the top guy for so long. He made a point of making the United States title mean something again. It worked. Cena is a pure babyface and I honestly can’t see him ever turning heel.

So, why have I gone for Bayley instead of someone like Roman Reigns or Dean Ambrose? It’s only recently where they’ve finally figured out how to make Reigns an effective face, but it’s taken this long to work it out. Remember that tater tots line? Horrible! Reigns is a legit badass and should be booked accordingly. Ambrose is very popular with the fans. As a face he gets good reactions, it’s just that I don’t think he’s reaching his full potential.

Bayley is my runner up because she’s a pure babyface like John Cena. It’s hard not to root for her in her matches. She knows how to get the fans behind her and that’s key for a babyface. She’s just so damn lovable. Will she work as a heel? There’s an article about it on Kayfabe news. Read it, it’s hysterical.

Heel of the year: Seth Rollins (Runner up: Kevin Owens)
Previous winners-2012: Daniel Bryan/ 2013: Paul Heyman/ 2014: Stephanie McMahon
Rollins was head and shoulders above the rest when it came to the heel side of 2015. His departure through injury highlighted how sorely lacking the heel side is right now. It would have been nice to see him booked stronger more often because he was too much of a cheap heel which made his title reign bad at times. It boils my piss seeing him lose so many non-title matches. It hurts the credibility of both him and the WWE World Heavyweight title. I don’t think he’ll be a heel when he makes his return next summer.

Owens is a great heel. He isn’t out there to suck up to the fans. All he cares about is kicking ass and providing for his family. Nothing else matters to him. I’d love to see him become a top level heel and I truly think that will happen one day. He was so good in NXT at the start of the year. Surprised that they took the IC title away from him so soon, perhaps that could be a blessing in disguise.

Best Newcomer: Samoa Joe (Runner up: Asuka)
I’m so glad that Samoa Joe has finally signed with WWE, although I do wish that this happened five years ago, though. He may not have that superstar look WWE is so obsessed about, but the guy can wrestle. He’s a beast. From the moment he arrived, Joe has been made to look like a credible star, something which was missing during his final years in TNA. I’ve followed Joe’s career for some time now, dating back to his ROH days and I’m so glad he’s finally getting the chance to perform for WWE. He deserves the opportunity.

Asuka is an outstanding wrestler. She’s so different from any other diva that’s performed in WWE before and her technical wrestling prowess is phenomenal. The way she applies an armbar is incredible. The way they book her is perfect for her as she’s someone who lets her wrestling abilities do the talking rather than long promos. She can be serious and humorous all at the same time. Having met her in person, I can tell you that her English isn’t great. I think she could be a huge asset on the main roster if they give her a chance. It’s also good for the Japanese market to have a women’s star that happens to be so skilled in the ring. I’d love to see her have matches against the likes of Bayley, Sasha Banks and Paige. That would be well worth the wait!

DVD of the year: Owen Hart – Hart of Gold (Runner up: Sting – Into the Light)
Previous winners-2012: CM Punk-Best in the World/ 2013: The History of the WWE/ 2014: The Randy Savage Story
I may be showing favouritism because Owen Hart is one of my favourite wrestlers of all time but I just loved this DVD. It’s a great documentary with a number of people sharing funny stories about the guy. I’ve heard some of them many times before, but I still nice re-listening to them. The match selection is great with his classic WrestleMania X match against Bret and a hidden gem with the British Bulldog from a 1997 episode of Raw. It’s worth your time if you haven’t seen it before.

I enjoyed the Sting DVD. I know a lot about Sting the wrestler, but not Steve Borden the person. The documentary highlights his journey into the WWE. From signing his contract to appearing at Survivor Series and finally appearing at WrestleMania. You really do get a true personal insight of the man called Sting.

Most Memorable Moment: Seth Rollins cashes in at WrestleMania 30 (Runner up: Kevin Owens defeats John Cena at Elimination Chamber)
Previous winners -2012: Brock Lesnar returns/ 2013: Bruno Sammartino inducted into the Hall of Fame/ 2014: Undertaker loses at WrestleMania 30
Picture the scene, me and my friends were watching the main event of WrestleMania between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. It was an okay match thus far, Lesnar was booked like an unstoppable monster and Reigns was showing the heart and determination in which you’d expect to see from your top baby-face star, even though large sections of the crowd booed heavily during Reigns’ entrance. We really had no idea who was going to win.

Suddenly, Seth Rollin’s music kicked in and here came Mr Money in the Bank, racing down the ramp, with the roar of the crowd urging him on. Fucking unreal man! What a phenomenal ending to ‘Mania. Give WWE credit for pulling it off perfectly. Rollins looked like a smart guy that was out there taking advantage of two guys who put their bodies on the line and he was able to find a way to get the win. That final ten minute sequence was amazing. Reigns did a fantastic job with his comeback making it look like he was going to win and then Rollins was able to steal it right from under his nose.
It sucks that Rollins has a lengthy injury, but I will always remember WrestleMania 31 as the night where Seth Rollins made history. Class moment.

I’m still in shock that Kevin Owens defeated John Cena at Elimination Chamber. A star making performance by Owens, and the fact that it was a clean victory over a top level guy like Cena makes it a huge deal. I was expecting Cena to win via disqualification, I guess the majority of fans were expecting the same, but a clean Kevin Steen victory? That was a bonus! I was initially worried for Kevin when he first signed for WWE fearing that he would be repackaged with a lame gimmick. Not any more. His ring work is solid and his confident on the mic. He’s a guy who’s worked so hard to make it to the WWE and to see him being booked strongly since his main roster debut is encouraging.

Biggest annoyance of 2015: Who started the Divas Revolution? (Runner up: Injuries galore)
Previous winners-2012: New for 2013/2013: Plugging the WWE App/ 2014: CM Punk chants
I find it hilarious how WWE talks about the whole ‘Divas Revolution’ as if it was something they created. It always bugged me when WWE treat the divas division like an afterthought when you see these superior bouts in Japan or NXT, even in TNA they pull out a great women’s match. I’m glad WWE are finally giving the women a chance. They have a talented women’s roster, but they seemed so reluctant to utilise them properly. There were times were women matches would only last around three minutes, in some cases, a minute. How are you going to make your audience care when matches aren’t give time? How are you going to create new stars in a minute? You can’t. Plain and simple! With all that being said, how many times have we heard someone claim to be the one to start the Divas revolution? Christ, give it a rest and move on.

Just imagine how different this year would have been if everyone was injury free. Some of the guys either out injured or missed a chunk of the year through injury are: Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Goldust, Randy Orton, Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, Sami Zayn, Nikki Bella, Hideo Itami and Jey Uso. There’s some key players in that list. Just hope this isn’t a trend going forward but injuries have always been part and parcel of the wrestling business. And you wonder why people want to see an off-season.
I’ve no idea when Daniel Bryan will be back. He claims that doctors have given him the all clear, but WWE is so reluctant about letting him wrestle again. It’s getting to the point where Bryan has considered leaving. That’s a massive shame should that happen. Huge loss.

Biggest off-screen news: Hulk Hogan’s racist comments (Runner up: The deaths of Dusty Rhodes and Rowdy Roddy Piper)
Previous winners-2012: New for 2013/ 2013: Darren Young comes out/ 2014: Ultimate Warrior passes away
What a bombshell this was! Why I initially heard the story I was surprised. It’s something that I didn’t want to believe but hard to ignore. Right off the bat I want to make it crystal clear that racism is wrong and has no place in this day and age. I also want to make it clear that in no way, shape or form am I defending Hulk Hogan, regardless of my status as a wrestling/Hulk Hogan fan. What he said was disgusting. Even though it was in a private setting and he had no knowledge he was being recorded, that doesn’t excuse him for what he said. It’s going to be difficult for him to rebuilt his image after this.
It’s worth pointing out that the incident took place in 2006, so this isn’t a recent incident. Again, I’m not defending him but I just want to point that out.

If you go on WWE.com they’ve completely cut ties with him and all Hulk Hogan related merchandise has been removed from the site. He isn’t mentioned in the Hall of Fame section of the site. On the one hand, I admire how seriously WWE is taking this, but it’s impossible to completely wipe out someone like Hulk Hogan from the record books when you consider his achievements.

It’s sad because Hulk Hogan is a beloved figure and arguably the biggest name in the history of professional wrestling. It’s because of him that I got into wrestling in the first place. I do wish him well but it’s going to be difficult for him to rebuild his reputation after this. He has expressed great regret over what he said and I do believe him when he says that he’s sorry. Will he ever return? I still believe he will, but it’s going to be some time in the future.

It’s ironic that the company Hulk helped put on the map has completely washed their hands of him and perhaps want nothing more to do with him.

I was deeply saddened by the deaths of Roddy Piper and Dusty Rhodes. They’ve meant so much to so many people that I could easily write for hours on end detailing that. Dusty worked so closely with the guys on NXT and Piper was a legendary figure that WWE would always bring back for special occasions. I was more affected by Piper’s death as I have had the pleasure of meeting the guys last year. During the meet and greet he asked me what I did for a living. At the time I’d just been made redundant and Piper gave me this real pep talk about remaining positive and to never give up. That’s something I shall cherish forever and my all-time favourite Roddy Piper moments.
Poorly used superstar of the year: Dolph Ziggler (Runner up: Damien Sandow)
Previous winners-2012: Zack Ryder/ 2013: Wade Barrett/ 2014: Cesaro
What the hell happened here? Last year, Ziggler was my pick for Superstar of the year. His performance at Survivor Series 2014 was incredible. He went from almost breaking the main event level to literally kissing Sheamus’ arse at Extreme Rules. What a bummer! (Pun intended) I just don’t understand why WWE is so reluctant in making him a solid main eventer. The fans love him, he’s got the talent, the superstar look and the charisma, but that isn’t enough for them. His feud with Rusev was lame, as was with Sheamus. I’d love to see him get another crack at the whip, but with Ziggler announcing that he has at least two good years left in him, I highly doubt we’ll ever see Dolph Ziggler as a main event star again. Such a shame.

What the hell went wrong with Sandow? His role as Miz’s stunt double made for entertaining television.
The creative team dropped the ball big time by not giving Sandow a big win to end the feud. There was so much they could have done in the feud to elevate Sandow but it wasn’t to be. Now, Sandow can’t even make it to TV. What a waste of talent.

I’ve got to mention King Barrett. Once again, Wade Barrett makes what seems to be his annual mention in this category of the Rif Rasslin awards (he was runner up in 2012 and 2014). Like Ziggler, Barrett has what it takes to be a main event level guy, but that’s never going to happen again. When he won the King of the Ring, my initial reaction was positive. Was this going to be the year where he finally gets that big push he deserves? Nope. Instead, he jobbed to the likes of Zack Ryder, Jack Swagger and Sin Cara. Why give him the King of the Ring title and not do anything with him? It’s a waste and it makes the KOTR look worthless. There was this time when I though he was going to turn face, it was the Raw after SummerSlam and he got attacked by Stardust. He later returned on Raw and attacked both Stardust and Neville, which seemed as though a triple threat match between the three could happen sometime in the future. The next night, Barrett jobbed on Superstars. That just says it all.

Poorly used diva of the year: Natalya (Runner up: Becky Lynch)
Previous winners-2012: Natalya/ 2013: Layla/ 2014: Natalya
“Where are you, Mrs Hart?” cried Paige, after she interrupted Charlotte’s title celebration on the Raw after Night of Champions. I’m asking myself the same question, just where is Natalya during this divas revolution? She obviously took time off to with her husband, Tyson Kidd, as he recovers from injury, but what about when she returned to action? She’s mostly been working live events and the odd match on Superstars. You would have thought that Natalya would have had some role to play during this revolution. I can’t see her ever being Divas champion again, so why not put her in feuds with the likes of Sasha Banks and Paige, and establish them? It’s a shame because Natalya is a talented wrester.

It’s frustrating watching Lynch play a bit role in WWE. People may argue and say that she’s only been on the main roster since the summer, which is true, but she’s since faded away in the background whiles the focus has been on Charlotte and Paige. Which Charlotte looking to turn heel, perhaps this is a chance for WWE to give Lynch a title shot at the Royal Rumble. She does have potential, whether or not WWE want to unleash it is another story.

Announcer of the year: Corey Graves (Runner up: JBL)
Previous winners-2012: JBL/ 2013: William Regal/ 2014: William Regal
Mark my words, this time next year Corey Graves will be promoted to the main roster. I’m certain about that. Since being forced to retire at the age of 30 due to a series of concussions, Graves has found new life from the announcers table on NXT. He has become a breath of fresh air in comparison to the main roster announcers. He always puts over the story in the ring and he always has something interesting to say. He’s so good that Paul Heyman has publicly praised him. I would love to see him get a chance on Raw or Smackdown, even a pay per view, but he should remain on NXT in the meantime because that’s the best show on WWE currently.

Despite what most people may think, I’m a huge fan of JBL. As a heel commentator, he’s one of WWE’s most valuable commentators. His job is to push the storylines from the view point of a heel, much like what Jesse Venture, Bobby Heenan and 90’s Jerry Lawler were doing all those years ago. Some people think he rambles on too much, how many times have we heard him call Kevin Owens a “prizefighter” and the “Big Match John” nickname given to John Cena? It gets a bit annoying, but WWE is all about their buzzwords. The big difference between Graves and Bradshaw is that Graves is lucky enough to have a better product to talk about. If the main roster booking was as solid as NXT, Bradshaw will thrive because he’ll have a better show to talk about.

Overall Year Rating (Out of ten): 6
Previous ratings-2012: 7/ 2013: 7/ 2014: 5.5
It has been a frustrating year for WWE. They have a very talented roster, tons of untapped potential in the mid-card, yet they can’t seem to do anything with them. They just don’t have the consistence to put out an entertaining product. They’ve got the talent, as I say, but creative is lacking.

I still believe that things can only get better. I have total faith that we’ll see another big boom period in the wrestling; much like that it was in the 80’s and the late 90’s.

I have all the respect in the world for Vince McMahon and for what he’s done for the wrestling business. He should be proud of his accomplishments. But he does need to step back a little. He’s a 70 year old man whose outlook on wrestling is different to that of the fans and so stuck in his ways. He just needs to listen to the fans more and react accordingly.

At least NXT is a nice alternative. Great year for them with huge expectations heading into 2016.

What did you make of WWE/ NXT this year? Who’s your pick for Superstar of the year? Feel free to post your comments in the comment section below.

I’ll be back again on New Year’s Eve with my review of the year so check that one out.

All that’s left for me to say is thank you, and I wish you every luck in the world for 2016.

RIF
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This entry was posted on December 29, 2015 by in The Rif Rasslin Awards, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , .
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