WKPWP - Mailbag - Keller & Fann talk WrestleMania line-up
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If 2020 is anything like 2019 for NXT, we are in store for a banner year for the black and gold brand! I’m excited to see what 2020 brings us, but before we look into the future it’s time to praise the past with the NXT Year End Awards!
I have listed each category and candidate for an award below with their corresponding winner. I’ve ranked each winner with a HIT or a MISS and gave my thoughts as to why.
Actual ballots were sent to pro wrestling media, including PWTorch editor Wade Keller, who submitted his votes after consulting PWTorch’s NXT contributors including myself.
Now, on to the awards!
Match Of The Year
NXT Takeover New York – Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano
War Games 2019 – Women’s War Games
Takeover XXV – Ladder Match for the NXT Tag Team Championships between Oney Lorcan and Danny Birch, The Street Profits, Undisputed Era (Fish and KOR) and The Forgotten Sons.
- Tyler Bate vs. Walter > TakeOver: Cardiff
- Io Shirai vs. Shayna Baszler > NXT Women’s Championship Cage Match – NXT June 26th
- Candice LeRae vs. Io Shirai > TakeOver: Toronto
- Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole > TakeOver: Toronto – 3 Stages of Hell
- The Viking Raiders vs. Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong > TakeOver: Phoenix
- Pete Dunne vs. Adam Cole > NXT Championship – Survivor Series
- Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic – NXT TV August 28th
- Candice LeRae vs. Bianca Belair vs. Io Shirai vs. Mia Yim – NXT September 18th
- Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster vs. Gallus > TakeOver: Cardiff
MISS: This category was a little different than the rest, as each match was ranked in the order listed. Cole-Gargano was the #1 winner with Women’s War Games as the runner up and the Ladder match as the third best of the year. Every other category only mentioned the winner, not any runners up. We’ll include the other nominees in this article, though, as PWTorch editor was part of the voting and received the full ballot.
This is probably the only category that I really disagree with in terms of not only the winner, but some of the contenders as well. As far as I’m concerned, Women’s War Games should be the number 1 pick for MOTY. The build, the multiple stories told as well as the overall execution of the match itself was incredible. Not to mention that this was a banner match in Women’s Wrestling overall. I’ve watched a lot of wrestling in my 31 years on this planet and I cannot remember the last time I was so invested in a match to the point of quite literally jumping out of my seat on multiple occasions throughout.
The Four Way ladder match was a hell of a match and all 8 men should be proud of what they accomplished, don’t get me wrong. But the fact that this match made the final three and Bate-Walter at Cardiff did not is a travesty. I did not watch NXT UK Takeover: Cardiff when it aired, but I went back at Kelly Wells and Tom Stoup’s (the other two hosts of PWT Talks NXT) recommendations a few months back and was floored by Bate/WALTER.
Cole-Gargano at Takeover New York was a hell of a match in it’s own right and deserving to be in the talks for MOTY, no question. But I don’t think it outshined Women’s War Games – that match was something uniquely special.
My picks for MOTY were: Women’s War Games, followed extremely closely by Bate-Walter at Cardiff with Shirai/LaRae at Toronto in a close third.
TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR
Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly)
- Street Profits
- Grizzled Young Veterans
- Viking Raiders
- Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster
HIT: There is no denying that 2019 was the year for all four members of Undisputed Era and Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly are no exception. They had a supremely strong start to the year culminating in capturing the NXT Tag Gold for their faction a third time. Fish and KOR were my pick for Tag Team of the Year and they are absolutely deserving of that title.
My honorable mention here was the Street Profits, which might be a polarizing opinion especially with Andrews and Webster as well as the Grizzled Young Vets in contention but hear me out.
The Street Profits were vastly popular in NXT and they had a solid NXT Tag Title run. It might not have been the best title run in the world, but it made for good TV and was entertaining. But the biggest feather in the cap of both Ford and Dawkin is that they were able to create and cultivate a gimmick that not only garnered success in NXT, but was something that Vince could sink his teeth into for his vision of what Raw and SD should be. Even when they were still in NXT it was easy to see that, if done correctly, their gimmick would flourish on Raw or SmackDown.
Intentional or not, Ford & Dawkins positioned themselves in such a way where they achieved success in both NXT and on Monday Night Raw. Not just with the backstage brass either, but with the audience as well. I think that absolutely deserves honorable mention.
MALE COMPETITOR OF THE YEAR
- Johnny Gargano
- Tommaso Ciampa
- Velveteen Dream
- Tyler Bate
HIT: There isn’t even much of a discussion here. Adam Cole, hands down, had a banner year in 2019. With his strong NXT title run and how heavily he was leaned on during both War Games and Survivor Series, it’s hard to deny that Cole’s year was anything less than spectacular.
FEMALE COMPETITOR OF THE YEAR
- Io Shirai
- Toni Storm
- Kay Lee Ray
- Bianca Belair
- Rhea Ripley
HIT: Similarly to Adam Cole, I can’t really argue with Shayna winning Female Competitor of the Year. She was the most dominant champion in NXT history, perhaps excluding Asuka, and absolutely dominated all her opponents until her loss on Dec 18th to Ripley. Speaking of, I think the case could also be made for Ripley to have taken this award as well. From starting the year as NXT UK Women’s Champion, through her NXT US run and seemingly inevitable title win, Rhea Ripley had an outstanding year.
Shayna was my pick, but Rhea Ripley was an extremely close second.
RIVALRY OF THE YEAR
Adam Cole – Johnny Gargano
- Candice LeRae – Io Shirai
- Rhea Ripley – Shayna Baszler
- British Strong Style – Imperium
- Velveteen Dream – Roderick Strong
HIT: The other contenders for this award were not shown during the show, only the winners, but we included the actual nominees based on the ballot submitted to PWTorch by WWE for this voting. In my opinion, I think Shayna and Ripley was my favorite NXT rivalry of the year, but I won’t sneeze at Cole and Gargano taking this one. They had some spectacular matches against one another and kept the audience invested every step of the way.
My pick was Shayna-Ripley with Cole-Gargano as my honorable mention.
FUTURE STAR OF THE YEAR
- Xia Li
- Bronson Reed
- Teagan Nox
- Ilja Dragunov
- Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
- Cameron Grimes
MISS: I love Dakota Kai, so it does pain me to give this one a miss. But this award should have been awarded to somebody whose trajectory makes it seem like they will be a star in the promotions future. With Kai’s recent heel turn she already seems like a star, so I feel like she was a bit of a mismatched contender for this award. That said, I think she is doing a fantastic job as a heel and I really look forward to seeing what she brings to the table in 2020.
My pick was Swerve. No, he might not be getting pushed like some of the other names on this list at the moment but he is still relatively new to the NXT audience. He’s shown on the indies that he can captivate an audience and put on some amazing performances. If they get the machine behind him, the former Shane Strickland will undoubtedly be a major star in the company.
TAKEOVER OF THE YEAR
Winner: War Games 2019
- New York
HIT: Not a single Takeover would be considered a bad show as far as I’m concerned. War Games 2019 was my pick to win this award. Every match on the card was captivating, told a solid story and held the audience’s attention. The worst match on the card was Balor vs Riddle, and that was still a fantastic match! And wow… just wow… Women’s War Games. Between this column and the “PWT Talks NXT” Dailycast, I have raved about my adoration for everything about Women’s War Games and how proud every woman involved should be, including Teagan Nox. She may not have made it into the match, but her role was absolutely vital to Kai’s story.
BREAKOUT STAR OF THE YEAR
(WWE defined the Breakout Star of the Year on their official ballot as being given to someone who either arrived in NXT in 2019 or had a dramatic change in their performance in 2019.)
- Damian Priest
- Piper Niven
- Dominik Dijakovic
- Angel Garza
- Joe Coffey
- Candice LaRae
- Matt Riddle
- Rhea Ripley
HIT: I hemmed and hawed about who I thought should walk away with this award for quite awhile before deciding. I narrowed it down to Keith Lee and Rhea Ripley and I think that either of them would have been a wonderful choice. As I said earlier in this column, Ripley’s 2019 was absolutely stellar and she really did “break out” above the rest of her division. However, my pick was Keith Lee. His rise seemed much more organic, almost in the same vein of Daniel Bryan around WM30 where it was clear that Ripley was chosen to be a star. There’s nothing wrong with being chosen to be a star whatsoever. Not everybody that is chosen succeeds in the WWE environment and Ripley is undoubtedly and impressively succeeding.
Lee’s rise to popularity was much more organic through his in-ring work and charisma, seemingly not because he was a chosen top star. For that reason alone, Lee was my pick with Rhea Ripley as close of a second as you can possibly get.
OVERALL STAR OF THE YEAR
Winner: Adam Cole
HIT: I give this a hit with a little reservation. Cole was my runner up for Overall Star of the Year, so I can’t be too upset that he won the award. The award is absolutely deserved after the impressive year that he and the rest of Undisputed Era have had.
Every contender for Male and Female Star of the Year was up for this award. Rhea Ripley was my pick to take this award home. At 23 years old, she has plenty of time to adorn her mantle with Year End Awards, but her 2019 was very impressive and I’m frankly shocked that she didn’t win a single award. Watching her in the ring this year and listening to her mic work, you would think she had twice the experience that she currently has. She picked up the business incredibly fast and really embraced her character to the point where she has cemented herself as my favorite female competitor in all of WWE. Her journey to becoming the NXT Women’s Champion was a joy to watch and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for one of the brightest stars that not just NXT, but WWE as a whole has to offer.