Hello everyone. I hope you had a great Christmas. Welcome to Planet Kayfabe and thank you for reading as this year comes to a close. That means year-end awards. Here I wil run down the NoDQ Year-End Awards for 2018. I will tell you who I voted for and also who I would select to win if the wrestler wasn't even nominated. This is the last column for the year and it's always a fun one so here it is. The Planet Kayfabe take on the 2018 NoDQ Year End Awards.
* MALE SUPERSTAR OF THE YEAR *
I voted for AJ Styles for the 3rd year in a row. Outside of WWE I'd go Kenny Omega obviously. That is crazy, especially at his age. The story here is also who I did not vote for and that is Seth Rollins. Half-way through the year I thought it was clear that Seth would be winning this award this year. He had a great run and even when a PPV was terrible (Backlash) Seth managed to have a great showing.
However, WWE ruined that with the Shield reunion. Another Shield reunion just to get Roman cheered and sell some lame shirts. No other reason. In the process Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose were both basically sacrificed. Reduced to being Roman's lackeys and portrayed as lesser stars to Roman instead of the equals they were during their original run. Now Roman is gone and Seth and Dean are in a shitty feud that no one cares about and neither of them feel like a true top guy anymore. Especially Dean. The matches also have just been fine, but also uninspired and pattern in the 2nd half of the year. Seth and Dolph had a bunch of great matches, but we've seen it a thousand times. The match with Dean at TLC was probably his worst PPV match of the year also.
AJ Styles spent the year as WWE Champion. Say what you want about some of his early feud with the belt, but he was always consistent. His rivalry with Nakamura may have been a bit too over-hyped by WWE. We were promised a 5-star classic. (Yeah, no pressure) and instead we got a fun 3 1/2 star match. Their feud got hokey at times but the work was very good. As time went on AJ never had a classic feud but his matches were always must-see. He was a reliable champion and worked hard to make the WWE Championship be a title match worth seeing. I know this came after the voting window but his match with Daniel Bryan at TLC was possibly the match of the calendar year in WWE, at least on the main roster. So, my vote was simple. Mr. reliable in 2018. AJ Styles.
* FEMALE SUPERSTAR OF THE YEAR *
Yeah, you may not like it but that's who I voted for. Don't worry though. She's not going to win the final official poll. Becky Lynch is leading with 74% of the vote. Ronda is in 2nd with 14%
The reason why I went with Ronda was both a combination of business and her work. Ronda came in with much buzz and a big reputation to live up to. She didn't come in as a part-timer celebrity from an outside world here to play wrestler once every few months and collect a pay check. She came in to work. She also came in with her first official match at Wrestlemania so no NXT for her. She's learning on the job and there's not much you can complain about. Her work isn't that smooth but I like that. In today's WWE everything is so clean and homogenized. I like that Ronda just tosses and drops people sometimes and adds a legit feel to make the match feel like a true contest and not a choreographed dance and display of agility and good cardio.
On the business side, Ronda is basically the reason WWE landed these couple billion dollar TV deals going into 2019 and I wouldn't be shocked if she is featured more on Smackdown next year. You may say the ratings are bad now... and they are, but Ronda isn't really portrayed as the star of Raw for some reason. During this rough period it seems like Baron Corbin has been on half the show and most of the main events. If Ronda was done things would be much worse. She's the closest thing they have to a legit full-time star.
* Tag Team Of The Year *
The Young Bucks
I voted for The Young Bucks who I really only saw on ROH shows at 3AM, the YouTube channel and All-In. What they managed to accomplish with All-In was probably enough to earn this vote. My vote was also an indictment on WWE. This has been a terrible year for tag teams in WWE. More accurately its been terrible on Raw and on Smackdown its just been boring. There's not a tag-team in WWE that deserves to be rewarded for anything. Meanwhile the Young Bucks are out there, outside of WWE, making wrestling history and becoming bigger stars.
* Finisher of the Year *
Drew McIntyre's 'Claymore'
When I think of 2018 I'm not sure what move I will think of the most, but Drew has had a decent main roster run and the Claymore is a cool move. Not much else to dissect here.
* Announcer of the Year *
This was easy for me. Watch any NXT Takeover event and you'd probably agree. Its night and day compared to main roster WWE. After him I'd vote for Don Callis. Much like the tag teams, no one in WWE really deserves the award outside of NXT's Ranallo. Renee Young is in 2nd place with a healthy amount of votes... Are you kidding me? I advocated her to be on the announce team in columns earlier this year but she has not been good at all. She was an excellent interviewer and host on pre/post PPV shows but on commentary she sucks hot shit.
* Match of the Year *
Kazuchika Okada Vs Kenny Omega (NJPW Dominion)
Some people may want to snicker because Dave Meltzer called this the best match he's ever seen and gave it a 75 stars or whatever. Take all that away and this is really the most deserving match for 2018's Match of the Year award.
There wasn't a stand-out match in WWE for this award for me, though there were a couple in NXT that were awesome. The Becky/Charlotte match at Evolution was great and possibly the best women's match WWE ever had but it was a great 4 star match in my opinion and I've seen a hundred 4 star matches this year.
Okada had an amazing IWGP championship reign and lost to Kenny Omega in a match that went over an hour. The title run mattered. The match mattered. Everything felt like it meant something which is so rare in WWE these days when people don't sell shit anymore and nothing gets over as a result. One of the greatest title runs ended with one of the greatest matches ever. What more could you ask for? I'm not going to sit here and pretend to be an expert in NJPW but this was an obvious choice for me and if not this I would have gone with Chris Jericho vs Omega.
* PPV of the Year *
NXT TakeOver: New Orleans
Of the choices, I voted for the TakeOver event out of New Orleans that took place before Wrestlemania 34. If Wrestle Kingdom 12 was an option I probably would have voted for that instead. The best main roster WWE PPV was possibly Evolution. Wrestlemania 34 was nominated in the NoDQ poll, but in my opinion only the first half of the show was good. The second half fell off a cliff and the Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns main event was one of the worst Wrestlemania main events of all time in my opinion. TakeOver has consistently delivered, though so that's worth your $9.99 alone.
* Catchphrase of the Year *
"I am 'The Man'" - Becky Lynch
When I think of phrases in 2018, this will probably be the first that comes to mind. After Becky Lynch beat Charlotte for the Smackdown Women's Championship she started calling herself "The Man" (a play on Ric Flair's 'to be the man, you have to beat the man' phrase). It has gone over well and also had given her a great t-shirt. I think a problem a lot of the women have in terms of merchandise is having shirts that the male audience will want to wear. A black shirt that says "The Man" is simple enough for all her supporters to get on board with. It just clicked and it just works.
* Break-out Star of the Year *
I feel Becky Lynch is the best example of a break out star. A star is more than getting booked to win fake titles. It's becoming a star like the category states. Sure, Becky was a champion before this year. She had little mini-pushes. She was never a featured star though and since this past summer she has gotten over more than anyone else on the main roster. That's pretty much the definition of a break-out star, so the choice was clear to me.
* Faction of the Year *
I voted Bullet Club for very similar reasons I voted for the Young Bucks earlier. It's 2018 and I see more non-WWE merch out in public than I have since WCW shit the bed. I go into Hot Topic and I see various B.C. shirts, stickers and Funko Pops. Its impressive how over they've gotten without WWE. Not just in wrestling, but in terms of marketing. In wrestling its hard to market a brand without WWE because all these companies only know or care about WWE and Vince McMahon. The business has changed a bit this year
* Comeback of the Year *
Another obvious choice for me. You pretty much know the story. Daniel Bryan had to retire due to a string of major injuries and announced his retirement in February of 2016. He later became the Smackdown General Manager and occasionally made it obvious that he wanted to wrestle again on Talking Smack and in interviews outside of WWE. At times it seemed like he was daring them to release him.
On March 20 of this year Bryan was cleared to wrestle again for WWE. It seemed he hadn't missed a beat. It also seemed WWE's inept booking hadn't changed either when his first feud was basically to get Big Cass over, but luckily the company saw that Cass was the drizzling shits in the ring, on the mic and even physique wise that they just had Bryan go over him clean. The big "Bryan vs Miz" feud we all wanted underwhelmed when WWE basically promoted it as a Total Bellas/Miz & Mrs. crossover by getting the wives involved instead of it just being a personal feud. Fast-forward to now Daniel Bryan is now "The New Daniel Bryan" after turning heel and it's been a great run for him. His promos are incredible. The character is great. His matches are as good as ever even though he has tweaked his style a little bit. It almost feels like he never left. Its great to have Bryan back and I'm looking forward to more in 2019.
*Headline of the Year*
Roman Reigns announces leukemia battle
On the October 22 Raw in Providence, Rhode Island Roman Reigns vacated the WWE Universal Championship to announce he is going home to battle leukemia for the second time. Roman Reigns has been the most heavily pushed wrestler in WWE this past half-decade. He's gone over everyone. We all had/have our opinions about WWE's methods of force-feeding a babyface people didn't want instead of turning him heel to eventually come around to being a babyface, but after his announcement he would receive a consensus of support from the WWE fans simply because this is real-life. Roman is battling for his life and hopefully he wins that battle and the entire WWE fan base is behind him this time.
* Theme Song of the Year *
Shadows of a Setting Sun (Shinsuke Nakamura)
I voted for Nakamura's theme. I've always liked his music before. When he turned heel, the song was given a remix with rap lyrics. It fits him. It works. Not much else to say. Great song.
* Babyface of the Year *
The biggest star outside of WWE. I've written whole columns about how WWE sucks at booking babyfaces so there's no way in f*** I was going to vote for a WWE babyface this year. Even great babyfaces like Becky Lynch this company backs into on accident because they're so f***ing tone deaf they try to turn popular, likable superstars heel by making them more bad ass which gets them cheered. Luckily WWE has come to their senses on her and stopped trying to make her walk out of matches like a heel would or blaming the fans for the turn which is so stupid and generic. I hate that shit.
* Heel of the Year *
Brock Lesnar, I guess. I wish I could say "The New" Daniel Bryan, but his turn didn't reach the cut-off point.
* Feud of the Year *
Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega
The feud that's delivering the matches of a generation. Another easy choice. Look, I know some people get upset when not-WWE things are said they are better than WWE, but there has been nothing in WWE like this. Especially this year.
* Worst Superstar of the Year *
If Baron Corbin was an option I may have voted for him, but I went with Nia Jax. By now you probably think its piling on, but I feel there's good reason here. Of the choices she has been given the most chances throughout the year and made the least of her opportunities. Her work has not improved. She's one of the worst promos in the company. She still hasn't found her niche. Her matches with Ronda Rousey have been very good, but she can't just wrestle Ronda for the rest of her career. It seems that WWE isn't quite sure what to make of her either. How many times has she turned this year alone? Four? Five? They tried to capitalize on her botched punch to Becky Lynch and that didn't work no matter how many times they tried plugging her new hashtag. When I think of Nia Jax in 2018 I compare it to a draft bust in pro-sports. They had all these plans and high hopes and she just hasn't worked out. But hey... keep on tweeting about repression or whatever, Nia. It's really cute coming from you. The untalented 30-something model in an era of female athletes that's still getting more opportunities than many of the *GASP* white women simply because they don't have quite as unique a look and aren't the f***ing Rock's cousin. But sure... Nia. You're a champion for the truly repressed everywhere... What a joke this lousy bitch is. She can't be that f***ing oblivious, can she...?
* Worst Match of the Year *
Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (Wrestlemania 34)
This was simple enough for me, but there were a few contenders in WWE. I went with this match because it was the Wrestlemania main event and it was one of the worst of all time. Certainly one of the worst going back to Miz vs Cena at Wrestlemania 27 back in 2011.
Here's what I wrote of the match in my review for Wrestlemania 34:
" This match has the least heat of the night. WWE and Roman alike love to harp on that deceptively bullshit line of "as long as they're making noise that's all that matters" yeah, what do you have to say now? The crowd did not react at all these near falls. They didn't care at all about this match. What noise they did make was popping for the occasional beach ball tossed around the stadium and chants of "CM Punk" and "we want Nicholas". To cap it all off the fans chanted "this is awful". So there ya go, WWE! They're "making noise". Exactly what you want, right?
Take away a pretty disinterested crowd, the work was just lame. This match had no real story. It was just big signature moves and kicking out of them. You might say "if Roman won this match you still would have complained" and yes, I would have because this match sucked anyway, but it would have made more sense if Roman won. Brock has held this title for a year and the whole point was to put over Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania. Instead it came off like WWE got cold feet and decided to try and make Roman look strong in a loss. I think WWE over-reached a bit though. If they wanted to do that, it should have been a grueling back-and-forth match where Roman kicks out of an F-5 at the end in desperation before finally losing to one more F-5. Instead all I remember about this match is just Roman kicking out of F-5's. It was seriously like watching a video game. Just fake as fake can be and there's no other way to put it. Fake and lazy. Why work to a climax when the whole match can just be hitting F-5's and Superman Punches. I seriously think Roman threw more Superman Punches than normal punches in this match. What a shit show. Seriously one of the worst Wrestlemania main events in history. "
There ya go. I stand by all of that. They did this big story just for Roman to get beat clean in a pool of his own blood and then when he actually beat Brock for the title later on in the year it didn't really matter. One could argue if it even would have matter here but I think at least a win would have been better than a clean, bloody loss.
* Worst PPV of the Year *
Crown Jewel and Backlash
I voted twice here. Both were terrible shows that I rated a 2.5 and 2.75/10 respectively.
Backlash was a bad show like a lot of bad shows we have seen where fans even started leaving early because not only are shows too long now, it has been a year of boring shows. Things really turned here. Backlash came right after the Greatest Royal Rumble which was another shit show laced in propaganda.
Of Crown Jewel I said this:
"I tried to look at this show in a vacuum and give you a fair review. I ignored the politics of the show and WWE allowed me to ignore it for the most part since they didn't air straight up propaganda packages like they did during the Greatest Royal Rumble. This was a bad show. Don't let the nostalgia and fireworks fool you. It was bad. The nostalgia was sad. The World Cup matches were generic. The finish of the world cup was a joke. The Universal title match sucked and like I said it was possibly the worst PPV match of the year. Fair doesn't mean I'm going to sit on the fence and give it an average review. It means I'm going to give you my honest opinion on this show as a wrestling event and nothing else. "
Watching that show made me feel old. It was just sad watching the old guys roll around out there sweating their asses off for a good pay check. They built up that "Best in the World" tournament just to have Shane McMahon win it in comedic fashion. Like I said in the review, it was a shitty show with fireworks. I saw the fireworks dazzle people on Twitter while I was live-tweeting and I bet the only thing they remember about the show is HBK's performance and the fireworks. I love those old wrestlers I grew up on but this event made me never want to look at them again.
* Worst Storyline of the Year *
Brock Lesnar is Vince McMahon's boy
Another hard one since WWE gave us so many worthy candidates. I voted for this because it was the driving story for Wrestlemania and it made no sense. 5 years into the biggest push ever, Roman Reigns, who the company has put over EVERYONE and stuck in the main event of Wrestlemania every year called Brock Lesnar "Vince's boy" as the whole world sat and laughed. 5 years into this push they tried making Roman Reigns out to be like an anti-authority rebel who is being held back by the company when he is probably the best example of a company manufactured superstar groomed from the very start.
They also did these worked no-shows where they'd promote Lesnar for Raw but not deliver. That's some straight up WCW shit right there. I'd say it bit them on the ass because they lost good will with fans promoting a guy just to put over that he "doesn't care about WWE" like anyone gives a f*** if he cares about WWE. To further the ridiculous nature of this story Brock was booked on house shows where he worked and WWE promoted this and posted videos on their Twitter because they still want to pop house show business. Way to get over this whole "Brock doesn't care about WWE" / "Brock doesn't want to work" story by not just having him on house shows but showing everyone on Twitter that he's working house shows.
* Most Over-utilized Superstar of the Year *
After the summer, fall and winter of Corbin I think this is a safe choice. Baron Corbin shaving his thin, stringy long hair didn't help his fortunes in becoming more of a superstar. Since becoming an authority figure he seemingly has been given more TV time than anyone especially with Roman Reigns gone. Not only that, he has been part of many Raw main events. During this time of Corbin routinely eating up a 1/3 of the show the ratings have fallen hard. He still hasn't come into his own. He's another tall guy that's being given every opportunity to get over and he's just not the guy. He's just... a guy. A guy with a blah face, blah physique, blah promos and blah work. Yet, he's been featured like they see him as this generation's top heel. The only other argument I have is for Nia Jax. Maybe these two can team up for the next Mix Match Challenge and be called "The Overrated Giants".
* Most Underutilized Superstar of the Year *
You may think this is an odd choice considering as I post this Asuka is the current Smackdown Women's Champion. If you're Nia Jax, you might find it odd that she's not white or related to The Rock and given a title. However the polls focus on November of last year to November of this year. In that time things started off fine for Asuka. She won the first women's Royal Rumble. However then she lost to Charlotte for the title at Wrestlemania. On the men's side this decade there's been a string of Rumble winners going on to lose their title match. Considering Asuka was the first women's Rumble winner I would have had her beat Charlotte.
But hey, losing to Charlotte isn't the worst thing ever. It only matters what happens after. Well... Charlotte lost the belt to Carmella and Asuka started doing some comedy and lost in tag matches. That was pretty much Asuka's year. Instead of being special, she was another face on the roster. It was frustrating to see since she's possibly the best female worker they have yet they couldn't figure would what to do with her even though Paul Levesque handed them a superstar on a silver platter.
Despite WWE's bad booking or just not caring Asuka has survived and the fans accepted her as the new champion at TLC. So, going into 2019 she can only go up.... right???
There's my selections for the 2018 NoDQ Year End Awards. 2018 is in the books. There's one final Raw tonight on New Year's Eve. If I were to rate 2018 in WWE I think I would give it 4/10 goth babes. Even if you aren't religious it wouldn't hurt if the entire wrestling community got on their knees and prayed to something or someone somewhere that next year is better than 2018. I know a lot of you older fans want to say 1995 Raw was worse than 2018 Raw but... f*** that. I'll take a bad hour long block over a bad 3 hour long block. If this company magically has another star fall on their lap hopefully they have enough sense not to job him out or turn him heel or make him a comedy character because this company is in a star power drought right now. They have all this talent signed. They could be stars if they allow them to be. Like I said in my previous piece about this "new era" nonsense a good start would be to cut this 50-50 booking nonsense which only brings everyone down, reduced to be faceless pawns on a chess board and no one becomes a true stand-out star.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Follow me over on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe
Have a happy and save new year. I'm looking forward to more interaction with you in 2019 as Planet Kayfabe enters its third year. Stay safe out there and God bless.