With the recently announced NXT End of Year Awards, I wanted to run through my picks for each category from the listed nominations by WWE. I also wanted to pick only one person for each superstar category, so the top three I chose for Overall Competitor of the Year I also eliminated them from Male/Female Competitor of the Year, just to add some variation. Otherwise, I would be writing the same answer for two categories, and that wouldn’t be fun.
TakeOver of the Year
My Pick – Brooklyn
Is there any question which TakeOver was the biggest of the year? In front of a sell-out crowd in Brooklyn (the first NXT live special away from Full Sail) and the night before Summerslam, NXT hosted their biggest show to the date and fired on all cylinders. Every match on the card was hyped up brilliantly and the competitors all were given great time to shine, and that they did. Jushin “Thunder” Liger debuted in WWE, as did Apollo Crews, the tag team titles were captured by the Vaudevillains to the roar of the crowd, Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin put on a great match, Bayley and Sasha Banks contested arguably the best women’s match of all time, and Finn Balor retained his NXT Championship in only the second ever ladder match in NXT against Kevin Owens. The crowd were live all night, and the event that was built up to be a history breaking night in NXT history turned out to be exactly that. London came very close for me (probably because I went to it but it was still pretty good?) shortly followed by Respect, but Brooklyn knocked them all out of the park.
Tag Team of the Year
My Pick – Dash and Dawson
Originally, I was adamant I was going to pick Jason Jordan and Chad Gable. The way they have captivated audiences in the past few months has been remarkable. But then two things hit me. Firstly, they wasn’t even nominated, and secondly, for all their efforts, they are yet to be placed in a position on the card that warrants a victory here. No doubt their time will come in 2016, and next year they will 100% win this award, but this year, I have chosen Dash and Dawson. No team has been prominently featured for the entire 12 months, but in the time Dash and Dawson have held the spotlight, they have been fantastic. As the bruising champions that just beat people up, they have been brilliant and effective, taking out Enzo and Cass, defeating the Vaudevillians for the NXT Tag Titles, then successfully defending those titles against both the teams just mentioned. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they have been fantastic, and the INCREDIBLE Shatter Machine on Enzo in London was remarkable. Blake and Murphy were second for me after a refreshing heel run at the start of the year, followed by the Vaudevillains. Both dropped out though after a huge dip in fortunes by the end of the year.
Match of the Year
My Pick – Sasha Banks vs Bayley for the NXT Women’s Championship (TakeOver: Brooklyn)
The debate may never end of which Bayley vs Sasha match was better. Was it Brooklyn, or was it the iron man main event match from Respect? For me, Brooklyn just edges it for a reasons. Firstly, the predictability factor. Although she had recently been promoted to the main roster, there was far more chance that Sasha would win in Brooklyn than at Respect. While it was still a classic, it was still an obvious result from the start that limited it only slightly. Also, the story was written to absolute perfection, with Bayley having to overcome so many obstacles to get the title shot, before having to dig so deep and find anger in her character to win the title. The wrestling was incredible, the crowd were ridiculously into it, and both women came away looking better in spite of winning or losing. The rematch was an easy second, only just missing out on top spot, ahead of Balor vs Joe from London, a match that truly felt like a main event between two international wrestlers, something that hasn’t been felt in a long while.
Male Competitor of the Year
My Pick – Kevin Owens
Having arrived in NXT at the end of 2014, Kevin Owens made his presence felt immediately, attacking his former best friend and newly crowned NXT Champion Sami Zayn on his debut night. In 2015, Owens went on a warpath across NXT. He destroyed Sami Zayn to win the NXT title by force, before destroying Sami Zayn one more time to retain his title. He would eventually go on to lose the title and the rematch against Finn Balor, but done so in amazing matches that did not hurt his credibility in any way. He also defeated former NXT Champion Adrian Neville, drew Alex Riley out of the commentary booth to beat him up, threw NXT General Manager William Regal to the floor in order to attack Zayn even more, and even got through a feud, albeit an underwhelming one, with the recently arrived superstar Samoa Joe without a defeat. He then became the first ever NXT Champion to appear on the main roster with the title, immediately entering a feud with John Cena. Apollo Crews comes in at second, after a flying start with impressive showings against Tye Dillinger and Tyler Breeze before a brilliant title match against Finn Balor, with Sami Zayn being third after an emotional story he played out with Owens before injury halted his year.
Female Competitor of the Year
My Pick – Bayley
Arguably the most popular person in WWE right now, from NXT and the main roster, and the men and the women. The ‘Hugger’ has been making fans happy all year with her bubbly spirit and her clear admiration of the spot she is in. She finally won the NXT Women’s Championship this year, a journey that begun with her having to get through both Charlotte and Becky Lynch in awesome matches to do so. She made it to Sasha Banks, and, as previously mentioned in the article, put on the two greatest women’s matches in WWE history. She added more and more aggression to her character along the way, but still managed to maintain her popularity at the same time. Since winning the title, she has managed to defend it three times. A decent match against Alexa Bliss came first, before a great match with Eva Marie (the story being told was great, not the wrestling… obviously) showed she could probably work great with anyone. That was then proved true as she drew a great match out of Nia Jax in London, which seemed unlikely given the contrast in the styles of the two. Emma is my second choice even if she hasn’t been nominated, only because I have absolutely adored her work this year and have the utmost respect for her as she has rejuvenated her career following a disaster on the main roster. Becky Lynch is my third pick as she really arrived this year in NXT, especially after her match against Sasha Banks that ended with Becky in the ring along receiving a standing ovation for her efforts.
Overall Competitor of the Year
My Pick – Finn Balor
Every time Finn Balor enters an NXT arena, the feeling is different to any other. He brings an allure that no other can bring. He is the champion, and it feels like you are in the presence of a champion when he arrives. Starting the year with a huge victory over Adrian Neville to become number one contender to the NXT Championship, it has just been up and up for the Irish born wrestler. Another number one contender match, this time against Tyler Breeze, saw Balor get another chance at the title, one he took in Tokyo against Kevin Owens. He then retained the title against Owens in a ladder match, before partnering Samoa Joe in winning the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament. He ended the year with two incredible title match, firstly against Apollo Crews on NXT and then Joe at TakeOver: London that asserted him as one of the greatest performers NXT has ever seen. I will remember 2015 as being the year I first got to be in attendance for a Finn Balor entrance, which is seriously close to being as brilliant as the Undertakers. It’s a feeling that can only be felt and not described. The demon persona that Balor introduces at TakeOver events is another reason why Balor has been the Overall Competitor of the Year. Sasha Banks was a distant second after an incredible year for her including great matches against Bayley and Becky Lynch, ahead of Tyler Breeze who won a majority of his matches on NXT television and was placed in high profile matches against Apollo Crews and Jushin Liger. He performed excellent at all times, and if there was an underrated category, he would win that with considerable ease.
Who are you picking for the NXT End of Year Awards? And who are you tipping to be nominated this time next year? Let me know by commenting below or on twitter @carlo_george