A lot of people are doing recaps & best of lists. Where else are you going to find Canadian of the Year and the MAMMA MIA Award? The NXT Minus 6, that’s where!
NXT in 2018 had one of the best years of any promotion in the history of American wrestling. Takeovers were consistently outstanding. The weekly show was consistently good to great. So many wrestlers deserve recognition. It was hard to whittle it all down to the best, but I do like a challenge. Here it is: the best of NXT from 2018.
Canadian of the Year: Kyle O’Reilly
I’m not sure how many superstars qualify for this honor, but I could not do a best of the year list without including everybody’s favorite member of the UE. Dude is a workrate monster & future Intercontinental Champion.
The MAMMA MIA!!!: Ricochet’s flip
This award goes to the one move I watched over & over & lost my mind every time. It was completely unexpected. He absolutely nailed the landing, an Olympic 10. The cherry on the top was Velveteen Dream’s reaction; his face said what we were all thinking.
Burn of the year: Velveteen Dream at Ricochet, Takeover Chicago
“You belong in a bingo hall.”
The Cool Runnings Award: Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch, Takeover Chicago
The crowd was blazing hot for Undisputed Era. Nobody gave Lorcan & Burch a chance, so they proceeded to turn the curtain jerker into main event quality. Team 1&2 gave everything they had but came up short. They still received a standing ovation from the crowd, proving that wrestling fans are human after all.
Breakout star for 2019: Matt Riddle
Ask me next week, it could be Keith Lee. Or Bianca Belair. Or Dijakovic. It’s safe to say that no matter who it is, we’re all winners.
PPV of the year: Takeover War Games
This was the hardest award to choose. There were 4 matches in 2 ½ hours & not once did it feel long or flat, which gave it a slight edge over New Orleans and Chicago. It started with what I believe to be the best NXT women’s match of 2018. It followed with a 6 star match and a 5 star match. It ended with one of the most glorious car crash spotfests you will ever see. Less is more. In a year of phenomenal PPVs, War Games was the most.
Feud of the year: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa
Feud of the year. Feud of the Decade. Feud for the ages. It started with one of the best heel turns ever. It gave us 3 MOTY candidates. It jump started another epic heel turn. It sets the stage for evil DIY reunion. You know Gargano is eventually going to come back for his title shot & pound of flesh. This is the feud that keeps on giving.
The Most NXT match of the year: North American Title match at Takeover New Orleans
This is not the best match of the year. It is the match that best showcases what NXT is all about. This could have main evented any PPV on the entire E calendar. Instead, it was the opener. Are you kidding me? Six guys went out there, busted their asses in one of the best ladder matches ever and sent a message to everyone in the back: There’s your bar, now top that. THAT is how you kick off a show.
Female wrestler of the year: Nikki Cross
More than anybody else in the entire E universe, Nikki feels totally unscripted. I truly believe not even she knows what she’s going to do when she hits the ring. Her role in the Black saga was a tasty scoop of nutty. Her character work is so good, it’s easy to forget she had top notch matches with Baszler, Belair and the triple threat with Lerae & Sane. Wrestling needs more Nikki Cross.
Wrestler of the year: Johnny Gargano
He’s too small. Wrong. He’s just a tag team guy. Wrong. He’s a pure babyface. Wrong. Gargano spent all year proving us wrong. He had 5 star matches as a face and a heel. His slow descent into madness has been a masterclass of long term storytelling. Johnny Freaking Wrestling, Johnny Bad Ass, Johnny Takeover, is on the short list for best wrestler in the world. I have no idea what he can do in 2019 to top what he did in 2018, but I’ll be watching to find out.
That’s right. I said it.
Greg DeMarco’s Three Stars Of The Night: WWE Raw (5/20/19)
Big night on Raw — who stood out?
WWE Raw returned stateside this week, and we got ourselves a new championship. Who stood out?
The Third Star for WWE Raw: Paul Heyman
Paul Heyman knows how to deliver, and he delivered big time during Raw. He made the show feel like a big deal, and it did. He made both champions feel important, but put Brock Lesnar over in the process. Lesnar is so much more comfortable with Paul Heyman around, and the job done to make this briefcase situation feel unique was really solidified by Paul Heyman. Plus, his line about Rollins sitting through 7 hours of WrestleMania waiting for his girlfriend to main event the show he’s always dreamed of main eventing was clutch.
Elisa looks great in her Chairshot gear.
You can, too!
Be like Elisa and get yours at:
The Second Star: The IIconics
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce really are national treasures. America, Australia, it doesn’t matter. They are the best, and they’ve crafted characters that don’t need to win or lose, they just need to perform their act. That’s what it takes in WWE, regardless of what we want it to be. Their promo during A Moment Of Bliss (full of people perfectly playing their characters, by the way), was outstanding. Hats off to both ladies for getting themselves to this place.
Honorable Mention: Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross, Lacey Evans, Becky Lynch, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Kofi Kingston, the entire 24/7 crew, The Usos, The Revival, Baron Corbin (yup), Bobby Lashley (I miss Lio), Drew McIntyre, and Shane McMahon
So many great performances tonight, and I am positive I’m leaving deserving folks out.
The First Star for WWE Raw: The Miz
The Miz is on fire right now, and it comes at a time where both world champions are babyfaces. He’s world champion caliber, and needs something to sink his teeth into if the issue with Shane truly is done. Drew McIntyre is a fine option, but I really want a top flight program for Miz. Maybe he’s the guy to elevate Drew? I’m not sure. I don’t feel like we turn Miz, but the best options for him (to me) are AJ Styles and Seth Rollins.
In hockey, a game’s “Three Stars Of The Night” represent the top three performers of the night. For more clarification, I defer to this Pittsburgh Gazette explanation:
“The tradition dates to the 1936-37 season, when Imperial Oil became the principal sponsor of Hockey Night in Canada radio broadcasts and was seeking a way to promote one of its products, Three Star gasoline. The idea of doing so by selecting the top three performers in a particular game purportedly came from a Canadian advertising agency.
Many clubs do recognize the player with the most three-star selections with an award or trophy, usually in conjunction with a corporate sponsorship, at the end of the season (or sometimes, each month). All six Canadian franchises, for example, have an affiliation with a well-known brewery.
The NHL keeps track of its own Three Stars Of The Night selections, but that is done on a league-wide basis. The league employs a system that awards 30 points to a first star, 20 to a second star and 10 to a third – a running total can be found on the league’s website – but it does not present an award based on them.”
In hockey tradition, the first star represents the best of the three, but all three are considered to be receiving a high honor.
7 Best Candidates To Win New Japan Best Of The Super Juniors 26
Who is the front runner?
Abe takes a look at the New Japan Best of the Super Juniors tournament and who is on pace to pick up the overall win.
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament kicked off just last week and plenty of quality wrestling has already taken place. For the first time ever, twenty total men make up the tournament field. That means a few more sleeper candidates could potentially sneak their way into the finals.
Best Chance of Winning The New Japan Best Of The Super Juniors
At the time of this being written, Takagi is still undefeated since making his debut in NJPW. That includes the matches he’s already competed in during this year’s tournament. I don’t believe they’ll pull the trigger on him going the whole tournament without a loss but it’s definitely something to monitor. He’s been an incredible addition to Los Ingobernables de Japan as well as to the company as a whole.
Takagi has already taken shots at current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Dragon Lee for overlooking the field and only thinking about impending return of Hiromu Takahashi. Dragon Lee and Shingo are the favorites in their block. Takagi’s reason for winning the block could be that Lee was too focused on the future.
After winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in Madison Square Garden, there is nobody in the tournament with more momentum. The current champion winning the tournament is very uncommon but there is already a story in place as I mentioned. If the current champion wins the entire BOSJ tournament, he will get to select who challenges him for the championship at Dominion. Hiromu Takahashi is the man he wont stop talking about. Almost a year ago, Dragon Lee was the guy that put his biggest rival on the shelf. Hiromu had to vacate the title as a result of the injury suffered in that match. If Takahashi is cleared to compete, there is no better person to accept the challenge.
Who Else Has A Chance?
He hasn’t won the tournament in three years and is competing with the heavyweights more and more. Among the current field, Ospreay almost certainly has the most high-profile matches under his belt. He’s the clear betting favorite to make it to the finals in his block. If there’s anything that’ll stop him, it’s that NJPW may already be trying to transition him into a heavyweight.
Ishimori made it to the finals of the BOSJ tournament last year but only finished as the runner-up. He was also the most recent IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Since his official rebranding as Bullet Club’s “Bone Soldier” last year, he’s maintained a spot near the top of the junior division. If they want to continue his recently-formed feud with Dragon Lee, the opportunity is right there.
The newest member of the NJPW roster is in a similar position to the one Taiji Ishimori was in last year. El Phantasmo was introduced as the newest member of the Bullet Club mere days before BOSJ. The aforementioned Ishimori did actually end up going all the finals and Phantasmo is off to a 3-0 start this year. The only man in the B Block that’s a real threat to his path there is Will Ospreay but that’s going to be a tough ask.
Most fans think of him as a comedy wrestler but if you’ve seen him in longer, more competitive matches, you know that he’s one of the most talented guys New Japan has. It’s rare to find someone that can balance entertainment with in-ring skill the way he does. Taguchi is a two-time Junior Heavyweight Champion, former BOSJ winner, leader of his own faction, and one of the veterans of the locker room. It sounds strange but I wouldn’t put my money on Ospreay or Phantasmo as long as Taguchi is hovering near the top of the standings. He’s my dark horse in this year’s tournament.
This definitely wont happen but he is worth mentioning. SHO isn’t going to win the tournament as long as he’s attached to YOH and Rocky Romero as a part of Roppongi 3K. However, with three matches in, SHO has already wrestled the two longest and best matches of the tournament. He’s only 1-2 so far but that could make things more interesting. Watching him storm back and go on a serious winning streak would be something amazing to see.