Welcome to the annual Lords of Pain End of Year Awards where we celebrate the best of the year in pro wrestling. Over 2000 of your votes have been tallied so the results reflect a very broad consensus across the site’s fan base. I must say before we get started thanks to everyone who voted, this being the first year on the main page I set a goal of 500 votes which we did in the first 2 days and it was so great to see people jumping on board and even making suggestions about how to make it better next year.
Before I start it is worth noting that I split voting into WWE & Non-WWE because there are lots of people who don’t watch anything outside WWE which would skew the results but I still want to acknowledge that there is some amazing work done beyond the hallowed halls of the ‘E.
For the WWE Wrestler and Rookie of the Year categories I have split it to Main Roster and what I’m calling ‘WWE Network Wrestler’ which is NXT, 205 Live, NXT UK & the Mae Young Classic because there are such different requirements for the wrestlers on Main Roster and Network shows. For match of the year categories everything comes under the one bracket though because ultimately they all have the same ring to work in.
But enough stuffing around, here are the results and also my picks for the best of 2018. We’ll start with the smaller awards and build to the big ones.
WWE Main Roster Rookie of The Year
1st: Ronda Rousey (62.6%)
2nd: Ruby Riot & The Riot Squad (10%)
3rd: Andrade Cien Almas (8.1%)
Sam’s Pick: Ronda Rousey
In a year where the few NXT call ups that did come up really struggled to gain any traction, Ronda Rousey was the one rookie that really carved out a place on the main roster. Her massive public following meant she received very prominent placing on the show, debuting at the Royal Rumble, getting a feature Wrestlemania match and a dominant title run. However as the voting shows, despite the odd awkward moment it is hard to argue she didn’t deserve such favourable treatment. Ruby Riot and the Riot Squad are deserved runners up, proving to be quite a capable midcard combination, making numerous PPV appearances and Cien Almas made the most of his limited chances including a feature role in the Royal Rumble to gain third.
WWE Network Rookie of The Year
1st: Ricochet (61.9%)
2nd: EC3 (16.7%)
3rd: Lio Rush (6.1%)
Sam’s Pick: Ricochet
Another clear winner here, this time for the indy darling Ricochet who started his WWE career with a running Shoot Star Press and also picked up the NXT North American Championship in his first year with the company. Ricochet also featured in a number of the match of the year contenders and matches like his war with Pete Dunne have even won over some doubters who were initially worried about his potential to work a spot heavy style. EC3 debuted in the same match as Ricochet at TakeOver New Orleans but it is fair to say hasn’t displayed the same level of consistency but did enough to snag second place ahead of 205 Live rookie, turned Bobby Lashley heater Lio Rush.
WWE Non-Wrestling Personality of the Year
1st: Corey Graves (19.7%)
2nd: Paige (17%)
3rd: Kurt Angle (14.5%)
Sam’s Pick: Mauro Ranallo
The voting was far more even across the bevy of commentators, GM’s and managers here, one cheeky bugger even picked Brock Lesnar however ultimately Corey Graves’ ‘dollar store Bobby Heenan’ act as Maverick put it won out. I’m not a big fan of GM’s in principle but it was still sad to see Paige lose her position after doing such an admirable job, falling on her feet after a tragic start to the year. My pick though was Mauro Ranallo (who did come in 4th) who I just find adds a real ‘big fight feel’ to the matches he calls, even if he can go a tad overboard on the pop culture references.
Non-WWE Non-Wrestling Personality of the Year
1st: Brandi Rhodes (34.7%)
2nd: Don Callis (22.4%)
3rd: Matt Striker (12.4%)
Sam’s Pick: Kevin Kelly
To be fair to Brandi Rhodes she has wrestled her fair share of matches this year however her exceptional work as manager for her husband Cody truly caught the eye in 2018. Her timing, acting chops and eagerness to get involved have all helped make Cody one of the absolute top acts outside of the WWE and winner here. The one time Jackle, Don Callis became the everywhere man in 2018 fitting into the NJPW commentary booth like a glove, doing all he could to turn Impact around after taking over booking in late 2017 and even featuring on the All In commentary. Matt Striker also continued his excellent post WWE career at Lucha Underground, coming in third. My pick is NJPW lead commentator Kevin Kelly who has done as much as anyone behind the scenes at making New Japan accessible to its growing western audience.
WWE Feud of the Year
1st: Johnny Gargano v Tommaso Ciampa (46%)
2nd: Becky Lynch v Charlotte (35.4%)
3rd: Daniel Bryan v The Miz (4.5%)
Sam’s Pick: Becky Lynch v Charlotte
This category was completely dominated by Johnny Gargano v Tommaso Ciampa and Becky Lynch v Charlotte, the two feuds that clearly captured the imagination of us fans in 2018. Both included a series of matches between two clear fan favourites and clear antagonists and some fantastic character development. As the voting shows other highly anticipated feuds such as Daniel Bryan v The Miz and Dean Ambrose v Seth Rollins were not quite able to hit the home run most wanted from them so these two exceptional feuds stand alone at the top for 2018.
Non-WWE Feud of the Year
1st: Chris Jericho v Tetsuya Naito (25.3%)
2nd: Kenny Omega v Cody feat. The Elite – ‘The Bullet Club is Fine’ (24%)
3rd: Kenny Omega v Kazuchika Okada (15.7%)
Sam’s Pick: Kenny Omega v Cody feat. The Elite – ‘The Bullet Club is Fine’ (24%)
Very interesting results here. Taking out the top position was the blood feud between Tetusuya Naito that was sparked when Jericho attacked Naito on the 5th of January 2018 and finished a year later at Wrestle Kingdom, just a few days ago. It seems Kenny Omega’s prominence counted against him as he split his votes between his six month feud with Cody over Bullet Club leadership that played out on Youtube as much as in the ring and the climax of his epic four match series with IWGP Champ Kazuchika Okada. It should be noted that the highest placing feud outside of New Japan was Pentagon Jr. v Maty ‘The Moth’ Martinez from Lucha Underground that came in fifth. Also props to the creative devil that entered Donald Trump v Robert Muller, that’s the real feud of the generation.
WWE Brand of the Year
1st: NXT (60.8%)
2nd: SmackDown Live (26.8%)
3rd: Raw (9.5%)
Sam’s Pick: 205 Live
Somewhat unsurprisingly NXT’s blend of high octane wrestling, simple presentation and long term stories romped home in the WWE Brand of the Year category, earning well over half the vote. SmackDown Live which was particularly good at the end of the year with the rise of Becky Lynch and AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan;d feud came in second. I was a bit sad to see my personal favourite 205 Live receive so few votes, while its prominence obviously hurt it, the shows’s its dedication to character and just putting on solid wrestling matches is a real throwback to more simple (better) times.
Non-WWE Brand of the Year
1st: New Japan Pro Wrestling (58.2%)
2nd: Ring of Honor (18.7%)
3rd: Lucha Underground (8.1%)
Sam’s Pick: New Japan Pro Wrestling
Another not so surprising result, for a few years now New Japan has really felt like the clear number two promotion in the world and that played out in my own viewing habits and many of the voters too. I will say it was awesome to see over 20 different promotions receiving votes which goes to show just how healthy indy wrestling is right now. Shout outs to my own local indy fed Hunter Valley Wrestling, if you’re in NSW, Australia come check it out!
WWE Show of the Year
1st: TakeOver War Games 2 (14.2%)
2nd: TakeOver New Orleans (13.9%)
3rd: Wrestlemania 34 (11.3%)
Sam’s Pick: TLC
This was one of the closest votes in the awards with votes split amongst a host of options and only six votes separating the top two shows. The two NXT shows have a very similar formula of bombastic gimmick matches, hard hitting men’s and women’s title matches and a satisfying payoff to heated feuds. The divisive Mania 34 was a surprise third placing but I guess that speaks to the strength of the Wrestlemania brand. My personal pick was the sixth placed TLC PPV which started slow but climaxed in three varied but equally awesome title matches.
Non-WWE Show of The Year
1st: All In (38.1%)
2nd: Wrestle Kingdom 12 – NJPW (32.1%)
3rd: Dominion – NJPW (7.7%)
Sam’s Pick: All In
The indy super card All In and New Japan’s version of WrestleMania were the two juggernauts that soaked up the large majority of the votes for Non-WWE Show. For me, while the matches may have been a fraction better at Wrestle Kingdom there is just no denying how much All In was able to move the needle culturally and shatter preconceived notions about how successful indy wrestling can be. As with the brand vote it was great to see lots of shows outside of the usual suspects getting attention with 21 shows in total attracting votes.
Now we are getting onto the big awards.
Tag Match of the Year WWE
1st: The Undisputed Era v Pete Dunne, Ricochet & The War Raiders – TakeOver War Games 2 (41.3%)
2nd: Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre v Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose – Hell in a Cell (13.2%)
3rd: The Undisputed Era – Kyle O’Riley & Bobby Fish v Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong v Authors of Pain – TakeOver New Orleans (12.6%)
Sam’s Pick: The Undisputed Era – Roderick Strong & Kyle O’Riley v Moustache Mountain – NXT July 7
The updated version of War Games triumphs here in a category that was dominated by The Undisputed Era, a faction that truly had a year to savour when it came to tag team wrestling. They also featured in my personal favourite, the storytelling and character masterpiece on NXT TV that fed heavily into their Brooklyn 4 match. The only other pairing getting any votes was the Dogs of War v The Shield. I must say it was a sign of the times on the main roster when teams like The New Day and The Usos who won feud of the year last year didn’t even have a match under consideration in 2018.
Non-WWE Tag Match of the Year
1st: The Golden Lovers v The Young Bucks – NJPW Strong Style Evolved (30.8%)
2nd: Roppongi 3K v The Young Bucks – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12 (20.6%)
3rd: SCU v The Young Bucks & Flip Gordon – ROH Supercard of Honor (15.2%)
Sam’s Pick: The Golden Lovers v The Young Bucks – NJPW Strong Style Evolved
Another category dominated by just a few teams so it is little wonder that when The Golden Lover of Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi and Matt and Nick Jackson of The Young Bucks finally met in the ring they were able to pull off the Tag Match of the Year outside the WWE. If you haven’t already I really would suggest checking out their Strong Style Evolved main event, it combines the classic Bucks double spot madness with some brilliant storytelling that really stabbed at the heart of those of us who were following ‘The Bullet Club Is Fine’ saga at the time.
WWE Singles Match of the Year
1st: Becky Lynch v Charlotte – Evolution (14.8%)
2nd: Tommaso Ciampa v Johnny Gargano – TakeOver New Orleans (12.6%)
3rd: Becky Lynch v Charlotte v Asuka – TLC (10.1%)
Sam’s Pick: Seth Rollins v The Miz – Backlash
In a year where the women truly asserted themselves as the most popular acts on the main roster it is very fitting to see them take two of the top three places here with the brutal Last Man Standing match between The Man and The Queen winning the Match of the Year honours. They weren’t without competition, particularly from one Johnny Gargano who earned over a third of all the votes cast across the five of his nominated matches. Personally I was disappointed the counter wrestling classic of Rollins v Miz didn’t get more love but that only spoke to the strength of contenders in this category.
Non-WWE Singles Match of the Year
1st: Kenny Omega v Chris Jericho – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12 (38.9%)
2nd: Kazuchika Okada v Kenny Omega – NJPW Dominion (24.5%)
3rd: Nick Aldis v Cody – All In (10%)
Sam’s Pick: Hiroshi Tanahashi v Kota Ibushi (NJPW – G1 Finals)
Way back in January in my review of Kenny Omega v Chris Jericho I wrote, “just four days into the year I think Omega and Jericho have set a bar that is going to be tough for anyone to beat in 2018.” Little did I know how right I would be as the pair’s chaotic brawl managed to hold its place at the top all year, even against the ratings busting Okada v Omega 2/3 falls match. Cody’s emotional NWA Title victory at All In snagged a deserved third. My pick is another emotional victory but this one for the Ace of New Japan who returned to the top at the G1 Finals opposite Kota Ibushi.
WWE Main Roster Wrestler of the Year
1st: Becky Lynch (39.2%)
2nd: AJ Styles (21%)
3rd: Seth Rollins (16%)
Sam’s Pick: Seth Rollins
The Man picks up the double! Wrestler of the Year to go along with her Match of the Year! While Becky was really only in the spotlight for the final four months of the year this result is absolutely a testament to just how completely she captured the imagination of us fans and was able to ride the wave of momentum she created. It is a sign of the true maturation of the Women’s Evolution that not only are women competing with the men but they are now beating them. While they were not quite as white hot, AJ Styles and Seth Rollins managed to provide consistency at the top of their shows in a very mixed year creatively, well and truly earning their second and third votes here. Oh and I just happened to write about all three of these wrestlers in my end of year series, you should certainly check that out.
WWE Network Wrestler of the Year
1st: Tommaso Ciampa (26%)
2nd: Johnny Gargano (16.5%)
3rd: Velveteen Dream (14.2%)
Sam’s Pick: Mustafa Ali
The NXT Champion was the clear winner in this category as his character work as the show’s top heel saw him rise above a number of other exceptional performers. My enduring memory of Ciampa will be seeing him come out at TakeOver New Orleans with no theme music to a chorus of boos, however his work as the man who slowly drove Johnny Gargano insane will go down in NXT folklore in years to come. Velveteen Dream coming in third was a shock as I saw him as more hit or miss this year. There is no denying lots of people are invested in his rise up the card and we can only expect big things from him in 2019, as can be said for my personal pick Mustafa Ali.
Non-WWE Wrestler of the Year
1st: Cody (46%)
2nd: Kenny Omega (23.9%)
3rd: Pentagon Jr. (5.1%)
Sam’s Pick: Kenny Omega
The American Nightmare’s career year clearly caught the eyes of the LOP faithful as he beat out the highly fancied Kenny Omega and cult hero Pentagon Jr. to take this award. Everything Cody Rhodes touched this year turned to gold as he was able to seamlessly switch between the maniacal thorn in Omega’s side at the start of the year and one of the most beloved faces behind All In who went on to win the NWA Title his Father once held at the same show. Omega’s string of classic performances made him the favourite to win this one but he wasn’t able to overcome the character work of the son, of the son of plumber in the form of his career.
Congratulations to Becky Lynch, Tommaso Ciampa and Cody our 2018 Lords of Pain Wrestlers of the Year!
What did you think of the results, did your picks win or like me do you now feel somewhat out of touch? You can let us know in the comments below , on Twitter @Sir_Samuel or why not write your own end of year piece on the LOP Columns forum, you can sign up here. Just make sure you let me know you’ve signed up so I can ensure your registration goes smoothly (we have to limit entry as we currently have hundreds of bots trying to flood the forums with spam).
In case you missed it there has been a lot of fantastic end of year discussion here on Lords of Pain, if you enjoyed this column make sure you don’t miss these other columns and podcasts, links to all are contained within.
- Mizfan’s Match of The Year Countdown Spectacular
- Imp’s Perfect 10 End of Year Awards
- ‘Plan’s End of Year series & Match of the Year podcast
- One Nation Radio’s own listener poll, which threw up some interesting differences to this one.
- Kingdom of Honour’s take on 2018 in New Japan & Ring of Honour
- My own Stories That Defined 2018 series
- Lastly don’t forget The Right Side of The Pond’s more lighthearted annual Duckies Award Show.
Thanks again for all the votes and let’s do it again next year!