2018 was quite the banner year for the NXT brand. Having arguably its great year and breakout performances all over the place with the future of the business, this list is hard to to do simply because NXT continually raises the bar. However, I have decided for the first time to give NXT its due and do an End of the Year edition for them. The categories will be Superstar of the Year for both the Men and Women, Newcomer of the Year, Match of the Year, Takeover of the Year and Rivalry of the Year. Hopefully, after reading this list, you’ll have a great appreciation for what a year for NXT this was. So, let’s get started.
Rivalry of the Year
Here are the nominees for who I believed had some of the best head to head matchups and storylines this year:
- Tomasso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano: Um, duh? This feud was absolutely perfect because it was a story that was years in the making. From the Mixed Match Challenge to their run as a tag team, to Ciampa turning on Johnny last year to them finally facing off in an organized feud, this was perfect. They had three consecutive one on one matchups on PPV, and each match was trying to outdo the barbarism of what preceded it. Arguably the greatest feud in NXT history. Most importantly, with Johnny’s heel turn, it proves Ciampa was correct all along.
- Undisputed Era vs. Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate and Trent Seven): These two tag teams were the class of the tag division in 2018, but during the summer, they had quite the back and forth. The storytelling in their matches were outstanding, and the teaching/mentorship relationship that Moustache Mountain had made it all the more special.
- Adam Cole vs. Ricochet vs. Pete Dunne – These three fought over the coveted North American Championship all year, and every time they went out there, they simply killed it. The North American Title is just the type of title that is perfect for mid-card matches at Takeover events, and these three made it worth watching.
- Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler – I wasn’t really high on Shayna early in her reign because I thought she was bland. But I think what she needed was the perfect woman to compliment her skills, and that came in the form of Kairi Sane. These two have a bit of history as well, as they fought in the Mae Young Classic.
- Johnny Gargano vs. Aliester Black – The way they set up Gargano’s heel turn couldn’t have been any better, and his promo on why he turned heel was the absolute perfect way to go about it. The hard-hitting match they had at War Games was simply outstanding to compliment everything.
And the winner is…..
Newcomer of the Year
Here are the nominees for some prominent first-year superstars for NXT:
1. Ricochet: The NXT North American Champion for most of this year, Ricochet never ceased to electrify in the ring whenever he would compete, and he has quickly emerged as one of the best all-around talents NXT may have ever signed.
2. Lars Sullivan: He didn’t win any titles and wasn’t really involved in any engaging feuds, but he earned an NXT Title match against Aleister Black, and he is already getting called up to the main roster. Some say he should remain, and maybe they’re right, but he did make the most of his opportunities when given.
3. EC3: EC3 has the kind of look that Vince McMahon drools over. He’s built like a true champion, his vignettes are crisp, and he was an overall solid performer. His feud with Velveteen Dream was also underrated if you ask me.
4. Keith Lee: Keith Lee was one of the most popular acts on the independent wrestling scenes. He has yet to compete at a Takeover, but I can sense something very special bubbling up inside of him for 2019.
And the winner is….
Superstar of the Year (Women)
Here are who I believe are the rightful nominees for NXT Female Superstar of the Year:
1. Shayna Baszler: Shayna has come quite a long way from the beginning of the year. Her matches have been far more fun to get into these days, and she’s developed tremendous chemistry with some of the women on the roster. Her aggressive style presents a unique perspective on women’s wrestling, and it makes me excited for the possibilities once she pairs up with her friends next year.
2. Kairi Sane: As stated before, Kairi Sane was the perfect foil for Shayna Baszler, and while her NXT Women’s Title reign was short, she was still a cut above the rest in terms of competing in the ring.
3. Nikki Cross: Nikki didn’t win any gold in 2018, and she probably won’t, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t an entertaining character. She did everything well, and she ended up being a major part in one of the best storylines of the year. Hopefully she doesn’t get lost in the shuffle once she gets called up.
4. Bianca Belair: Bianca also didn’t get to compete on a Takeover this year, but best believe she’s going to be one of the premiere women in the NXT Women’s Title scene next year. She had a few quality performances at Full Sail, and I’m interested to see what she can do on a bigger scale.
And the winner is….
Superstar of the Year (Men)
Here are the nominees for who had the best year on the men’s side.
1. Tomasso Ciampa: Ciampa is such a vile heel, and it’s absolutely wonderful. He plays the role absolutely well, and his NXT Title run has been extremely well done. Tomasso is the perfect guy to hate, but he embraces it, and he’s used it to improve his craft. He’s been incredible.
2. Aliester Black: Aliester Black was prime and ready for an NXT Championship run when saw him compete in the fall of last year, and he has more than reached his potential. He’s likely to get called up next year, but I think he has a few memories left to make in NXT. He’s emerged as one of NXT’s most dynamic performers, and rightfully so.
3. Johnny Gargano: What a year for Johnny. He didn’t win the NXT Championship, but he by himself could say he has about 5 match of the year contenders. What amazes me the most about him is that he’s such a believable face, but he can be equally believable as a bad guy. Just look at the way he acts in his feud against Ciampa, and then the antithesis in the feud against Black. We could very well be saying Johnny is Daniel Bryan circa 2012-2014 reincarnated.