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The John Report: The 7th Annual 2015 WWE Johnny Awards (Part 1)

Posted By: John Canton on Dec 29, 2015

The John Report: The 7th Annual 2015 WWE Johnny Awards (Part 1)

Welcome to the 2015 WWE Johnny Awards. These are the awards where we honor the hard working employees of World Wrestling Entertainment based on their work over the last twelve months. I come to you today to present the very “prestigious” awards that I call the 7th annual WWE Johnny Awards! This is World Wrestling Entertainment stuff ONLY. It says it in the title, but I want you to remember that when you ask why there's no New Japan, TNA or ROH in here. It's WWE only!

These awards are based on my own personal choice. There were no polls or write-in votes. My name is on the awards, so I get to pick the winners. I don't expect anybody reading this to agree with every single thing I write below, but I will do my best to justify all of my choices. The awards are based on performance. It doesn't necessarily matter if a person wins all their matches on television and titles really aren't that important. It's about the performance more than anything. (This intro was basically the same as the last three years. You're welcome.)

Regarding NXT, in past years I've separated it from the main roster. Not anymore. I'm going to include NXT related items in every award as well because I watch it every week. The NXT brand is awesome and I loved my experience when I went to NXT Takeover and the tapings in Orlando in October. It would be wrong to ignore it the way does with their Slammy Awards.

Dedicated To Tom Briggs

Before I begin, I want to dedicate this column to my friend Tom Briggs, who unfortunately passed away on March 1st in a single car accident. Tom was part of the TJRWrestling team for about four years and we had especially grown close in the last year. When we lost TJRWrestling.com (due to people that hosted it pulling the plug on their servers without any warning) I was pretty down about it. About three years of work was gone just like that. It was Tom that encouraged me more than anybody, that told me we could rebuild it and he would always offer to help me. A lot of what you see at TJRWrestling.net right now is Tom's doing. We built the site together in late February and it was him doing most of the work on the technical end. He loved writing about wrestling as well as hosting the Sharpshooter Podcast with his twin brother Aaron. I miss him dearly. This one's for you, buddy.



There will be 20 major awards. Each one will have a description of what the award is, the previous winners of the award (if the award existed in the last six years), the winner of the award, the runners-up for the award, and then my extended thoughts on the award. There are some "worst" awards too because some bad things deserve to be remembered too. I'll also include photos, videos and links to relevant content so be on the lookout for that throughout the column. Let's get to it.



To be given to the person that best combines workrate, character, microphone work and everything else into one. This is similar to WWE's Superstar of the Year award. Past winners - 2014: Seth Rollins, 2013: Daniel Bryan, 2012: CM Punk, 2011: CM Punk, 2010: Randy Orton, 2009: Chris Jericho

Winner: Seth Rollins (Runners-Up: John Cena, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Sasha Banks, Finn Balor, Bayley, Roman Reigns)

This is the most difficult award for me to pick this year. If you see the list of past winners, I think the choices have been obvious for at least the past four years. In 2015, it was a close battle between Seth Rollins and John Cena, both of whom had great performances for ten months while missing the last two months of the year. In the end, I went with the repeat winner in picking Seth Rollins.

If you read my stuff regularly then you know I have "stars of the night" while also using star ratings to rate matches. Since this race was so close, I wanted to use those facts to help come up with my decision. Thanks to my friend John Harper, who keeps the stats for me, I've been able to figure out that Rollins has 18 matches over the ***+ (out of five) level while Cena had 13 matches. Then when I look at "stars of the night" Rollins has 26 appearances compared to 19 appearances for Cena.

There are other factors too. I feel like Cena's best feud against Kevin Owens was better than any feud that Rollins had. Cena's feud with Rusev was boring, though. Then they feuded with eachother, which produced several good matches. Rollins was hurt by boring feuds with the likes of Randy Orton and Kane, which seemed to drag on too long. That's not his fault, but that's how he was booked. Rollins improved in terms of promos, but then they overdid it with him by having him say the same things too often. Of course, Cena has that problem too.

When I think of big moments during the year, Rollins stands out with the WrestleMania cash-in to become WWE Champion. Cena never really did anything that was that significant all year. Yes, the US Title Open Challenge was great because it led to good matches with different opponents, but what Rollins did topped him.

As for the others, I listed them all as runners up because they had great years whether it was on the main roster or in NXT.

Since Rollins is out of action until next summer, it's unlikely that he'll be a three-peat winner. Who gets this award next year? No idea, but I look forward to finding out.



To be given to the best rivalry between two or more performers. Past winners - 2014: Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority, 2013: CM Punk vs. Paul Heyman/Brock Lesnar, 2012: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan, 2011: Randy Orton vs. Christian, 2010: The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan, 2009: CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy

Winner: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks (Runners-Up: John Cena vs. Kevin Owens, Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker, Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose, Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens)

It's a first for the Johnny Awards because I think the best feud involved two women in NXT: Bayley and Sasha Banks.

It was a great story with Bayley starting out the year with a goal in mind to be the NXT Women's Champion. She came up short at the February Takeover event, but then she earned herself a singles title shot against Banks at NXT Takeover Brooklyn in August. They had the best women's match in WWE history that night. That's how strongly I felt about it. Two months later, they had a 30 minute Ironman Match in Orlando that I saw in person. We stood up for about 20 minutes of that match and it was at that moment when I really understood how special of a feud this was. By the time the feud was done, both performers were bigger stars after it was over. Great matches go a long way in making a rivalry special, but when you can say both of them were elevated - that really makes it stand out.

I loved the Cena/Owens feud. They introduced Owens to the main roster in a big way by having him beat Cena clean in his first match on the main roster. Then Cena won two straight and that was pretty much it. They could have done so much more with the feud. The matches were great, but the story wasn't strong enough.

The way Lesnar/Undertaker was set up made a lot of sense to me. Undertaker cost Lesnar the WWE Title against Seth Rollins. Then they had that massive brawl on Raw in July to set up SummerSlam. That brawl was one of the best moments on Raw this year. The SSlam match wasn't that great, but Hell in a Cell was awesome.

Rollins had a very good feud with Ambrose just like they did in 2014. Their two big PPV matches at Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank really stood out to me. Plus there was an awesome Raw match in there too. This is a natural rivalry that will be strong whenever it picks up again whether it's in late 2016 or beyond.

There were several great Balor vs. Owens matches this year. I wish there was a bit more depth to the feud, but the matches they produced were top quality.



To be given to the best match. Past winners - 2014: The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield @ Elimination Chamber, 2013: Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk @ SummerSlam, 2012: The Undertaker vs. Triple H (Shawn Michaels as ref) @ WrestleMania 28, 2011: CM Punk vs. John Cena @ Money in the Bank, 2010 winner: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 26, 2009 winner: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 25

Winner: Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins vs. John Cena @ Royal Rumble January 25 (Runners-Up: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks @ NXT Takeover Brooklyn Aug 22, John Cena vs. Kevin Owens @ Elimination Chamber May 31, John Cena vs. Cesaro @ Raw July 6)

It's another very tough category. In the last few weeks, I re-watched the top contenders that are based on my star ratings throughout the year and ended up going with the triple threat match for the WWE Title at the Royal Rumble. When WWE added Rollins to the Lesnar/Cena match I was thrilled because we've seen Lesnar/Cena enough, so adding Rollins to the mix meant that they could throw in some high spots and cool moments. That's exactly what they did as Rollins took out Lesnar with an elbow drop off the top rope through the announce table. Then when Lesnar came back, he was a wrecking machine that went on to finish Rollins to retain the WWE Title. It was a thrilling match from start to finish.

As mentioned earlier, I felt like Bayley vs. Banks at NXT Takeover Brooklyn is the best women's match in WWE history. I liked it even more after I watched it again recently because of how well the crowd bought into everything they were doing it. They ended it on a high note with a crazy reverse hurricanrana spot off the top to really make it memorable. Their Ironman match in October was outstanding as well.

I loved all three Cena vs. Owens matches. The reason Elimination Chamber stands out the most is that Owens beat Cena clean. It was one of those shocking moments that you couldn't really believe. Their match at Money in the Bank may have been even better. I just remember the EC match more.

Since I loved Cena's US Open Challenges so much, I had to acknowledge the match with Cesaro on Raw on July 6. What a classic battle that was. It did so much to legitimize Cesaro as a guy who can thrive in a featured role if he was ever given the opportunity to be a main eventer.

It was a great year for matches in WWE. That's a strength of the company. These matches were the ones that stood out to me the most.



To be given to the best pay-per-view. Past winners - 2014: WrestleMania 30, 2013: SummerSlam, 2012: Extreme Rules, 2011: Money in the Bank, 2010: WrestleMania 26, 2009: Summerslam

Winner: WrestleMania 31 (Runners-Up: Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber)

There wasn't an all-time great PPV event this year, but WrestleMania 31 stood out the most. They filled the show with a lot of great moments that we'll never forget and I don't think there was anything that bad at the event. If we're being picky, we could say that there wasn't a match of the year contender on there. It's true, but that doesn't take away from the enjoyment factor. I liked the ending a lot, The Rock's surprise appearance, that amazing RKO by Orton on Rollins, The Undertaker looking great in a return after a year away, Sting's WrestleMania debut even though it was dumb to have him lose and of course the awesome Lesnar/Reigns main event capped off by Rollins leaving with the WWE Title.

Most of the other PPVs were similar in that they featured two or three matches that hit the three star level or above, yet none of those shows really stood out. I went with HIAC and EC as the runners up due to consistently good matches from top to bottom.



Winner: NXT Takeover Brooklyn Aug. 22 (Runners-Up: NXT Takeover Rival Feb. 11, NXT Takeover London Dec. 16)

I felt like adding a new category under the same guise as best PPV just because NXT Takeover specials have become a regular thing. They aren't the same as traditional PPVs because they are often times an hour shorter, but deserve their own spot.

The Brooklyn show was probably the best NXT event there's ever been with Balor beating Owens in a great ladder match, Bayley finally becoming Women's Champion by defeating Banks in a classic and I thought The Vaudevillains winning the Tag Team Titles was pretty special too.

Every NXT Takeover special is great. They keep it about the wrestling and give their performers time. It's really not that difficult.


sasha banks nxt


To be given to the best female performer. Past winners - 2014: Paige, 2013: AJ Lee, 2012: Eve, 2011: Beth Phoenix, 2010: Natalya, 2009: Mickie James

Winner: Sasha Banks (Runners-Up: Bayley, Nikki Bella)

I know that Nikki Bella had a 301 day Divas Title reign that is an all-time record, but that doesn't mean she was the best female performer. That was Sasha Banks.

Banks really elevated her game in 2015 as the lead heel on the NXT brand. It's funny because even though she played this cocky heel character, fans ended up cheering for her at times because they recognized her greatness. This year she had so many amazing matches with the likes of Bayley, Becky Lynch, Charlotte and a few of the main roster girls although she hasn't had as many opportunities as she should have. Banks has such a bright future that she may be the first repeat winner of this award next year. She has to get a fair shot on the main roster, though.

I've been so impressed by Bayley this year. She went from being a solid in-ring performer for the last couple of years to a woman that became a tremendous all around talent within the last year. The matches have been great especially with Banks, but she also showed she could put on an awesome showing against an inexperienced worker like Nia Jax a few weeks ago as well. I assume she won't be in NXT much longer. Here's hoping she gets a solid push on the main roster although I have my doubts about that.

Nikki Bella deserves praise for improving as an all around performer this year. She didn't have the memorable matches that the other girls had, but she was consistently pretty good all year long. She showed this year that she's more than just a model that was hired for her looks. Good for her.



To be given to the best person at delivering promos. Past winners - 2014: Paul Heyman, 2013: Paul Heyman, 2012: CM Punk, 2011: CM Punk, 2010 winner: CM Punk, 2009 winner: Chris Jericho

Winner: Paul Heyman (Runners-Up: Kevin Owens, Bray Wyatt)

I think Paul Heyman is the clear winner again for the third year in a row. While people could say that he was on less than half the shows this year due to his role as Brock Lesnar's advocate, he's still the best promo guy in the company and I don't think anybody is at his level. He finds way to say things while making them entertaining each time. Do you hear people chant "what?" when he speaks? No. That's because they actually listen to what he's saying because he does such a great job of making it interesting. I think back to all the times where he says stuff that leads to Lesnar laughing because even he's amazed at what Heyman comes up with.

Kevin Owens is likely going to win this award in the future. He just needs more opportunities to talk. If Owens becomes the top heel in the company he'll get a chance to speak a lot more because top heels always get more promo time. From his work in NXT in the first half of the year to making a statement on the main roster in the second half, Owens proved he is a master of the microphone.

Bray Wyatt's a really good promo guy. My complaint is that he has gotten a bit stale in that regard. However, I think back to the build to WrestleMania when Undertaker wasn't on television and he had to do all the promos by himself. That's when he really got to show how skilled he is. Much like Owens, he'll probably win this award in the future.



To be given to the worst rivalry between two or more performers. Formerly known as the Katie Vick award. RIP Katie. Past winners - 2014: Brie Bella vs. Nikki Bella, 2013: Big Show vs. Triple H/Randy Orton, 2012: Kane vs. Zack Ryder/John Cena, 2011: Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler & Jim Ross, 2010 winner: Kane vs. Edge, 2009 winner: Triple H vs. Randy Orton

Winner: Dolph Ziggler/Lana vs. Rusev/Summer Rae (Runners-Up: Stardust vs. Goldust, Damien Sandow vs. The Miz)

What a mess that Ziggler/Lana vs. Rusev/Summer feud became. It was a love rectangle that was a total mess without a real ending because Lana became engaged with Rusev in real life even though she was making out with Ziggler on camera for the storyline. Why would she get photographed with the engagement ring? Another factor in the story was Ziggler being gone for over a month to film a movie, so they had these awkward segments with Lana on her own against the heels and nobody was there to help her. I figured it would lead to Lana costing Ziggler a big match while siding with Rusev, but they couldn't even do that since Lana broke her wrist. What a brutal storyline that did damage to all four performers.

I'm a huge fan of Goldust and Stardust, but their feud sucked. There were rumors of a feud for years, then they pulled the trigger earlier this year, had a match at Fastlane and it bombed. The story was pretty much dropped from there. It could have been so much better.

While I'm a huge fan of Damien Sandow and liked his story with The Miz, the creative team dropped the ball by not giving Sandow a big win to end the feud. They wasted six months of storylines and did nothing when it was over.



To be given to the worst PPV. They wanted us to pay money for this? Past winners - 2014: Tables, Ladders & Chairs (And Stairs), 2013: Battleground, 2012: Hell in a Cell, 2011: Over The Limit

Winner: Royal Rumble (Runner-Up: Fastlane)

Aside from the awesome triple threat match between Lesnar/Cena/Rollins that was my match of the year, the Royal Rumble sucked. The Rumble match itself was poorly booked with stars like Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose getting tossed out rather easily while the fans booed winner Roman Reigns even after he had The Rock out there to help him. I'll never forget The Rock's face when the crowd booed - he was stunned by it. Everything else on the card was forgettable too. I rated the show 4/10 and I think without the amazing MOTY it would have been a 2/10.

To be honest, I don't remember much about Fastlane aside from the awesome Reigns/Bryan match. That match was done to try to legitimize Reigns as a top guy and it worked to some degree. After looking at the results, the rest of the lineup was pretty forgettable with Cena jobbing to Rusev although it wasn't a clean loss.



To be given to the worst match. Past winners - 2014: Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio @ Elimination Chamber, 2013: Santino vs. Heath Slater @ Smackdown Sept 27, 2012: John Cena vs. Michael Cole @ Raw June 4, 2011: Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler @ WrestleMania 27, 2010: Kaitlyn vs. Maxine from NXT3, 2009: Divas battle royal @ WrestleMania 25

Winner: Royal Rumble Match

I was thinking of dumping this category, but when I really think about it the Royal Rumble match was the worst of the year. It should be the most fun match that is the easiest to book, yet WWE has done a poor job with it for a few years now. They booked some great performers so poorly, especially Daniel Bryan, just because they wanted to get him out of the way before Roman Reigns got in there. What a bad decision that was. Then they had all that interference at the end of the match with Kane and Big Show going after Reigns only for The Rock to come out and he was booed for it.

In terms of match ratings, there were several others that were worse than the Rumble match. However, in terms of overall booking and execution, that match stands out above the rest.

new day tag titles


To be given to the two men that function best as a tag team. Past winners - 2014: The Uso, 2013: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns, 2012: Team Hell No (Kane & Daniel Bryan), 2011: Air Boom (Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston), 2010: The Hart Dynasty, 2009: Chris Jericho and The Big Show

Winners: The New Day (Runners-Up: Cesaro & Tyson Kidd)

This one wasn’t that close because The New Day were the best team once they turned heel and were allowed to show the kind of creativity that a heel tag team hasn't had since Edge & Christian about 15 years ago. They're the most entertaining act in the entire company in a lot of ways. Some people may not like the jokes, but I do. In the ring, they are very good as well. I like how they use the numbers game to win matches with Xavier Woods outside the ring while Big E and Kofi Kingston are doing their thing in the ring.

If the Cesaro/Kidd team were together all year then they may have won this award. Sadly, Kidd suffered a severe neck injury in June that required surgery and that ended things. Cesaro also needed surgery for his shoulder late in the year.

The rest of the main roster has some talented teams: The Usos (Jey Uso missing six months after shoulder surgery hurt them), Lucha Dragons (on the rise), Dudley Boyz (good veteran addition), Harper/Rowan (they should team more often), The Ascension and they can probably pair up some guys doing nothing in order to bolster the depth on the show.

There are several very good teams in NXT right now. I think Jason Jordan & Chad Gable are the best of the bunch, but have only been teaming for a few months. The Vaudevillains are ready for the main roster while Enzo & Cass can be one of the most popular teams anywhere.

I think there's potential for the tag team division to be great again.

To read part two of the Johnny Awards, click here right now.

Tags: #thejohnreport #wwe #johnnyawards

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