Men's Wrestler of the Year
First things first-This is based off solely personal criteria on what I saw from this wrestler in the ring, in their promo work, and gauge of fan excitement for the various storylines they were involved in throughout the calendar year. As always, this is a subjective award, and I invite you to agree or disagree in the comments below or on our various social media platforms. With that, let’s dive in.
My WOTY award goes to Finn Balor and I’ll explain my reasoning here. I can’t recall too many wrestlers with roller coaster booking like we saw with Finn since his NXT debut in 2014. First Universal Champion within two months of his main roster call-up, only to have those dreams dashed after a shoulder injury in the very match he won the title. In the subsequent years since his return from the injury, it was apparent that “the office” was never fully behind him. Mind you, when I say “the office” I refer to Vince McMahon. Shortly before the pandemic-2019. Finn gets his long-awaited wish to be sent back to NXT. It was there that Finn got his groove back. He became comfortable in his character, which I’m certain had something to do with Triple H being in charge of it; It’s been well documented Tiple H is high on Finn. Then comes the pandemic, and the ThunderDome era of NXT. Finn continued to carry the mantle for the company and eventually passed the baton to Karrion Kross in his final NXT match in April 2021 for a return to the main roster as WWE prepared for a summer with a live audience once again.
One month back on the main roster proved somewhat successful at first. Getting ousted in a contract signing by Baron Corbin, and then, in the same segment, having John Cena insert himself into the title match for Summerslam was a head scratching story decision, but nonetheless one month later, he found himself in a brief WWE title feud with Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules. After that, Finn found himself in the same middling storylines like before 2019’s NXT return. Then, comes the Judgment Day.
June 6, 2022. This is when Finn had an important turning point in his character and in his perception as a pivotal piece of the roster in WWE. There was much maligned about the turn itself, however once they got through it Finn was provided the flexibility to do something on the main roster he had been unafforded until that time-take risks.
In his 6 months with Judgment Day, He experimented with a different personality that we’ve been accustomed to seeing from him. It was foreign at first, almost uncomfortable, but eventually you bought in. I see this as a credit to the confidence he has in himself as a performer and I believe the rest of the group used that as a foundation for their own developments as characters within the group. Finn has had increasingly central storylines on Raw with Rey Mysterio, Dominik(before he joined the Judgment Day), AJ Styles, Bullet Club OG’s Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, Edge, and Seth “Freakin’” Rollins. I included Edge already, but it is worth noting that this rivalry likely will see an epic conclusion at Royal Rumble in 2023, with many speculating it will take place within a Hell in a Cell.
You might be reading this and thinking “Is this guy out of his mind?! There’s plenty of wrestlers to had better years!” You might be right, but remember this is a personal award, and for my money I didn’t see anyone touch the level of Balor, even in 6 months of him being associated with Judgment Day. He (and the rest of the group) have elevated themselves into a centerpiece of Raw’s stories week to week, without the need for any of them to hold a championship. We could chalk this up to the biggest shakeup in pro wrestling history with Vince McMahon stepping down and Triple H/Stephanie taking over, but that also devalues the work Finn had to do with the creative he was given. You still need to execute or even the best material will fall flat. This is a Finn who found his footing for the first time on the main roster. I’m happy for the former Bullet Club founder, and I’m excited for what’s to come for The Prince.
That’s all I got to say about that, keep struttin’ jabronis. Sound off below, don’t forget to check your feeds and subscribe for new episode of the podcast coming your way soon.