For the eighth straight year, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories presents its Year End Awards, in which we ask our writers to vote in a number of key categories. We've also included how writers previously voted below each category. And beginning this year, we've added the votes of seven year-old wrestling fan (and member of The Bulldog Bloodline) Roman Zane.
Match Of The Year
Adam Zimmerman: FTR and Ricky Steamboat vs Jay Lethal (as Black Machismo), Brock Anderson, and Nick Aldis. Yeah, yeah... I can already hear the haters but this pick (like all of my picks) comes from somewhat of a different angle than most wrestling fans. I'm always on the lookout for a good wrestling card that I personally will enjoy but I'm not watching Raw every week (I haven't watched a single WWE event for a few years now, to be honest) and I no longer watch AEW as I did when it first started up so my picks are always a little "askew" but I think that's what makes them unique. I'm picking this match because it's the one that I looked forward to watching most this year, it was entertaining and full of nostalgia and, it surpassed what I even thought it could be once it all played out.
The Big Rybowski: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (SummerSlam). Lots of contenders, but I’m giving the nod to Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar 2. I thought their Last Man Standing match was the perfect end to their ongoing feud and delivered on all fronts. So many great moments but the Tractor spot was awesome.
Canadian Bulldog: Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins (Hell In A Cell). Everyone was expecting this match to deliver big time, particularly given their first two big encounters, but no one could have predicted that Cody Rhodes' sudden and gruesome injury would have taken the match to another level. Watching The American Nightmare power through a very painful-looking bicep tear and still putting on a classic match (thanks also to Seth Rollins, who has become the Bret Hart of this generation) showed me that he has the tools to be one of WWE's top stars.
Mike Rickard: Logan Paul vs Roman Reigns (Crown Jewel 2022). Roman Reigns' act is stale as three-month-old bread but Logan Paul showed how great booking, a big venue, and a wrestler with the energy of a nuclear reactor can make all the difference in the world.
Roman Zane: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (SummerSlam). That match was awesome! Brock lifted up the ring with a tractor! So cool!
Previous Match Of The Year Winners
Male Wrestler Of The Year
Adam Zimmerman: Ricky Morton. I'm choosing Ricky here because he's been very active in tagging with and guiding his son, Kerry Morton, in the NWA and he's also been doing a Rock n' Roll Express "retirement tour" with his longtime partner, Robert Gibson. Obviously, Morton isn't headlining Wrestlemania or getting World title shots but he was always a favorite of mine when I was younger (my sister and I used to pretend to be the R n R Express... she had to be Robert Gibson and we called her "Pooty Gibson." I imagine the origin of that name came from her farting during some sort of wrestling hold), he's still very active and, he can still go in the ring. You'll even still catch him doing a suicide dive through the ropes every so often.
The Big Rybowski: Roman Reigns. It’s not even close. I am going to call out all my fellow Year End contributors who aren’t going in the same direction. Reigns has solidified himself as a bonafide Superstar who can sell a main event. I couldn’t imagine the landscape of the WWE this past year without the Tribal Chief sitting atop the throne.
Canadian Bulldog: Roman Reigns. For the third straight year, I'm picking The Head Of The Table (and not because Rybowski called us out). You'd probably have to go back to the heyday of Stone Cold Steve Austin to find someone who has been as consistently entertaining and thoroughly dominant at the same time. And instead of letting his standing reputation do the heavy lifting this year, Reigns' support from The Bloodline has made the whole act even better in 2022.
Mike Rickard: Jon Moxley. AEW had a rough 2022, but Jon Moxley helped carry it out on his back, working fantastic matches, cutting killer promos, and showing true leadership.
Roman Zane: Roman Reigns. He won both of the titles this year and he is my favorite.
Previous Male Wrestler Of The Year Winners
Female Wrestler Of The Year
Adam Zimmerman: Max The Impaler. Let me see how to put this best... although Max identifies as the "Non-Binary Nightmare," I'm almost certain that at birth they were classified as female and they mostly wrestle women (aside from a few exceptions) and every championship that they've ever won on the indy scene has been a women's championship so, I'm putting them in this category. Max has been running roughshod over the women's division in the NWA this year and, as a fan of the Fallout series of video games, I love that they dress like a "raider" and bill themselves as being from "The Wasteland."
The Big Rybowski: Mandy Rose. I really wanted to give this award to Bianca Belair because I think she is such a great talent in the ring, but I never felt like she was involved in a particularly interesting program this year. Instead I’ll give the honour to Mandy Rose. Although NXT didn’t have the strongest year, what Mandy Rose was able to do as the face of the woman’s division was great. She really built on her character (and Toxic Attraction as a whole) throughout the year and delivered some really good matches, as well.
Canadian Bulldog: Bianca Belair. I also voted for Bianca last year, but I think her accomplishments this year keep her in the conversation. Winning the Elimination Chamber, battling Becky Lynch at WrestleMania, and her subsequent feud with the newly-formed Damage Ctrl made for exciting moments in 2022. I really do believe WWE could build to a Belair-Ronda Rousey feud in 2023 and there would be a ton of interest.
Mike Rickard: Bianca Belair. She really is "The -EST" and may have this category locked down for years. Belair has a unique look, great promos, and an undeniable ability to work well with any opponent.
Roman Zane: Bianca Belair. She is flexible and she has a winning streak against Becky Lynch.
Previous Female Wrestler Of The Year Winners
Non-Wrestler Of The Year
Adam Zimmerman: Brian Last. I almost always pick Jim Cornette for this category because I enjoy his two podcasts (the Experience and the Drive-Thru) more than any others but I figured, why not show his co-host some love this year because he is so much better than his contemporaries in the field. Conrad Thompson annoys me to no end and James Romero (Story Time With Dutch Mantell/Wrestling Shoot Interviews) is okay but nobody can touch Brian Last as far as professionalism and actually being entertaining/funny goes.
The Big Rybowski: Vince McMahon. Vince McMahon was easily the most intriguing figure outside of the ring this year, even though it wasn’t for the right reasons.
Canadian Bulldog: Triple H. Considering how hated Triple H was just a few short years ago among Internet fans, it's amazing that he has come full-circle, becoming not only a fan friendly booker, but also bringing back numerous talents who had been let go by WWE in the previous regime. I'm legitimately excited to continue watching as the Triple H era continues.
Mike Rickard: Excalibur. Yes, he looks like a complete goof in his mask but Excalibur knows how to inform fans what's going on in the ring and he breaks complex moves down so fans can understand why they work (at least in the illusionary world of pro wrestling).
Roman Zane: Paul Heyman. I liked how he helped Roman Reigns and The Bloodline.
Previous Non-Wrestler Of The Year Winners
Rivalry Of The Year
The Big Rybowski: Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar. The delivered two excellent matches on the two biggest PPVs of the year and drove the main WWE storyline for the entire first half of the year. Both guys were stronger by working together. Reigns solidified himself as the Top Dog by defeating Brock twice and this feud also gave us Cowboy Brock. The whole Paul Heyman factor in this feud was just the icing on the cake.
Canadian Bulldog: CM Punk vs. MJF. I could have pitted either of these guys against "AEW" as a whole, but I wanted to stay closer to the world of kayfabe. Regardless of how both these guys interacted with management behind the scenes, their feud was just about perfect. While the trash talk between these two began in late 2021, it led to some tremendous matches on TV and PPV, including a brutal Dog Collar match. While it's unlikely these two will resume their feud in 2023, not many people would be complaining if they did.
Mike Rickard: Cody Rhodes vs Seth Rollins: The WWE broke one of the cardinal rules of feuds (or rivalries as they like to call them), having an opponent beat his opponent in every match. Nevertheless, every match seemed more intense than the previous one. Fantastic work on the stick and amazing in-ring action.
Roman Zane: Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar. Both guys were great and I really like both of them.
Previous Rivalry Of The Year Winners
Event Of The Year
Adam Zimmerman: Return Of The Dragon. Again, just like with my match of the year pick, I'm going with this just based on it being the event I looked forward to watching most, and it turning out to be an entertaining show. Aside from the main event; other standout matches included Kerry Morton vs Brian Pillman Jr. for the NWA Jr Heavyweight title and another clash between the Rock n' Roll Express and the Briscoe Brothers. By the way, has anyone noticed the price of eggs lately? I don't know about everywhere else but it's skyrocketed around here. I'd bet Dem Boys make more money by being chicken farmers than they do by wrestling at this point.
The Big Rybowski: WrestleMania 38. The biggest event of the year delivered in spades this year. I loved Wrestlemania because it had a bit of everything. So many great moments from the return of Cody, surprisingly strong performances by Pat McAfee and Logan Paul, a classic matches between Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair and Edge and AJ Styles, and Stone Cold Steve Austin opening a can of whoop ass for the first time in way too long. The main event living up to the hype just reaffirmed this as the event of the year.
Canadian Bulldog: WrestleMania 38. For several years, WrestleMania lost a lot of its lustre and became a really, really long show to sit throw. This year's was the first that I enjoyed both nights for much the entire time. You had solid performances from Bianca Belair, Becky Lynch, Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and so many others. On the other end of the spectrum, Sami Zayn took what should have a terrible match with Johnny Knoxville and turned it into a career performance. And of course, the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin battling Kevin Owens was an all-time WrestleMania Moment for me.
Mike Rickard: Forbidden Door. It was a major event and a good example of how two promotions can work together without lopsided matches. The only downside was the injuries that kept some big matches from happening.
Roman Zane: WrestleMania 38. I liked the main event between Roman and Brock, and I really liked when Logan Paul wore the rarest Pokemon card ever around his neck.
Previous Event Of The Year Winners
Promotion Of The Year
Adam Zimmerman: NWA. I usually nominate the NWA for this but they've had a little bit of a rough year. There's been some missteps and some mistakes but there's always something on their programs that entertains me so, I still gotta go with them. I just hope they improve the product and get even better in the coming year.
The Big Rybowski: WWE.
Canadian Bulldog: WWE. It's amazing how much difference a year has made as at the end of 2021, everyone felt AEW was turning a corner. Don't get me wrong; they are still fun to watch and have some great performers on hand, but a combination of missteps and bad luck on their part, paired with WWE's wholesale rehabilitation under the Stephanie McMahon/Nick Khan/Triple H regime, has put WWE back on top by a wide margin.
Mike Rickard: AEW. AEW really came through the fire this year, dealing with some backstage B.S. that comes with growing pains and Tony Khan finally doing what he had to do. In the meantime, the promotion continued putting on fantastic pay-per-views and doing the unthinkable: The Forbidden Door show.
Roman Zane: WWE. WWE is the only one I watch (although I kinda watched NXT, too).
Previous Promotion Of The Year Winners
Team Of The Year
Beginning with 2022, we are allowing trios and factions to be considered, in addition to traditional tag teams.
Adam Zimmerman: The Briscoe Brothers. These two half-crazed chicken farmers from Delaware had some great matches in the NWA, ROH, and all across the indy scene over the past year. Every time I see them on a card; I know it's worth watching. They even had a great match against The Rock n' Roll Express at the Return Of The Dragon event which ended with Jay Briscoe getting a chair smashed and then stuck over his head. That puts them at 2-2 against Ricky and Robert so I really hope these two teams can have at least one more match with each other before the R n R call it quits for good.
The Big Rybowski: The Bloodline. Now that this category has expanded to include factions, is there any other choice aside from the Bloodline? This group continues to do amazing work as the top guys in the company. The Sami Zayn stuff has been great (Zayn/Jey Uso was a close runner-up for feud of the year) and the addition of Solo Sikoa was perfect.
Canadian Bulldog: The Bloodline. I have to agree my brother Rybowski here (maybe we're beginning our own Bloodline?). You'd have to look back to the original nWo to find a group that has been this dominant and good at what they do. While I doubted the addition of Sami Zayn at first, his involvement has legitimately become one of the best parts of WWE programming in 2022.
Mike Rickard: Death Triangle. The Lucha Brothers and PAC have shown just how exciting Trios matches can be and hopefully 2023 will be even better.
Roman Zane: The Usos. They work really well together.
Previous Team Of The Year Winners
Wrestling Merchandise and Memories Article Of The Year
Adam Zimmerman: Hulk Hogan Refuses To Put Sick Child Over In Heaven. This was a classic article that got reprinted/republished this year but I love to laugh and nothing made me laugh harder than the short but sweet parody article about Hulk Hogan not wanting to put over a Make A Wish kid even after they meet up again in Heaven, someday. That was so wrong but so funny!
Canadian Bulldog: It's hard picking your favorite child on a website that has produced so much great content this past year... but I have to pick the Wrestling Figure Database. I began working on this project in the summer of 2021 and debuted it in February of 2022 constantly updating the content to the point where there are nearly 1,000 wrestling figures listed.
Mike Rickard: It's hard to pick any one but I have to send a shout out to The Grappling Gamer for continuing to produce some excellent articles and show a continued improvement in his writing.
Roman Zane: New Day Pops ("It's just a stinky piece of ice.")
Previous Article Of The Year Winners
Thank you so much for reading Wrestling Merchandise and Memories this year!
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