Welcome to the 2023 WWE Johnny Awards. They are the awards where I honor the hard-working men and women of World Wrestling Entertainment based on their work over the last year.
These are the very “prestigious” awards that I call the 15TH ANNUAL WWE Johnny Awards!
A few notes that I post every year before the Johnny Awards begin:
– 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 All Elite Wrestling, New Japan, Ring of Honor, Impact or anything else in here. It’s WWE only! Why? Because I started doing these awards in 2009 and I don’t want to change.
– These awards are based on my 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 everybody reading this to agree with everything I write below, but I will do my best to explain all my choices. The awards are based on performance. It doesn’t necessarily matter if a person wins all their matches on television and titles aren’t that important. It’s about performance more than anything.
– Regarding NXT, WWE’s third brand is included in every award as well. The NXT brand is an important part of the company and I’m not going to ignore it. Anything that is WWE is considered for these awards. There have been NXT matches, wrestlers, feuds, etc. that have won awards in the past.
– Another thing to remember is I try to have fun when I write about wrestling. I don’t take it too seriously and I don’t take myself too seriously. If you disagree with something that’s cool. Please be respectful if you give me any feedback just like you would expect from me and don’t be shy about offering your take.
If you want to check out the previous year’s editions of these awards, just search “WWE Johnny Awards” with the year and you should find it easily.
I’ve used a similar intro for several years. I do that because it covers everything I need to say. I’ll write more words for the bigger awards and be more concise for some of the others.
THE 2023 WWE JOHNNY AWARDS
Each award will have a description of what the award is, the previous winners of the award (if the award existed in the past), the winner of the award, the runners-up for the award, and then my extended thoughts on the award.
1. BEST MALE WRESTLER
To be given to the person that best combines workrate, character, promos and everything else into one. This is like WWE’s Superstar of the Year award when they did the Slammy Awards. Past winners – 2022: Roman Reigns, 2021: Roman Reigns 2020: Drew McIntyre, 2019: Daniel Bryan, 2018: Johnny Gargano, 2017: AJ Styles, 2016: AJ Styles, 2015: Seth Rollins, 2014: Seth Rollins, 2013: Daniel Bryan, 2012: CM Punk, 2011: CM Punk, 2010: Randy Orton, 2009: Chris Jericho
Winner: Cody Rhodes (Runners-Up: GUNTHER, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Sami Zayn, Jey Uso, Drew McIntyre, Dominik Mysterio, Carmelo Hayes, Ilja Dragunov)
I’ll be perfectly honest with you when I say that I wrote this award last out of everything in this column. That’s because I have had a tough time picking one person to win this award. As you can see there, I went with Cody Rhodes as the winner in a tough call over GUNTHER and Rollins.
When it comes to Cody, he made a step up to that top level this year as the Royal Rumble winner who main evented WrestleMania for the first time ever. Cody didn’t win the Undisputed WWE Universal Title from Roman Reigns, but he proved that he belonged in that spotlight. Losing a match like that might hurt a guy, yet in Cody’s case here we are eight months later and I think the guy is more popular than ever. Cody is relatable to lifelong fans who are 30s and 40s now, he’s a role model for the kids who sing his song and I think he’s performing as well as he ever has. The feuds with Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar were great while the rest of the year he was busy with others like The Judgment Day leading into WarGames. I think the focus remains on getting that WWE Championship and I hope it happens at WrestleMania 40. When it comes to having star power, being a top draw, a good guy that’s easy to like, being somebody who has some of the best matches in the company, a strong promo guy and everything else, it’s fair to say Cody is the total package when it comes to being a WWE superstar in 2023.
GUNTHER might be the best overall wrestler in WWE right now in terms of in-ring performance. The fact that Gunther never lost a match this year certainly helps his status as Intercontinental Champion. When you think about the match quality he has, I think he probably has the best average star rating if you look at my reviews. That’s why he is near the top of this list. I was amazed by him this year from his incredible run in the Royal Rumble to all the title matches against the likes of Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Chad Gable, The Miz and so many others. Sometimes they left him off PLE shows, which I don’t like, so I hope he’s part of more PLE events next year. I’m not sure when Gunther will lose the IC Title or to whom, but I know he’s going to be a featured major player in the years ahead. I look forward to seeing him get an even bigger push moving forward.
Seth Rollins was once again a top guy in WWE that was a leader on the Raw brand just like Cody and Gunther. I thought that Rollins had a better year as a babyface than he did in years like 2019 when he was also a face, but the character wasn’t as interesting. This year, they did a better job of pushing him as a fighting babyface champion who is trying to overcome a serious back injury to keep his title. It makes him more likable because of how willing he is to put his body on the line to keep his title. The match quality is among the best in WWE, the promos are strong and he’s in the prime of his career just like Cody & GUNTHER are. They are three guys who I really enjoy watching.
The Roman Reigns part is tough to write because he only wrestled 7 televised matches this year (11 total). That’s not a lot. However, you can also say that every match he had mattered quite a bit because as I wrote throughout these awards, those moments involving Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Cody Rhodes, The Usos, LA Knight and everybody else elevated those guys. Sami hitting Reigns with a chair mattered because it was Reigns. Jey and Jimmy destroying Roman mattered because of who it was. That’s why Roman is still a top contender for this award, but I just can’t give it to him with so few matches on television this year.
I also want to give a lot of praise to Jey Uso, Sami Zayn, Drew McIntyre, Dominik Mysterio, Carmelo Hayes & Ilja Dragunov as some of the best wrestlers this year too. They were all consistently great in their roles this year.
If I had to pick one person to be WWE Superstar of the Year it would be Cody Rhodes.
2. BEST FEMALE WRESTLER
To be given to the best female performer.Past winners – 2023: Bianca Belair, 2022: Bianca Belair, 2021: Bianca Belair, 2020: Sasha Banks, 2019: Becky Lynch, 2018: Becky Lynch, 2017: Asuka, 2016: Charlotte, 2015: Sasha Banks, 2014: Paige, 2013: AJ Lee, 2012: Eve, 2011: Beth Phoenix, 2010: Natalya, 2009: Mickie James
Winner: Rhea Ripley (Runners-Up: Becky Lynch, IYO SKY, Bianca Belair, Charlotte Flair, Bayley, Tiffany Stratton)
Rhea Ripley was the choice this year and some people may think it was an easy choice, but Becky Lynch had an incredible year too.
In Ripley’s case, she was so impressive in the Royal Rumble and then had the best women’s match of the year with Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 39. In addition to that, The Judgment Day was featured heavily on television all year long with promos, segments and matches with Ripley at the center of it all. She really elevated her game a lot this year. Something that Ripley was missing this year was an epic rivalry. The match with Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 39 was amazing, but it was just a match and then they went their separate ways. I hope that happens for her in 2024. It’s probably going to happen with Lynch since they were kept apart for this year because I assume a date at WrestleMania 40 is the plan. What sets Ripley apart is her believability factor. If she says she is going to destroy somebody, it’s easy to believe it because she looks like a badass. She’s also great at selling moves and telling a story in a match. There are no holes in her game.
As for Lynch, I thought she had an excellent year that may have been the best year of her career other than 2019. Lynch did a lot without competing for the main Women’s World Title on Raw. Lynch was part of the tag team story with Lita, then a lengthy feud with Trish Stratus ending with that awesome Steel Cage match at Payback. Lynch also elevated the NXT Women’s Tile with a reign that only lasted a month and a half, but it certainly gave NXT more of a spotlight. Becky is awesome all around with great promos and it’s five years into this babyface run with no signs of slowing down. The people love her.
It was cool to see IYO SKY as the Women’s Money in the Bank winner and WWE Women’s Champion for the second half of the year. Sky is so talented in a deep division, but she’s more than held her own.
Bianca Belair won this award in the last two years. She is still awesome, but she took a few months off and also wasn’t featured as much. I don’t know if they will ever turn her heel since she’s so good as a face.
Charlotte Flair is better as a heel, but the fans did respond to her well as a face for most of the year. That match with Ripley at WrestleMania is an all-time classic. Sadly, her major knee injury suffered earlier this month will keep her out most of 2024, so I look forward to her comeback.
I wanted to mention Bayley just as the glue of the women’s division and her consistency as a performer. Perhaps 2024 will be the year she turns babyface again after Damage CTRL turns on her. It’s certainly been teased, so I’m interested to see how Bayley does if that change happens.
Tiffany Stratton deserves to be mentioned because she had a terrific year. Stratton was the star of the NXT women’s division while also holding her own with Becky Lynch. That match they had at NXT No Mercy was outstanding and told people that Stratton is more than just a pretty face.
3. BEST FEUD
To be given to the best rivalry between two or more performers. Past winners – 2022: Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins, 2021: Edge vs. Seth Rollins, 2020: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, 2019: Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano, 2018: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano,2017: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman, 2016: AJ Styles vs. John Cena, 2015: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks, 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:The Bloodline Led By Roman Reigns vs. Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens & Jey Uso (Runners-Up: Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar, Ilja Dragunov vs. Carmelo Hayes)
I may be cheating myself a bit with how I named the winner, but I think the story from January to SummerSlam in August with Roman Reigns against his rivals was the best of the year. That moment at the Royal Rumble when Zayn hit Reigns in the back with the chair was epic because Zayn refused to take the chair to his best friend Owens. Zayn got his ass kicked moments later, but Jey Uso refused to join in and that set the wheels in motion. Zayn eventually got on the same page with Kevin Owens again while Jey remained loyal to The Bloodline. Post-WrestleMania, Zayn & Owens beat Reigns & Solo Sikoa to keep the Tag Team Titles while The Usos also went against Reigns & Solo, which was an epic moment. That led to an awesome tag team match at Money in the Bank with The Usos beating Reigns & Solo as Jey got the big win over Reigns. Roman ended up beating Jey at SummerSlam due to Jimmy turning on his brother to cost Jey, which should set up Jey against Jimmy at WrestleMania next year.
What I covered above took place over eight months. That’s the longest story of the year. You may not like Reigns due to working a reduced schedule, but the man has talked about elevating others and that’s what he did this year. Guys like Zayn and Jey especially are bigger stars than ever because they’re great performers, but being part of an epic, all-time great storyline like this has certainly helped them a lot.
That Cody Rhodes-Brock Lesnar rivalry elevated Cody after the tough loss that Cody suffered at WrestleMania. They had three matches over four months and Lesnar putting over Cody huge in the SummerSlam match really meant a lot for Cody.
Carmelo Hayes had a good rivalry with Bron Breakker in NXT, but the story with Ilja Dragunov produced some outstanding matches. I enjoyed their interactions a lot.
Some others worth mentioning would be Becky Lynch/Trish Stratus, The Judgment Day vs. the many babyfaces on Raw (Cody, Sami, Jey, Owens when he was there, etc.) and I really liked GUNTHER/Chad Gable too even though it was a TV feud rather than a PLE feud.
4. BEST MATCH
To be given to the best match. Past winners – 2022: Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins in a Hell in a Cell match @ Hell in a Cell, 2021: Ilya Dragunov vs. WALTER @ NXT Takeover 36, 2020: WALTER vs. Ilya Dragunov @ NXT UK October 29, 2019: Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole @ NXT Takeover New York, 2018:Unsanctioned Match: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa @ NXT Takeover New Orleans, 2017: John Cena vs. AJ Styles @ Royal Rumble, 2016: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn @ NXT Takeover Dallas, 2015: Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins vs. John Cena @ Royal Rumble, 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: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 26, 2009: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 25
Winner: Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens vs. The Usos @ WrestleMania 39 (Runner-Up: GUNTHER vs. Sheamus vs. Drew McIntyre @ WrestleMania 39, Ilja Dragunov vs. Carmelo Hayes @ NXT No Mercy)
If you look at the listings above, you can see that in 15 years, I only picked one other tag team match as the best of the year. Believe me, I’m not anti tag team wrestling. Several of them have been close. However, this year’s winner was truly one of the best tag team matches I’ve ever seen so the Johnny Award for best match goes to Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens beating The Usos in the main event of WrestleMania 39 Saturday. Picking a winner was tough. However, the story of the tag team match really added to the moment and the match, so that’s why it beat the other two options.
That Zayn/Owens match with The Usos was the culmination of a very long storyline that took months to develop. We knew months earlier that the match was coming, but we had to wait for the story to develop with Zayn turning face, Owens trusting Zayn again and Jey remaining loyal to his brother Jimmy. They went on to have an emotional battle with so many great moments. When I rewatched it, I paid close attention to the fans reacting to everything. They were so into the story. To see Zayn & Owens come back after getting their asses kicked was tremendous and seeing them win the titles to end the longest Tag Team Title reign ever was an all-time great moment. It was one of the best non-gimmick tag team matches in WWE history.
The GUNTHER-Sheamus-Drew McIntyre match at WrestleMania 39 was also outstanding. It wasn’t as long as the tag team match mentioned above, but it was hard hitting, full of action and had plenty of close moments where it looked like anybody could win. Gunther ended up getting the pinfall, but all three guys should be so proud of it.
As for Dragunov/Hayes at NXT No Mercy, they topped the first match they had and delivered an absolute classic. It was the best match in NXT in over two years since the “new era” started. It reminded me of those Gargano/Ciampa/Cole style matches we got in the late 2010s.
The three matches mentioned above are the three that I rated at five stars this year. Several more matches got over four stars and up to four and a half stars. Shoutout to some of those matches: Ripley/Flair at WrestleMania 39, Reigns/Zayn at Elimination Chamber, Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match, Reigns/Rhodes at WrestleMania 39, Rollins/Styles at Night of Champions, Gunther/Gable on Raw, Lynch/Stratus at Payback, The Usos vs. Reigns/Solo at Money in the Bank, Priest/Bad Bunny at Backlash, Rollins/Zayn on Raw, Rollins/Jey Uso on Raw, and probably others I’m forgetting.
I mention all the time that we are spoiled by great matches in this era. This year was probably the best year of in-ring action in WWE history. I think the booking of Triple H is a big reason why. He sees pro wrestling differently than Vince McMahon in a lot of ways and it’s giving us more awesome matches consistently. Kudos to the talent for spoiling us.
5. BEST PREMIUM LIVE EVENT (PAY-PER-VIEW)
To be given to the best WWE Premium Live Event aka pay-per-view.Past winners – 2022: Clash at the Castle, 2021: Money in the Bank, 2020: Royal Rumble, 2019: WrestleMania 35, 2018: Evolution, 2017: Royal Rumble, 2016: Money in the Bank, 2015: WrestleMania 31, 2014: WrestleMania 30, 2013: SummerSlam 2012: Extreme Rules, 2011: Money in the Bank, 2010: WrestleMania 26, 2009: SummerSlam
Winner: WrestleMania 39 (Runners-Up: Elimination Chamber, Survivor Series)
I think this was the best year in WWE PLE/PPV history in terms of the quality of the major shows that we got. I have been doing this for 15 years (and even longer when it wasn’t a full-time thing) and there has never been a year like this in terms of so many great PPV shows.
WrestleMania 39 is one of the greatest WM’s ever due to the match quality, memorable moments and just how fun it was overall. The top matches like Zayn/Owens v Usos, Reigns/Cody, Ripley/Flair, Gunther/Sheamus/McIntyre, Rollins/Paul and others were among the best of the year. It’s really an all-time great WrestleMania. WrestleMania Saturday was better than Sunday, but both of them were really outstanding.
I thought Elimination Chamber in Montreal and Backlash in San Juan, Puerto Rico had two of the best WWE crowds I’ve ever heard in 35+ years of watching this stuff. That helped both of those shows, but there were also plenty of great matches too.
Here’s how I ranked the six shows with a rating of 8 out of 10 or above and you can click on the links to read the reviews.
WrestleMania 39 – 8.75
Elimination Chamber – 8.25
Survivor Series – 8.25
Backlash – 8
SummerSlam – 8
What a great year for PLE shows. And they are cheap to watch too. We are spoiled wrestling fans, my friends.
6. BEST NXT PREMIUM LIVE EVENT (FKA TAKEOVER)
To be given to the best NXT Takeover special. Past winners – 2023: Stand & Deliver, 2022: Stand & Deliver, 2021: NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver, 2020: NXT Takeover Portland, 2019: NXT Takeover New York, 2018: NXT Takeover New Orleans, 2017: NXT Takeover Chicago, 2016: NXT Takeover Dallas, 2015: NXT Takeover Brooklyn
Winner: No Mercy (Runner-Up: Stand & Deliver)
There were six NXT PLE’s (I miss the Takeover name) in 2023. They did them every two months, which was a good idea because that’s not overdoing it.
No Mercy was an easy winner thanks to the five-star Dragunov/Hayes match and Lynch/Stratton was incredible too. The other matches were all good to great. Maybe I should have gone 8.5 out of 10 instead of 9, but I think that 9 is fair. The other NXT PLE’s were fine as you can see below, but No Mercy was the obvious winner.
No Mercy (September 30) – 9
Stand & Deliver (April 1) – 7.75
Vengeance (February 4) – 7.25
Battleground (May 28) – 7.25
Deadline (December 9) – 7
Great American Bash (July 30) – 7
A solid year for sure for the NXT brand. It’s not at the level of 2015-2019 NXT Takeover shows, but it’s better than the two years before it.
7. BEST TALKER/PROMOS
To be given to the best person at delivering promos.Past winners – 2022: Kevin Owens, 2021: Sami Zayn, 2020: Kevin Owens, 2019: Daniel Bryan, 2018: The Miz, 2017: The Miz, 2016: Chris Jericho, 2015: Paul Heyman, 2014: Paul Heyman, 2013: Paul Heyman, 2012: CM Punk, 2011: CM Punk, 2010: CM Punk, 2009: Chris Jericho
Winner: LA Knight (Runners-up: Becky Lynch, Cody Rhodes, Paul Heyman, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins)
This is another tough category because there are a lot of people I could pick. When I think about LA Knight’s rise in WWE this year, it’s because of his promo ability and his charisma. While Knight is a solid in-ring performer who has some good matches, it’s not like he’s blowing people away with his matches. It’s his promo ability and charisma that won over the fans. They love chanting “YEAH” during his matches/promos, they love saying “LA Knight” when he sets them up for it and they enjoy that “Let Me Talk To Ya” line to start promos too. I was also impressed by Knight’s promos with top guys like Roman Reigns, John Cena & Randy Orton as Knight proved that he is where he belongs at the top of the card.
The others mentioned are all veterans who deliver terrific promos every time they get a chance. Becky Lynch is beloved partly because of her promos that put over her fighting spirit.
Cody Rhodes is a more cerebral talker who sounds like he’s taking his time before he says anything. During the run-up to WrestleMania, Cody had some memorable promos.
Paul Heyman is an all-time great talker. We all know that.
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens have both won this award in the past. I enjoy their promos a lot and it was more of the same this year.
Seth Rollins probably gets more promo time than anybody in WWE. I think he’s come a long way in the last decade as a talker.
8. WORST FEUD
To be given to the worst rivalry between two or more performers. Formerly known as the Katie Vick award. RIP Katie. Past winners – 2022: Everybody that feuded over the 24/7 Title, 2021: Randy Orton vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt & Alexa Bliss, 2020: The Miz vs. Otis, 2019: Shane McMahon vs. The Miz, 2018: Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn, 2017: Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt, 2016: Darren Young vs. Titus O’Neil, 2015: Dolph Ziggler/Lana vs. Rusev/Summer Rae, 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: Bobby Lashley vs. Brock Lesnar (Runners-Up: Bianca Belair vs. Alexa Bliss)
This one pains me to write because I am a huge fan of Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley. However, this was booked poorly. They had their third and final match at the WWE Elimination Chamber in PLE. There was a Bray Wyatt promo about how he was going to face the winner, so rather than book a decisive winner, they had a match that went 4:45 with a disqualification finish to give Lashley the win. Lesnar beat up Lashley and referee Chad Patton after the match even though Brock was the face. It was a weird situation while putting an end to an anticipated rivalry in a disappointing way. I don’t blame the performers. The booking was just weird. I know that it was done that way to set up Lashley against Wyatt, which didn’t actually happen, but I just think it could have been booked better.
That Bianca Belair rivalry with Alexa Bliss felt off leading to a match at the Royal Rumble. Bliss turned heel going into it, Belair got the win and we never saw Bliss again because she got pregnant. Bliss gave birth to her daughter recently.
I didn’t include Bray Wyatt and LA Knight out of respect for Bray. Plus, that feud at least elevated LA Knight because it got him more screen time and he took off from there.
9. WORST PREMIUM LIVE EVENT (PAY-PER-VIEW)
To be given to the worst PPV. They wanted us to pay money for this?Past winners – 2022: Royal Rumble, 2021: Fastlane, 2020: Super Showdown, 2019: Super Showdown, 2018: Crown Jewel, 2017: Battleground,2016: Fastlane, 2015: Royal Rumble, 2014: Tables, Ladders & Chairs (And Stairs), 2013: Battleground, 2012: Hell in a Cell, 2011: Over The Limit
Winner: Payback (Runner-Up: Fastlane)
This might be the last year for this award because the quality of WWE PLE shows has improved so much with Triple H booking the shows. The fact that the “worst” PLE of the year was a 7.25 out of 10 show from me shows that it was still a very good show for the most part. Anyway, here are the bottom four PLE’s this year.
Payback – 7.25
Fastlane – 7.25
Crown Jewel – 7.5
Royal Rumble – 7.5
It wasn’t a bad year for PLE’s at all.
10. BEST TAG TEAM
To be given to the two men that function best as a tag team. Past winners – 2022: The Usos – Jimmy & Jey Uso, 2021: The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso), 2020: The Street Profits (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins), 2019: The Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish, 2018: The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro), 2017: The Usos, 2016:The New Day, 2015: The New Day, 2014: The Usos, 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: Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens (Runners-Up: The Usos, Finn Balor & Damian Priest, The Street Profits)
It’s rare to not have The Usos win this since they dominated this award the previous two years, but I think Sami & Kevin deserve it the most. As I mentioned in the Best Match award, the story of Sami & Kevin becoming a team that trusted eachother again was masterfully told and it paid off with the big title win at WrestleMania 39. Zayn & Owens held the titles for 154 days, which is about five months before losing to The Judgment Day. Zayn & Owens were a lot of fun to watch. It would be cool to see them as champions again in the future, but it doesn’t appear to be something that we might see again in 2024 just based on where they are now.
Due to The Usos splitting up in the summer, it was hard to give this award to them. However, if you think about their year, that WM39 match with Zayn/Owens and the epic Money in the Bank main event beating Roman Reigns & Solo Sikoa were two incredible moments for the brothers. Now it looks like Jimmy & Jey are on the path to becoming WrestleMania opponents, which should be awesome to see at WM40.
Finn Balor & Damian Priest are the current Tag Team Champions as I write this. They have some cheap wins, but also decisive wins too.
The Street Profits are still a very good tag team. They just weren’t pushed into the title picture for most of the year. I like their pairing with Bobby Lashley on Smackdown and hope it leads to success for all of them in the new year.
11. THE “NEXT BIG THING” AWARD
To be given to the wrestler who is most likely to be the “next big thing” in the new year.Past winners – 2022: Logan Paul, 2021: Bron Breakker, 2020: Bianca Belair, 2019: Keith Lee, 2018: Velveteen Dream, 2017: Rusev, 2016: Shinsuke Nakamura, 2015: Sami Zayn, 2014: Bray Wyatt, 2013: Roman Reigns, 2012: Dolph Ziggler, 2011: Cody Rhodes, 2010: Alberto Del Rio, 2009: John Morrison
The new rule that began in 2019 is that it must be somebody who hasn’t won a title in WWE yet whether on NXT, Raw or Smackdown.
Winner: Grayson Waller (Runners-Up: Cora Jade, Nikkita Lyons)
This is a tricky award because, in theory, I could pick LA Knight, but the man is a 20-year veteran who has main evented a PLE this year, so it’s not going to be him. For this, I usually go with an NXT wrestler and that made me think of the rise of Trick Williams. Then I remembered that he was briefly the NXT North American Champion, so I had to change that pick. I’m going with Grayson Waller.
Grayson Waller has yet to hold a title in WWE, so he’s qualified for this. I’ve enjoyed seeing him get more of a spotlight on Smackdown even though he usually loses to the bigger names. The alliance with Austin Theory could be great long term.
Cora Jade was on the sidelines for much of the year. She’s back as the NXT “mean girl” and I think she’ll be NXT Women’s Champion within the first six months of 2024. Technically, she’s a former NXT Women’s Tag Team Champion, so she shouldn’t be eligible for this award, but those titles no longer exist, so I think that makes her eligible after all.
Nikkita Lyons is also a future NXT Women’s Champion who has the look that the fans like. She’s easy to root for.
There are a lot of people I could have picked for this if not for the stipulation I came up with. For example, if Solo Sikoa wasn’t a former NXT North American Champion, he would be the pick. The same goes for The Creed Brothers as former NXT Tag Team Champions.
12. BEST HEEL
To be given to the performer that is the best at drawing the ire of the audience and being a bad guy/girl. Past winners 2022: Roman Reigns and The Bloodline, 2021: Roman Reigns, 2020: Randy Orton, 2019: Daniel Bryan, 2018: Tommaso Ciampa, 2017: The Miz, 2016: AJ Styles, 2015: Seth Rollins, 2014: Seth Rollins, 2013: Paul Heyman, 2012: Daniel Bryan, 2011:Christian. The award began in 2011.
Winner: Roman Reigns and The Bloodline (Runners-Up: GUNTHER, The Judgment Day, Logan Paul)
This one goes to Roman Reigns for the third straight year, but I’m also including The Bloodline because it’s the power of the entire group. This is the year where we saw Sami Zayn split away from the group while Jey Usos also broke free. Due to the presence of The Bloodline, those guys became bigger stars. As I have mentioned elsewhere, there were eight months of stories this year that were really built around Roman, The Bloodline and the fracturing of this group. This is an all-time great pro wrestling stable and storyline for over three years. It’s been incredible when you think about how it started to where it is now.
GUNTHER has been the Intercontinental Champion for over 500 days and throughout 2023. Everybody that has stepped up against him has lost. It makes him a dominant champion who also looks vulnerable during his matches because he knows how to sell so well. Just like with Roman Reigns, when he loses, it’s going to be such a big deal.
I listed The Judgment Day as a group rather than individuals due to their strong presence on Raw. Dominik Mysterio gets booed louder than anybody else at times and has a tough time speaking because of all the booing. It’s such a cool thing to see. Rhea Ripley is a terrific heel, but she does get cheered at times since she’s a cool heel. Damian Priest & Finn Balor do a nice job as traditional wrestling heels. JD McDonagh isn’t on the level of the other four heels, but I think he’s good in the role he is in.
Logan Paul is a terrific heel that’s easy to hate due to how cocky he is. Since he’s not wrestling that often, it’s tough to rank him above the others. However, I just thought Paul was worth mentioning due to how talented he is.
13. BEST BABYFACE
To be given to the performer that is the best at receiving the adulation of the audience.Past winners – 2021: Big E, 2020: Drew McIntyre, 2019: Kofi Kingston, 2018: Becky Lynch, 2017: AJ Styles, 2016: Dean Ambrose, 2015: John Cena, 2014: Dolph Ziggler, 2013: Daniel Bryan, 2012: John Cena, 2011:Randy Orton. The award began in 2011.
Winner: Cody Rhodes (Runners-Up: Seth Rollins, Sami Zayn, Becky Lynch, Kevin Owens, Jey Uso, Ilja Dragunov)
Cody Rhodes fits the mold as the prototypical wrestling babyface in the modern era. He carries himself as a professional, he takes on anybody that comes after him, he sells tickets, he sells merchandise, he is beloved by the young fans who want to be given his leather belt before a match and he has become a bigger star even after losing in the main event of WrestleMania. Cody isn’t that much ahead of Seth Rollins, in my opinion.
You could make an argument that Seth Rollins is the bigger and better babyface than Cody Rhodes because Rollins has been the World Heavyweight Champion since May. The reality is that for Cody’s story, it made more sense for him to not hold that title while Rollins has certainly done his part to make the title valuable. Seth and Cody are incredible performers in the prime of their careers in their late 30s.
I’ll mention Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens together because they were aligned for much of the year. Best friends that became Tag Team Champions was an incredible story. Both guys are also very capable as singles guys. It will be fun to see if Zayn can become a World Champion while Owens tries to get back to that singles championship level again.
Becky Lynch is a hard-working, likable babyface that has had the fans behind her for over five years. There’s not much of a gimmick with her other than having that fighting spirit, not backing down and making people care about everything she does. Becky elevates everybody around her.
Jey Uso has really taken off as a singles star in the second half of the year. The fact that he headlined a major show like SummerSlam is something he should be proud of. I’m interested to see how far he can go as a singles guy.
I think Ilja Dragunov warrants a message because he’s so talented in the ring. The way he sells and reacts to everything is unlike anybody else. That’s a guy that makes pro wrestling look as believable as anybody. I’m a big Dragunov fan.
14. BEST RETURN/DEBUT
This spot used to be for Best WWE Network show, but in 2022 I decided to replace it with best return/debut. This is for the best debut/return whether it’s somebody coming back from injury, a long absence or a debut. 2022: Cody Rhodes.
Winner: CM Punk at Survivor Series (Runner-Up: The Rock on Smackdown, John Cena, Randy Orton)
This has to go to CM Punk’s WWE return at Survivor Series. The man literally got fired by AEW in early September due to a backstage fight and immediately after that, there were rumors about this return at Survivor Series because it just so happened to be in his hometown of Chicago. If it was in another city, would it have happened? Maybe…probably…but it wouldn’t have been as special because those fans in that city love CM Punk and he got one of the loudest crowd reactions I’ve ever heard in my life. I certainly thought it was possible, but until it happens, you don’t know for sure. I’m glad it happened and I’m happy for CM Punk being “home” in WWE. I look forward to seeing what he does in 2024 and beyond.
The Rock showing up on a random Smackdown episode on September 15th in Denver, because he was in the state with Pat McAfee for ESPN’s college football, led to one of the loudest crowd reactions of the year. The actor’s strike likely played a big part in that. The fans who bought tickets that night had no idea The Rock would be there. It was only “reported” a couple of hours before it happened. That was such a cool moment.
John Cena was around early in the year to cut a scathing promo on Austin Theory before losing to Theory at WrestleMania 39. In the fall, Cena was back on Smackdown in September & October and it was great to hear the crowds every week giving Cena huge ovations as a sign of respect. Cena lost decisively to Solo Sikoa at Crown Jewel and we don’t know when he will be back, but I enjoyed Cena being back in WWE for a couple of months.
Welcome back Randy Orton at Survivor Series after missing 18 months. That’s a long time to be off, but major back surgery is no joke. Orton looked stronger than ever and the fans love the guy that was one of the top heels in the business for most of his career. I’m glad he made it back.
Sorry Shane McMahon, but your “triumphant” return at WrestleMania 39 didn’t make it, pal.
15. BEST TURN
To be given to the best babyface or heel turn that benefitted the performer the most.Past winners – 2022: The Judgment Day 2021: Kevin Owens, 2020: Roman Reigns, 2019: Finn Balor, 2018: Daniel Bryan, 2017: Sami Zayn, 2016: AJ Styles, 2015: The New Day, 2014: Seth Rollins, 2013: Randy Orton, 2012: Big Show, 2011: Mark Henry, 2010: Kane, 2009: CM Punk
Winner: Sami Zayn and Jey Uso (Runners-Up: LA Knight, Drew McIntyre, Bron Breakker)
There are so many things I can pick here. I made a rare tie winner for this because Sami Zayn and Jey Uso were both part of the same story involving The Bloodline. It was Sami Zayn turning babyface first in January at the Royal Rumble and Jey Uso followed that a few months later. Jimmy Uso turned face with Jey at the time too as they beat Roman Reigns & Solo Sikoa at Money in the Bank, but then Jimmy turned on Jey at SummerSlam. I just think those turns from Sami and Jey were equal in the sense that it involved The Bloodline story.
LA Knight was a heel to start the year in that story with Bray Wyatt and he was a heel until the spring. At that point, WWE couldn’t ignore the crowd’s reactions. Knight became a top babyface on the Smackdown brand, which is a role he’s still in.
In the last few months of the year, Drew McIntyre’s heel turn has really been one of the highlights of the Raw brand.
Bron Breakker was pretty good as a top babyface on the NXT brand, but I think he’s even better as a heel. I have enjoyed his heel run and I think he can thrive on the main roster in 2024.
I also want to shoutout Asuka for turning heel/face about three times this year. I’m not saying that’s a good thing. I’m just saying Big Show and Kane would be proud.
16. MOST IMPROVED PERFORMER(S)
To be given to the performer that has shown the most improvement in the last year.Past winners – 2022: The Creed Brothers, 2021: Liv Morgan, 2020: Sonya Deville, 2019: Rhea Ripley, 2018: Velveteen Dream,2017: Braun Strowman, 2016: The Miz, 2015: Bayley, 2014: Damien Mizdow, 2013: Roman Reigns, 2012: Ryback, 2011: Zack Ryder, 2010: Cody Rhodes, 2009: Kofi Kingston
Winner: LA Knight (Runners-Up: Dominik Mysterio, Tiffany Stratton, Trick Williams, Lyra Valkyria, Channing “Stacks” Lorenzo)
It feels weird picking LA Knight since he’s in his 40s and he’s been wrestling for 20 years but look at where he was a year ago and look at where he is now. Knight had that feud with Bray Wyatt that led to a decisive loss at Royal Rumble. Knight wasn’t booked at WrestleMania even though he should have been and then in the months that followed, the fans truly got behind him. Knight became one of the top faces of the Smackdown brand. A year and a half ago he was Max Dupri, the manager of some models that got released this year. Now Knight is truly a main event “megastar.” Credit to Knight as a performer for believing himself and proving he belongs while Triple H is also smart enough as a booker to use his talent the right way. That deserves a “YEAH” my friends.
Dominik Mysterio could have won this award last year or even this year, but I kept him out of the top spot. Dominik has thrived as a heel with The Judgment Day and I enjoyed his feud with Rey Mysterio a lot as well as his NXT run.
Tiffany Stratton debuted on television about two years ago after having no experience in pro wrestling when she got signed. They saw her, thought she had a great look and signed her. Since then, she has become a terrific all-around performer who is just 24 years old. She had a 4.5* match with Becky Lynch at No Mercy in September. That’s not easy to do, but she is a natural and she’s going to get better too. I’m excited to see her future and it’s not just because she’s a pretty blonde girl. She has talent.
Trick Williams can be a breakout star in WWE. He has taken advantage of more TV time and improved a lot in every area. I’m excited to see what Trick does in 2024 and beyond.
A year ago I wouldn’t have predicted Lyra Valkyria would be the NXT Women’s Champion that beat Becky Lynch to win that title, but that’s what happened. Lyra clearly has the skills in the ring. However, it’s her improvement in promos and acting that has really pushed her to where she is now.
Channing “Stacks” Lorenzo didn’t stand out in NXT right away, but he has had a great year as a tag team with Tony D’Angelo. In addition to that, Stacks has developed as a character and gotten better in non-wrestling segments too. I’m impressed by him.
17. BEST WEEKLY WWE TV SHOW
To be given to the best weekly WWE television (or internet) show. Past winners – 2022: Smackdown, 2021: Smackdown, 2020: Smackdown, 2019: NXT, 2018: NXT, 2017: Smackdown, 2016: Smackdown, 2015: NXT, 2014: NXT, 2013: NXT.
Winner: Raw (Runner-Up: Smackdown)
It’s finally a win for Raw. Credit the booker Triple H for making good use of the three hours given to the show. The match quality on Raw is better than Smackdown most weeks because they have three hours compared to two. There have been so many outstanding matches on Raw this year. I also find myself rating a lot of matches around three stars or higher, which means good to great and when you get that consistently, it helps the show overall. I think they have done a nice job of pushing the major champions like Rollins, Gunther & Ripley and the Tag Team Titles while also telling stories with the roster they have. A key part of Raw’s success is the babyface depth with the likes of Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Becky Lynch, Sami Zayn (with Kevin Ownes most of the year), Jey Uso and now CM Punk. Drew McIntyre was a face for most of the year too. When you have so many good, likable wrestlers leading the way, the show is better and easier to watch.
Smackdown is still good most of the time, but with Roman Reigns appearing less often, it does hurt the show at times. It was better in 2022 as The Bloodline story was really evolving more with Reigns and The Bloodline being featured prominently. I also think in terms of match quality, Raw is definitely better due in part to being longer, but also the quality of the roster is probably better at this point.
My final rating for Raw this year was 7.42 out of 10, Smackdown was 7.24 and NXT was 7.08. That’s pretty good for all three shows. AEW Dynamite is at 7.33 in case you’re wondering.
18. BEST ANNOUNCER
To be given to the best announcer in WWE. It could be a play-by-play or analyst. Past winners – 2022: Wade Barrett, 2021: Pat McAfee, 2020: Corey Graves, 2019: Nigel McGuinness, 2018: Mauro Ranallo, 2017: Corey Graves, 2016: Corey Graves, 2015: Corey Graves, 2014: John Bradshaw Layfield, 2013: John Bradshaw Layfield, 2012: John Bradshaw Layfield, 2011: Booker T, 2010: Matt Striker, 2009: Jim Ross.
Winner: Michael Cole (Runner-Up: Wade Barrett, Corey Graves, Vic Joseph)
This award is finally going to Michael Cole. Perhaps it was cruel of me to not award the “Voice of WWE” with the award in the past considering his 26-year run in the company, but I think I was pretty fair in terms of my previous choices. Cole just seems better this year without Vince McMahon around yelling in his ear and telling him what to say. I think Triple H and his team gives Cole more freedom. You can tell Cole is having more fun out there. When Vince was producing the show, Cole would have to say silly stuff at times. These days, Cole seems more comfortable at his job.
Wade Barrett is my favorite color analyst. Wade has gone from NXT to Smackdown and now Raw. He supports the heels, he has jokes when needed and I like how enthusiastic he is at times.
Corey Graves is very good at his job and better when he supports the heels.
Vic Joseph is the next best play-by-play guy other than Michael Cole. On the one hand, I would like to see Vic get a shot at Raw or Smackdown again. However, if he remains in NXT that’s cool too because he is connected to that show now.
19. BIGGEST NEWS STORY
The stories of the year that we’ll always remember when looking back at the year that was. Past winners – 2022: Vince McMahon retires due to hush-money payments scandal, 2021: WWE releases 80 wrestlers,2020: COVID-19 leads to massive changes to the wrestling business, 2019: Roman Reigns returns from leukemia battle in February, 2018: Roman Reigns announcing he has leukemia,2017: Kurt Angle returning to WWE after 11 years away, 2016: WWE signs four top New Japan stars,2015: Injuries decimate the roster, 2014: CM Punk leaving WWE, 2013: The WWE Network Still Isn’t Here, 2012: Jerry Lawler’s heart attack, 2011: The death of Randy Savage, 2010: The departure of several big names (Shawn Michaels), 2009: Shane McMahon leaves WWE
Winner: Endeavor purchases WWE and forms a company with UFC called TKO Group (Runner-Up: CM Punk returns to WWE at Survivor Series, Vince McMahon removed from WWE creative process, Stephanie McMahon leaves WWE)
What a wild year it has been. I remember being on news duty on TJRWrestling early in January and the news came out that Vince McMahon was pushing his way back into WWE as the Executive Chairman. Shortly after that, we found out that Vince was back to try to sell the company. I always figured it made business sense to sell, but you never know if it would actually happen. Vince’s return also led to him editing some of the WWE TV shows, which sucked because the product was better in the second half of 2022 with Triple H as the Chief Content Officer. On the day after WrestleMania 39, Vince and WWE announced that Endeavor would be acquiring the company to form TKO Group with the UFC, which Endeavor also owns. That same night, Vince tweaked a bunch of things on the Raw after WrestleMania and it was the worst Raw episode of the year. Anyway, the fact that somebody other than Vince McMahon and his family now own this company is not just the biggest story of this year, but probably the biggest story of this decade. It was a huge story.
As for the third thing I mentioned there, Vince McMahon was removed from the creative team officially after Endeavor’s WWE acquisition was official in September. Triple H is the main booker who also has control over the roster and Vince is no longer part of WWE from a creative standpoint. After 40+ years, it’s a major change. It’s also a change for the better. I’m certainly happy about it.
In most other years, a former WWE Champion like CM Punk returning to the company after nearly 10 years away would be the winner of an award like this. That was a huge thing for sure. I just can’t rank it ahead of Endeavor acquiring WWE. I’m glad CM Punk is back and so are a lot of fans. I’m just saying it’s not as big as WWE being owned by another company.
Stephanie McMahon announced her WWE resignation on January 10th right after Vince’s return to the company. That’s another huge story that may have been the biggest story of the year in other years, but not this year. Stephanie worked behind the scenes in WWE in several different roles for 20+ years. A lot of people think that Stephanie might be back one day although I assume she probably enjoys being a mom to three daughters and being able to spend time with them while Triple H runs WWE creatively. I hope Stephanie is happy living her life that way. I assume she is, but she has gone from being a public person to having a private life, so we’ll likely never really know.
The death of Bray Wyatt was obviously a big news story. I’ll be mentioning it a bit later in these awards.
20. MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT
To be given to the most memorable moment of the year.Past winners – 2022: Cody Rhodes returns to WWE at WrestleMania 38, 2021: John Cena returns at Money in the Bank to confront Roman Reigns,2020: Edge returns at 2020 Royal Rumble, 2019: Kofi Kingston wins WWE Title at WrestleMania 35, 2018: Daniel Bryan announces his return to the ring after three years away, 2017: Hardy Boyz return to WWE at WrestleMania, 2016: AJ Styles debuts at Royal Rumble, 2015: Seth Rollins becomes WWE Champion at WrestleMania 31, 2014: The Undertaker’s undefeated streak ends at WrestleMania 30 when he loses to Brock Lesnar, 2013: Daniel Bryan wins WWE Title leading to heel Triple H/Orton, 2012: Brock Lesnar’s Return April 2 on Raw, 2011: CM Punk’s Promo June 27 on Raw, 2010 winner: Bret & Shawn embrace in the ring, 2009 winner: The Undertaker/Michaels match
Winner: CM Punk returns to WWE at Survivor Series (Runners-Up: Sami Zayn hits Roman Reigns with Steel Chair at Royal Rumble, Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens win at WrestleMania 39, Cody Rhodes wins Royal Rumble)
A lot of these things mentioned here have been mentioned above. I think CM Punk returning at Survivor Series was the most memorable moment just because it took him nearly ten years to come back to WWE. A lot of people thought it would never happen, yet the phrase “never say never” applies once again. A great moment that we’ll never forget.
The other things mentioned were happy babyface moments for Sami Zayn when he nailed Roman Reigns with a Steel Chair at the Royal Rumble to show how Sami wasn’t going to take it from Reigns any more. That would lead to the moment of Sami & KO winning the Tag Team Titles from The Usos at WrestleMania 39, which was my pick for Match of the Year.
I also thought Cody Rhodes winning the Royal Rumble was an unforgettable moment as well. The way GUNTHER dominated that match was amazing and for Cody to overcome him to find a way to win was really cool to see.
THE 2023 QUICKIE WWE JOHNNY AWARDS
Here are ten quick awards (plus one special bonus award) to wrap it up. Some of them were here last year while others are new this year.
BEST STABLE – The Bloodline
I am still going with The Bloodline as the best stable. The first eight months of the year led to so many incredible matches and moments involving so many people. Obviously, The Judgment Day also deserves acknowledgment because they were featured so much on Raw throughout the year and in a lot of big matches too.
BEST THEME SONG – Cody Rhodes “Kingdom”
It is still Kingdom for me, but Jey Uso’s singles theme song is awesome too. The way the fans sing Cody’s song and shout the “WHOA-OH” parts is cool to see. They also love Seth Rollins’ theme song, among others.
BEST FINISHING MOVE – Revelation by The Street Profits
The Street Profits started using a double team finisher this year on Smackdown. It’s called the Revelation. During this move, Angelo Dawkins picks up the opponent and Montez Ford finishes them off with a neckbreaker. It looks great and always gets a big reaction.
My runner up would probably be the Tsunami by Bronson Reed. It helps that Wade Barrett yells “TSUNAMI” too.
WORST MATCH – Shane McMahon vs. The Miz turns into Snoop Dogg vs. The Miz at WrestleMania 39
The Miz was a co-host at WrestleMania 39 when fellow co-host Snoop Dogg brought out a surprise opponent: Shane McMahon. Poor Shane was in the ring for about 10 seconds when he tore his quad. They got Shane out of there, so Snoop improved and “beat up” Miz to win the worst match of the year. I watched it once. That was enough.
BREAKOUT STAR – LA Knight
This one goes to LA Knight because of how far he has come in the last year. I don’t think many people assumed a year ago that Knight would be where he is right now. Truly the definition of a breakout year.
MOST DEVASTATING INJURY – Randy Orton
The fact that Randy Orton came back after he lost 18 months of his career due to a major back injury that required surgery is a testament to how tough he is. Orton’s injury happened in mid-2022, but since he missed all of 2023 until Survivor Series, I think he qualifies for this kind of award. It’s good to see the RKO master back.
A runner up for this one is Charlotte Flair, who recently tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus in her knee. That’s going to be an injury that will keep her out of the ring for nearly a year and maybe it will be a year. She will be missed.
BEST CROWD – Backlash in San Juan, Puerto Rico
There were some amazing crowds this year like the Montreal fans at Elimination Chamber, London fans at Money in the Bank and both nights of WrestleMania 39 in Los Angeles too. However, Backlash in San Juan, Puerto Rico was a special crowd. Bad Bunny and Damian Priest wasn’t the main event, but it sure felt like the biggest match of the night. Great moment for sure.
NXT STAR I WANT ON MAIN ROSTER IN 2024 – Bron Breakker
This isn’t an award, but more like something I just want to see in the new year. It has been over two years for Bron Breakker in NXT. He was a long-time babyface NXT Champion, he has spent most of this year as a heel and I think he’s absolutely ready to become a force on the main roster. I think Bron is going to be a main event performer for the next 15 years. It’s just a matter of when WWE really gets behind him and gives him a chance to show what he can do.
FUNNIEST PERFORMER – Chelsea Green
This is usually the R-Truth award to win, but since he was out most of the year with a devasting leg injury, it goes to Chelsea Green. I think she’s hilarious. Her “Karen” gimmick complaining about everything makes me laugh. She gets a lot of good one liners in there and has a unique style in the ring too. I’m glad she made it back to WWE. Everybody doesn’t have to be a badass. She’s making it work. I’m glad she’s thriving in her role.
SADDEST NEWS OF THE YEAR – The Death of Bray Wyatt
It was on August 24th, 2023 when Triple H announced on Twitter/X that Bray Wyatt had passed away at 36 years old. I can still remember writing the news story with tears in my eyes just because I think about this young man losing his life far too soon. Bray was beloved with four kids, he had a fiancée Jojo who wrestling fans knew and he came from a wrestling family. Bray came back to WWE in October 2022 after being released a year earlier. He got in the ring at the Royal Rumble this year when he beat LA Knight. Everything seemed fine and then around WrestleMania there were issues that kept him out. It was later revealed that he had a heart issue caused by complications of COVID-19, which is something a lot of us have had in the last three years. In his case, it was very serious. Bray took a nap that day and he never woke up. When you lose somebody you love at such a young you question a lot of things, including what could have been done to prevent it. I’m sure his family and friends have been thinking about that a lot in the last four months. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do. I hope Bray is reunited with Luke Harper/Brodie Lee and others in the wrestling ring in heaven.
That death of Bray Wyatt hit me hard. I don’t know the man, but I covered his whole career over the last decade and admired him for his creativity. When he died, a lot of his friends in WWE spoke about how nice of a guy he was, he always had a smile on his face and always helped people in the company. He will never be forgotten and will be missed forever. I certainly hope WWE honors him at the Hall of Fame in 2024, but if the family feels like it can wait for another time in the future then it’s important to honor their wishes too.
The wrestling world also lost some other wrestling legends this year including Terry Funk, The Iron Sheik, Jay Briscoe (not a WWE guy but a tragic loss), Bushwhacker Butch, Droz and more. May they all rest in peace.
WORST MUSTACHE OF THE YEAR – VINCE MCMAHON
I just added this award for this year alone just to ask one question. What the hell are you doing with that mustache look, Vince McMahon? Strange.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WWE IN 2023
Since I always like to rate the shows out of 10, how about a rating for the year? Here’s how I rated the years since 2009.
2009: 5.5, 2010: 5, 2011: 7, 2012: 7, 2013: 6.5, 2014: 5.5, 2015: 5.5, 2016: 6.5, 2017: 6, 2018: 6, 2019: 6.25, 2020: 5.75, 2021: 6.75, 2022: 7.5
I’m going with an 8 out of 10. It’s the highest grade I have given a WWE year in the last 15 years of covering this company full time. If I used a letter grade then that’s an A, but maybe a B+ is more appropriate. I just think it was an 8/10 type of year. Some of you might feel an 8 out of 10 is too high. It feels right to me.
When I think about the three main shows all being good to great most of the year, I think that’s a testament to how consistent the WWE product is right now. Triple H is a better pro wrestling booker in 2023 than Vince McMahon has been for at least the last decade if not more. A lot of Vince’s booking over the years was repetitive. With Triple H booking, fans might complain about some title reigns being too long and things like that, but when it comes to creating big moments and putting on Premium Live Events, the product is definitely better.
The current WWE roster is also loaded from top to bottom. There are more top male babyfaces that are believable main eventers than perhaps at any time in company history. I’m not saying that the top guys are better than Steve Austin and The Rock at their peak. I’m just saying in terms of depth, they have a lot of options and that’s why the quality of PLEs were way up this year. I rated six main roster PLEs at 8/10 or above and the other five were all above 7.25/10, which tells you none of them were bad or even close to bad.
Looking at WWE from a business perspective, nearly every Raw & Smackdown taping is sold out while PLE events sell out within minutes. They are doing more overseas PLE shows and selling out stadiums just because they can. The new Smackdown TV deal is an increase over the last deal they got and Raw will likely be higher than it was in the past too. Business wise, the company is as successful as ever with a deep roster and new owners who are going to grow the brand as much as possible. The on-screen product is very entertaining too.
I had a blast writing this and I’m very optimistic about the WWE product moving forward. I think now that Triple H has had a full year booking the shows and we know Vince McMahon’s creepy mustache won’t be involved, the product is going to get even better next year. I’m looking forward to the Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber in Australia, WrestleMania 40 in Philly and everything else beyond that.
That’s a wrap after 10,000 plus words in this column alone. I want to thank you for reading, I want to thank the TJRWrestling team both on the site and behind the scenes for all they do to continue to put out a ridiculous amount of content daily. I’m proud of them all. Most of you don’t know this, but I sold TJRWrestling in July 2021 and I’m not running things. I’m just a guy that a big part of the team now. I don’t plan on slowing down as long as the owners want to keep me around, so just keep reading and we’ll keep putting out content as we usually do.
I keep this part in every year: This is my favorite column to write every year. If you’re one of those people that reads a lot of my work without writing this is one of those times where I’m asking for your thoughts because I want to know what you thought. Don’t be shy. I reply to nearly every email. You can also contact me on Twitter or Facebook.
Thank you to my good friend Steve Melo for the banner at the top of this post. He also does the banners for every one of my columns including the always fun “preferred” Raw Deal banners, Smackdown banners, NXT banners, PLE/PPV banners and more.
I wish you all a safe and happy New Year in 2024. I’ll keep writing and I hope you’ll keep reading.
As I said, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My contact info is below. Thanks so much for reading!
John Canton – email@example.com