Lauren Founds: Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. Flair and Lynch’s “frenemies” relationship has been a battle of the top women in WWE for years. Charlotte has always made Lynch believe she was the lesser of the two, but in 2019, “The Man” proved her wrong. They were the final two women in the Royal Rumble and both participated in the main event of WrestleMania. After Ronda left, they still battled and towards the end of the year were reluctantly forced to “get along” in matches with the Kabuki Warriors.
Phil Lindsey: Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch. The way this feud played out after Sasha went on her hiatus was really well done. Lynch started goading her the week after WrestleMania on Twitter. When she didn’t respond, she started calling her out in interviews. So, when Sasha finally returned and laid her out after SummerSlam it felt earned. I’m not sure if Becky did the stuff outside of WWE on her own but it worked incredibly well. Even if she didn’t, that promo she cut when Banks returned was phenomenal. The two pay-per-views matches they had were good too. Their Hell in a Cell match is an easy candidate for match of the year.
Kristen Ashly: Becky Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey. I mean, let’s be honest. Lynch became the star she is because she was so easy to love when paired with Rousey, who to be frank, was shoved in the spotlight way too soon. Yes, it gave them the main event of WrestleMania, but it also helped skyrocket Lynch into the force she is, today. With the help of that feud, Lynch is now the woman who represents the struggle so many women had to overcome to do what they love. I owe a lot of my success to women like these two.
Patricia Rogers: Women were the main event of WrestleMania for the first time this year. And it got to the point where the feud had so much momentum, it had to go on last. You had the best frenemy feud carry over from 2018 between Charlotte and Becky. Then you add “The Baddest Woman on the Planet” Ronda Rousey, who had significant heat with both Becky and Charlotte. Thanks to Nia Jax who broke Becky’s face, leaving Charlotte to face Ronda at Survivor Series 2018. From the top of the year, we followed the triple threat, Charlotte vs Ronda vs Becky. Who could forget that scene at the end of the Raw go-home show, with Ronda kicking out the cop car window? ICONIC.
Harmony Cox: Can I pick a wrestler vs. an entire company? I hope so, because my pick would definitely be Rhia O’Reilly vs. Pro Wrestling EVE. O’Reilly’s heel turn at the end of WrestleQueendom 2 was a perfectly-executed shock, the kind of once-in-a-lifetime wrestling plot twist that pays off years of character work with a risk that will either sink a wrestler or catapult them to new heights. O’Reilly vs. EVE has been the latter; seeing O’Reilly embrace her role as the deluded, overconfident champ intent on saving the company from itself has been a delight. It’s also been nice to see lesser-used wrestlers like Livvii Grace get some time in the spotlight as O’Reilly’s evil stablemates. While it’s broken my little heart to see O’Reilly turn to the dark side, I can’t deny it’s been the best story the company has run in years.
Dean Buckley: Candice LeRae vs Io Shirai. I know this feud has been undermined some by the fact LeRae is clearly replacing Kairi Sane after the former Sky Pirate was called up to the main roster. Commentary referring to her as “Io Shirai’s former best friend, Candice LeRae” makes it seem like they just crossed out Kairi’s name in all the scripts. But, here’s the thing, Candice LeRae and Io Shirai are still two of the best wrestlers in the world right now. Whatever deficiencies there are in the script are more than compensated for by the sheer spectacular joy of watching these two incredible artists share a ring together. Both have been elevated by this feud and it’s been a pleasure to watch.
Best Moment of the Year:
Lauren Founds: Becky 2 Belts. The moment of the year has to be when Becky Lynch pinned the undefeated Raw Women’s Champion, Ronda Rousey, in the main event of WrestleMania 35, becoming Becky 2 Belts. Holding two belts over her shoulders for just six weeks, she dominated both divisions nonetheless.
Phil Lindsey: The Winner Take All match at WrestleMania. I had my issues with the build for this match after Royal Rumble. I also hated the way they shoehorned the SmackDown Women’s Championship into this storyline. However, seeing three women headline WrestleMania was definitely the biggest moment of the year. The match had its flaws but nothing could take away from the importance of this moment. It will inspire an entire generation of women’s wrestling fans and have a lasting influence on the industry. As a matter of fact, it was supposedly part of the reason Takaaki Kitani at Bushiroad became interested in women’s wrestling, which led to the acquisition of Stardom.
Kristen Ashly: Women main event WrestleMania. Yes, the match didn’t end the way it should have, and yes some egos flared because of the botch. But you know what? It was a really important first for women everywhere. It signaled a moment that no amount of WWE propaganda could claim as their own. It was a moment for women who never thought they could reach heights built to be overrun by men. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.
Patricia Rogers: Sasha’s return. The year started with Sasha having a great match with Ronda Rousey at Royal Rumble, winning the WWE women’s tag team championships with Bayley at Elimination Chamber, and then there was Wrestlemania. After the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection lost their titles to the IIconics, wrestling twitter began to speculate about her. A narrative was formed surrounding Banks’ future and feelings towards WWE. I began to get nervous about her possibly leaving the company or wrestling altogether. And then…she made her return. One that will go down in WWE history. The Raw after Summerslam, when her music hit I jumped out of my seat. I was in shock, just like the crowd. She comes out, and fakes being a friend to Natalya, pulls off that purple wig, and makes a statement. Who could forget Graves’ call, “New blue hair, same true colors”? It brought back the vicious heel Sasha we all love. She looked refreshed, inspired, and ready for the next phase of her WWE career. You love to see it. She entered into a feud with top star Becky right away and the two had some of the best pay-per-view matches of the year, including their Hell in a Cell match.
Harmony Cox: Ugggh, this is really hard. I’m going to have to say Kris Wolf’s Pro Wrestling EVE retirement show. Even though it was an incredibly sad moment —seeing Kris Wolf cry during her retirement ten-bell is frankly pretty hard to process—it was wonderful to see the way the wrestling community rallied around her and gave her a goodbye that was as perfectly unpredictable, filthy, and delightful as Wolf herself. It was a show that brought us weird and wonderful moments—Jinny as Jimmy Havok! Viper as a literal mountain! Killer Kelly as…sperm, I think!—and the ending retirement gauntlet match had so many touching moments. Seeing Wolf cry and kiss her wife in the middle of the ring at the end was a perfect goodbye. I miss Wolf so much, but she made the right choice to retire when she did, and it’s a comfort she was sent off so well.
Dean Buckley: Dakota Kai attacks Tegan Nox. I had so much of WarGames inadvertently spoiled for me, but I didn’t see this coming. It was all blocked out so well, with Dakota coming to that sudden stop on the ramp and you think she’s having a crisis of confidence, but then turns around and decapitates her tag team partner. The beatdown goes on for so long and Shayna’s hilarious reactions to it only deepened the darkness of the moment. Little else in wrestling this year is gonna stick in my memory like this.