2019 Women’s Wrestling Year-End Roundtable

Match of the Year:

Lauren Founds: WrestleMania 35 main event. Becky, Charlotte, and Ronda were the first women to main event “The Show of Shows” and were a sort of climax for how far the Women’s Revolution has come. It was a pivotal moment in all of sports entertainment.

Phil Lindsey: Sasha Banks vs. Ronda Rousey at Royal Rumble. Banks put on two match of the year caliber performances this year but her match with Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women’s Championship was my favorite. This was easily Rousey’s best WWE match and that’s thanks in part to Sasha. “The Boss” was her first real test and she looked like she could conceivably end her undefeated streak. This match was just so thrilling and inventive and it didn’t rely on hardcore spots like some other contenders for match of the year. There was just well-paced in-ring action. Even though Rousey retained, the finish was great and it was booked expertly, setting up a showdown with Becky Lynch for both competitors.

Kristen Ashly: Can I count the entire Kris Wolf retirement show as one match? No? Okay, then I would have to give it to Io Shirai and Candice LeRae at NXT TakeOver: Toronto. Sure, the two are just absolute goddesses in the ring, but the match was more than that. The storytelling, the psychology, the pure talent: the match had everything needed to become unforgettable.

Patricia Rogers: There are some honorable mentions. I enjoyed the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship. But I have to say the one I look back on and get goosebumps watching is Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch in Hell in a Cell for the Raw Women’s Championship. Sasha and Becky have great in-ring chemistry and were both working hard to make this match of the year. The creativity of the spots still gives me goosebumps. The expectations were high, especially being that this was only the second women’s Hell in a Cell match. It was one of the few Becky Lynch feuds where you felt like she might drop the title. There are not many words that can describe this match, so just go log into the WWE Network and watch. Like right now.

Harmony Cox: Anybody who picks a different match than Kylie Rae vs. Mercedes Martinez II at RISE Legendary made the wrong choice. I’m sorry, but that’s just science. Anybody who ever wrote off Rae as a too-sweet babyface ended up eating their words after seeing Rae and Martinez face off in a brutal thirty-minute no-ropes submission match for the Phoenix of RISE belt. Not only was it an incredible display of skill, but it set in motion two of the other best stories in RISE this year: Alize’s heel turn and Zoe Lucas vs. Big Swole. This is the match I point people to when they ask why I’m such a big Kylie Rae fan. Go check it out!

Dean Buckley: Women’s WarGames. WarGames has been a highlight of TakeOver for three years running, and the inaugural women’s match was the best one yet. Fast-paced, creative and full of good storytelling, everyone in the cage got their chance to shine. Kay Lee Ray teasing the tables and then leaving them under the ring was a perfect heel move. Io Shirai’s moonsault off the cage was an astonishing athletic feat, never mind that she immediately sat up smiling just after she landed. And the payoff on those handcuffs, totally forgotten in the chaos elsewhere, was as good a finish as we saw in wrestling this year.

Best Face:

Lauren Founds: Becky Lynch. Becky Lynch was the epitome of a fan favorite as this year’s top babyface. She had the fans behind her as she battled two of the top heels at WrestleMania and by winning, she finally achieved what she had deserved for years.

Phil Lindsey: Riho. Riho emerged as one of the best underdogs in wrestling this year. She is such a great babyface because she doesn’t see her size as a disadvantage. It’s an easy story for AEW and its commentators to build around but Riho walks into every big match with the same guts and ingenuity. She was fearless when she faced Nyla Rose in the first AEW Women’s World Championship match. She has brought the same fighting spirit into all of her matches this year and she’s the most polished and entertaining wrestler in AEW’s women’s division. It has been fun to watch her popularity grow since All Out.

Kristen Ashly: Kylie Rae. The woman is loved unconditionally, everywhere she goes. I had the chance to see her face Laynie Luck and Shotzi Blackheart in what ended up being one of Shotzi’s last matches on the indie scene, and though all women killed it, you could literally feel the love in the room for Kylie. Even after all the “scandal” of her leaving AEW and AEW fans “high and dry”, the fans showed that it was all nonsense and that they still loved Smiley Kylie.

Patricia Rogers: Becky Lynch hands down. WWE thought she would be a good heel but we just love her too much. There was no way we were ever going to boo “The Man”. She even mentioned how much WWE “protects” her. She beat Ronda Rousey’s record for the longest-reigning RAW women’s champion. The crowd chants her name even when she is not in the building. There is nothing that can hurt her babyface run of WWE. And there is no one the WWE Universe liked more than Becky. And goddamn she had a great year.

Harmony Cox: I’m gonna say Shotzi Blackheart! I’ve always loved that she’s managed to stay a face despite the fact that her gimmick is being a horror punk monster from a hell swamp. Her in-ring work is bananas—Fright Night remains my favorite modern submission hold—and sometimes that overshadows her great character work. Her devastation at Doom sacrificing herself to save Shotzi from Rosemary’s heel stable was perfect, and her frustrated heroic quest to take out Rosemary and her goons afterward was awesome. I hope NXT keeps her as a face, but she’ll thrive no matter what they give her. (Please actually use her though- I’m begging y’all.)

Dean BuckleyRhea Ripley. Sometimes, a wrestler turns face without changing a thing about themselves. They get a couple of opponents who are bigger jerks than them and they just kinda acquire a veneer of heroism when they show what lines they won’t cross, what values they won’t dishonor. Rhea Ripley, like Pete Dunne before her, turned face by popular acclaim without sacrificing any of the qualities that made her such a compelling heel. Her cool arrogance. Her natural charisma. And, of course, her brutality.

Best Heel:

Lauren Founds: Charlotte Flair. Charlotte Flair spent most of 2019 as a heel which comes naturally to her. She feuded against face Becky Lynch, Bayley and at SummerSlam defeated Hall of Famer, Trish Stratus. The egotistical Queen, in my opinion, is one of the top heels in the company.

Phil Lindsey: Shayna Baszler, by a country mile. In the era of the cool heel, Baszler has been a revelation. She consistently generates legitimate heat. Even more, she’s intimidating and believable. Shayna cuts great promos and her offense is so distinct. The Kirifuda Clutch is one of the most protected moves in wrestling right now. For all those reasons, she was instrumental in making Rhea Ripley’s jump to NXT so successful. Baszler also played a huge part in the NXT invasion angle and Survivor Series.

Kristen Ashly: I’m going to state the obvious here, and go with Shayna Baszler. Her crowd work is phenomenal. She could care less if there’s kids, old grannies, or nuns in the crowd, she has one job to do, and that job is to provoke hate.

Patricia Rogers: Shayna Baszler to me is the most effective heel. She made history this year by becoming the first-ever 2-time NXT Women’s Champion. Everyone she stepped in the ring with was elevated by working with her. She is a dominant and believable champion that can hurt you. When she is on the mic, she doesn’t waste any words. She says what needs to be said, and proves it all in the ring. Some call her boring, but if you look up heel in the dictionary, she is it.

Harmony Cox: I’ve been trying to keep it indie for this list, but I’m going to be honest: it’s Boss and Hug. As a face, Banks walked away from WWE after they screwed up her tag team title run with Bayley. A couple of months later, she strode back into a WWE ring and pulled the best wig reveal since Sasha Velour won RuPaul’s Drag Race, made fun of Natalya’s dead dad, and made her eat canvas. Shortly thereafter, Bayley got a mean girl haircut and attacked her wacky waving tube guys with a machete. WWE still isn’t booking them well, but it doesn’t matter- every time they’re in a ring together, helping each other cheat and cheering each other on, every eye in the arena is on them. I hope WWE realizes what they have here and gives them the tag title run they deserve.

Dean Buckley: Shayna Baszler. Sometimes, the obvious answer is obvious because it’s correct. Shayna Baszler wrestles pretty much the same way every match and wins almost exclusively with one finisher. She’s also impossible to get bored of. Shayna sounds and acts exactly like a bully of the week from Recess. She wrestles like she’s the best in the world because she is the best in the world. No wonder they kept the belt on her so long. Only another once-in-a-generation superstar could credibly take it from her.

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