This awards list will literally cover everything in 2015 until June 30, so anything from the Beast in the East special doesn't count (sorry Finn Balor and Kevin Owens).
Rookie of the Mid-Year: Kevin Owens
Not since Brock Lesnar's first WWE run have we seen someone make as big an impact upon arriving to the main roster like Kevin Owens. Owens' dominance so far in WWE/NXT since he signed over half a year ago is a breath of fresh air. He's not just bringing back the old school heel, but he's taking the entire company by storm. So much so, that his run is further legitimizing NXT as WWE's in-house alternative and isn't their minor league farm system. In his first match in WWE, he didn't just beat John Cena. He beat Cena cleanly and made Cena bring his A+ game at both Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank. He's done such an amazing job at having a great match every single time he steps into the ring, that you can't help but give this award and even Wrestler of the Mid-Year to him.
I feel bad calling him a rookie but for this article's sake, I consider NXT and first time main roster wrestlers as "rookies" so Owens fits the bill. Neville probably would've been my second choice because of how much better he fit in WWE than in NXT (which is not to say he didn't fit in NXT at all). About a year ago, I thought Sami Zayn would be the face of NXT and lead the next generation of the main roster, but boy oh boy do things change in a year. With Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose among others already being established stars
Honorable Mentions: Finn Balor, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Neville
Tag Team of the Mid-Year: The New Day
Sure, the tag team division hasn't been the most exciting part of the main roster in 2015, but we've seen little gems in tag team title matches. Based on that alone, I would have given this award to Tyson Kidd and Cesaro (a.k.a. Masters of the WWE Universe or Kiddaro or the Swiss-Canadian Express or whatever nickname that lasted for about a day). But this is WWE, and wrestling ability alone is not the complete formula.
As much as I loved Kidd and Cesaro, their characters were that they were just really good wrestlers that were randomly paired up one day and took off. The New Day have shined in their new role as the top heel tag team in the company. They have so much personality and were extremely entertaining in their lead up to the tag titles. People seem to love to hate them and having them win the titles made them more entertaining to watch. I'm happy for the Prime Time Players winning the titles, but The New Day's reign left a bit to be desired. I would have wished they kept the titles and then have them lose it to PTP or even The Lucha Dragons at SummerSlam.
Honorable Mentions: Tyson Kidd and Cesaro, The Lucha Dragons, Enzo Amore and Colin Cassidy
Female Wrestler of the Mid-Year: Sasha Banks
Banks, for months, has had to play second fiddle to Charlotte as she became reigned at the top of the NXT Women's Division. When she finally had the chance to become the women's champion at NXT Takeover: Rival, she didn't just excel at being the top female wrestler in NXT, but in all of WWE. Banks and Charlotte main evented an NXT house show in Philadelphia a few months ago and was said to be one of the finest women's matches in years.
Banks has earned critical acclaim for her wrestling and for being the standard that all female wrestlers should aspire to be. Initially, I wasn't too high on Banks when I first saw her wrestle but these past few months has been some of the greatest work for any wrestler I've seen in years.
I said that Paige and Emma were going to make the Divas Division a must-see once they got into the main roster. 15 months later, and so far I've been wrong. WWE cannot drop the ball again for Banks and Charlotte because they are going to make female wrestling great again, but only if they're given the proper chance.
Honorable Mentions: Nikki Bella, Becky Lynch, Bayley, Charlotte
Surprise of the Mid-Year: Samoa Joe signs and debuts in NXT
I would never have imagined that WWE would sign Samoa Joe, one of the biggest names in TNA for years. Not that Joe does not deserve to be in WWE, because his talent more than deserves being in WWE. But with the way that WWE have operated for the past couple of years, especially with the advent and rise of NXT, the demand for more talent, especially from the outside has skyrocketed. We've seen guys from Ring of Honor, CZW, Japan and other outside promotions come to WWE, but not really big names from what fans could consider the second biggest promotion in the United States.
For months we've been wondering if Joe would ever wound in WWE and if he did, where would he start off: NXT or WWE? At NXT Takeover: Rival, we saw Joe grace an NXT ring and immediately went up against then-NXT champ Kevin Owens. Since then, we haven't really seen Joe be in any big angles thus far and we really don't know what his contract entails, but the fact that Samoa Joe actually made it to WWE shows a lot of great promise over how WWE feels about certain talent and signing them. I'm sure a lot of people are excited to see what he'll do since Owens is now finalizing his move to the main roster permanently and Hideo Itami and Sami Zayn are still a long way from coming back to in-ring competition. NXT is going to be more exciting with the Samoan Submission Machine on its roster.
Honorable Mentions: Seth Rollins cashing MITB in the middle of Lesnar vs. Reigns at WrestleMania, US Title becoming a more important title, Undertaker proving he can wrestle well again, Elimination Chamber returning as a WWE Network exclusive
Disappointment of the Mid-Year: Daniel Bryan's injury
It's sad to think that Bryan is exactly back to where he was last year: injured and unsure of his future as a wrestler. I was worried when he came back in January, not because of his main event status, but for his health because it seemed at least to me, a bit premature to come back. He cut a promo a couple of RAWs before the Royal Rumble announcing his return, but throughout most of said promo, fans were legitimately worried he would have to retire a lá Edge in 2011. During the second half of 2014, we didn't know how Bryan's recuperation went and we're back to wondering the same thing again one year later.
As much as I miss Bryan wrestling in the ring, it's imperative that he take his time and truly be 100% again. He may have to change his style to be able to protect himself better, but as of now, we don't even know if he'll ever wrestle again.
WWE just isn't the same without hearing 15,000 people yell "Yes!" In unison, but Bryan's health is more important right now.
(Dis)Honorable Mentions: Sami Zayn and Hideo Itami being out for several months at roughly the same time, Roman Reigns vs. Big Show feud, Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins at Extreme Rules, Intercontinental Championship Elimination Chamber match
Match of the Mid-Year: John Cena vs. Kevin Owens (Elimination Chamber)
This was a really tough award to give out. I don't feel I'm exaggerating when I say that the Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch match is arguably the greatest women's match in WWE history. But I give Owens vs. Cena at Elimination Chamber the nod here because of how nerve-wrecking it was watching the whole match. While some might argue that the large amount of near falls hindered the quality of the match, i'm of the mindset that more near-falls is good because every time it looks like someone is about to win, the match just keeps going on. This match was an emotional roller coaster that started out with Cena as the favorite but as it progressed you got to see Owens wrestle in a way you really haven't witnessed in NXT and the same goes to Cena. Both brought out the absolute best in each other and it reminded me of Cena vs CM Punk at Money in the Bank in 2011.
Give credit to both men for having quite possibly the best match in their respective careers. Owens brought Cena to his limit and beyond and still won. Cena on the other hand, proved to many that he is a very good wrestler and can hold his own against those who are better in-ring technicians. The rematch at Money in the Bank was almost just as good as the first one and everyone is anticipating that their third (and hopefully not last) match between these two great performers follow the amazing quality that the first two matches provided.
Honorable Mentions: Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch (NXT Takeover: Unstoppable), John Cena vs. Kevin Owens (Money in the Bank), Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins (Money in the Bank), John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins (Royal Rumble)
Wrestler of the Mid-Year: Seth Rollins
You can definitely argue that Kevin Owens deserves this award and quite frankly, if i had done this article on a different day, I would have given this award to Owens. I think that Rollins deserves to be Wrestler of the Mid-Year because of how well Rollins has adjusted to being a top heel and how much he's improved on the mic. He is so good at playing the cowardly heel champion but at the same time is able to work well on his own, as evidenced by his match against Dean Ambrose at Money in the Bank that lasted more than 30 minutes. He is one of the few heels in the company who garners so much anger and boos from the crowd on a regular basis.
Even on bad days, Rollins always performs better than most on the main roster right now and I think that his mic skills has improved leaps and bounds since he started his solo career. While everyone isn't too thrilled at his antics on screen, you can't help but respect the work that Rollins has put in night in and night out. He deserves to be called the Wrestler of the Mid-Year.
Honorable Mentions: Kevin Owens, Sasha Banks, John Cena, Brock Lesnar
One thing to take away from this past year is how much NXT has become such an integral part of the main television product. It's proof of how well Triple H did in creating something that none of the previous developmental promotions couldn't, whether it's Ohio Valley Wrestling or Florida Championship Wrestling, and that is a legitimate wrestling brand that people don't demean immediately because it's considered the "developmental brand". In fact, it would almost be considered an insult to call NXT developmental at this point. When Samoa Joe had his first promo in NXT, he didn't talk about being in WWE. He talked about how people all over the world loved NXT and called it the hottest thing in professional wrestling. And I can almost guarantee that line wasn't scripted, but more so a statement and an evaluation of WWE's answer to the booming indie scene. Just look at who I picked to win which award. The majority of these winners are NXT or former NXT wrestlers. That alone should get you and everyone else for that matter excited for the future of the WWE.
Do you agree with these award winners? Why or why not? What were the best and worst moments in WWE these past six months? Sound off in the comments below.