2015 has been a weird wrestling year. It contained some air-punchingly great things and some TV-punchingly awful ones. We had some cool returns, some sad departures and a whole lot of awkwardly worded promos. I intend to focus on the good, so here’s my list of my personal top WWE moments of the year. Quick sidenote: this list isn’t in ranked in any way other than chronologically, they’re just in the order they spilled out of my brain.
Rollins cashes in – Wrestlemania 31, March 29th
Wrestlemania 31 was a fantastic show. Every match on the card had the potential to be great with one exception- the main event of Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns. Since disbanding The Shield, it became obvious that Creative didn’t know what they were doing with Roman Reigns. Despite his character waters being muddied significantly, one thing was painfully clear- Creative were banking on Reigns becoming the next face of the company and they didn’t care how clumsily they got there. The chorus of boos and jeers when Reigns won the Royal Rumble indicated just how the more vocal fans felt about the insane push he was receiving. On the other side of the equation, we had Brock Lesnar. Since Lesnar returned he had been in full-on animal mode and the thought of having the Beast roll over and let Reigns walk away with the belt was worrying. The match itself was better than it had any right to be. Reigns took an absolute beating whilst laughing and it made me root for him more in that moment than the months of work that went in to making him supposedly likeable. The match was an all-out brawl with neither man allowing the other the three count. Late in the match, Lesnar hit Reigns with an F-5, but was too exhausted to capitalise. All of a sudden, Seth Rollins’ music hit and the Authority’s golden boy sprinted down the ramp to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase, making the singles match a Triple Threat. After Reigns took Lesnar out with a Spear, Rollins curbstomped Reigns’ head into the mat for the pinfall victory. In a rare moment of good commentary, Michael Cole described the moment as “the heist of the century” which felt completely fitting.
John Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge – Various episodes of Raw
Since John Cena won the United States Championship from Rusev at Wrestlemania 31, the writers started doing something incredibly smart with John Cena. They used his star power to elevate the U.S. title which had slipped into irrelevance in recent years. To show what a gallant and noble champion he was, Cena started putting his title on the line every week on Raw to anyone who was brave enough to step up. It soon became the highlight of the show as it gave a spotlight to some underused and under-appreciated wrestlers. The important part was the fact that the quality rarely dipped. Of course, SuperCena was never in any real danger of losing the belt, but it always felt like it could happen. My personal favourites were his matches with Neville, Sami Zayn and Cesaro. Each one of them was a match of the year contender. Also, it showed that Cena is every bit the professional he’s billed as, putting on great matches with wildly different opponents weekly.
Cena gets KO’d – Elimination Chamber, May 31st
Elimination Chamber 2015 was a mess. The one highlight was Kevin Owens, making his main roster debut, beating John Cena clean. It was truly shocking and a hell of an introduction to the character of Kevin Owens. We’re so used to Cena “overcoming the odds” and pulling out some bullshit win that the result seemed a given. The match was an absolute cracker and my favourite of the year, made all the more special by the fact that it ended so unexpectedly. Brilliant.
Tromboners and wood– Raw, August 21st
I’m cheating a little by combining two moments, but as they happened about 20 minutes apart, I think I can be forgiven. Team of the year without a doubt is New Day. Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E languished in bland babyface limbo for a while with their crappy gospel gimmick before turning heel and making the “power of positivity” stuff bearable with layers of delicious and necessary irony. They cut an all-time great and funny promo on the August 21st episode of Raw when they introduced Xavier Woods’ trombone skills into the mix. The three sang an insulting version of New York, New York backed by Xavier to the Brooklyn crowd as they came down the ramp. It’s the only entrance I’ve heard that prompted the familiar“that was awesome!” crowd chant. The trombone has become a New Day mainstay since and with good reason. Once New Day beat the Lucha Dragons, they set about over-celebrating in their usual dickish manner. This would have been good enough, but a firework hit the ramp and the Dudley Boyz theme hit for the first proper time in about a decade. Bubba Ray and D-Von came out looking like they never left and the already hyped crowd went nuts. Everything about this was perfect, but seeing the cartoonishly shocked faces on the members of New Day was priceless. The “Boyz” wrecked shop and cleared the ring, but not before 3D-ing Xavier Woods through a table. The Dudleys were always my favourite tag team growing up and it was a real treat to see them return to take on my new favourites.
Iron Women– NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, August 22nd
Slightly bending my own rules again, but I had to include this match. For all the talk of a “Divas Revolution” on the main show, the real strides for women’s wrestling were being taken in the developmental NXT. Both matches between Sasha Banks and Bayley could have gone on here, but I’m going for the first match-up because it had everything I want from a wrestling match. Bayley is one of the most unashamedly babyface wrestlers around. She has peppy music, gives out hugs and snapbands, the works. Then champ Sasha Banks is a completely different kettle of fish. She’s confident, calculating and tough as nails. The storyline up to this point was great. Bayley was a classic underdog who seemed too childish and lacking the killer instinct to ever win the gold, despite having come close multiple times. The match was a jaw-dropper. It had drama, insane spots and a hero character you could actually root for. It was an incredible match and when Bayley won thanks to the combination of a top rope Frankensteiner and her Bayley-to-belly finisher, it was such a satisfying result. Props to both for not only putting on a hell of a show, but doing it all again with almost the same level of success later in the year in a gruelling 30 minute Iron Man match.
Beast vs. Phenom III– Hell in a Cell, 25th October
Brock Lesnar took on the Undertaker for the final time this year at Hell in a Cell. The “big fight feel” was palpable and neither man held back for their final fight. Both Lesnar and Taker got bloodied early on and it added to the all-out brawl atmosphere. It was a lengthy match with some great in-ring storytelling. Lesnar threw everything he had (including some steel steps) at Taker, but the Deadman just kept getting up. At one point, Lesnar snapped and started trying to pummel Taker into submission. When that didn’t work, Lesnar started tearing the actual ring apart, removing the canvas and padding to expose the boards underneath. It was fresh, new and exciting. Lesnar got chokeslammed onto the boards but refused to give in. Eventually, Brock got the upper hand by going low and slugged Taker in the balls (something which Undertaker had been doing to him since his return) before F-5ing him onto the boards to win. A fantastic match, solid storytelling and a great final chapter to a hugely enjoyable rivalry.
HOOOLY SHIT!– TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, December 13th
TLC was a bit of a wet fart, but there was one moment that made me mark out like no other. New Day took on The Usos and the Lucha Dragons in a Triple Threat ladder match for the tag titles. The whole match was a ton of fun, but the gobsmacking moment came when Kalisto of the Lucha Dragons hit his finisher, the Salida del Sol, on an Uso off the very top of a ladder, backflipping over his opponent and driving them both into another ladder, conveniently propped against the first at the bottom. It was one of the most dangerous and ludicrously exciting spots I’ve seen in a long time.
Here’s hoping 2016 contains more stuff like the things above. I genuinely think predictability is the enemy when it comes to wrestling. Looking through my list, all the entries had an element of surprise to them and I feel that’s where the money is. I hope you all have a fantastic new year and I’ll catch up to you in 2016.