It’s the end of the year so like most people, I’m going to take a look back at some of the best things to happen this year. In this case, it’s going to be the three best matches this year, all of which worked for different reasons. This time though I’m going to be giving you the reviews of the matches as I wrote them, plus the reasons why they worked as well as they did.
We’ll start back in January with the triple threat match for the WWE World Title at “Royal Rumble 2015”.
WWE World Heavyweight Title: Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins
Both challengers are easily suplexed again and there’s the Kimura to Cena. Brock even climbs onto Cena but Seth makes the save with the springboard knee to the head and Lesnar is in trouble. A double suplex puts Lesnar down and there’s an AA but Rollins throws Cena to the floor and only gets one on the champ. Both challengers are thrown to the floor and you can see everyone laying as Brock walks around the ring. Seth knocks Brock into the steps for a breather, leaving Cena to beat Rollins up inside.
The fans absolutely hate Cena, only to have Brock break up the Shuffle with rolling Germans. Rollins breaks it up for some reason though and knees Lesnar out to the floor. Now it’s Cena getting all fired up and cleaning house, only to have Rollins knock him outside. Seth tries a springboard onto Lesnar, only to get caught on Brock’s shoulders for an F5. John has to make a save so Brock feels the need to throw him down with another German suplex.
That’s not enough for Brock though as he loads up the announcers’ table (and destroys a monitor), only to walk into the AA. Brock doesn’t even stay down so Cena hits another, only to have Lesnar pop up again. A third AA gets two as Rollins makes the save, followed by the Curb Stomp for two with Cena making a save. Now the fans are impressed. Lesnar throws them both down again and goes outside, only to have Cena follow him out and spear the champ through the barricade.
Cena slams him hard into the steps and blasts him in the face with the same steps, knocking the champ onto the announcers’ table. Seth kicks Cena down and goes up for a top rope elbow through the table to put everyone down. That was one heck of a crash as the war continues. Back in and Rollins hits the low superkick for two on Cena but John grabs a popup sitout powerbomb for the same. Lesnar is receiving medical attention as Rollins counters a superplex attempt into the running buckle bomb for two.
Everyone is down again but Cena grabs the STF, only to have the Stooges come in for the save. Rollins plays Reigns in a Triple Bomb as a stretcher comes out for Lesnar. Cena kicks out at two so Rollins grabs the briefcase, only to miss the charge and fly out to the floor. The Stooges take a double AA and Rollins gets the single version but kicks out at two. We cut back to Lesnar who says he wants to stay out here. Cole says Lesnar has at least a broken rib. Rollins enziguris Cena down and the Curb Stomp connects for another near fall.
Rollins busts out a Phoenix Splash but Lesnar CHARGES back in for some German suplexes as Beast Mode is on. Seth flips out of a German though and knocks Lesnar silly with the briefcase, only to have Lesnar pop up with an F5 to counter the Curb Stomp onto the briefcase to retain the title at 22:45.
Rating: A. If there’s one thing WWE can do like no one else, it’s organized carnage. These guys DESTROYED each other for twenty two minutes and I would have believed anyone could have won at any time. Lesnar going into that other level is absolutely terrifying and you believe he could beat anyone at that point. Great stuff here and well worth going out of your way to see. They’re making Lesnar out to be unstoppable, meaning whoever gets to take the title off of him will be a huge star. You might even say they’ll be Reign(s)ing. And yes that was as stupid as it sounded.
This worked for pure action and insanity. These three were all over the place and there was a great story being told with Brock being taken out by the two mortals who then tried to beat each other as fast as they could. Rollins looked like an absolute star in the making here and the whole thing worked due to the incredible amount of work they all put in.
We’ll continue with the Cena theme as he takes on Kevin Owens in Owens’ main roster debut. These two talked trash to each other for weeks about whose title (Owens’ NXT Title or Cena’s US Title) meant more. Owens had been on fire since debuting in December and this was a chance to make a new star all over again. From “Elimination Chamber 2015”.
Kevin Owens vs. John Cena
Alright WWE. This is your chance. You can elevate someone or go with the same old stuff. Owens is very fired up to be in there and actually doesn’t drop to the floor at the bell as is his custom in NXT. A quick shoulder puts Owens down but he takes Cena into the corner and puts a boot in his face. Cena gets punched to the apron so Kevin can rip at his face like a villain should.
The fans chant for NXT and we hit the chinlock. Cena powers up into an AA attempt but Owens calmly escapes and hits a DDT for two. Owens opts to just punch Cena in the face (I love it when people do that) for a bit before a backsplash connects for two more. Back up and Kevin tries a swinging Rock Bottom but Cena counters into a crucifix, only to have Owens slam him down in a kind of Samoan drop for another near fall. The Cannonball gets the same and Owens says it’s time for Johnny boy to give up.
The pop up powerbomb is countered with a leapfrog and Cena initiates his finishing sequence. Cena loads up the AA but gets countered into the pop up powerbomb for a close two, stunning Owens. Kevin gets crotches on top but headbutts Cena down, only to miss a moonsault of all things. The AA gets two (take a shot!) and both guys are down. Owens nails a superkick and tries his own Five Knuckle Shuffle (because he’s that awesome) but Cena pulls him down into the STF.
Cena tries to pull him back to the middle but Owens kicks him away and hits an AA of his own (good one too) for another near fall. Both guys are down again and it’s Cena up first for the two off the top rope Fameasser. Cole calls that patented, but I’m not sure Cena ever filed that paperwork. Back up again and Owens loads up the package piledriver (his pre-WWE finisher) but slams Cena to the side instead of dropping him on his head.
Kevin starts talking more trash before winning a slugout, only to get caught in the springboard Stunner for two. Frustration is setting in so Cena takes him up top for a superplex, only to have Owens counter into a spinning superplex of his own for two. Owens runs to the top for a Swanton for two more and now Kevin is frustrated. Cena nails that big running clothesline and Owens is rocked. John goes for another but walks into the pop up powerbomb for the completely clean pin at 20:03.
Rating: A. My jaw dropped on the pin. This is EXACTLY the way they should have gone as Cena hit him with the best and Owens pinned him in the middle of the ring. The key thing here is Cena isn’t going to lose a thing out of this as he’ll be fine in about two minutes. Owens on the other hand looks like the biggest new deal in years and couldn’t get a bigger rub if they tried. Great, great stuff here and I loved the booking so much.
Much like Rollins in the triple threat, this is how you make a star. While Owens wound up losing the feud, this is the match that he could talk about for months on end because he beat Cena on his own here. I talked about this a few weeks ago but the idea holds up very strongly here: if someone new is treated as something special and hits the ground running, they can go on for a long time on one or two matches.
Compare Owens to someone like Tyler Breeze, who lost his debut match and has been losing more often than not since. One of them looks destined to be a huge deal and the other is just a guy on the roster. It’s all in the start and Owens couldn’t have asked for a better one here.
Finally, we’ll look at what I thought was the match of the year due to pure emotion. The story may be a female version of something we saw to close out 2014 but that doesn’t make it any less great. This was all about a long title chase and setting up one single moment to pay the whole thing off. Instead of waiting around forever, NXT decided to set this up as a huge deal and gave us the moment the fans wanted to see. From Takeover: Brooklyn.
Women’s Title: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks
Banks is defending. Bayley comes out with a yellow polka dot headband to honor Dusty in a very nice touch. Sasha on the other hand comes out in a Cadillac Escalade surrounded by a team of bodyguards. Sasha laughs off the Dusty wristbands and it’s a catfight to start. Bayley scores with a basement elbow for two and the fans are WAY into this. The champ sends her into the buckle over and over but Bayley shakes it off and ties Sasha in the Tree of Woe for a springboard elbow drop.
Banks goes outside for a breather so Bayley baseball slides her in the face. They fight into the corner where Bayley avoids the double knees, only to have a kick to the knee send her out to the floor. Sasha mocks the high fives to the fans before she hits Bayley’s running elbow to the back. The champ wins a slugout in the corner but still can’t hit the double knees. Instead she sends Bayley face first into the buckle and puts her on the top rope for the BIG double knees.
The kickout stuns Sasha so she tries some trash talk, only to be sent face first into the buckle. Bayley gets all aggressive with right hands but gets overzealous and sent outside. With desperation setting in, Sasha rips off the hand brace and sends the recently healed hand into the steps. That’s not enough so Sasha put the hand between the steps and the post and kicks them together to put Bayley on the floor and writhing in pain.
The referee takes too much time checking on her for Sasha’s liking though so Banks flips over him to land on Bayley. Back in and Sasha grabs the bad hand and walks the corner with it, snapping Bayley’s arm over the top. Sasha crashes hard on the floor though and seems to have banged herself up. The delay lets Bayley make her comeback with ax handles and the running corner elbow.
Sasha drops to her knees to block the Bayley to Belly and there’s the Bank Statement. Bayley crawls for the ropes but Sasha STOMPS ON THE BAND HAND to keep her away. Sasha tries to pull her back but Bayley rolls into a Bank Statement of her own. She cranks the heck out of that thing but Sasha rolls over to get her foot on the ropes. What a sequence. Bayley pulls her up to her feet for a Bayley to Belly but Sasha kicks out at a very close two.
With nothing else working, Bayley loads up the super Bayley to Belly but Sasha knocks her down. Bayley runs the corner for a forearm though and tries a super hurricanrana, only to have Sasha shove her away, sending Bayley crashing down onto her face. Sasha will have none of this waiting though and dives down onto Bayley for a VERY close two. They fight to the corner again and Bayley pulls off a super reverse hurricanrana. Sasha is DONE and the Bayley to Belly gives Bayley the title at 18:12.
Rating: A. The wrestling and action have been topped before, but this was all about the story. Bayley showed all the heart in the world here and they managed to make me believe she actually might not get the title here. This felt like a war though and the fans carried it even higher than it was getting on its own. Awesome match here and I was right there with them every step of the way.
Bayley’s title win was pure emotion. She connected with her fans in a way that almost no one has in years and the long chase to her first title made for some excellent storytelling, capped off by a classic for the title win. This was all about making you want to finally see something happen and that’s exactly what the fans received. It’s an outstanding match with an outstanding story and that’s what made it the match of the year.
2015 was a year that had its bad moments (including most of the second half of the year) but the high points showed what wrestling can do when it’s done properly. These three matches were all built around entirely different stories and each one gave the perfect payoff that they had been built towards. WWE may not be great at setting matches up all the time, but when they get it right, they can get it very right. Granted not as well as NXT but still good enough.
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