We are mid-way through the year 2015 and there have been plenty of memorable matches that the World Wrestling Entertainment has offered to the WWE Universe. With the exception of one match in January, it looked as though this was going to be an all-out NXT list of bouts. However, there were some WWE matches from the main roster (courtesy of a couple of NXT alumni) that were able to compete with the men and women of NXT.
10) Cesaro vs. John Cena: WWE United States Championship – Raw 7/13
When Cesaro answered John Cena’s United States Championship Open Challenge on the July 3rd episode of WWE Raw, “The Swiss Superman” proved that he could keep with the leader of “Cenation.” He probably would have won the U.S. title if it weren’t for the interference of Kevin Owens. The following week, Cesaro challenged Cena once again in a classic championship showdown with challenger and champion trying top one another. Looking to finish it all, Cesaro was getting ready to deliver a “Neutralizer” from the top rope until Cena reversed it into an “Attitude Adjustment” from the middle rope to get the win.
9) Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks: WWE NXT Women’s Championship – WWE NXT 7/15
Something happens whenever “The Flair of NXT” and “The Boss of NXT” enters the squared circle. There’s a certain kinetic energy when these ladies lace up their boots and wrestle their hearts out, especially against each other and I love it. Their match last year at NXT Takeover: R-Evolution was my number three on my list of the best matches of 2014. This time around, Banks is the defending NXT Women’s Champion when she faced Charlotte on last week’s episode of NXT in what is possibly their last match with one another in NXT. These fantastic workers pulled out every trick in their book with Charlotte even locking in her father’s finisher, “The Figure Four Leglock,” on Banks from the outside of the ring. However, it was Banks who ultimately retained her title courtesy of “The Bank Statement.” Despite all the battles they have gone through over the years, Charlotte and Banks hugged it out in the end, showing that they do respect each other.
8) Adrian Neville vs. Finn Balor: #1 Contender Match – NXT TakeOver: Rival
Before they entered the world of NXT, Adrian Neville and Finn Balor both paved their own paths in different promotions. Neville was known as PAC at Pro Wrestling Guerilla and Dragon Gate, while Balor was Prince Devitt in NJPW as the founder of the Bullet Club. These two competitors found themselves locking up with each other for a future NXT title shot on NXT’s first TakeOver event of the year. In his last big match at NXT before he moved to the main roster the night after WrestleMania, Neville hit Balor with everything he had from killer counter sequences to some death-defying aerial maneuvers. It wasn’t enough to put Balor as “The Demon” nailed “The Man That Gravity Forgot” with the “Coup de Grace” to become the new #1 contender.
7) Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens: NXT Championship – Brock Lesnar: Beast in the East Live from Tokyo
While Balor’s first attempt to capture the NXT Championship did not go according to plan after getting pinned by Kevin Owens on an episode of NXT in March, his second attempt was more successful. When WWE decided to broadcast a WWE Network exclusive in the Land of the Rising Sun, it seemed appropriate that Balor will receive his second title shot in the country where he made his name in the wrestling world. Decked in heavy and wicked body paint, Balor was greeted by the Japanese crowd with some ceremonial streamers and flowers (which was rejected by Owens). Owens did his best to try to slow down the bout to a sluggish pace, but he was no match for the demonic challenger as Balor hit Owens with the “Coup de Grace” finisher to win the NXT Championship.
6) Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns: WWE World Heavyweight Championship – WrestleMania 31
Nobody was looking forward to the main event of WrestleMania 31 where the winner of the 2015 Royal Rumble, Roman Reigns, was set to take on “The Beast Incarnate” and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar. With Lesnar on the verge of possibly leaving WWE, it seemed obvious that Reigns was going to win. However, a funny thing happened a couple of days before the biggest WWE event of the year. Lesnar announced on ESPN SportsCenter. At that point, nobody knew who was going to walk out of Levi’s Stadium the new champ. To everyone’s surprise, the contest was a hard-hitting, seemingly strong-style affair where Lesnar dominated Reigns early on and gave him a first-class ticket to Suplex City. Reigns overcame the brutality of “The Beast” as he was able to bust Lesnar wide open, sending the champion reeling while wearing a crimson mask. With both WWE Superstars down and out on the mat, Seth Rollins became the Ultimate Opportunist as he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract to turn the championship bout into a triple-threat match. A spear from Reigns sent Lesnar out of the ring, while Rollins nailed Reigns with “The Curb Stomp” to get the pinfall and walk out of WrestleMania 31 the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
5) Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn: NXT Championship – NXT TakeOver: Rival
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had feuded all over the world in different promotions including Ring of Honor. They managed to transplant their conflict to NXT in December when Owens attacked Zayn after the latter won the NXT Championship at NXT TakeOver: R-Evolution, which is my pick for the best WWE match of 2014. Everyone looked forward to this contest after a night feature two other stellar matches because each men poured their heart out in promos leading up to the bout. This bout featured some fantastic storytelling from both Owens and Zayn as the former dominated the majority of the match. It seemed Zayn was getting his comeback on until an ill-timed springboard moonsault to Owens caused the champion to inadvertently bang his head on the steel ramp. The challenger took advantage of Zayn’s injury by delivering powerbomb after powerbomb to him until the referee had no choice but to stop the match and declare Owens the winner and new NXT Champion. Their next encounter at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable was good, but it wasn’t as emotional and terrific as their first showdown in NXT.
4) Bayley vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks: NXT Women’s Championship – NXT Takeover: Rival
The four best Divas in NXT beating the living hell out of each other with the NXT Women’s Championship on the line. Charlotte walked into this match as the NXT Women Champion as her reign lasted for eight months, but there were three other competitors that were gunning for her prized possession. Bayley, Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Sasha Banks truly delivered the goods as they all fought to become the new champion or in Charlotte’s case, retain it. Everyone was perfect including Lynch, who was getting her first shot at the NXT Women’s Championship. While Banks won and become the new NXT Women’s Champion, this highly competitive contest proved that these women were all “winners” in the end.
3) Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks: NXT Women’s Championship – NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable
Becky Lynch’s first chance to compete for the NXT Women’s Championship at NXT TakeOver: Rival showed she could hold her own against the ladies of NXT. However, her showdown with her former ally was a true breakthrough performance from the “Lass Kicker.” This contest felt more like a brawl then an actual wrestling contest as these ladies did everything they could to injure each other. While Banks did everything she can to take out Lynch’s left arm to prevent the challenger to use her armbar submission hold, Lynch was resilient enough to fight back with just her one good arm. Despite all this, Banks was able to lock in “The Bank Statement” to keep the NXT Women’s title. After it was all over, the NXT crowd gave Lynch a standing ovation for her valiant efforts and outstanding performance.
2) Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins: WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Royal Rumble
The past, present and future of WWE was well represented in the best match on the card as past, then-current and future WWE World Heavyweight Champions battled it out with the championship on the line. It could have been the best match of the year thus far even if wasn’t for Kevin Owens making main roster debut in May and taking on John Cena at Elimination Chamber. Each WWE superstar filled out their role respectively with Cena playing the uber babyface, Lesnar as the monstrous unstoppable force and Rollins as the conniving ratfink heel. The triple threat match might as well could have been titled “Finisher-For-All” as each competitor used their patented finishers to try to put each other away including a multitude of Attitude Adjustments, Curb Stomps and F5s. We knew “The Beast” was more then likely going to walk away with the title, but Cena proved that he could still go at his age. On the other hand, this match is the official single breakout performance from Seth Rollins, who absolutely stole the match with great, yet risky maneuvers including a breathtaking Phoenix Splash.
1) John Cena vs. Kevin Owens – Elimination Chamber
Who would have thought the indie darling Kevin Owens would make a quick impact in World Wrestling Entertainment after dominating NXT, beating Sami Zayn on three separate occasions and taking out John Cena on his WWE main roster debut on an episode of Raw? It was almost surreal to see him go toe-to-toe with the leader of “Cenation,” let alone face him in a singles match on his first WWE pay-per-view. As soon as the bell rang, Owens went after Cena and wearing down the 15-time former WWE Champion with kicks and punches. The then-NXT Champion and the United States Champion pull out all the stops as they tried to one-up each other and even going to extreme lengths (Owens’ Swanton Bomb) to get the win. It seemed like Super Cena was going to garner the pinfall after kicking out of Owens’ Pop-up Powerbomb and hit his opponent with an Attitude Adjustment, but Owens ultimately kicks out. Owens was able to hit another Pop-up Powerbomb and cover the U.S. champ for the three-count. There was no doubt that Owens not only cemented himself as one of the most menacing foes that Cena have faced in recent years.