World Wrestling Entertainment is a big company that has certainly has both fans and detractors of their product. As the year 2016 comes closer, this seems like an opportune time to reflect on what WWE had to offer over the last 12 months. While some might see the main WWE roster to offer less depth then the NXT roster (which is nonetheless part of WWE), there have been great to fantastic matches from both the main roster and the NXT roster. From heated rivalries to outstanding performances, here are the ten best WWE matches of 2015.
10) 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.
9) John Cena vs. Seth Rollins: WWE World Heavyweight and United States Championship – SummerSlam
This historic bout between the present face and future face of the WWE is not the first time these two competitors have met. Last time they were in the squared circle together, Cena got a victory of “The Architect” in a Tables match after putting him through a table via an Attitude Adjustment. A lot changed since then as Cena and Rollins have won titles at WrestleMania 31 with the latter winning the top prize of WWE. At the second biggest WWE event of the year, the stakes were high as both champions put their respective belts on the line to who truly was the best. Picking up where they left off at Royal Rumble, they proved to their fans and/or haters they were on top of their game as Cena and Rollins did everything in their power to try to walk out as new champions. Despite a controversial finish featuring interference from Jon Stewart, it did not take away that this match was quite an awesome and epic encounter.
8) 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.
7) 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.
6) Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (vs. Seth Rollins): 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) 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.
3) 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.
2) John Cena vs. Kevin Owens: Champion vs. Champion Non-Title Match – 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.
1) Bayley vs. Sasha Banks: NXT Women’s Championship – NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn & NXT TakeOver: Respect
These two matches are not just the best women’s wrestling matches of the year, but they are truly the best pro wrestling matches of all-time. People will study these matches over time in order to understand the some of the best in-ring psychology to be displayed in the ring this year. This culmination of matches between Bayley, who is the epitome of wrestling fandom, and Sasha Banks, the self-proclaimed Boss of NXT was not the first time these two have been pitted against one another. With all due respect to the commendable performances from Kevin Owens and Finn Balor in front of the sold-out crowd at the Barclays Center, Bayley’s and Sasha’s match at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn stole the show and should have been the main event for the evening. They captivated each and every single person who watched their bout as they told a fantastic story about the ultimate underdog taking on the overconfident champion with the NXT Women’s Championship up for grabs.
The follow-up to their classic showdown in Brooklyn was just as great as they made history by not only becoming the first women to headline a TakeOver event, but to also partake in the first ever Iron Man (or in their case Iron Woman) Match in NXT history. In 30 minutes, Bayley (now the defending NXT Women’s Champion) and Sasha Banks told another great story without replicating the same spots they did in Brooklyn. The ultimate cherry on top of the proverbial sundae was Sasha becoming the ultimate heel by by making Bayley superfan Izzy cry by not only viciously beating up her hero in front of her, but also mocking the distraught and tearful child. Despite all of this, Bayley decided to fight fire with fire by becoming just as vicious as Sasha with a flurry of devastating offensive manuevers. In the end, Bayley was able to retain the title by giving the Boss a taste of her own medicine by getting out of Sasha’s “Bank Statement” and making her tap out with an excruciating submission of her own. What followed was an emotional post-match celebration and tribute by the entire NXT roster as they showed how much they respect these two women and the future of women’s wrestling.