As 2015 comes to a close I thought I would put together a list of my favourite matches from WWE and other promotions around the world that happened this year. I won’t spoil who won in case you haven’t seen these yet, because that would ruin your enjoyment of them! They are all available through a variety of nefarious means on the internet but I would encourage you to support the promotions with your dollars, pounds and euros by getting the DVDs or online services to watch the matches. If you haven’t watched wrestling before, or are just looking for some great matches to put on, these are the matches for you!
John Cena vs Seth Rollins vs Brock Lesnar (c) for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at “Royal Rumble”
This match was a coming out party for Seth Rollins. He had become the top heel in the second half of 2014 as Brock Lesnar had been off TV for months and here he was; a smarmy, cowardly heel in the ring with John Cena and Brock freakin’ Lesnar – who had put on 2 great matches with each other in 2014 and were the top stars of WWE. Rollins not only held his own but out-shined them as he hit a gorgeous flying elbow off the top rope onto Brock and through an announce table. He debuted his Phoenix Splash and really announced that he was ready to step into the spotlight of a main event title picture against all comers. From this match Rollins went on to dominate the WWE in 2015 until a knee injury in November put him of the shelf for the next several months.
Available on the WWE Network
Roderick Strong (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr for the PWG World Championship at “Don’t Sweat The Technique”
Roderick Strong was the confident heel champion who had been around forever, Zack Sabre Jr was the new hot thing in PWG. Together they put on an absolute barn-burner of match that I must have watched at least 20 times now. Zack’s blend of technical submission style wrestling and hard strikes blended perfectly with Strong’s own proficiencies to create a story that built to a perfect crescendo of counters, near falls and false finishes. When the end did come the crowd were on their feet and both wrestlers were spent. It was a brilliant match that advanced both wrestlers and really made Zack Sabre Jr a star with PWG, not even a year since his debut there. PWG matches can often jump the shark with their finishes but this was spot on and fitted the style of match and rivalry between the two to a tee. Since this match Strong and Sabre Jr have been circling each other like a pair of angry but wary sharks. A re-match looks like it will be on the cards soon – I can’t wait.
Available to buy on DVD here
Sasha Banks (c) vs Bayley for the NXT Womens Championship at “Takeover: Brooklyn”
This match had a lot to live up to. For a year the womens matches at Takeovers had been growing better and better. The storytelling and characters had reached a point where everyone was invested. The title match at the previous Takeover (Unstoppable) between Sasha and Becky Lynch stole the show and in front of 15,000 people the women would do it again. Bayley is perhaps the most natural, lovable Face in wrestling at the moment. She had started out as a happy-go-lucky woman in NXT who couldn’t win and didn’t have an edge, but she evolved that edge over time after one too many disappointments. Sasha Banks was the epitome of bad ass arrogance. While this match didn’t have the technical elegance of Zack Sabre Jr & Roddy Strong or the huge spots of Rollins, Cena & Lesnar the investment of the crowd in Bayley’s journey and the way Sasha went after a recently broken hand brought the crowd to the edge of their seats. When it was all over Charlotte and Becky Lynch – the other 2 of the “4 Horsewomen” of NXT – came out to congratulate them and take a curtain call. The emotion of the match is what earns it’s place here. It was a beautiful lesson in how an invested crowd can take a very, very good match and put it over the top into brilliance. After this they had a rematch at Takeover: Respect that was almost as good and while Sasha Banks has moved up to Raw permanently Bayley is still bringing crowds to their feet in NXT and reading the next crop of womens wrestlers.
Available on the WWE Network
Shisuke Nakamura (c) vs Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship at “Wrestle Kingdom 9”
Japanese wrestling remains something of a mystery to me but you don’t need a Japanese translation book to see that Nakamura is a charismatic megastar. He is the total opposite to the respectful, straight laced Japanese wrestler one expects and has to be seen to be truly appreciated. Nakamura and Ibushi beat the crap out of each other with knee strikes, punches and kicks in a match that was punctuated with high flying from Ibushi including a sensational moonsault from the top rope to the floor. When the end came it was – as JR would say – quick as a hiccup. If you haven’t ever watched Japanese wrestling I would encourage you to put this on immediately.
Available to view online here
Mil Muertes vs Fenix – Grave Consequences Match – 18/3/15 Episode
A casket match between a wrestler who is known as “the man of 1000 deaths” and one who is the embodiment of a phoenix sounds ridiculous, only this match was anything but. Lucha Underground is comfortably the best wrestling on TV at the moment, mostly for it’s simple yet engaging storylines up and down the roster blended with superb wrestling. This was a grudge match between Mil Muertes and the Fenix, who had been the first man to beat Muertes and become the apple of Catrina’s – Muertes’ girlfriend/handler – eye. It’s one of the most brutal and physically violent matches you will see with the much larger Mil Muertes dominating for large portions of the bout. He rips Fenix’s mask apart and sends him repeatedly into the coffin at ringside. But, living up to his name, Fenix kept rising again. When it was over there was a lot of blood and a collective sigh of relief from the crowd that such a tense and vicious battle was over. It was something you very rarely see from major wrestling promotions and comfortably the best casket match I’ve ever seen.
Available to view online here
So there you have it. My picks for the best matches of the year from 5 of the top promotions that I have seen all year. There are a lot of other worthy candidates such as Finn Balor vs Samoa Joe at the recent NXT Takeover: London, the Kevin Owens vs John Cena saga and a war between Chris Hero vs Timothy Thatcher at PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles. I didn’t discuss the likes of Ring of Honor or TNA because I don’t watch those promotions but Bullet Club vs Chaos at ROH/NJPW Global Wars and Adam Cole vs Kyle O’Reilly are some of the best Ring of Honor has to offer from 2015. There is also the G1 Climax tournament that New Japan puts on which had some reportedly amazing matches but unfortunately I didn’t have access to those shows.
So if “RAW” on a Monday night isn’t doing it for you just know there is wrestling out there that caters to every fan, you just have to dig around a bit.