From WrestleMania’s main event to NXT’s groundbreaking live specials, there have been plenty of classic matches on WWE TV this year. Here’s our top 10 picks.
There was a lot to be pessimistic about concerning WWE in 2015; the year started with the WrestleMania main event push of a man who had only one previous singles PPV match. After ‘Mania, live TV ratings started to hit record lows, while the promising Divas Revolution didn’t quite catch on in WWE as it had in NXT. The year closed with a string of injuries that will hinder the company all the way up to the biggest-venue-ever WrestleMania next year.
Still, in the face of all of that, we’ve seen more fantastic in-ring action than ever as WWE put on some spectacular PPVs, NXT ventured outside of Full Sail for epic live events, and women’s wrestling hit new heights thanks to the Four Horsewomen.
After all of that and more, picking the ten best matches of 2015 was a huge undertaking with some very memorable battles just missing the cut. However, the 10 matches listed here were absolute classics worth watching, whether it’s your first viewing or (in my case) the fifth. As for non-WWE-branded bouts, check back soon for a list of the best international and indie matches of 2015!
Honorable Mentions: John Cena vs Kevin Owens (Elimination Chamber), Roman Reigns vs Sheamus (TLC), Samoa Joe vs Finn Balor (NXT Takeover: London), Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch (NXT Takeover: Unstoppable), John Cena vs Sami Zayn (Raw)
10 – Tyson Kidd & Cesaro vs Los Matadores vs The New Day vs The Usos (WrestleMania)
WrestleMania was filled with “give everyone a paycheck matches,” like the 7-man Ladder Match and the 30-man Battle Royal, but the only time that EVERYONE looked good was during the show-opening Fatal 4-Way tag team championship match. While it may not have had the insane spots of the TLC matches that stole the show at previous ‘Manias, it was every bit as crowd-pleasing thanks to some inventive action.
With Jimmy Uso bowing out early due to injury, fellow hometown boy Jey Uso’s singles performance was great to showcase a face in peril in a match where the other good guys were subject to extreme apathy (remember, this was before The New Day won us over). Cesaro and Big E got to show off their strength while the rest of the crew pulled off some high-flying moves, but the highlight of the match was the use of each team’s cornerperson as the outside brawl between Natalya, Naomi, Xavier Woods, and El Torito provided WrestleMania moments to the most unlikely foursome ever. The announcers went a bit crazy overselling the “destruction derby” element of the match, but the amazing ending featuring a double-triple suplex-powerbomb and Cesaro covertly tagging in to steal a win was fantastic.
BEST SPOT: Cesaro and Big E simultaneously electric chair-drop the Los Matadores attempting top-rope suplexes.
9 – Finn Balor vs Apollo Crews (November 4 NXT)
Some day, we’ll look back at the storied careers of Finn Balor and Apollo Crews as they main-event WrestleManias and trade the WWE title in front of massive crowds (after both get just a bit more comfortable behind the mic). On that day we’ll flash back to their first-ever encounter… which happened on a taped NXT show (where only the tag straps change hands nowadays) with two unnecessary commercial breaks and it ended with a DQ shmozz to set up NXT Takeover: London.
Despite all that, it was a heck of a match that showed why these two are the most talented male performers on a stacked NXT roster. From the early going, Balor and Crews hit each other with some fast-paced offense at a stunning pace (probably because they knew they basically had 10 minutes of TV time to get everything in). For as much great offense as was on display, the best part about Crews-Balor is knowing there’s so much left more in the tank for their future fights.
BEST SPOT: Crews’ running boot followed up by Balor’s Pele kick.
8 – Asuka vs Emma (NXT Takeover: London)
I’ll admit; it’s taken me longer than most to get aboard the Asuka bandwagon. Since I hadn’t seen much of her work in Japan, her first few matches (mostly against jobberettes and the green-as-grass Dana Brooke) were decent but not great, while her in-ring mannerisms that was mostly just lip-licking and smiling didn’t quite convey the same level of personality as NXT’s best. However, NXT London has made me a believer.
When paired with the most underrated woman on WWE’s payroll, Asuka’s strikes and throws have never looked better, and for Emma, it was the perfect opportunity to showcase her amazing talent with over a year between live event special singles matches. Even though Bayley and Sasha Banks share the honor of having the first-ever PPV main event, Asuka and Emma were the first pair to open a show and kept London hot all night.
BEST SPOT: Asuka’s counters a clothesline into an armbar submision.
7 – Baron Corbin & Rhyno vs Chad Gable and Jason Jordan (NXT Takeover: Respect)
On both the main roster and NXT, the greatest surprises came in the form of tag teams. All three members of The New Day rebounded from a lackluster 2014 to becoming WWE’s must-watch talent on a weekly basis, but NXT’s pairing of amateur wrestling stars Chad Gable and Jason Jordan may end up with the same amount of success in the long run as the duo’s comedic chops is only exceeded by their uncanny in-ring talent.
Their greatest work this year came in the form of NXT’s most underrated duo; a motivated Rhyno and the constantly improving Baron Corbin. The entirety of the match is good as the brickhouse-built-opponents give Gable and Jordan huge canvases to showcase great chain wrestling and tag team moves against, but the ending is nearly flawless. From Gable’s rolling German Suplex to one of Rhyno’s best gores to the impeccable End of Days, this has one of the most rollicking endings to an NXT match this year… and that’s saying a lot.
BEST SPOT: Corbin’s tilt-a-whirl End of Days.
6 – Roman Reigns vs Daniel Bryan (Fastlane)
Roman Reigns may still have some serious issues on the microphone (seriously, never give him pre-written jokes, and never have his speeches go more than two minutes), but his in-ring work during main events has shown that Reigns can have spectacular matches if his opponent is just as willing to hit hard as The Big Dog(TM) will. We didn’t see that in his few singles matches in 2014, but his first singles PPV match of 2015 showed the blueprint that Roman rode to some pretty stellar bouts.
Even if Roman main-eventing WrestleMania was inevitable (WWE would never let a fresh-off-a-neck injury Bryan get suplexed into oblivion by Brock Lesnar), credit to this match on the very underrated Fastlane PPV for making the result slightly less than obvious. In what could be his last-ever PPV main-event, Daniel Bryan made Roman Reigns look like a million bucks, and Roman managed to look vulnerable at points while Bryan worked semi-heelish. DB had some great moves too, including a surfboard submission in tune with “YES” chants, and one of his more brutal out-of-ring planchas to date. It’s a shame Bryan went immediately from the main event to a show-opening 7-man match at WrestleMania, but fortunately Bryan made the best of that opportunity – for a few weeks, anyway.
BEST SPOT: Bryan countering a Superman Punch with a kick to the gut.
The top 5 WWE and NXT matches of 2015 await you on the next page!