Wrestler of the Year: Seth Rollins
Let’s see..Seth cashed in Money in the Bank to win the WWE World Title at WrestleMania, and was in great title matches all year long. He got a good match out of 55 year old Sting at Night of Champions and another one out of Kane at Hell in the Cell. Then there were the two title matches with John Cena, two with Dean Ambrose, the three way dance at Royal Rumble, and the Fatal Four Way with Ambrose, Randy Orton, and Roman Reigns at Payback. Unfortunately his year got cut short when he was injured at a house show during November in a match against Kane but he put in work all year long on big monthly shows and every week on RAW.
Runner Up: John Cena
The U.S. Title Open Challenge was a highlight every week on RAW and breathed new life into both the title and Cena’s WWE run at the top.
NXT Call Up of the Year: Kevin Owens
No brainer here. Owens attacked Cena in his first appearance on RAW, beat Cena in his first WWE match, won the Intercontinental Title, and finished in the final four of the WWE Title tournament in November. No one else was even close.
Runner Up: Charlotte
Charlotte came up as part of the Diva’s Revolution with Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks, and while she didn’t get over as well as the higher ups would have liked she did win the WWE Diva’s Title from Nikki Bella.
Worst NXT Call Up: The Ascension
The longest reigning NXT tag team champions were made regulars on the main WWE roster this year and had a lot of promise at the beginning. Now they’re jobbers basically. Konnor and Viktor look like the next in line of the face painted tough guy teams, but instead of just taking and that running with it the bookers had them both embracing and running from that legacy at the same time. Their early vignettes had them talking about their predecessors when they should have just not mentioned them. Everybody knows they look like Hawk & Animal/Demoilition/The Powers of Pain; just roll with it and eat the “L-O-D!” chants while they prove their own mettle. The chants will stop eventually if you’re good enough. Instead they’re in jobberville and may never return.
Slept on Match of the Year: Fatal Four Way WWE World Title Match, Payback
The main event of the May show was a four way match between WWE Champion Rollins, Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, and Dean Ambrose. A world title match on a May show is not likely to result in a title change so the goal is to put on as good a performance as possible. And these guys did that. The brief Shield reunion was a magic moment in itself, and the brief foreshadowing of Dean vs Roman in the ring was well done. Payback was an ok show overall but this match is worth watching.
Biggest Letdown of the Year: 2015 Royal Rumble Match
Oh man, that was bad. Very short appearances by several fan favorites – Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, and Cesaro all had less time in the match than Stardust and Jack Swagger. Ziggler was the ring less time than Diamond Dallas Page, long retired from action, R-Truth, and Fandango. You had Kane and Big Show throwing out younger stars Ziggler, Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, and Ryback. Curtis Axel never making it to the ring. And then the finish where Reigns goes over even though people didn’t want that, and getting booed out of the building as a result. Just a disaster all around. It was clear at that point that a lot of the fans felt Reigns was being pushed on them, and wanted Daniel Bryan instead. So when Bryan not only didn’t win but came in at number 10 and lasted all of 10 minutes before getting tossed people were pissed. Even the Rock running in help Roman couldn’t get him over that night. Yikes all around.
Best preserved wrestler: Roman Reigns
The company has wanted to put the belt on Roman for a while, and when their first attempt earlier this year was so poorly received that they had to punt on it they had to make a decision. Do you forget trying to make Roman a thing and move on, or do you keep him relevant so he can live to fight another day? And then, how do you go about doing that? Well for most of the year they kept in matches that were important on the card but below the main event level, and didn’t pin any damaging losses on him. Then when they finally got the conditions that made putting the belt on him a good idea they went with it. The jury’s still out on how this will go but they did a good job in not flushing his career because of one false start.
Runner Up: Dean Ambrose
Like Roman, Dean was largely protected all year, and rightfully so. He didn’t do any demoralizing jobs in any big matches and closed the year with an Intercontinental Title victory. Dean is one of the guys the company is going to be leaning on for the next several years so you don’t want to bury him in any kind of way.
Worst preserved wrestler: Rusev
Rusev started out the year as the unbeaten, unstoppable monster who would ride to his match at WrestleMania on a tank. By the middle of the year he was bogged down on a really bad, neverending angle with Dolph Ziggler and was jobbing regularly. Now I knew that the undefeated part was going to end, and that John Cena would end it, but what they did after that was just bad. Losing two straight rematches to Cena on big shows then the Ziggler angle. They can rebuild him in 2016 but it’s going to take some time and effort.
Runner Up: Sheamus
Sheamus comes back and turns heel, which is fine, but never really firmly anchored himself. He traded wins with Ziggler and Randy Orton through the fall, and between all of that he won Money in the Bank – which made zero sense given that he essentially a midcard guy with a .500 record at the time. No one wanted to see Sheamus cash the briefcase in so when he did at Survivor Series the reaction was mostly meh. Some guys in the higher offices apparently like Sheamus but it’s time to admit that he isn’t big star material, especially when you don’t treat him like it when you do put him in the spotlight.
Special Achievement Award: The NXT Women’s Division
I couldn’t think of a category, but you can’t talk about 2015 without mentioning them. Three of the best matches of the year regardless of gender came out of this division: Sasha Banks vs Beck Lynch at NXT: Takeover Unstoppable, Banks vs Bayley at NXT: Takeover Brooklyn, and the Iron Woman rematch at NXT: Takeover Respect. I recommend watching any of those matches if you’re looking for a best of 2015 set. In fact, watch all of them. They were that good.
My Favorite Matches of the Year
In no order:
- WWE Title Match – Seth Rollins vs Brock Lesnar vs John Cena, Royal Rumble
- Fatal Four Way WWE Title Match, Payback
- The John Cena-Kevin Owens trifecta
- Sasha Banks vs Bayley, NXT Takeover Brooklyn
- Undertaker vs Lesnar, Summerslam
- Roman Reigns vs Bray Wyatt, Hell in a Cell
- Taker-Lesnar, Hell in a Cell
- Three Way WWE Tag Team Title Ladder Match: New Day vs The Usos vs The Lucha Dragons
So that’s my best and worst of 2015.