Pro Wrestling

WATCH: The 10 Absolute Best WWE Matches of 2015

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If there’s one thing that you can’t fault WWE for, it’s a constant stream of great wrestling. Every year, some of the best wrestlers in the world put on the performances of a lifetime, looking to establish themselves among the pantheon of legends that have come before. In 2015, the field of great matches got even bigger, as WWE’s developmental territory, NXT, blossomed into a very nearly full-fledged brand of its own, with its own array of show-stealing matches that have had people talking for months afterwards. With so many matches to choose from, how did we manage to narrow our list down to just ten? Well, it wasn’t easy, but after hours of research and debate, here are the ten matches that we can say, without a shadow of a doubt, were the absolute best wrestling matches in WWE for 2015.

10. The Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar – SummerSlam

The truth of the matter is, this match exceeded everyone’s expectations. It allegedly nearly killed The Undertaker to do so, but the Dead Man who went toe-to-toe with Brock Lesnar was a far cry from the broken-down figure who went over Bray Wyatt in a paint-by-numbers match at WrestleMania 31, and the lost and broken soul who lost The Streak and WrestleMania XXX was a mere memory. This was a determined and fired-up Undertaker, and he seemed more than willing to trade body blows with one of the most dangerous fighters in WWE. The match was an old-school brawl from start to finish, with Taker more than holding his own (contrast this to the later match from Hell in a Cell, which somehow won the Slammy, where Brock basically beats on Taker nearly without interruption for the entire match, and join us in wondering how the hell it won Match of the Year). The worst part is, the quality of the match is always going to be forgotten due to the absolutely terrible finish, which featured a ridiculous amount of bad writing, bad camera positioning, and just generally bad decision-making. Up until that point, though, it was an excellent match which deserves recognition.

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9. The New Day vs Lucha Dragons vs The Usos – Ladder Match – WWE Tag Team Titles – TLC

Every once in a while, the final calendar month of the year offers up some surprisingly good wrestling matches. The odds are increased when you put WWE’s most entertaining tag team in the ring with two teams of high-fliers and have a ladder match. While it was no Hardyz-Dudleyz-Edge & Christian all-time classic match, it was a good reminder of those incredible matches. This match will mostly be remembered for Kalisto’s insane Salida Del Sol off the top of a ladder and through another one, which is destined for highlight reels (and “Don’t Try This At Home” warnings) for a very long time, but it was only the sickest bump in a match full of incredible action from bell-to-bell. To cap it all off, at the climax of the match, Xavier Woods rose from the commentary desk, reminded everyone that the match was “No DQ”, and threw his trombone from the side of the ring right into the back of Sin Cara, who was climbing a ladder inside the ring, enabling a New Day victory. We can’t throw a baseball with that kind of accuracy, let alone a trombone, so that merits a special mention.

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8. Daniel Bryan vs Roman Reigns – FastLane

Following the disaster thaat was the 2015 Royal Rumble, WWE arrived at FastLane with one goal in mind: make people see Roman Reigns as a credible option for the WWE World Heavyweight title. And for this, they turned to Daniel Bryan, and tasked him with the responsibility of carrying Reigns to the best match of his career. Fortunately, since Daniel Bryan is an incredible wrestler, he managed that and then some, in what probably should have been a star-making performance, had the audience shown any interest in Reigns getting the win over Bryan. Just like the Rumble, WWE had miscalculated, and the majority of the crowd continued to side with the incredibly popular Bryan and actively cheered against the supposedly destined hero Reigns. That shouldn’t distract from the match itself, which was excellent, but unfortunately, might end up being one of Bryan’s last great singles matches, should his injuries continue to sideline him.

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7. Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch – NXT Women’s Title – NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable

That’s right, we’re not only including matches from NXT in our list, we’re including women’s matches from NXT. And why not, because the NXT women’s division has been a consistent highlight over 2015, for their spectacular matches and array of interesting characters, supplemented by a local crowd from Full Sail that is willing to give anything a chance to entertain them. What started out as a random TakeOver title defense between Champion Sasha Banks and former partner-in-crime Becky Lynch turned into a war of attrition, as the previously unheralded Lynch was allowed, for the first time, to unleash the full force of her abilities against the always-impressive Banks. The result was an instant classic, with the crowd playing a crucial part in upping the emotional factor of the match. The game and unexpectedly skilled Becky Lynch gave everything she had in order to become the NXT Women’s Champion, and very nearly succeeded, winning the hearts of the audience in the process. It was the match that really opened everyone’s eyes to what they’d been missing in NXT up to that point, and set the stage for even bigger and better matches that would come about as a result.

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6. John Cena vs Cesaro – WWE United States Title – WWE Raw, July 6th

You won’t find many people who can’t tell you that Cesaro is perceived as one of the best wrestlers in WWE today. In fact, his combination of skill, look, and international appeal should have made him a guaranteed star long before now. But an unusually candid statement made by Vince McMahon seemed to suggest that the head of WWE just didn’t “get it” in regards to the Swiss Superman. This sparked both the fan base and the man himself to prove Vince wrong, which culminated in this incredible twenty-plus minute match for John Cena’s United States title, which showcased the breadth of Cesaro’s abilities and showcased exactly how much he can connect with the audience. When the match (and Raw) ended, John Cena himself took a microphone and put over Cesaro as one of the most under-utilized and best talents in the company, adding his voice to many others from inside WWE and out who had begged for more Cesaro over the last few years. An injury may have sidelined Cesaro just as things seemed to be finally going his way in mid-November, but hopefully his eventual return will be filled with more matches like this one.

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5. Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns (vs Seth Rollins) – WWE World Heavyweight Title – WrestleMania 31

This match was less a match and more of an apology by WWE to the fans, who had grown increasingly restless about the monster push of Roman Reigns, at the expense of pretty much everyone else on the roster (especially Daniel Bryan). As the days ticked down to WrestleMania, it was apparent that the expected Reigns victory would quite possibly lead to the loudest and most negative crowd reaction for a babyface win ever. Having written themselves into a corner, and desperately needing the WWE World Heavyweight title off of the part-timer Lesnar, WWE did the only thing that could reverse the growing tide of discontent: they had Brock Lesnar beat the crap out of Roman Reigns for fifteen minutes, gave Reigns some hope spots and an inability to give up in the face of impending doom in order to try and rebuild his character somewhat, and then had Seth Rollins cash in Money in the Bank to steal away the victory and create an unforgettable WrestleMania moment. Fortunately, Reigns actually thrived in an environment where he was fighting someone like Lesnar, who was willing let Reigns land some solid strikes as opposed to worked punches, and the resulting match end up being surprisingly good, while also being incredibly cathartic for many fans.

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4. Sasha Banks vs Bayley – Iron Man Match – NXT Women’s Title – NXT TakeOver: Respect

Having the incredibly rare honor of being the very first Women’s match in WWE history to be the main event of a Pay Per View (technically a “Network special”, but it still counts) and the very first Women’s Iron Man match in WWE history was a lot to live up to, and this match delivered. Whereas the Brooklyn match had more emotional gravitas behind it, this was, for lack of a better term, fan service for the longtime NXT crowd of Full Sail University. With the spotlight on them for a full thirty minutes, Bayley and Sasha showed everything they had learned over their time in WWE’s developmental system, and pulled out every trick in the book to make their Iron Man match, which can often walk the line between “mile-a-minute thrill ride” and “incredibly long and boring” like it’s a razor’s edge, something to remember. A slower-paced match than the Brooklyn affair, but no less technically proficient, with the only quibble being that the match was deliberately slow for the first half, which was clearly necessary to conserve energy for the wild ending. And if there was any doubt that Sasha Banks knows what it takes to be a true heel, she made Izzy, a young girl who attends NXT tapings to cheer for her hero, Bayley, openly weep in a perfectly planned bit of crowd interaction (don’t worry, Izzy got the last laugh eventually). While it didn’t hit the height of their first match, it was still a worthy main event and one of the best matches of 2015.

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3. John Cena vs Kevin Owens – Elimination Chamber

Few people have had as great of a debut year in WWE as Kevin Owens, and he didn’t even debut on the main roster until halfway through 2015! And even fewer people hold clean pinfall victories over John Cena, especially in recent years, and in his very first WWE match, Kevin Owens did exactly that. Cena would get his win back (and then some), of course, but nobody can ever take away that first match, which was a huge victory for Owens, a man who doesn’t necessarily look like a pro wrestler, who wrestles in a t-shirt and shorts and doesn’t care what you think about anything. It wasn’t enough that he beat John Cena, he did it at the end of what was an excellent match that surely came as a shock for anyone who hadn’t been watching Owens’ pre-WWE career. Owens and Cena plumbed the depths of their extensive arsenals, breaking out moves that nobody expected, and had audiences on the edge of their seats the entire match. The Owens win was the cherry on a spectacular sundae, and the best possible way anyone could start their WWE career.

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2. John Cena vs Brock Lesnar vs Seth Rollins – WWE World Heavyweight Title – Royal Rumble

Great matches at the Rumble tend to be an anomaly, because the focus is always on the Rumble match itself. So it’s probably appropriate that this match involved a man who is treated like one of wrestling’s biggest anomalies, Brock Lesnar. As he proved time and time again, you don’t face Brock Lesnar and try to have a standard wrestling match. You go hard from the second the bells rings, or you go home in a body bag. And both Seth Rollins and John Cena threw everything they had at Brock Lesnar from the very start of the match. This wasn’t a match, it was a fight, and everyone involved was throwing out their biggest moves at a moment’s notice. It was chaotic, it was hard-hitting, and it was expertly done, and the fact that it took place at the very first Pay Per View of 2015 and still remained fresh enough in our minds to claim this high of a spot on the list should tell you exactly how memorable it was.

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1. Sasha Banks vs Bayley – NXT Women’s Title – NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn

Throw everything about the Divas Revolution, and crowning moments for equality, and all the extra politics out the window, and just focus on the match. A match which was a payoff to a two-year story of Bayley being an incredibly good person who tried really hard, but kept getting stabbed in the back by every friend she ever made, because they realized that they couldn’t have friends if they wanted to be NXT Women’s Champion, and to be the best, you need to have an edge. For over two years, Bayley refused to compromise, fighting through every setback imaginable, seeing all of her contemporaries graduate to the main roster thanks to an ill-timed broken hand, and resolving to fight even harder. After two years, everything culminates in the biggest show in NXT history, in front of the biggest crowd NXT has ever seen. And that’s just the build-up, because the climax is that Bayley and Sasha Banks entered that ring in Brooklyn, New York and wrestled an absolutely perfect match. Not just good, not just great, and definitely not “great by some outdated standard we hold women’s wrestling to because it’s been a joke for so long”, but a perfect match. And we’re not the only ones who think so, as even WWE legend “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who knows a thing or two about wrestling, said that it was one of the best matches he had ever seen, regardless of gender. And we most heartily agree.

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