Five For Friday this week (yeah, yeah, it’s technically gone live on Saturday. Sue me) focuses on the best WWE PPV matches of 2015.
I’m not really one to do these ‘year in review’ type posts, mainly because I don’t consume enough of the particularly new releases in order to rank them. I certainly haven’t read five books from 2015, and I’m not even sure I’ve watched five films released this year.
But as a many posts from the past year will tell you, I’ve watched a lot of WWE – enough in fact to struggle with choosing just five of the best pay-per-view matches from this year.
Let’s face it – 2015 has not been a good year creatively for the WWE. When they decided to pull themselves out of the hole by putting the World Heavyweight Championship on Seth Rollins, they immediately plunged into another by booking him rather badly. Months later and here we are with the man they were so sure of right from the start, Royal Rumble winner Roman Reigns, finally getting over with the crowd by punching a 70-year old man in the face on the way to his second World Title win.
Well, I enjoyed that.
So without further ado, in near-chronological order, here are five matches which have managed to stay in my brain during this difficult year.
Royal Rumble – Brock Lesnar vs John Cena vs Seth Rollins (WWE WHC)
An absolute stormer to kick off the year, as Lesnar put his title up against both John Cena and the Money in the Bank winner, Seth Rollins, who for some reason didn’t actually need to cash in his contract. I remember this match just for the bit where Cena and Rollins combined to put Lesnar through a table – the flying elbow from Rollins was glorious – only to see Lesnar return with a vengeance and get the pin on Rollins with an F-5. Beautiful stuff; Rollins was scintillating, Lesnar an absolute demon and even Cena putting in a fantastic shift.
Elimination Chamber – John Cena vs Kevin Owens
I can’t believe there are two John Cena matches in my top five of the year, but we’ve covered this before – the man is capable of a great match provided he’s got a quality opponent and isn’t booked comically. Here at Elimination Chamber against the NXT Champion Kevin Owens, in his main roster debut, Cena was far from comical as he fell to a Pop-Up Powerbomb from Owens for the clean victory. Absolutely nobody expected this result, which is what made it all the more special – and the match itself was pretty bloody special.
Money in the Bank – Seth Rollins vs Dean Ambrose (WWE WHC – ladder match)
The Architect of The Shield was having a bad time of it with his leaders in The Authority, but when Triple H gave him a stern pep talk I knew we were in for something special from the WWE Champion. That’s exactly what we got from Rollins and his former ally Dean Ambrose, in a series of increasingly hardcore spots involving the ladder. We were in for a dramatic finish too as both men came down from the ladder with the title belt, before Rollins made a late grab to secure the win. An awesome match for both guys; Rollins showing that a great performance will make up for shoddy booking (most of the time) and Ambrose showing off his own main event credentials for future reference.
Summerslam – Cesaro vs Kevin Owens
It’s only a shame that this went on second-to-last at Summerslam with relatively little build-up, as Kevin Owens bounced back from his subsequent losses to John Cena with a victory over the King of Swing, Cesaro.
I’m with Mick Foley on this – his two words for the future of WWE: ‘Push Cesaro’. The man is insanely talented, and has proved as much both in singles and tag team competition; paired with fellow ‘Creative has nothing for you’ victim, Tyson Kidd, the two made a spectacular duo and had some great title matches. And only 24 hours removed from losing his own title, the NXT Championship, Owens was still raring to go with 15 minutes of superb wrestling that was only lessened by the relative little pre-match background. As a one-off match in its own right though, this was definitely a wrestling fan’s dream come true.
Wrestlemania – Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns
If the rumours are to be believed, we can expect a rematch of this year’s fantastic World Title battle as the main event of Wrestlemania 32, with Brock Lesnar widely expected to win the Royal Rumble next month. Reigns’ victory at this year’s instalment of the 30-man match was not warmly received, not even with an assist from The Rock, and so Lesnar was given the actual hero’s welcome which WWE brass wanted to be solely reserved for Reigns.
After the same sort of beatdown dished out to John Cena in previous encounters, Reigns struck back suddenly and almost creditably. But from a sudden point of advantage Reigns began the classic babyface ‘power up’ routine, and the resulting comeback was duly booed out of the building…until Seth Rollins popped up with a briefcase, in what was definitely my favourite WWE moment of 2015.
So there we go. The overriding theme here is that relatively new superstars have done just as well in terms of having their moment as the old hands – and the signs are finally good that we’ll see a bit more progress towards building stars of the future rather than relying on the part-timers of old.
What was your favourite match of 2015? Where would mine rank with your own picks?