Every year fans of the WWE expect thrilling action, excitement and sensible storylines. While some of that applied, there were superstars who experienced heartbreak. There were also questionable booking decisions made by the company, and the fans had no problems expressing their disdain on multiple occasions throughout the year. I will try to talk about these moments, as well as highlight some of the best moments of the year in the WWE.
At the 2015 Royal Rumble, held in Philadelphia, the title match featured Brock Lesnar against John Cena and Seth Rollins in a Triple Threat Match, where all three were in the ring at the same time. That was fun and chaotic as well. One of the highlights of the match occurred when Lesnar was positioned on the announcers table. Rollins took a major risk by going to the top rope, and dove on his adversary, breaking the table. Both men were hurt, and so was Cena from an earlier move. The crowd went completely insane. Lesnar eventually recovered and pinned Rollins with the F-5. With Brock as the champion, after a tough and exhausting fight, he faced the winner of the Royal Rumble Match, at Wrestlemania. So, who emerged victorious in the 30-man Royal Rumble Match?
The WWE seemed very intent on pushing Roman Reigns, though the fans did not like this at all. They felt he wasn’t prepared to carry the company to the next level. Roman won the Rumble Match and the Philly crowd booed him mercilessly. At Wrestlemania, held in Santa Clara, California, the main event showcased Lesnar and Reigns for the title. It was a tough, gruelling affair between two of the strongest in the company. But, neither one walked away with the belt. Close to the end of the match, with both wrestlers down, Seth Rollins ran to the ring and cashed in his “Money in the Bank” briefcase, which he won on June 29, 2014. The match was now a triple-threat. Rollins, realizing what was happening, quickly pinned Reigns to win the WWE Championship. The fans were thrilled. The screams echoed in the stadium, and there was a liking for Rollins. They did not think Reigns was ready to be champion at that time. The new champion also made history, since it was the first time the Money in the Bank contract was cashed in at Wrestlemania. But, later in the year, Roman Reigns got his chance at glory.
At a WWE live event in Ireland, held in early November, Rollins suffered a legitimate injury and had to vacate the title. A tournament was later held on Raw and Smackdown to determine the new champion. The semi-finals and finals were held at Survivor Series. The finals showcased two talented wrestlers, Reigns and his friend, Dean Ambrose. It was a hard-fought battle that ended with Reigns emerging as the new WWE Champion. Needless to say, that Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and most of the crowd were not happy. The spectators wanted the WWE to deviate from their plans to create further excitement. Then, Sheamus (who had won the Money in the Bank Briefcase in the summer of 2015) cashed in on Reigns. In 5 minutes and 15 seconds, Sheamus became the new champion, leaving Roman dismayed.
The developmental system, NXT, is designed for future WWE talent to learn and grow, eventually allowing them to reach the main roster. It is also a weekly show that airs on the WWE Network, and usually provides better in-ring action than Raw and Smackdown. One of the great matches aired on the Network from Tokyo, Japan, and featured a NXT title match between then champion, Kevin Owens against Finn Balor, in a tremendous match.
This was a heart-pounding and fast paced match. Balor was cheered in Japan as we wrestled there many, many years ago. Owens tried different tactics to distract and manipulate the champion, but was unsuccessful. Both wrestlers displayed tremendous athleticism, but Finn Balor ended up victorious, claiming his first NXT Championship.
WWE fans know about the talent and skill of John Cena. He has been a fan favourite for over a decade. However, some think it’s time for a heel turn for his television persona. But, despite that, John Cena can still put on great matches. In 2015, he won the United States Championship, and decided to hold a U.S. Title Open Challenge every week on Raw, which resulted in some tremendous matches.
On the May 4 edition of Raw, held in Montreal, Cena was awaiting his opponent. Out came Bret Hart, to the cheers and adulation of the crowd. He was not there to fight, but instead introduced fans to the challenger, someone from NXT. The minute the music hit, the fans went crazy, as Sami Zayn appeared. The audience was invested throughout the match, mostly because their hometown boy was involved. After intense action, Cena won after utilizing his Attitude Adjustment finisher. The fans were disappointed because they wanted a different outcome. However, Cena displayed a touch of class when he helped his opponent up and raised his hand. The U.S Champion then left the ring, and let Sami celebrate with the hometown crowd.
One of Cena’s great rivals in 2015 was Kevin Owens. He joined the main roster on May 18, and they had a match at the Elimination Chamber event on May 31, but not for the U.S. Title. The match was really intense and fans cheered for Owens. The end came when Cena attempted a move off the top rope, but Owens caught him in the pop-up powerbomb for the win. Everyone was shocked by the win. It was a really big deal that Owens beat Cena in his first match on the main roster.
The women of the WWE had an interesting year. Most of the matches were short, and left fans dissatisfied. But in the summer, things began getting more exciting. Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch from NXT made their debuts on the main roster. Unfortuanately, there were a lot of tag matches involving them as well as other divas. But, only recently, they were given more time and more one-on-one action. Charlotte (who is Ric Flair’s daughter) won the Divas title from Nikki Bella. It was a great match, with lots of twists and turns. After the win, Charlotte displayed a great deal of emotion.
Despite the fact that Sasha Banks is a heel, and a cocky one at that, she receives a great deal of support from the fans. This is because fans know what she has done with the women’s division in NXT and the tremendous matches she staged there. They remember the two matches in August and October with one of her good friends – Bayley. The one in October, was a Thirty Minute Iron Woman match, and it was the main event of the NXT Takeover special. To win, one has to have more victories than the other in the allocated time. There were a lot of emotions in both matches and the crowds were enthusiastic. At the end of the October match, the girls were given flowers by Triple H and William Regal. The competitors were in tears, and received applause from the entire NXT roster, who came out to stand on the ramp. That was also Sasha’s last match before being a full-time member of the main roster. If Sasha is used effectively on WWE programming, and given enough time for her matches, she can become a major player in the WWE Divas division. I do see and hope for big things for Sasha Banks.
The tag team division became a little more competitive in 2015. The WWE witnessed the return of the Dudley Boys to tremendous fanfare. The Usos also returned to action after a long absence, as one of the brothers was injured. The high-flying Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara and Kalisto) thrilled the audiences with their acrobatic moves and meshed really well as a team. Then, there was the rise of the most popular heel team in the company – The New Day. Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods took a gimmick that was likely going to be preacher-like and possibly boring, and made it fun, and exciting. Fans had no alternative but to cheer. It’s at the point now, where everyone looks forward to watching The New Day and their antics.
At the 2015 Tables, Ladders and Chairs event, the opening match was a Ladder Match for the tag team titles. The New Day (represented by Kofi Kingston and Big E) battled The Usos and The Lucha Dragons. One of the best moments in the match occurred when a ladder was placed between one ladder that was previously in the ring, and the second rope. One of the Usos climbed up one side of the ladder, while Kalisto climbed up on the other side. The two started fighting at the very top of the ladder. And, in one of the most amazing moves that will live on in WWE history, Kalisto hooked the Uso under his arm, and perform a Salida Del Sol, backwards flip that injured both men, and destroyed the bridged ladder in the process. It’s a very difficult move to describe, but it looked awesome, and was fascinating to watch. Fans were on their feet after the move, cheering what transpired. To end the match, Kalisto started to climb a ladder, heading towards capturing the tag titles, but Xavier Woods threw his trombone, causing the Lucha Dragon to lose his balance. Kofi Kingston climbed the ladder and grabbed the titles for the victory. The New Day retained the belts in a crazy ladder match.
In 2015, the matches that the WWE staged were entertaining, though sometimes, fans were left wondering if what they saw made sense. The unfortunate injury to Seth Rollins forced the company to adjust their plans for the WWE Championship. The fans were left dissatisfied once Roman Reigns won the belt at Survivor Series, but once he won it again on the Raw after the TLC event, also held in Philadelphia, they started to gravitate a little more to him. The Divas began getting more time in the ring, much to the joy of the fans. I hope 2016 will be better for the company. I am sure it will be, as long as the main wrestlers do not get injured.