2015 has come and gone. It was... a year that happened. All things considered, it was a year we would rather forget in the wrestling world. But some good came out of the year that was. Also, some big moments.
But what was the biggest moment in wrestling in 2015?
Recently, we put that very question to you, the Cagesiders, and... wow. You came up with a lot of stuff. More than 50 moments got greened, and another 20 or so got nominated, so obviously, a lot of your favorites are not gonna make the cut. I expect a hot debate coming on this one. With that, Cageside Seats (and by that, I mean the Cageside community, i.e. you) presents...
The 10 biggest moments in wrestling in 2015.
As voted by you, so if you hate this list, and I have a feeling you will, it's your fault. But before we get to the list, here are...
20 honorable mentions. I mean, a lot did happen last year that merits at least a mention.
1. Seth Rollins is not above risking life and limb to win. I mean when he's not being a slimy coward and all that. For example, this elbow drop on Brock Lesnar that was thought to have taken THE BEAST INCARNATE out of the WWE Championship match at the Royal Rumble.
2. Kevin Owens has been a champion of many things: NXT, the Intercontinental division, Twitter, and good music. Kevin Owens gave the downvote to Machine Gun Kelly on RAW via powerbomb off the stage proved just that.
3. Among the most unexpected of happenings this year was recently retired host of The Daily Show Jon Stewart denying John Cena his sixteenth world championship at Summerslam. The WWE Universe didn't like it too much, but most people outside said universe did. And it got the E mainstream attention, so there's that.
4. The signature show of Lucha Underground's first season, the two-part, three-hour Ultima Lucha was one of the best wrestling events of 2015, and if you haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
5. Xavier Woods is quite talented. Case in point: he can play a pretty mean trombone, as first demonstrated at Summerslam. The trombone would essentially be a tipping point for the group of "Internet trolls in tights". That's my name for them now.
6. The Sasha Banks-Becky Lynch NXT Womens Championship bout from NXT Takeover: Unstoppable was one of the most physically intense and emotionally draining bouts of the year. Clearly spent and broken in defeat, Becky Lynch breaks down in tears as the Full Sail crowd rally behind her in a what was a star-making performance.
7. NXT Takeover: Brooklyn may be the show of the year in the minds of many. The show's in-ring signature moment was Bayley's poisoned frankensteiner from the top rope. It was one of the most insane things ever seen in a WWE ring. And a move you'll likely never see on the main roster.
8. The Rusev/Lana/Summer Rae/Dolph ZIggler rectangle was one of the more insufferable angles of 2015, an angle that was only mercy-killed by TMZ and Lana choosing love over work. But it did have two bright moments. One of them was Rusev flinging a cold headless fish named Lana at Lana. Pretty sure that made for awkward conversation later.
9. It's said you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and in 2015, no woman made a first impression quite like joshi import Asuka in her NXT debut. After being interrupted and slow Hulk music walked off by Dana Brooke and Emma, Asuka gives a most frightening stare that lets anyone watching know that Emma and Dana were gonna die a very painful death.
10. Opinions vary wildly on Baron Corbin. The probably Vince McMahon pet project does have his moments though, like during a semifinal match of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic (if you will. Playa.) Baron wins it for himself and Rhyno when a Chad Gable headscissors is reversed into the End of Days. You may not like the "Lone Wolf", but that was pretty smooth. That was probably all Chad too, but still.
11. At NXT Takeover: Rival, Sasha Banks bested her fellow Horsewomen, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Bayley to become the NXT Womens Champion in what was a thrilling fatal-four way match. All four women had a chance to win it, but it was Sasha Banks--with a rollup (because of course)--that got the dupe in an instant classic.
12. It was only a matter of time, but the Bayley-Sasha Iron Maiden match at Takeover: Respect was every bit deserving of the main event spot it got. Unsurprisingly, it was far and away one of the best matches of 2015.
13. After struggling to find his footing for over a year on the main roster, Xavier Woods has hit his stride for his role in The New Day. Part of that is because of his hair. Seriously, what's going on with Xavier's hair?
14. Roman Reigns winning the WWE Championship, then losing it five minutes later at Survivor Series drove him to the brink. Him losing the rematch at TLC due to shenanigans pushed the heir to the throne over the edge. He had seen enough, and TLC ended with Roman Reigns killing Triple H dead with a spear, seemingly setting up a Wrestlemania 32 confrontation.
15. Lost in the shuffle of the many classics put on by NXT's women's division is their title match from Unstoppable between former Team BAE members Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. It was a breakthrough performance for both ladies.
16. When Brock Lesnar got okeydoked out of the WWE Championship via Money in the Bank cash-in, many knew retribution would be coming the next night. And though Seth was lucky to escape the Brockpocalypse, J&J Security and the announce team (and a cameraman) weren't so fortunate.
17. After a blockbuster of a match between Sasha Banks and Bayley at Takeover: Brooklyn, what do you do? Take a bow, of course. It was pretty much a goodbye, as the Four Horsewomen brought '96 back with a curtain call. With three of the four women already promoted prior to the match, this bout was essentially the end of an era.
18. The Shield were one of the most dominant trios in wrestling history, beating and beating down anyone and everyone that stood in the way of the Hounds of Justice. The trio had a violent breakup, but they did kinda sorta tease a reunion at Payback when they three-man powerbombed Randy Orton to oblivion.
19. Japanese wrestling has many customs you don't see in the United States. For example, on occasion, competitors are presented with flowers before a match as a sign of appreciation. Well, Kevin Owens is not quite big on tradition. Before his NXT title defense against Finn Balor, in true Owens fashion, he chucked the bouquet as far as gravity would allow.
20. The great love rectangle of 2015 had its ups and downs. Many downs. One up: after Summer Rae put Rusev's once and future ex, Lana, in the Accolade, the Bulgarian national flag drops... with Rusev's face. He could not stop beaming about it post-show. Can you blame him? How bout that flag doe, indeed.
Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, here are...
The top ten wrestling moments of 2015.
As voted by you, the Cagesiders.
Nope. Swerving you again. Here's a partial list of what didn't make the cut:
- Johnny Mundo and Prince Puma go all night long
- The deaths of Dusty Rhodes and Rowdy Roddy Piper
- WWE screws up the Royal Rumble again...
- ...in fact, screwing it up so bad, The Rock gets booed
- The disappointing Divas Revolution
- Shinsuke Nakamura and Kota Ibushi steal Wrestle Kingdom 9
- Joey Ryan, King of Dong Style
- Angelico's really, really, really big crossbody
- Jay Lethal unifies the ROH TV and World Championships
- Hulk Hogan gets fired
- John Cena's United States Open Challenge
Ok, for real this time.
The top ten wrestling moments of 2015.
As voted by you, the Cagesiders. This is your list, decided by your votes. So if you hate this list, hate yourselves.
10. Bayley wins the NXT Womens Championship.
Bayley for much of the WWE Network era has been... for lack of a better word, a choker. She's good in the ring. Damn good. But when the stakes are high, she always seemed to come up short. Wait, Eddie Mac, that's crazy you say. Before Takeover: Brooklyn, Bayley's had two shots at the title on an NXT Takeover, and lost both times.
But the third time would be the charm for the world's favorite hugger. Many thought Bayley being "too nice for her own good" has been her downfall, that she lacked a killer instinct. Sasha Banks after NXT Takeover: Brooklyn would probably have a differing opinion. Despite having an injured hand, Bayley overcame in a physical and emotional encounter. The poisoned frankensteiner from the top rope followed right by the Bayley to Belly was icing on the cake. And then we got sprinkles with that with the ladies, who beat the snot out of each other for about 15 minutes, hugging it out with fellow Horsewomen Charlotte and Becky Lynch. They were spent. The crowd was too. I may be in the minority, but that was a five-star classic.
9. Kevin Owens defeats John Cena.
As I've said once...twice...maybe a few hundred times, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. On the May 18 episode of RAW, John Cena got a most unexpected challenger for the United States Open Challenge. Well, it's not that unexpected if Cena only paid a little attention. Two weeks earlier, former NXT Champion Sami Zayn answered the call. On that night, it would be the then current one that stepped up. Kevin Owens would be that man, but the match would never materialize more than a verbal confrontation that quickly ended with Owens pop-up powerbombing Cena and the NXT champion stepping on John's United States championship belt.
It set up a surprising--on all counts, really--encounter between Owens and Cena in a non-title match at Elimination Chamber: The Network Special. Most everyone assumed the match was in the bag for Cena. Most of those people were wrong. Though there were no stakes other than bragging rights, Owens brought it to Cena, and Cena brought it right back. But in just under 20 minutes, Owens won with the pop-up powerbomb. Clean. Without shenanigans. A new star was born.
Or so we thought. But that's another story for another day.
Kevin Owens beat John Cena clean. Not a lot of people walking around in the world that can say that.
8. Sasha Banks makes Izzy cry, brah.
It's been said that heeling is a lost art. And it probably is. In this day and age, it's good to be bad. While we want to be the hero deep down, many can relate to the villain a lot more. Plus heroes often are far less compelling than their antagonistic counterparts.
This is especially true in wrestling, where a hero more often than not is only as good as the villain across from him (or her). Case in point: Sasha Banks and Bayley. Polar opposites in pretty much every way. Sasha's flashy, a braggart, quite honestly, a mean girl come to life. Bayley's the best friend, the everyperson, subtle, basically the type of person the mean girl would target.
During the ironman match at Takeover: Respect, Sasha sent Bayley into the LED board in the stage. Bayley would get counted out and earn a fall, but on the way back, Sasha made sure to rub Bayley's #1 fan, an eight-year old girl named Izzy, face in it. She got right in her face and yelled at her. And yes, she made Izzy cry.
And she turned it up. She snatched her headband and chucked it elsewhere in the crowd. Sasha was not a known giver of fucks, and she wasn't on this night. But don't worry, everyone. Sasha and Izzy are totally cool now.
7. Roman Reigns and the magical chair.
What? You need context for this. Just look at the GIF and be amazed. BE AMAZED I SAY!
6. Kevin Owens kills Sami Zayn dead.
At NXT Takeover: REvolution, Sami Zayn finally became NXT Champion when he defeated Adrian Neville for the title in a thrilling match. Kevin Owens, Sami's longtime BFF was the first person to congratulate him. And the last. The thought of Kevin being passed over in favor of his best friend ate at him. And drove him to a jealous rage. He choked Sami down, then apron bombed him. Many were shocked.
It would be a direct challenge to his former best friend. Two months later, they would meet for the NXT Championship at an event aptly named Rival. In the leadup, Owens said he had to win for his family, to provide a better life for them. After all, being a champion meant a bigger paycheck. On February 11, we saw exactly how sadistic the family man from metropolitan Montreal would get. People familiar with Kevin's work on the independent circuit, most notably Ring of Honor, knew exactly what he was capable of.
The unfamiliar--and Sami--got a hard education. Though Sami fought valiantly, Kevin beat on him again, and again, and again. He would deliver a pop-up powerbomb. Then another. Trainers came to Sami's aid. Then another. A fourth. This wasn't about Kevin winning the NXT title. This was about a man who wanted to hurt his former best friend just because he could. Sure Kevin was doing it for his family in his mind. Eventually, an unexpected result. Kevin won. Not by pinfall. Not by submission. By technical knockout.
This was "suplex repeat" from Summerslam the previous year until Kevin had to be physically restrained. Kevin didn't just beat Sami: he massacred him. If Kevin could do that to his best friend, what chance would a total stranger have?
5. Kevin Owens' debut.
Kevin Owens' rise to NXT Champion was a surprising one. Not surprising that Kevin won the NXT title; he's always had the tools to be a champion wherever he went. It's surprising that it took all of two months. It's reminiscent of Kurt Angle's and Brock Lesnar's early days in WWE, quickly picking up championships.
Fast forward three months, and Kevin, still NXT Champion, found himself in a most unlikely place: answering John Cena's United States Open Challenge on RAW. Whether John took Kevin seriously because John was the face that ran the place for a decade, while Owens was in developmental for the previous six months is up for debate. One thing was clear: Kevin looked very comfortable on Monday nights. Maggle.
There was never a chance the two would get along, but when John tried to dispense advice to someone who as it turned out was in the business longer than DA CHAMP himself, Kevin turned down John's challenge for the US title. Hey, he already had a belt that's had more prestige in recent years. Then one kick to the gut. Slingshot. Pop-up powerbomb. And just to make the point clear, Kevin stepped on John's title belt. And did John's signature taunt. KO don't play. KO fights.
4. NXT Takeover: Brooklyn.
The show by which every professional wrestling show for the foreseeable future will be judged. And rightfully so. It was that good. The show that turned NXT from developmental show to supplemental brand that not even the new ECW could be. And to call NXT a supplemental brand would be undercutting it. In the eyes of most any hardcore wrestling fan, it's far superior to what the main roster can and has delivered in recent years. But don't take my word for it. Let's hear what other Cagesiders have to say about NXT Takeover: Brooklyn.
...this was a thoroughly entertaining evening of pro wrestling. It's high point will be remembered as a watershed moment because of the quality of work delivered by Bayley and Sasha Banks, even if it wasn't given the spotlight it deserved by the powers-that-be.
This was indisputably NXT's grandest extravaganza yet. It was not only its first pay-per-view on the road, but it also was a sold-out show in front over 13,000 people. Despite NXT being a "developmental program", its popularity is spreading throughout the wrestling world. The product is perfervidly honing its craft and evincing that wrestling can be thought-provoking, compelling, and interesting, no matter what rating it is.
Saturday night, we all marveled and saw what pro wrestling is supposed to feel like, what it's supposed to look like, and what near perfection leaves us with as fans. We were riveted, even though we knew the result before the match ever began. It got a little dusty in many of our rooms. We bought the false finishes and we even felt the crippling pain in Bayley's hand as she looked to us and sold and cried and refused to give up. Through her comeback, she continued to sell the discomfort. Along with Zayn, she and Becky Lynch may be the best pure salespeople in the company. We love Bayley. We loved her beforeTakeOver and we love her even more now. The expansion of our belief in her and our connection to her isn't a surprise.
Christopher Novak (who was at the show):
I've never seen a more amazing show personally. I've been to RAW. I've been to RAW SuperShows in 2005 and 2006. I've been to two WrestleManias, a Summerslam, a Royal Rumble and three editions of Survivor Series. I've seen it all, and this was the most incredible show from top-to-bottom that I've ever seen.
Job well fucking done, Aitch. And dammit, Bayley's win and the Curtain Call afterwards hit in me in the bleeping feels. And I loved all of it.
BriOhBri (who was also at the show):
I thought it was a great show. None of the matches in the main program dragged, and all of them had the crowd fully invested. I agree completely that Bayley/Sasha totally stole the show. Just Ana amazing match all the way around, from the video package to the curtain call. I do agree that it should have main evented, and I honestly think had the title match not been a ladder match it would have. That said, I think people are being a bit hard and Balor/Owens because of the afterglow of the amazing Women's title match. The ladder match wasn't as good (and honestly the format is a bit played out) but I thought they out on a really good, well-paced gimmick match with some inventive spots. Also, the crowd was really into match and both guys. Their seemed to be louder cheers for Owens at points, it Balor was by far the biggest merch presence in the crowd. But to circle back, Holy Hell Bayley/Sasha was amazing.
So... to summarize, NXT Takeover: Brooklyn was fucking awesome and you should all go watch it. It doesn't matter if its outdated. On its own, it's a fantastic show.
3. Seth Rollins' curbstomp reversed into an RKO.
Look at it. LOOK AT IT AND BE AMAZED. LOOK AT IT AND BE AMAZED, I SAY! #RKOOUTTANOWHERE #OutOfStyleHashtagBecauseWWEIsAlwaysSixMonthsTooLate
Oh, protip, you guys. You get a trophy/achievement in WWE 2K16 if you pull this off too.
2. Kalisto's Salida del Sol from the top of the ladder.So Kalisto, one half of the Lucha Dragons, is a pretty big deal. Ok, it may not seem like it now, but he's gonna be a pretty big deal. The artist formerly known as Samuray del Sol can do pretty amazing flippy shit. Jey Uso found out this truth the hard way at last month's TLC (no Stairs this time, promise!) when krazy ass Kalisto did something that's at least ten levels above USO CRAZY.
Salida del Sol. From the top of a ladder. To a wedged ladder below. Kalisto's insane. And he's gonna be a big star. Because doing insane shit will make you a star. Sometimes. It's not a science, but I mean, it worked out for them Hardy fellas.
1. Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank and wins the WWE Championship.
Wrestlemania 31 was a disaster in the making. But while the journey there was... hideous to say the least, it mostly came together in Santa Clara. The show's main event, Brock Lesnar versus Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, wasn't just WWE stiff. It was All Japan Pro Wrestling in the 1990s stiff (for the younger folks, think like really, really, really hard hitting). Suplex, suplex, suplex, repeat. After an F-5. 30 seconds into the match. More suplexes. Pimp slap yo' ass. Suplex. Suplex. Many suplexes. Many Superman punches. GORE! GORE! GORE! F-5. Then a third F-5. Both men down, clearly spent after the behemoths laid into one another.
Then this happens.
Slimy, wormy, scuzzy scumbag traitor extraordinare Seth Rollins runs down with his Money in the Bank briefcase. Curb stomp to Lesnar. A second one fails, nearly reversed into an F-5 when GORE! GORE! GORE! Then Traitorface curbstomps his former Shield brother Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins, loser earlier in the night thanks to an RKOOUTTANOWHERE, is your WWE Champion.
Perhaps it was the best of a bad situation. Brock Lesnar's future was still up in the air as recently as a week before the match, and he was--and is--very much a part-timer. Roman Reigns was not getting nearly the reaction the WWE brass had hoped for in his brief time back from emergency surgery. It was perhaps a good thing Seth held the Money in the Bank briefcase for this long; otherwise, not a lot of people would have been happy with how Wrestlemania 31 ended. Honestly, not a lot of people still were. After all, Lesnar and Reigns didn't have a decisive winner. And Seth, for all intents and purposes, stole the WWE Championship. Maybe it was the least of three evils. Doesn't matter: you picked this as the biggest moment in wrestling in 2015.
Ok, the Countdowns are going on a short hiatus soon, but they'll be back just before Wrestlemania Star. In the meantime, check out the Cageside Countdowns of Season 1.