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WWEíS BEST (AND WORST) OF 2015
by Scrooge McSuck
Another year has come and gone, and itís easy to say that this has been a very frustrating year for the WWE product. For the occasional moment or show worth giving a look, weíve been subjected to countless hours of boring content, repetitive booking, and start-and-stop pushes and angles. What did 2015 offer us? Weíve got the good, the bad, and the who the hell cares for you, based on my own personal opinion. Remember, for the most part, this is all for fun and shouldnít be taken too seriously.
The Shut The F*ck Up and Enjoy the Show Award of 2015:
The NXT fans, specifically the Full Sail Crowd, but this covers the ones at the Brooklyn and London shows, too. Itís basically the same thing that TNA mutants were, making themselves the center of attention and ignoring the in-ring product, thus creating an atmosphere where great wrestling suffers in quality because of the poor audience participation. That and childishly heckling any announcements for when a TNA Takeover Special is to be held somewhere else (See the hype for the Brooklyn show to be more specific, so maybe someone from the production crew figured out that since everything is taped, kill the audio of the crowd if need be).
Worst Repackaging of 2015: Damien Sandow as "Macho Man" Sandow. We all knew he couldnít ride the gravy train of the Mizdow gimmick forever, but even with WWE fumbling that one by stretching out the angle for too long and giving us the wrong blowoff, it was almost insulting to see the gimmick killed and Sandow shoe-horned into a ridiculous team with Curtis Axel as a Hulk Hogan impersonator. We havenít seen much of Sandow since they were removed from TV due to Hoganís personal issues, but if it means no more bad Randy Savage impressions, then good for us all. I almost gave this to Adam Rose for his "Rose Bush" revival, but since itís always cut from the Hulu Raw and isnít seen elsewhere, then it skates by.
The Banquet Frozen Dinnerís Tasteless Award for 2015: Trying to heat-up the ice-cold program between Paige and Charlotte by using the deceased Reid Flair as a method of giving the match any kind of momentum. It was bad enough to use this for an angle, an angle that wasnít over, wasnít going to get over, and still isnít over, but then for their press release basically throwing Charlotte under the bus? Yeah, maybe she was "cool with it" because she didnít want to be punished for turning it down, but considering her performance for the segment, I highly doubt it was her idea as we were lead to believe.
The Shameless Media Attention Award for Dumbest Finish of 2015: The finish for John Cena vs. Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. Youíve put on 20 minutes of excellent wrestling and have the crowd completely into what is a potential of the Match of the Year contender. Rollins is busting his ass even more than usual to try and make up for the poor way he was booked for most of the year. So instead of giving us a clean finish, or a finish that benefits someone, we get JON STEWART, formerly of the Daily Show, running in and costing Cena the match, simply to get media attention. I guess David Arquette wasnít answering his phone... is David Arquette still considered a celebrity in 2015? Whatever, it doesnít matter. Dumb finish to an excellent match. The only thing that couldíve made it worse was if Cena had a flat-screen explode in his face.
This Has to be a Huge Rib on the Fans Award of 2015: Daniel Bryanís elimination at the Royal Rumble. OK, so in 2014, those in control thought there wouldnít be much backlash to keeping Daniel Bryan out of the match and push forward with Batista as the headlining challenger for WrestleMania XXX. We all know how well that turned out. Itís 2015, Daniel Bryan is back from a lengthy absence, and this year he WILL be in the Royal Rumble. He enters at #10, a bit early but not out of the realm of believability to win... and then heís eliminated as the countdown to #16 begins. The next entrant? Goldust, with his signature "Shattered Dreams" into on the TitanTron. Sure, smart fans maybe have read too much into that... but thatís pretty funny, intentional or not.
The "Who Comes Up With This Stuff" Award for Worst Promos of 2015: Roman Reignís promos, specifically around a Looney Tunes catchphrase and frozen potato bites in reference to Sheamus. Itís hard to put any blame on any of the Superstars or Divas because we all know that the weekly television programs are 99.9999% scripted (or Vince McMahon screaming in someoneís ears because a segment is dying), but wow, if you ever wanted to know how to make a guy who looks like Roman Reigns into the biggest pansy in the world, then have him constantly refer to another manís genitals as "Tater Tots" and quote Sylvester the Cat and his "Sufferin Succotash." I know Vince is really behind the times, but even he couldnít think THIS was gold standard material for anyone, let alone the (desired) new face of the company.
New Sensation of the Year: Kevin Owens
Iíve previously used this spot as the "Rookie of the Year", but considering most of the new talent in WWE are Indy veterans with unmeasurable levels of experience, it kind of makes the term "rookie" a bit out-dated. Of all the talent brought up to the main roster, Iíd have to say Kevin Owens being introduced by pinning Cena clean in his first match, being protected from the same fate as other NXT call-ups, and having a decent reign as Intercontinental Champion keeps him above the rest, like Neville (borderline JTTS), the Ascension (scrubs), Braun Strowman (awful), and so on. Iím sure someone could complain about how WWE insists on poking fun at his weight, but theyíve thought enough of him to not job him out like crazy, considering the 50/50 club theory, so thatís a victory on its own.
Worst PPV/Network Special of the Year: Royal Rumble
Hard choice this year, since there wasnít a show that was from start to finish an awful mess. Thereís plenty of so-so PPVís, and to be honest, half of them I donít even remember, but the Royal Rumble... that still stands out. Thereís one outstanding match, but the rest is just bottom of the barrel stuff. In my original recap, I gave the Rumble Match itself a decent rating, but on repeat viewings, Iíd have to say that once we hit the moment of Bryanís elimination, it was death, both creatively and when it came to crowd reaction. Pushing Kane and Big Show as unstoppable monsters over the few popular faces left doesnít help. Pad out the undercard with an awful (but meaningless) match between the Ascension and New Age Outlaws, a whacky Divas Tag Match that probably meant something to Total Divas and nothing else, and the Usos getting luke-warm reactions because of Mizdow-Mania, and there you go. A terrible PPV.
Worst Match of the Year: The Intercontinental Title Elimination Chamber Match
This will always be a hard award to give out, especially when you donít keep up with 52 weeks worth of Raw and Smackdown for every single match. Even when it comes to PPV, its hard to find truly awful matches in the modern product. Before I came to this choice, I had two others in mind: the dull as dirt 8-Man Tables Match at TLC, but excluded it because it wasnít so much an awful match, just completely uninspired and a time killer until they figured out something for Wyatt to do. The other was one of Eva Marieís matches in NXT where, among other blown spots, she forgot to kick out of a near fall and the crowd crapped all over the rest of the match. I ruled that out because I didnít remember her opponent, so it couldnít have been that big of a deal. Then I remembered the Elimination Chamber where everything seemed to go wrong. Pod malfunctions, a sudden hault to the match, awkward spot calling and a 20 year old veteran standing around in confusion like it was the 1998 Royal Rumble Match. Was it the worst match ever? No, but considering the talent involved, this was the true definition of a train wreck.
Worst (Pushed) Wrestler of the Year: Big Show
This might seem unfair, but come on, you know it too. Big Show has been on the roster for the better part of 16 years and has bounced back and forth from being a heel and face so many times that it doesnít even matter anymore. It feels like he changes sides depending on the booking, like him suddenly being portrayed as a face against the Miz, and then showing up a few weeks later and again is hired muscle for the Authority. Crowds continue to chant "please retire" at him, and it shouldnít be taken as real heat, but more genuine disinterest in an act that has been stale for years. Iíd give a strong runner up to Kane. While crowds have grown more and more indifferent towards him, they still reserve the "please retire" chants for Big Show.
Female Superstar of the Year: Bayley
Last year I refused to give the award because no one on the WWE roster deserved it. This year... same problem, but since NXT has become more openly promoted as a WWE brand, then its free game. I never thought Iíd ever see the day where I would honestly care about womenís wrestling held under the WWE umbrella, but here we go, the miracle of WWE wrestling. With excellent performances on the weekly shows and network specials, a character with unmeasurable charm, and a strong role model for young girls, its hard to find anything negative to say about Bayley. Sasha Banks was considered, but her lack of anything on the main roster (and that includes not being a jobber on Main Event) kind of her knocked her off the map since September.
Tag Team of the Year: The New Day
Honestly, who wouldíve guessed this? At the beginning of the year, the New Day were a threesome of unused babyfaces shoe-horned into an awkward team that crowds couldnít (or wouldnít) get into. Even Kofi Kingston, who could get over even as a jobber, was getting cold reactions. Through some miracle, someone gave the green-light to turn them heel and crank the obnoxious levels to maximum and break off the knob. From goofy promos, dancing, TROMBONES, and looking like they are having something called "fun", its easy to see why the top heel team in the company is the most over and most popular with audiences. Cesaro and Tyson Kidd were strong contenders for this until Kidd suffered a possible career threatening injury, but who knows what wouldíve happened had they both stayed healthy.
Superstar of the Year: Seth Rollins
That would be two in the row for Mr. Rollins. He had a great 2014, but he had an even better 2015, and thatís not simply for his WrestleMania cash-in and reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. He put effort into everything, both good and bad, and put on great match after great match (or attempts at it) with every possible opponent, whether it be John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Sting, Kane, and anyone else that was thrown at him (again, his performance is credited for all of them. Carrying Kane to a 2+ star match is a minor miracle in 2015). Unfortunately, a serious injury to his ACL, MCL, and medial meniscus ended his year in early November and will likely keep him out of action for the first half of 2016. Insert sad face here.
Best PPV/Network Special of the Year: WWE: WrestleMania 31; NXT: TakeOver Brooklyn
Its always tough trying to look back and decide what is the crŤme of the crop, with almost every show featuring at least something worth checking out, if not more. When everything bleeds together so much, you have to dig deeper, and not to sound like Iím going the cheap route, but when it came to WWE specials, WrestleMania takes the cake. Two entertaining matches on the Kickoff show, a great opener, a great Main Event with a mark-out worthy surprise finish, and good matches to fill out the undercard, its hard to argue against the Play Button for the best show... and then thereís the NXT specials. How do you choose the best? Well, Brooklyn had an outstanding double Main Event of Bayley/Sasha Banks and Owens/Balor in a rematch from Beast in the East, as well as a solid undercard, so Iíll just go with that and call it a day. Takeover: London is a very close second, but seems too fresh to be convinced for first place.
Match of the Year:
This might be my least favorite award to give out, just because it seems to be the one that everyone gets worked up over. Again, Iím going to separate the best of the best from WWE and NXT. For NXT, my top matches...
- 5. Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn for the NXT Title at TakeOver: Rival
- 4. Bayley def. Sasha Banks in a 30-Minute Iron-Women Match at TakeOver: Respect
- 3. Finn Balor def. Kevin Owens in a Ladder Match at TakeOver: Brooklyn
- 2. Finn Balor def. Samoa Joe at TakeOver: London
- 1. Bayley def. Sasha Banks for the Womenís Title at TakeOver: Brooklyn
The obvious trend in 2015 was outstanding in-ring quality when it comes to the NXT Championship and Womenís Championship Matches. I was a bit torn on praising Bayley vs. Sasha Banks and sounding like Iím beating a dead horse, but this match made me believe in Womenís wrestling again (when it comes to WWE, obviously) and is a match that I would proudly show to a non-fan to make them understand why we love professional wrestling.
Now, for my WWE Top 5...
- 5. Kevin Owens vs. John Cena Trilogy (honestly, theyíre all the same match, so pick one and enjoy it. I loved their finale of the series, but repeated views kind of made it less impressive, so stick with the Elimination Chamber match, I guess)
- 4. Seth Rollins def. John Cena to retain the WWE Title and win the US Title at SummerSlam
- 3. Brock Lesnar def. The Undertaker at Hell in a Cell
- 2. Roman Reigns def. Daniel Bryan to retain his #1 Contendership Spot at Fastlane
- 1. Brock Lesnar def. John Cena and Seth Rollins to retain the WWE Title at Royal Rumble
It might sound a bit hypocritical for me to knock the Royal Rumble PPV and then give a match from that show the MOTY honors, but seriously... watch that match. It almost single-handedly made that PPV a good show. Almost. Watching Brock survive Cena and Rollins and continuing his path of destruction made this an exciting 20 minutes of action. Just when you thought it couldnít keep the momentum going, it just held onto that energy until an explosive finale.
Final Thoughts: That does it for 2015. Later this week, the Weekly WWE returns from last weeks absence thanks to a whole lot of nothing going on with the Christmas week making most of the content meaningless time filler. Lets hope things go a bit more smoothly in 2016, but we should remember, even when thereís so much forgettable content, thereís still plenty of good wrestling to enjoy.
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