Now that 2015 has come to a close, and we’ve had a chance to step back and survey it in all its glory, we here at Monkeys Fighting Robots are ready to choose our best of the year. We’re keeping it simple with just a few categories in which to represent what we thought was the top of the heap when it came to 2015.
Chosen By Mat Douglas – @MatPDouglas
Best Men’s Performer – Kevin Owens
No performer rose as fast and made the impact that Owens did in 2015. Debuting late 2014, he won the NXT Championship in February 2014, made his main roster debut in May of 2015 and went face to face with the WWE’s franchise John Cena and beat him in his first WWE match on the main roster, then went on to win the Intercontinental Championship in October. He continually turns in solid performances, cuts fantastic promos, all while looking like some random guy you’d see in the gym.
Best Women’s Performer – Sasha Banks
The Boss has had some of the best matches, not women’s matches, but wrestling matches this past year. Winning the NXT Championship, tearing the house down at NXT Takeover Brooklyn as part of a co-main event, and being part of the first ever Iron Woman match AND main event on NXT, all while debuting on the main roster over the summer.
Best Tag Team – The New Day
The trio of Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, and Big E have taken the WWE by storm. Initially starting as what you would call a traditional good guy tag team, they’ve taken ‘the power of positivity’ and turned into a ‘ we’re awesome, and you don’t get it if you aren’t awesome.’ Not to mention some of the best merch you’ll ever see including light up unicorn horns, oh and they are the current WWE Tag Team Champions, using the Freebird rule (Google it) to defend their titles.
Best Promotion – Lucha Underground
The American presentation of Mexico’s AAA promotion, LU exploded on the scene this year with dynamic performers, cinematic style, and PPV quality matches on a weekly basis. If you don’t have access to the El Rey Network, track down any of the matches between Johnny Mundo (formerly John Morrison in WWE) vs. Prince Puma.
Best Show – Wrestle Kingdom 9
New Japan Pro Wrestling puts on its biggest show of the year right after the new year and has been delivering top to bottom fantastic matches. The best performers on the planet, in every type of match you could want, show up and everyone brings their A game. If you haven’t seen Kazuchika Okada perform, you are doing yourself a disservice as a wrestling fan.
Match Of The Year – Sasha Banks Vs Bayley at NXT Takeover Brooklyn
Billed as the co-main event, in front of a raucous crowd, and signifying Sasha’s graduation to the main roster and Bayley achieving her lifelong dream of being a champion, this match was fantastic
It is an excellent wrestling match, not a women’s match, but wrestling match period. It had solid performances, a great story, and both women left everything in the ring. It is required viewing if you call yourself a wrestling fan.
Chosen By Marcus Wood- @themarcuswood
Best Men’s Performer – Seth Rollins
It was a tough choice this year as there were a lot of great performers who didn’t manage to sustain it all year. That was the difference with Seth Rollins as right from the start of the year he had great matches and an arrogant heel character that had fans nearly unanimously hating him, a rare and tough achievement in this era. This was taken to another level after his money in the bank cash in at Wrestlemania when he was pushed to be the top guy in the WWE.
Despite being the world champion and supposedly top guy, the WWE’s booking of Seth Rollins in this role has been poor to say the least, winning very few matches and being in programs with sometimes less than ideal opponents. It was because of this that I chose Seth Rollins as whether he was getting good matches out of wrestlers past their prime in Kane and Sting or having great matches while having to be the overwhelming underdog while still a heel against Brock Lesnar and John Cena, Rollins made the best of what he was given and was the top heel in WWE for most of the year and the man I thought was the best overall performer in wrestling in 2015. Injury went against him to end his title reign in the worst way possible, but I have no doubts he’ll pick up where he left off when he returns.
Best Women’s Performer – Sasha Banks
In the interest of honesty, this was the easiest choice of any category this year. With no woman on the main roster coming close and no major standouts on the independent scene, it was always going to come down to one of NXT’s four horsewomen. Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Bayley and Sasha Banks all did fantastic work this year in NXT, with a show-stealing matches at each of the Takeover specials this year. Collectively they destroyed the ideology of what women’s wrestling had to be in mainstream pro wrestling, taking it to new levels and garnering a level of respect and attention unthinkable before.
I’ve had to choose one of them, however, and I’ve gone with Sasha Banks on the simple basis that she was involved in every one of those Takeover matches. Additionally, she was Champion for most of the year, acting as the standard bearer for the division and developed “The Boss” to a level that made her an instantly compelling character. This was all topped off by making history by competing in the first ever Ironman match between two women in the WWE and the first PPV main event between two women in the WWE.
Sasha Banks can be one of the biggest stars in the WWE, male or female; she has the potential to be the complete package, but it’s if WWE lets’s her. Since getting to the main roster the results for her and the other women who came up from NXT have been sadly and frustratingly predictable, but hopefully, 2016 can be another year of breaking ground for Sasha Banks.
Best Tag Team – The Young Bucks
2015 was a busy year for the Young Bucks as they continued to conquer independent wrestling, taking PWG and IWGP tag team titles, reforming Mount Rushmore in PWG, continuing to be members of the hottest faction in wrestling in the Bullet Club, part of multiple main events of ROH shows and signing an exclusive deal with the company toward the end of the year.
While on the grounds of sheer entertainment I might have gone for New Day, I think the Bucks are a better blend of entertainment and good matches, their work with the Briscoes in ROH throughout the year a good example of this. The team is set to continue to dominate the scene unless WWE finally takes a serious interest.
Best Promotion – NXT
While not technically a promotion in itself I consider the NXT brand of WWE different and separate enough that it should be considered by itself. By that standard, I have to choose NXT as every one of its major shows, the Takeover specials, were excellent and its tv was consistently entertaining, more so than any other promotion aside from possibly Lucha Underground (which I don’t have access to). Furthermore, it was a year that saw NXT develop beyond being a developmental promotion bringing in established talent in Samoa Joe and James Storm, begin touring internationally and putting on Takeover specials in progressively larger venues. NXT still succeeded in being a developmental brand in one aspect, introducing and developing new talent with a massive list of quality talent brought through with feuds between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, Sasha Banks and Bayley and Finn Balor and Kevin Owens among others generated multiple ‘match of the year’ candidates.
Going into 2016 it seems anything is possible for NXT going forward, the only limit being how far WWE want to take it.
Best Show – NXT Takeover Brooklyn
While Wrestlekingdom 9 had a few higher quality matches on it, I felt Takeover Brooklyn was a better show overall. As the best shows do, it had some of everything, the entertainment of the vaudevillians title match, the attraction of Jushin Liger vs. Tyler Breeze and the debut of Apollo Crews, the incredible match that was Bayley vs. Sasha Banks and the unbelievable spectacle of the Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor ladder match. Added into it were a raucous New York crowd and the chance to see NXT in a big environment and it made for a superb show that elevated it above anything else this year for me.
Best Match – Brock Lesnar Vs John Cena Vs Seth Rollins
This match happened in January and set a bar so high for the rest of the year that nothing else quite matched up to it for me. There were no doubt better technical matches this year in both New Japan and NXT, but I thought this was the best example of a great match between three of the biggest stars in a company. It was the perfect package of athleticism and spots, with Brock going through the announce table and Seth Rollins at his best to the story being told with both Cena and Rollins making it a priority to take Lesnar out of action for as long as possible then dealing with each other. It also had an element of unpredictability as it was expected Lesnar was walking out a champion, to head to Wrestlemania but as the match played out it made me doubt what I thought I knew, a sign of any great match.
It may also have helped that it preceded one of the worst Royal Rumbles of all time, a pretty big contrast. If you haven’t seen this match go and check it out to see that WWE can still put on incredible main events when they really want to.
So there we have it, our picks for the best of 2015 in wrestling, that’s not to say they were the only good things going on, far from it. If you have your own personal picks, let us know in the comments section and hopefully there will be plenty more to celebrate in 2016.