A small disclaimer before you read on with this post, I love NXT I really do, But this post is rather NXT light and focuses more on the main roster and main shows. There are some NXT mentions throughout but it’s more so a wrap up of main show events.
Well just like any other year in the WWE, 2015 was full of up’s and downs. Promises of new things and fresh ideas then squashed with some of the same old, same old. Or was it? Advanced warning, the following is brief summary on each PPV of the year and the main news from each one. For an overall summary of the highs and lows of the year if you’re too lazy to read this mammoth post, head straight to the bottom.
How many times have we asked for new talent to feature as the main event? We’re bored of Cena and Orton as the WWE champion, we want new blood. Well 2015 started off at the Royal Rumble by providing us with an opportunity for a new star to be born who could potentially take the championship in the future. But the problem is, we didn’t get to choose our new superstar. We were forced to like Roman Reigns.
So let’s start off then. Royal Rumble 2015, forget the 4 tag matches that took place before the title match. Brock Lesnar was still on his hot streak as champion and successfully defended his WWE Championship against John Cena and Money in the bank holder Seth Rollins. The match itself was actually really, really good. And the result was no surprise with Brock Lesnar coming out as champion. So we’ve got our first Wrestlemania headliner for 2015.
Step in the Royal Rumble. After the previous year where Daniel Bryan was the fan favourite to win only for Batista to win it, surely the WWE wouldn’t go that route again?
Well yes and no. Daniel Bryan was thrown out pretty early into the match by Bray Wyatt, who before that was actually getting a good backing from the crowd. Once Bray eliminated Bryan the reaction was incredible from the crowd and everyone that entered from that point was boo’d. It got to a point where perhaps there was some promise with Cesaro, Rusev, Ziggler, Ambrose, Reigns and Ryback were still all in the ring, and other than Reigns the crowd would have taken any of them to win. The usual fan favourites still had the fan backing, but it seemed to be the ultimate fuck you to fans as Big Show and Kane (in 2015) ended up eliminating the fan favourites such as Dolph ZIggler and Dean Ambrose. At this point it’s a given that Roman Reigns will win. The crowd is hostile. Eventually it’s down to Rusev and Reigns. Remember how in 2014 when it was down to Batista and Reigns the crowd were incredibly into Reigns and wanted him to win, only for Batista to throw him out… Well in 2015 fans had forgotten they liked Reigns and were incredibly vocal in backing Rusev. When Rusev was eliminated by Reigns and the WWE universe got what they wanted in a new fresh WWE Superstar in line for a title shot, the fans didn’t care, they boo’d the place down. The Rock came out to endorse his family but it didn’t matter. Roman Reigns who 12 months earlier was the chosen one by fans was not getting any fan support now.
The next Pay per View in February was a new one to the calendar. WWE Fast Lane. During the weeks between PPV’s fans were still voicing their displeasure at Bryans early elimination. They wanted another 2014 moment for Bryan. So WWE gave the WWE Universe a cock tease. Bryan vs Reigns in the main event for Fast Lane. The winner would be officially the WrestleMania headliner. But it wasn’t just this match that stood out.
The Uso’s dubbed as the John Cenas of the tag division lost their titles to Cesaro and Tyson Kidd who became breakout fan favourites for 2015. Wade Barrett continued to be in WWE’s good graces to retain the WWE Intercontinental title again. And Rusev after a massive Royal Rumble faced Cena for the US title and successfully retained. Everything was looking great. Orton and Cena nowhere to be seen in the main event spots. Rusev and the US title with Lana was on a roll, and Barrett is always a highlight.
So the main event itself, the WWE’s handpicked chosen one dispatched of Daniel Bryan to again cement his place for Mania. Again not a bad thing in my opinion, he’s a new, young wrestler what the fans have wanted for so long, now they turn their back on him… we’re just never happy are we?
In the build up to Mania, Daniel Bryan himself was in the ring on an episode of Raw and giving Roman Reigns his backing as a worthy enough opposition for Brock Lesnar and the WWE title, of course the fans still didn’t buy this and it was another wasted effort to get Reigns over. Would WWE react as they did 12 months earlier in re-writing the script for the main event of Mania?
Before Wrestlemania there is always the WWE hall of Fame. The 2015 hall of fame was in short… Emotional. 12 months earlier Ultimate Warrior was inducted, only to pass away less than a week later. It was incredibly shocking and upsetting. But there was also another little star that stole the show from WWE Wrestlers. Connor “the crusher” Michalek. He was at Wrestlemania 30 to see his idol Daniel Bryan win the big prize. Sadly Connor passed away from paediatric cancer shortly after Wrestelmania 30. Given these 2 incredibly sad deaths WWE created the Warrior Spirit award for 2015 Hall of fame, and the inaugural recipient of this award would be Connor post posthumously. Warrior’s wife Dana gave an incredible brave speech and introduced Daniel Bryan who was to induct Connor. It’s always sad when a WWE legend passes away, there’s always something in my eye when watching the highlight packages that WWE will put on, but this whole segment was seen through blurry eyes. Bryan’s speech was incredibly moving and he struggled to keep himself together when discussing Connor and his dad’s relationship. Bryan then brought Connor’s dad to the stage who accepted the award on Connors behalf. The emotion didn’t drop and it was another difficult speech to sit through with dry eyes. WWE fans in the audience rightfully so chanting “Crusher Crusher” and “Thank you Connor”.
So onto Wrestlemania 31. There was a lot of back stage politics going on if Brock Lesnar would sign a new contract with the WWE. This actually meant the overall outcome of the main event against Reigns was up in the air. I personally thought given the backlash to Reigns he would not win the title, but if Brock wasn’t re-signing then… who? Lesnar broke the ice and eventually confirmed he was resigning and would be staying with the WWE for the foreseeable future. So now I’m certain Lesnar will win, I’m sure WWE want CM Punks record run as champion replaced. But we’ll come back to that.
Daniel Bryan won the Intercontinental title in an awesome ladder match that opened the show, it really was an incredible match and Bryan and Ziggler being the 2 fighting over the title at the end was great. Ambrose legitimately looked dead after being slammed onto a ladder by Luke Harper.
Randy Orton had a match against Seth Rollins. There wasn’t much to report here other than one of the most incredible RKO’s ever… genuinely incredible.
One match on the card that could either be great or crap was HHH vs Sting. The WCW Icons first WWE match. It took some time to get going but Sting managed to look like he could still wrestle despite his age and figure now. The match really kicked up a notch when DX joined the ring to back HHH up. Who would come to the aid of Sting? nWo!! Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and some mystery 3rd person wearing sunglasses with a white beard (Stick with me here, you’ll find out later in the summary…) Anyways it was a rather iconic moment, only to get better when HBK entered the fray and helped his DX allies. The match finished with friendly handshakes and the final burial of WCW with HHH beating Sting.
There were rumours that the 2 minor belts in the company were to be elevated with bigger stars. Daniel Bryan picking the IC title earlier was the start of confirming this. The next minor title being the US title still with Rusev vs John Cena. This had such a big fight feel and Rusevs entrance on a tank was incredible. Cena picked up the win which nulled the incredible result from FastLane where Cena lost to Rusev, it also resulted as Rusev’s first loss on the main roster of WWE. But there you have it, 2 of the main event players for so long were given mid card belts with the task to elevate them.
The Undertaker returned and struggled for a win to get his Mania record to 22-1 after his shock loss to Lesnar the year before.
Onto the main event. Lesnar vs Reigns. This match went the way of many of Lesnars matches as champion. Completely destroying the opposition. Within minutes the first F5 arrived and the fans were loving it. The match went on and on and the idea of this match was to make Reigns look credible, so he kicked out of moves, he smiled and laughed as he was being hit trying to frustrate Brock. Then it happened and a spot out of the ring with Brock busting his head open. From here Lesnar hit superman punch after superman punch to get Lesnar eventually to the ring floor. As the 2 exchanged finisher after finisher, Mr Money in the bank Seth Rollins music hit to an incredible reaction from the crowd. He ran down and informed the ref he was cashing in. This was now a triple threat match. Rollins curb stomped Lesnar, he went for a 2nd one only to be caught by Lesnar who went for the F5. Reigns speared Lesnar while Rollins was on Lesnars shoulders and escaped. Lesnar is out of the ring at this point and Rollins hit the curb stomp on Reigns, he then covers him for the 1,2,3 and the fans go nuts after a frantic and exciting couple of minutes. We’ve got a new champion… it’s not Reigns, it’s not Cena, It’s not Orton… its Seth Rollins. A new young guy just what we’ve all wanted. Incredible end to a genuinely decent Wrestlemania.
The next pay per view up on the year was taking place at the end of April. Rusev had a rematch against Cena for the US title but of course lost. The main event being Seth Rollins vs Randy Orton. Sheamus was back as a heel and Cesaro and Kidd would lose their tag titles to New Day, who were also breakout stars of 2015. It wasn’t the most memorable PPV in honesty.
So as with 2014 Daniel Bryan’s Wrestlemania title victory had a sour ending as he once again had to surrender his prize due to injury.
2015 would also bring us the reintroduction of an old PPV, however this would be split into 2 days of competitions across Raw and the WWE Network. The eventual King of the ring was a bit of a surprise as Wade Barrett became the 20th King of the ring and the first since 2010.
We were now hitting a spell of 3 PPV’s in the space of 6 weeks. First up was Payback. Going back to the ongoing argument of no new wrestlers getting a shot, well Payback was the first of 3 PPVs in a row where Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins main evented. And in fact out of the 5 PPV’s of the year so far Randy Orton headlined 2 (of which Rollins was a part of) with the rest being a combination of Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Not too bad at all really.
Payback was the 3rd part of Rusev vs Cena and was the start of the breaking up of Lana and Rusev which was a shame as they genuinely worked great together. Cena won in a very entertaining I quit match. The Main event was a 4 way with all ex shield members and Randy Orton involved for the WWE title, again another entertaining main event. One of the highlights being a mini Shield reunion with the 3 guys triple power-bombing Orton through a table. The next scenes were hilarious as Ambrose and Reigns turned on Rollins. There was also a great spot with Reigns and Ambrose power-bombing Seth Rollins onto Kane through an announcer table, it took 2 attempts but looked good. This was also to be the start of the bro relationship with Reigns and Ambrose which I personally marked out over. As I’ve said I have no problems with Reigns, and would have liked to see him win the championship. But this was clever by WWE to have Reigns and Ambrose form some kind of brotherly bond as at this point Ambrose was massively over, so the little subtle things like Ambrose and Reigns acknowledging each other as friends before they started to fight each other in this match was great, and would help turn the boos from Reigns to cheers.
We would see the return of the Elimination Chamber in 2015 as well as the King of the Ring. This was a network exclusive. Honestly WWE were hitting it out of the park with Network stuff with King of the Ring, Elimination Chamber and NXT Takeover shows.
Elimination chamber would start with one of the greatest tag matches ever with 6 teams in the elimination chamber competing for the tag team championship.
What was also incredible about this PPV is that Kevin Owens would beat John Cena clean in a match. Yes seriously NXT’s champion Kevin Owens beat Cena. It was a massive occasion.
The IC title finally got a new champion that would hopefully give it as much credibility as Cena had been giving the US title with his open challenges each week on Raw. And Ryback was the eventual winner. He would go on to get the rub from Bryan that he was a deserving champion.
Next up was Money in the bank. Owens vs Cena the rematch happened however lightning didn’t strike twice and Cena got the win over Owens.
The money in the bank match itself was a disappointing result as Sheamus ended up winning the coveted case and guaranteed title attempt.
The main event was a ladder match with Ambrose and Rollins for the title, as you’ve come to expect from these 2 the match was entertaining with dirty deeds being executed on the Spanish announcers table twice as the first attempt didn’t break the table.
Away from the normal PPV’s WWE Network was to air a special show in Tokyo dubbed Beast in the East. As you can guess it was a Brock Lesnar based PPV and he was fed Kofi Kingston. It was a hilarious match as Kofi wasn’t given a chance. The other large draw to this was seeing Finn Balor beat Kevin Owens for the NXT title. It was an incredible match and the hype before the match was awesome. Goosebumps as the Japanese fans decorated the ring in the traditional style before a title match by throwing ribbons and confetti at the wrestlers and giving them flowers. The match itself was brutal as you’d expect from these 2. But when Balor hit the coup de gra and pinned Owens the place erupted.
Onto the next PPV and that was Battleground. This time round Lesnar was back and gunning for Rollins and the title. Ambrose’s summer push was over after 3 PPV main events in a row. Lesnar hit 13 suplexes on Rollins, and as he went to cover Rollins after executing the F5, the lights when out and Undertakers gong could be heard, the next thing Rollins is gone and Undertaker is stood infront of Lesnar. He delivered a dick kick and them tombstoned Lesnar twice. The dead man would be set to get revenge for his Mania 30 loss against Lesnar at SummerSlam.
The NXT womens division is impressive, we all know that, and prior to Battleground Steph McMahon brought up Sasha, Charlotte and Becky to the main roster on Raw. The new “Divas” would also get to feature at Battleground with Charlotte vs Sasha vs Brie Bella in a triple threat match. Charlotte would pick up the win which was a great result for the new talent on the main show.
From this point of the year the next few PPV’s would go on to be main evented with part timers. Not all bad of course, but given the main events from previous PPV’s this year featuring new talent, it was a shame WWE fell back onto relying on the old guard and part timers.
Summerslam arrived with the main event of Brock Lesnar vs Undertaker (PPV 1 with part timer’s main eventing). The match ended really strangely as Undertaker tapped out and the bell rang, but the ref did not see Undertaker’s submission so had the match restart. While the ref was distracted Undertaker used his new heel move from Battleground and hit a low blow on Lesnar again. He then got Brock in a hells gate submission move. Lesnar didn’t tap but lost due to passing out. It was odd.
The highlight of the night though was the Seth Rollins vs John Cena, Champion vs champion match. Whoever win’s got both the United States and WWE title. The match had another off finish though as Jon Stewart who was the host of Summerslam came down an interrupted the match with a chair. Just when you think he’s going to take Rollins out due to their little on-screen rivalry that was brewing through the weeks prior, he turned on Cena and delivered a chair shot. With that Rollins was a double champion.
The Dudley Boys also made a return to Raw after SummerSlam to an incredible reception. One of the loudest fan pops for some time in WWE.
After Rollins coronation as a double champ, he demanded a statue built-in his honour. What would follow would be weeks of Raw with Sting making appearances winding up Rollins. Our next PPV Night of Champions would be main evented by Seth Rollins vs Sting (PPV 2 with a part timer in the main event) for the WWE world heavyweight championship. Yes, Sting has the chance at a title he’s never held in his professional wrestling career.
Rybacks IC title run was really pretty much nothing, so it was time to put the IC title onto someone new. Kevin Owens got the nod and the victory at Night of Champions. A really good move in my opinion based off how great his heel mic work is backstage.
Cena triggered his rematch clause and got to face Rollins at NOC for the US title. Rollins would unfortunately lose that title and without any rest Sting would enter next for the WWE championship. Rollins did manage to retain this however but in the process he killed Sting in the ring. Sting could genuinely barely walk after taking a bump on the back when thrown onto the turnbuckle. You could him struggling to keep the match going as it looked like he couldn’t stand unassisted.
Due to the shenanigans of the Undertaker and Lesnar match at Summerslam, they both featured in the main event of the next PPV (PPV3 headlined by 2 part timers, match prior is WWE champ vs old guard Kane in 2015). That PPV was Hell in a Cell, a match specialty of The Undertakers. Lesnar would go onto win the final bout between these 2 in a violent and bloody match. The ending would see the Wyatt family take Undertaker away mysteriously.
Kevin Owens retained his IC title against Ryback which was actually pretty entertaining. Tag Champs New day are still incredibly over and Xavier Woods hair style each PPV is incredible. Cena defended his US title in an open challenge. The challenger was Alberto Del Rio who returned after being sacked due to his conduct. A bit of a random out of nowhere move which had the fans pop for a while, but the crowd died pretty quickly.
Rollins would successfully retain against Kane, but it would be his last WWE PPV and last title defense.
Unfortunately Seth would tear his ACL and MCL at a house show in Ireland, which would require surgery and a long lengthy spell off wrestling. His title would be put up for grabs in a tournament in which the 2 semi finals and the final would take place at Survivor series. In events up to Survivor Series Kane would also be abducted by The Wyatt family. Their intention to steal the brothers of destruction’s power. It was setting up a pretty neat story-line, but they opted to end it on Raw rather than Survivor series when the Brothers would make a return from where ever they were with their powers intact to issue the challenge to the Wyatts at survivor series.
Reigns would dispatch of Del Rio in semi final one and Ambrose would see off Owens in the 2nd semi final. 2 pretty decent opening matches to the PPV. The rest of the card was really random with the traditional survivor series match made up of a cluster of random’s in the teams. What threw people off is that Money in the bank holder Sheamus was in a losing match with New day and King Barrett. So it kind of killed speculation of what might happen…
ROMAN REIGNS DID IT, he’s beat his besty, his brother in the final of the tournament. He’s the WWE champion. HHH comes down to congratulate him. Sheamus music kicks in. He cashes in his money in the bank championship successfully to become the new WWE champion. Is Roman Reigns is being set up with the Daniel Bryan story line from a year prior in which he lost out to Orton after winning the title at Summerslam only to get the ultimate revenge winning at Wrestlemania?
Raw throughout 2015 would see ratings slide and hit an all-time low the Raw after Survivor Series. One positive to come from Raw was the formation of a new heel stable called “The League of nations” featuring WWE Champion Sheamus, US Champion Alberto Del Rio, WWE Tag Champions The New Day, WWE King of the Ring 2015 King Barrett and Rusev. Hopefully a chance for Rusev to get back on track now after what started off as a great 2015 came down to jobbing to Cena and a romance feud with Lana, Ziggler and Summer-Rae.
The final PPV of the year was TLC. The Tag team titles were successfully defended by The New Day in one of the most epic ladder matches you’ll see with Kalisto the breakout star of the match. He put his body on the line a lot in the match and has been really impressive with team-mate Sin Cara (weird to say, however at the time of writing this final part of the summary it’s been confirmed Sin Cara has dislocated his shoulder which is a shame that this tag team’s momentum will be halted for a while). The rest of the TLC PPV was stacked out with other gimmick matches and title matches. Del Rio retained his US title against a returning Jack Swagger, and The Wyatt’s won a table elimination match against Team ECW which surely puts this feud to rest now. Charlotte and Sheamus both retained their titles against Paige and Roman Reigns. Roman Reigns after the loss would have a nice moment where the crowd were behind him as he assaulted Triple H. It was great to see the tide turn and the fans actually behind Reigns for once. The strangest result of the night was Dean Ambrose picking up the Intercontinental title from Kevin Owens. Genuinely hadn’t expected that result. Makes you wonder if WWE have other plans for Owens in 2016 with regards to a decent Royal Rumble or a Wrestlemania opposition of importance?
And the final large event of the year was that the Raw ratings had got so bad that the Raw after TLC we saw the return of Vince McMahon to take a superman punch from Roman Reigns following on from his antics at the end of his title match. The biggest surprise however was that Roman Reigns was thrown into a title match against Sheamus in which if he lost, he’d be fired. Naturally Reigns won and is still your WWE champion as we head into 2016. Something he genuinely deserves.
We’ve unfortunately lost some legendary wrestlers this year. The American Dream Dusty Rhodes passed away on June 11th. The WWE roster was a complete loss with his passing. The NXT roster feeling the hit as he was a mentor to them all on the show. Renee Young was on the PPV panel on Money in the Bank and was brought to tears during his emotional memory package that aired. A testament to just how much he meant to the WWE.
Rowdy Roddy Piper passed away on July 31st at the age of 61. He too had a very emotional video tribute put together by the WWE and had the 10 bell salute tribute on the next Raw. Dean Ambrose headlining the Raw main event sporting a Hot Rod T-Shirt. A very sad year with regards to the loss of WWE Icons.
While not a death, WWE also lost Hulk Hogan. They tore his contract up and removed anything related to him on their website. He was also removed from their hall of fame. The reason? A racist rant at the end of his sex video was leaked. WWE quickly ensured to get as much distance from him as possible. (Hence the mystery 3rd nWo member that helped Sting I mentioned in the write-up above…yeah bad joke and long post, I don’t blame you for not laughing).
So 2015… what do we think?
The Highs –
Brock Lesnar, continuing his incredible run from 2014, the Beast was without a doubt one of the biggest highlights of the year.
John Cenas US title run. It was great to see Cena take a back seat from the title picture for over half a year, but by giving him the US title he gave credibility to this belt. His open challenges were awesome and even if he didn’t lose the belt to any challengers, he did a great job of putting them over. Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Neville and Kevin Owens all came off this looking great despite losses. Kevin Owens actual win over Cena at a PPV was one of the shocks of the year but for all the right reasons.
Cesaro and Tyson Kidd were without a doubt one of the greatest tag teams of the year, their entrance was just insanely cool and they worked really well. Their combined finisher looked awesome. Such a shame that Kidd took a very serious injury that resulted in neck surgery and who knows when he’ll wrestle again if at all?
New Day Sucks… New Day Suck… New day sucked so much we actually enjoyed them. Hilarious trio that started off a slow burner but eventually won our hearts with their ridiculous positivity and dancing.
The WWE Hall of Fame 2015. As mentioned above, the one induction that got me was Connor “The Crusher”. Dana Warrior, Bryan and Connor’s father had me in tears, such an amazing thing for the WWE to do.
Finn Balor, this is more so a fan boy high, but it’s so great to see Finn getting a great reaction in NXT and glad he got an NXT title to his accolades. His demon persona can print money for WWE.
WWE Network – King of the Ring, Elimination Chamber, NXT Takeover(s) all returned and live on the Network. Good show!
NXT Divas, that division is insane and despite the loss of Charlotte, Becky and Sasha to the main roster the division is still very healthy with Alexa Bliss, Bayley, Emma and Dana all there.
The Lows –
Daniel Bryan injured again. It’s like déjà vu. Mania moment made, Bryans a champion, then he has to hand the title back due to injury. This time we don’t know when or if he’ll be back. Such a shame for someone who was without a doubt the most over guy in the company for the past 2 years.
Bray Wyatt. Just what are they going to do with him, the Wyatt vs Shield feud back in the day was incredible, Bray Wyatt was in a money in the bank match for a title shot at one point. Now he’s resounded to monthly feuds that don’t matter with no clear future ahead of where he’ll be.
Tyson Kidds injury, as mentioned in the positives, his unfortunate injury at the hand of Samoa Joe in a house show killed the momentum that he and Cesaro had as a tag team. Really unfortunate as they were looking great together.
Hideo Itami’s injury, I put this as a low as I can’t help but feel he may have been fast tracked to the main show. His chance to feature at Mania and his wins over NXT stars to get that shot seemed too good to be true. He was unfortunately injured and has been side lined since.
The loss of 2 legends of the WWE. Not much more to say on this, WWE lost 2 absolute icons of the industry in Dusty Rhodes and Roddy Piper.
Reliance on older and part timer WWE stars in main event picture. Cesaro ain’t going to be around forever for that push if you keep putting Kane, Sting, Jericho, Lesnar, Taker, Dudleys, Tommy Dreamer, Goldust back on Raw.