Year End Awards and Top 10 List
Oh boy, I LOVE award season!
The Shut Up and Enjoy the Show Award:
Nobody. There was a lot to complain about this year. If anything, this should be the "Stop Pretending you Enjoy the Show" award.
The Zack Ryder Award for Biggest Fall From Grace:
Damien Sandow. Remember the good old days when wrestlers would get over and receive a bigger push? Well, in 2015, Damien Mizdow got over in a big way and was rewarded for it by being transitioned into a Macho Man parody gimmick and disappeared from TV altogether. I will admit that I wasn't the biggest fan of Sandow as Miz's stunt double, but it was the most organically over aspect of WWE TV for a few months. The natural pay-off was Mizdow standing up to Miz and beating him in a Wrestlemania match. Instead, they settled for finally dissolving in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which Big Show won anyway. I don't want to ever hear Vince McMahon talk about guys not "reaching for the brass ring" after the year Sandow had.
Get Over Yourselves, It's Only a Show Award:
Anyone who thinks that we have a moral obligation to support TNA because it's wrestling and wrestling is a cause, not just something that we watch on TV for entertainment. TNA could start having ***** matches every week and it wouldn't matter one bit due to years and years of bad decisions, especially back when they still had a foundation to build on (Spike TV, over a million viewers, a wrestling audience hungry for them to grow).
Biggest Hypocrite of 2015:
WWE. Again. This year's reason really got me fired up. For the last few years, the general mood of WWE is that "We're having FUN, Maggle." and all the storylines don't matter, are disposable, and we all know this garbage is fake so why make a fuss about any of it? Then they throw Charlotte and Paige out there for the main event segment of Raw, to build a match for (Hell in a Cell?) that no one cares about. As a sort of "Hail Mary" move, Paige trash talks Paige's dead brother, Reid, who died a couple years ago from a drug overdose. The big defense here is that sometimes they pull from real life to make storylines "more real." I'm not buying that. It was a horrible thing to make Charlotte and Paige do (though the company released a statement claiming it was all Charlotte's idea, which I don't believe for a second) and poor grieving dad, Ric Flair, didn't know it was going to happen until he saw it on live TV and reportedly burst into tears. What a sickening insult to the Flair family, to the WWE fans who mostly have higher expectations for decency in their entertainment, and a cowardly demonstration from the powers that be in WWE. No one says anything on WWE TV unless they get about ten forms of approval, yet they want us to believe that Charlotte made them let this segment happen. No way.
Worst Storyline of 2015:
The Rusev/Lana/Dolph Ziggler/Summer Rae love fiasco. I don't know where to begin with this. Rusev treats Lana badly, so she hooks up with Dolph to spite him, Dolph knows full-well he's being used, but Lana is hot so he goes with it, and Rusev starts dressing Summer up as Lana and treating her like a princess, thus spiting Lana in return. In the midst of this, Rusev and Lana both miss extended time on TV for injuries, and Dolph even disappears for a while. The entire thing comes crashing down when Lana announces her real-life engagement to Rusev over social media (and for once this decade, WWE gets mad about protecting kayfabe). I have to believe that Lana knew what she was doing when she announced the engagement, because this entire angle seemed designed to mess with the real-life couple, forcing them to make out with other people on TV, sometimes directly in front of one another. Either way, this angle was a real channel-turner and a big part of my current hiatus from the WWE main roster shows.
Worst Diva of 2015:
Eva Marie, hands down. Man, where to start with her? She's been hanging on since 2013 because someone (I'd assume Kevin Dunn) has the major hots for her. In almost three years of sports entertainment training, she still can't work to save her life. She's a black hole of X-Pac heat, who many fans are concerned will sink the NXT brand should she actually win the Women's title. Also, she is symbolic of an out-dated approach towards the Divas division in that she's a breast enhanced model and being trained well after being put on TV. In this age of Sasha Banks, Paige, Bayley, and the rest of the Sarah Del Rey-trained NXT women, she feels like a completely out-of-touch member of the roster. To her credit, she had one entertaining title match with Bayley that played directly to the Full Sail audience's seething hatred of her, but that wasn't enough to redeem her. I would be in favor of Eva Marie getting her walking papers soon, but I understand that will not happen so long as Total Divas continues to be a thing.
Worst Tag Team of 2015:
The Hype Bros. I've run out of patience for Mojo Rawley, and everytime I see Zack Ryder on television, I'm instantly annoyed because he's a walking reminder of how screwed up WWE is today. Ryder got himself over, dragged WWE kicking and screaming into pushing him, was sabotaged in a one-sided feud with Kane, and jobbed into oblivion so now being put in an NXT tag team is a step up. The Hype Ryder finisher is cool though. To be fair, I'm not really hating on Ryder and Rawley so much as there weren't any other better options.
Worst WWE Superstar of 2015:
Stephanie McMahon. She is "good" in her mic work and general performance abilities, but she continues to be a huge problem for the WWE product. She constantly undercuts the wrestlers, you know, the guys who need to be over to draw money. How many times did Seth Rollins look less than main event worthy because Stephanie talked down to him like he was a misbehaving child? What was up with Stephanie ordering divas together to start a so-called "Revolution" as if she was playing with her doll collection? How about the fact that she's supposed to be a ruthless heel, but then puts herself into charity PSA's, like tearing up in the Connor's Cure videos? The bottom line is that when Stephanie shows up, I want to change the channel and throw my hands up in frustration, which I actually did this fall and stopped watching anything that wasn't NXT.
Worst WWE Pay-per-view of 2015:
Night of Champions. Surprisingly, I didn't think there were any bad WWE pay-per-views this year. In a vacuum, this is a pretty good show. WWE's problems this year were in the overall creative direction, the overwhelming boredom of Raw, and the increasingly pointlessness of Smackdown, not in their PPV offerings. This show gets the nod because WWE Champion Seth Rollins had to do yet another clean job to John Cena, and Sting got seriously injured in the main event. That doesn't make for a show I want to go back and watch again due to all the happy memories.
Worst Match of 2015:
I have no specific choice, but let's say any time that the Raw divas were thrown out there in a cold match for 15 minutes to get heckled by a hostile crowd all the while the announcers played lip service to a supposed "Divas' Revolution." The main roster trying to duplicate the success of NXT's women division shows that they clearly didn't understand what worked before. The NXT women have characters, motivations, and actual feuds. The Raw divas just get thrown out there to fill time because Stephanie McMahon wanted them to be enemies.
Best Storyline of 2015:
Kevin Owens: I'm doing this for my family. This was mostly an NXT thing, as Owens would do terrible things to nice people and excuse himself because he's motivated by being a family man. This is a realistic, believable villain, because he thinks the ends justify the means.
Best Diva of 2015:
Sasha Banks. She was the most woman to hold any gold this year in WWE. She has a fully realized "Boss" character that was all kinds of bad-ass in NXT. Her feuds and rivalries with Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and especially Bayley produced high quality matches and were memorable. Her crowning accomplishment has to be the two Takeover matches with Bayley and the emotional send-off she got from NXT.
Best Tag Team of 2015:
Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. They were only active for the first half of the year (Kidd suffered a tragic neck injury in a dark match with Samoa Joe) but this team was the main reason I was watching Raw for a few months. They were a throwback to the days when tag team wrestling was taken seriously. They started off as heels but turned themselves babyface by earning the audiences' respect and working hard every night. Had Kidd stayed healthy, I have to believe they would have traded title wins with the New Day a few more times before the end of the year.
Best WWE Superstar of 2015:
Seth Rollins. This guy was asked to carry a heavy work load and delivered each and every time. He was having routine **** matches week in and week out, sometimes asked to wrestle multiple times on the same show, and carry long talking segments on the mic. I was not surprised when he went down with a serious knee injury late in the year, as they were working him to the bone and it was bound to happen sooner or later. The good news is that he had a remarkable year of in-ring performances, it's just a shame that the booking did not protect him more, as he was frequently made to look childish next to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and he lost far too many singles matches for a WWE Champion to lose.
Best Pay-per-view of 2015:
Wrestlemania Play Button. I was so down on this show in the months leading up to it. The card was a collection of bad choices, with Roman Reigns getting an unwanted, force fed push to the title, annoying theme songs playing on repeat ("You can take a swing at my E-GO!"), a painful angle where all the midcarders were stealing the IC title, and Reigns and Lesnar literally trying to rip the WWE title out of each other's hands as if it was a toy. I couldn't even get WWE Network to work properly the day of the show and watched the whole thing on my tablet! That's the makings for a show I would have a seething hatred for, but to my pleasant surprise, this show was completely fantastic. The IC Ladder match overdelivered, hitting the **** mark. Cena/Rusev and Undertaker/Wyatt had enough pomp and circumstance to be memorable, better than the sum of their parts, *** outings. Seth Rollins and Randy Orton stole the show with a lively singles encounter. And the biggest surprise was Roman Reigns rising to the occasion and taking a ****1/2 beating from Lesnar and teasing an epic comeback before that nasty Seth Rollins cashed in and stole the title out from under him. Against all odds, Wrestlemania 31 was the best pay-per-view of the year.
And now, Rowe's Top 10 Matches of 2015:
#10. Chad Gable and Jason Jordan vs. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa (NXT 10/28/15). In October, I found myself questioning if I even still liked wrestling. Yes, I was feeling that low on WWE, and not overly interested in any other promotion. I turned on a random episode of NXT and settled in for what I thought would be a standard little squash match. Instead, all four of these young, hungry NXT and independent stars went out there to prove why they belong in WWE. A straight up pure wrestling match, that reminded me of the eclectic styles and stars we used to get in the early days of WCW Nitro. ****.
#9. Bobby Lashley vs. Kurt Angle (TNA Impact 3/20/15). This might be TNA's last gasp of producing anything worth watching. This was the pinnacle of TNA's successful tour of the U.K. and was held in front of their biggest live audience in a while in London. Angle and Lashley had something to prove and delivered the goods, ****.
#8. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks (NXT Takever: Respect). Bayley and Sasha put on a clinic in a 30 minute Iron Woman match. Gutsy performance, emotional conclusion, and great character moments, including Sasha stealing poor fan-girl, Izzy's hairband, ****.
#7. Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker (Hell in a Cell). It was pretty neat having Undertaker back for a series of matches this summer and fall. After having a match hovering around **** at Summerslam, they topped it with this great blow-off. Undertaker seemed more like his old self and went toe to toe with the Beast. ****.
#6. Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins (WWE Royal Rumble). Adding Seth to the match shook up what otherwise might have been a dull third outing between Lesnar and Cena. The false finishes in this one were effective, but the real story was Seth Rollins stepping up and showing that he belonged in the main event scene. A great match on an otherwise frustrating Royal Rumble show, ****1/4.
#5. Aztec Warfare - (Lucha Underground 1/7/15). Prince Puma wins the championship in a dazzling spotfest that puts the last few Royal Rumbles to shame! Though this was taped in 2014, it aired in January, so I'm going to count it. Go find this on Youtube or something if you missed it. ****1/2
#4. Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe (NXT Takeover: London). Once again, former friends do battle of the most interesting championship in wrestling today. This was a straight up physical war, that refreshingly did not rely on kicking out of finishers. Joe failed to hit the Musclebuster, so Balor capitalized with his Coup de Grace for the win, ****1/2.
#3. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (WWE Wrestlemania 31). The main event of the biggest show of the year should almost always make this list if all is well. Roman made a statement with his performance, taking a world-class ass-kicking from Lesnar. The uncertainty about the outcome elevated this one, and Seth Rollins' cash-in while the match was still in progress was a well-timed surprise. ****1/2.
#2. Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor (WWE Beast in the East). This is everything I love about wrestling. Finn Balor returns to his stomping grounds in Japan and takes the NXT title away from a hot Kevin Owens, who was in the midst of a dominating start to his main roster stay. These guys made wrestling fun in 2015. ****1/2.
#1. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley (NXT Takeover: Brooklyn). A sold-out Barclays Center was fully behind Bayley as she stood up to "The Boss" and became NXT Women's Champion to a thunderous ovation. WWE must, MUST know what they have in Bayley, because right now she's the best babyface character in all of wrestling. The post-match Four Horsewomen celebration helped put this over the top. Match of the Year, indeed. ****1/2.
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