2015 was a wild ride for Culture Currency and everyone involved in the process. As the dust settles on a whirlwind year, we are glad to present the best (and worst) of 2015 according to us. So we hope you enjoy. If you don't, there is always 2016 to look forward to. You can check out Andy Wilcox's Best of 2015 here, Addison Garry's Best of 2015 here, Nate Hankins's Best of 2015 here, Lainey's Best of 2015 here and Morgan's Best of 2015 here.
2015 was a rough year for professional wrestling. 2015 offered countless numbers of wrestlers going down with injuries, plenty of boring TV shows, lackluster builds for pay-per-views and record low ratings for wrestling television.
Even with all of these setbacks dragging down the pro-wrestling world, wrestling fans in 2015 were treated to one of the best years of in-ring action ever. It’s almost inversely proportional. To me it seems that the worse that storylines and promos become, the better the in-ring work gets. Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when in-ring action wasn’t much more than chinlocks and armdrags, character work and promos were at their peak with guys like Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes in the NWA. Now wrestling fans are treated to Roman Reigns cutting promos about tater tots while putting on 4-star matches every night. Some days I’m not sure what I would rather have.
With all of that said, these are my 10 favorite wrestling matches I watched in 2015.
10. Chris Hero vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – PWG Mystery Vortex 3
Chris Hero wrestles a stiff, Japanese style while Zack Sabre Jr. is one of the best technical wrestlers on the planet. Put these two together and magic is bound to happen. This match featured a mix of submission wrestling and clubbing strikes. Grappling reversals turn into elbow strikes to the face. This match shows that excellent wrestling can take place inside the ring with nothing but mat work.
9. The New Day vs. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro
Tag Team Championship Match – WWE Extreme Rules
This was a match this year that didn’t get talked about enough. Both teams were gaining steam going into this match but this was The New Day’s time to shine as they were reaching their stride as a heel group. I’d give this match a 3/5 for the ring work alone, but combined with the character work and story going along with the match pushes it up above a 4/5.
8. Seth Rollins vs. John Cena
Winner Take All Championship Match – WWE Summerslam
Another match that I’ve seen getting snubbed from end of year lists was this one. I had incredibly low expectations going into this seeing as Rollins and Cena had already faced each other on TV multiple times to zero fanfare. Though of course, Rollins and Big Match John over-delivered for one of the WWE’s biggest pay per views of the year. This match felt like an exhibition for what Seth Rollins is capable of doing in a main event match. Seth wrestled as high-flying babyface in this match and this is a good preview of what’s to come with him and an eventual face turn. Rollins and Cena have great chemistry, when they’re allowed to. This match also featured some great sports entertainment with Jon Stewart from The Daily Show running in to help Rollins get the victory. Just some peak WWE wrestling here.
7. Shingo Takagi vs. Masaaki Mochizuki
Open the Dream Gate Championship Match
Dragon Gate Gate of Destiny
I’ll be the first to admit I am a casual fan of Dragon Gate. I’m familiar with some of their roster but I don’t actively keep up with them as much as I should. That said, when a match gets rave reviews I’ll try and go out of my way to see it. Dragon Gate is very intricately booked and character work is something that pays off for continual viewers, so I missed out on some aspects of the match. I think I had seen a couple Shingo Takagi matches in the past and wasn’t even familiar with Mochizuki going into this. By the end of the match however, Mochizuki became one of my favorite performers. Shingo is Dragon Gate’s top villain, Mochizuki is the 46 year old veteran looking to reclaim his throne as the valiant elder statesmen. I hesitate to compare this to Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair from Wrestlemania 24, but it’s close.
6. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
G1 Finals – New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Tournament
Two of the best in the world square off in the final round of New Japan’s most important tournament of the year. The winner goes to the Tokyo Dome in January to face off for the highest championship in the company. Essentially the Royal Rumble to their Wrestlemania. I thought for sure that this was Nakamura’s time to go on to face Kazuchika Okada for the NJPW strap, but after an excellent match Tanahashi picks up the win to go after Okada for a 3rd time.
5. Mil Muertes vs. Fenix
Grave Consequences – Lucha Underground
Normally casket matches are pretty weak. They usually feature slow, plodding brawling with Kane or The Undertaker and tons of slow moving action with attempts to get an opponent into a casket. This match was not one of those, and will easily hold the title of greatest casket match ever for a long time to come. Mil Muertes is the big, evil powerhouse while Fenix is the scrappy young babyface. Mil takes Fenix to task all around the Lucha Underground temple in some of the most brutal looking spots I’ve ever seen from Lucha Underground. This is a prime example of some boundary-pushing and innovative pro-wrestling. Fenix’s forehead gets busted open and it adds to the drama of the match as well. Phenomenal storytelling combined with some ferocious ring work makes this a top 5 for me. I don’t want to spoil much, but I will say that the casket is only open and shut one time for the whole match.
4. Kevin Owens vs. John Cena
US Champion vs. NXT Champion Match
WWE Elimination Chamber
Not only did I get to see my favorite indie wrestler make his way into WWE, his first main roster match was a pay per view match against top dog John Cena. These two put on a barn burner. Kevin Owens puts on a clinic and proves he can hang with a main eventer. John Cena wrestles outside the box of his normal repertoire by integrating moves we normally don’t see from him. Everybody figured John Cena would win so Owens could pay his dues or whatever, but the WWE did something extremely bold by putting Owens over John Cena absolutely clean. So not only was this match great, they managed to add in another level of shock by having Kevin Owens win. The two would go on to have two more great matches, but this one was easily their best.
3. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley
NXT Women’s Championship Match
NXT Takeover: Brooklyn
I couldn’t be happier that a WWE women’s match is on my top 10, and I’m not the only one. This match received universal acclaim. Everyone from esteemed wrestling journalists to hall of famers like Stone Cold Steve Austin praised how incredible this match was. 10,000 guys in the audience openly weeping in joy for Bayley as she won the title is a sight to see. High drama, intense storytelling and exceptional ringwork make this a match I’ll gladly go back and rewatch anytime.
2. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9
New Japan at their finest in this match. One of my first articles for this website was about this match, in fact. Shinsuke Nakamura oozes charisma which makes anything he does in the ring look important. Ibushi is one of the best high-flying ring technicians going today. Put them together, put a belt on the line and you have even more magic than Hero/Sabre. Fast-paced action featuring high flying flips and martial arts kicks made this an easy match of the year contender. It’s a shame that Ibushi has gone down with an injury but hopefully he’ll come back better than ever.
1. Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins vs. John Cena
Triple Threat WWE Championship Match
WWE Royal Rumble
For all of the boneheaded moves the WWE does by not listening to their fans or scripting terrible dialogue, every once in a while they put on a spectacle that reminds me why I’m a fan of this entertainment medium in the first place. This match was outstanding. WWE put on their best match of the year a few weeks in to 2015 and they peaked way too early. It was going to be hard to top this one and while Sasha/Bayley and Owens/Cena were great, nothing was going to dethrone this match for me. All three competitors had their chance to shine in this match. Rollins was just gaining traction as a main event heel and got to prove that he could hang with two veteran main eventers like Cena and Brock. Cena got to play the role of Superman facing the odds of two opponents at once. Brock Lesnar got to look like an unstoppable juggernaut. WWE managed to make everyone come out of this match looking better than they did going in. Seth got to showcase some high flying craziness:
John Cena looked like a fighting champion, withstanding everything Rollins and Lesnar could throw at him. Brock Lesnar fought off being carried away on a stretcher and multiple finishers before finally putting Rollins away. These three performers put on a hell of a spotfest that I’ll rewatch any day of the week. Not only was this my favorite match of the year but is probably one of my favorite WWE matches of all time. I would go as far as to say that if you aren’t entertained by this match, then pro-wrestling just isn’t for you.
There you have it. While plenty of wrestling content from 2015 was either forgettable or bad, at least 10 matches were quality entertainment. My top 5 choices are matches I’ll remember while my #1 pick is something I’ll rewatch over and over again. I’m looking forward to 2016 for performers to return from injuries and start building my best of 2016 list.