This year was, by and large, a great year for professional wrestling in WWE. The company really pushed the ‘big match feel’ idea in their PPV line-ups and on Monday Night RAW during the summer, which led to a far more popular and enjoyable product.
Despite some low points and questionable booking decisions, there has been a degree of consistency in 2015 that hasn’t been present in years’ past. That consistency was centered on making Network specials and traditional PPVs feel special and worth spending money on. To accomplish that feat, WWE booked its superstars to put on as many great and memorable matches as possible.
This booking philosophy led to many spectacular matches that were widely praised. Even Dave Meltzer, one of the most difficult wrestling critics to impress, rated many WWE matches in 2015 4-stars or higher, which says a lot about just how well the WWE’s superstars have performed. Indeed, 2015 will go down in WWE history as a year of great matches, and for that we can thank the following 10 superstars.
It was these 10 men and women who worked so hard to entertain the fans by wrestling in longer, more exciting matches. It was these 10 individuals who put on more great matches during the 2015 calendar year than anyone else. Finally, these 10 people are the ones you must look out for in 2016, because they’re the ones who are most likely to enjoy considerable success and will entertain the audience the most.
10. Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt may not have had the best of years in 2015, but he has been a top star in WWE nonetheless. He’s one of WWE’s most popular characters no matter what, with his unique character and overall presentation.
He has an incredible ability to keep fans engaged in everything that he does, even when he loses. There’s an air of uniqueness and magnetism about him that makes people gravitate towards him no matter what he does. That’s why, despite some awkward booking at times, Wyatt has still been one of the best wrestlers of 2015.
The only reason he isn’t higher on this list is because he himself has a tendency to talk more often than wrestle, and that hurts his ability to back up his words with actions.
9. Roman Reigns
Despite being the target of regular criticism, Roman Reigns has actually put on impressive matches when he was called to do so. Though not as technically-sound or great at selling as some other names on this list, Reigns has demonstrated that he actually can wrestle well when the opportunity arrives.
From Daniel Bryan at Fast Lane, to Big Show at Extreme Rules, to his singles and tag team matches against the Wyatt Family, to his November 16 match against Cesaro, Reigns can actually wrestle very well against a wide variety of opponents. That goes to show you that maybe; just maybe, WWE’s power-brokers know what they’re doing when it comes to Reigns being given a major push.
Though he still has a long way to go if he wants to convince everyone that he deserves his spot, his match record for 2015 speaks for itself.
8. Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose may not be the most technically-skilled or most physically-powerful wrestler on the WWE roster, but he’s definitely one of the most popular and charismatic. Ambrose’s wildness and ring psychology have made him a must-watch wrestler, simply because he’s one of the most unpredictable wrestlers on the roster. His smash-mouth style and ability to change the direction of a match on a dime have led to some incredibly fun matches throughout 2015.
Even if he isn’t always in the main event, Ambrose gets one of the loudest reactions on a nightly basis. Simply put, he’s so good at what he does that you cannot help but hope that he’ll get the recognition that he deserves sometime soon. He has proven time and time again that he can carry anyone to a good match, and connects with the audience wherever he goes.
7. Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens is one of the most consistent performers in WWE. No matter who he’s wrestling, Owens manages to adapt to the situation while still retaining a kind of heelish personality that no one else on the roster possesses.
It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t have the ‘typical’ WWE physique; he backs up his bog mouth with a devastating style composed of impressive and unique offense. His Pop-up Powerbomb, corner cannonball, Steen breaker, and other moves look absolutely brutal, and each one of those moves always gets a noticeable reaction, even from the quietest of crowds. That’s an important asset to have, since the live crowd’s activity has a major effect on viewers watching at home.
So even if Owens’ major push in May and June was diminished somewhat in recent months, he’s still an outstanding wrestler whose presence on RAW is always appreciated.
6. Finn Balor
If there’s one definitive shining light in NXT, it’s Finn Balor. Balor manages to stand head and shoulders above everyone on that brand when it comes to having all the tools needed to entertain the fans on a regular basis. He has an awesome gimmick that makes his entrances unique and wildly entertaining.
He has an impressive wrestling style and innovative offense. He has the look of a top athlete, even if he’s a bit short. But most of all, when the time comes to put on excellent matches, Balor never disappoints. Each one of his big matches this year was a Match of the Year candidate, and he has been one of WWE’s biggest merchandise movers as a result.
Balor has been an amazing wrestler in 2015, and has proved many times over why he truly deserves the NXT Championship and all the praise that comes his way.
5. Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks is the best women’s wrestler in WWE right now. She combines excellent character work, charisma, technical precision, and brutal offense so seamlessly that every single one of her marquee matches stands out.
Despite losing at two major events (NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn & NXT TakeOver: Respect), Banks carved her way into WWE history by putting on two truly breath-taking matches opposite Bayley. This kind of women’s wrestling hasn’t been seen anywhere since the joshis of All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling were doing the same thing in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That’s how good Sasha can be when she’s given the time and the freedom to wrestle in her style.
Even if she doesn’t work those kinds of matches on RAW, she has still managed to turn heads with her amazing wrestling prowess. And at age 23, Banks will continue to showcase great matches for years to come.
This was Cesaro’s best year in the WWE. He received a singles push after his partner Tyson Kidd was injured, and used that push to challenge the company’s top wrestlers in some of the best matches of the year. With his amazing strength, technical grace, and ability to throw an uppercut from pretty much anywhere, Cesaro’s popularity exploded, as fans were convinced that he was finally getting the recognition that he deserved.
Although he didn’t win many of these great matches and didn’t win any major championships, Cesaro managed to cement for himself a spot in the upper mid-card. He proved to everyone watching, especially Vince McMahon, that he does indeed connect with the audience. When he returns from his current injury, it wouldn’t be surprising for the audience to give him a thunderous ovation, given how much today’s fans appreciate a hard worker when they see one.
3. Brock Lesnar
There’s a reason why Vince McMahon considers Brock Lesnar a ‘special draw’ that should only appear on rare occasion: when he does show up, he gets a rousing ovation and puts on truly memorable matches.
Such was the case in 2015, as Lesnar’s matches were among the best of the year. From his Triple threat match for the WWEWHC in January to his outstanding matches with the Undertaker, Lesnar managed to make every single one of his matches special. Even with a relatively limited move-set (he has focused primarily on German Suplexes, stiff strikes, MMA-inspired submission holds and the F-5), Lesnar managed to garner huge reactions from the crowd no matter what.
Given the combination of his popularity with his bad-ass image, it wouldn’t be surprising whatsoever to see Lesnar in a top position in WWE throughout 2016 as well.
2. Seth Rollins
Despite a few booking roadblocks, Rollins has been one of the best wrestlers of 2015. Throughout the year he has put on great matches that showed exactly why he was a deserving World Champion. He was able to wrestle against any opponent and make any match so much better through his impressive athleticism and versatility.
He put on absolute clinics with the likes of John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Randy Orton, and even to work great matches with much older and slower opponents like Sting and Kane. He’s such a good wrestler that, even in defeat, he looks amazing in the ring, and people talk more about the moves he can pull off in the ring than the fact that he lost.
Rollins was an outstanding wrestler in 2015, and his current absence from WWE programming is a major reason why their ratings are suffering right now.
1. John Cena
John Cena has put on and taken part in more marquee matches this year than any other WWE Superstar. He began 2015 with a stellar performance in a Triple Threat Title Match that also involved Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar. He defeated Rusev in a surprisingly-well-executed match at WrestleMania.
Then, after that rivalry ended, Cena vowed to elevate the U.S. Championship’s prestige by defending it every week. That led to a series of outstanding title defenses against the likes of Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins. In doing so, Cena finally silenced the majority of critics who still held the notion that Cena “couldn’t wrestle.” His matches in 2015, many of which were main events, were among the best seen during the entire year. He truly deserved the moniker ‘big match John’ that was bestowed upon him, because he delivered the goods on every occasion.