Jerry Palleschi’s 2015 Pro Wrestling Review
2015 was quite the interesting year for professional wrestling across all promotions. Here is my year in review.
For those that don't know, I've been a huge pro wrestling fan since the day I was born. I grew up in the 1990s watching the likes of Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, and well I could go on. My interest has never really gone away and this upcoming April I will be attending my 6th Wrestlemania. It's just been a part of my life.
2015 was a very up-and-down year for the WWE. The WWE started the year on a complete downward fall with the failed Royal Rumble PPV. They manage to salvage Wrestlemania and it appeared that the product was on the rise. Unfortunately, Raw became unwatchable come August and WWE itself hit a relatively low point.
The biggest issue with WWE hasn't been the wrestling. We've seen countless great matches this year from the likes of John Cena, Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Sasha Banks, Finn Balor, Charlotte, Brock Lesnar, and more. The roster itself is probably the best talent wise that they've had in a long time. The issue is that the writing has been so terrible that they haven't been able to truly build the next group of stars.
Outside of WWE I particularly enjoyed Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and EVOLVE this year. There were many matches and events between all promotions that would captivate almost any wrestling fan. Guys like Roderick Strong, Chris Hero, Kyle O'Reilly, Bobby Fish, The Young Bucks, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada, and Hiroshi Tanahashi had particularly great years outside of WWE. If you have the opportunity to check out any of these promotions I highly recommend it.
Here are my 2015 Pro Wrestling Awards. Yes, you can certainly disagree with these selections or add to them. I will admit that I have not had the chance to see Lucha Underground, but that is on my list for 2016.
Show of the Year
1) Wrestle Kingdom 9 - New Japan Pro Wrestling
2) NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. - WWE NXT
When I think of 2015 I will immediately think about these two shows. They have everything that I love about pro wrestling. I made the decision on January 4, 2015 to make a ton of coffee and watch Wrestle Kingdom 9 live on PPV. It was the first time that NJPW was made available live in the US on PPV. Granted, I had to watch the show beginning at 2:00 A.M. but it was worth every minute. Four hours of some of the best pro wrestling you can see in one show.
NXT Brooklyn: Takeover was a very special show and easily the best WWE produced show in 2015. Sasha Banks/Bayley and Balor/Owens included some of the best action that could be found this year. Not to mention, NXT sold out the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That was a huge accomplishment and has pushed NXT to a new level. As a brand, I cannot wait to see what 2016 brings for NXT.
Worst Show of the Year
1) WWE Royal Rumble - WWE
Was there a bigger disaster than the Royal Rumble? The match itself was a nightmare and outside of the triple threat championship match, I really can't remember the card off the top of my head (which is not normal). Daniel Bryan returns to get thrown out just a few minutes into the Rumble, and the fact that The Rock couldn't even save Roman Reigns shows just how poorly booked this event was.
Wrestler of the Year
1) Roderick Strong (ROH, PWG, EVOLVE)
- If you haven't seen any of Roderick Strong's matches from this year you are missing out. He's had the best year of any wrestler on the independent scene with classics with the likes of Alberto El Patro (Alberto Del Rio) in ROH, Jay Lethal (ROH), Zack Sabre Jr (EVOLVE/PWG), and his great matches as part of the ROH/NJPW events in May.
2) Seth Rollins (WWE)
3) Sasha Banks (WWE/NXT)
4) John Cena (WWE. The US Title Open Challenge was phenomenal)
5) Chris Hero (EVOLVE/PWG)
Tag Team of the Year
1) The Young Bucks (ROH/PWG)
2) The New Day (WWE)
Have to give love to two of the most entertaining groups in wrestling today. The Young Bucks continue to put on great matches nightly, while The New Day have managed to turn what looked like a failed gimmick into gold.
Match(es) of the Year
1) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9)
2) Sasha Banks vs. Bayley (NXT Takeover: Brooklyn)
3) Jay Lethal vs. Jay Briscoe (ROH Best in the World)
4) Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins (WWE Royal Rumble)
5) Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9)
I will preface by saying that this year had some great matches across all promotions. It was actually hard to put together a list of a "top five." The first match that popped into my head was Nakamura/Ibushi from Wrestle Kingdom 9. That match had everything from the story to flawless execution. Sasha Banks/Bayley had a special feel to it that deserves so much credit. Those two went out there and stole the show in front of 16,000 fans. Lethal/Briscoe had the ROH World Title vs. ROH TV Title winner take all build to it that added more drama to it than any other match this year. Lesnar/Cena/Rollins was as exciting of a triple threat match as you can find. Finally, Okada/Tanahashi did what they have done in the past and put on a classic wrestling match for the biggest title in NJPW. Oh, and they'll do it again at Wrestle Kingdom 10 on January 4, 2016.
Just do yourself a favor and seek out those five matches. You can't go wrong.
Here's to a great 2016!