Welcome to the 2015 Pro Wrestling Year in Review here with the Last Word on Sports pro wrestling department.
2015 started out with what felt like an awakening in North America for Japanese pro wrestling, as lost WWE fans found Wrestle Kingdom 9 with New Japan Pro Wrestling commentated by the familiar voices of Jim Ross and Matt Striker. While Puroresu did not take over North American pro wrestling in 2015, it surely gained enough legs to ensure that more knew the names of the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura and Okada, enough that we see rumours of WWE interested in them pop up every slow month.
WWE fans watched the product waft and wane, going from a must see Wrestlemania 31 to a must miss Survivor Series, with injuries to top talent and having to say goodbyes to some of the greatest legends the industry has seen. TNA fans for once actually felt like it could be the end of a product that refuses to die, with Destination America bringing some of the lowest ratings in the company’s history while Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling picked up several TNA talents. The sight of James Storm in NXT was one that felt like the heart of the company being pulled out, but even with an early cancellation, TNA found themselves a new network by the end of the year in POP. Ring of Honor fans also had a flirt with Destination America, thinking they might bump TNA right out of the defacto number two spot. Instead, ROH ratings stayed low on the network as well and eventually ended the year on Comet, another unknown network.
The real standouts in North America ended up being Lucha Underground and NXT, the WWE development promotion. Lucha Underground started in 2014 but finished their first season in 2015, providing a wrestling product unlike any other. The fusion of Lucha Libre, early 2000s Top 3 American wrestling and the modern Independent style worked beautifully with a telenovella style of storylines. Lucha Underground felt like a great wrestling product with the contrast and saturation turned up to full. It was a cartoon coming to life. NXT found itself creating stars faster than WWE could handle, breaking new ground for Women’s wrestling in the WWE product. There are now a lot of WWE fans who either demand the WWE main product to be like NXT, or the main WWE product to leave NXT alone. As the WWE lumped to the finish line with declining ratings and conflicted fans, NXT stayed strong from January to December.
Pro Wrestling Year in Review: The Bottom
The Bottom has been decided by Last Word on Sports writers Aaron Wrotkowski, Adam Contant, Jeff DeHaan, Rich Laconi and Adam Berry.
Worst Company Tactic of 2015
Choice: WWE Exploits Reid Flair passing away
Other Nominations: Erasing Hulk Hogan, Lucha Underground makes fans wait, TNA owes talent money
Worst Wrestling Moment of 2015
Choice: Perro Aguaya passes away in ring
Other Nominations: Seth Rollins injured
Worst Wrestling Event of 2015
Choice: Survivor Series
Other Nominations: TripleMania XXIII, WWE Tough Enough, Raw 12/7/15
Pro Wrestling Year in Review: The Top
The Top has been decided by Last Word on Sports writers Aaron Wrotkowski, Adam Contant, Jeff DeHaan, Rich Laconi and Adam Berry.
Best Wrestling Promotion of 2015
5th Place: TNA Wrestling (three 5th place nominations, 3rd, 4th)
4th Place: Ring of Honor (two 4th place nominations, 3rd, 2nd)
3rd Place: Lucha Underground (two 2nd place nominations, 5th, 3rd, 1st)
2nd Place: New Japan Pro Wrestling (two 3rd place nominations, 2nd, 1st)
1st Place: World Wrestling Entertainment (three 1st place nominations, 2nd)
Best Wrestling TV Show in 2015
5th Place: Impact on Destination America (3rd, 5th)
4th Place: ROH on Syndicated (two 3rd place nominations)
3rd Place: Raw on USA Network (two 2nd place nominations, 3rd, 5th)
2nd Place: NXT on WWE Network (two 1st place nominations, three 2nd place nominations)
1st Place: Lucha Underground on El Rey Network (three 1st place nominations)
Other Nominations: WWE Network Breaking Ground (3rd), WWE Smackdown (4th x2), WWE Network Table for 3 (4th, 5th)
Best Wrestling Event in 2015
5th Place: WWE Raw 12/14/15 (2nd place nomination)
4th Place: Lucha Underground: Ultima Lucha (two 2nd place nominations)
3rd Place: Wrestle Kingdom 9 (1st place nomination)
2nd Place: NXT Takeover: Brooklyn (two 2nd place nominations, 1st, 3rd, 4th)
1st Place: WWE Wrestlemania 31 (three 1st place nominations, two 3rd place nominations)
Other Nominations: NXT Takeover: Respect (3rd), WWE Network: Beast in the East (3rd), NXT Takeover: London (4th x2), Lucha Underground: All Night Long (4th), ROH Final Battle (4th), WWE Royal Rumble (5th), WWE Hell in a Cell (5th), WWE Summerslam (5th)
Best Wrestling Match of 2015
5th Place TIE: Prince Puma vs. Johnny Mundo, Lucha Underground, Bayley vs. Sasha Banks, NXT Takeover: Respect (2nd place nomination, 5th)
4th Place: Fenix vs. Mils Muertes, Lucha Underground (2nd place nomination, 4th)
3rd Place: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada, Wrestle Kingdom 9 (1st place nomination)
2nd Place: Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar, WWE Wrestlemania (four 2nd place nominations, 3rd, 4th)
1st Place: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, NXT Takeover: Brooklyn (four 1st place nominations)
Other Nominations: Jay Lethal vs. Roderick Strong (2nd), John Cena vs. Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar (3rd, 4th), Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor (3rd), Kevin Owens vs. John Cena I (3rd), Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus rematch (4th), Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks (5th)
2015 Wrestler of the Year
5th Place: Jay Lethal (1st, 4th)
4th Place: Kazuchuka Okada (1st)
3rd Place: Brock Lesnar (1st, 3rd)
2nd Place: Kevin Owens (1st, 2nd)
1st Place: Seth Rollins (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th)
Other Nominations: Prince Puma (2nd x2), Xavier Woods (2nd), John Cena (3rd x2), Cesaro (3rd), Sasha Banks (4th x2, 5th), Bobby Roode (4th), Dalton Castle (4th), Bayley (5th x2)
2015 Wrestling Moment of the Year
5th Place: Womens Championship main event in NXT (2nd place nomination)
4th Place: Roman Reigns punches Vince McMahon (1st place nomination)
3rd Place: John Cena loses to Kevin Owens clean for US Championship (1st place nomination, 3rd)
2nd Place: Bayley wins NXT Championship (1st place nomination, 2nd)
1st Place: Seth Rollins cash-in at Wrestlemania (two 1st place nominations, two 2nd place nominations
Other Nominations: Nakamura Wrestle Kingdom 9 entrance (2nd), Angelico Leap of Faith (2nd), Lesnar F5s Michael Cole (3rd), Jon Stewart attacks John Cena (3rd), John Cena Open Invitational (3rd, 4th), New Day win Tag Titles (4th), Wednesday Night Wrestling (4th), Reigns wins WWE Championship (5th), Alberto Del Rio returns (5th)
Pro Wrestling Year in Review: The Future
The future has been decided by Last Word on Sports writers Aaron Wrotkowski, Adam Contant, Jeff DeHaan, Rich Laconi and Adam Berry.
Breakout Star of 2016
Choice: Kevin Owens
By Adam Contant: The thought of Kevin Owens being a World Wrestling Entertainment superstar, let alone a successful one,was an almost certain impossibility just a few years ago. In the last 365 days, that thought has not only become reality, but it looks as though Owens might be on his way to becoming a main event talent in WWE. Kevin has hit the ground running in WWE and managed to demonstrate that he is capable of handling every challenge laid out in front of him. He put on a series of popular matches with John Cena, captured the Intercontinental Championship, and succeeded in finding a way to get under the skin of every fan who buys a ticket. Owens is currently in a cooling off period, another test from WWE management to see how he handles himself. If Kevin continues to deliver both in front of the cameras as well as behind them, then I don’t see anyone stopping Kevin Owens from becoming the top heel in WWE by the end of 2016.
Other Nominations: Bayley, Tye Dillinger, Dalton Castle
Biggest Surprise of 2016
Choice: The Shield ReforrrSWERVE!
By Jeff DeHaan: Fans have wanted to see The Shield reunite basically since they split and it is a moment that I think WWE will want to drop at just the right moment, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a tease or two along the way. As is often the case with a popular heel who gets injured, Seth Rollins will probably be cheered when he returns and will quite possibly be marketed as a baby face. But in that face turn I believe we will see either Dean Ambrose or Roman Reigns turn heel, putting off the Shield reunion just a little bit longer.
Other Nominations: Daniel Bryan leaves WWE, Eva Marie wins Divas championship, John Cena turns heel, The Shield re-unites
Wild Prediction of 2016
Choice: Hulk Hogan creates his own channel/wrestling empire
By Adam Contant: Hulk Hogan forms his own cable channel: Shunned by World Wrestling Entertainment, the Hulkster decides if you can’t join them, BEAT ‘EM BROTHER! Hogan will partner up with long time friends Jimmy Hart, Eric Bischoff and Jason Hervey to create an all new on demand channel that plays the very best of Hulk Hogan (not owned by WWE) as well as new content, like the new sure fire hit reality show based on Hulk Hogan’s Florida restaurant, Brother Burgers! Or how about Curtain Jerkers, the new program that features lesser known musical acts and up and coming talent, that haven’t quite made it to the big stage yet, hosted by Brooke Hogan! Of course, we can’t forget about Thursday Night Thunder! No, Hulk isn’t running old WCW tapes, that’s bush league brother! Instead we’re giving you a 24 hour marathon of Thunder In Paradise, each and every Thursday! All this for just $24/month, that’s one dollar for every inch of python dude!
Other Nominations: WWE and NBC/Universal will have a falling out causing WWE to have to find new networks for Raw and Smackdown, Dolph Ziggler will not be in a romantic storyline, Shane McMcahon returns and defeats HHH at Wrestlemania for control of WWE, Cody Rhodes becomes the new Common Man
Thank you so much for reading LWOS this year! See you in 2016 bigger and better than ever!