Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again. It’s where we reflect on everything that went right or wrong in the world of professional wrestling during the year. We reward excellence and we condemn ignorance. We decide once and for all which stars are worthy as it is time for the 2015 Armbar Express… AWARDS!
So we’ve made our list, we checked it twice. It’s time to see which wrestling personalities raked in the rewards for a solid year and which wrestlers get the short end of the stick. Let’s kick things off with…
TV Show Of The Year
This is a new one for us in the awards. We celebrate just which wrestling promotion put on the best TV show of the year and our nominations are…
- Monday Night RAW (WWE) – As it much as it can drive a man insane, I’ll give credit to the writers for being able to write and dish out a three hour wrestling show every week. A lot of RAWs have been well below par but there’s been a few hidden gems that almost makes up for that.
- NXT (WWE) – The developmental territory goes from strength to strength as NXT has really had the world talking with some incredible talent on display. We’ve had some great matches, some great storylines and great special events to make all the episodes seem worth it.
- Lucha Underground (Lucha Underground) – Lucha Underground is an incredible alternative from WWE which has really made a name for itself. Every episode is unmissable as it delivered with its first season in 2015. Considering the success of season one, season two in 2016 can be a huge success.
The winner… is Lucha Underground.
More than any other wrestling show from any other promotion, Lucha Underground knows what type of product they are putting on every week. It is a television show which is really what a lot of promotions fail to remember. It might upset a lot of NXT fans for it to lose out to Lucha Underground, but NXT is a show you could miss and it wouldn’t hugely effect your knowledge of events. Lucha Underground has made it’s a product a show you have to see every week. Every little detail is vital as you are gearing up for a huge episode with major implications. The segments and non-wrestling parts of the show are put together very well with more time given to wrestling to really tell the story for them. It’s the perfect balance which creates a incredible product at the end. If you’re not watching Lucha Underground, you’re missing out on an unique opportunity.
Feud/Rivalry Of The Year
Storytelling is a huge aspect of wrestling and more intense rivalries are, the better. Our nominations are…
- Kevin Owens vs John Cena – This feud made for compelling television on RAW which made it a huge incentive for people to watch the flagship show. Kevin Owens debuted in an emphatic way, attacking John Cena on RAW and then cleanly beating him at Elimination Chamber. Cena levelled things up at Money In The Bank until Cena settled the score with Owens at Battleground. While the ending with Cena winning the feud still winds me up to this day, you can’t deny that there were some great moments that accompanied this feud and really make it stand out.
- Brock Lesnar vs Undertaker – Fifteen months after the events of Wrestlemania XXX, the Dead Man finally got around to getting his revenge on the man that conquered the streak. After costing him the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Battleground, Undertaker began an incredible intense and powerful feud with Brock Lesnar which was really must-see television. Most notable during this feud was the post-Battleground brawl between Undertaker and Brock Lesnar which was arguably one of the greatest moments of RAW all year. Along with getting the Undertaker booed for the first time in a decade, this feud provided a whole new dynamic which really developed the characters of both men and it was not like this was a traditional face vs heel rivalry. These just two men that wanted to murder each other! The matches at Summerslam and Hell in a Cell also hugely surpassed my expectations too!
- Fenix vs Mil Muetrues – This was one of the rare times where a romance angle was actually done right and it shockingly happened at a promotion that is not as heavy on “sports entertainment” than WWE. It made stars out of Fenix and Mil with great matches including their Grave Consequences match which we’ll get to later. Catrina’s role in the storyline was also well played.
- Sasha Banks vs Bayley – There’s been a number of great NXT programs this year but Bayley and Sasha Banks gave us a rivalry which was truly phenomenal. This was story-telling at it’s simplest and finest and Sasha was the perfect foil for Bayley, as the hugger hoped to finally win the NXT Women’s Championship. Two great matches at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn and Respect showed why NXT’s women were leagues ahead of WWE’s divas.
The winner… is Brock Lesnar vs Undertaker.
To me, the intensity of Brock vs Taker was what really made it stand out. I appreciate the clear face-heel dynamic of Bayley and Sasha, I liked the way the romance angle with Fenix and Mil was presented and I loved the matches between Owens and Cena. However, what separated Brock and Taker from the rest was their ability to be unique. There’s no face and no heel. There’s just two badasses just beating the crap out of each other which gave the whole thing such a great atmosphere and what really made Brock Lesnar must-see television this year!
Tag Team Of The Year
There’s been a number of teams that have really impressed this year and let’s celebrate these tremendous tag teams as the nominations are…
- The New Day – What can be said about the New Day other than they took the ball and they ran so far with it that it’s incredible to think that they were getting booed at the start of the year. Now, they are just the most entertaining tag team in wrestling today and they’ve got a lot of diversity between the three of them in terms of movesets which works tremendously in the tag team scenario.
- Lucha Dragons – This team has been very fun to watch in the ring and have been a welcome addition to the main roster. Sin Cara’s obviously been on the main roster before but Kalisto is a newcomer that has really shined in the time that he’s given. Hopeful we can see these two with a tag title run.
- Jason Jordan and Chad Gable – A true stand out team in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, these two just worked so well together as a tag team. The weakness of one man was filled by the other as they put on some incredible matches against the likes of Baron Corbin and Rhyno. Many NXT fans were disappointed that the duo never won the tournament but 2016 may end up being their year.
- Cesaro and Tyson Kidd – I was originally going to leave this team out of this award considering they were only together for around six months until Tyson Kidd went down with an injury. However, the duo put together some great matches as a duo with the two styles just complimented each other beautifully. Fact.
The winner is… the New Day!
Kofi, Big E and Xaiver have done tremendous work as a trio and it might be unfair to give them award considering they’re more of a stable then a tag team. However, you can’t deny that they’ve given the tag team division a boost as a whole and they are finally getting the results that the three of them deserve.
PPV Of The Year
The WWE Network might have actually been worth subscribing to this year with a number of top quality PPVs to acknowledge. The nominations are…
- Wrestlemania 31 – In what is usually a given in terms of top PPVs of the year, Wrestlemania 31 sure didn’t disappoint. Rarely has a Wrestlemania been as well timed as this year’s event. With the exception of the Rock/Rousey/HHH/Stephanie angle (which I thought went too long) all the matches/segments were given enough time to truly stand out in it’s own right. While it was not like Wrestlemania 28 where all the time went to the three big matches and it was not like any of the matches from this card were match of the year candidates, it featured some darn great matches nevertheless. From Sting vs Triple H to Brock Lesnar taking Roman Reigns to Suplex City, there was little wrong with this year’s edition of Wrestlemania.
- Summerslam – August 22nd, August 23rd and August 24th made for a great three days for WWE and the feature presentation was the four hour long Summerslam. The top matches including a great WWE World title match with Seth Rollins defending against John Cena as well as the long-awaited rematch between Undertaker and Brock Lesnar which really surpassed my expectations.
- Hell in a Cell – I have to give Hell in a Cell a thumbs up for a number of reasons. Both Hell in a Cell matches delivered in their own right, (which is of course a big part of the PPV itself) and there were a number of surprises including the return of Alberto Del Rio.
- Night of Champions – This was another good PPV for WWE in the autumn of 2015, with Seth Rollins being the focal point and main reason for it’s success! Seth Rollins put on two great matches in a row with John Cena and Sting, proving that he indeed was the man in WWE around this time. There were other great aspects of the show as well including the returning of Chris Jericho which made for a worthwhile event.
The winner is… Wrestlemania 31.
This was another solid Wrestlemania for WWE as whoever was responsible for the timing of the show was right on the money. That event will legitimately go down as one of the best Wrestlemanias the company have ever produced.
Worst Match Of The Year
Not all awards are for the greater good. This award celebrates the worst matches put together in 2015. The nominations are…
- Sheamus vs Ryback vs Dolph Ziggler vs Mark Henry vs R-Truth vs King Barrett in an Elimination Chamber match for the Intercontinental Championhship (WWE) – Maybe WWE should have given Elimination Chamber a rest this year because this chamber match really wasn’t up to par. As soon as Mark Henry’s chamber pod was broken, the match seemed to completely fall apart to such agree that it was amazing how all of these men (EACH with at least ten years experience wrestling in the “biggest” wrestling promotion in the world) couldn’t put this match back on track. When Sheamus’ chamber pod got stuck, all of these men stood around not knowing what to do as Ziggler was calling spots for everyone. It was not a great return for the Elimination Chamber.
- 2015 Royal Rumble Match (WWE) – WWE’s streak of failing Royal Rumble matches continued with this atrocity which ended up with Roman Reigns standing tall. It’s not even the fact that Roman won it. It’s the fact that the match itself was put together in such a miserable fashion that it’s no wonder that Roman was booed out of the building. Those fans weren’t booing Roman Reigns. They were booing Roman Reigns having to conquer two twenty year veterans that had no business being on par with the current crop of young talent as WWE struggle to develop new stars.
- Los Villanos vs Los Psycho Circus at TripleMania XXIII (AAA) – When I heard that Dave Meltzer had given this match from TripleMania minus five stars, I figured I had to go watch it. I had heard that TripleMania was bad and the bits I had watched of it weren’t all impressive. However, this match was something special. This was supposed to be Villano III’s retirement match and imagine having a retirement match that was this much of a train wreck. This was hardly Ric Flair retiring against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 24. This is one to watch but for the wrong reasons!
- Paige and Emma vs The Bella Twins on RAW: February 23rd 2015 (WWE) – This was an utterly atrocious use of these women on WWE’s flagship show, to give them a grand total of 30 seconds of in-ring action. What happened was Emma and Brie started the match, Paige was shouting at Nikki when Brie took her off the apron, Emma looked outside to check on Paige and then Brie hit Emma with the X-Factor and won. This was a complete and utter disgrace considering these talented women were given 30 seconds during a 3 HOUR SHOW of RAW. The neglect to these divas by WWE was simply revolting which ended up creating the “Divas Revolution” which we’ll get onto later. It’s one thing when you try something and it fails. It’s a slap in the face when you don’t even try to make the women look credible.
- Kurt Angle vs Eric Young in a No Disqualification match at Bound For Glory 2015 (TNA) – This match was probably the highlight of my TNA Bound For Glory PPV review as two men that are usually great workers were put in this illogical no disqualification match. The biggest highlight to this match was, despite Eric Young piledriving Kurt Angle, the referee waving off the match, KURT ANGLE even telling Eric it’s over, the match still went on for another ten minutes or so as Kurt was selling a broken neck. You really should read my Bound For Glory review (at this link) to get the full detail of my problems with this match. I’ll just say this… thumbs down.
The winner (or in this case, the loser) is…. the Elimination Chamber match.
Now keep in mind when we give out these awards for Best or Worst match of the year, it’s not strictly down to the in-ring side of things. If that was the case, then the Villanos/Psycho Circus match would probably win hands down. We’re looking at so many more aspects of the match that made it worthy of a nomination. Angle/Young was bad because of the illogical storytelling going on. The Royal Rumble match was a disaster mostly because of the crowd reactions and the finish. Emma and Paige vs the Bella Twins was on the list because of how disrespectful it was to women’s wrestling and the Villanos/Psycho Circus was in for a number of reasons. The reason for the Elimination Chamber being the winner was down to one thing. In AAA and TNA, the expectations and standards aren’t as high as WWE’s. Considering the physical well-being of both the Villanos and the Psycho Circus and considering that TNA’s booking was just vintage TNA, you can sort of expect that. For WWE, you expect top quality action. It’d be wrong to punish the divas for WWE’s decision to give them 30 seconds. For the Elimination Chamber and the Royal Rumble, there’s no excuse. At least the first half of the Royal Rumble was actually not that bad with some cool surprise entrants and stuff, so it has at least got a few redeeming qualities to it. The Elimination Chamber was just a bad match that fell apart because of the chamber pod spots and then going on for way too long. Their improvisation made them all look like fools and it was just a retched return of the elimination chamber. Congratulations you six for being apart of the worst match of the year.
Turn Of The Year
There’s been a number of effective turns which have either been executed well or has lead to even greater things just by doing it. The nominations are…
- The New Day: Heel (WWE) – It’s amazing to think that the WWE Creative team had the New Day be good guys for five months before realising that they needed to be heels. Responding to the “New Day Sucks” chant, the men finally embraced the hate and it’s the greatest decision the WWE have made throughout the entire year. The New Day have excelled as heels and it’ll be hard to see how they can top it in 2016.
- Undertaker: Heel? (WWE) – In hindsight, it probably wasn’t a full-on heel turn from the Dead Man. However, to explore the idea of the Lord of Darkness legitimately turning to the dark side was intriguing enough when Undertaker cost Brock Lesnar the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Battleground. Undertaker acting as a heel is very unique and I still believe that him spending the last few years of his career as a heel is what’s best for business before he rides off into the sunset.
- Paige: Heel (WWE) – The initial turn for Paige was executed very well coming off a rather bleak program between Charlotte and Nikki Bella. Paige cut a scathing promo slating all of the divas, Charlotte and even Charlotte’s dad Ric Flair. What’s followed for Paige since then has been very flawed but the initial turn was pulled off very well.
- Cesaro: Face (WWE) – Cesaro was already a face before this point but a true babyface moment for him this year was his program with John Cena and Kevin Owens for the United States Championship. Cesaro is a very excitable face wrestler which gives this turn a thumbs up. However, him going up against Cena in the main event of RAW was a moment which I thought was legitimately going to make him a new main event star for WWE to get behind. They showed respect to each other and the fans really did accept that Cesaro should be a main event star. Cena endorsing Cesaro among other things made this feel like a special RAW moment for Cesaro.
The winner is… the New Day!
This is the New Day’s second award and I was honestly going to give this to the Undertaker, despite that heel turn being more of a tweener turn then anything. However, the New Day’s turn was probably the most needed in the entire year and the group shined as the villains. Well done to the New Day!
Worst Storyline Of The Year
This was not a great year for the writers of professional wrestling this year (with the exception of Lucha Underground). The nominations are….
- The Rusev/Ziggler/Lana saga (WWE) – I’ll give this storyline credit in the fact that my analysis of this storyline is still one of my most viewed blog posts of the year! From the get-go, you knew this storyline couldn’t work. Trying to twist real-life relationships into a romance wrestling storyline really never works as well as it’s expected to and a lot of the time, it just came off as a really cheap soap opera rip-off. Ziggler and Lana couldn’t be accepted as a legitimate couple and Rusev ended up being the biggest loser out of everyone involved. Think about that. The man that WWE had pushed so hard in 2014 and up until Wrestlemania 31 suffered the most during this storyline. I would seriously give my article on this storyline a read at this link to get the full scoop of why this was such a failure.
- The Divas Revolution (WWE) – I feel that the last six months in the divas roster has been nothing short of a failure with the exception of NXT. It’s very hard to believe that the same company that have put on some of the great women’s matches of all time put this storyline together in the same year. WWE’s attempts at replicating the success of the NXT women really did give women’s wrestling a bad name this year, as these women were unfortunately subjected to the terrible booking by the powers-that-be of WWE. Charlotte, Paige and the rest of the women really do need gold medals for the stuff they’ve had to put up with this year.
- James Storm “kills” Mickie James (TNA) – Wrestlers being “killed” in storylines aren’t exactly new. Undertaker used to die every other year in WWE while Lucha Underground has ran a number of murder angles in the course of its first season. However, none where as painful to watch as Storm nudging Mickie James onto a train track. As part of a storyline where Storm tried to form a wedge between Magnus and Mickie (a real life engaged couple), the culmination of months of manipulation by Storm was TNA taking a page out of House Of Cards’ books and “killing” off Mickie James in such an anti-climactic manner (except the House of Cards scene was actually a lot more shocking than this one). It’s very hard to pull off a death storyline (unless you’re Lucha Underground) in the social media generation, but TNA’s attempt was just absurd especially when their official website referred to James Storm’s actions as “borderline criminal.” Honest to god, did not make that last part up.
- The Battle Of The Crown (WWE) – This was hardly the “War of the five Kings” from Game of Thrones. This was WWE making a pure mockery of the value of the King of the Ring tournament. A tournament which has elevated the likes of Steve Austin, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar to stardom. With this storyline, Barrett’s win was treated as a joke as R-Truth also decided to be a king. As I’ve discussed in the past, Barrett has been subjected to some serious woeful booking by WWE in his career but this really takes the cake.
The winner is… The Rusev/Lana/Ziggler storyline.
There’s no doubt in my mind. As infuriating as the Divas Revolution is, as stupid as the James Storm angle was and as much of a joke as the King storyline was made, this romance angle was by far the worst storyline of the year. This takes it by a HUGE MILE. There’s never been a bigger failure of a romance angle than the Rusev, Lana and Ziggler angle. What started with Lana getting some of the best reactions in the entire company and Rusev being a top heel monster, turned into both of them being degraded to such a degree that I find it very hard to believe that either person can be elevated back to the level that they were before they were struck with this horrible storyline.
Match of the Year
Here’s one of the big ones. There’s been a great deal of tremendous matches over the year and these five have been among the elite. The nominations are…
- John Cena vs Kevin Owens at Elimination Chamber 2015 – It’s very hard to separate all three of the Cena/Owens matches this year as all stand out in their own way. The Money In The Bank match and the Battleground rubber match were both well put together. However, Elimination Chamber only just takes it just for the pure shock of Owens beating Cena so convincingly.
- Bayley vs Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver: Respect – It’s very hard to separate this match and one other match I’ve seen in the past over which was the greatest womens match I’ve ever seen. I feel given the background to it and the expectation, I feel this surely has to take it. These women were able to put on an incredible performance for 30 minutes, with great in-ring story-telling as Bayley had to prove that her win at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn was no joke.
- Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar at Summerslam 2015 – This was filled with pure intensity and drama from bell to bell as it even began with Brock Lesnar attacking Undertaker during his entrance. It was a brawl like no one had ever seen before as the Beast and the Dead Man slugged it out. Many complained about the finish but I really didn’t mind it as it was a necessary evil for the third match to happen.
- Mil Muetrues vs Fenix in a Grave Consequences match on Lucha Underground – This rivalry, as mentioned earlier, was a very powerful one. This match in particular was the ultimate David vs Goliath match as the underdog was beaten to a pulp. This match is a must see for those not familiar with Lucha Underground!
- Brock Lesnar (c) vs Seth Rollins vs John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the Royal Rumble – There’s little reason needed for why this match is a nominee. Other than being the only redeeming quality of the Royal Rumble PPV that saved it from being a complete disaster, this was the perfect mix for a triple threat match. You had John Cena (who had really improved in terms of match quality this year), Seth Rollins (who has the speed and generally all-around skill) and Brock Lesnar (who ranks high in pretty much every department you can think off!). It just made for a great triple threat which made all of them look incredible.
The winner is… Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar.
I feel kind of bad having all the match of the year candidates being related to the feud of the year candidates. However, those were the big instances where the matches made the rivalry. Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar was no exception as the two put together an incredible match at Summerslam.
Female of the Year
This has been a year for ups and downs for womens wrestling in WWE, but lets give credit to these women as the nominations for female of the year are…
- Paige – The winner of last year’s award is back into the mix as Paige has had a number of great moments, even with some of the questionable decisions by the powers-that-be. She’s been a little over-exposed and over-used in the divas title picture but the lovely Englishman has given us a lot of top performances.
- Sasha Banks – It wouldn’t be a legitimate award without at least throwing the Boss into the fray. She had a great run as NXT Womens Champion in the start of the year and she’s been a delight to see whenever she appears on the main roster. That and having one of the best matches of the year surely makes the Boss a contender.
- Bayley – The hugger is surprisingly the only one out of the four NXT horse-women that wasn’t called up to the main roster, which is probably for the better when you consider just how well she’s performed on NXT.
- Nikki Bella – The #1 ranked women on the PWI Womens Top 50, Nikki is also in the running for this award as her improving in-ring skill and having to lead the womens roster as champion is something you have to give her credit for.
The winner is… Sasha Banks.
I feel all the others have valid reasons for winning but Sasha has been on top of her game for all of 2015. Congratulations to the Boss!
Promo of the Year
Last year, we saw some tremendous promos cut by the likes of Dean Ambrose, Paul Heyman and Bray Wyatt. Our nominations for this year’s award are…
- Paige’s PaigeBomb On The Night After Night Of Champions (September 21st 2015) – One of the brightest moments in the Divas Revolution was Paige cut a scathing promo on all the divas which addressed the problems present with the storyline. She buried Charlotte, Becky Lynch and all the other divas as she took credit for the whole Divas Revolution. This could have been the catalyst for a true divas revolution had WWE not squandered this opportunity.
- Paul Heyman On The Night After Wrestlemania 31 (March 30th 2015) – Last year’s winner Paul Heyman is again featured prominently this year as his angry promo following Wrestlemania was delivered tremendously. Never has a rematch clause ever been invoked in such a manner!
- Stephanie McMahon On John Cena Missing Out Wrestlemania 31 (March 2nd 2015) – I’m a huge fan of Stephanie McMahon and this promo was a prime example of why. Stephanie’s cut a lot of passionate promos during the year but this one involving Cena was one that really caught my attention. It’s one of those reassurances to the WWE Universe that Cena does not define WWE and is not as dominant as people realise. Stephanie is one of the few people that could have gotten this point across as she did.
- Paul Heyman On The Future Of Brock Lesnar (March 9th 2015) – Surprisingly, two of these promos come within two weeks of each other! Not going to lie, the road to Wrestlemania can bring about some beauties. Paul Heyman discussing what Brock Lesnar’s plans are after Brock’s falling out with Vince McMahon was so intense that it almost seemed that Brock was actually legitimately holding the company up over the WWE World title. It was as intense as Paul could have made it as he discussed the potential of Brock becoming WWE World and UFC Champion and “smacking around Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao” in a heated promo which really aided the promotion of Lesnar’s match with Roman Reigns tremendously.
The winner is… Paul Heyman with his angry promo on the night after Wrestlemania!
Paul is a true master of the microphone and it was evident with this promo. A deserving two-time winner of this award and there was few that could touch him this year. I always thought this promo grabbed my attention more than the one earlier on in the month, but both were amazing nevertheless. Congratulations Paul!
Wrestler Of The Year
THIS IS IT. This is the big one as we determine who was the best wrestler all year long. The nominations are….
- Seth Rollins – Last year’s winner has gone from strength to strength, having mostly reigned as WWE World Heavyweight Champion and the locker room leader. He put on great performance after great performance and was really transformed into a true main event star which is exactly what WWE are lacking in. His injury was a huge blow but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Rollins had an incredible year under him that he should really be proud of.
- John Cena – Big Match John really upped his game in terms of his in-ring skills. John’s had match after match with the US Championship Open Challenge to demonstrate his abilities and help a fellow challenger along the way. Cena’s had great matches with the likes of Rollins, Kevin Owens, Cesaro and Dean Ambrose to make this a top year for the franchise player of WWE.
- Kevin Owens – Despite being HUGELY under-utilised in the majority of the second half of 2015, Owens shined when given the proper mic and wrestling time. He started of the year by smashing Sami Zayn and moved onto his tremendous trilogy with John Cena. He reigned as Intercontinental Champion and in a time of need in terms of top heel stars, Kevin Owens needs to be one to push in 2016.
- Cesaro – Cesaro gets a spot because HE FREAKING DESERVES IT. Despite not being in a lot of major programs during the year, Cesaro shined whenever he was given the ball. Even when he was under-utilised, he still did his best to make sure he had one of the best matches of the night and to prove just how great he was.
- Brock Lesnar – Some of you may question my decision to put in a man that rarely wrestles but when he does, it’s must-see television. Brock had some of the best matches of the whole year and can captivate the audience in one way or another.
The winner is… Seth Rollins.
Congrats to Seth Rollins for winning this award for a second year in a row. While John Cena was really on top of his game this year, Seth takes this by a huge mile. He worked his ass off and his performances against some of the top names in the business shows that he belongs in the main event scene for years to come. Seth is the closest WWE’s come to creating a new legitimate star in professional wrestling.
That will wrap it up for the award. There were a few more awards that I wanted to dish out in this post and I will do a follow-up piece some time in January to reveal some of the bonus awards including the likes of “Hidden Gem of the Year.” Thank you all so much for making this an incredible year for the Armbar Express. Thanks to the world of wrestling for giving me the motivation to write about the good and bad of wrestling this year. Cheers!