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WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

And that’s a wrap for 2015. The Slammys have been delivered, the debris has been cleared from WWE TLC, and almost everyone on the roster has seen “Star Wars” so now we can talk openly about it backstage. But there’s one last bit of business to attend to — the top 25 matches of the year. And what a top 25 it is; the level of competition was so tight this year that separating one from the other was painstaking and heartbreaking all at once. But a king (or queen) must be crowned, so take a look back at the year that was with WWE.com’s final ranking of 2015’s best contests. See you in 2016.

25

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose — WWE World Heavyweight Championship Ladder Match (WWE Money in the Bank)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

Fittingly enough for the climax of Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose’s brutal, two-year rivalry, this Ladder Match was complete carnage from start to finish. The two competitors made weapons out of ladders, chairs, ring ropes and anything else in reach. Every moment was more explosive than the next, leading up to the unbelievable finale when a literal tug-o-war for the title atop the ladder led to both Superstars crashing to the canvas with the coveted prize in their hands. The Lunatic Fringe lost his grip as they hit the floor, allowing Rollins to walk away with the victory by the narrowest of margins. — MIKE BURDICK

WWE Network:  Rollins and Ambrose go for the "Money"

24

The Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer & Rhyno vs. The Wyatt Family — Extreme Rules Match (Raw, Dec. 14)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

Tables. Kendo sticks. Trash can lids. Baseball bats. Tommy Dreamer. Anything was in play in this gruesome free-for-all that pitted The Wyatt Family against a foursome of ECW Originals right down the road from the original house of hardcore. Win-if-you-can, survive-if-we-let-you was the name of the game, and for a minute it wasn’t clear who was going to do either. Simply put, this is the match we were waiting for the minute The Dudley Boyz came back. And, not for anything, this is the match we were waiting for the minute The Wyatt Family got back together, too. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

23

Blake & Murphy vs. The Vaudevillains — NXT Tag Team Championship Match (NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

The Women’s division has been grabbing the headlines, but the NXT Tag Team division has been stealthily supplying the thrills down in Full Sail for months now. This gloriously bonkers title match in Brooklyn was the equivalent of its summer tentpole; a wild rumble that pitted a femme fatale ( Alexa Bliss) and her pumped-up minions ( Blake & Murphy) against the outmanned, old-fashioned heroes ( The Vaudevillains) and their plucky, can-do reinforcement ( BLUE PANTS!). The will-they-or-won’t-they sequence that ended the match was as much of a nail-biter as anything Hollywood has ever churned out. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

WWE Network: 'Villains get heroes' triumph |  Blue Pants' first WWE.com interview!

22

Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens vs. Rusev — Triple Threat U.S. Championship No. 1 Contender’s Match (Raw, July 13)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

When it comes to a Triple Threat Match, only two rules apply: watch your back and leave everything out there. Kevin Owens, Cesaro and Rusev each did just that. Cesaro pulled off a double German suplex. Owens broke out a moonsault. Rusev saved the match with a diving headbutt. The three heavy-hitters were battling for the right to challenge John Cena for his United States Championship, but they competed as though their careers were on the line. Although Rusev emerged victorious, all three Superstars gave everything they could to win, and fitting of this grueling battle, no one remained standing at the end. — JEFF LABOON

WWE Network:  See the Triple Threat thriller in full

21

Seth Rollins vs. Neville — WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match (Raw, Aug. 3)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

WE SAID: The very particular nature of Seth Rollins’ WWE World Heavyweight Title Open Challenge — Superstars taller than six feet or heavier than 200 pounds need not apply — yielded not only a challenger Rollins hadn’t bargained for, but also one of the most breathtaking defenses of his reign. Looking to make the most of the rare opportunity, Neville showcased his post-modern offense (corkscrew moonsaults, deadlift German suplexes and reverse ’ranas, to name a few) while racking up one near-fall after another. In the end, The Architect prevailed, but unlike gravity’s relationship with Neville, nobody who saw the match will ever forget it. — JOHN CLAPP

See Rollins' bizarre open challenge |  Neville collects Slammy gold

THEY SAID: “Honestly, the first thing I do when I think about that match is kick myself, because I had the WWE World Heavyweight Champion beaten if it wasn’t for my mistake. I had his leg on the ropes and I cost myself a historic moment, but I’m still very proud of the match and how far I took Seth. Under different circumstances it could have easily been a different outcome.” — NEVILLE

20

AJ Lee, Paige & Naomi vs. Natalya & The Bella Twins (Raw, March 30)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

At WrestleMania 31, AJ Lee & Paige defeated The Bella Twins when AJ forced Nikki to tap. The following night on Raw, The Bellas were hungry for revenge. The alliance of AJ and Paige was strengthened by Naomi, while Nikki and Brie welcomed Natalya. After AJ was punished for the bulk of the match, the self-professed Geek Goddess finally managed to tag out. That’s when chaos reigned. As all six Divas charged each other, Nikki went to elbow Naomi, who dodged the blow. As a result, Nikki flattened her sister and was subsequently pinned by Naomi for the win. The match was not only memorable for its frenzied dynamics but was arguably an opening salvo in the Divas Revolution. — GREG ADKINS

19

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton — Fatal 4-Way WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match (WWE Payback)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

For a match that had to juggle intra-Authority squabbling, personal rivalries reaching their, ahem, “Apex,” and the first official instance of The Shield against itself, it kept each ball in the air with a mix of intrigue ( will Kane screw Seth over?), surprises (Dean vs. Roman!) and, ultimately, satisfaction (Seth retains!). Plus, we got a Shield mini-reunion, if only to Triple Powerbomb Orton through a table. Was it a tease for their eventual reformation way, way down the line? Hard to fathom. But for one night, we all believed again. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

WWE Network:  The Shield strikes again at Payback |  Kane returns at Night of Champions

18

Cesaro & Tyson Kidd vs. The New Day — WWE Tag Team Championship Match (Extreme Rules)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

This match was a pitch-perfect instance of five competitors coming into their own. From Cesaro & Kidd, who were paired up as an afterthought and made magic on a whim, to New Day, who went supernova once they embraced their cynical side, this one had the smell of potential realized. None more so than Kofi, Big E & Woods, who won their first WWE Tag Team Titles in the end. At long last, New Day rocked, and they haven’t stopped since. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

17

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens — NXT Championship Match (NXT TakeOver: Rival)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

When it was announced that Kevin Owens, two months to the day after making his NXT debut, would fight former best friend and NXT Champion Sami Zayn, expectations ran high. After all, the two had been buds for more than a decade, and in addition to contempt, familiarity tends to breed killer wrestling rivalries. What nobody prepared for was the absolute trouncing Zayn received. Somewhere around the fourth of five powerbombs that Owens ultimately unleashed, a sinking feeling took over, not unlike the reaction of a “Shark Week” viewer anytime a seal appears on-screen. Good luck trying to look away. — JOHN CLAPP

WWE Network:  Sami Zayn gets KO'd on NXT TakeOver

16

Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler — Intercontinental Championship Match (Raw, March 30)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

WE SAID: On the March 30 episode of Raw, the man who launched a movement, Daniel Bryan, defended his Intercontinental Championship against The Showoff, Dolph Ziggler, in a WrestleMania match  that almost was. Based on the results, it could have been. Who can forget the thrilling near falls and gruesome conclusion, where the two Superstars traded skull-shattering headbutts before WWE’s “Yes!” Man leveled his opponent with a Running Knee to the jaw. Bryan’s Intercontinental Title reign, sadly, didn’t last much longer. But, even if he has nothing else, at least he (and we) got this. — GREG ADKINS

WWE Network:  Bryan becomes champion at WrestleMania |  See their Raw match in full

THEY SAID: “I don’t know if it’s one of the best matches of the year, but it was important to me to have that kind of Intercontinental Title defense the night after WrestleMania. In front of that crowd — it’s the best crowd of the year, that Raw after WrestleMania. It was great, [but] I still want a WrestleMania match against Dolph Ziggler. Maybe down the line.” — DANIEL BRYAN

15

Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch — NXT Women’s Championship Match (NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

In a revolutionary year for women’s wrestling, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch’s NXT clash could be easy to underrate next to the gems that followed it. Make no mistake: It was just as good as any of its successors. Altering the perception of a “Diva” with each passing second, both women implemented an emphasis on submission wrestling, zoning in on specific body parts of their opponent and taking massive risks throughout the course of the contest. And yes, Banks retained to keep the division’s status quo. But the game had changed by the time she was done. — RYAN PAPPOLLA

WWE Network: Becky gets her moment |  How Maiden Ireland made it to WWE

14

John Cena vs. Sami Zayn — U.S. Championship Match (Raw, May 4)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

Ever since WWE NXT opened its doors, Sami Zayn has been the name on everyone’s lips, so to see him challenge John Cena in the NXT Superstar’s hometown of Montreal was a pure dream match. The Underdog from the Underground came a hair’s breadth from capturing the U.S. Title, but Cena was no slouch, matching Zayn blow for blow and ultimately pulling out a win by the skin of his sneakers. So, now that the match has happened, a question for the Internet crowd: Is John Cena the Sami Zayn of the main roster, or is Sami Zayn the John Cena of NXT? Either way, this ruled. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

WWE Network: Zayn challenges Cena! |  See The Champ's Open Challenge matches

13

Roman Reigns vs. Cesaro (Raw, Nov. 16)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

WE SAID: When looking back on Roman Reigns’ 2015, several marquee moments will immediately come to mind. One that may go overlooked is the brisk November night in South Carolina when The Big Dog proved to even his staunchest doubters that he could flat-out go in the ring. Squaring off with Cesaro in the quarterfinals of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament, Reigns hit hard and adjusted on the fly, keeping pace with Cesaro’s incredible athleticism and technical ability. When he finally did pull out the victory, the message sent was both vividly clear and incredibly simple — don’t doubt him. — RYAN PAPPOLLA

WWE Network:  Reigns grinds it out in the quarterfinals

THEY SAID: “I’m super proud of that match. I consider Cesaro to be a great competitor and a good friend. I’ve known him all the way since [WWE Developmental days], but this was the first time we wrestled on the main roster. It was an unbelievable bout and it was really cool to see The Swiss Superman vs. the Superman Punch.” — ROMAN REIGNS


12

The New Day vs. The Usos vs. The Lucha Dragons — Triple Threat WWE Tag Team Championship Ladder Match (WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

It’ll be remembered for Kalisto’s stupefying Salida del Sol off the top of a ladder, but to reduce this heart-stopping car wreck of a match to a simple maneuver does none of it justice. The Lucha Dragons have never looked more in their element, The Usos never hungrier, and The New Day never more like true-blue, put-em-on-a-pedestal WWE Tag Team Champions. Even the normally chatty Xavier Woods could barely speak at ringside as his friends and foes risked life and limb, resorting instead to terrified yelps and cries of “WHY?” each time another guy went flying. Why indeed. But also, why not? — ANTHONY BENIGNO

WWE Network: Kalisto risks it all |  See The King of Flight's story

11

John Cena vs. Cesaro — U.S. Championship Match (Raw, July 6)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

WE SAID: Some might call Cesaro pre-empting Kevin Owens for his second consecutive crack at John Cena’s U.S. Title presumptuous. It turned out to be The Swiss Superman’s biggest statement yet. After a remind-yourself-to-inhale series of near-falls, The King of Swing set to end the match once and for all by lifting Cena to the second rope for the utmost of Neutralizers. The Champ, however, would have none of it: He turned the tables for an Attitude Adjustment that proved too much for Cesaro, who, even in defeat, earned the respect of Cena as well as the WWE Universe. — GREG ADKINS

WWE Network: Cesaro reaches for glory |  The Swiss Superman's super 2015

THEY SAID: “It takes many special ingredients, many factors, to have a match people remember. And I think that match had enough factors in it to make it special. It was a rematch people really wanted to see. It was in Chicago, a wrestling town. It was long, between two athletes that know each other very well. All the right things were in the right place.” — CESARO

10

Bayley vs. Sasha Banks — 30-Minute Iron Man NXT Women’s Championship Match (NXT TakeOver: Respect)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

Bayley-Sasha Banks II earned its place in history before the two even touched. It was both the first-ever women’s Iron Man Match, as well as the first instance of women main-eventing a WWE special event. Expectations amongst NXT devotees were insanely high for this return bout, and the pressure brought out the best in the rivals. The wicked Banks made a little girl in the crowd bawl, the inspiring Bayley overcame a hellacious beating to retain, and the NXT Universe boisterously heaped their approval upon all of it. Forget Iron Men: By the night’s end, Bayley and Banks were bonafide Supergirls. Scratch that: Superwomen. — RYAN PAPPOLLA

WWE Network:  The women of NXT make history |  See Triple H make the match

9

Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker — Hell in a Cell Match (Hell in a Cell)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

Some matches are renowned for technique and grace; other conflicts are memorable for the complete absence of such delicate qualities. The final battle between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker, held inside Hell in a Cell, falls squarely in the second category. Fought before a sold-out STAPLES Center and accompanied by dueling chants of “Undertaker” and “Suplex City,” the rubber match was ugly, dirty, chaotic and gory. Before all was said and done, Lesnar used steel chairs, a low blow, German suplexes and three F-5s — including one on the ring’s exposed floorboards— to down The Deadman. Excessive? More like “barely enough.” — JOHN CLAPP

WWE Network: Brock and Undertaker go to "Hell"  |  Heyman accepts Slammy

8

John Cena vs. Seth Rollins — Champion vs. Champion Winner Take All Match (SummerSlam)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

How gloriously screwy was this one? A textbook display of present and future standard-bearers beating the hell out of each other in pursuit of a dual championship, ultimately decided by the interference of a celebrity with a steel chair and an axe to grind. A lot of sports-entertainment fans tend to pine their hearts away for the halcyon days of the ’90s, but they should consider themselves satisfied: This was the most Attitude Era match in years, and we mean that as a compliment. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

SummerSlam Shocker!: "Thank you, Stewart!" |  Host gets comeuppance on Raw

7

Kevin Owens vs. Finn Bálor — NXT Championship Match (Brock Lesnar: The Beast in the East Live from Tokyo)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

It was the biggest stage possible for Finn Bálor: a return to Japan, where he first made his name in wrestling, and a battle against Kevin Owens for the NXT Title that had already eluded him once. The ceremonial streamers from the Tokyo faithful had barely been swept up before The Demon unleashed his rage on Owens; though KO tried to slow the bout down to his deliberate pace, there was no containing the challenger. Finn Bálor had left Japan a prince and returned a demon. When all was said and done, he would depart once again as a champion. — BOBBY MELOK

WWE Network:  Finn is crowned in The Land of the Rising Sun

6

Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns — WWE World Heavyweight Championship No. 1 Contender’s Match (WWE Fastlane)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

WE SAID: After winning the Royal Rumble Match to resounding jeers, Roman Reigns put his WrestleMania main event spot up for grabs against Daniel Bryan in an attempt to silence his haters. Beating Bryan requires every opponent to take their game to new heights and Reigns met the challenge. He barely survived the "Yes!" Lock and a UFC-worthy triangle choke before Spearing his way to his most impressive victory up to that point. Bryan even shook Reigns' hand after the three-count. Can’t blame him. —  @JOEYSTYLES

WWE Fastlane: Bryan and Reigns battle for WrestleMania glory |  Roman reflects on wild 2015

THEY SAID: “The same remarks I have for Cesaro [go for Daniel Bryan]. They’re both great competitors and even better guys, just good human beings. For me to get in the ring, tangle it up, earn a lot of experience and just have a great time and great competition is what it’s all about. I miss D.B. I really do.” — ROMAN REIGNS

5

Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Becky Lynch — Fatal 4-Way NXT Women’s Championship Match (NXT TakeOver: Rival)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

WE SAID: This match defies a moment-by-moment description of why it deserves to be here, because the match itself was the moment. Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch’s four-way tussle for the NXT Women’s Title was the most defining statement of their division’s collective passion and talent. And even if Sasha’s name was scribbled down as the winner, to label anyone a “loser” after the efforts on display would be nitpicky to the point of cruelty. It was so good, and everyone involved was so perfect, that Charlotte even allowed herself a quiet “follow that” moment  behind the curtain. She needn’t have been so modest: The message was loud and clear. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

WWE Network:  See the Fatal 4-Way in its entirety NXT women debut on Raw

THEY SAID: “I gave it my all and I was in the ring with three of the best women in the world. To have the reaction from the crowd and the energy from each other and from everybody watching, I feel like we stole the show. I feel like it was another mark in putting women’s wrestling on the map.” — BECKY LYNCH

“I didn’t win, but it was one of the best times of my life. Leaning against the guardrail, looking at Becky at the right side of me, Charlotte laying on the floor and Sasha standing up there with the title, it made me feel proud to be a part of something like that. I knew it was something special and this was a match that everyone was going to look back at.” — BAYLEY

4

Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns — WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match (WrestleMania 31)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

WE SAID: Sometimes a match is heralded into “classic” status strictly on the merit of its ending. But long before Seth Rollins stormed down the ramp for “the heist of the century,” Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns were putting on a clinic in the main event of WrestleMania 31, punishing each other enough to draw applause and plasma in equal measure. The Architect may have been champion at night’s end thanks to his timely cash-in, but it was The Beast and The Big Dog who created a moment, and a match, that was distinct, unique and unlikely to ever be duplicated. — RYAN PAPPOLLA

WWE Network: Roman challenges Lesnar Rollins wins Superstar of the Year

THEY SAID: “The mere fact that Brock Lesnar is in competition makes it one of the best matches of the year, let alone the entire decade. But the fact that Brock Lesnar took the most promising up-and-comer in WWE and dragged him into Suplex City is reason enough for anyone to re-watch this match over and over again.” — PAUL HEYMAN

“I think it’s an automatic classic. I went out there and I did exactly what I said I was going to do. I hit hard and I hit often. I left marks on Brock Lesnar’s face. I think that says enough.” — ROMAN REIGNS 

3

John Cena vs. Kevin Owens (Elimination Chamber)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

WE SAID: Kevin Owens had a lot to prove against The Champ at WWE Elimination Chamber, and the brawler didn’t buckle for a second when the time came. Owens was relentless in the early goings of this champion vs. champion encounter, taking the Cenation leader down with the same impactful punches and kicks that made him one of the most formidable competitors on the independent scene and, more recently, in NXT. It took two of his signature Pop-up Powerbombs, but Owens shocked the world by defeating Cena in his first WWE match, immediately cementing himself as one of The Champ’s most formidable adversaries. — JAMES WORTMAN

THEY SAID: “A lot of people in my career told me I’d never make it to that stage. Not only did I make it, but I beat the face of the company on that first night. I felt pretty vindicated. It was definitely something.” — KEVIN OWENS

Owens vs. Cena: The Upset | The Rematch |  The Finale

2

Sasha Banks vs. Bayley — NXT Women’s Championship Match (NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

WE SAID: An arrogant champion who thinks nothing can touch her. A gutsy underdog who gritted her way to the big time and willed herself to finish the job. A fanatically devoted crowd at their most rapt, raucous attention. A promise of a “revolution” fulfilled and, finally, a well-deserved curtain call for four trailblazers. The amazing thing is, everyone involved is just getting started. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

WWE Network: The curtain call in Brooklyn |  See the women's journey in "WWE 24: NXT Brooklyn"

THEY SAID: “[This] was my favorite one out of the two. I knew going into that match it was supposed to be my last match in NXT. The emotion was so high, and I remember coming back through the curtain and thinking, ‘I did it, I made a name for myself.’ I knew we stole the show.” — SASHA BANKS

1

Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins — Triple Threat WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match (Royal Rumble)

WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2015

WE SAID: Triple Threat Matches commonly put the champion at a disadvantage, but Brock Lesnar is hardly common. At Royal Rumble, The Beast dominated John Cena and Seth Rollins with savage suplexes in their three-man war, and it took everything out of both challengers to chip away at The Anomaly. After going through the barricade, absorbing four Attitude Adjustments, getting slammed into the steel steps and eating an elbow drop through the announce table, Lesnar — who suffered a broken rib during the bout — brushed off the injury and dispatched Rollins with an  F-5. The “This is awesome!” chant was never more appropriate.  — JAMES WORTMAN

WWE Network:  Lesnar survives (barely) in Triple Threat mayhem

THEY SAID: “If you ever wanted to see a clear demonstration of The Beast in action, watch how Brock Lesnar handles not only a 15-time World Champion in John Cena, but the alleged ‘Future of WWE,’ Seth Rollins, and he handles both of them with ease.” — PAUL HEYMAN

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