The 10 best matches of 2015 (so far)

The 10 best matches of 2015 (so far)

Here we are, past the halfway point of 2015. WrestleMania has come and gone, the NXT storm has spread beyond the gates of Full Sail University, and as always, we’ve seen some fantastic wrestling to sift through. From emerging Divas to veteran Superstars proving they’ve got fuel in the tank left, the year has already given us some true-minted classics to cue up on the award-winning WWE Network when you want to teach your friends a thing or two about the greatness of sports-entertainment. They better pay attention, because these are the 10 matches that wowed us through 2015’s first half, presented by DraftKings.

10

John Cena vs. Sami Zayn — United States Championship Match; Raw, May 4

John Cena vs. Sami Zayn - United States Championship Match: Raw, May 4, 2015

Bret Hart introduces Canada's own Sami Zayn as the NXT standout answer's John Cena's "U.S. Open Challenge."

Ever since WWE NXT opened its doors, Sami Zayn has been the name on everyone’s lips, so to see him step up to challenge John Cena in the NXT Superstar’s hometown of Montreal was a true-blue, proverbial dream match. Unfortunately, a freak injury before the bell even rang hampered Sami from jump, but The Underdog from the Underground came a hair’s breadth from capturing the U.S. Title, anyway. Cena was no slouch, either, 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? Let’s just say they’re both awesome and leave it at that. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

WWE Network:  Sami Zayn challenges The Champ in Montreal |  Sami wins the NXT Title

9

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

The 10 best matches of 2015 (so far)

Without a doubt, the best match of 2015 so far has been Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose at WWE Money in the Bank. Without The Authority in his corner, The Architect battled one of his greatest adversaries in a brutal WWE World Heavyweight Title Ladder Match. The contest was complete carnage from start to finish, as the two competitors made weapons out of ladders, chairs, ring ropes and anything else in reach. Every moment was more explosive then the next, leading up to the unbelievable finale when a literal Tug O’ War for the title atop the ladder led to both Superstars falling 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:  Ambrose and Rollins ascend at Money in the Bank |  Ambrose channels Dusty Rhodes after the bell

8

Chris Jericho vs. Neville; Brock Lesnar: The Beast in the East Live from Tokyo

The 10 best matches of 2015 (so far)

Thanks to the opening bout at Beast in the East in Tokyo, Japan, Cruiserweight Division enthusiasts likely felt as if they were back in the glory days of grapplers 235 pounds or less giving a larger-than-life effort. Chris Jericho, a decorated Cruiserweight veteran whose formative years included a tour of duty in Japan, turned back the clock against NXT alum Neville in a modern-day marvel between present and future. The two put on a thrilling display, igniting the crowd at Ryōgoku Kokugikan into rival “Let’s Go Neville! / Y2J!” chants. A springboard dropkick wowed the crowd. A standing shooting star press sent fans into a frenzy. And the finale … well, let’s just say this match is on this list for a reason. — MATTHEW ARTUS

“To me, it was a WrestleMania match. Every match I treat accordingly, but especially that one. There’s a certain standard I have to live up to [in Japan] … and that night was no different. When you have a guy like [Neville] to wrestle, you know it’s going to be fun. Anything I can think of, I knew Neville could do. Anything I came up with, he made it better. I would wrestle him any day, anytime, anywhere.” — CHRIS JERICHO

WWE Network:  The Man That Gravity Forgot battles "The Lionheart" in Japan

“I grew up watching Jericho. He’s certainly someone I looked up to while I was growing up, and I knew he had an extensive background in Japan, as do I. To meet such a role model of mine was a huge occasion for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t come out on top on this occasion, but I’ve learned a lot. I took a lot away from that match, and it’s certainly one I’ll go back to. It was an honor, and I’d love the opportunity to go head-to-head with him again. If we did, I’m sure the outcome would be different.” — NEVILLE 

7

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

The 10 best matches of 2015 (so far)

Sometimes a match is heralded into “classic” status strictly on the merit of its ending. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns does not fall under that distinction. Long before Seth Rollins stormed down the ramp for “the heist of the century,” Lesnar and Reigns held nothing back, punishing each other with an unrelenting amount of strikes and suplexes that drew applause and blood 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: Reigns enters Suplex City |  Relive The Big Dog's journey

“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

“It felt full-circle for me … with the journey I’ve been on personally. For me to get to such an honorable spot, I can’t thank God enough. For the match, I think the physicality speaks for itself. I think it’s an automatic classic. We weren’t tricky about anything. We 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. That skinny-necked slimeball Seth Rollins snuck up on me and he did what he should have done. To be able to say I was a part of that is a win, but it’s the most significant loss I’ve had in my life and I will never forget it.” — ROMAN REIGNS 

6

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

Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler: Raw, March 30, 2015

The Showoff and WWE's "Yes!" Man engage in an incredible post-WrestleMania Intercontinental Championship Match.

It was a match the Internet wrestling community had been dying to see, and for good reason. 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 head butts before the “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

“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

5

John Cena vs. Cesaro; Raw, July 13

John Cena vs. Cesaro - United States Championship Match: Raw, July 6, 2015

As Kevin Owens looks on, Cesaro challenges the Cenation leader for the United States Title.

When Cesaro answered John Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge on July 6, he proved that any main-event picture is incomplete without him. From reversing the Attitude Adjustment to countering Cena’s trademark shoulder blocks, Cesaro forced The Champ to improvise his strategy in ways never seen before. Nothing would keep either competitor down. Looking to deal a final blow, Cesaro poised for a Neutralizer from atop the turnbuckle, but Cena countered hit a decisive an AA from the middle rope. They earned a standing ovation for their masterpiece, and Cesaro showed that he could hang with the best. Fact. — JEFF LABOON

“Because I was in it. Because John Cena was in it. Because it was one of the longest matches on Raw [in years]. 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. We just came back from Japan, we just had a match people enjoyed the week before, so they were really looking forward to this one. It was the second week in a row — actually, I think the first one should be on this list as well. 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

4

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

WWE Network: Finn Bálor vs. Kevin Owens - NXT Championship Match: The Beast in the East Live from Tokyo, July 4, 2015

The demon Finn Bálor returns to Japan to challenge Kevin Owens for the NXT Championship Match at Brock Lesnar: The Beast in the East Live from Tokyo: Courtesy of the award-winning WWE Network.

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, charging at the champion with great fury. Though Owens 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: Who is Finn Bálor? |  The Demon rises in Japan

“The crowd was pretty solidly behind [Finn], but I kind of enjoyed it and I kind of expected it. It was good to know I was making history by being part of the event. The noise and the crowd reaction was so incredible that even though I’d just lost the title, I couldn’t help but feel like I was part of something special. There’s two people in every match, and the fact that I was there and help create a moment meant a lot. And the fact that that match listed as one of the top matches in 2015 so far really proves that. Far as the outcome? I’m going to do everything I can to get the title back and right that wrong.” — KEVIN OWENS

3

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

Charlotte vs. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch - NXT Women's Championship Fatal 4-Way Match: NXT TakeOver: Rival, Feb. 11, 2015

NXT Women's Champion Charlotte faces her toughest challenge yet, as she defends her title against Bayley, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch in a Fatal 4-Way Match.

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 most the defining statement of their division’s collective passion and talent. Even if it’ll be remembered for Sasha’s Women’s Title victory over Charlotte, to label anyone a “loser” after the performances 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 Divas debut on Raw

“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 and everybody watching, I feel like we stole the show and I feel like it was another mark in putting women’s wrestling on the map. It made me more motivated than ever that I wanted to come back, have that experience again and win that title. I want another opportunity.” — BECKY LYNCH

“There I am in the ring with three of the best women wrestlers I’ve ever seen … it was the most focused I’ve ever been and the most nervous. We had Triple H backstage right before we went out say, ‘go make history,’ so I had all these weird emotions trying to stay focused in the match and remember my one goal is the title, and if I want to be the best like I’ve been wanting to be the best since I was 10 years old, I’m going to have to go through the best. Like Ric Flair always says, ‘To be the Man, you have to beat the Man.’ Obviously I didn’t, but it was one of the best times of my life. Sitting outside, 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

2

John Cena vs. Kevin Owens; Elimination Chamber

The 10 best matches of 2015 (so far)

Less than two weeks after making his WWE debut on Raw and boldly attacking John Cena, Kevin Owens had a lot to prove going into a one-on-one fight with The Champ at Elimination Chamber. 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 Owens one of the most formidable competitors on the independent scene and, more recently, in NXT. It ultimately 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

“It was obviously a really big deal because it was my first official match in WWE, and my first official match that aired live on WWE Network as part of the main roster. And it was against John Cena, who’s been the flag-bearer of WWE for ten years now. It was a big deal to have not only a good match but the win, so it was a pretty special night. I felt pretty vindicated. 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. It was definitely something.” — KEVIN OWENS

1

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

The 10 best matches of 2015 (so far)

The whole “past, present and future” thing gets tossed around a lot. But in the battle between former, current and future WWE World Heavyweight Champions at the Royal Rumble, the WWE Universe got to see just what happens when a battle across time unfolds in the ring. The answer is unmitigated carnage from Brock Lesnar, a gritty performance by John Cena that showed he’s not quite done with WWE yet, and some conniving work from Seth Rollins that proves we probably should have seen the cash-in coming. It was no surprise that The Beast kept his title — it takes astounding circumstance to beat him in any scenario — but the chemistry with which these three performed was something to behold. And that Phoenix Splash, though. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

WWE Network:  Cena rallies, Rollins soars and Lesnar rages at Royal Rumble

“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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