(by PHIL RIPPA)
This update is all about the year that just closed – 2015. If you are still complaining that wrestling doesn’t entertain you based on what you are seeing on Monday nights than wrestling really isn’t for you any more since there is plenty of wrestling out there that happened this year that is worth your eyeballs. (Including stuff from the E.)
My “rules” for these picks (to go along with the normal guidelines I use)
- I selected 5 matches from each month (so 60 total for those of you bad at math). This doesn’t mean that when this is all said and done more matches from 2015 won’t make the 1001. (Partly because I haven’t seen everything yet.) I just needed a gimmick.
- I really would have preferred to pick only things online but between New Japan, Sky TV and the US Indies desire to generate DVD sales that is virtually impossible (I mean I WOULD watch a list of just 60 lucha matches but I know you wouldn’t). Everything can be purchased (or found) somehow. Maybe make some friends to lend you log-ins/DVDs. I only linked to Youtube or Dailymotion.
- Notice that I have not used the word “best” so far. This is not to be taken as a “Best Of” list for this year. Especially when you want to scream at me that 209 New Japan matches should be on it.
- Everything SHOULD be in chronological order. I used (whenever possible) the taping date instead of the air date. Of course – that kinda dicked me over in a few months when matches happened two months earlier than they actually aired.
- Please wait till all 4 parts are up to scream about what matches I didn’t pick. I was very intentional in trying to provide a variety of matches (if not in style than at least from the promotions presented.)
NOTE FROM RIPPA – I will get this out of the way now. For this piece – I had a “one match per show” rule. This – in theory – will end head off the Wrestle Kingdom bitching. HA! Who am I kidding? January did turn out to be one of the easier months for me to pick (mostly due to using taping dates). I wish that had held true for the next 11 months.
111) KOTA IBUSHI VS. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA – NEW JAPAN (Wrestle Kingdom 9 – January 4, 2015)
One of the nice things about the Wrestling Kingdom show is that you are virtually guaranteed to start the year off right. As far as I can tell – Dave Meltzer gave three 2015 matches 5 Stars. This is the only one I picked. FLAME EMOJI! X3!!! This is so good and so not filled with the irritating things that you can usually find in New Japan matches. Ibushi seemed to figure it out in 2015 in having a complete year and Nakamura is Nakamura and in reality, could be the sole reason to pick any match. Folks have said several things about the English commentary. While Striker infuriates me – Jim Ross called the match basically like you and I would. That is to say marking out at things he didn’t think could happen in a wrestling ring. If one was starting to get back into recent New Japan – this might be the best way to do it.
“Solid start to the year, with Ibushi curtailing a lot of his more obnoxious juniors stuff and wrestling this like a nasty fight. I especially loved all of the stomps. elbows and knees both guys landed on the back of the head which really added a different level of viciousness absent from a lot of the endless New Japan elbow smashes. I also liked how they snapped and started throwing right hands, which was put over nicely by Jim Ross as something outside of the New Japan rules…” – Phil Schneider
“I am what New Japan needs, especially in North America. I am the NJPW casual viewer. This match from the now-legendary Wrestle Kingdom 9 sold me for good on NJPW, Ibushi and most importantly, our Strong Style Savior, Nakamura. Not only is this one of the top matches of the month (and likely the year, unless we are in for an amazing year of wrestling), this is one of the best wrestling matches I’ve seen in 20 years of watching.” -Alex Wendland
Absolutely fantastic finish run. Nakamura looked like the best wrestler in the world with his offense and mannerisms. Ibushi proved that he was not just a high flyer and that he could hang in a stand up contest and he had the balls to mock the biggest star in the company. I was not in love with the beginning of the match and I think there have been better matches in 2015, but this was great. – “Superstar Sleaze”
112) FRED YEHI VS. SLIM J – ANARCHY WRESTLING (January 24, 2015 (taped), Feb. 8, 2015 (aired) – Match 2 in Best of 5 Series)
This is the second match in a Best out Five in what was a never-ending series between a good wrestler you forgot about and a good wrestler you never heard about. This is an odd bird as it is rare the second match of a series (especially in a 5 or 7 series) is the best one of the bunch but here we are. The rest of the matches get hurt by a lack of time or screwy finishes. This however is the tape of match that is perfect of your US Indy viewing pleasure.
“One of the better Southern indie matches of the last few years, this was match two in a best of seven series that still has not concluded at the time of this piece. Rock solid match featuring spirited and inventive matwork, true momentum swings, some really nice counters, build to the big spots, a broad range of offense, and a finish that made you want to see the series continue without leaving you feeling cheated.” – Dylan Hales (@DylanWaco)
“The match has so much good stuff and I really thought it flowed well. The match was way more dynamic then I would have imagined even if I had thought it was going to be great. It was simply a grapple heavy match or bomb throwing bonanza, there was bits of lots of things…” – Sam DiMascio
113) JOHN CENA VS. BROCK LESNAR VS. SETH ROLLINS – WWE ROYAL RUMBLE (January 25, 2015 – World Heavyweight Championship)
I am always amused by folks who claim the WWE does nothing good. Or that John Cena does nothing good. Or – as the newest interwebs trend is – that Seth Rollins does nothing good. So that is why I scratch my head when folks can dismiss this match basically under the guise of “Well of course it was good. Brock Lesnar was in it.” Yes – Brock was Brock (which means he was God Damn awesome) but Rollins and Cena came to play and were not afraid to take an ass-whipping. Plus – J&J Security. One of the better three ways you will see and also the start of John Cena’s Wrestler of the Year campaign.
“Well this match was completely bonkers, and I completely loved all of it. Total show saver right here. Usually I hate 3 ways but Brock may just be the answer to this type of match as his offense is so destructive that it makes sense for guys to be taken out of the match for minutes at a time. There was so much great stuff in this. Lesnar basically wrestles a match the way somebody would win at King of the Coliseum…” – Eric R
“This match certainly did not suffer from the usual tropes of the Triple Threat match. The first half involved all three men heavily. Brock Lesnar stalked his prey (Cena and Rollins) like Frankenstein. Lesnar has become the most unstoppable force the WWE has seen this century. Cena’s urgent trifecta of Attitude Adjustments to finally put away this freak of nature that won’t give up his title was insane. The thing this match should forever be known for, however, is that this is the official break out performance for Seth Rollins. Rollins looked like a true star in this match, proving that he belongs with the likes of Cena and Lesnar as a true threat to take the WWE title from them…” – Taylor Mitchell
“This was WWE at its best. This match provided a flawless in-ring story, great character work, exciting action for the duration, and a dramatic/unpredictable finishing sequence that had me literally on the edge of my seat.” – TJ Hawke
114) FENIX VS. MIL MUERTES – LUCHA UNDERGROUND (1/28/15 (Taped), 3/18/15 (Aired) – Grave Consequences)
Lucha Underground became a revelation for many this year – if for nothing other than lucha libra (sorta) being shown on American TV (sorta). If nothing else – LU was a unique wrestling show that made you curious to see exactly what was going to happen from week to week. Grave Consequences ended up being the best match from LU during its first season. Fenix – who may or may not be old enough to drink – sure wants to die (and bleed) for our pleasure. And Ricky Banderas as Mil Muertes continues to have one of the more underrated careers in wrestling. This is a really good brawl – especially when they go into the crowd. Nise America Ferrera’s reaction is one of my favorite things ever.
“This was the first time that Muertes has looked like a real killer, all of his little stuff landed with real force, and the big moves like the throw into the coffin were awesome looking. There is this great moment where Muertes is just smashing Fenix’s head into the guardrail, like he is trying to open up a coconut. Bloody main even spectacles are one of my favorite kind of wrestling matches, and we haven’t had one as good as this is quite a while.” – Phil Schneider
“…we’re confident that at the end of the year it will still stand out as being one of the most unique, memorable and great matches of the year.” – Eric R.
“Mil Muertas versus Fenix in “Grave Consequences” is the greatest match of its type OF ALL TIME. What Tully and Magnum did for the Cage Match and Shawn and Razor did for the Ladder Match, Mil and Fenix did for the Put-Your-Opponent-In-Something gimmick match. I’m not hyperbolizing. This isn’t me fluffing the match after it rated highly on this list. I am dead serious. I don’t oft-say a match has “everything”…but this has everything.” – Larry
115) ROCKSTAR SPUD VS. EC3 – TNA (January 31, 2015 (taped), March 13, 2015 (aired) – Hair Match)
The last great TNA match. Filmed in the only place that still cares about the promotion. This is underrated hometown boy Rockstar Spud finally getting his shot at EC3. From the moment Spud hits the ring and gets the crowd to sign God Save the Queen (which shocker Josh Matthews totally ruins) to the moment Spud bleeds and bleeds and bleeds to the moment EC3 fakes a face turn after the match this is about as perfect as you can get in TNA. Carter was able to finally find a character that works for him and with the federation crumbling around him – he still nailed everything in this (and pretty much the other 11 days TNA had matches in the year). This is what you want in a feud filled with hate.
“I could also focus on what was great in the match. Rockstar Spud as a Jerry Lawler/Fabulous Ones hybrid, bleeding, selling and returning fire at just the right moments. Big spots and near falls that were well placed and added drama to the match. The pre-match theatrics with Spud leading the crowd in song, and post-match exclamation point with EC3’s mockery of the “I respect you now” trope, leading to Spud getting his head shaved after all…” – Dylan Hales (@DylanWaco)
“Rarely, do you see a hair vs. hair match actually feel like a hair vs. hair match in this day in age. Spud’s willingness to ooze his own blood from his noggin made the match and drove home the importance of the stipulation. The match didn’t feel like a 2015 match and I mean that in the best way…” – Sam DiMascio
NOTE FROM RIPPA – Yeah… I am thinking when people will start yelling at me. Patience people.
116) YUJI OKABAYASHI VS. SHUJI ISHIKAWA – BIG JAPAN (Feb. 2, 2015 – BJW Strong World Heavyweight Title)
Two guys just beating the shit out of each other. I realize that I could say that about pretty much any match with these two (and add Sekimoto to the mix). I picked this one because I remember it arriving like a thunderbolt for our eyeballs around mid-February.
“My goodness. Was expecting this to a nice, stiff, fun match, but nothing on this level. So many bombs thrown in this match, this might have surpassed Ibushi/Nakamura as MOTY for me.” – A.M.B.
“My lord was that a whole lot of heavy leather gettin’ th’owed. The sound when Oka hit his arm on the post was just sickening and suitably, he bladed it. He also reasonably worked through the pain to use the arm again which lesser wrestlers wouldn’t be able to pass off with their own selling. Oka struggling out of the suplex attempts was also awesome — you can see this dude’s abs appear beneath the flab and realize that both guys are really pure muscle. And of course, anything with a bunch of shoot headbutts is gonna be in my good graces. Killer match.” – Curt McGirt
117) MYZTEZIZ VS. PERRO AGUAYO JR. – AAA (Feb. 8, 2015 (taped), Feb. 28, 2015 (aired))
2015 might have been the worst year AAA has ever had. The biggest thing being the untimely death of Perro Aguayo Jr. This match took place just weeks before his death and it is another reminder of how crushing Perro Jr’s death was as he was such a talent that was cruelly taken too soon and isn’t easily replaceable. This is Perro Jr and identity crisis Sin Cara having a brawl that looked like it came straight out of a baseball stadium in Puerto Rico. So… much… blood. When you have a ref bleeding and stretchered out you know it is a good day. AAA really isn’t very high on our watch charts for a variety of reasons but y’all need to see this.
“A great bloody TV match that ultimately would have served as the first major step toward a TripleMania mask vs. hair match if not for Perro’s untimely death. This is short, compact and violent. They do a couple of garbage spots since after all it was a AAA brawl, but otherwise they mainly work a no-nonsense bloody lucha brawl. The idea was to build anticipation for the apuesta match and they certainly accomplished that.” – Paul Cooke
118) KILLER ELITE SQUAD (LANCE ARCHER/DAVEY BOY SMITH JR) VS. TMDK (SHANE HASTE/MIKEY NICHOLLS) – NOAH (Feb. 11, 2015)
Hey! NOAH! Remember them! The team of guys who found their way after escaping the WWE vs. the team of guys with shitty tattoos and hair. And it is hella fun. A nice reminder that you can find a Heavyweight tag team match that reminds you of why you love Heavyweight tag team wrestling. Lance Archer is such a dick and that is the best compliment possible. I think Joe and I might have been the only people who watched this.
“This was a set up for the idea that TMDK is going to have to solve the bigger, stronger, nastier outsiders, and from that perspective they successfully told the story they were attempting to tell. This was a smart match in the sense that these guys know they’ll be facing each other multiple times and that they need to tell a multi-match story.” – Joe Lanza
119) KOTA IBUSHI vs. HARASHIMA – DDT 2/15/15
Now you can watch a DDT match instead of pretending that you watching current DDT to give yourself indie cred. That being said – this was part of the magical “Man – Ibushi really isn’t irritating me this year” tour.
“…what you got here was the biggest star in DDT history vs. the “man” in DDT in the here and now, and it was worked exactly as a match like that should be worked. HARASHIMA’s offensive attack focusing on Ibushi’s stomach and establishing a vulnerability early was a great touch, as was the consistent looming threat of an Ibushi killshot throughout the match. The pacing was excellent, with smart transitions and momentum swings, and solid selling from both men throughout…” – Dylan Hales (@DylanWaco)
This is for HARASHIMA’s KO-D Openweight title, the granddaddy in DDT. Takes place in front of a packed house at the Saitama Super Arena which gives the match the added big feel that it deserves cause this is a truly fantastic big show, championship bout…. The final phase was the grand main event finish. They threw in some STRONG stuff and loads of nearfalls. For the most part I think both wrestlers brought it together real nicely.” – Sam DiMascio
120) ROMAN REIGNS VS. DANIEL BRYAN – WWE FAST LANE (February 22, 2015 – #1 Contender’s Match)
Y’all are stupid. “Ooooh…. I hate Roman Reigns because they are pushing him to the Mania Main Event instead of Tommy End. WHY WON’T THEY BOOK FOR ME?!?!?!?! I mean Reigns is so dreamy and has really fun matches but I will never be happy with him because I didn’t dream of him being a success!” I think everyone forgets that the reason Batista became awesome was because he got to have a steady diet of matches with Finlay and Eddie Guerrero. Bryan was Reigns’ Eddie – the problem was that they then made Big Show his Finlay. But hey for the “I NEVER LIKED REIGNS!!! YOU CAN CHECK MY POSTS!!!” crowd. Shine on you crazy hipster diamonds.
“Man you forget how good Daniel Bryan is at wrestling. This was really excellent. Reigns is a guy with some impressive spots, and Bryan built a really cool match around those spots. The liver kick was an awesome looking counter and working around him being stunner, makes Bryan smacking around a bigger guy much more credible. I loved Reigns as Rampage Jackson beating his way out of submissions with nasty forearms.” – Phil Schneider
“For the first time in what seemed like months, Reigns looked comfortable in the ring and for what seemed like the first time in months, the crowd was behind him to an overwhelming degree. Both guys traded roles throughout this match with each man playing heel and babyface at various portions of the match… The match but the fact that he was able to do more for Roman Reigns than hours, weeks and months of WWE creative. Funny how that works, huh?” – Rich Kraetsch
NOTE FROM RIPPA – Good Lord was March a struggle. Partly because two matches that I knew I wanted on this list that most places list as March ended up in January thanks to their taping dates. Then add in the fact that I stayed away from a certain big show in March (Let’s face it people – one really doesn’t need to be told whether or not they should be checking out Wrestlemania.)
121) BxB HULK VS. UHAA NATION – DRAGON GATE (March 1, 2015)
The man now known as Apollo Crews had his final match in Dragon Gate. This is a really fun match that really reigned in the hyperness that can infect a DG match (sometimes for the better but often for the worse.) And if Hunter really wants Crews to use a ridiculous power bomb as a finisher he should look no further than this match. Plus – you have the entire post match. It’s emotional and shit.
“As good as the match was, the post-match was just incredible. Uhaa announced that he was leaving Dragon Gate, and the entire roster joined him in the ring to say goodbye. So many great moments here; Tozawa’s ridiculously emotional farewell to his best friend, nearly everyone crying their eyes out, “I am Don Fuji. Goodbye.” The immense love that the DG roster felt for Uhaa was clear. He is a special talent who should go a long way in NXT and WWE. This match, and his moving send-off, show that Uhaa Nation is definitely not just a great athlete; he’s a great pro-wrestler.” – Oliver Court
I could break this match down for you and tell you all about how this was Uhaa working as a monster vs Hulk working all match long to take out Uhaa’s legs, and how this was by far the best match of both Hulk’s Dream Gate run and by far the best match of Uhaa’s career. But that would be doing a severe disservice to the real story, which was the highly emotional post match goodbye to Uhaa Nation, who announced that this was his final Dragon Gate match. – Joe Lanza
122) RESISTENCIA (Kilvan/Rey Lobo Jr./Shadow/Yoruba) VS. TORTUGAS NINJA (Leo/Mike/Rafy/Teelo) – PCL CARA LUCHA XI (March 3, 2015)
Did ya miss the part about the Wrestling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I mean this is the modern day version of wrestling soccer playing goats. This is designed for our site. I might pick the Michinoku Pro’s Star Wars fetish just because I can too. God Super Indy Lucha is the best. Especially when guys have turtle shells that you can use as the base of your high spots. OH! and did I mention the arena has a balcony? Good times.
123) PRESTON QUINN VS. DAMIEN WAYNE – VCW (March 7, 2015 – VCW Liberty Championship)
IT’S PRESTON QUINN VS. DAMIEN WAYNE IN 2015!!!! AND IT HAPPENS IN VIRGINIA!!! Sorry… might just be more than a little giddy. I love these two and I want them to wrestle forever.
“These are the two best wrestlers in the Mid-Alantic indies really for over a decade. They haven’t had a ton of singles matches against each other which have made tape, so it is really cool we get a big main event title match between each other… Parts of this match felt like Lawler v. Mantell.” – Phil Schneider
“I love the way Quinn and Wayne fight, love how Wayne brings chops that don’t look silly while Quinn is able to throw punches that look great from all angles (loved his side mount punches here) and I just love how these guys move around each other… Big credit to the announce team here as well who I thought put over both men real well.” – Eric R.
124) REY HORUS VS. STEVE PAIN – OWA (3/14/15 – OWA Jr Heavyweight Championship)
If you ever felt like you were never ahead of the curve in loving someone super early in their career – now is the time to jump in on Horus and Pain. Plus – PLUS – this is the other indy wrestling from a warehouse in California that everyone should be talking about. There is something really quaint in how shitty the handheld is.
“This is pretty much a Psicosis v. Rey Jr. for the 2015s, I am not sure either guy is a complete wrestler, but they dance together really well… this is a partnership really worth watching, and it is cool we got a nice singles between the two.” – Phil Schneider
“This did feel real exciting, while at the same time feeling like a tryout match showcasing all of your coolest rehearsed shit. But, when you got cool shit, you gotta show it off.” – Eric R.
125) EDDIE KINGSTON VS. SILAS YOUNG – AAW (March 21, 2015)
This match could be on here just for the promo video (which is what is posted above) as you can watch it not having even heard of either guy and by the end of it be all “Holy Shit! I wanna watch these guys go out and try to kill each other.” Eddie Kingston is an amazing crazy person. ‘NOW I CAN BREATHE! NOW I CAN FEEL THE AIR IN MY DIRTY ASS LUNGS!” That being said – they follow the awesome video with a brawl filled with hate which is what this needed. Which is a big deal considering Young can often deliver the “Meh…”
“Big match Eddie Kingston is still definitely an awesome thing. This is the kind of nasty fist fight wrestling he excels at and I love… Match itself was really violent, but not from weapons shots, or even stereotypical stiff wrestling, but just every blow seemingly landed with a little bit extra thud and hate.” – Phil Schneider
“I knew nothing about their feud before watching the pre-match video, and after just 3 minutes of video I was pumped for this match like I’ve been for few this year… So THANKFULLY Young was against Eddie Kingston here, who knows how to have a hateful brawl. Kingston knew what it took to make this seem like a blood feud and Silas brought it enough to make this work.” – Eric R