The four horsewomen.
Reader, I’m going to be upfront with you. This’ll be a top five list of my favourite matches from last year in WWE – something I’ve not written of in this way on this blog before – but in effect, most of this top five has more to do with how amazing four particular women in question have had this 2015.
I never thought at the start of the year four of my top five would be dominated by the Four Horsewomen of NXT – Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch and Charlotte – but it tells you a lot – alone and together as a group – how bloody amazing they are they factor into four of my top five in one form or another.
I tweeted my top five on Twitter a few nights ago along with other bits, but I figure I should give some context to this list as well as some honourable mentions. So have at it. Happy new year!
5 – Sasha Banks – Becky Lynch (NXT Takeover Unstoppable)
Before everything that went down later in the year, this was a genuine contender to be one of the best women’s wrestling matches ever, let alone the best in WWE. And there’s a great tension throughout the match, even with the early wave of pinfalls.
By the end of it, Sasha walked away retaining the title, but it was that night Becky walked away with the respect of everyone in Full Sail if not already. It was an incredible technical showcase of wrestling.
4 – Brock Lesnar/Seth Rollins/John Cena (Royal Rumble)
This wasn’t wrestling. This was a pure straight up brawl. And sometimes in wrestling, that’s okay. In fact, if the right pieces are in place, it can be great. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at last year’s Rumble was a big ole fight. And it was great.
Lesnar suplexing the ever living fuck out of both Rollins and Cena is just as majestic as it is anytime of the year. But Cena had his part to play too by being that extra bit of experience to help Rollins on the way. And oh boy, Rollins came alight that night. This was the night he broke out as a solo superstar for me. I mean, that table spot on Lesnar. Beautiful in slow motion.
Sometimes, all you need is a big stiff match where men don’t mainly wrestle, they just batter two shits of Friday into one another. This here was the best of the lot in 2015 in that regard.
3 – Sasha Banks/Becky Lynch/Charlotte/Bayley (NXT Takeover Rival)
We’d seen them all face each other in various one-on-one spots and other opponents, but NXT Takeover Rival was the first time all four would compete in the same ring together in a Fatal 4 Way for the NXT Women’s Championship. And for me, this was the match that really made me take notice of the division.
Again, like the one-on-one Becky and Sasha match that would follow at the next Takeover, this was incredibly technical and showed if given the room, women’s wrestling can thrive big time. Plus, some fantastic spots throughout – that Bayley neckbreaker on Becky whilst the latter was held by Charlotte or that immense Bayley-to-Belly from the top rope. Or Sasha diving through the ropes on the other contenders.
It was Sasha who walked away with the title, taking it from Charlotte. And things would never be the same again, as the Becky Lynch match at Unstoppable – and what would follow in the Summer/Autumn – would prove.
[PS: watch this and know how much it means to Sasha]
2 – Sasha Banks – Bayley II (NXT Takeover Respect)
What else do I need to say on this that I hadn’t said back in October? The first ever Ironwoman match – not just in the WWE, but in wrestling as a whole – and it had the two biggest female superstars of the year in it. Put aside the fact NXT is developmental for WWE or that it’s a sub-brand for the ‘E, Sasha and Bayley were the two biggest female superstars in wrestling in 2015. And for them to have that honour of the first Ironwoman match, plus be able to actually main event a Takeover (than just “co-main event” it like in Brooklyn), it signified 2015 was truly the year of Bayley and Sasha Banks.
You could even toss a coin and determine which of the two matches they had could be your favourite and there wouldn’t be a wrong answer either way. For me, this just finishes below it for reasons I’ll get to below. But everything that made the women’s division in NXT so great in 2015 was on full display for 30 straight minutes. It. Was. Glorious.
And if by some chance Sasha being so hugely over after the call up to the main roster as well as below made you forget how incredible of a heel she is, all you need to do is watch this match. She’s just the most perfect heel. Better than Kevin Owens in this instance, for my money.
All in all, this was perhaps the night we saw the first golden generation of NXT women say goodbye – it was Sasha’s last match in NXT – but what a way it was to go out. High tension, incredible spots, Sasha’s incredible heeling on Bayley superfan Izzy and a hot as hell Full Sail attendance made it an incredible night.
1 – Sasha Banks – Bayley (NXT Takeover Brooklyn)
But where do we even begin to start here? This was close-to-perfect in every single way. From the build into the match, the video package above – which noted Charlotte, Becky and Sasha’s callup to the main roster with Bayley fading away ala Back to the Future (perfect, by the way – I’d go as far to say it’s my second favourite promo behind Austin-Rock at Mania X7) – and everything else. This was the underdog face versus the arrogant heel. But the way they built to it felt it was more than just the usual way around it.
And then the match. Holy fucking shit, the match.
When you have Steve Austin calling it a clinic, you know you did something special. And that match in Brooklyn was pretty special. The chemistry between the two, their relationship, the back-and-forth had throughout the matches, the spots (holy fuck, that hurricanrana at the end) and thensome made it – and its Ironwoman followup – booked to perfection.
But the reason why this is the match I prefer out of the two out of anything else is that this felt like a catalyst for women’s wrestling. Not just in WWE (but given how its been treated in recent years, especially WWE), but everywhere. I mention above the Ironwoman match was the end of the first golden generation of NXT women coming through its ranks with it being Sasha’s last match. Yet, this could be argued as the actual match that ends that first-generation: Charlotte and Becky Lynch had their own final NXT matches earlier in the evening in Brooklyn and her match with Bayley – up until Respect – was meant to be Sasha’s final match.
And that curtain call. Perfect.
To say Bayley – Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover Brooklyn was my match of the year would be underselling it. Bayley – Sasha Banks at Takeover Brooklyn was not just that or even one of the best wrestling matches ever, not just for women but regardless of gender. It became my favourite wrestling match ever.
Perfect? No. Nothing ever is. But as far as wrestling goes, it’s as close to perfect as you’ll ever get.
Honourable mentions: John Cena – Kevin Owens (Elimination Chamber), Brock Lesnar – Roman Reigns (Wrestlemania), John Cena – Sami Zayn (Monday Night Raw; Monday, May 4), Roman Reigns – Cesaro (Monday Night Raw; Monday, November 16), Roman Reigns – Daniel Bryan (FastLane), Brock Lesnar – Undertaker (Hell in a Cell), Seth Rollins – Sting (Night of Champions), Finn Balor – Kevin Owens (Beast in the East).