For Harry. May you finally encounter immortals that stand a chance of matching your incredible wit.
By the end of 2015, it seemed that WWE finally figured out how to use Roman Reigns: as a cold-hearted warrior with the fury of a thousand angry Gods, violently laying waste to everyone that stood between him and the top of the mountain. Within a 24-hour stretch in mid-December, it appeared that WWE had managed to undo all of the damage inflicted creatively upon Reigns throughout the year, and had successfully gotten him over in tough towns like Boston and Philadelphia. Kudos.
Unfortunately, none of that goodwill can erase what an awful year 2015 was.
It seems that every conversation I’ve had with good ol’ RD Reynolds this year, aside from those centered on football or the happenings in our personal lives, veered into just how mind-numbingly bad professional wrestling was. Sure, that’s a typical rasslin’ conversation between WrestleCrap’s founder and this cynical scribe, though there seemed to be much less jovality in our banter. In other words, you could literally say that wrestling was so bad, it wasn’t funny.
The year 2015 did have some strong points, mind you. Getting the good stuff out of the way (for those who claim I’m excessively negative, and are quite frankly correct): WrestleMania XXXI ruled, NXT and Lucha Underground remained must-see TV, The New Day became the saviors of three-hour Raws, the match quality on said Raws went up thanks to a talented roster, New Japan continued its run of excellence (especially WrestleKingdom with JIM FREAKIN’ ROSS calling the action), and WWE Network added plenty of entertaining content, both retro and contemporary.
Naturally, the list below will cover none of those things.
WrestleCrap, being the time-tested haven of the ‘worst’ in wrestling, is obliged to look back on 2015 with mournful eyes at the worst gimmicks, storylines, concepts, news events, and general malarkey that the wrestling world spit up like the most disgusting of bile. Some entries are silly, some are serious, and many (if not all) will be subjective. You will disagree with some of the entries. You will be inclined to call me a moron, as many of you have done previously. This does not change the order of the list. Some crap is more tolerable for certain people. Some odors don’t bother select folks. Look at spinsters with fifty cats running around.
I do, however, look back at the previous year’s list to see if I regret any of my selections. Last year, I found three items from the 2013 list that I came around on. This year, there are two picks from my 2014 list that my perspective has certainly changed toward, albeit with qualifiers.
21. The New Day. In their prior form as all-too-happy babyfaces, they were a pandering, borderline-insulting act. Following their heel turn in the spring, they became one of the few reasons to watch Raw, on account of their impeccable group chemistry and legit laugh-inducing banter. I don’t apologize for ranking them last year, but I’m glad that something I had termed a ‘goner’ ended up bringing me around, and truly surprised me.
12. Brock Lesnar, absentee champion. The lengthy gap between Lesnar appearances in the fall seemed to cheapen WWE and its top prize, but I did change my view a bit when I realized how much more his matches meant something. Seth Rollins, as much as I enjoy his work, was oversaturated by being on TV every week, especially in poorly-written main event angles. Lesnar suffered no such ‘battle damage’, and it’s true: part-timers feel much fresher by virtue of being part-timers. The length between title defenses was absurd, but it had a benefit.
With that out of the way, let’s take a gander at what drek 2015 provided for all of us. As always, feedback is appreciated at my Twitter.
50. Chris Jericho lobs softballs
‘Talk is Jericho’ is a pretty well-acclaimed podcast, but you wouldn’t know it from watching Y2J lightly volley questions at John Cena and Stephanie McMahon on WWE Network. After Steve Austin firmly grilled Vince and Hunter previously, you can see why Vince would want to protect two ‘investments’ behind benign chit-chat.
WWE was willing to do anything to bring in rejuvenated Alberto Del Rio, as they were lacking a strong Latin draw. After reputedly throwing out a ‘Godfather offer’ financially, WWE immediately shoehorned Del Rio into a far-fetched alliance with long-absent Zeb Colter as heels that promoted tolerance. It lasted six weeks, far less time than Del Rio’s disinterested gaze, which persists onward.
48. Burial of The Ascension
After reigning for one year as unstoppable monsters in NXT’s tag division, Konnor and Viktor migrated to the main roster as face-painted baddies in the vein of, say, Demolition. They were immediately presented as a joke, complete with frequent JBL burials (read: Vince yelling in his ear), and ended up a waste of development time, as well as a perfectly-good throwback gimmick.
47. Jon Stewart interferes at SummerSlam
Long-time Daily Show anchor enjoys copious involvement with WWE, who will naturally cling to any celebrity as though they could piss platinum. Stewart’s a step up from, say, Florida Georgia Line, but facilitating a World title match finish was a tad excessive. Ostensibly meant to give WWE more mainstream attention, the steep decline in Raw ratings to record lows prove no effect from the ex Zen-master.
46. WWE publishes video of CM Punk’s ass
Well, kinda. After Punk claimed to have worked his final months in WWE with a life-threatening staph infection, company doctor Chris Amann brought litigation against Punk for his claims. WWE backed their medic with a publicly-released video that zooms in on the area of Punk’s alleged lump. The viewing public is hardly a summoned jury, so it was more a chance to damage Punk in front of its own audience.
45. The rationale for keeping Chyna out of the WWE Hall of Fame
Under stern questioning from Steve Austin, Triple H claimed that putting ex-flame Chyna (a vital part of the Attitude Era, whether you like her or not) into the Hall would set a bad example. Like, what if his daughters Google ‘Chyna’ and come across her *other* career? One can only imagine what Hunter’s kids find when they Google Jimmy Snuka or Tammy Sytch or Mike Tyson or Donald Trump….
44. Bray Wyatt can summon LIGHTNING
Some things only The Undertaker can make look cool, whether it’s defy thermodynamics (looking at you, Bray) or wear eyeliner (looking at you, Derek Carr). It’s not a bad idea to have *some* supernaturally-based characters with Undertaker on borrowed time as a performer, but since Wyatt’s character has been reduced to boogity-boogity-boo gibberish and general irrelevance, the light show looks dumber.
43. Bray Wyatt’s random promos
Whether it was Undertaker or Ryback or Roman Reigns, the charismatic Wyatt would spend upwards of a month (at least it felt that way) making VERY veiled threats that read like a rock-hard sudoku puzzle. It was almost as though WWE had no idea who Bray would feud with next, so they figured, “Just send him out to talk for a few weeks while we pull a name out of our ass.”
42. The Authority drags on
Surely by now, you’ve realized The Authority will never perish. Triple H and Stephanie merely exist to dress nice for the cameras and put forth a more suave image than Vince did in his days as an impulsively-boorish, sponsor-frightening, on-air character. Hunter and Stephanie view themselves as omnipotently decorative, which is why the ratings dropped until Roman Reigns created excitement by burying Paul.
41. WWE Hall of Fame announcements ‘broken’ by TMZ
Beginning with Randy Savage’s overdue induction announcement, Michael Cole would squawk during the first hour of Raw about TMZ ‘breaking the news’ earlier in the day of who the next inductee for the Hall was going to be. Although it’s to be expected that WWE would paw at any opportunity for media attention, no matter how plainly plastic, this seemed like kowtowing from a company claiming to be a Universe.
40. Undertaker is a heel for some reason
After causing Seth Rollins to be swept away into the Phantom Zone for 24 hours, The Undertaker appeared at Battleground and began a long run of hitting Brock Lesnar in the balls. This culminated in an epic brawl at Hell in a Cell, whereby Undertaker turned babyface again by allowing himself to be abducted by four hillbillies. For a company that loves to ‘tell stories’, WWE makes David Lynch look like Dr. Seuss.
39. Stephanie McMahon says what most figure she believes
During WrestleMania weekend, Stephanie quoted Twitter founder Biz Stone in that tweet to the right, which pretty much coincides with WWE’s general marketing campaign. While it’s probably a sad reality that most companies view causes like breast cancer charities and supporting the Armed Forces more as a chance to improve their own image, here’s Stephanie bandying it like it’s the official WWE slogan.
38. Cena’s Springboard Stunner
Though far from the five-move wonder his detractors claim, John Cena updated his moveset at WrestleMania with the addition of a rope-sprung Ace Crusher. Unfortunately, Cena rarely hits it properly, prompting an inevitable, “he didn’t get all of it!” from the announcers. Some believe that Cena was given the move out of spite toward Austin, whose relationship with Vince was chillier at the time.
37. AAA TripleMania XXIII plagued by production issues
A promising card featuring Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio descended into unwatchable madness early with a frustrating barrage of sound and picture issues that made TNA’s worst production gaffes look like the work of Federico Fellini. Matt Striker’s commentary was also considered a low point, and a far cry from the blend of excited mark/passive smark he brings to Lucha Underground telecasts.
36. The Rosebush
Adam Rose won the hearts of many viewers during an ESPN special in May, when he was shown to be a doting father to a son born with an abdominal birth defect. WWE’s best idea to get this inspirational and admirable figure back on TV comes in the premise of a ‘celebrity gossip’ segment that was written with 12-year-olds in mind. Actually, that’s probably an insult to those younger viewers.
35. Tough Enough
Although WWE’s most identifiable stab at reality television has proven ineffective at creating long-term stars out of the winners (save for John Morrison in 2003), the 2015 revival proved far less satisfying than the 2011 edition. A cruddy format was blamed for the halved television ratings, as well as a lack of Steve Austin, whose icy, gritty demeanor carried the 2011 rendition into semi-watchability.
34. TNA vs. Global Force Wrestling
Jeff Jarrett’s attempt at a new TNA, the currently-untelevised GFW, forged a brief working relationship with his former operation, and GFW was portrayed as a band of nWo-like invaders. That is, an nWo consisting of Chris Masters, Sonjay Dutt, Curt Hawkins, and Justin Gabriel. Taking nothing away from their considerable talents, the co-opt didn’t exactly usher in millions of disbelieving eyes on Wednesdays.
33. John Cena vs. Rusev, I Quit Match
This revival of the classic Hulk Hogan vs. Foreign Powers prototype mercifully ended at WWE Payback in May, but not before giving the world an outlandishly-excessive snoozer. Thirty minutes of tedium included a scene where Rusev is apparently immolated in a pyrotechnic explosion. The sole highlight is a defiant Rusev, who screams, “Damn your old mother” in Bulgarian at Cena. Really.
32. Intercontinental hot potato
The build for what was a really good seven-man ladder match for the Intercontinental title at WrestleMania featured all seven entrants taking turns stealing the belt from each other. For, like, weeks on end. Babyface stars like Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, and Dean Ambrose looked pretty stupid getting caught up in the Groundhog Day of stories. Thus, through osmosis, main eventer Roman Reigns looked stronger.
31. Josh Mathews, the voice of TNA
Mathews always seemed to have a passion for wrestling, which is why it’s weird to hear him sound so disinterested and condescending on TNA broadcasts. Perhaps it’s a reflection on the company itself (Mike Tenay lost his energy in later years), but Mathews’ Twitter jabs at the likes of Jim Ross and Samoa Joe this year make it hard to sympathize with him, or respect him as the voice of a promotion.
Just when it seemed like the go-home segment for WrestleMania (Reigns snatching Lesnar’s WWE championship) was fixing to get interesting, the two heavyweights instead engaged in a half-hearted struggle for possession of the belt. Not a single punch was thrown as the show faded to black. At least incinerate each other with eye lasers like Sting and Jake Roberts did at Halloween Havoc, for Chrissakes.
29. Intercontinental Elimination Chamber
Strong candidate for WWE’s worst match of the year was riddled with disorganization. Mark Henry was forced to enter the match early after his pod was broken apart. Sheamus ended up stuck in his own pod, which could have been a set-up for him to enter late, but everyone else in the match shambled around uncomfortably in an overt stall for time. A total throwaway for a once-valuable gimmick match.
28. The Shera Shake
Or is it the Shera Shuffle? Either way, Mahabali Shera, TNA’s ‘trump card’ for drawing toward their TV tapings in India (that were cancelled), possesses the ability to charm his opponents with a simple dance move, causing them to replicate the dance themselves. The picture to the right says it all: Al Snow looks boggled, while Mr. Anderson looks like he’d rather be anywhere else in the world.
27. Crowds jump the shark
The post-WrestleMania crowd was becoming a draw unto itself, after imaginative showings in 2013-14. That luster began to fade the minute the revelers in San Jose chanted, “WE ARE AWESOME” as a self-pat on the back for their counter-culturalism (toward a product they’re pumping money into). The antics of the NXT crowds at Full Sail took the same trajectory: amusing at first, self-wanking eventually.
26. Slammiversary spoiled by days of TV tapings beforehand
TNA’s dire belt-tightening became all too evident in late June, when months worth of Impact episodes were taped prior to the Slammiversary PPV, meaning spoiler-checkers (including those attending at the Impact Zone, the same venue for each show) knew almost to a fault how Slammiversary was going to play out. A sad state of affairs for a once-ambitious wrestling alternative.
25. Cast of Entourage hosts Raw
Really, the greatest tragedy here was that Jeremy Piven didn’t pop up to promote ‘SummerFest’. Instead, Vincent Chase and the boys hobnob with the Authority in a backstage bit with camera shifts that are unusual for a Raw telecast. Then they support Zack Ryder’s bid in losing to John Cena, all to promote an unnecessary movie based on a TV series. But hey, at least the McMahons got the rub.
24. Machine Gun Kelly no-sells your powerbomb
Rapper MGK gets booed out of Monday Night Raw during a time-filling performance, one only made interesting by Kevin Owens powerbombing him off the stage immediately afterward. Many took this as Owens turning face, especially since MGK isn’t remotely likable. Then MGK tweeted that the move didn’t hurt and that Owens is a chump. At least it was quicker than the whole K-Fed ordeal.
23. Terminator: Rise of the Torn Quadricep
Hunter’s ‘King of Kings’ entrance from WrestleMania XXX, with three familiar harem girls, was overblown but with a sense of panache. This was just a commercial for a bastardized sequel to some of the most brilliant sci-fi thrillers in history, complete with scanned read-outs of Sting, and Hunter holding a handful of skulls for some reason. On the upside, we know the COO will graciously show ass if it rakes in dollars.
22. Wasting Cesaro’s potential
While not everyone can be pushed at once, the rallying cry for Cesaro, who had been slighted by McMahon a year ago for ‘not connecting with the crowd’, rang louder than the calls for most others. After a fun Tag Team title reign with Tyson Kidd, Cesaro went solo following Kidd’s neck injury. There were great matches therein, but Cesaro functionally became the new Tito Santana: make others look good, then lose.
21. The Hulk Hogan thing
There were no winners in any of this. Hogan watched the tatters of his public image be swept away in a furious gust. WWE looked like massive hypocrites for firing him after their own questionable history of what gimmicks they’ve presented, and what shady figures they’ve worked with. About the only positive in the entire ugly ordeal was that Hogan didn’t have to associate with the lifeless Tough Enough any more.
20. Los Villanos vs. Psycho Circus
As if TripleMania’s hideous presentation wasn’t enough of a clusterfrig, the night was also responsible for unleashing arguably the worst match of 2015. The Villano side aged between 50 and 63, and understandably lacked the robust athleticism of their prime. Dave Meltzer broke the glass that housed his negative five star rating, a rarely-used label of ignominy, and applied it to the slow, confusing mess.
19. R-Truth is obliviously stupid
The ‘Little Jimmy’ absurdity has long since faded from memory, but here’s Truth, still playing an absolute moron with an oft-stated arachnophobia, among other half-baked quirks. It’s hard to say what was more nauseating to watch: Truth freaking out over Stardust’s use of rubber spiders, or pretending to be a king while brandishing a toilet plunger scepter. There’s always room for a goofy babyface, but man….
18. Bill DeMott resigns as NXT trainer
DeMott had been accused by more than just a handful of prospective wrestlers of physical abuse and other demeaning actions going back several years, which prompted a WWE investigation in 2013 that apparently found no evidence of wrongdoing. When Ryan Nemeth (Dolph Ziggler’s brother) and others claimed to have never been questioned in the investigation, it soon snowballed into DeMott’s exit.
17. The Eunuch Express saves time, ruins shows
So a vindictive Stephanie fires Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, and Erick Rowan in an exceedingly-long ending to Raw, and the three babyfaces just stand there like goofs and take it. While they certainly can’t strike a woman, as babyfaces had opportunity to do in the Attitude Era, couldn’t they at least attack Hunter, or make grunty threats? Of course not, because if they move, it throws off the camera blocking.
16. Paige talks ill of Reid Flair
It’s not necessarily a bad thing to invoke real life tragedy into a story in order to get the crowd to hate a character – evil people do evil things. In this instance, the mentioning of departed Reid Flair by a generally-liked Paige (playing the heel) felt riveted-on and forced, and the fans saw through the hollow story injection. WWE, for their part, subtly attempted to shift blame for the bad idea onto Charlotte herself.
15. Destination America cancels Impact and Ring of Honor
First, the Discovery Channel subsidiary cancels Impact at the same time it makes a deal with ROH. Then by autumn, both promotions are being shown the door. Now the second and third top wrestling companies in the United States are hooking their trailers to POP TV (the former TV Guide Channel) and Comet (a lower-tier broadcast start-up). Is Jamie Kellner running Destination America?
14. The Warrior Award
I anticipate the most hate-tweets and such for this one. Regardless, WWE twisted The Ultimate Warrior’s wish for an award that would recognize the behind-the-scenes contributors within the company, and instead made a “we’re good people” honorific for Conor Michalek, a cancer-stricken Daniel Bryan fan that died in 2014. The manipulation and true intentions (see entry 39) trump any well meaning.
13. WWE as SportsCenter fodder
ESPN admitted outright that their aim for content was ‘ratings driven’ (TebowMania, 24/7 coverage of Manziel, LeBron, et al), and thereby sold airtime during Tuesday night editions of SportsCenter to WWE for the purpose of airing fluff pieces for the company’s benefit. The non-cynics didn’t complain until they realized that ESPN would never cover anything damaging to WWE, like, say, Jimmy Snuka’s murder charges.
12. WWE and Susan G. Komen, Year Four
We conclude this trifecta of public masturbation with one of the more reviled ‘charity’ organizations, and WWE’s continued daisy-chain with a controversial group of grubby charlatans. I realize I could have lumped the previous three entries into one uber-entry, but do you really want to read about Big Show winning the Andre battle royal, or Tom Phillips and the social media lounge at 50 and 49? Yeah, I thought so.
11. Dolph Ziggler-Lana-Rusev love triangle
Rather than allow Lana to leave Rusev and stand on her own two empowered feet, she was immediately booked to be smitten with Ziggler, reduced to playing a lovesick teenager. Ziggler and Lana displayed the collective chemistry of spaghetti and Teller, and Rusev came off as the most sensible character in the muddled mess. Then Lana and Rusev were legitimately engaged, mercifully ending this.
10. Throw Mickie Before the Train
Yep, there was once a time when James Storm pushed Mickie James in front of a moving train. TNA assured us that Mickie wasn’t actually dead, although some jokers did update her Wikipedia page to add a date after the birthday dash. It makes you wonder just how unsafe a working environment TNA really is. No wonder Samoa Joe had the white van ninjas drop him off at the WWE Performance Center.
9. Byron Saxton gets sent out to die
After an irate Brock Lesnar murdered the commentary team during the typically-frenzied post-WrestleMania Raw, Saxton served as the emergency brake among all of the fun. So lifeless was Saxton that he may have been wheeled out during commercial break on a hand-truck by Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman. Or maybe Saxton simply did what most fans today do, and fell asleep in the second hour.
8. Sting in 2015 – every bit of it
First, poor Sting gets wrangled into a story where he’s defending a long dead WCW against somehow-heroic Triple H. Then Hunter beats him at WrestleMania by braining him with a sledgehammer, to which Sting shakes his hand afterward. Then Sting stands there like a statue for a main event segment on Raw, prior to losing to Seth Rollins at Night of Champions, despite Rollins being worn down by Cena a match earlier.
7. Miz vs. Mizdow’s lack of a true blowoff
One of the few intriguing feuds in 2015, in which the fans wanted to see comeuppance, came when beloved and rejuvenated Damien Sandow had finally had enough of The Miz’s unquenchable ego. The teased turn dragged out for well over two months, taking place on WrestleMania’s pre-show, and Sandow, who had been wildly cheered for months, was quickly jobbed out to Miz in a throwaway match on Raw.
6. Dueling Kanes
Seth Rollins was at one time booked as the focused and calculating tactician of The Shield, which explains what Triple H kayfabe saw in him. Then he becomes so dumb that he doesn’t anticipate that Corporate Kane taking a leave is the precursor to Demon Kane (or rather, a 48-year-old cosplaying as a red Angry Bird) showing up to kick his ass. Rudimentary, gee-golly-gosh storytelling.
5. Kane’s job evaluation
Another attempt at infusing drawn-out, Attitude Era-style comedy segments into today’s product, only with more edited and re-edited scripting and less organic connection with the crowd. Naturally, Kane somehow survives the inspection of some well-to-do evaluator, despite Seth Rollins’ fervent objections, and the crowd slowly dies. Shouldn’t the first question be why a corporate officer answers to a mononym?
4. Sufferin’ succotash!
Best case scenario: Reigns lost a wager involving a first-round NFL playoff game, and had to recite Sylvester the Cat’s famous phrase as part of an honest-to-god wrestling promo. Worst case scenario: Vince McMahon thinks that Reigns is just like The Rock (spoiler: nobody is) and can make outlandish dialogue sound like the funniest thing ever. With that, the Roman Empire developed more troublesome cracks.
3. Tater tots!
Eleven months later, Reigns ended Raw with Sheamus during possibly the least-watched third hour Raw since the show’s expanded in 2012. It was here that Reigns made a testicular insinuation about Sheamus to the delight of a crowd thinning out as though somebody pulled the fire alarm. When Raw’s number came in the following night, a dreadful 2.15, it was more an unpleasant expectation than a legit shocker.
2. The 2015 Royal Rumble
Already a one-match wonder headed into the Rumble itself, all hell broke loose in Philadelphia when Daniel Bryan was eliminated early. By now, you know that Reigns was booed out of the building en route to an insulting finishing sequence that required the presence of The Rock to try and stem the tide of. In all honesty, the 2014 Rumble was a better match than this. Reigns’ win was secondary to lack of imagination.
1. The Divas Revolution
At least with Reigns, there was a plan. A poorly-executed plan, but a plan regardless. With the Divas, owing to the rise in fame of Ronda Rousey and the gold medal US women’s soccer team, WWE called up some of NXT’s finest females, cobbled them into some directionless version of the Team Challenge Series, and left the fans feeling completely short-changed. Pray for Bayley when she gets called up.
Justin Henry is WrestleCrap's inquiring newsman, thirsting for knowledge always. He enjoys the art of satire, as you'll find in many of his works here at WrestleCrap. Drop him a line on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/jrhwriting)