2015 In Review : A Year To Remember For WWE?
By Rob Horton - @robhorton86
2015 was a year where, for the first time in many, WWE had wrestlers at their disposal that could genuinely push the product forward into a new era. Did the WWE deliver?
The Year started in an era of fresh storylines and technically gifted athletes that could deliver in the ring as well as on the mic; a time where the soap-opera of WWE could become entertaining again. But did this happen? Did the WWE deliver? At this point of writing, I’m not sure. My heart wants to say yes, but my mind is telling me to look beneath the gloss and really think about it- has the WWE actually moved forward this year?
For me, one of the most exciting angles of the year was the Divas revolution. I have been waiting for years, literally since the days of Lita and Trish Stratus, for the Divas division to mean something and on Monday 13th July I thought my dream had been realised. Stephanie McMahon stood in the middle of the ring with the newly formed factions PCB, BAD and the Bellas and proclaimed to the world the beginning of the Diva’s revolution.
I have to say, there was a certain beauty in watching these talented wrestlers put on a show- who would have thought women could be so good? Looks like WWE were playing a much needed ‘catch-up’ with the rest of sporting society. This segment ended with a nod to the future with Flair, Banks and Lynch all hitting their submission holds on the established Bellas’ and Foxx. The message clear: the future is Diva. The following weeks were filled with suspense, drama and emotive promos; the buy-in for the revolution was so good, it was given a primary spot on Summerslam, sharing the bill with Taker and Lesnar. I mean, their match was after Cena Rollins for crying out loud!
But the key question is… did WWE deliver or persevere with this promise? Honestly, the answer is no. It’s now December. What mention has there been of the revolution since October? None. What happened to the heat for Banks? Diffused. Let’s not forget that she had an extraordinary match against Bailey in the first ever 30 minute iron (wo)man match. Now the WWE has all this talent sitting around getting no air time.
It’s also easy to predict what is likely to happen next with the Divas Championship. Charlotte is slowly revealing herself to be like her father- the dirtiest ‘playa’ in the game- and Paige will prove to have been right all along, while the others (with the exception of Banks) disappear into obscurity. The Bella’s will still work, but their role is becoming increasingly ambassador-like, so they’ll be fine. But it will probably be sad stories for Foxx, Lynch, Naomi, Snuka and Nattie. Call me a cynic, but I’m just not sure there’s enough room (or support) in WWE for the Diva’s to have a mid-card. You’re either main event, or stuck on Total Divas. In short, the creativity is gone, and at the moment the Diva’s Revolution is an anti-climax. Fail.
It is well documented that Triple H is a big fan of factions- I’ve already alluded to this in some way in the previous paragraph. But if the seeds were planted in 2014, then there has been some ivy-like growth in 2015. They’re everywhere! However, the crème-de-la-crème falls between two in particular: New Day and The Wyatts. Their booking is consistently excellent.
I genuinely thought New Day were on their way out, but with the perseverance of Woods, Kingston and Langston, they’ve managed to turn their annoying baby-face gimmick into hilarious but credible heel personas- trombones and unicorn horns…really! But as champions they have been faultless, and their defence at TLC was phenomenal. As a heel, you know you’ve done well when you start to get cheered. For New Day, their recognition comes when the crowd actually chant New Day Rocks! That’s right, it has officially happened. I heard it myself on Raw!
Then there are the Wyatts: darkness with a new face. Move over Taker! The Wyatt’s have been around for a while, but this year they’ve gone from strength to strength. The WWE quickly realised its mistake in separating them and brought them back together. The result? Chaos. They may not have won a significant feud against Taker and Kane, but their decimation of The Dudleys (which in itself was like a nostalgia infused dream) shows them to be in a position where they, particularly Bray, are ready to transition to the top. My observation here is what other heels’ are there currently in the locker room that can step up and be the main ‘Man’ in the company right now? None. It may mean re-igniting a feud with Reigns, but anything is better than the joke that is/was Sheamus and the League of Nations. What are we, 5? The re-emergence of stables in WWE I think is something to be celebrated. Aside from what happened with the Diva’s and the League of Nations- they’ve been refreshing and entertaining and have generated enough fan interest to carry them well into the New Year. Win.
The final comment about Reigns and Sheamus leads me nicely onto my next point: The state of the WWE World Heavy Weight Championship. This particular point carries a variety of sub-categories that combine together to make a unified whole.
The WWE Championship is arguably the most prestigious prize that can be bestowed on a professional wrestler. A salute, a recognition from WWE management that says you’re not just THE man, you’re OUR man- which is why Ziggler never gets a shot, you have to be both. But has this ideology rung true in 2015? I’m not convinced. It has been blindingly obvious since the end of the Rumble that WWE wanted to put the belt on Reigns, and build him as the next-generation baby-face as Cena will inevitably begin to wind down over the next few years. However, this was so poorly received that WWE backtracked and made him re-earn his shot to appease the fans. Having come out on top he was booked to fight Lensar at Wrestlemania.
The match itself was pretty good, with Reigns surviving the kind of beating that can only earn you some sort of respect from the Boo Boys. But the WWE title picture needed something with more spark. The whole man against the machine angle had already been done with Bryan. So to avoid repetition the WWE waited, and as Reigns looked set to pull of an unexpected victory, Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase, removed Lesnar from the ring (keeping him undefeated, and therefore still looking strong) curb-stomped Reigns and claimed his first WWE championship. I have to say, I was very excited by this prospect. Rollins entertained me, is excellent in the ring, and seemed like a good fit as the sell-out turn-face that restores power to the Authority. Seeing him in a storyline with both Lesnar and Reigns would create good television, if it could be maintained.
However, after the initial novelty of it all, the battles with Lesnar that then became a Taker angle, and the constant one-upping of Reigns, was Rollins doing anything exciting? Actually, no he wasn’t. I appreciate that this is just my opinion, but I would also argue that as champion, Rollins has had one of the lowest viewer ratings in recent memory. WWE were booking him as a bit of a whiney coward. For someone who is meant to be the future, this is incredibly odd and prevents audiences from emotionally investing in a character.
It was hard to conceive what WWE were going to do to make everything work out fine. But in the end, they didn’t have to, because Rollins got injured, and that was the end of that. Unfortunately, things have not gone well for the WWE in regards to injuries this year, particularly as those getting injured were in the main event: Bryan, Sting and Rollins being the most obvious examples. The problem is, when these wrestlers get injured what do you do? If you’ve spent literally, the best part of a couple years crafting them as you want them and they get injured, it’s very unlikely you have a ready made back-up to step into their boots. This was the case with Rollins after he got injured. What was the back-up plan? Sheamus cashing in his Money in the bank and forming the League of Nations?
I highly doubt that. You could argue that the current position for the WWE World Heavy Weight Championship is both a blessing and a curse. A curse because the athlete that ended up carrying the belt (as a transitional champion) was never going to be supported, and a blessing because the WWE management got what the wanted way back in January- to have the belt on Reigns and the crowd behind him. My concern though is that fans are only reacting positively because the thought on Sheamus as champion is too unbearable, meaning there is a possibility that the fans could still turn on him again.
WWE really need to book a strong adversary to take Reigns on and really push him. The problem is, the only person who could do that right now is Bray, and as I mentioned before, that’s already been done. So who does that leave? Exactly! The only thing I can suggest is maybe Taker comes in for one final hurrah at WrestlMania, or Lesnar maybe? My verdict: the future of the WWE Championship looks bleak. This isn’t necessarily the fault of Reigns, but there is just no one available that could step up and deliver. Kevin Owens isn’t ready, and… who else is there? Del Rio and Rusev perhaps? But they are currently within the League of Nations, which means it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of them. BIG Fail.
I feel as though there is so much more I could write about, but the pattern will be the same. WWE start of something that looks like it has loads of potential, then bury it. Then they try to revive heat for it with controversial segments, hence the Paige/ Flair and the suicide comment angle. It’s desperate. What happened to Cesaro, or Del Rio and Rusev as legitimate heels (God I fucking hate the League of Nations)?
Feel free to tell me if you think I’ve missed anything but I feel like I’ve dried up, just like the ideas of the WWE creative. This year promised but didn’t deliver.
My Mind’s made up. Fail. Expect to see Heath Slater returning to your screens, or even worse Fandango… and what the hell is up with Adam Rose’s Rose Bush?
What do rose bushes and the WWE creative have in common? They both contain pricks!
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