VoicesofWrestling.com - Voices of Wrestling 2015 Match of the Year

Welcome to the fourth annual Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year Poll. Yesterday, we kicked off the countdown with a look at the poll’s origins, our record-breaking voter pool and our honorable mentions. Earlier today, we started the Top 100 with a look at #100-50. Now we’re working through the Top 50 with matches #49-25. For background on the Match of the Year poll, when it began as well as a list of voters who participated in this year’s countdown, check out our introduction post.

Follow Voices of Wrestling’s 2015 Match of the Year countdown:

49

Twin Towers vs. Strong BJ
May 28
Big Japan Wrestling
19 overall points (Highest Vote: 3rd)

This is the only tag match to make my Top 10 and rightfully so, as it was clearly the best tag match of the year. Wrestling, in my mind, is best when it is clear that the combatants need to win. I enjoy seeing a sense of urgency in wrestlers. This match was all about capturing the tag titles and at the end of the 30 minute time limit, neither team was able to defeat the other. This match features one of the most intense closing stretches with Okabayashi throwing everything he has at the Twin Towers and time after time, he came up short. A lovely match right here, folks. -Case Lowe

This is four grown ass men beating the absolute hell out of each other. I know we’ve all seen that before but this match is made truly special by Daisuke Sekimoto’s elite selling, the vaguely southern layout of the match that allows for a couple of fun, fiery comebacks, and the way the participants perfectly build the pressure and intensity until the impending time limit forces them into desperation. These four work the match as if the stakes are profoundly high and that makes the BJW crowd immensely invested. That palpable energy seeps through the computer screen and makes for a truly great contest. -Aaron Bentley

48

Roderick Strong, The Briscoes, War Machine vs AJ Styles, The Young Bucks, Guns & Gallows
May 15
Ring of Honor
20 overall points (1 First Place Vote)

The best live match I saw this year and probably in a few years. Styles and Strong were the glue holding this battle together and it really felt like a special moment. -Dave Musgrave

I loved this match and really saved the show for me. We start off with wild chaotic fight. This was going all over ringside. It settles down a bit and Strong starts as the FIP. While this is going on we have some more fighting between groups on the floor. They work over strong really well and Strong is a badass in the FIP role. On top of that he really showed a lot of fire in the roll. The ROH side work over Nick Jackson and this was well done. So far we have a wild fight, We get a great shine sequence, and then a really well done Heat segment. On top of that Hanson gets a 2nd FIP spot and he’s terrific in the role. In between all of this we have more fighting and an array of amazing dives and highspots. Everyone gets their moment in the sun. in an homage to the Von Erich triple dropkick the Bullet Club hit a 5 man super kick. Strong superplexing everyone out of their boots. On top of this the crowd is going nuts. I was blown away by this, and had a big time feel to it. -Pete Schirmacher

47

Masato Yoshino & Sachihoko BOY vs Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kagetora
April 9
Dragon Gate
20 overall points (Highest Vote: 3rd)

Literally on fire’ is the best way to describe the Dragon Gate Match of the Year. This took place in the midst of Sachihoko BOY’s miracle Twin Gate run with his Amigo, Masato Yoshino. Nobody gave Sachi a chance, but he was defying the odds and scoring pins for his team in Championship matches, and that put the emotion of this match through the roof, as Sachi fought harder than he ever had before to prove to Susumu that he belonged on his level. Eventually, he managed an ingenious roll-up to score another great win for Amigo Tag, and blew the roof off of Korakuen Hall in the process. -Oliver Court

This is as good as Dragon Gate tag action gets. Yoshino, Susumu & Kagetora all took turns looking like the best wrestler in the world, and Shachihoko Boy played his role as the outmatched underdog trying to hold his own to a tee. The closing stretch is hot fire and Korakuen is electric for it. -Alan Counihan

46

Tomohiro Ishii vs Hirooki Goto
August 9
New Japan Pro Wrestling
21 overall points (Highest Vote: 3rd)

If you have not watched this match then grab some Tylenol before you sit down, because even watching these two hammer each other with lariats, head butts, and forearms is going to give you a headache! But, don’t let that distract you from the truly great aspect of this match and that is the masterful selling from Ishii. There is not a better wrestler on the planet then Tomohiro Ishii when it comes to the “look tough – no sell” into the “I can’t take it anymore – collapsing sell.” Just an incredible match from two guys that aren’t even the top stars of their own promotion. -Taylor C. Mitchell

45

Tomoaki Honma vs Tomohiro Ishii
August 12
New Japan Pro Wrestling
21 overall points (Highest Vote: 4th)

History doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes. Tomohiro Ishii’s career defining win happened against Tanahashi in Korakuen Hall during the 2013 G1 Climax. Fast forward two years later and Ishii played Tanahashi’s role to do the honours for Tomoaki Honma. The drama over Honma finally getting his first G1 win is something to behold as the two tear lumps out of each other. -Jamie O’Doherty

This match. THIS MATCH. Everyone says that you can’t a wrestler with loss after loss after loss. But with Honma, it just worked. This was Honma’s year to get points in the G1 Climax. The stage was set: Korakuen Hall, sold out, everyone rooting for Honma to FINALLY slam Ishii to the ground, FINALLY get up that top rope and FINALLY hit the Top Rope Kokeshi for the win. And you know what? IT HAPPENED! He won! Honma won a match, one of the most emotional matches of the tournament no less, in a fantastic bout against Ishii. Korakuen Hall was happy, everyone at home was happy, but most importantly: KOKESHI WAS HAPPY. -CM Flosch

44

Kota Ibushi vs. AJ Styles
July 26
New Japan Pro Wrestling
21 overall points (Highest Vote: 3rd)

Of the many, many matches that come with the G1 Climax each year, a few always stand out when you see them on paper. This was absolutely one of them. As seen earlier, they had an IWGP Heavyweight Title match earlier in the year at Invasion Attack, which was great. However, they bested it with the rematch. Playing off of that, both men were able to counter a lot of the things the other would do even more than in their first match. Kota Ibushi used his quickness and athleticism to overwhelm AJ Styles, who is not the same man he was ten years ago. Now, AJ is a much smarter worker and it showed in the way he turned things around. At one point, Ibushi hits a backflip kick only for AJ to respond with a Pele, showing he’s still got it. Everything done in this match made sense and they built to a fantastic finish. Ibushi continually avoided the Styles Clash, but AJ had an answer for a lot of the big spots Ibushi tried, like a top rope rana and deadlift German. Ibushi would survive Bloody Sunday and win with the Phoenix Splash that was countered in their first match at 19:11. This made Ibushi only the fourth man in New Japan to pin Styles, joining Okada, Tanahashi and Naito. -Kevin Pantoja

Kota Ibushi was struggling to defeat any of the top heavyweights in NJPW ever since being promoted to the division. In the G1 and against former IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Ibushi finally got that victory. Ibushi’s tear covered face after a match that saw him lay everything on the line was an incredible moment to watch for anyone that has been a fan of his over the years. -Taylor C. Mitchell

43

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Roderick Strong
May 13
Ring of Honor
21 overall points (Highest Vote: 2nd)

Mr. ROH meets Ace of the Universe. Strong had a really strong 2015 and this match was a true spotlight in which Tanahashi bought his “A” game as well in this but this was all about Strong and the hard way cut he suffered midway through the match only added to a molten crowd at the 2300 Arena. -Jahmale Hepburn

I’m not sure how the ballots will shake out, but going into things, this feels like one of the most overlooked matches of the year. ROH put this on as the first match back from intermission, but Strong and Tanahashi fought like it was the main event. Early on in the match, Strong is busted open by an elbow to the head and he continues to fight valiantly through the blood loss. Officials attempt to help him, but Strong refuses because he knows that this match is his shot at working with one of the best in the world. Tanahashi takes some of Strong’s hardest hits, but he refuses to be put away. Even in a losing effort, Strong looked fantastic in the match and this only added to his resume of great matches in 2015. -Kelly Harrass

T-41

Aja Kong,Dynamite Kansai,Mayumi Ozaki,Kyoko Kimura vs Kellie Skater,Tomoka Nakagawa,Misaki Ohata,Hiroyo Matsumoto
April 12
SHIMMER
22 overall points (1 First Place Vote)

April 2015 saw Tomoka Nakagawa’s final matches take place in America. Having already wrestled her retirement match in Japan, she chose SHIMMER to be the place for her last match, ever. This showed how much the Berwyn, Illinois promotion meant to her, and it meant a lot to us too. However, one thing she did not expect was to see her mentor, some time foe and some time tag partner Aja Kong show up in the same building as she was. She didn’t come alone, either – alongside Kong was the legendary Dynamite Kansai. Tomoka was in shock, this being a complete surprise to her as well as the audience and a lot of folks in the back. Dave Prazak kept this under wraps very tightly in a day and age where secrets aren’t easily kept in wrestling. Kong challenged Tomoka to a multi-Joshi tag match and the teams were set: Kong, Kansai would team up with another legend, Mayumi Ozaki (who had made a formidable partnership in 2014 with the devious Saraya Knight), and Kyoko Kimura to face off against Tomoka, her Global Green Gangster tag partner Kellie Skater, Misaki Ohata (making her first SHIMMER appearance since 2011) and Hiroyo Matsumoto (who came over to wrestle this one match since she was dealing with an injury at that time). The match itself was five stars. It was simply incredible to see true legends of Japanese wrestling in person taking on the current stars and paying tribute to Nakagawa by their very presence. Tomoka’s team may have gone down in defeat but afterwards as they embraced the tiny woman, you could see real emotion. This match gets my pick as my number one for 2015 because not only was it a superb match it was also a magnificent second-to-last hurrah for Tomoka Nakagawa (her very last match to come on Volume 75). When Volume 74 comes out, I urge people to buy it. -Jen

I firmly believe that without SHIMMER the entire landscape of wrestling is different today. Without SHIMMER the discussion that maybe a 12,000 seat sellout should have been headlined by two women never happens. Sasha Banks doesn’t get to be someone mentioned as a possible WOTY. And few people did more for SHIMMER than Tomoka Nakagawa. To have her final matches be in SHIMMER, and to bring in legends like Kong and Kansai was a marker of SHIMMER’s place in the wrestling landscape. The match was wonderful, the kind where the crowd cheered for every kick out no matter who escaped, just so we could see the match go on and on. A stunningly emotional match, and a great chance to be proud of how far some things have come. -Sean Flynn

T-41

Euforia, Niebla Roja, Ultimo Guerrero vs. Mistico, Valiente, Volador Jr.
February 13
CMLL
22 overall points (1 First Place Vote)

The absolute best tag/trios match of 2015. Everything in this match was well done, far beyond the extent of even the good trios tags that pop up every now and then. Sky Team’s spots were excellent. Los Guerreros played off of them really well. The spots were great. The technical wrestling was great. The pacing was great. It was given time. An ideal trios match and a model. -ChampJulius

I was a huge fan of the way this match was laid out. I’d like to think this match was our reward for those of us who sit through so many generic CMLL Trios Titles matches that just stick to the same formula. They started with the usual matwork and had the rudos take over immediately afterwards as the crowd was getting restless. We got to see the star of the match – Ultimo Guerrero – bust out his old double submission combo which he hasn’t used in ages. Second fall had the rudos doing their usual beatdown spots including Niebla Roja’s assisted tornillo on the floor. This leads to the tecnico comeback and three awesome dives! Instead of the countout win we get Ultimo Guerrero eating the triple finisher combo of a superkick -> backcracker -> Valiente’s finisher for the tecnico win. Then comes the 3rd fall and this is where the match comes off the rails but in a fantastic way! Every twist & turn you’d expect from the usual match, they go the opposite way!

Ultimo Guerrero was clearly made into the monster of his team as twice they built to traditional finishes where he was left alone first with Valiente, then with Volador Jr., and both times he took their finishes only to survive. Instead of doing the usual stacked up superplex spot in every trios match they went to multiple submission spots with UG doing another great power spot trying to submit two guys, countering two guys trying to submit him & then the great spot where he & Volador ended up face-to-face when applying submissions and he got caught in an abdominal stretch. They teased legit finishes that have ended many matches before including the Guerrero Especial getting a 2 count/save along with Volador going for his Spanish Fly only for Euforia to counter and attempt his own submission finish only for Valiente to stop it. One of my favorite spots that defied all #CMLLogic was Guerrero/Euforia taking the same bumps they’ve taken a billion times to set up double dives from the tecnicos only for Niebla Roja to sneak in and stop it with a double clothesline. Such a simple spot that some may have not even noticed but I was marking out huge. They also reversed things in the 3rd fall with the tecnicos wiping out to the floor and eating combo dives from Euforia/Niebla Roja. Of course in between all the great twists & turns you had the usual expected craziness like Mistico getting LAUNCHED INTO THE AIR for a rana on the floor which is definite spot of the year material. Couldn’t put the finish over more with another little twist as Euforia caught Volador’s assisted rana and powerbombed him into the turnbuckle only for Mistico to hit a springboard rana, Euforia winds up outside – Volador slingshot headscissors, VALIENTE ESPECIAL, LA MISTICA~! WIN! Just a tremendous sequence to cap off a great match. -Rob Viper






 

40

AJ Styles vs. Jay Lethal
December 18
Ring of Honor
22 overall points (Highest Vote: 4th)

I really was struggling to pick out the best match from Ring of Honor this year. It’s not that they haven’t had great matches, because they have, it’s just that there have been so many great matches, but there really wasn’t a match that stood out from the pack. That was the case until Final Battle 2015 took place. I thought that Jay Lethal vs. AJ Styles was not only an incredible bout, but arguably the best match from ROH in 2015. Lethal has had a great 2015 in his own right, and I think this match and his victory was one of the defining moments of his year (aside from winning the title from Jay Briscoe). AJ Styles had a phenomenal outing (no pun intended) here as well, especially with all of the questions surrounding the status of his back. In hindsight, it was also a great conclusion to the two-year run Styles had with ROH. The match felt like a big Main Event, and it certainly delivered on ROH’s biggest show of the year. -Sean Sedor

I saw these two wrestle during their TNA run but this was something different. Both men have not only evolved as performers, but they’ve matured and are better than ever. In the opening video package to the show, they discussed the fact that AJ Styles is a pioneer for ROH, yet has never worn the top prize. Jay Lethal considers himself to be the best in the world, but his title run up to this point had been largely disappointing. They worked the kind of start I expected, feeling each other out. Lethal had to go out and talk strategy with Truth Martini, so when he went back in, the focus turned to AJ’s injured back. Not only was the attack smart, but the things done here worked so well. Lethal was so well prepared that he had a counter for nearly everything AJ did and still focused on the back. Hell, even when AJ nearly got the Styles Clash and looked to be rallying, Lethal launched him outside through a table. The Clash was very well protected too, as Lethal never got to kick out of it. Lethal needed two Lethal Injections and a Cradle Piledriver, complete with smack talk to Jerry Lynn on commentary, to finally keep Styles down after 22:12. Not only was the match itself fantastic, but Styles did what no other challenger in the Lethal World Title reign has done and that was lose cleanly. This marked a massive win for Lethal as he beat the top star on the indies, fair and square, sending him off into 2016 as absolutely the man to beat. When wrestling is kept simple and done right, it can be beautiful. -Kevin Pantoja

39

Io Shirai vs Meiko Satomura
December 23
Stardom
23 overall points (Highest Vote: 4th)

An absolute fantastic way to end the year and it cracks my top 10. You say you want a revolution? Watch this match. -Damon McDonald

This was an unreal match from start to finish. Satomura may have lost the match but she made sure that Shirai would never forget it as she was just drilling her with kicks the entire match. Shirai, as Ace, has a bit more Fighting Spirit than the average wrestler so is given a bit of leeway, she bounced back quickly but Satomura frequently cut her off anyway. It was just non-stop excitement, even the submissions that are sometimes rest holds here were cranked on so you never got the feeling they were just getting a breather. I wish it actually had gone a few more minutes, which is an odd complaint for a 25 minute match, but I was really enjoying it and didn’t want it to end. A masterful performance by both and one of the top Joshi matches of the year. A must see. -Kevin Wilson

38

HARASHIMA vs KUDO
May 31
DDT
25 overall points (1 First Place Vote)

37

Ethan Carter III vs. Rockstar Spud
January 31
TNA
28 overall points (HIghest Vote: 2nd)

EC3 is more or less putting in an alright performance against someone who is unwilling to let this match disappoint in front of his home country. Where EC3 delivers is in the post-match which is the ultimate cherry on top. SUMMATION: Long live Spud. -Sam DiMascio

I’ve noticed a theme with some of my match choices that they are matches that shouldn’t have been great, but turned out much better than anyone could imagine. This is the prime example of that.

The best way I could describe this match is “old school” from the stipulation, to the blood, to the interference, to the crowd working. This wasn’t a technical masterpiece, but it didn’t need to be. Just a good ol’ fashion brawl with terrific storytelling and character progression. From EC3 doing call back moves to opponents he had defeated in the past to Rockstar Spud showing that he has much more fight in him than anyone thought he had. In the end, Spud obviously loses but loses in a way that made him seem far more credible than he was before. If only the rest of the year for the company was as good as this match. -Reech Alan Theberge

36

Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor
July 4
WWE (NXT)
29 overall points (Highest Vote: 2nd)

The NXT title match delivered big. From the off this felt like a big event on the international stage. Balor came off as the triumphant returning hero, aided by Owen’s fantastic heel display. -Darren Broomfield

Everything worked together to make this a five star match: the feud, the build up, the place where it was set, and the wrestlers themselves. Kevin and Finn went all out as was befitting the occasion and it made for a memorable moment. -Jen

35

Chris Hero vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
June 26
Pro Wrestling Guerilla
30 overall points (1 First Place Vote)

Chris Hero’s ability to put together a match is unrivaled. That ability was on full display here but the incorporation of Hero’s finger injury added an element of reality and brutality that separated this match from other great Hero contests and from the rest of the year’s offerings. That layout, paired with Hero’s elite level selling, was able to help turn the generally more theatric ZSJ into a killer intent on harm. Clearly constructed by a man who knows his audience, the match never hit a sour note and crescendoed to the perfect climax. -Aaron Bentley

PWG has the best professional wrestling cards top to bottom in the world. They’re the opposite of WWE: the epitome of consistently great. There are no undercard bouts or talents booked by design to not steal focus from the main event. Making every match be great in its own unique way is how PWG doesn’t steal focus from its main events. Case in point: it was very difficult for me to pick between this match and the preceding Mike Bailey vs Roderick Strong match, as both of them had an incredible year. But there are variant sayings of “blood in wrestling equals money if used sparingly,” and this match proves it. Limb work is commonplace, but Sabre Jr’s brutal submissions and stomps upon Chris Hero’s bleeding and broken finger are unforgettable, as are Hero’s retaliations. I wouldn’t hesitate to list both of these guys among the best in the business, and their seemingly placement at #8 just shows how much great stuff was out there this year alone. Why even bother watching “okay” in this wrestling landscape? -Daryl Surat

34

Kazuchika Okada vs. Genichiro Tenryu
November 15
Tenryu Project
30 overall points (1 First Place Vote)

Tenryu has earned so much respect over the years that it was great to see him get the treatment he did in the event that was to be his final in-ring appearance. While he can barely move around at this point, for what it was, it checked every box I hoped it would. It was a great grumpy old man kicking the shit out of the upstart punk type of match, chopping away at Okada & getting love from the crowd at every move. While the night was obviously built around Tenryu, it still served to elevate that young whippersnapper into new heights, helping to silence any doubters that Okada is the future of New Japan, as well as one of the greats in wrestling today. Anyone who doubted Okada’s ability to take a beating were also silenced in this match. Tenryu constantly applied the pressure on him, Okada helped him look like a million bucks while basically carrying him due to his physical state, & even delivered a powerbomb to himself essentially. I popped so hard on that spot, even if it didn’t look perfect, the man powerbombed himself. The post-match love from all of the greats was such a touching moment, & it was a great way to end a glorious career. -skillcrane

Was it the most technically sound match or perfectly executed match? No, but the pageantry and the emotions involved in this match make it my #1. Tenryu was like Old Yeller, grasping his last taste of being an active wrestler. Okada’s role in this match was perfect as the jury and executioner, drop kicking the daylights out of him repeatedly before hitting that final Rainmaker that ended the career of a legend. My first criteria for MOTY is when I think of 2015, I will think of these 10 matches and this was #1 for that reason because when I think of 2015 in wrestling Tenryu vs Okada should be what everyone thinks of. -Danny Kuchler






 

33

Kairi Hojo vs Meiko Satomura
June 14
Stardom
32 overall points (Highest Vote: 2nd)

Kairi Hojo, her reign starting as the underdog champion and appearing on the cover of Weekly Pro Wrestling after her upset title win and finally giving some positive publicity for a company that was previously in it’s darkest hour, had her career performance here, arriving and solidifying herself as a truly outstanding talent. Satomura was already an outstanding talent, but more known to many fans as the spunky underdog herself in a legendary feud with Aja Kong nearly a decade and a half earlier. This time she found herself dealing out punishment to her young rival, and did she ever. I absolutely loved Satomura’s stiff offense, and Hojo I nearly loved just as much with her offense that was perfectly played with babyface fire and desperation, including one of my favorite “fighting spirit” spots in quite sometime that I won’t spoil, but it needs to be seen by everyone. If you’re iffy on Joshi this is the absolute perfect place to start (well watch their match from last year first since it leads well into this and shows the marked improvement from Hojo) and the great action as well as the great booking will have you rushing to see their rematch next month. As is though no women’s match of the year matched this for me in pure ringwork and I’m proud to have seen these two women ply their craft and rock the house this entire year, nothing topping this. And that’s a testament to this match. -Dylan Harris

My top Joshi match of the year. To call this hard hitting would be an understatement, everything they did was brutal. Even something simple like a kick breakout or a spear was made to look extra violent, there was no holding back here at all. The time went quickly for a 30 minute match as they did a good job mixing in strikes, submissions, and big moves to pop the crowd. I didn’t mind the slight overkill since it was a title match, overall it was just great stuff. -Kevin Wilson

32

Dragon Lee vs Kamaitachi
August 30
CMLL
32 overall points (Highest Vote: 4th)

This is a text field so I can’t just post the GIF of Kamaitachi falling down the stairs. You know what this match is? This is a match that showed how far these guys would go in general. They were at a high level at the mask match in March, and could’ve easily gotten strong reviews by just repeating that same match a few time over the rest of the year. Instead, this was the match where Kamaitachi fell down the stairs and eight other crazy spots happened, showing that these guys were going to try and top themselves every time. -thecubsfan

What else can be said about this incredible feud this past year? Dragon Lee and Kamaitachi had a series of matches that will go down as one of the best rivalries in the history of lucha, and this match was the peak point for me. These two went to so many callback spots, and tweaked their counter maneuvers to make it feel each guy knew the other so well. Just two incredible young performers (Dragon Lee at only 20 years of age!) that make you feel even more hopeful for the future of wrestling. -Lawrence O’Brien

31

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Michael Elgin
August 15
New Japan Pro Wrestling
32 overall points (Highest Vote: 4th)

I don’t think anyone loved this match as much as I did. Coming the night before the G1 finals it absolutely rocked Sumo Hall. These two wailed on each other. The sequences where they marched into each other’s elbow strikes gave me goosebumps. Elgin’s fighting spirit down the stretch, where he started no selling and kicking out of stiffer and stiffer spots was glorious. -Arnold Furious

If there was a single match that proved that Michael Elgin deserved to be included in the 2015 G1 Climax, it was this one. If there was one single match where Michael Elgin became a star in New Japan, it was this one as well. -Josh Katzker

30

AJ Styles vs. Kota Ibushi
April 5
New Japan Pro Wrestling
33 overall points (Highest Vote: 3rd)

Dear God was this thing ever fun. Ibushi bothers me at times, even in the G1 Day One match with Tanahashi, of selective selling. It’s a hurdle I’d like to see him clear, but his improvement was massive in 2015. Styles and Ibushi struck me, on paper, as a clear MOTY contender, and it delivered. It didn’t have all the hype of an Okada/Tana or the G1 Final, just as a few examples, but nobody in that building DIDN’T expect it to be great, and it was. But, on that show, at that time of year, it was a revelatory experience as a fan and as someone who worked in the industry for ten years. I adore both and the work was off the page. -Jason Martin

It cannot be said enough, but Kota Ibushi has an incredibly bright future ahead of him and 2015 was perhaps his breakthrough year. He works a style that logically should not work in a setting of NJPW heavyweight matches, yet he brings such a passion and intensity with him that I couldn’t imagine it any other way. He’s the perfect underdog that always feels like he’s just on the cusp of winning the big one, but that it just wasn’t time. That was this match in a nutshell. There was no way that Ibushi was winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship here. Yet. Yet. That’s a testament to the work from both men. -Dave Walsh

29

John Cena vs Cesaro
July 6
WWE
34 overall points (Highest Vote: 6th)

Many people would forget this match was so great so I urge you to re-watch and see how great it was. -Izzac Mackenroth

Cesaro had too good a year in the ring to be left off this list. The match wasn’t perfect, but the minor bumps in the road actually seemed to make it more realistic. This was the match in which Cesaro took the bull by the horns, and WWE could’ve capitalized it by vaulting Cesaro up the card as a legitimate contender. That didn’t happen. But it showed that not only could Cesaro go toe-to-toe with someone of Cena’s level, but he could get the crowd to invest in his matches, too, which is just as important of a skill in WWE. -Greg Parks

28

Roman Reigns vs Daniel Bryan
February 22
WWE
35 overall points (Highest Vote: 3rd)

A great match that may have been forgotten by some. I am really glad WWE hung in there with Reigns and this was a cornerstone of his body of work. -Dave Musgrave

I feel like this match is the most underrated from all of 2015. It did more to legitimize Roman Reigns as a main eventer than the ill conceived angle to end his Royal Rumble win. How? It’s simple, Daniel Bryan presented the sort of challenge that Reigns had not faced at that point in his career. Bryan was a better wrestler than Reigns and a proficient striker to boot. He had counters for each of Reigns signature moves: a kick to the kidney’s when the Empire went for his Superman punch and then a small package to counter the big man’s spear. To beat Bryan, Reigns had to expand his offense and he did so in the form of some brutal ground and pound. When Reigns hit his second spear of the match to finally earn the win he’d earned the right to main event Wrestlemania against Brock Lesnar by overcoming a challenging opponent. -Warren Taylor

27

Chris Hero vs Timothy Thatcher
March 28
WWNLive
36 overall points (1 First Place Vote)

As a fan who highly values crowd reactions when evaluating matches, a sub-par crowd can reduce a “great” match to merely a “very good” one. But, for whatever reason, the mat-based work of the likes of Busick, Thatcher, and Gulak is seemingly impervious to this effect for me as a viewer – and Chris Hero and Timothy Thatcher showcased this on WrestleMania weekend. The crowd was largely underwhelming throughout, but the work was so immaculate and technically sound, the story so believable, Thatcher and Hero so raw, that it didn’t matter if they only picked up for the superb closing stretch, Thatcher and Hero delivered a technical classic that was not only the best match of the weekend, but one of the best in a year stacked with great ones. -Ryan Clingman

I’ve lost count of how many times I watched this match. I enjoy it for a myriad of reasons and think it is easily the best match of 2015 for just as many reasons. It’s when one of my favorites, Timothy Thatcher, was elevated to the top of the independent scene. It was the end of an important series of matches for Chris Hero in his attempt to show he was still the man on the independent scene. It capped off the storyline of the year in pro wrestling, and sent the message that WWN, and EVOLVE Wrestling specifically, had become the indie promotion to watch. All of these things happen because Hero and Thatcher are unselfish workers who don’t care about ego. If Thatcher needs to take a beating from Hero to make sure his eventual comeback looks great that’s what he’ll do. If Hero needs to show ass on the mat to put over how elite Thatcher’s grappling is, then he will show ass. They both work the crowd into a frenzy, and never let hold of that grip. Dueling chants, shouts of surprise, and genuine engagement are the order of the day for the fans. That’s because they were treated to two of the best wrestlers on the planet at their very best putting it all on the line. A success for Gabe Sapolsky, Timothy Thatcher, and Chris Hero if ever there were one. But, a success for independent wrestling fans most of all, because the atmosphere of and skill in this match rivals any big time wrestling event of the year. -Bill Thompson

26

Minoru Suzuki vs. Takashi Sugiura
November 19
Pro Wrestling NOAH
36 overall points (Highest Vote: 4th)

This was a big match NOAH had been building to, and after hearing nothing but good thing and praise about it, I made the call to check it out. Duet the shenanigans of the Suzuki title defenses, we had special rules here; there is no time limit, no ring seconds allowed, there are extra officials at ringside (in case of ref bump break glass) and the match can end via pin, submission or KO. Basically they built to a match and due to the story, set the rules to play off of all of that, which I could appreciate. They set the stage well with the video packages, and the atmosphere was excellent here as I never felt like I popped in like I did, I felt like I was welcomed into the match. We had a slower and methodical beginning, basic stuff like chain wrestling and grappling. Things escalated and they worked into striking exchanges with vicious elbows and slapping exchanges that got more brutal as the match went on. They did these well, teasing that it could be a finish, which played off of the fact that the KO is a viable finish here. This was a match that felt like a fight, as both men had something to prove. The story was Suzuki having to prove that he could win on his own, without the help of his associates or shenanigans, while Sugiura was not just fighting for a title, he was fighting for all of NOAH. With all of this being the case, it broke down into an excellent display of violence, beautifully worked and delivered; making me wish I had more time for NOAH viewing. In the end, Suzuki retains and proved that he could win on his own, while denying NOAH’s salvation once again. This felt real in the way that you want big time matches to fell, and as the match went on I got more and more into it, and it never felt long. I have no clue who the savior for NOAH will be or if the payoff will work, but this was an awesome chapter in the story. -Larry Csonka

25

Tomoaki Honma vs. Tomohiro Ishii
November 7
New Japan Pro Wrestling
39 overall points (Highest Vote: 2nd)

I was initially unsure whether I preferred the New Beginning in Sendai clash between these two or this match more. Upon rewatching all of my choices, it was clear that Power Struggle was an amazing match between Ishii and Honma. For all of the slack that the NEVER Openweight championship tends to get, Ishii and Honma made it mean something with this match. Honma brought out some absolutely incredible moves, including a suicide kokeshi headbutt, but ultimately came up short in the end. As he tends to do in defeat, Honma looked incredible and Ishii showed his trademark resiliency. Even better, though, was the fact that it really, truly felt like Honma could have won at any given point in this match up.  -Al McMahon

The killed each other. Again. -Damon McDonald






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