Hey guys, Psyniac here and welcome to The Steel Cage Standings! PSYCHE. God, the WWE has been terrible recently, right? For the first time since I started watching WWE again in March of 2012, I am dangerously close to dropping off and taking an extended break. I don’t even want to write about the current product. So instead of adding to this dirge I’m currently writing let’s look on the bright side. It’s been a year since I started writing Standings for the site so we’re going to do a year in review. It’s a month before the end of the year but sod you, you think I can come up with ten workers that have been booked well this month?
10. Interrupting R-Truth
Let’s start silly, especially since this is in the interest of saying “not everything sucks all the time”. Shockingly, WWE haven’t milked this to death since I believe this week’s Smackdown was only the third instance where R-Truth just made the assumption he was part of a fustercluck. But let’s go back to the first. On the go-home show for Raw before Money in the Bank this year, Truth decided since everyone else was making their claim he too would put himself over about his participation at the event. Except he wasn’t scheduled to be a part of the event. In a startlingly smart tongue-in-cheek mockery of himself and the company, R-Truth delivered a moment so organically funny that Ziggler and Reigns, who were in the ring at the time, couldn’t help but crack up on live TV. The fact he played it off, when told he wasn’t in the Money in the Bank match, with such a genuine look of guilt was the cherry on the top: “that’s on me. My bad”.
09. Itami VS Goliath
Prior to Wrestlemania 31, NXT hosted an Axxess tournament that granted one superstar entrance to the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royale at the biggest event of the year. Itami beat Neville and Bálor, both favourites to win, on his way there in a somewhat Daniel Bryan fashion as he found himself humbly standing in the ring at ‘Mania against the Big Show. Watching Itami’s journey into NXT and then to the Grandest Stage of Them All in the WWE Network documentary was one of those “this is why I love wrestling” moments and, hopefully, we’ll be looking back on it ten years as an important moment in Hideo’s career.
08. Dolph Defeats The Authority
This time last year we were all feverishly discussing the momentum Dolph Ziggler had just received. Coming from the dirge of the mid-card and catapulted into importance by being the sole survivor at Survivor Series 2014; it seemed as though Dolph was finally getting the attention he deserved. Sure, he was assisted by Sting and Cena was taken out of his own team so that he could feud with the Big Show, of all people, but taking The Authority out of power (for less than a month, it would turn out) was a step into superstardom. If only they had bothered to add fuel to the fire. Sadly, they did not because it was never meant to be Dolph but rather an injured Roman Reigns… of course. Still, it remains a very cool moment immortalised on the WWE Network.
07. Kevin Owens Outta Nowhere!
The John Cena Open US Challenge was a thing of beauty. It made guys on the main roster look great and introduced the general crowd to a couple of NXT hopefuls. The first was Sami Zayn, which was a great surprise and an incredible match. We were all positively buzzing for the week following. So how exactly they managed to top it with a second unexpected appearance is beyond me. Kevin Owens, NXT champion at the time, made his debut by taking out Cena, disrespecting the US title and then following that up with a clean victory over Big Match John. Sure, some people were unhappy with how the feud went but having one victory over Cena is still a big deal. And it’s not like he didn’t follow this with gaining the Intercontinental Champion and being one of the better characters on WWE TV. Owens has had a good year and the future is bright.
06. Surprise! It’s the Dudley Boyz!
Surprises are cool, aren’t they? First of all, Bubba Ray Dudley made an appearance at the Royal Rumble which was pretty shocking to all and got the rumour mill turning about he and his brother reuniting in the WWE. Enough time passed though that people started to relax and forget all about it, focusing on the then-Tag Team Champions The New Day instead. On the August 24th episode of Raw, however, bombs dropped and the Dudleyz appeared. They were the perfect foil for Kofi, Xavier and Big E at the time when the tag division had not a single strong face to it’s name (still quite accurate, but ssh) and the five of them put on a few pretty interesting displays.
05. The Diva’s Division
It’s been one hell of a journey but at the very least it’s given us something to talk about for the last five months. We were all waiting with baited breath on the Raw debut of Charlotte Flair for quite some time but the way to truly shake up the division was to throw not only her but Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch in all at once. Sure, the arbitrary teams they were cobbled into were totally stupid and a waste of several months but gladly we’re on our way out of the storm with some singles feuds emerging and Sasha having some of the crowd and, it seems, writing team behind her. But at the very least, we’re talking about the female superstars which makes a nice change.
04. John Cena; Revitalised
Speaking of having something to say about a character, John Cena’s career can largely be summed up as “mehhhhhhhh”. But in 2015, after capturing the United States championship from the Bulgarian/Russian Brute Rusev, John Cena went on a mission to make the title mean something again. The best part of Raw for several months was Cena’s Open Challenge for the belt, wherein he put over unlikely stars such as Stardust and Neville and had four-star matches with some of the company’s best talent with Cesaro and Zayn. The spring-board stunner was a topic of controversy, but at least Cena looked as though he was trying to freshen things up and was putting in some actual effort rather than “mehhhhhhhh”.
03. Seth Rollins Cashes In
“Save us, Seth Kenobi. You’re our only hope.” The words I wrote going into Wrestlemania 31. It’s not that we hated Roman Reigns, he just wasn’t the guy most ready for that position and it seemed forced (sounds all too familiar). The thought of him beating Brock, the man who beat the streak, let us not forget, was a sad possibility that boiled many gallons of smarky blood. Gladly, WWE made the right decision on the night to have Reigns look capable but ultimately be denied his chance by an interfering Seth Rollins who turned the match into a triple threat with his Money in the Bank contract and came out of Wrestlemania spinning the World Heavyweight Title above his head. Brock was never pinned, Reigns took it to him as much as he could and Seth had an awesome ‘Mania moment.
02. Brock Lesnar
Staying with that thought for a moment, Brock had a great 2014. He kicked it off with a surprise victory over The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX then snatched the World Heavyweight Title from a lifeless John Cena. He may have been missing a bit too often for some people’s liking but no one could deny he was a total badass of a champion. With the right booking, they managed to move the title off him without damaging his reputation. Plus, he came away with the quote of the
day week month year? “suplex city, bitch”. Later on that year he engaged in a rather strange feud with The Undertaker but one that wrapped up nicely. ‘Taker tried everything under the sun to get the upper hand but try as he might he couldn’t best an F5 to the exposed mat after a hellacious battle inside Hell in a Cell.
01. Unicorn Magic!
Over a year ago, The New Day debuted as one of the worst, most confusing non-gimmicks of the decade. Kofi, Big E and Xavier were a team of happy-go-lucky faces as bland as bland gets. Fast forward to today and it’s night and a New Day. Without a doubt, these three guys have been the most entertaining part of Raw week-in and week-out since they were given one chance to take the reigns and do what they wanted to do. Obviously, that first time worked out because they’ve just had more and more freedom and gotten better every time we see them.
Playing characters that are basically themselves turned up to one thousand, typically the best approach, and appealing to the nerdy sensibilities of the fans, the New Day have all but struggled to stay heel but gladly the WWE have remained stead-fast and kept them this way rather than sending them back to Blandsville. Now aligned alongside The League of Nations, the New Day should keep generating heat despite being able to go out there an entertain in ways only they know how: be it ridiculous quotes, sublime references or God damn trombones. All hail the New Day.
Thank the LORD, that the creative team at WWE towers have decided that the whole Mexamerica gimmick makes absolutely no sense. Thank the LORD, that’s it gone. Is Del Rio racist? Is Swagger racist? Are we racist? Who can tell. Who can care. Poor Del Rio. Be gone, you terrible character.
02. The Wyatt Family
If WWE think I care about The Wyatt Family VS ECW Legends then they are sorely mistaken. Will I watch it? Sure. Will I enjoy the matches? Likely. Is anything at stake? Laughable. The Wyatt Family haven’t really achieved anything all year. Bray Wyatt wrongfully lost at Wrestlemania XXX to an old man who had been beaten to a pulp the year previously. He reformed with his brothers in the Summer to target Reigns which resulted in some nonsense about he and Ambrose and didn’t really go anywhere fast. Going into Survivor Series, the Wyatt Family (and new member Strowman) picked on Undertaker and Kane, stole their powers and then were handily defeated on Raw and at the PPV in a regular tag match in less than ten minutes and I’M GETTING ANGRY WRITING THIS.
01. Roman Reigns
Roman. Reigns the. Guy with. The worst booking. Or something. It’s cool to hate on Roman right now, which isn’t really fair. He’s a decent worker with a good look. Is he ready or right for the position of the top babyface? Not remotely. Ignore the idea that we even need a “the guy” but the crowd reaction should have said it all about Reigns. Apparently it didn’t and now WWE have to question what’s happening when the ratings drop to the lowest figures in nearly two decades. No matter what WWE have fed to the Reigns hype machine (Royal Rumble victory and most eliminations, Survivor Series most eliminations, the “respect” of characters like Bryan, barely having lost at all, let alone clean), we just aren’t buying in and this isn’t helped when they keep throwing him out with a live microphone telling him to do a terrible impersonation of The Rock. Or when they have him do things that make no sense like take the title off Sheamus and walk away. Or when they have him beat the League of Nations in a handicap on Smackdown this week. Or…
03. Jason Jordan & Chad Gable
One thing that I love about NXT is that typically everything means something rather than things happening for no reason. Back in February, Jason Jordan and his then-tag partner Tye Dillinger split up, coaxing Chad Gable to continually approach him with the idea of forming a new team. After spurring his advances multiple times, Jordan finally gave in and gave Gable a shot and thus began a string of victories. Outside of kayfabe, the chemistry between the two is remarkable. Jordan had basically everything he needed to succeed apart from an ounce of charisma. Gladly, Gable was overflowing with it from the moment he stepped on TV and it’s certainly rubbed off on his new buddy and propelled them into the stratosphere.
02. Sami Zayn’s Dream Fulfilled
Sami Zayn is often referred to as “the Daniel Bryan of NXT” and it’s hard not to argue with that. Sure, he’s an “indy darling” but it’s much more than that: they both have a way of making stories all that more important to you, as the viewer, and making the pay-off that much bigger. The ever-likeable Zayn, after months of chasing, finally captured the NXT title almost exactly a year ago at NXT TakeOver R-Evolution. His final match with Neville had all the hallmarks of a great bout and the ending was something for the history books. Even more true of that was what happened next, with Owens ripping the belt from him as we watched the two indy wrestling friends collide on WWE television. Sadly, Zayn has been out for most of the year but it doesn’t mean that his golden moment wasn’t incredible.
01. The Greatest Women’s Match(es) of All Time
Take your pick, there was two within the space of three months on NXT and you all know who I’m talking about. Whilst the first Bayley/Sasha Banks match was a fantastic delivery of an age-old classic story of underdog beating cocky badass to realise her dream, I’m partial to the follow-up Iron Women’s bout; Banks making children cry, Bayley pulling out all the stops to keep what she worked so hard for and the historical importance of these two women main-eventing a show and doing it in a stipulation that has never been considered for another pair of female athletes.
Whatever your choice however, it’s fair to say that these two matches blew the absolute roof off the Earth. Chances are one of these is your favourite women’s match of all time. The clashing of such well-built characters in a well-told storyline with well-constructed spots made the years of shaking our heads at women being used exclusively as eye-candy melt away for just fifteen minutes. Instead, they were presented as legitimate competitors who cared about putting on the best show they could imagine. And that they did.