Where would WWE be in December 2015 without Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E, aka the New Day? For months, they’ve leaned on the terrific trio to monopolize the tag-team belts (under the fabled “Freebird Rule,” naturally), anchor opening segments and main events, bridge the two halves of Raw and SmackDown with comedy bits and become the de facto shills for their online merch shop.
What choice do they have? The two-time tag champs have transformed from preachy dreck to a source of constant entertainment as duplicitous positive-energy evangelists. And in the process, they’ve emerged as the lone entertaining constant throughout the bulk of a brutal year, dating back to their early spring teases of turning heel. Since that time, Woods, E and Kingston have given us sore-winner trombone serenades, unicorn headgear, playground antagonism and more good gyrations than we can handle.
And by all accounts, it has been a reinvention entirely of their own design – how’s that for grabbing the brass ring? – and it’s a credit to the trio’s creativity that the shtick has yet to get stale. New Day are the rare group capable of walking that fine line between dirty tricks and roguish charm with remarkable confidence, the antithesis of League of Nations’ compressed “better than the sum of their parts” flop sweat. They’ve earned inheritance of the aforementioned Freebird exception, though they could easily outgrow their division and compete among the class of stables.
Though the finest point one can make about New Day’s year is how hard-pressed anyone would be to hyperbolize a moment of the collective’s in-ring action since breaking bad. Kofi the human highlight reel has spent half his time acting the fool, and the other half tacking on a superfluous coup de grace to the finishing move formerly known as E’s Big Ending. Woods has been a glorified ringside manager/carnival barker, while Big E’s signature is his thrusting hips and myriad ways for mining the already richly plied put-down, “booty” (bootyade!). Yes, all three are uniquely capable between the ropes, but I’m sure dwindling audiences would agree: Who needs sports when you have entertainment? (And all due respect to the Usos, who were the right team at the right time, but who’s felt more naturally married to those belts since Raw went three hours than this trifecta of goofballs?)
And while WWE’s tag team ranks aren’t exactly robust, New Day have done admirable work with the Prime Time Players, Dudley Boyz and the like, and after last night’s show-stealing turn at TLC, they made it clear the future of the division is bright. No one’s souring on New Day’s gimmick anytime soon, whether they’re watching at home or from an executive suite. Likewise, no one’s rooting to hasten its unraveling – a fate that befell the Shield and so many previous three-man factions. The democratic unit’s strongest asset may in fact be its lack of a clear alpha, with their mixed results as solo acts tacitly endorsing a lengthy run as the WWE’s imps du jour.
New Day aren’t for the purists, nor did they single-handedly carry so many crucial televised stretches a la the regrettably ailing Seth Rollins, or benefit from the instant buzz Kevin Owens seized after being fed John Cena in his main-roster debut. Hell, not a one of them left us in awe with their sheer physical ability like the also-sidelined Cesaro. But what New Day’s three talents accomplished together in 2015 represented – appropriately enough – a hat-trick of pro-wrestling awesomeness: pulling themselves out from creative quicksand, standing alone as the elite among their peers and daring us not to tune in no matter what the win-loss implications. Congrats, guys. It’s been booty-ful watching you work.
The Best (and Worst) of the Rest:
- Runner-Up Wrestler of the Year: Seth Rollins
- Rookie of the Year: Kevin Owens
- Rookie of the Meh: Braun Strowman
- Diva of the Year: Nikki Bella
- Future Diva of the Year: Sasha Banks
- NXT Star of the Year: Finn Bálor
- Best Heel: Kevin Owens
- Worst Heel: Whoever came up with the term “Divas Revolution”
- WWE Match of the Year: Kevin Owens vs. John Cena, Money in the Bank
- NXT Match of the Year: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, TakeOver: Brooklyn
- Title Feud of the Year, WWE: John Cena vs. Everybody, U.S. Open Challenge
- Title Feud of the Year, NXT: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, Women’s Championship
- Lame Duck of the Year: Sheamus
- Most Painful Injury of the Year: Pick ’em – Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Cesaro
- Comeback of the Year: Um, New Day?
- Least Compelling Comeback of the Year: Zeb Colter
- Least Game-Changing Regular-Roster Return: Pick ’em – Dudley Boyz, Alberto Del Rio
- Most Underappreciated Performer: Kane
- Best Storyline: Kevin Owens vs. John Cena
- Worst Storyline: Dolph Ziggler/Lana vs. Rusev/Summer Rae
- Best Special Effects: Stardust (what, you thought we’d say Bray Wyatt?)