2014 was an odd year for WWE. It went nothing like most people expected coming out of 2013. The year started off rocky with the departure of one of their most popular stars, CM Punk which led to a protest from fans when Batista won the Royal Rumble instead of Daniel Bryan.
With this horrible start to the year, WWE changed course and gave Daniel Bryan what he rightfully deserved, his moment in the main event of WrestleMania. From the night after WrestleMania forward, it felt as if WWE had turned over a new leaf and fully recovered from the loss of CM Punk. It looked like Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, Paige & Emma would be taking major roles on the roster alongside The Shield. However things would get turned upside down when Daniel Bryan suffered an unexpected career threatening neck injury and he was forced to surrender the WWE Title.
I guess the pressure of what to do after losing yet another top star due to injury caused WWE to totally lose focus on the stars they made at WrestleMania & the night after in the form of Cesaro & Paige as both wandered with little to no creative direction. Despite those two new stars beginning to flounder, The Shield stayed strong and arguably led the company through Bryan's injury as they main evented two PPV's thus being made into stars at the hands of Evolution.
Meanwhile, the guy that WWE can almost always count on, John Cena, took charge in the WWE Title picture only to be stopped by Brock Lesnar in August. Cena suffered two beatings like we've never seen him face before and soon after, the WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar rode off into the sunset, not to be seen again until December.
In the midst of this, each individual member of The Shield began branching out into their own. We saw Dean Ambrose become the lunatic fringe that all the fan's love while Roman Reigns earned his rep as the superman of the WWE despite suffering a groin injury that kept him out during the final few months of the year. As for Seth Rollins, 2014 was arguably his year moreso than Ambrose & Reigns as he became The Authority's protege, won the MITB briefcase, and ultimately defeated Dean Ambrose to end their feud. Rollins may have resorted to cheap and distasteful tactics, but they almost always led him to victory. Beyond that, Rollins delivered top notch performances throughout the year while Ambrose & Reigns had short periods of time off TV. Regardless of which member of The Shield succeeded most this year, the point is that they all came into their own in 2014.
All the names that I've mentioned thus far were the focal points of WWE this year although there are two men I feel compelled to recognize. These two guys delivered outstanding performances every night they stepped foot in the ring regardless of their placement on the card. They are two talents who came from very different backgrounds. One is a former amateur wrestler meanwhile the other came up through the Independent Scene. Many people have considered these two the most misused/underrated talents on the WWE roster for quite some time and while one saw more success this year than the other, they both deserved to be mentioned for the number of phenomenal matches they delivered to the WWE Universe this year.
These two men are what I like to consider the Work Horses of the Year - Dolph Ziggler and Cesaro.
Both men's roles reversed throughout the year as Cesaro was hot during the first half of the year while Ziggler became hot during the second half of the year. Regardless of where they were positioned on the card however, they always delivered unforgettable performances and the result was some of the best matches of the year. Cesaro's bouts with John Cena, Sami Zayn, & Sheamus were among the best this year while Ziggler's valiant efforts against then IC Champion Bad News Barrett and his jawdropping Ladder Match with Luke Harper won't be soon forgotten. Not to mention their individual awe inspiring performances in the form of Cesaro winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 30 and Ziggler outlasting everyone at Survivor Series. Dolph Ziggler and Cesaro were just as important to WWE this year as John Cena, Daniel Bryan, & The Shield whether they were intended to be or not.
So, as you can see, this year was a rollercoaster ride for WWE. It had many low points & discouraging moments however it had many high points as well. The intention of this article is to highlight all the unforgettable happenings of 2014 and to recognize the best of the best for their accomplishments.
Speaking of the best of the best, let's take a look at the Top 10 WWE Superstars of 2014!
Top 10 WWE Superstars of The Year
1) Brock Lesnar
I don't think anyone expected Brock Lesnar to have the year that he has had. It's arguably been the best year of any superstar in WWE history. His part-time schedule put somewhat of a damper on how impactful his run could have been, but despite that, no one came close to accomplishing everything he did this year. From decimating Big Show at Royal Rumble to breaking The Undertaker's Streak at WrestleMania to destroying John Cena on two separate occasions and becoming the WWE Champion - Brock Lesnar established himself as one of the best of all time in 2014. Lesnar's accolades prior to this year made him stand out however what he accomplished this year launched him into legendary status. It was hard for me to rank him as #1 because of his part time schedule however as I said before, no one did what he did this year despite him not being a full time performer. There's not really much left to be said besides this, can ANYONE stop Brock Lesnar in 2015?
Last year's ranking: N/R
2) John Cena
Whether you like John Cena or not, the truth is he's one of the best performers in the world and this year once again proved that. He not only had success by winning the WWE Championship in July, he also had multiple MOTY candidate bouts this year. From his PPV quality bout on Raw with Cesaro to his Last Man Standing Match with Bray Wyatt, Cena proved that he is still at the top of his game when it comes to his in-ring performance. Beyond the match quality, Cena's feud with Lesnar truly showcased how fantastic he is. He made Lesnar look like an absolute beast and delivered some of his best promos to date. Many people loved watching Cena take that beating, but what those bashers don't realize is that Cena did just as much to make that beating look/feel vicious as Lesnar did. Cena's year ended on a high note as he will be getting one more shot at Lesnar's WWE Title at the Royal Rumble. He's about to enter his monumental 10th year as the face of WWE and I expect him to continue to build his legacy in the coming year.
Last year's ranking: #2
3) Seth Rollins
Last year's ranking: #8
4) Dolph Ziggler
Last year's ranking: #6
5) Dean Ambrose
Last year's ranking: #9
6) Randy Orton
Last year's ranking: #4
7) Daniel Bryan
Last year's ranking: #1
Last year's ranking: #10
9) Roman Reigns
Last year's ranking: #7
10) Bray Wyatt
Last year's ranking: N/R
Top 10 WWE PPV Matches of The Year
This list was compiled by taking the best matches from WWE's PPV events & NXT's special live events, comparing them, and putting together a list of the elite bouts.
WWE offered it's fans some great PPV's this year. Some personal favorites include the Elimination Chamber where Big E & Jack Swagger had an underrated IC Title match while the two main events undoubtedly stole the show. WrestleMania 30 could have been renamed YESMania as the whole event was based around Daniel Bryan which was well deserved and he proved it by having the two matches of the night. Not to forget the unbelievable feat by Brock Lesnar of breaking the Undertaker's streak. And who could forget the Hell In A Cell and TLC PPV's where Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler, & Luke Harper to things to new extremes? Many top notch PPV matches took place this year which made it even harder to narrow this list down.
To make matters tougher, I decided to include NXT's Special Live events in this list as well because they were amazing and easily on the same level as WWE's PPV's when it comes to quality. Some even say that the NXT specials outshined WWE PPV's on many occassions and I can't say I blame them. The likes of Sami Zayn & Adrian Neville made NXT must see TV along with main roster stars like Cesaro who would make their presence felt in NXT as well.
So which matches made the cut? Let's find out!
1) The Shield vs The Wyatt Family - Elimination Chamber
2) Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Tyler Breeze - NXT Takeover: Fatal 4-Way
For fans like myself who do alot of research and keep up with Indy wrestling, this match being outstanding was a no brainer. Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville had been killing it on the Indies for years and Tyson Kidd was one of the most underrated talents on the roster (and still is). So the fact that those three alone were involved made me think this would be great. That leads me to the dark horse of the match, Tyler Breeze. While Zayn, Neville, & Kidd all impressed, I think Breeze made the most of an impression. Between this bout and his singles bout with Zayn, he truly made a name for himself. This match was one of the most entertaining of the year and out of all the epic matches on NXT, it just happened to be one step above the rest. Without a doubt the best fatal four way to happen in WWE in a long, long time.
3) Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn - NXT Takeover: R Evolution
As mentioned before, I've seen alot of Zayn and Neville's work together on the Indies so seeing them face off in the main event of a WWE event was special. That combined with the extremely well done build up to this match made for a bonafide classic. Zayn & Neville went back and forth in a match that ultimately led to the feel good moment everyone was hoping for as Sami Zayn became the NXT Champion. When Zayn, it was that same feeling that I got when Bryan won at WrestleMania. It was also in that moment that I realized that Zayn could very well be the next Indy guy to make it to the main event of WrestleMania because he's the perfect under dog. The amazing match and Zayn winning isn't the only thing fans will remember when they think about this match though. Afterwards, an old friend & rival made his presence felt as Kevin Owens (Kevin Steen) powerbomed Zayn on the apron thus making his debut evening an effective one. This was an all around phenomenal match. Action, story, drama - this one had it all.
4) Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H - Wrestlemania XXX
5) Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn - NXT arRIVAL
It seems we have a reoccuring trend on this list. Well, two reoccuring trends actually. The first being the fact that Sami Zayn was featured in three of the top five matches on this list and the second being Indy rivalries being reignited. The first was the Neville/Zayn saga from the latter part of the year and now we rewind to earlier in the year, February to be exact. In 2013, Cesaro and Zayn blew everyone away with their unbelievable 2/3 Falls Match which led to this epic rematch. Some say this was their best match out of all their encounters while others disagree. One thing everyone can agree on is that it was every bit as good as their previous bouts and it definitely lived up to the hype. Just like the earlier NXT match on this list between Zayn & Neville, we got another moment after this match that sent chills down my spine as Cesaro & Zayn embraced in the center of the ring. Amazing moment after the final bout in what I would consider a classic series of matches.
6) The Shield vs. Evolution - Extreme Rules
7) Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan - Royal Rumble
8) Luke Harper vs. Dolph Ziggler (Ladder Match) - TLCS
If someone asked me to define what it meant for a wrestler to give their all in a match, I'd say to watch this bout between Dolph Ziggler and Luke Harper. On second thought, I'm not sure if I would or not because these two simply set the bar too high. Ziggler is known for going out of his way to steal the show and he certainly did so on this night as he threw caution to the wind in this death defying Ladder match. Some of the things these two did absolutely blew my mind. This was without a doubt the best IC Title Match this year and one of the best of all time as well.
9) Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose (Hell In A Cell) - Hell In A Cell
10) The Usos vs. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan (2/3 Falls) - Battleground
Top 10 WWE TV Matches of The Year
After having a hard time creating a Top 10 TV matches of the year last year, I set out to keep up a list of the most outstanding bouts throughout the year. Considering that I like keeping tabs on things like this, it was fun and I'm pumped to release it for you all to see. This year I decided to expand it to a Top 15 list because there were more than 10 matches that took place on Raw & Smackdown that are worth going out of your way to see.
When reading through these you will notice why I chose Dolph Ziggler & Cesaro as the workhorses of the year in the first few paragraphs of this article. Both men are featured in six bouts a piece which means together they take up 3/4 of this list. It just goes to a show what kind of year they've had when it comes to match quality.
None the less, here's my list of the Top 15 Best Raw & Smackdown Matches of 2014 along with the rating I gave them:
1) Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins - Raw - August 18th, 2014 - ****1/2
This was the long awaited singles encounter between these two former members of The Shield since their first match at SummerSlam had the Lumberjack stipulation which technically wasn't a one on one bout. None the less, they got their chance to battle it out here with a Falls Count Anywhere stipulation and they certainly left fans with a match they will want to watch over & over again. From the unbelievable powerbomb off the top turnbuckle through chairs to the curb stomp into cinder blocks - this was utter insanity.
2) John Cena vs. Cesaro - Raw - February 10th, 2014 - ****1/4
John Cena has a reputation for having classics against former Independent stars and he damn near continued that trend here by delivering an AMAZING match with Cesaro. The most surprising thing about this bout was that it was their first ever meeting however things clicked from the opening bell and the result was the best TV match of the year. The most disappointing thing about Cesaro seemingly falling from the top is that we may never get to see a drawn out feud between the two. This match along with their match later in the year left me wanting to see more between the two. Highly recommend checking this one out if you haven't seen it.
3) The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family - Raw/Main Event - All Three Matches (March 3rd, April 8th, & May 5th) - ****1/4
The match these two trios had on PPV at Elimination Chamber ranked in as the #1 PPV Match of the Year earlier in this article which probably makes it no surprise to you that their rematches in Raw were just as awesome. The two stables battled it out on three separate occasions earlier in the year. Twice on Raw and once on Main Event. While it didn't have the big time feel of the first time encounter at Elimination Chamber, the action was certainly just as good. Both teams delivered in every area each time they faced off.
4) Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro vs. Tyson Kidd - Smackdown - November 14th - ****
On paper this was a dream match which is why when I read the spoilers for Smackdown on this particular week, I made it a point to tune in to see it for myself. I'm sure glad I did because this was a fantastic match and quite possibly the best triple threat in recent years. Ziggler & Cesaro continued their trend of having outstanding bouts while Tyson Kidd really made a name for himself here. It had been awhile since Kidd had a meaningful match on TV so he had alot to prove here. Needless to say, he showed everyone why he deserves a higher spot on the roster by putting his best effort forward and taking full advantage of this huge opportunity. This led him to eliminating Cesaro only to fall to Ziggler in the end. Speaking of Ziggler, he delivered another sensational performance in this match which only won himself over even more in the hearts of the WWE Universe. All around amazing match.
5) Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro - Smackdown -February 7th - ****
As mentioned before, Daniel Bryan may have missed a good part of the year, but he certainly left his mark during that period of time. This is one of the many forgotten TV gems that Bryan had in early 2014. Just days before the phenomenal Cesaro/Cena match would take place, Cesaro clashed with Daniel Bryan in a match that was almost as good as his bout with Cena. This wasn't quite on the level of Bryan and Cesaro's encounter during the summer of 2013 however it was certainly one worth going out of your way to see. The fantastic stuff you would expect from Bryan and Cesaro.
6) Sheamus vs. Christian - Raw - Memphis Street Fight - March 10th - ****
While many people damper on Sheamus' character, the truth is that he puts 100% in all of his matches. The intensity that Sheamus has in the ring is unparalleled and that was put on display here. Christian is a guy who is also vastly underrated and can have a good match with anybody so in reality, this was a recipe for success from the opening bell. Ironically enough, this match really caught me by surprise when it happened. Probably because we'd gotten so used to see these two face off that it didn't really stand out. Well, once it got going, it grasped my attention quite quickly. Some highlights here include a swinging DDT off the stage from Christian and Sheamus brogue kicking a drum into Christian's face.
7) Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro - Smackdown - October 24th, 2014 - ****
Here we have another match between Ziggler & Cesaro that took place on Smackdown in the fall. This was a pre-cursor to their 2/3 Falls Match and in my opinion, it outshined that bout. One thing that makes Ziggler's matches so great is that the crowd is so into him that every near fall feels like it means something. With that being said, we got many close falls here that will bring you onto the edge of your set. This was easily the best singles encounter between Ziggler & Cesaro in 2014.
8) Dean Ambrose vs. Cesaro - No DQ Match - Smackdown - July 25th - ****
Cesaro is back once again with a four star bout, this time against the lunatic fringe, Dean Ambrose. To my knowledge, these two never faced off on the Indies so I was really interested how this one would play out. The No DQ stipulation added even more intrigue and once the match got going, I was engrossed in it. I shouldn't have expected anything less considering both men had been throwing out MOTY candidates like crazy throughout the year. None the less, this was another outstanding TV match from both men that saw several unique spots with a pile of chairs in the ring.
9) Bad News Barrett vs. Dolph Ziggler - Raw - June 23rd - ***3/4
This list might as well be called "Dolph Ziggler & Cesaro's Greatest Hits" because as you can tell, it's hard to go one spot without one of the two being featured. This go round, Dolph Ziggler challenged Bad News Barrett for the IC Title on the June 24th edition of Raw. These two had a pretty good match several weeks before however I'm not sure anyone expected this one to be as good as it was. Ziggler was still in somewhat of a slump creatively at this point, but he never disappoints in the ring and that didn't change here. Great IC Title match in which Ziggler took one of the best bullhammer elbows I've ever seen.
10) The Usos vs. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan - Raw - July 7th - ***3/4
At this point in time, we had seen these two teams face off on multiple occasions. That made for their encounters becoming stale to some however once things got going, I think everyone who was uninterested in this match became interested. Both teams were hitting on all cylinders here and between the insane action & the hot crowd, this one was super fun to watch.
11) The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler - Raw - July 21st - ***3/4
This is a match that I think is underrated and forgotten by many people. Much like most Ziggler matches, the crowd was super into this one which made for alot of drama & close finishes. I remember watching this match and thinking "This is the best Miz match I've ever seen". Haha, it was that good. One thing that I can remember clearly is Miz locking Ziggler in the figure four and Dolph doing an extremely good job selling it only to get to the ropes. The audience was so on fire during his crawl toward the ropes, it felt epic. Miz & Ziggler squared off several times during the summer, but this was their first and by far, best encounter they had in my opinion.
12) Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton - Raw - No DQ Match - March 17th - ***3/4
Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton is a match that got beaten to shreds in the fall of 2013 so most people weren't at all interested in this. Despite that, Bryan & Orton can't help but have a great match and that was the case here. Something I've always found funny is that Bryan & Orton's best matches together have been on TV. Whether it's their encounters in December of 2013, February of this year, or this one, they're all quality bouts that are arguably better than their PPV meetings. Great No DQ match here.
13) Batista vs. Dolph Ziggler - Smackdown - No DQ Match - May 25th - ***3/4
WWE is including a match between Ziggler & Batista on the Best of Raw & Smackdown in 2014 DVD and while I'm glad one of their encounters is included, I'm baffled as to why it wasn't this one. Batista's return was really underrated in my opinon. It was a trainwreck in terms of success however it can't be viewed as a failure. Batista put over alot of new talent and gave many people a good rub, Ziggler being one of them. Sure, Dolph was already awesome before, but wrestling a superstar the caliber of Batista is big for anyone. Another very good No DQ match from this year.
14) Sheamus & Christian vs. Jack Swagger & Cesaro - Raw - February 10th - ***3/4
In my opinion, this bout was one of the best tag team matches of 2014. The Real Americans had a number of great matches during their run and this one in particular is my favorite. The odd team of Sheamus & Christian actually gelled quite well here which made for a pretty exciting match up. This match also saw the first meeting between Sheamus & Cesaro which was awesome in itself as both men traded vicious uppercuts in the center of the ring. Really good tag match here that I definitely want to take a second look at when I get the chance.
15) Sheamus vs. Christian vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio - Raw - March 24th - ***1/2
I think it's safe to say that this match could have been billed as the showcase of the most underrated workers in WWE. With that being said, this was another one of those matches that caught me by surprise. It was around this time in the year that I really began to appreciate the work of Sheamus & Del Rio and these definitely played a part in it. This isn't a classic fatal four way like the one at NXT Takeover later in the year, but it's a really good match that showcases four of the hardest workers in WWE at the time. Fun stuff!
WWE MVP of 2014: Triple H
In an age of anti-hero heels, Triple H garnered true heat and hatred for his treatment of Daniel Bryan, even from the most smarky fans. While Raw & Smackdown had many ups & down, Triple H led NXT to a year filled with consistent quality performances and many classic matches. This year was quite possibly one of the best years of his career. He was the focal point of nearly every major storyline and I'm glad he was because it wouldn't have been the same without him. For all these reasons, the Pro Wrestling Truth WWE MVP of 2014 is Triple H.