DaWrestlingSite Top 10 Stuff for 2014
It’s hard to believe that 2014 has come and gone. There’s few things in life I enjoy more than lists and awards, so here we go.
The Shut Up and Enjoy the Show Award: Fans who chant “CM Punk” during AJ Lee segments.
Now that CM Punk has signed with UFC, wrestling fans seem to have lost interest in chanting for him during WWE live events, so this covers January through November. While it was fun at first, the chanting overstayed it’s welcome heading into the fall. It’s one thing to chant for Punk in place of “boring” chants, but it’s another to hijack AJ’s segments. I’m sure AJ really enjoyed going backstage after her matches and having to deal with Triple H, Stephanie, and company after getting Punk chants. Also, it was just disrespectful. AJ is a talented, serious performer and I wanted to be able to enjoy her performances without being reminded that she’s married to an internet darling. If Punk’s alleged fans really wanted to support Punk, they’d have been better suited to chanting “AJ Lee” instead, or just shut up already.
The Zack Ryder Award for Biggest Fall from Grace: Curtis Axel
I’ll admit, it wasn’t THAT much of a fall. In 2013, Michael McGillicutty found a new lease on life as the most recent Paul Heyman Guy, and with a much needed rebranding as Curtis Axel. He quickly got a bunch of flukey wins over Triple H and was crowned Intercontinental Champion. Axel got to feud with top star CM Punk on behalf of Heyman. Then he lost the IC title to Big E and has been on a downward trajectory ever since, spinning his wheels in a go-nowhere tag team with Ryback and even getting removed from television for a stretch. Axel has always seemed to have all the tools needed to become a player in WWE, but just cannot seem to find the correct casting and sustained push to get him there. Axel will be putting in some time on the NXT brand in 2015, so hopefully he’ll follow in Tyson Kidd’s footsteps and reestablish himself on the Cool Show.
Get Over Yourselves, It’s Only an Angle: Brock Lesnar: part time champion.
I’m referring to online sentiments towards Brock being the guaranteed lock to win the title over the summer, as had I known how Lesnar’s reign would play out, I probably would have joined the complaining. I distinctly recall listening to the Place To Be podcast, and one or two of the hosts were OUTRAGED that a part-timer was going to become WWE Champion and were going on about how disrespectful it was to the full-time boys and how it was a disgrace to the belt itself. Well, in the abstract, I don’t see how Lesnar winning the title was a negative if it lead to increased business, elevated some challengers, elevated the brand, and made a big star out of whoever eventually beat him. Of course, I was also assuming that WWE was going to pony up the money to have Lesnar on more than one fall pay-per-view and not spend months pretending that Lesnar and the title didn’t exist. I suppose the bottom line is that some folks on the internet are WWE devotees to the point where they treat it like a religion, and that doesn’t sit well with me. It’s just a show with a bunch of angles, and lately it’s been a bad show with a bunch of bad angles, so let’s relax.
Biggest Hypocrite of 2014: WWE
I have a feeling that for as long as I do this award (courtesy of Mr. Scrooge McSuck) WWE will have a lock on it most years. WWE earned this prize by their collective attitude regarding one Daniel Bryan. Yes, they did the right thing, and put Bryan in the Wrestlemania main event, but it was clear that they didn’t really have any strong follow-up plans (Extreme Rules main event against Kane). Honestly though, have you ever seen a wrestling company get so upset that someone on their roster got hugely over and then try to pass it off as a fluke or mirage? The mindset was that the YES! chant was over, not Bryan himself. If that’s how they really feel, I guess I can disagree, but it doesn’t matter. That was, until they sent Big Show out in a dark segment on Smackdown and got the arena full of fans to do the YES chant with him so they could film a “video get well card” for Bryan. Then they did some fancy editing and used the footage to make it look like the fans were YESSING about to Vince McMahon announcing that the Network would be free for the month of November and doing his own half-assed YES gestures. So yeah, proof that someone in WWE knows that the YES chant doesn’t mean much without Bryan and using it for their own gains. Just love this freaking company.
Also, WWE wins for banning CM Punk merchandise at live events. Unless, I’m mistaken, Punk merch was still available on their online store until a few weeks ago. In the grand scheme of things, I guess this isn’t that big of a deal, but if I’m on the fence about going to the next WWE live event in Manchester or Boston, this might sway me to stay home.
Worst Match of 2014: Charlotte vs. Natalya on Raw.
This took place on the Raw before NXT: R-Evolution. I was pretty stoked, because before NXT Fatal 4-way in September, the top NXT stars got to have a fine tag team exhibition match that allowed them to look good. I was expecting a good showing for Charlotte here, seeing as she was co-headling the Network special with a big title defense. Instead, they got a whopping 2 and a half minutes, Natalya went over with little fanfare, and Charlotte wasn’t allowed to bust out any of the cool moves she’s allowed to do on NXT. It must have left non-NXT fans scratching their heads about why they should care about NXT in the first place. This match just illustrates the disconnect between the detail oriented booking of NXT and the last minute, thoughtless booking that’s thrown out on Raw every week.
Worst Storyline of 2014: Adam Rose turns on the Bunny something like 36 times.
I’m not sure this can even be considered an angle. It felt like the first chapter in a storyline that happened to get retold every show.
Chapter One: Adam Rose loses a match because the Bunny in his entourage distracted him, so he beats up the Bunny. Chapter Two: Adam Rose loses another match because the Bunny in his entourage distracted him, so he beats up the Bunny.
Chapter Three: Adam Rose loses another match, and I give up, you see where this is going.
The thing was, the Bunny was always right back with Rose and company like the beating from the previous show never happened. I THINK it’s finally over, now that Kane has squashed Rose like a bug and murdered the Bunny a few times, but they’ve got six hours of TV to fill every week, so who knows.
Worst Diva of 2014: Cameron
I almost feel bad picking on her, but she’s been there for ages, doesn’t seem to have a clue about anything in the ring (including the basics, like going for covers on divas laying on their stomachs), and has exposed herself for being a complete bimbo on Total Divas (gotta love Daniel Bryan making fun of her to her face in regards to her “budding” music career). I was tempted to go with Rosa Mendes or Eva Marie, but they were MIA most of the time. What puts Cameron over the top for me might be her continued efforts to get “Girl-bye” over as a catchphrase. Next time WWE does budget cuts, it might be a good idea to cut their losses here.
Worst Tag Team of 2014: Adam Rose and the Bunny
I almost went with Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady for the second straight year, but they’ve been amusing me lately, so Rose and Bunny get another prize.
Worst WWE Wrestler of 2014: Sylvester Lefort
This was a hard category for me, as there aren’t really any bad wrestlers on the main roster these days, and I feel bad for picking on green NXT rookies who are still getting their feet wet. Lefort should be exclusively a manager, as his in-ring skills continue to be basic, create-a-wrestler level stuff.
Worst Pay-per-view of 2014: Battleground
This was a flat, skippable July pay-per-view at a time when WWE could not afford to have one, with their struggles to get new Network subscribers and keep them on board. The most appealing match on the card (Rollins vs. Ambrose) didn’t happen, the second most interesting match (Jericho vs. Wyatt) was a severe disappointment, and the fatal 4-way main event had a foregone conclusion (Cena wins, LOL) and lacked drama. Another good Usos match couldn’t save this one. For the second year in a row, Battleground was at the bottom of WWE’s pay-per-view offerings.
Best Diva of 2014: Charlotte
This was another tough call. I wanted to pick AJ, but she missed significant time and hasn’t been well booked for most of the year. I also wanted to pick Paige, but her main roster tenure has taken away everything that was great about her in NXT. That leaves us with Charlotte, the dominating NXT Women’s Champion, who has busted out multiple great matches against experienced workers (Natalya) and fellow NXT divas (Bayley, Sasha Banks). Her botched Raw appearance is making me cringe about the thought of her leaving for the main roster permanently, but Charlotte had a great coming out party of a year in 2014.
Best Tag Team of 2014: The Usos
These guys have been a stable force in the tag team ranks, having good to great matches consistently. Whenever I hear that the Usos have a pay-per-view slot, I know that the show will have at least one good match. They stole the show several times in their feud with the Wyatt Family, and elevated themselves and the tag titles in the process.
Best WWE Wrestler of 2014: Sami Zayn
I debated with myself over whether or not it was right to pick an NXT star for this award, but ultimately, I found it impossible to pick anyone from the main roster. Daniel Bryan missed half the year on the shelf. John Cena didn’t have an overly inspiring year creatively. Brock Lesnar is hardly around. I would have picked Seth Rollins if I didn’t allow myself the luxury of looking at NXT, as he’s been consistently great all year and is now positioned as a future top star. But Sami Zayn was the wrestler I consistently enjoyed the most throughout 2014. I got behind Zayn when he was looking for respect from Cesaro. I cared about his title hunt, including great performances against Tyson Kidd, Tyler Breeze, freaking Titus O’Neil, and against NXT Champion Adrian Neville. And then R-Evolution happened, and Sami had the match of his life with Neville and finally won the title, culminating his entire WWE career to that point. I truly hope Vince, HHH, and WWE creative know what they have in Zayn, and give him every opportunity to succeed on the main roster in 2015.
And now, SamoaRowe’s Top 10 Matches of 2014.
Disclaimer, this list is WWE-only, because I didn’t watch enough of any other company. I could throw in some NJPW matches I saw, but I couldn’t safely say those matches best represent the year New Japan had. I’ve also seen some Lucha Underground matches that would fit in on this list, but I suppose WWE was the brand I cared the most about, so they edge out the competition.
10. Charlotte vs. Natalya (NXT Takeover) ****
I believe this is the first time I’ve ever picked a women’s match for the year-end top 10, and it’s also amusing to me that a match with the same participants got chosen for my worst match of the year. But on this spring evening in Orlando, Charlotte and Natalya surprised the hell out of me with this athletic, technically sound, and emotional title match. It was the finals of the NXT Women’s Championship tournament, so both divas had high levels of credibility going into it. Natalya had Uncle Bret in her corner, and Charlotte was accompanied by Father Ric. After almost 17 minutes of back and forth action, Charlotte put Natalya away with the Natural Selection and became the new champion. The display of respect afterwards between both women, as well as their legendary seconds, helped this stand out in my mind all these months later. Furthermore, I’m so very impressed with the development of Charlotte. In 2013, I made comments about her matches being “pretty good” for someone as inexperienced as she was, but in 2014 she blossomed into a bonafide star in the making. I just hope WWE’s main roster booking doesn’t get in her way next year.
9. Adrian Neville vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Tyler Breeze vs. Sami Zayn (NXT Takeover: Fatal 4-Way) ****
This match is a perfect example of the right way to do a 4-way main event. You spend the weeks leading into the match making sure that all four participants look credible and you create a scenario where any of the four guys are believable winners. Let’s compare that to the Battleground main event, where Cena had to defend against Kane, Orton, and Roman Reigns, and was already heavily rumored to be defending against Brock Lesnar at Summerslam. Battleground felt like filler, NXT Takeover: Fatal 4-way felt like an important chapter in a bigger story. The match featured crazy action from bell to bell, but told a story rather than just be a bunch of moves strung together. It was also the first time that Adrian Neville took a short cut to retain his title, when he pulled the referee from the ring to prevent a Sami Zayn pinfall.
8. The Shield vs. Evolution (WWE Payback) ****
This was the culmination of the Shield vs. Evolution feud, and looks like it may go down as being the final match for both factions. After they stole the show at Extreme Rules (in a match that juuuuust missed inclusion on this list) the expectations for this rematch were high. I don’t think anyone expected that the Shield would end up sweeping Evolution in this eliminations match. This gave a major dose of credibility to Ambrose, Reigns, and Rollins, just in time for the major angle the next night on Raw when Rollins turned on the team. The Shield and Evolution both went out with a bang.
7. The Money in the Bank Ladder Match (WWE Money in the Bank) ****
The participants included newly hated rivals Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, as well as an appealing field including Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, Rob Van Dam, and Jack Swagger. The fresh hatred between Ambrose and Rollins really carried the match, as Ambrose made it his mission to hurt Rollins as badly as possible. Meanwhile, everyone got a chance to tease a victory, with the live crowd really popping at near wins for Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler. Ambrose was in position to win the briefcase, but Kane ended up helping Rollins emerge victorious after a stunt show worthy of the great MITB classics.
6. Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan (WWE Wrestlemania XXX) ****
I almost can’t believe that Daniel Bryan won the WWE Championship in the main event of Wrestlemania and it’s NOT my MOTY. That’s not to say that this wasn’t a very good match, four stars is nothing to sneeze at, but by the time the match begun the result was such a foregone conclusion that I sort of just sat back and enjoyed it, and wasn’t really concerned that Bryan wasn’t going to win. Batista seemed out of place performing in a Wrestlemania main event in 2014, and Randy Orton was his consistently solid self, and Bryan ended up working well with both of them. There was a gasp-worthy spot on the announce table when Orton ended up taking a horrible landing on a monitor during an RKO spot. I suppose the reason this isn’t higher than four stars is because I have too much to nitpick, like how it didn’t seem right that Bryan won by submitting Batista, and not long-time arch enemy, Orton. Still, Bryan winning the title and leading 75,000 fans in the most epic YES chant of all time was an incredible moment that I won’t soon forget.
5. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (WWE Wrestlemania XXX) ****¼
Unlike the triple threat match that main evented, I was very stressed out watching this one live. Was Triple H going to do the right thing? Was Triple H going to lose, but in a flukey fashion after dominating Bryan? Had Triple H completely lost his mind and going to insert himself into the Wrestlemania main event? The actual match was likely the best-case scenario, with Triple H wrestling a smart, unselfish match, and doing a fine job of elevating Bryan. The Wrestlemania crowd was 100% behind Bryan and was hot for this opener. Even more so than Bryan’s title win, this is a match that I already enjoy going back to watch again and again.
4. Team Cena (John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, Big Show, and Ryback) vs. Team Authority (Seth Rollins, Kane, Mark Henry, Rusev, and Luke Harper) (WWE Survivor Series) ****¼
The show-closing angle on the final Raw of 2014 might end up souring me on this match in the long run. The stipulation said that if Team Cena won, the Authority would be out of power, and only John Cena could bring them back if he so chose to. Well, as of last night, the Authority are back because Seth Rollins threatened to paralyze Edge if Cena didn’t give in to his demands. The Authority were gone for a whopping five or six weeks. Anyhow, this Survivor Series match in itself was epic, and felt fresh in that several unusual suspects were getting elevated. Luke Harper looked right at home on Team Authority, Erick Rowan held up pretty well on Team Cena, and Dolph Ziggler had yet another coming out party in his gutsy underdog performance as the sole survivor on Team Cena. As good as the match was, what really put it over the top was the long awaited WWE debut of Sting, who saved Ziggler from outside interference and put a hurting on Triple H. If the stipulations had meant anything, I might have ranked this higher, but as it stands, #4 is a good place to be.
3. Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro (NXT Arrival) ****½
For the second year in a row, a Cesaro vs. Zayn match cracked my yearly top 10. This opened the NXT Arrival show and set the precedent for what to expect from those Network specials. In storyline terms, Zayn was unable to defeat Cesaro, but did succeed in earning his respect. This match was internally considered to be Cesaro’s “graduation” match and would not longer have one foot in NXT with the other on the main roster. I would love to be able to see these guys clash again on the main shows in 2015.
2. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (WWE Elimination Chamber) ****½
I’ll never forget the opening moments of this match, with a crowd going ape-sh!t from the anticipation, giving them a “This is awesome” chant before anything could happen. The pressure was on, and the six men involved made sure they delivered the goods. We spend a lot of time tearing WWE apart for bad booking and stupid decisions, but I have to give them credit for having positioned six up and comers in such a way that the fans were so interested in seeing them fight. This would have taken the top spot if I wasn’t considering NXT matches, which brings us to…
1. Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn (NXT Takeover: R-Evolution) *****
I was having a very difficult time coming up with a MOTY for 2014 up until this point. There were some worthy contenders, but none of them seemed significant or important enough to really make a case about it other than “I enjoyed watching it at the time.” Then NXT swooped in and made my job (if you can call it that) so much easier by having Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn surpass my highest hopes and deliver a classic match that already ranks up very highly in my all-time favorites list. The story heading into NXT R-Evolution was simple, yet detailed, and rewarded longtime viewers. Neville had taken some easy ways out in his past few title defenses, and was now playing a subtle heel. Zayn was cast as a hot talent who couldn’t win the big one, mainly because his niceness kept getting in the way. Zayn vowed to retire if he lost this match, which I took to mean that he could have realistically been getting a call-up to the main roster, so it increased the drama of the match. Then the bell rang, and everything Neville and Zayn did had meaning and built to an excellent crescendo. There was a scary false finish when it seemed that Sami was going to screw himself again just by being a decent human being, and he also teased going to the dark side when contemplating whether or not to use the NXT title as a weapon. But ultimately, Zayn put Neville away with the Helluva Kick and the following was one of the most emotional, memorable championship celebrations I can ever recall, complete with Kevin Owens embracing, and then turning on his friend. Neville vs. Zayn is my official Match of the Year for 2014.
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