Another year has come and gone, and it’s been a strange one for the company of World Wrestling Entertainment. We saw the rise of a new star in the name of Daniel Bryan, the return and dominance of the Beast, Brock Lesnar, as well as many other fantastic events, but all in all, the year has been unpredictable. If you had told me in 2013 we’d be getting a lot of these matches… well, I’d probably stare at you quizzically and wonder if you had a hoverboard and a self-drying jacket in your boot (let’s get the Back to the Future Part II references out of the way here, shall we?).
So, let’s get started all the way back in January last year, at the Royal Rumble Pay-Per-View:
Daniel Bryan VS Bray Wyatt (Royal Rumble, Jan 26, 2014)
I’m glad that before a lot of the bigger matches they’ve included the video packages from the pay-per-views, which as I’ve said before, could probably hype up a fight between Duke “The Dumpster” Droese and Brooklyn Brawler and make it seem like a main event calibre match. On with the actual match, straight away, Harper and Rowan are ejected from this match and we get to finally have the finality to the feud that had been building for months between Bryan and Bray Wyatt, one that made both of their careers to an extent. Bryan had been inducted into the Wyatt family, only to turn on Bray after they were trapped inside a cage together. This match is a culmination of the Yes! Movement up to this point, with Bryan taking out a lot of his frustration on Wyatt, and Wyatt gets to throw his weight around as well, dominating the majority of the match, showing everyone why he’s one of the best heels in the business today. I remember at the time, I was quite mad at the finish, as it seemed Bryan was going to be forgotten going into Wrestlemania, but pretty much everyone knows how that went, don’t we? If not, I’ll be going over that later. But Bray wins, gets the beatdown on Bryan post match, and both guys look good in the process, especially Bryan. Good quality match to start off the DVD with two pieces of fresh talent.
Six Man Tag Team Match – The Shield VS The Wyatt Family (Elimination Chamber, Feb 23 2014)
This match and feud was the build up to the subsequent face turn for The Shield, and this is one of the cases where WWE set this up perfectly. Even before the match starts, the crowd is chanting “This is awesome!” and the entire encounter has a real lightning in a bottle feeling. This is probably one of the best tag team matches in years, with a back and forth encounter where either team could have walked out with the victory and looked equally good. Just a shame that WWE only has around 4-5 tag teams, or else we could have had a really stellar division on our hands, especially with matches like these. But I digress. Awesome match. Would have been contender for Match of the Year, but there are some real classics coming up. Continuing onwards…
Elimination Chamber Match for WWE World Heavyweight Championship (Elimination Chamber, Feb 23 2014)
Randy Orton, the champion going into this match, was in his reign as the unified WWE World Heavyweight Champion, after winning the unification match against John Cena at TLC 2013. The other contenders in this match were Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Cesaro, Christian, in what would have been one of his final matches for WWE, and of course, Mr Hustle Loyalty and Respect himself, John Cena. We can already see Bryan showing signs of what would become almost a career ending shoulder injury, yet despite that, does the bearded man put on a great show? He sure does, but, Cesaro tries his hardest to steal the show, and heck, pretty much everyone does a good job of trying to upstage each other. This was probably one of the better Elimination Chambers in recent years, not as good as the Smackdown chamber that ended with Santino and Bryan from 2012, or many others I could name off the top of my head, but it did its job and really put Daniel Bryan over as the man being held down by the authority. Again, this was another thing to complain about for all of Bryan’s fans, but it only served to fuel the fire, which led up to the next match on the DVD…
Daniel Bryan VS Triple H – Winner is inserted into the main event WWE Championship Match (Wrestlemania, Apr 6 2014)
This is the one that fans had been cheering and shouting for for months. Daniel Bryan finally gets his hands on the COO, Triple H, and not only that, if he wins, he finally gets a fair(ish) shot at being WWE Champion after being cheated out of the title all of those months ago. Now, many would argue that Bryan wouldn’t have had this shot if CM Punk hadn’t taken his ball and gone home, but heck, it happened this way in the end, and I don’t think it could have ended up being any better. HHH and Stephanie McMahon play the perfect villains in this, and even for long time watchers of WWE such as myself, man, they tick me off. Hunter has a fantastic entrance in this, as he always does at Wrestlemania, channelling the Emperor of the Outworld, Shao Kahn, however HHH is quickly upstaged by Bryan’s entrance, with almost all of the 75,000+ attendees creating a wave of Yes! chants. The moment still gives me shivers. Bryan, of course, goes on to defeat HHH in a nice, clean victory, but there was that one second when I originally watched this, thinking “What if he didn’t win? What if Bryan didn’t go on to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion?” It’s the possibility of Bryan not winning that kept everyone on the edge of their seat in both this and the main event.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match – Randy Orton VS Batista VS Daniel Bryan (Wrestlemania, Apr 6, 2014)
Okay, let’s face it – not many people wanted the man who went on to play Drax the Destroyer, Big Dave Batista, to win the Royal Rumble. Nor did many people want Orton to retain his championship at Elimination Chamber. Yet pretty much everyone was in the corner of the bearded warrior as he flew almost literally head first into the Wrestlemania main event, one that will go down in history. Even after being attacked by HHH and Stephanie after his earlier match, and receiving a constant double teaming from Batista and Orton throughout, Bryan still manages to win the match in what was probably the feel good moment of the year. The large stadium erupts into an uproar of cheers, applause and elation as Daniel Bryan becames the WWE World Heavyweight Champion in the main event of Wrestlemania, and you’d be hard pressed to say he didn’t deserve it. The match itself succeeds in, as said before, having everyone on the edge of their seat, with Bryan almost being removed from the match after a rather nasty Batista Bomb/RKO combo through the announcer’s table, with some close moments where it looks like the Animal or the Viper are going to walk out with the win, but ultimately, Batista taps out to the Yes! Lock and the rest is history. Probably my Match of the Year, just based off of the story alone.
That’s Disc 1, and I’d probably say the best out of the 3. I thoroughly enjoyed every single match on this disc, but unfortunately, I’d say the year as a whole spiralled a little from here onwards, but hey, let’s not get too pessimistic, as there are still some fantastic bouts to come.
WeeLC Match – El Torito VS Hornswoggle (Extreme Rules, May 4, 2014)
Hands up if you thought this was going to be a contender for match of the night before you watched it. No-one? Me neither. Honestly, I passed this match up the first time it aired, and it was a bad decision on my part. Sure, we get all the usual gags that WWE do, mini referee, mini announcers, but they go the whole nine yards with it and despite the bout being a little offensive, holy cow is it entertaining. A little cartoonish, but there are so many tongue-in-cheek moments here that still have me giggling, especially when the announcers themselves are being made fun of. This match has to be seen to be believed.
Intercontinental Championship Match – Big E VS Bad News Barrett (Extreme Rules, May 4, 2014)
Bad News Barrett is one of the men that really deserves to shoot to the top of the WWE, and not just because of his amazing catchphrase and mic work. In ring, Barrett holds a legit tough guy aura many people really struggle to have, and Big E really holds his own against the British brawler. Barrett is also fantastic in the way that he has three different believable finishers, where a lot of wrestlers struggle to even have one. The crowd pops hard for Barrett winning, despite him technically being a heel here, but that just stems from how over the Preston native is. Great match, really puts over Big E’s strength, but most importantly, this should have been the rise of Barrett. Unfortunately, shortly after, Barrett had to take leave due to injury, but has returned recently, so who knows? Maybe we’ll get a rematch in the future, as these guys worked really well together.
Six Man Tag Team Match – Evolution VS The Shield (Extreme Rules, May 4, 2014)
Yet another match from Extreme Rules, but this is probably the best out of the three. Like The Shield VS Wyatts match, this one was another meeting of tag team juggernauts, with the legends of Evolution taking on the young wolves known as The Shield. This would be the build up to the unfortunate break up of The Shield, but this is probably one of the best matches they had, second only to their TLC match at TLC 2012, and their aforementioned match against the Wyatts. Batista misses the memo again that Evolution is going to be wearing all black, but jokes aside, this showed a hell of a lot of people that The Shield was ready to hang with the big boys. A big brawl erupts into the arena between HHH, Orton, Ambrose and Rollins, ending with Rollins performing a Sabu-Esque dive from the top of a balcony, followed by Reigns spearing Batista to win the match. Wow. This didn’t even have the hardcore stipulation, but it really lived up to the name of the PPV it was featured on and serves as yet another example as to why the WWE should invest more in tag team wrestling.
United States Championship Match – Sheamus VS Cesaro (Payback, Jun 1, 2014)
Now, Sheamus is nowhere near the level he was at in 2010/2011 in terms of card positioning, but he only seems to have gotten better and better in the ring, even pulling out some great matches in recent years with Big Show of all people. This time he was up against a man known for his consistently awesome matches, Cesaro, and the Celtic Warrior really has a hard job of keeping up with Cesaro, but he does an awesome job of doing so, showing some high flying ability uncharacteristic for the big man. Both men walk out looking strong after the roll-up finish with a match WWE should keep a note of when they forget how to book their mid-card titles, but I digress, I mean, look at their current picture.
Last Man Standing Match – John Cena VS Bray Wyatt (Payback, Jun 1, 2014)
This match is a rematch from Wrestlemania, and would be the final one in the feud of Cena and Wyatt. Massive props again to the video package team for the fantastic hype video for this, which more or less turns into a six man tag team match with The Wyatt Family taking on John Cena and The Uso Brothers. The Usos come to the aid of Cena after being cornered by Harper, Rowan and Wyatt, and the brawl ensues. The men not officially in the match pretty much steal the show. Unfortunately, I have to say that the wrong man probably wins this, that being of course, John Cena, but this was a great match nonetheless. It gives off too many vibes of his chair match with Wade Barrett at the end of the Nexus angle, where Cena literally buried the man who would go onto be “Bad News” under a mountain of chairs, and this one ended very similarly, with Bray being buried under a mountain of maintenance boxes. Despite the ending, there are some really hardcore spots in this, and is definitely worth watching.
Money in the Bank Ladder Match – (Money in the Bank, Jun 29, 2014)
Seth Rollins, Rob Van Dam, Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston and Dean Ambrose. These six men entered this ladder match to try and earn the prestigious Money in the Bank briefcase. This was probably one of the best line ups in many years, with pretty much every participant (apart from possibly RVD) being a believable winner. This was also the first time in years that there would only be one Money in the Bank ladder match at the PPV, as the two World Championships had been unified into one. They made up for the lack of the two matches by cramming as many cool spots as possible into one. In many ways Rollins is the real star of this, despite an attempted upstaging by Kofi Kingston as always, Rollins takes many crazy bumps, including ones off the ladder, off the ladder onto more ladders, etc. This was also similar to the Daniel Bryan situation in that pretty much everyone was in the corner of Dean Ambrose, with him getting screwed over by the Authority yet again, but I feel more people were happy with Rollins winning here than in the other situations. Despite some really memorable spots, it’s still reserved whether this match made Rollins’ career or not, as he still has the briefcase, but only time will tell with that one.
WWE Tag Team Championship 2 out of 3 Falls Match (Battleground, Jul 20, 2014)
The Usos defended their championships against the challengers, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper, the Wyatt Family. I already reviewed this match in a review of the Battleground DVD itself, so I’ll reiterate what I said there – great back and forth between two teams of up and comers. In retrospect, since I wrote that review before the Wyatts broke up, it’s unfortunate they’re not together anymore, since they worked SO well as a team, and this match is exhibit A in that defence. But I digress.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal (Battleground, Jul 20, 2014)
Again, I’ve already reviewed this recently, so refer to the Battleground 2014 review if you want to see more detail on this match. Looking back again in retrospect, the right man won this. This match skyrocketed both Ziggler and Miz to where they are today, with Miz getting over as a big tag team player with his Hollywood gimmick alongside cohort Damien Mizdow, as well as Ziggler eventually winning the Intercontinental Championship title, a championship he ended up taking with him to the end of the year. Great inclusion.
WWE Divas Championship Match – AJ Lee VS Paige (Summerslam, Aug 17, 2014)
So I mentioned earlier I reviewed Battleground, the PPV before Summerslam, in a previous piece, and in that I reviewed the match between AJ Lee and Paige. I mentioned at the end that if given the proper time, exposure and story, these ladies would really pull off a fantastic match.
This was the fantastic match.
This contest was everything one wants from a Divas match; it’s sexy, it’s competitive, it’s unpredictable, and the crowd really gets into it. AJ and Paige are probably the two best women in WWE right now and this was the match that really showed what they had to offer, with some in ring psychology really being shown to the masses, as well as some really brutal grappling manoeuvres that would make the men blush. Great stuff, shame it’s the only Divas match included here, but there’s always 2015. Give these women more time and exposure (not in that way!), and we could be in for a women’s division that would rival that of the Attitude Era’s.
Flag Match – Rusev VS Jack Swagger (Summerslam, Aug 17, 2014)
Yet again, we’re surprised with a really, really good match from two guys I didn’t really think could have a good match together if their lives depended upon it. Saying that, Swagger has been pretty good in the past, but had spiralled off as of late, and Rusev hadn’t had a chance to have a real competitive back and forth match up to this point, but this really delivered on all fronts. Before the match even starts, Swagger puts the Patriot Lock onto Rusev’s ankle, and the big Bulgarian native sells the ankle injury for the whole damn match, and I have to give a LOT of props to the guy, as he really didn’t need to do it. Here’s Rusev, an undefeated Russian hero, being pushed hard as this unconquerable monster, and yet Swagger manages to damage the beast, who fights back despite his debilitating injury, and that’s what probably earned Rusev a lot of respect in the eyes of the fans. A really unexpected fantastic match between two hosses with an old school storyline to boot. You could place this match in Summerslam 1988 and it might have even fit then, and that’s probably as big as a compliment as a match like this could get. Awesome.
Lumberjack Match – Dean Ambrose VS Seth Rollins (Summerslam, Aug 17, 2014)
The build up to this match following The Shield break up turned out to be a little Looney Tunes, but this was the finale that we were all gasping for. I’m a little bummed that they included this over their Hell in a Cell match, especially since they elected to include the Orton/Cena Hell in a Cell match, but I’ll cover that fully later. Either way, when I first heard the stipulation, I really thought this match didn’t need it, and I thought it would hinder the match. How wrong I was. Some really awesome dives, crowd brawls followed by crowd surfing place an exclamation mark on one of the best feuds between two of the hottest young prospects in today’s WWE. Rollins wins in a dirty, dirty way that would serve to continue the feud onto Hell in a Cell, but in the minds of many casual fans this really cemented that Ambrose and Rollins can really go against one another, and watching them fight is one of the most entertaining things going in WWE right now.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match – The Usos VS Gold and Stardust (Night of Champions, Sep 21, 2014)
It’s been said many, many times how good Goldust is nowadays despite his age. This encounter continues to show that, but that’s forgetting the other three men in the match. Everyone pulls their socks up and really knocks it out of the park with this one. Not much can be said about this that hasn’t already been said, as this is the third time on the DVD The Usos have stolen the show with their high flying Samoan actions. My only complaint is that there needs to be more teams in the tag team division to face off against one another, as in the build up to this match, these two teams had faced each other in singles matches, six man tag team matches, etc, so it felt like the two had already had their hands on each other by the time they actually got into the ring with the belts on the line. The right guys walked out with them around their waists at this point, that being of course the Rhodes brothers. The ending stretch of this match really got everyone’s palms sweating, and for good reason, with some really back and forth potential pins. It’s just a shame we’ve had this match or a variation of it about 15 times since.
Randy Orton VS Chris Jericho (Night of Champions, Sep 21, 2014)
Going into this, I was asking, “What championship is this for? Why are these guys having a match again?” By the end of it, I didn’t really care. Not much was expected out of this bout, given that Chris Jericho is tailing off towards the end of his career, and Orton seems to be pulling out a mediocre performance more and more often nowadays, but this was a strong exception. Both men look extremely strong in what can only be described as a tense competition, and this really showed that Y2J still has many years and good matches left in his career yet. A bit of a shame that the finish was one we’ve seen many times before, but it’s always a sight to behold. I really wish this match had more of a build up, but I guess Jericho had a rock band tour to jet off to. Speaking of part timers!
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match – Brock Lesnar VS John Cena (Night of Champions, Sep 21, 2014)
Reading the initial match listing, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, this match? Not the Summerslam one?” However, looking back at it, I’m glad they included this one. This was more of a competitive affair over the absolute domination that Lesnar served to Cena at Summerslam. It’s such a shame Lesnar isn’t around more often, as he’s consistently been pulling out good matches, but maybe it’s one of those cases where if you have something too much, you become sick of it. A completely different story than the Summerslam match is told here, with Cena finally stepping up to the Beast, pulling out all of his finishing moves and having the match won, with Rollins costing Cena from becoming the Champ again. This was a really smartly worked match, with Cena and Brock both hitting their finishers straight away, and all in all, probably a better match than the Summerslam bout, which was just so memorable due to the shock value. Really believed Rollins was going to win the title here after his attempted cash-in, and a shame he didn’t, but it only served to add to the match and story.
Intercontinental Championship 2 out of 3 Falls Match – Dolph Ziggler VS Cesaro (Hell in a Cell, Oct 26, 2014)
Now onto the most recent matches on the DVD, starting with Dolph Ziggler defending his championship against the challenger, Cesaro. If you’ve seen Cesaro’s 2 out of 3 falls match with Sami Zayn on NXT (which I keep mentioning, and that’s because you need to watch it now!) this is a slight callback to that, but it’s much of a different match, with Ziggler being put over hard as a resilient, well worn competitor. These two are a perfect fit for each other. Give us this match every week, I wouldn’t mind so much. Cesaro shows his usual strongman moves, throwing around Ziggler like the proverbial rag-doll, with the outside of the ring to the inside suplex, deadlifting Ziggler whilst climbing to the top rope, as well as many other feats. Too many to mention. At the end of it all, Ziggler wins 2-0, a result not often seen in this stipulation, which is a welcome surprise. 2014 was really the start of The Showoff’s rise to the top. Let’s hope in 2015 both he and the Swiss Superman shoot to the top, as with performances like this, they deserve it.
WWE World Heavyweight No 1 Contendership Hell in a Cell Match – Randy Orton VS John Cena (Hell in a Cell, Oct 26, 2014)
Already mentioned earlier, but I wish they included the Rollins/Ambrose match over this. Instead this the one we got, and it’s the last one on the collection. Phew! Straight up, pretty much everyone knew Cena was going to win this going into it, and it was a bit of a silly storyline, where even though Dean Ambrose won the match against Cena to face Rollins, Cena was the one who ended up with the potential title match. Orton and Cena have faced off literally hundreds of times before, on and off television, and have even had a Hell in a Cell match in 2009 against each other, so unfortunately this was nothing new. Pretty much everything here we’ve seen before to some degree from these two competitors. It’s such a shame since I think they still had a quality match, but it’s one we’ve seen many, many times previously.
In conclusion, this is a really great way to look back at 2014. We got to see the rise of many stars in WWE, and there really were some amazing bouts and moments that will be remembered for decades. It has to be said that there should have been more Diva matches and possibly matches from NXT included on this collection. Hell, I could probably name many matches I feel should have been on the DVDs from both the main and developmental roster, but you can only fit so much onto three discs. If you’re a fan of The Shield, the Wyatts, Usos, or like the look of any of the matches above, then give this DVD set a look. I’d say it’s worth it just for the first disc alone!
WWE: Best PPV Matches 2014 is available on DVD from January 12, 2015.
Happy New Year!
All images (C) WWE.