The year 2014 in World Wrestling Entertainment was quite interesting to say the least. There was the launch of the WWE Network, a main event catered to the WWE Universe on the Biggest Stage of Them All and the shows featuring the minor-league brand of WWE showcasing the best wrestling shows of the year (i.e. NXT TakeOver: R-Evolution). There were also some dark times during 2015 as several well-known wrestlers (Alberto Del Rio and 2/3 of 3MB) and personalities (Justin Roberts and Josh Matthews) were either released or fired this past year. As 2015 approaches, this is the time to recall the ten best matches that WWE had to offer whether it was from NXT or from the biggest pay-per-view shows of the year.
10) The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family: 2-out-of-3-Falls WWE Tag Team Championship Match – Battleground
For the second PPV in a row, the opening contest features the WWE Tag Team Champions the Usos as they face two-thirds of the Wyatt Family, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. I was there in the third row by the entrance ramp for this show in Tampa and the crowd wasn’t really into it until after second fall of the contest. These four young Superstars certainly stole the show with several hard hits, close near-falls and high-flying spots. It could have gone either way, but in the end, the Usos were able to retain their titles after the champs double-kicked Harper and Rowan followed by a double top-rope splash to garner the pinfall.
9) The Shield vs. Evolution – Extreme Rules
It’s old school versus new school when Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton reunite once again as Evolution to take on the Hounds of Justice in the form of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. From 2012-2014, the Shield was able to beat almost every current tag team in the WWE, but they faced some adverse competition at “Extreme Rules.” This wasn’t the greatest technical match as both factions fought in and out of the squared circle including a great spot where Rollins dived onto Triple H and Orton from a balcony. Even though Evolution managed to hold their own ground throughout the contest, the young up-and-comers got the win after Reigns speared Batista.
8) Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro vs. Tyson Kidd: Triple Threat Elimination Match for the Intercontinental Championship – SmackDown (11/14/14)
“SmackDown” is not really a program that features top-notch PPV quality matches, but Dolph Ziggler, Tyson Kidd and Cesaro competed against each other in a breathtaking, action-packed bout with the IC strap on the line. These three underrated WWE Superstars delivered the goods and some great creative spots including Kidd powerbombing Cesaro as the latter was delivering a superplex. The combination of Cesaro’s power, Kidd’s sleek offense and Ziggler’s flexibility created a near-classic IC title match. Even after Cesaro was eliminated, Ziggler and Kidd were able to put on a wrestling clinic where Ziggler came out on top to retain the belt and live another day.
7) Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Tyler Breeze: NXT Championship match – NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4 Way
Before taking on each other in this fantastic contest, Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn, Tyson Kidd and Tyler Breeze were all facing each other at one time in the past couple of months. The previous NXT special, NXT TakeOver, Breeze beat Zayn to fight Neville for the title and Neville kept the title in his match with Kidd. It was later determined courtesy of a suggestion made by the champion that they will all take on each other in one match. These future WWE Superstars fought tooth-and-nail in order to determine who will walk away as the champ. There was never a dull moments and it features astonishing high-flying maneuvers from all the competitors. It looked as though Zayn would finally win the NXT title until Neville superkicked him, sent him out of the ring and hit “Red Arrow” on Breeze to go home with the gold.
6) The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family – Elimination Chamber
Before this match-up even started, the crowd was already chanting, “This is awesome!” as both factions stared each other down before the fists began to fly. The strengths of the Shield and the Wyatt Family were highlighted in this contest. The Wyatt Family even managed borrowed a page from the Shield’s playbook when Harper and Rowan double powerbombed Rollins on the announcer’s table. When Rollins and Ambrose were taken out of commission, Reigns got a taste of his own medicine as he found himself surrounded by the Wyatt Family just like the Shield before they attacked their impending victim. Reigns tried to overcome them, the Wyatt Family were the victors after “The Eater of Worlds” hit Reigns with “Sister Abigail.”
5) Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H and Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista: WWE World Heavyweight Championship match – WrestleMania 30
Ever since SummerSlam 2013 when Triple H delivered a “Pedigree” to then-WWE champion Daniel Bryan so that Randy Orton could get the easy win; the COO of WWE had made Bryan’s life a living hell as many factors (including crooked referees and meddling best friends) have prevented Bryan from winning the championship. When Bryan and “The Yes Movement” occupied Raw and forced the Authority to give him a match with Triple H with one stipulation: whoever wins the bout will participate in a triple threat match with Orton and 2014 Royal Rumble winner, Batista. At the age of 45, “The Cerebral Assassin” was able to go toe-to-toe with a tapped-up Bryan in a great technical wrestling showcase that saw Bryan move on to the main event. Still carrying some injuries he suffered at the hand of Triple H after their match, it looked as though he was taken out courtesy of a “Batista Bomb”/”RKO” combination on the Spanish announcer’s table. However, Bryan re-entered the contest, turned away the Authority’s meddling attempts to prevent him from winning and made Batista tap out courtesy of “The Yes Lock” to triumph over adversity and win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
4) Charlotte vs. Natalya – NXT TakeOver
In the early 1990s, Bret “Hitman” Hart beat “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair for his first WWE world championship. In May, the heirs of “The Hitman” and “The Nature Boy” faced each other for the vacated NXT Women’s Championship. Charlotte, Flair’s daughter, and Natalya, Hart’s niece took it to one another in front of the NXT crowed in a hard-fought seesaw battle to walk away with the title. Both Hart and Flair were present at ringside to encourage the second-generation Divas as they exchanged interesting holds and unique submission moves. “The Sharpshooter” and “The Figure-Four Leglock” were able to make an appearance in this old-school bout that is hardly seen on television these days. Despite doing the best she can to, Natalya couldn’t stop Charlotte from hitting “Natural Selection” on her as the daughter of the 16-time World Champion walks away with tears in her eyes with the championship, which commence her reign as NXT Women’s Champion.
3) Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks: NXT Women’s Championship – NXT TakeOver: R-Evolution
While Charlotte’s battle with “The Queen of Harts” was a runner-up to Best Divas Match of the Year, the honors would have to go to the champ’s last title defense against “The Boss of NXT” Sasha Banks. This and Charlotte’s match with Natalya is the type of matches that needs to be seen more frequently on WWE television. The title could have changed hands as Banks went all out and more to beat her former BFF including Banks going to the air with a suicide dive onto Charlotte and giving her a taste of her own medicine by hitting with her own signature moves. Both of these tough competitors hit one another with powerful strikes, memorable moves and painstaking submissions, but a top-rope “Natural Selection” from “The Nature Girl” sealed the fate of Banks as Charlotte retained the title.
2) Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn – NXT ArRival
The thrilling two-out-of-three falls contest with Cesaro and Sami Zayn was the best match of 2013 and they were close to topping their last encounter with their rematch at “NXT ArRival,” which the WWE Network’s inaugural NXT special. It certainly was another “David vs. Goliath” showdown as Zayn’s high-flying maneuvers went up against Cesaro’s powerful arsenal of moves. Watching these performers put it all on the line just to entertain the NXT crowd is a testament to their dedication of putting a stupendous and enthralling contest. Zayn did everything in his power including locking in his patented “Koji Clutch” submission move and hitting “The Blue Thunder Bomb,” but one vicious uppercut followed by “The Neutralizer” gave Cesaro the pinfall victory. Following the match, Cesaro shook the hand of his adversary and embraced him in a hug as Zayn earned the respect from “The Swiss Superman.”
1) Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn: NXT Championship – NXT TakeOver: R-Evolution
Everything that lead up to this match was wrestling storytelling at its best. After Neville stole a win from Zayn in the Fatal 4 Way match for the NXT championship, Zayn asked for another opportunity to face Neville for the title. During that match, Neville feigned an injury to pull a fast one over Zayn and retain the strap. Zayn’s last shot at the championship at NXT TakeOver: R-Evolution came with a critical stipulation: if he lost, he would no longer wrestling in NXT. As the determined and valiant challenger, Zayn fought Neville in a five-star match-up that had the crowd standing on their feet throughout the entirety of the contest. Aside from all the great high-flying maneuvers Neville and Zayn hit each other with, the in-ring psychology of the match was fantastic. Neville used everything in his power to try to walk away with the belt including and not limited to using heelish tactics. It looked as though Zayn would go down the same route as he was primed and ready to hit Neville with the NXT strap, but he refused to give into the dark side. After hitting his rival with “The Helluva Kick” and pinning him for the win, the NXT crowd jumped to their feet with joy as the underdog became the top dog of NXT. What followed was the first step in the impending rivalry between Zayn and his archenemy Kevin Owens (aka Kevin Steen) when Owens attacked Zayn and powerbombed him on the apron of the ring. If their matches in Ring of Honor were an indication of what’s to come, then we are in for one hell of a ride.