December 31, 2014 by Joey Keogh
2014 has been a reliably crazy year in the world of professional wrestling. NXT usurped Raw as THE weekly show to watch, with its often far superior talents kicking serious ass (although their lights are dimmed slightly upon being moved up to the main roster) with the signings of Kenta, Prince Devitt and Kevin Steen showing Trips has a keen eye for new talent, while the debut of The Ascension being saved for the final episode of Raw further exemplifying the bank-ability of the developmental division, and the importance of pushing these stars on the big stage. We’ve had break-ups, make-ups, a lot of quitting and fighting and tears, but, all things considered, it’s been a pretty great year. Here are my totally prejudiced picks for the top ten coolest moments of 2014:
10. Charlotte -v- Sasha Banks For NXT Divas Championship
The women’s division has long been the running joke of the WWE, with many female wrestlers being hired for their model looks as opposed to any sporting talent – Eva Marie takes any chance she can get to remind us all that she only had six weeks in developmental, as opposed to the usual two years. AJ Lee and British upstart Paige made themselves known on the main show, but in NXT, the chicks were kicking just as much ass as their male counterparts – sometimes even more so, as was evident during the incredible championship match between Charlotte and Sasha Banks at [R] Evolution. NXT showed up the main shows this year in a lot of ways, but none more so than in their treatment of female wrestlers. Longer matches, better spots and a hunger and skill that were obvious to those sitting ringside and at home, the exemplary NXT Divas division proved once and for all that chicks really can wrestle when given the opportunity to do so. And they don’t have to sell themselves on Total Divas to get over with the fans, either.
9. Rollins -v- Ambrose At Hell In A Cell
This is kind of a personal choice for me, because I was ringside for this particular moment but it really, truly was a “HOLY SHIT!” moment, whether you were watching it at home or twisting your head around really fast to check it out on the Titantron behind you. Rollins and Ambrose were two of the hottest properties in the WWE this year, and for good reason. Consistently strong, with a huge amount of talent both in-ring and on the mic, they worked hard following the collapse of their stable to establish themselves as personalities in their own right. This was none more evident than at Hell In A Cell, during a triumphant, awe-inspiring and deservedly-billed Main Event match that saw them pull each other to pieces before simultaneously leaping off the cell and flying through a couple of tables positioned at ringside. The ending might have let them down, but this was a hell of a match, boasting one of the coolest spots of the year and two of the strongest performances from a couple of the most gifted wrestlers on the current roster.
8. Damien Mizdow
For many of us, the biggest shock of the year wasn’t the the break-up of The Shield, Punk’s tell-all interview with Colt Cabana or even when Devitt dressed like a flamboyantly gay Predator for his first ever NXT PPV. No, the real shock of 2014 was that someone was so talented, clever and inherently funny that he managed to make The Miz – arguably one of the most despised wrestlers in WWE history with a horrible reputation that paints him as an egomaniac and a dope who botches moves and leaves his opponents horribly injured – likeable. That man is Damien Sandow and, through his stunt double character Damien Mizdow, he managed to make the prospect of a Miz appearance on WWE TV seem less dread-inducing than ever before. There are a million different, equally wonderful Mizdow moments to choose from so I won’t try to name just one. It was all very, very good, from his ringside sympathy pains, to his identical outfits, to his simultaneous promo-cutting. Suffice to say Mizdow, we salute you. Don’t ever leave us.
7. Paige’s Raw Debut
As noted above, the Divas division is kind of the running joke of the WWE, but at least we had AJ Lee to keep things in perspective for us. And then, suddenly, NXT star and British upstart Paige appeared on the scene, stealing the title from AJ at her very first Raw show and thereby kick-starting a rivalry that wasn’t just the best Divas storyline we got on the main shows all year, but arguably the coolest since the golden age of Lita, et al. Unfortunately, it all came tumbling down at HIAC, when Paige was pushed to the side and relegated to the sidelines alongside the Total Divas, with whom she has now taken up a spot. Although she claims to be thrilled at being given the opportunity to appear on the show, I suspect Paige doesn’t have much choice because if AJ really is on her way out, as persistent rumours suggest, then she won’t have anyone to fight against anyway – at least, until the ladies of NXT start making waves on the main shows, that is. I can see it now, Paige, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks teaming up to wreak havoc. Take that, Bella Twins. No more storylines for you.
6. 16 Suplexes
This one hardly needs any introduction, as it was easily one of the most satisfying moments of the year for the majority of fans, particularly those who wanted to see the smug smile wiped off Cena’s face as, for once, he did not triumph over adversity. Lesnar may not be the most exciting prospect, now or ever, and, sure, he only turns up once or twice a year but when shit like this happens it is beyond worth it. This match is worthy of a re-watch in its own right, but the sixteen successive Suplexes are a thing of wonder. Even watching it live, we collectively thought “there couldn’t possibly be another one coming” but lo and behold, Lesnar heard our cries and let his frustration out on the face of the company again and again and again. Even if Cena is victorious at the next PPV, who cares, we can just watch the video over and over again and all will be right with the world once more.
5. Punk Breaks His Silence
After months of speculation, butthurt opinion posts and a shitload of mud-slinging, CM Punk made the difficult decision to speak out on his reasons for leaving the WWE, with the help of his lifelong friend, and fellow wrestler, Colt Cabana. Suffice to say, the broadcast of this particular episode of Cabana’s popular Art Of Wrestling podcast broke iTunes and the internet (although it was nothing compared to when Punk announced his singing with UFC, about a week later) for a bit as fans and haters alike scrambled to hear what he had to say. To his credit, Punk is a great speaker in his own right and whether you choose to believe his story or not, it’s still worth taking a moment (or two hours) to hear him tell it. The Q&A that followed on the next show wasn’t quite as entertaining, but suffice to say, for everyone who wanted a final word from the straight edge superstar, you got it. Now shut up and move on.
Let’s face it, we didn’t think this was ever going to be possible. Teeny, bearded, skinny-fat little hippie Daniel Bryan opposite some of the biggest, toughest, meanest and most successful dudes in the history of pro-wrestling? Not only did little DB defeat the almighty Triple H at the very start of the show, but he went on to snatch the world heavyweight championship out of the hands of both Randy Orton and Batista in the triple-threat Main Event match later that same night. It was truly a Wrestlemania to remember, for a variety of reasons (er, see below), but watching fan favourite Daniel Bryan overcome the odds to emerge victorious was hugely heart-warming. He didn’t just do it for himself, he did it for all of us.
Holy shit, when you’re a kid you wonder if this sort of thing is even possible, and then it happens as an adult and you can’t even believe it. At least, that was the general consensus when Taker’s seemingly unbeatable streak finally ended after 21 consecutive years of victories. This was an incredibly special, undeniably shocking moment for all of us because everything we thought we knew came crumbling down in one, very slow three-count. I’ll be the first to admit, I was barely even paying attention to this match, as the end result seemed so pre-determined but then everything stopped and suddenly, in the deadliest of silences (Lesnar allegedly remarked to Heyman as they exited the arena that he thought he’d lost his hearing because of how quiet it was), the future was re-written in front of our very eyes. A remarkable, show-stopping moment that will live forever.
Another underdog story, but of the superior, NXT variety. The long-running feud between ex-BFFs Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn was incredibly well-written, well-performed and expertly-paced so, when it came to a head at [R]Evolution, all bets were off. As Zayn emerged victorious, following a lengthy bout, during which both participants more than showed what they’re capable of, the dust settled long enough for everyone to flood into the ring to congratulate him. Then, in a moment that tugged at the heart-strings of even the most callous, casual viewer, Neville kicked away Zayn’s attempt at a handshake to pull him into the warmest bear hug imaginable. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Zayn’s best buddy, Kevin Owens, who debuted himself earlier that night, then betrayed him after pretending to give him a victory lap out of the arena, in a moment that was even more shocking than Taker’s loss because it simply did not seem feasible, given the friends’ shared history together. A thrilling end to one of the most gripping storylines of the year, which leaves the way wide open for Neville to advance to the main roster, while Owens and Zayn duke it out in his place.
Earlier in the year, a light-hearted piece on this very blog garnered more hate-filled responses than anything else we published in 2014. What was it about? Seth Rollins heel turn, of course (Tumblr really doesn’t like it when you mess with The Shield, for real). This may not be everyone’s number one moment – hell, it might not even make it into your top ten – but, for me, this was the biggest shock of the year and to learn that it was revealed to the three members of the stable just moments before it happened only adds to it. Rollins’ heel turn wasn’t just a massive shock to the system, it also kick-started certain story-lines, the effects of which we’re still feeling now, with Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins all standing out in their own ways over the ensuing months, proving their worth as separate entities. If nothing else, the end of The Shield gave the stable a rebirth it didn’t even need. In a really weird way, the end of this rather brilliant stable was really only just the beginning.