The Reality Era in WWE is one of the best periods for the company with new stars creating legacies. WWE is remembered in the different eras like the Golden Era of the 80s, New Generation Era of the early 90s, Attitude Era in the late 90s, Ruthless Aggression Era of the early 2000s and more leading up to this time. Fans dubbed the 2014-2016 era of WWE as the Reality Era due to WWE blending reality with script in their portrayal of wrestling.
The fan base having access to the ins and outs of the business due to the rise of social media helped create this era for WWE. John Cena started to take a secondary role during the Reality Era with new stars being made. Talent like AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns received huge opportunities. We will look at the ten defining matches of the Reality Era in WWE.
10 Daniel Bryan vs Randy Orton vs Batista (WrestleMania 30)
The visual of Daniel Bryan holding two world titles in the air while doing the “Yes” chant with pyro in the background is a top moment for the Reality Era. That places the WrestleMania 30 main event between Bryan, Batista and Randy Orton as a defining one of the time.
Bryan’s rise to the top of WWE truly summarized the reality element of the era. Fans truly rallied behind Bryan especially after realizing management was trying to remove him from the title picture. The chants and crowd reaction forced WWE to add Bryan to the Batista/Orton main event and give him the win in impressive fashion.
9 Kevin Owens vs John Cena (Elimination Chamber 2015)
Kevin Owens debuted in WWE in the best possible way by entering a feud with John Cena. The NXT Championship reign of Owens coincided with his call-up to add more credibility to his overall presentation on the WWE stage.
This match was a classic and showcased great chemistry between two completely different performers. Owens won his first WWE main roster match by cleanly defeating Cena at a time when only a handful of wrestlers had ever done that in the company. It set up him as an important wrestler moving forward.
8 Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble 2015)
This match is not a classic like the others on the match, but it is one of the most important ones in defining an era. Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble match in 2015 to earn a title shot against Brock Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania 31.
Things seemed simple on paper until the fans in Philadelphia booed Reigns out of the building. This was the first time the jeers for Roman hit this level and created a movement that would see him booed for years. Fans viewed Reigns as the “chosen one” of Vince McMahon which caused a revolt against him that started in this match.
7 Brock Lesnar vs John Cena vs Seth Rollins (Royal Rumble 2015)
The same Royal Rumble event in 2015 featured an all-time great match for the WWE Championship. Brock Lesnar’s dominant reign would see top star John Cena and rising star Seth Rollins challenge him for the biggest prize in the company.
All three wrestlers put on a show in arguably the greatest triple threat match in WWE history. Lesnar retained in one of his most under-appreciated matches. Cena proved his greatness in yet another classic. Rollins however gained the most by proving he belonged with the top stars in the main event picture.
6 Charlotte Flair vs Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch (WrestleMania 32)
The women’s division would see massive improvements in the rebranding during the Reality Era. It all started with Stephanie McMahon announcing things were changing as Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch were all called up to the main roster from NXT on the same night.
These three wrestlers continued to impress and received an incredible opportunity at WrestleMania 32. Charlotte defeated Sasha and Becky in a show-stealing match in front of a record crowd to not only retain the Divas Championship but hold the newly created Women’s Championship as the new title of the division.
5 The Shield vs The Wyatt Family (Elimination Chamber 2014)
The success of The Shield was a huge factor in creating the new stars of the Reality Era in WWE. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose were all great singles stars, but their popularity started thanks to the greatness together as The Shield.
Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan opposed them as another top duo known as the Wyatt Family. WWE booked both teams strong before having them face off at Elimination Chamber 2014. Both teams put on incredible performances for an iconic match of the era.
4 AJ Styles vs John Cena (Summerslam 2016)
AJ Styles joining WWE in 2016 was a huge surprise after WWE turned him down multiple times in the past. The great run in New Japan cemented Styles as one of the best wrestlers in the world which inspired WWE to sign him to a main roster contract.
Styles had instantly credibility with Chris Jericho and Roman Reigns as his first two rivals. However, it was John Cena that put him over to truly become a top superstar. Styles cleanly defeated Cena in a classic match at Summerslam which inspired WWE to give him a WWE Championship reign shortly after.
3 Seth Rollins vs Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar (WrestleMania 31)
The ending to WrestleMania 31 remains one of the most exciting moments in WWE history. Fans soured on the first major Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns match in the main event. Reigns was the target of the fans tired of him being shoved down their throats.
WWE tried to make things good by having Seth Rollins use his Money in the Bank title shot to cash in and win the WWE Championship. The match itself was a great story that culminated in an incredible moment for the Reality Era.
2 Sasha Banks vs Bayley (NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn)
The most important match for the women’s evolution took place in NXT rather than on the main roster for WWE. NXT: TakeOver was in a sold-out Barclays Center on the night before Summerslam 2015 for the first time in a major venue.
Sasha Banks and Bayley had their huge match for the NXT Women’s Championship steal the show and become an all-time classic. The emotion in the story culminated with Bayley winning the title as fans in the venue cried their eyes, including Seth Rollins. This match inspired WWE to push the women’s division in a major way.
1 Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker (WrestleMania 30)
The top defining moment of the Reality Era featured a moment most fans never expected to happen. Brock Lesnar was the first man to defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30 to end his undefeated WrestleMania streak after 21 years.
This match was not viewed as a classic by any means until the finishing stretch. Fans were stunned silent as WWE zoomed in on the best reactions. No one could believe what had happened as the reality of the moment showed just how captivating the era was during peak moments.