Another year comes to a close in the world of sports entertainment, and despite the achievements made by numerous WWE superstars, it was a rough one for the promotion.
Not only did the stocks plummet and sales for the WWE Network proved to be lacking, one of WWE’s hottest stars, CM Punk, walked out of the company amidst his frustrations for the way he was being neglected. On top of that, Daniel Bryan had to relinquish his WWE World Heavyweight Championship due to a severe neck injury, which kept him out of action for a few months short of a year. The injury bug wasn’t kind to hot draws like Roman Reigns and Bad News Barrett, either.
Also, it should be mentioned that apart from a handful of decent offerings, Monday Night Raw became a three-hour ad for social media, turning out to be almost unbearable to sit through for the entire evening.
Still, 2014 had its fair share of jaw-dropping moments. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose catapulted to the main event scene, providing the WWE Universe with some of the best moments of the year. Brock Lesnar not only defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30 and snapped the undefeated streak, he also mauled John Cena at SummerSlam to win his fourth title in the promotion. Maybe the most satisfying moment was seeing Bryan topple Batista and Randy Orton to finally win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of WrestleMania 30.
But in the world of pro wrestling, there is never an offseason, which means superstars have the ability to steal the show week in, week out, and get to do so on weekly episodic television shows and high-profile pay-per-view (PPV) offerings. Much like any other year, there was an abundance of good matches in 2014, and even great ones too.
Before the countdown commences, note that these matches focus on wrestling more than anything else. For example, Lesnar conquering The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak was arguably the biggest moment of the year, however, their match was downright awful. It’s more focused on how the competitors performed, and they story they told.
Without further ado, here are the 25 best WWE matches of 2014:
25 John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar (WWE World Heavyweight Championship - SummerSlam)
Unlike the travesty of a match wrestling fans endured when watching Lesnar crush The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak, the main event of SummerSlam turned out to be far more entertaining. Lesnar’s title win won’t be remembered for being a great match, but more so the story it told. From teasing the quick finish all the way until “The Beast Incarnate’s” suplex marathon that led him to victory, the main event was able to inflict emotion, and for that, should be remembered as important when taking a trip down memory lane.
24 Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (Falls Count Anywhere - Monday Night Raw)
The night following their unforgettable Lumberjack Match at SummerSlam, Ambrose and Rollins headlined Monday Night Raw, continuing their ongoing feud, and it was more than just your average main event. For diehards, it truly felt as if Tyler Black and Jon Moxley were in the main event, and without Bryan, Punk, and Reigns, these two standouts proved that the younger guys shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of the juggernauts like Cena and Orton that have ruled the WWE ring for quite some time.
23 The Usos vs. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan (2 Out of 3 Falls Match - Battleground)
These two teams dominated the tag team landscape in WWE during 2014 (along with Gold & Stardust), and this scrap finished off their feud for good. Apart from the need to revamp the division, this encounter could have started every show for the rest of year, and it wouldn’t have been a bad thing. The Usos took home the gold and held onto to it before Miz and his stunt double rolled around.
22 Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Jack Swagger vs. Kofi Kingston (Money In The Bank Ladder Match for a WWE World Heavyweight Championship Contract - Money In The Bank)
Specialty matches are difficult to include on year-end lists for multiple reasons, yet this match deserves to be considered as one of the year’s best, based on the work ethic of all involved. The criminally underrated Kofi Kingston stole the hearts of fans when he nearly snatched the briefcase, Dolph Ziggler and Rob Van Dam were outstanding, and Ambrose haunted Rollins before Kane came down to help the betrayer secure the Money In The Bank briefcase.
21 John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt (Last Man Standing Match - Payback)
Continuing from where they left off from their Steel Cage Match at Extreme Rules, Cena couldn’t knock off the monster that continued to terrorize him after WrestleMania 30. This contest wasn’t as good as their duel at the “Showcase of the Immortals,” although considering the rest of The Wyatt Family and The Usos got involved with plenty of tables, not to mention a nice spot at the end where Cena buried Wyatt, it turned out to be a pretty decent match.
20 Paige vs. Emma (NXT Women’s Championship - NXT ArRIVAL)
These two real-life homies delivered one of the best matches on the NXT special episode, with Paige defeating the Australian in a hard-fought battle that showcased what these two up-and-comers were about to bring to the ailing Divas division.
Luckily for Paige, she went on to accomplish even greater feats by pinning A.J. Lee the night after WrestleMania 30, capturing her first Divas title. Emma, on the other hand, still makes her presence felt here and there, but an arrest for shoplifting this past summer proved to be costly for her rising career.
19 The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family (WWE Tag Team Championship - Money In The Bank)
Although The Usos may not even come close to matching the tag teams ruling the scene right now (reDRagon, The Young Bucks, The American Wolves), they’re over when it comes to the WWE Universe, and they deserve credit for trying to make their matches as entertaining as possible.
That made their pairings against Luke Harper and Erick Rowan of The Wyatt Family must-see television, which consisted of high-flying action mixed in with the talents you’d get out of two powerhouses. This duel stands above the 2 Out Of 3 Falls Match that came at a later date at WWE Battleground, given the expectations going into in the first match at Money In The Bank. Looking back on how events unfolded, it’s a shame WWE didn’t slap the titles on Harper and Rowan for a short period of time before they were let go by their leader.
18 Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro (2 Out Of 3 Falls Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship - Hell in a Cell)
There’s plenty of Ziggler and Cesaro on this list, because quite frankly, they outperform half of their counterparts on every given occasion. This 2 Out Of 3 Falls contest saw Ziggler prevail with two falls to none, further troubling the career of the former ROH, PWG, and Chikara luminary.
This match went just over the 10-minute mark, and with not too much time to work with, these two set a difficult pace for their coworkers to match.
17 Team Cena (John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Big Show, Erick Rowan & Ryback) vs. Team Authority (Seth Rollins, Kane, Rusev, Mark Henry & Luke Harper) (5-on-5 Traditional Survivor Series Match - Survivor Series)
Despite most of the hype centered on Sting’s memorable WWE debut, this traditional Survivor Series contest was satisfactory, with plenty of spots and happenings that saved a disappointing PPV.
You had Henry eliminated seconds into the match courtesy of a Big Show punch, a Big Show heel turn (which ultimately eliminated Cena), the reemergence of Ziggler as one of the hottest superstars in the company based on his historical achievement, and of course, a breathtaking moment WWE fans would never forget.
16 Luke Harper vs. Dolph Ziggler (Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship - TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs)
After “The Showoff” revitalized himself as arguably the hottest face in the company after winning the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam (defeating The Miz) and his Survivor Series triumph, Ziggler and Harper embarked on a feud for the company’s second most prestigious singles title, with the bearded monster winning his first title in WWE on an episode of Monday Night Raw weeks prior.
It all boiled down to TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, where these two rivals would fight for the belt in a dangerous Ladder Match. It was by far the best match on the card, and apart from Harper coming into his own as a major player in the promotion, Ziggler won back the title he rightfully deserved, and continues to be a throwback champion to the iconic Intercontinental title holders of the early 1990s, such as Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect, Shawn Michaels, and Razor Ramon, to name a few.
15 Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose (Hell In A Cell Match - Hell In A Cell
This main event certainly had a disappointing finish, seeing how the company could have waited a few more weeks to turn Ambrose’s attention to Wyatt.
Nevertheless, these two former Shield members delivered in a much-anticipated clash, with Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble getting their hands dirty too. The WWE spot of the year could go to the double-tables crash, apart from the ferocity displayed by both overachieving studs.
14 Sheamus vs. Cesaro (WWE United States Championship - Night of Champions)
This match truly felt like a hoss vs. hoss showdown, as both these gifted athletes worked a stiff and solid contest, pleasantly surprising everyone in the process. Sheamus and Cesaro had already faced each other on pay-per-view a few months prior to this showdown (Payback), however, this rematch was much better, and both wrestlers had the crowd reacting to their every move.
13 John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt (WrestleMania 30)
While the result of this match was frustrating seeing how the wrong guy went over, the storytelling was exceptional and downright special. “The Eater of Worlds” had swayed the masses by hypnotization, almost earning the biggest victory of his career had it not been for the politics of pro wrestling. In the end, Wyatt came up short, yet his mantra through this whole match cemented him as a main event player.
Too bad Cena won, leaving the husky brute’s rise in limbo for the next few months.
12 Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro vs. Tyson Kidd (Triple Threat Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship - SmackDown)
SmackDown has become somewhat of an irrelevant show, due to its addition of crowd noise and matches deemed unimportant in the grand scheme of things. However, this Triple Threat Match deserves a shoutout, considered all three athletes involved are extremely talented workers that the WWE sometimes takes for granted. Also, the only SmackDown match on this list is also available for free online if you’re savvy with your searching (like a lot of these other matches).
11 John Cena vs. Cesaro (Monday Night Raw)
The most polarizing WWE superstar sure gets a lot of flack for his wrestling abilities, but sometimes, the complaints come without conviction. This match proves that with the right opponent, Cena can dazzle audiences, and maybe we should credit Cesaro for stepping up and producing a world-class showing against the most successful WWE superstar of the past decade.
With unorthodox maneuvers and plenty of creative reversals, the match got off to a slow and confusing start, but by the end of this Monday Night Raw showcase, you have to wonder that sometimes, the hate for Cena’s skills is overblown, and that Cesaro is a lot more than just an average mid-card talent.
10 Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (Winner Enters the Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship - WrestleMania 30)
The opening contest of WrestleMania 30 featured the underdog Bryan against “The Game,” with the winner advancing to the Triple Threat Match main event, alongside Batista and Orton (with “The Viper’s” championship on the line).
The back and forth contest served as one of WrestleMania’s most memorable curtain jerkers, with the former Ring of Honor standout getting the better of his boss in the 25-minute plus affair. Some may have found it slow, but it was a perfect example of calculated and technical wrestling, which only a few can deliver.
9 Charlotte vs. Natalya (NXT Women’s Championship - NXT Takeover)
With Ric Flair cornering his daughter, and Natalya having Bret Hart in the opposite corner, these two standouts had one hell of a battle, illustrating how to have a perfect match.
Charlotte prevailed over the veteran, proving her worth as NXT Women’s Champion, but at the same time, raised awareness of her incredible skills. Natalya, on the other hand, continues to put over the younger talent, yet she’s the best female wrestler WWE has under contract, and giving her the same treatment Cena gets in the Divas division wouldn’t be a bad thing.
8 Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt (Royal Rumble)
It’s easy to forget about the opening contest of the Royal Rumble, since there had been an abundance of other matches since then, factored in with the Bryan-Wyatt feud coming to a close on that same evening.
Both Bryan and Wyatt took their turns at trying to decimate one another in this contest, after The Wyatt Family had tormented Bryan and turned him into a member days before the war. In the end, the Wyatt Family leader hit the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion with “Sister Abigail” on the barricade outside, after the former ROH standout went for a Tope Suicida. Wyatt then gave Bryan one more for good measure inside the squared circle for the win.
7 Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn (NXT ArRIVAL)
After their epic 2 out of 3 Falls Match during the summer of 2013, the Indy legends formerly known as Claudio Castagnoli and El Generico squared off one last time on the debut NXT special episode, ArRIVAL, stealing the spotlight and delivering another classic on free television.
After a whole lot of uppercuts and last-minute kickouts, Cesaro got the better of his rival, proving that Zayn was unable to win the big one. That whole shtick went on for quite some time, until the Canadian defied the odds a few weeks ago and won his first title under WWE.
6 The Shield vs. Evolution (No Holds Barred Six-Man Tag Match - Payback)
WWE certainly had its hits and misses this year, but six-man tag matches involving The Shield stood apart from all the weak and diluted offerings.
The rivalry between The Shield and Evolution came full circle at Payback this past June, which ultimately served as The Shield’s last match as a faction. The battle was off to a slow start, but improved drastically with announce tables being broken, chairs, stairs, and Kendo sticks serving as deadly weapons, and insane spots, including Rollins’ jump from the top of the entrance way (under the Titantron onto Evolution).
This was also Batista’s last match before his most recent departure, which enabled Triple H to summon Rollins as his Plan B the following evening on Monday Night Raw.
5 Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (Lumberjack Match - SummerSlam)
After a shocking heel turn by Rollins broke up the hottest faction in WWE for quite some time, many observers were a little turned off when Ambrose had the power to choose any stipulation for a match against his former brethren, and decided to have lumberjacks surround the ring. Why not a TLC Match, a No Holds Barred Match, or better yet, a Hell In The Cell Match?
The duel turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as both competitors took their battle across Los Angeles’ Staples Center, and took out all of their surroundings in the process. After a Pier 6 brawl ensued in and out of the ring, Rollins decked his madman adversary with the Money In The Bank briefcase for the win.
4 Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan (Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship - WrestleMania 30)
WrestleMania 30 easily goes down as the best WWE PPV of the year, starting off with Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and The Rock all in one ring, followed by The Undertaker’s undefeated streak coming to a close, all the way to Bryan capturing the World Heavyweight Championship after a year of unfortunate occurrences halted his ascension to the top.
Not only did the “Yes!” Movement chief wrestle two match-of-the-year candidates in one night, he had to suffer through a lethal combination of a “Batista Bomb”-meets-“RKO” through the announce table, which almost broke Orton’s back after landing awkwardly on a television monitor.
Bryan prevailed in the end by submitting Batista, standing alone in the ring during a tearful celebration, and even shared the glorious moment with the late Connor “The Crusher” Michalek in the front row.
3 Adrian Neville vs. Tyler Breeze vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Sami Zayn (Fatal 4-Way for the NXT Championship - NXT Takeover: Fatal 4 Way)
NXT produced its third television special this past fall, and the young hopefuls have turned this developmental territory into something far greater than just a show featuring the future of WWE.
If wrestling enthusiasts were unaware of the pleasant offerings delivered by the specialists of NXT, this program definitely put them on the map. Along with other champions such as Charlotte and The Ascension, Adrian Neville put his NXT title on the line against friend Sami Zayn, Tyler Breeze, and the underutilized Tyson Kidd in a Fatal 4-Way Match for the ages, complete with much-deserved “This Is Awesome” and “Holy Sh*t” chants. “The Man That Gravity Forgot” snatched another victory to keep his belt, pinning Tyson Kidd after pulling the referee out of the ring while Zayn was poised to win.
2 Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn (NXT Championship - NXT Takeover: REvolution)
This battle could have very well earned the top spot on anybody's year-end list, given the amount of action, storytelling, and amazement fans were left with after watching the best NXT Championship match in the territory’s existence.
After coming up short on multiple occasions, this was Zayn’s last stride, and his friend, Neville, didn’t make it easy for him. After duping him into thinking he was injured for a quick pin in their latest contest before this tussle, Zayn vowed to show his resiliency, with his morals put into question after an opportunity to cheat while the referee was down. The Montreal-based phenomenon decided to go at it the hard way, winning the bout without cheating and finally overcame Neville to hoist the gold.
This also set up a heel turn for the debuting Kevin Owens, who celebrated his best friend’s title win before sending him crashing down on the entrance ramp and nailed his longtime pal with a powerbomb on the apron.
1 The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (Six Man Tag Match - Elimination Chamber)
During a time where Bryan was constantly being overlooked as the best wrestler in the company, one of the upsides to continue watching WWE was the blossoming feud between breakout stables, The Shield and The Wyatt Family.
With a red-hot crowd divided right down the middle, these six competitors treated the WWE Universe to perhaps the greatest six-man tag match in the history of the company, with chaos reigning supreme. Roman Reigns was touted as the company’s next big thing, while Bray Wyatt couldn’t have been more over. Ambrose already proved his worth as the assumed leader of his pack, while Harper and Rowan proved to be big surprises in this contest based on the risks they took.
The match clocked in at just under over 20 minutes, with The Wyatt Family securing the victory after a “Sister Abigail” to Reigns. Maybe there was a singles match that could have given this war a run for its money (look at the No. 2 selection), but when it comes to tag team wrestling, there was no greater match than this one for the Connecticut-based promotion in 2014.
It’s ironic, too, since both these factions have disbanded since this encounter. Like Bryan vs. Wyatt in the Royal Rumble, this match took place early on in the year, but it takes top honors because of how good everyone thought it would be, and these six prospects producing something greater than what was expected.