The World Wrestling Entertainment had an eventful 2014. The WWE saw new stars breakout, a historic result, & one of the most fascinating stories in recent years with one top star quitting and jumping into the world of MMA. Rather than look back myself at the WWE 2014 in review, I am joined by a collection of pro wrestling writers from CamelClutchBlog.com.
WWE Wrestler of the Year
Eric Gargiulo – Brock Lesnar. This may not be a popular opinion but I am going with Brock Lesnar for Wrestler of the Year. Yes I know he wrestled a part-time schedule, but look at what he accomplished in just a handful of matches? He not only ended the streak but he destroyed the WWE world champion in the most one-sided match you’ll ever see headline a WWE pay-per-view. Nobody even came close to giving Lesnar a run for the money. Rollins was my initial choice but even he didn’t have victories as historic as Lesnar. Speaking of historic, Lesnar had two historic matches in one year! I know some people will argue the schedule but I can’t think of anyone who had as dominant of a 2014 in the WWE ring as Brock.
Dustin Nichols – Dolph Ziggler. Had he not gone down with an injury early in the year, I think 2014 would have been the year for Daniel Bryan. Having said that, I am going with Dolph Ziggler. After being punished for some untimely (albeit truthful) comments about Randy Orton being boring and holding the roster back, WWE seems ready to forgive and forget and allow Ziggler to be the star we’ve all known he could be for years. Ziggler’s last few months in WWE have been spectacular, with great match after great match, as well as several key, big wins over guys like Luke Harper and Seth Rollins, including being the sole survivor in the main event at this year’s Survivor Series. Not only that, but he has brought a lot of prestige back to the Intercontinental Championship, and with the WWE title being on a part-timer who only works 30 days a year, Ziggler has done what he promised and made the IC title the most important singles belt in the company.
Tom Clark – Dolph Ziggler. Dolph Ziggler is usually the fans’ choice and honestly I have to go with him this time out. Dean Ambrose had a good year and Seth Rollins did very well but for me, no one was as consistent as Ziggler. Every time he laces up the boots, he impresses. Just because he’s not a top guy makes no difference in terms of what he means to that company; Dolph is an absolute workhorse and he gets it done every time out. He looks more comfortable and more at ease than he perhaps ever has before and if this is what simply allowing a guy to work with little main event expectations is like, then I for one say keep him where he is. He will eventually rise to the top, the guy is too good and he’s too over to be kept down for much longer.
Jeff Peck – Seth Rollins.
Heading into 2014, Seth Rollins may have been the least likely guy on The Shield to breakout on his own and now he is by far the best star from The Shield since their split back in June. Rollins how tremendous matches throughout the year with guys like Dean Ambrose & John Cena and now he is poised to be a WWE Champion at some point in 2015. It’s amazing to see how far Seth Rollins has come from Tyler Black in ROH to the star we see each and every week in the WWE.
Atlee Greene – Dean Ambrose. In the wake of Daniel Bryan’s injury in May, no one has captured the imagination of WWE fans more than Dean Ambrose. Seth Rollins, and to an extent, Roman Reigns have had some good matches and fun moments but the lunatic fringe, with his versatile performance on the microphone and in the ring, has proven that in the case of The Shield, the sun of its parts is greater than the whole. Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins also deserve consideration for this honor.
Steve Grossi – Brock Lesnar. Some people are going to think I’m crazy but I’m going with Brock Lesnar for my wrestler of the year. When I think of the individual that should win this, in my mind, it’s the wrestler who had the biggest year – the wrestler who made the biggest impact. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Daniel Bryan, John Cena and Dolph Ziggler all had great moments but no one even comes close to the impact Brock made in the ring in 2014. I hate the idea that he didn’t wrestle enough to win wrestler of the year. This isn’t football or baseball where stats are compiled. He works when he works. It’s not about collecting stats to compare against someone else. With Ziggler’s win at Survivor Series being close, Brock had two wins that are untouchable by anyone else. Lesnar’s domination of Cena at SummerSlam was unbelievable. It was the most one-sided beating of Cena’s WWE career. Brock hit Super Cena with 16 German suplexes, and two F-5’s, pinning Cena clean to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Four months prior, the thing I never thought would ever happen, happened. Brock Lesnar did exactly what Paul Heyman said he was going to do, he defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania, putting an end to Taker’s 21-match undefeated streak. Those are two moments I never thought I would see and Brock Lesnar did them both in the same year. Hands down the wrestler of the year for 2014.
Danny Bixby – John Cena.John Cena. Let’s go ahead and everyone agree to just disavow me now. My pick is…sigh…John Cena. Ugh, I hate myself for this! But let’s be honest, this year has been pretty much a crapshoot talent-wise. With CM Punk quitting in January, Daniel Bryan getting injured for 6-12 months right after he won the title at Wrestlemania and WWE’s new golden child Roman Reigns being out for a few months this fall, the WWE main event scene has fallen to one guy: John Cena. He has main evented 7 out of 12 PPV’s this year, and been the “2nd main event” for the other 5. Nobody else can boast that. The WWE relies on him to carry the weight of the product, and he does it year after year. 2014 was no different.
David Levin – Daniel Bryan. The rise of Bryan over the course of two years is one of the best stories in wrestling history. It is as important to the business as it was back in the 1970s when it was thought Ric Flair wasn’t worthy enough to hold the belt because Dory Funk and Jack Brisco had better wrestling backgrounds. The cult-like rapport’ Bryan has with the fans from a simple catch phrase – “YES!” – is one for the ages.
Robert Goeman – Seth Rollins. If Daniel Bryan had stayed healthy, this award would have been his. When the Shield broke up this year, Ambrose and Reigns had easy transitions into their face roles. Ambrose became a vengeful psychopath hell bent on destroying Rollins and Reigns…he changed his gear! Rollins became the handpicked golden boy of the Authority and has knocked it out of the park as a cocky little turd. With the sudden disappearance of alleged real world’s champion Brock Lesnar to visit every Jimmy Johns in a goodwill tour to spread the word of Vito Meats, Rollins has settled comfortably into the top heel spot. The highlight of his is of course the excellent Ambrose feud and good to great bouts against the likes of Ziggler and Cena among others. Rollins has cemented himself as the top heel in the company and I really don’t see anybody on the roster unseating him or even challenging him. Of course, I’m not forgetting all of the excellent work Rollins did in the Shield; he just impressed the heck out of me in this role. I honestly thought he would struggle in the role, but Rollins has been a natural in the role.
Chris Skoyles – Dolph Ziggler. Equally revered by casual fans and die-hards alike, Dolph Ziggler -in this writer’s opinion- deserves the nod for Wrestler of the Year not so much for any kayfabe accomplishments, but more for continuing to maintain his status as a firm favourite despite his continual mistreatment at the hands of the WWE machine. Whilst others are held up as bastions of greatness one minute, only to be scorned the next (see: Roman Reigns), Ziggler manages to retain the respect and adulation of fans thanks to his always-on-form work in keeping us entertained.
Eric Darsie – Dean Ambrose. If you told me at the start of 2014 that the Shield will break up and Dean Ambrose would be the guy I was most excited about watching out of the three, I’d laugh at you. When the three broke apart at the end of the spring, all three men jumped up the singles ladder rather quickly and I can see all three men as main eventers in the future, but with Dean Ambrose having a two pay-per-view main events under his belt as a singles star, he’s my wrestler of the year.
WWE Story of the Year
Eric Gargiulo – CM Punk Quitting the WWE and signing with the UFC. I struggled between CM Punk leaving the WWE and going to UFC and the Ultimate Warrior’s return and subsequent passing. With all due respect to the Warrior, I think the CM Punk story was much bigger on so many levels. Never have we had a story where a top guy just walked out of the company, impacting WrestleMania, and going to the UFC all in one year! On top of all of that you have the added element of Punk’s wife still working for the WWE. This is one hell of a story and the recent podcasts and interviews only heated it up again. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like it again and for me, this was the biggest story of the year in and outside of the ring. How big of a story was this? In a year where the WWE essentially eliminated the pay-per-view model in favor of a network, this story was bigger.
Dustin Nichols – CM Punk quits and signs with UFC. I think there’s really only one story that can earn this award, and that’s CM Punk parting ways with WWE and eventually signing with UFC. Regardless of which side you believe (although Punk’s seems more likely), the fact is that Punk was a major star during his time with WWE, and leaving the company for a variety of reasons was even more major. The split was bitter, and Punk eventually decided to not only not return, but to leave pro wrestling for good, announcing his retirement before the age of 40, something almost unheard of in this sport. If that wasn’t shocking enough, Punk recently signed a major contract with UFC, with both sides likely looking to replicate the success of Brock Lesnar a few years back. Punk is already training for his first fight, and is expected to debut sometime in 2015. Already, speculation is running rampant on not only who Punk will face, but how well he is expected to fare in “the Octagon”. Regardless of what you think of his career move, Punk signing with UFC has the whole sports world talking.
Tom Clark – The CM Punk saga. For me, this has to be the CM Punk saga. The guy that once stood up for the WWE locker room decided to leave it behind in favor of healing up and trying to have a normal life with his new wife. It made sense and I for one didn’t hold it against him. When he finally broke his silence on WWE, everyone lost their minds and when the UFC announcement was made, things got even crazier. The voice of the voiceless was screaming louder than ever before and he wasn’t even in the ring anymore. Fans can either hate him or love him but no one deny Punk’s drive to be his own man and not be controlled by anyone else on any level. We should all be that brave.
Jeff Peck – CM Punk vs. the WWE. From the walkout to the podcast pipebomb to Vince McMahon’s response the CM Punk/WWE saga has dominated headlines throughout of 2014. From rumors of CM Punk being at RAW in Chicago back in March 2014 to rumors of CM Punk being at WrestleMania 30 to rumors of any and every type of return. It’ll be interesting to see what twists it takes heading into 2015 as CM Punk prepares for his UFC debut and if there is any “burying of the hatchet” between he & the WWE.
Steve Grossi – The Ultimate Warrior Returns. The debut of Sting is a very difficult story to pick against but for me, The Ultimate Warrior was the story of 2014. After a long and ugly feud with Vince McMahon and WWE management that lasted 18+ years, The Ultimate Warrior took his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame with a speech that will never be forgotten. Then, the night after WrestleMania XXX, he made an epic return to Monday Night Raw with an even more powerful and very eerie speech. He said, “No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat; his lungs breathe their final breath.” It’s almost like he was saying his final farewell. Then the following day, one of the saddest days I can remember, he passed away. There is no doubt in my mind that after everything that had happened in the events during WrestleMania weekend, he was happy and finally at peace. He will forever be one of my all-time favorite wrestlers. He’s the kind of personality you never forget. The music, his sprint to the ring, the face paint and one-of-a-kind promos and there’s no question the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will live forever. I couldn’t be happier that he was able to make his return and take his place in the WWE Hall of Fame.
David Levin – CM Punk Walking Out. Punk marched to the beat of his own drum. He walked out and then was fired on his wedding day. Arenas chant his name, hope he will appear in person in a “Sting sitting in the rafters” type scenario.Now, after hearing about how Vince McMahon publically apologized to him for the way he company treated him, to how Punk was never treated properly for MRSA to how he now is property of the UFC, Punk continues to make headline just for the mere fact he is the most polarizing wrestler who has not appeared in a WWE ring in the last 11 months.
Danny Bixby – $9.99! Say it with me: $9.99!!! That’s right, the absolute biggest story of the year was the creation and promotion of the WWE Network. A fan’s wet dream when it comes to watching pro wrestling. You can see every WWE/WCW/ECW ppv that ever existed, along with every new WWE ppv live while they air. I mean really, even if it was current PPV’s, you’re looking at $600 in ppv cable costs…instead of $120 for the year for the Network. That’s a crazy deal. Throw in all the old stuff, the new special content (Countdown, Monday Night War, etc) and every fan has been salivating at this. Hell, it’s worth $9.99 just to be able to watch NXT every week! As time goes on, the future of WWE will rise and fall with the success of the Network. All of their eggs are in this basket. Hopefully it doesn’t get crushed.
Robert Goeman – CM Punk’s Walk Out. This to me was a tough vote because we had the Network launch and it struggle leading to the stock debacle. You had Daniel Bryan cementing himself as the new face of the WWE, to only see his career in doubt. We all know or at-least we thought we knew the story being Punk leaving, sitting out his contract and then seemingly disappearing. Punk had never talked about the walk-out; the WWE seemed to be in radio silence mode and CM Punk became CM Sticky Note. Everybody theorized when Punk would return, then people were happy he was gone, and then everybody wanted him back. We also wondered when Vince would be seen driving a dump truck full of money down to Chicago. The company took pot shots at him in Chicago and Punk to his credit maintained silence. On Thanksgiving weekend, Punk would appear on Colt Cabana’s podcast, revealing
Chris Skoyles – CM Punk and WWE part way. I badly wanted to give this one to the Undertaker’s streak reaching its end. After all, did anything come as far out of the blue as that? Yet ultimately, I have to concede that the Punk/WWE break up earns the win simply because it’s dominated headlines for pretty much the full course of the year. Months after the Straight Edge Superstar’s last appearance in a WWE ring, we were still talking about him online, chanting his name in arenas and wondering what he’d do next. The move to MMA means we’ll still be talking about him long into 2015.
Eric Darsie – CM Punk vs. Vince McMahon. Since he walked out the night after the Royal Rumble, CM Punk was silent until Thanksgiving, when his first part interview with Colt Cabana on Art of Wrestling came out. With the lawsuit and all, he couldn’t come out sooner than he did, but it all made sense after both editions of Art of Wrestling came out. McMahon appearing on the Steve Austin Show with Stone Cold, it appears to me that what Punk mentioned in his two interviews with Cabana opened up a can of worms that the WWE has to close with their doctors, and with CM Punk.
WWE Match of the Year
Eric Gargiulo – Team Authority vs. Team Cena (Survivor Series 2014). This was another tough one because I hate to be accused of recency bias but I don’t think there was a match as exciting all year as the Survivor Series 2014 Team Cena vs. Team Authority match. The match was 43 minutes long which has to be the longest WWE PPV main-event in recent years. The match was incredibly dramatic, more so than even Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H. The fans were fantastic as they added an element of excitement to the match rarely seen outside of WrestleMania. The final fifteen minutes were as fun as you will get on a WWE event in 2014. I watched it again before writing this to confirm and it was just as entertaining several weeks later as it was live. I loved this match and the drama that came with it, thus it gets my nod for Match of the Year.
Dustin Nichols – Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista (WrestleMania 30). Although not the most spectacular match I’ve ever seen, I’m going with Bryan/Orton/Batista at Wrestlemania. Although something of an average triple threat match, the story of Bryan defying the odds and continuing to come back from absolutely everything thrown at him told a great story and made the match (as well as the payoff) completely worthwhile. Andre/Hogan at Wrestlemania III wasn’t the greatest of matches, but everyone remembers it because of the great build and the fantastic story. I think the same will be said for Bryan finally reaching the pinnacle of WWE in front of a crowd 100% behind him.
Tom Clark – Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista (WrestleMania 30). This one has to be Daniel Bryan’s title victory over Randy Orton and Batista at WrestleMania 30. It may not get the nod overall in terms of being a technical masterpiece but it was the main event of WWE’s biggest night of the year. Combine that with the fact it was Bryan’s ascension to the top and it meant so much more. There has arguably not been a guy more deserving and more suited to fill that spot in recent history than Daniel Bryan and I’m very happy that he got his Mania moment. It was the biggest night of his career and it came on the night when the company made the most money. For me, that’s an epic match that’s hard to top.
Jeff Peck – Charlotte vs. Natalya (NXT Takeover – May 29th, 2014). This may come as a shock to some but it really stands out to me as the best match in a WWE ring from this past year. Charlotte and Natalya took the Flair/Hart rivalry to the next level back in May 2014 by putting together one of the best women’s wrestling matches I have seen in some time. The chemistry between the two of them is amazing, both are extremely athletic and they brought a emotional investment into the match.
Atlee Greene – Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (Monday Night Raw 8/18/14). Their match at Summer Slam was match of the night and they upped the ante tenfold the next night on Raw. This was 25 minutes of televised mayhem that engulfed the Thomas & Mack Center and completely captivated the viewers at home. Nothing was wasted and everything meant something, unlike most Falls Count Anywhere matches, which are simply done for shock and awe. The finish where Rollins curb stomped Ambrose’s head through the cinder blocks was perfectly executed and heightened the drama of an already intense feud.
Steve Grossi – Wyatt Family vs The Shield: Elimination Chamber. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family at Elimination Chamber is my choice for match of the year. There are many ingredients that make for a great match and this one had it all. All six members of these factions are spectacular performers and we are seeing that play out today. The buildup for this match was great. The promos and altercations were all fun and highly entertaining. The anticipation was unbelievable for them to finally have the match and that was evident the night of Elimination Chamber. The second these two groups entered the ring the crowd was jacked up. They were chanting, “this is awesome” before the match even started. Of course the contest lived up to the hype. This faction war had Dean Ambrose go missing, Seth Rollins flying everywhere including through an announce table, excitement, unpredictability and most importantly a definitive finish. There were a ton of great matches in 2014 but this one tops them all.
Eric Darsie – The Shield def. Evolution (WWE Payback). One of the matches I believe put over the Shield, especially the night after they’d break apart, was their clean sweep against Evolution at WWE Payback in a no disqualification elimination match. There weren’t any falls until the last minutes of the match and WrestleMania main eventers put over the new stars, what better match to put over the new singles stars?
Danny Bixby – Wyatt Family vs The Shield: Elimination Chamber. This match only barely squeaked out ahead of The Shield vs Evolution at Payback mostly because of the storyline surrounding it. This was the major turning point for the Shield. They were now full out babyfaces after being unstoppable heels since their debut. And the fans were dying for it! This match gave people what they wanted: A compelling reason to fight (Wyatts cost the Shield a shot at the title in the chamber) and 6 performers who gave everything they had to the match. Even Erick Rowan, the weakest link in the bunch, looked legitimate in this contest. The only thing that may have made it better would be putting Ziggler & Cesaro into it somehow too.
David Levin – Team Authority vs. Team Cena (Survivor Series 2014). The WWE is finally allowing more wrestlers to move forward, leaving John Cena’s spot vulnerable. Ziggler coming forward did a few things to the landscape of the WWE. It opened the door for someone to be the go-to face in the company. It also meant the remnant of The Authority have two heads to chop when it comes to getting even. Ziggler is one of the best performers to come through the WWE in the past decade.
Robert Goeman – Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (SummerSlam 2014). Before you begin to grab from that box of rotten fruit with my name written on it, let me explain. Were there better matches from a wrestling standpoint? Yes, but from a story standpoint nothing will touch this. A legitimate big fight atmosphere not seen since Hogan vs Vader at SuperBrawl 1995, coupled with the biggest curveball in WWE history as Lesnar just runs through a fifteen time champion with ease. This is a match with so many great moments: The F-5 right away, Lesnar’s facial expressions, the suplexes, Charles Robinson in general, that Let’s Go Cena kid, Heyman being Heyman, and even Cena’s last ditch moves to slay the monster. Those two moments will always stand out for me, the outta nowhere AA and Lesnar sitting up like The Underaker with the grin and laugh like it was nothing. When Cena locked in the Hail Mary STF, I had the same dread that many fans felt as Lesnar would tap out and Cena would win. It’s one of the best STF’s Cena ever did, but the moment of Lesnar breaking out with ease, pounding on Cena, dragging Cena and hitting with F-5 to mercifully end it all was beautiful.
Chris Skoyles – Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H – WrestleMania 30. A tough one this one. For many, the subsequent main event, with Bryan finally lifting the title after a dramatic outing with Orton and Batista may be the better of the former American Dragon’s Wrestlemania 30 matches. Given the drama involved and the feel-good finale, it certainly deserves to be up there, but for this fan, the opening contest just pips it to the post. Bryan stood toe-to-toe with the man who had tormented him for months and took him out at the end of one of the best ‘Mania opening matches in 20 years.
WWE Angle of the Year
Eric Gargiulo – Daniel Bryan vs. the Authority. In a perfect world this angle would have paid dividends right after WrestleMania. Unfortunately injuries to Bryan prevented the angle from truly paying off. Ironically this great angle would have not even been possible if it weren’t for CM Punk walking out and leaving Triple H without an opponent for Mania. Regardless, by the time this match got to Mania the feud was red hot and Bryan was finally given the big WrestleMania push we hoped to see.
Dustin Nichols – Brock Lesnar ends the Streak. Unfortunately, the angles this year weren’t all that great, mainly due to the shows being almost completely dominated by the Authority vs. whoever every single week. While the angle did provide some great moments, it got very stale very quickly, as any angle of this nature does. If I had to pick one, however, I am going to go with something most nearly everyone else hated, and that’s Brock Lesnar conquering the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania. I have been begging for this to happen for quite some time, but never had much faith it would happen. While Lesnar wouldn’t be my first choice, seeing him absolutely destroy the Undertaker and cleanly pin his shoulders to the mat was phenomenal. Follow that up with Lesnar obliterating John Cena in a completely lopsided affair, and Lesnar became one of my favorite performers of the year, even if he did work only part-time.
Tom Clark – Brock Lesnar Dominates the WWE. Brock Lesnar owned WWE in 2014 due to his manhandling of John Cena at SummerSlam and because of his shocking win over The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30. His return to the company and these two events are enough for me to consider it the angle of the year. The fact that WWE would allow a guy that’s not even part time to first conquer The Deadman at Mania then destroy Cena for the championship is so surprising that it has to get the nod here. That he spent four months off of TV with no title defense is just icing on the cake; it may not be the popular choice but for me, this was definitely the angle of the year. And no, I’m not happy about it either.
Jeff Peck – Seth Rollins turns on the Shield. I’ve said that Seth Rollins turning his back on The Shield could be the “Shawn Michaels super kick to Marty Jannetty through the barber shop window” moment circa 2014. It came out of no where and it was with someone fans would least likely expect turn his back as a heel. Just 6+ months later from the angle and we could be looking at a moment that defines the WWE for years or decades to come.
Eric Darsie – Brock Lesnar being the 1 in 21-1. Who ever thought going into WrestleMania XXX that the Undertaker will take a lose at WrestleMania, especially to another part timer like Brock Lesnar? With how Brock has been booked for the rest of the year, and with his MMA credentials, I don’t know who’d be better to be the one to end the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak. Brock made John Cena look like a jobber at SummerSlam to become the new WWE Champion, and coming off of the victory at WrestleMania, Brock can not be stopped!
David Levin – Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority. It has been NWO-ish in how the Authority had built so much momentum, beating the hell out of Bryan. It reminded me of Lex Luger, Randy Savage and others getting their asses licked each week. The “B+” angle works great with Bryan, the underdog and the bearded, smallish wrestler with a heart as big as Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit combined.
Robert Goeman – The Rise of the YES Movement Going into WrestleMania XXX. Hands up, who thought that the WWE was going to screw this up? After so many screw-ups when it came to booking Daniel Bryan in summer/fall/winter, I surely thought that Bryan would lose again in 18 seconds at The Show of Shows. I can admit that I was wrong and there was some really good stuff in the weeks leading into Mania. The Occupy Raw segment was well done and the beat down angle, while predictable was executed so well. Credit obviously goes to Triple H and Bryan for playing their respective roles very well, but Stephanie McMahon was great in this angle, and they’d try to do the same thing with Steph and Brie….but that didn’t work obviously. It’s a great angle and it lead to The Miracle on Bourbon Street, which combined my love for Triple H doing the job and Bret Hart’s WrestleMania X journey.
Chris Skoyles – Daniel Bryan – The Underdog Prevails. Though Daniel Bryan – WWE Champion may not have lasted long, everything before that big Wrestlemania moment made for compelling television. What really made this one stand out was that it perfectly weaved on-screen drama with fans’ real-life frustration over Bryan’s push to keep us hooked from start to finish. Throw in Triple H at his most heelish best, memorable moments like the ‘Occupy Raw’ segment, and we’ve got our angle of the year.
WWE Breakout Star of the Year
Eric Gargiulo – Seth Rollins. The WWE breakout wrestler of the year is probably someone I would have never predicted a year ago. Daniel Bryan was on his way and I think Dean Ambrose could have been bigger, but the WWE creative team did less to hasten Rollins’ ascension than anyone else. He went from a cog on a three man team to being the number one full-time heel under Brock Lesnar in a year. I almost gave Rollins Wrestler of the Year but his record just didn’t quite measure up. He has no real big victories to speak of and nothing that even comes close to dwarfing the end of the streak. Rollins has a big chance to be Wrestler of the Year in 2015, but I can’t think of anyone who took as big of a leap in such a short time in 2014 or any recent year than Seth Rollins.
Dustin Nichols – Damien Mizdow. While the angles in the company were kind of stale this year, there was no shortage of breakout stars. All three members of the Shield, Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper could all lay claim to this award. However, I’m going to go a different route and go with Damien Mizdow. Mizdow is on the verge of finally becoming a major star, and everyone knows it. After having a very lackluster couple of years in the company, the former Damien Sandow got slapped with a gimmick that should have killed him for good, that being the Miz’s stunt double. Instead, Mizdow decided to have fun with the gimmick, including coming up with the idea of mimicking all of Miz’s moves and actions in the ring himself, and the fans have completely latched onto it. What was originally an idea to get Miz over (it’s never going to happen, WWE. Accept it) has instead breathed completely new life into Mizdow, legitimately making him one of the most over wrestlers on the roster. It’s only a matter of time before WWE splits this team up and finally starts pushing Mizdow onto bigger and better things, something they’re already in the process of teasing.
Jeff Peck – Rusev. When the WWE first debuted Rusev as a Russian star I groaned because it was a gimmick that was down 20-25 years ago, yet the WWE has made it entertaining and gotten it over in 2014. Rusev is a force in the ring with a ton of momentum heading into 2015 and having Lana as his mouthpiece has made him into a superstar that I’ve grown to enjoy on a weekly basis. I do believe that 2015 will be a big year in longevity for Rusev as I think he can clearly be a force in the WWE for years to come, if booked correctly.
Steve Grossi – Dean Ambrose. I’ve been saying this for months now and I am going to continue to say it, Dean Ambrose is currently the best thing going in the WWE today. When it was time for The Shield to split up, it was clear he was not in their main event plans. Roman Reigns was handpicked to be the next baby face star and with Seth Rollins winning Money in the Bank, he’s clearly in position to make a huge impact in the future. But then Ambrose was given the opportunity to stand out and that’s exactly what he did. He’s great on the microphone, excellent in the ring and you never know what you are going to get with him. Whether it’s ripping apart a dummy in the ring, destroying the Money in the Bank briefcase, jumping out of a present or the back of a car, he’s taking the fun factor to another level. In this case, it’s not all about getting the win in the ring. The Lunatic Fringe has been a part of some of the best programs of the year, most notably against Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt and in my opinion; those feuds were great because of Ambrose. No question he’s the guy to keep an eye on in 2015.
David Levin – Bray Wyatt. Bray Wyatt. While we expected the members of the Shield to dominate this first half of the year, Wyatt came in a revolutionized the oddity in wrestling again. Not since the days of Kevin Sullivan and Adrian Street have we witnessed such a dramatic entrance in the business and the feuds he has already assumed with Kane, John Cena, Chris Jericho and now Dean Ambrose make him as epic as the WWE wanted him to be.
Robert Goeman – Luke Harper.
While Harper had some good performances in 2013, I felt that he took off this year with some great moments in the Shield/Wyatt Family series. Harper also had some great matches against Cena during the Wyatt feud and stood out in the blow-off to the Uso’s feud at Battleground. Harper also had some good showings against Chris Jericho in the Jericho/Wyatt feud and capped off 2014 with a show-stealing ladder match against Dolph Ziggler at TLC. Harper’s future is bright and looks to be the next great big man that the company has desperately looked for since The Undertaker started to slow down. Hopefully, Harper will have a strong showing in the Rumble match, heck I would even peg him being in the final six at-least.
Eric Darsie – Seth Rollins. Along with Dean Ambrose, I was surprised to see how great Seth Rollins was by the end of 2014 as a singles star. I never thought Rollins would be as great of a heel when he was a part of the Shield and if you told me back at the start of 2014 that Rollins will be one of the top heels by the end of the year, I’d be surprised. I can’t wait to see where 2015 takes him.
Chris Skoyles – Dean Ambrose. Another tough one. In terms of in-ring excellence, others may have shone brighter than Ambrose, and though he was already well entrenched in the WWE system along with the shield, it was in 2014 that he proved he could hold his own as a top-tier solo star.
Krysta Ibach – Luke Harper. I am trying to decide who the bigger break out star is; Dean Ambrose…Seth Rollins…or Luke Harper. (Cue chorus in the peanut gallery….HARPER???). Yes Harper. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins have just expanded exponentially since the implosion of the SHIELD. (Reigns not so much; he needs to lose the strong but silent type image; he was much better when he was that flirty, cheeky man.) Their promos for the most part are consistent and spot on; their in-ring work just gets better and better. Ambrose is train wreck riveting; you just can’t look away when he’s on. Even that spot with the mannequin where Ambrose went all out; it was a strange spot but still we were riveted. Rollins too has his moments where you just don’t want to miss anything he might do, the high spots where he drops off ledges. Their feud is one that WWE can revisit time and again and the IWC may never tire of it, their chemistry is awesome. Some of the angles have been shit, but that’s more creative than talent. And Harper…as one of the big men of the company, Harper can pull off moves that one would expect from a smaller competitor (I’m still talking about THAT first hurricanrana.) It’ll be interesting to see where they take Harper now that he has been “Set Free” from the Wyatt Family. I can see him having a great singles career…if they don’t shank it like they have with others *cough* Drew McIntyre (Drew Galloway) *cough*
You can get more of Danny than you can handle at his website www.stillrealtome.com. He also co-hosts the best pro wrestling podcast in the world, Still Real To Me, subscribe on iTunes www.stillrealtome.com/itunes. Follow his show on twitter @SRTMpodcast
Tom Clark is the host of Tom Clark’s Main Event podcast, a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a Writer for Whatculture.com
Eric Darsie is known as a ‘common-man’ among his peers, at least he thinks so. He works hard with his hands in the heart of Minnesota and on his free time, he thugs and a bugs with his family and friends. Whenever he doesn’t do that, he’s found to be writing. Now more of a rare thing, he’s gems could be found here. If you would like to see more of Eric’s work outside of the professional world, check him out at http://vintagedarsie.wordpress.com/, http://www.writerscafe.org/Darsie/writing/.
Steven Grossi is a digital video producer who likes to write a little. He’s a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, hardcore MMA fan and a total wrestling nerd. He usually has a strong opinion on anything combat sports related so give him a follow on twitter @SteveOGrossi.
Robert Goeman has been writing for CamelClutchBlog since 2014 and has written for FiveOuncesofPain and What Culture. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertGoeman.
Chris Skoyles is a writer and wrestling fan currently on a mission to review every WWE pay per view from Wrestlemania 1 – 30. Those reviews, and more, can be found on the Retro Pro Wrestling blog (http://allprowrestlingreviews.blogspot.com). Chris tweets at @Retropwrestling.
Jeff Peck is the co-host for the wrestling podcast, “The Still Real to Us Show” and the podcast, “The Bower Show.” You can download the shows over at TheBowerShow.com or WrestleChat.net. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter: @TheJeffPeck and “like” his Facebook pages: Facebook.com/TheStillRealToUsShow and Facebook.com/BowerShow
Atlee Greene is a contributor to Camel Clutch Blog and host of The Bodyslam Podcast. His other work can be found at Gerweck.net, ForcesofGeek.com, Whatculture.com and his own personal blog. He can be found on Twitter @MidnightLogicGo
Dustin Nichols is a freelance writer, and you can keep track of all of his work on his Facebook page, which can be found at www.facebook.com/DustinNicholsWriter. Oh, and if you like bodybuilding, check out his mom’s official site by clicking the banner below:
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