With TLC and NXT Takeover: London just around the corner, 2015’s special events are coming to a close, but before we review them, let’s go all the way back to 2014 to recap the best 20 matches of the year.
Last year gave us the end of the streak, the rise of NXT, the beginning of The Shield as singles competitors and the crowning of Daniel Bryan, but what was the best match of 2014?
Find out below!
20th: Hell in a Cell Match: John Cena versus Randy Orton
I can hear you groaning already, but judge a match by the performance of the wrestlers in the ring and not by your own loathing of a certain match up. Despite the fact that it was basically plucked from nowhere, this match delivered a lot of high-quality spots that a Hell in a Cell match should and the two veterans performed far better than anyone would have expected them to. On a pay-per-view without a main title match, these two did a great job of picking up the slack.
19th: United States Championship Match: Sheamus versus Cesaro
This was actually the second time these two faced off for the United States Championship in 2014, at the Night of Champions pay-per-view. These two have outstanding chemistry and they’ve consistently delivered some of the best brawl-heavy matches the WWE has seen in a long time and this match was no exception. Sheamus retained, but Cesaro got a chance to show how good he is.
18th: Last Man Standing Match: John Cena versus Bray Wyatt
The Payback pay-per-view hosted the last of three encounters between John Cena and Bray Wyatt, which was also the best of them. While their WrestleMania match was excellent, this delivered everything a last man standing match should with a nice bit in the middle with The Usos coming out and fighting off the other Wyatt’s. This was a really well-worked match, with a symbolic finish of Cena literally burying Bray.
17th: NXT Women’s Championship Match: Charlotte versus Natalya
This match epitomized everything the NXT Women’s Championship would become in 2015. The story was simple but captivating with the Flair dynasty clashing with the Hart dynasty in a match that did both families justice. This match delivered some of the best submission wrestling the WWE has ever seen, let alone in the women’s division. Natalya carried the match and lead Charlotte to her first title reign.
16th: WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: John Cena versus Brock Lesnar
Yes, from a technical standpoint this match at SummerSlam was not a ‘classic’. It was 15 minutes of Lesnar destroying Cena with Cena mustering little to no offense… and that’s why it was great. Not through some vindictive desire to see Cena destroyed, but because it’s something we never see and something we’ll never see again. This was so good because it was so brutally executed and left Cena in a state we’d never seen him in before. It was the perfect way to set up Lesnar’s run as champion.
15th: Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Luke Harper versus Dolph Ziggler
Featuring some of the most brutal ladder spots in a number of years, this match at the TLC pay-per-view delivered everything a good ladder match should, with high spots that really made you cringe and both men being pretty beaten up afterward. They did a great job of keeping the match focused on retrieving the title though and that meant the match had a good flow to it. You could tell they were going for a match of the year contender with this one and were given all the time they needed to do it. In that regard, it does fall short, but it was still a great ladder match.
14th: Six-Man Elimination Tag Team Match: The Shield versus Evolution
The Shield’s final match as a team was an absolute gem. While tornado tag team matches are hard to follow, the action in this match was such that you never really lost track of anyone and when you did, it was by design. The Shield knocking out Evolution 3-0 was the icing on the cake and launched these three as singles wrestlers.
13th: Hell in a Cell Match: Dean Ambrose versus Seth Rollins
It’s hilarious that the best parts of this match actually happened before the bell even rung. Looking back and trying to rank the best matches of 2014, you have to consider what was most memorable and this was one of if not the best feuds of 2014 and they delivered one of the best moments of the year with both men falling from half way up the cell through the announce tables. The only thing costing this match is the ending which robbed us of a clean end to a brilliant feud.
12th: NXT Championship Fatal 4-Way Match: Adrian Neville vs Sami Zayn vs Tyson Kidd vs Tyler Breeze
In my opinion, this was the first high-profile match on an NXT pay-per-view. It was from NXT Takeover: Fatal 4-Way onwards that NXT really started becoming as popular as it is today and this main-event had something to do with that. In true NXT style, they worked this fatal 4-way to perfection with Tyson Kidd really controlling most of the match. The ending, which set up the final big feud between Neville and Zayn was great and it’s that style of booking that separates NXT from the main roster at times.
11th: WWE World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match: Randy Orton versus Batista versus Daniel Bryan
The main-event of WrestleMania, which was saved by Bryan’s inclusion, gave us everything we wanted. Having Orton and Batista almost work together for most of it was smart and crowning Bryan on the biggest stage was a WrestleMania moment that will go down as one of the best of all time… until Seth Rollins trumped it a year later…
10th: Tag Team Championship Two out of Three Falls Match: The Usos vs The Wyatt Family
This match stole the show at the Battleground pay-per-view out of nowhere. At just over 20 minutes long, the final fall of the match has so many near falls that you wouldn’t expect from a Tag Team Championship match. This was the true unexpected hit of 2014 and it showed just how good The Usos and Luke Harper, in particular, are.
9th: Lumberjack Match: Seth Rollins versus Dean Ambrose
This was the first time Seth and Dean went at it one-on-one and it really felt like a big fight. In a feud where we all wanted to see Dean get his hands on Rollins, it was so smart to use the Lumberjack match against itself with the two brawling outside of the ring for a large portion of the match. Seth winning was the right call and it would be the first of many great matches these two put on.
8th: Cesaro versus Sami Zayn
It’s almost strange that this is the only singles match on this list without some kind of stipulation or title at stake so far, but again, in true NXT fashion, there was a lot at stake. This started the rise of Sami Zayn to the top of NXT showing that he would not quit until he earned Cesaro’s respect and beat him. Cesaro would get the win, but it was Sami who won over the WWE Universe at the first NXT special.
7th: Six Man Tag Team Match: The Shield versus Evolution
This match surpassed the previous one because the lack of a stipulation meant a little bit less chaos and made it easier to follow. It was also structured a lot better too. Seth Rollins’ death-defying leap was the spot of the match and it was awesome to watch what was essentially the passing of the torch.
6th: The Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Honestly, this was the best Money in the Bank Ladder Match of all time. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger and Rob Van Dam put together a well-timed match filled with some extreme ladder impacts. Seriously, nobody can say Seth didn’t earn it after what he put his body through in that match. The ending was smart because it highlighted the power of The Authority and their backing of Rollins as the future of the company and it put Ambrose over as someone who’ll put his body through anything to win.
5th: Daniel Bryan versus Bray Wyatt
This was right in the middle of the Daniel Bryan takeover of WWE. Everything he did drove fans into a frenzy and why wouldn’t you get behind him when he can deliver stellar matches like this. A white-hot crowd made this something special and it was the win Bray needed so he could lose to Cena properly at WrestleMania.
4th: Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match: Team Cena versus Team Authority
This was built up as one of the biggest matches of the year and given it went for nearly an hour, it literally was. The first half of this match wasn’t anything special, but the added weight of the stipulation made everything feel that much bigger. Big Show’s heel turn, as groan-inspiring as it was, allowed Rollins to pin Cena and set Dolph up for one of the defining moments of his career. Ziggler eliminating Harper and Kane set up some high stakes back and forth action between Dolph and Rollins before the man they call Sting decided to pop in and pay Triple H a visit.
3rd: Triple H versus Daniel Bryan
This storyline was six months in the making and despite it not being the WWE’s original plan for WrestleMania, it ended up creating one of the best storylines of all time. Of course they would do that unintentionally. Bryan and Triple H wrestled a classic that kept in touch with both men’s styles and they sold genuine hatred for each other very well. All in all this was the best feud of 2014 and it culminated in one of the best matches of 2014.
2nd: NXT Championship Match: Adrian Neville versus Sami Zayn
Nothing comes close to this in terms of the best singles matches of 2014. Similar to Bryan’s ascension, Sami Zayn’s was a brilliant underdog story of a man who just couldn’t win the big one and Neville did a great job of putting Zayn over in that regard too. This was everything you’d expect from two of the best wrestlers in the world with the added bonus of an amazing NXT crowd who were unanimously behind Sami from start to finish. Anyone who hasn’t seen this match from Revolution needs to go and watch, because it was the best title match of 2014.
1st: Six Man Tag Team Match: The Wyatt Family versus The Shield
This was about as highly anticipated as matches come and wow did it deliver. The story was simple. The Wyatt’s, in trying to hurt John Cena cost The Shield the opportunity to be a part of the Elimination Chamber Match and thus the collision between the two factions that ruled WWE for a full year was underway. The match itself was perfectly booked and a crowd split down the middle made it that much better. It’s hard to capture the intensity and the ferocity of this match without seeing it, but if you have you know exactly why this was the match of the year.
Do you agree with this list? Is there anything I missed? If so, Tweet me @NicNegrepontis and give me your thoughts.