Certain few constants run throughout the expanse of my memory -- baseball, videogames, and one not less understood by the masses, wrestling. Closing out 2014 and heading into the new year, I'm going to give a little insight into why sub-soap-opera-esque storylines involving sweaty muscly men in tights can bring about the most exciting moments of the year by counting down my top 10 moments from WWE in 2014.

#10 - Razor Ramon Inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame

Scott Hall AKA "The Bad Guy" Razor Ramon was one of the biggest stars of wrestling in the 90s, and as was common with stars in the 90s, fell into substance abuse, with his choice being alcohol.  It was a slow fall after exiting television in the early 2000s, and hit perhaps the lowpoint in 2010 being arrested at a bar, his photo almost unrecognizable

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-05-22/news/os-scott-hall-bar-incident-20100521_1_disorderly-intoxication-seminole-county-bar-patrol-car

Since then he was taken under the wing of another former star, Diamond Dallas Page, who has his own fitness business called DDP Yoga.  With that support, he turned things around, was accepted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and his speech at the 2014 induction ceremony showed a night and day transformation.  Having followed the articles over the years, it was a genuine feel-good story.

See the final, memorable words of his speech

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#9 - Paige Debuts on Raw

There hasn't been much positive to say about the WWE's womens' division for a very long time.  In the 90s and early 2000s, the women's division was had a minimal focus on wrestling, angling much more on raunchiness with gimmick matches.  Then into the "PG era" where WWE decided to create a more family-friendly product, the "Divas" were still hired as models, but put on lack-luster matches with very limited time limits.  Literally they hired models and trained them to be wrestlers.

During this time, in wrestling circles the womens' matches were referred to as a "bathroom break" time.  Live crowds would be unresponsive and disinterested.  Not that the matches couldn't be good, but the talent wasn't really hired as talent, and there was little to no creative effort put into the writing, nor was the time given to it.

2013 livened up the division as AJ Lee, someone who was there to be a wrestler, working through high school to afford to get into wrestling school, and took on a character that was in stark contrast to the rest of the division. After winning a match that involved every single woman on the roster at Wrestlemania, there was little left to prove.

Then came Paige.  WWE has a developmental show that highlights wrestlers as they are training to be apart of the main show, called NXT.  By far the best womens matches from WWE have been in NXT just in the past couple years, many of those involving Paige, who would become the first NXT Women's Champion.  Her debut on Raw after Wrestlemania was met with excitement not felt in years.  The two facing off in the ring was met with "This is awesome" chants, which would be considered completely ridiculous even months prior.


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While the aftermath of her debut hasn't proven to have shaken things up nearly as much as many of us would want, her and other debuts from NXT give promise to a better future.


#8 - The Swiss Superman wins the Wrestlemania Battle Royale

A big part of the magic of wrestling are the storylines that get you invested in the characters involved.  Events over the course of weeks and months that build up to make the payoff that much sweeter.

Those are the reasons why the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale was meant to be boring.  Going into Wrestlemania XXX, this battle royale match was introduced with little build-up or story progression.  Winning it didn't win any titles and it largely just felt pointless.  So while the match should be fun, it would be filler for the show.

That was, until we got the payoff.  Enter Cesaro, who was organically becoming a fan-favourite despite being part of a heel tag-team backed but a xenophobic mouthpiece, just by sheer entertainment power in the ring, and nicknamed the Swiss Superman for his strength beyond appearance.  In a showdown between he and the "Big Show", a 7-foot, 400+ pound giant akin to Andre himself, Cesaro lifted and through the Big Show over the top rope, even wearing yellow, acting as a throwback to Wrestlemania 3.


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#7 - Sami Wins the Big One

You could pick a moment from any match in the NXT REvolution show to fit in this list instead, from the no-hands backflip off the ropes from Kalisto, to Charlotte's moonsault into landing on her feet followed by a front flip, to Finn Balor's mesmerizing entrance or the crowd's eruption at Itami's GTS tease, to the entirety of Kevin Owen's debut.  But to represent the show, it has to go to the main event, Sami Zayn vs Adrian Neville for the NXT Championship.

Zayn has acted as the beloved underdog in NXT for a long time, with REvolution being the climax.  A long and terrific that multiple times looked like he would fall just short again ended with Zayn coming out on top with utter jubilation from the crowd, and followed by a very real emotional embrace between he and Owens who had come out to the ring which outside the story had been wrestling and travelling on the road together for a decade.  It then follows through on that legacy as Owens turned on Zayn outside the ring showing that they are destined to do this forever.

The match alone tells the story.  And the entire show is the singlemost embodiment of wrestling.  It's worth watching in its entirety, but here's the cliffnotes version


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Counting down the top 10 WWE moments of 2014!

#6 - The Man They Call Sting

It's been almost 15 years since the end of WCW.  There were a lot of big names that passed through WCW in its tenure -- Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Goldberg.  But there was one constant through the years at the top of the card, and that man was Sting.

Since then, Sting has wrestled elsewhere but never in WWE.  There was some fanfare in having join the roster of WWE2K15 in a trailer back in July, but then there was nothing.  Jump to November and Survivor Series.  Following an extended match of the year candidate in the main event 5v5 elimination match, things looking like another bullied win by the heel authority, lights darken, crows sound, and enter the Icon, the man they call Sting.


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#5 - Seth Sells Out

The most intriguing arch over the course of 2013 was The Shield, a three man group composed of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.  They burst onto the scene and dominated from day 1.  Ambrose had the third longest US title reign in history during that time, while Rollins and Reigns held the tag titles.  They ran through every obstacle, and won over the fans in the process.

But as with all teams in WWE, we were waiting for how it would end.  There was infighting on occasion hinting at a break-up, then nothing happen.  Discussions surrounded who would would come out on which sides, everyone expecting Ambrose to come out the heel.

Then, following a dominant win at Extreme Rules, we all just expected the conclusion to the feud with Evolution and that would be it.  Then this happened


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And there was visceral hate for Rollins ever since.  The right kind of disdain for the dastard's wrongdoing.  The fan as Rollins swings the chair is right: "NOOOOOOOOOOO"


#4 - Bryan the Conductor

On last year's road to Wrestlemania, there was one and only one name that truly mattered and that was Daniel Bryan.  Fans supported Bryan like no other as he appealed to every portion of the fanbase, and his completely inability to hide how much he loved what he was doing made him all that much more endearing to everyone.

Despite this, management wasn't fully bought in, so there were some weird stumbling blocks.  One of those was Bryan joining the Wyatt family for a brief stiny, before things changed and he was promptly pulled out.  As unengaging as the angle was, there was still the magic to make the moment special, and when Bryan broke free and went back to his Yes'ing ways, everyone bought in.  Never before or since has there been a sight quite like the conductor at work.


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#3 - You Deserve It!

#3 - You Deserve It!

The Raw after Wrestlemania is consistently the best show of the year, in no small part due to the incredibly crowds that they produce.  In 2013 the brilliant crowd produced the widest spread of entertaining chants ever seen in a single show, but 2014 put forth a contender for one of the most moving moments you'll find anywhere on TV.

Wrestlemania 30 was Daniel Bryan's night.  An underdog story come through to fruition, not just in WWE but through his entire career.  A smaller figure who could never be entirely threatening because he couldn't keep it contained just how much he was enjoying himself out there.  That enthusiasm was infection and everyone picked up on it, and had the most fan support seen in a decade.  So when he finally reached the top of the hill, he had a mountain of supporters there to greet him.


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#2 - The Streak is Over

As time goes on, it's hard not to become more cynical of the product.  A lot of things become very predictable based on the formulaic method of storytelling, even when it's well done.  So to suggest that there be something at the biggest event of the year where absolutely everyone was shocked is shocking unto itself.  But that's exactly what happened.

The Undertaker hadn't lost at Wrestlemania over the course of 23 years dating back to Wrestlemania VII, and amassing a record of 21-0.  Going into Wrestlemania XXX, there was relatively little interest in the Undertaker's match.  They have been match of the year candidates each time around for years, but he was aging, and the dynamics with his opponent Brock Lesnar didn't make for the hopeful of results.  The match itself was unremarkable, but the ending is unforgettable as a stadium of 70,000 people is stunned.


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#1 - Miracle on Bourbon Street

The path to Wrestlemania XXX is arguably the most remarkable of any story ever seen in wrestling.  Daniel Bryan had varying fan support since his debut in WWE in 2010, but as what seems to be the trend in recent years, he broke out by making the most of a silly gimmick.  In 2012, after failed bids to win the WWE title, he was featured in a series of vignettes with Kane in anger management classes that were made exceedingly entertaining despite their outlandish nature.  This lead to the two teaming and winning the tag team championships in dysfunctional manner.

Team "Hell No" they were called launched Bryan on the path to the peak of popularity not seen in years.  Determined to show himself as not the weak link of the team, he broke out into singles competition once again.  As he fought his way up the ranks, he ultimately was granted a title shot when John Cena chose him as his opponent at Summerslam 2013, where Bryan would prove triumphant, yet immediately being knocked back down as he would be ambushed by Triple H, then Randy Orton cashed in his Money in the Bank contract for a title shot then and there to win it.

That is where the path truly became remarkable.  The fanbase was completely behind Bryan as he was repeatedly cheated out of wins in matches all leading up to the Royal Rumble, where the crowd grew more and more restless during the Royal Rumble match the longer it took for Bryan to show up.  And he never did.  Rey Mysterio, career-long babyface, was booed out of the building when he came in as the last entrant instead of Daniel Bryan.  Batista would win the match, and the crowd and collective wrestling fanbase were disgusted as Batista vs Randy Orton was scheduled to be the main event of Wrestlemania, a match nobody wanted to see.

And according to insider information, that's what was planned.  Batista vs Randy Orton.  However, the crowd was having none of it.  Shows were taken over by Daniel Bryan chants.  Batista, intended to be a fan favourite, was booed mercilessly.  At the same time, CM Punk, another main event star, left the company, for various personal reasons.  This hole in the card, along with the sheer force of will of the people, led to inserting Bryan into the main event.

Daniel Bryan would go on to defeat Triple H at Wrestlemania XXX to earn his shot later in the night to make the main event Daniel Bryan vs Batista vs Randy Orton.  Finally, after what seemed like years, Daniel Bryan finally reached the top of the mountain.

The entire story got the heart of the enduring intrigue and excitement that wrestling provides.  How so much of what makes the show is the passion of the crowd.  The ability to get behind the underdog and even if it's frustrating and aggravating and heartbreaking, sometimes, just sometimes,  eventually and mercifully and incredibly it comes to a head and the underdog finally gets the win.  Daniel Bryan did that in a way that will in all likelihood never be seen again.


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Posted by Yodariquo Wed, 31 Dec 2014 01:30:56 (comments: 30)
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Wed, 31 Dec 2014 01:39:09

I caught DDP Yoga on TV the other day and was amazed.  Jake Roberts had an amazing transformation as well.

 
Wed, 31 Dec 2014 04:01:59

Razor Ramon was awesome! Glad to see he turned things around.

 
Wed, 31 Dec 2014 04:16:00

Fun fact, the bar Hall was thrown out of is about 15 minutes away from where I live. Its a backwoods hole in the wall kind of place. A real redneck dive bar. When I heard he was thrown out of there I knew he had hit bottom. No one but pathetic sloppy drunks could possibly be kicked out of there.

So yeah, happy that he has it together again.

 
Wed, 31 Dec 2014 21:12:08
From old school to fresh faces, a new debut at #9!
 
Wed, 31 Dec 2014 22:54:26

I'm also glad that Hall got it together again. Would like to see him and Nash doing something, anything in WWE again.

 
Wed, 31 Dec 2014 23:25:07
Archangel3371 said:

I'm also glad that Hall got it together again. Would like to see him and Nash doing something, anything in WWE again.

Buddy comedy?

 
Thu, 01 Jan 2015 01:11:48

Yes, even the women wrestle in NXT. Vince must not watch it or it would have been axed.

 
Thu, 01 Jan 2015 13:47:49

I'm curious to see if women's wrestling gets a fair shake this year. I've heard about Paige and on his podcast Jim Ross has talked about how he thinks Flair's daughter is insanely talented on several occasions. I remember a brief period around 2000 when the women's division wasnt treated as a joke. Not a bad thing at all to see that come back.

 
Fri, 02 Jan 2015 04:54:16
At #8 the King of Swing!
 
Fri, 02 Jan 2015 15:02:20
You guys know wrestling is fake, right?
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