Fake Fighting Frenzy: Top 15 WWE Matches of 2014 (so far)

The year is half over--even though it feels like the "year" begins the night after WrestleMania--and it has been a year that has brought us perhaps as much quality wrestling as we've seen in recent memory. These are my top 15 picks (because I couldn't pick just ten) based on both on wrestling and storytelling. Enjoy!

15. John Cena, Daniel Bryan, & Sheamus v. The Shield (Monday Night Raw - January 27th)

Ironically, this match is actually a turning point in a story that led to a much higher ranked match than this. But I digress. This is basically your garden variety amazing Shield trios match against Daniel Bryan +2 and it's beautiful, full of amazing selling by Ambrose and Rollins. But the stakes are raised as the winning team gets all three of its members entered into the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Just as Roman Reigns is performing the (kayfabe) superhuman feat of breaking the goddamn STF, the Wyatts attack Cena, resulting in a DQ which sends Cena, Bryan, and Sheamus to the EC match, absolutely incensing The Shield, and sparking one of the most anticipated feuds in years.

14. Bad News Barrett (c) v. Dolph Ziggler -- Intercontinental Championship Match (Monday Night Raw - June 23rd)

The best thing I can say about this match is that it actually made me buy Dolph Ziggler winning the IC title. The near-falls in this match are excruciating--I actually almost jumped out of my chair for a few. But they are nowhere nearly as excruciating as the finish, in which Ziggler heaves himself into a head-splitting Bullhammer that knocks the gum out of his mouth! There isn't a whole lot of story here but the match is superb enough to earn a spot on the list.

13. Seth Rollins v. Dolph Ziggler (Friday Night Smackdown - June 6th)

It's a shame barely anyone really watches Smackdown because some of the best matches you can see are buried on this show. This match is pretty much exactly what you'd expect out of two of the best athletes and best sellers in the WWE. Another one with not much story beyond Ziggler being all "dude, you sold out...not cool" but again, the wrestling is excellent. They would redo this match on Main Event and then on Raw but this one was much better than both of those.

12. El Torito v. Hornswoggle -- WeeLC Match (Extreme Rules)

I think we all sort of ironically expected this to be awesome but what we got was beyond all expectations. First of all, there was a "little" announce team with a miniature announce table. Second of all, this match was GREAT. Not only did Los Matadores and 3MB take some savage bumps to put over the chaos but Torito and Hornswoggle did some very nice work, including going through the mini announce table. The comedy was also spot on in this match. This is what comedy wrestling should be. Bravo, little men! Bravo!

11. Tyler Breeze v. Sami Zayn (NXT Takeover)

As delightful and exciting as this match was, it did feel like a little bit of a spotfest toward the end. Sami Zayn slightly botching the Orange Crush Bomb hurt it to a degree as well. Having said all that, this is still a phenomenal match with a good story that started with a triple elimination ending to the #1 contender battle royale, leading to a Breeze/Zayn/Kidd triple threat for a title shot that Kidd won, leading to this. I know I'm making it sound a little unworthy of the #11 spot but trust me, it's there for a reason.

10. John Cena v. Luke Harper (Monday Night Raw - March 24th)

This match was a BEAST; arguably better than any of the three Cena/Wyatt matchups. Cena and Harper spent a good ten minutes hossing the snot out of each other. Harper pulls out a couple moves he had just recently debuted like the brutal superkick and the mindblowing suicide dive. Normally I wouldn't be this high on a non-finish but this one ends with...well...just watch...

9. John Cena v. Cesaro (Monday Night Raw - February 17th)

THIS MATCH. Far and away the best match we've seen on Raw this year--really PPV quality, even though it's a different style of match. This is the kind of match that need to happen more often. Two superhumanly strong dudes just throwing each other all over the place and showing off how superhumanly strong they are (THAT SUPERPLEX). Cena and Cesaro are perfectly matched and I pray that we get to see more of them squaring off in the future.

8. Randy Orton v. Daniel Bryan v. John Cena v. Cesaro v. Christian v. Sheamus -- Elimination Chamber Match (Elimination Chamber)

I honestly felt like this was right there on the level of Shield/Wyatts when I first saw it. That didn't last, but I still maintain this is a massively underrated match. There are so many feuds and great matchups within the match and so many stories that are told but what really sells me on this match is the perfectly logical progression of the story of the match itself...

Cesaro and Sheamus start because in a match this physical, you want to hit the ground running with two guys just bludgeoning each other. Daniel Bryan comes in next to hype up the crowd and because he can go a lot longer than the last three guys. Christian is next because he's the one who injured Daniel Bryan's shoulder and the FIRST thing he does is go for the shoulder. Cena comes in next because for the last however many weeks they had been making a huge deal about how the 5th entrant has won the most times by far. Orton comes in last because he's the corporate champion and The Authority wants to protect him.

This is where it gets really good.

Immediately before Orton comes in, everyone in the ring spends several solid minutes just desperately brutalizing the hell out of each other with ungodly workrate. As a result, when Orton enters, everyone is writhing on the floor and he goes around picking them apart and then poses. But then, suddenly, everyone recovers and gangs up on Orton. Orton then does the best thing ever: he locks himself back in his pod. It's FUCKING FANTASTIC. Everyone goes back to fighting each other except Sheamus, who can't stand for what's happened and Brogue Kicks the fucking plexiglass out of the pod. I marked out so hard for this, you guys.

At this point, Christian does a few really fun spots: first countering Swiss Death by grabbing and climbing the cage and then countering the Irish Cross by doing the same. He then climbs up on top of one of the pods. Sheamus goes to get him but gets caught by Orton and superplexed, at which point Christian splashes him from on top of the pod and pins him for the elimination, setting up the Christian/Sheamus feud that could have been better than it was--still pretty good, though. Daniel Bryan then promptly Runningly Knees Christian to pin him and we're down to four.

At this point, the remaining four guys stare each other down, creating a very compelling visual image. Next thing you know, they--GASP!--do the most logical thing and pair off--Bryan brawls with Orton and Cena with Cesaro (both pairs with memorable history together). Bryan and Cena dispatch their attackers outside the ring and then step back in to face off in an evocative throwback to SummerSlam where this whole journey began for Bryan. Masterful. Cena and Bryan battle for a while but right as Cena is about to AA Bryan, Cesaro GERMAN SUPLEXES THEM BOTH. Cesaro and Cena brawl for a while and eventually Cena taps him out with an actual halfway decent STF for once. Then Cena is about to tap Randy Orton out until the Wyatts show up and annihilate him, setting up the Cena/Wyatts feud (that also could have been a lot better) and allowing Orton to slither in to take the easy pin and fittingly narrowing things down to Bryan and Orton yet again.

Of course Bryan gets screwed in the end by Kane but I don't understand how anyone expected anything else. If Bryan was going to win the title, there was no way they were going to blow it off at WWE "The One Before WrestleMania XXX." Point being, the story of this match was so good and progressed so logically that I wrote all of that almost entirely from memory and I've seen this match maybe 3-4 times. I highly recommend revisiting it if you have the WWE Network.

7. Charlotte v. Natalya -- NXT Women's Championship Match (NXT Takeover)

This was one of the best pure wrestling matches on any WWE program this year, male or female. It was quite clear to me that both Bret Hart and Ric Flair had worked with Charlotte and Nattie quite a bit on this match because the progression and the flow of the moves from one to another was phenomenal. Charlotte's Sharpshooter may be even worse than The Rock's but even that doesn't hold this back from being a solid 4-star match. A definite must-watch.

6. Bray Wyatt v. Daniel Bryan (Royal Rumble)

This was the world's first opportunity to really see what Bray Wyatt can do and remains his best singles match by a wide margin. It was also a nuclear blowoff to one of the more compelling storylines of the past year which included Daniel Bryan "joining" the Wyatts in an effort to bring them down from the inside. This match also features quite possibly the greatest Sister Abigail we've ever seen from Bray in WWE.

5. The Shield v. Evolution -- Extreme Rules Match (Extreme Rules)

An instant classic. An all-out brawl with a compelling story, terrific wrestling, and several "holy shit" spots. When Seth Rollins slammed head-first into the barricade on that suicide dive, I was legitimately horrified that he may have just shoot broken his neck. In the end, Evolution puts the new blood over clean and the hardcore Jersey crowd eats it up. Very much an ECW style match in ECW territory. Not much else to say about this one. Amazing match.

4. Cesaro v. Sami Zayn (NXT Arrival)

This thing was flat out a work of art. Not only was it the best pure wrestling on WWE TV this year but it told a compelling story and called back to previous encounters between these two. Sami Zayn is consumed with the need to beat Cesaro in order to gain his respect and will do anything to get it. I marked out so hard when Zayn went for the through-the-ropes tornado DDT and got SWISSED to DEATH. Eventually these two guys just start throwing EVERYTHING at each other, which is truly a sight to behold. Cesaro busts out a goddamn STRETCH MUFFLER, for crying out loud. Just look at that thing. They don't show it in the video but when Zayn kicks out of Swiss death at ONE, it's one of the coolest moments I've ever seen. It's a message to Cesaro. That's when Cesaro snaps and wrecks his shit for the win. Brilliant. After the match, Cesaro says a few words to Zayn and it appears that Zayn has earned his respect. Any other year this would be a shoe-in for Match of the Year. But...

3. Daniel Bryan v. Randy Orton v. Batista -- WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match (WrestleMania XXX)

As a wrestling match, it's not spectacular but it is exactly what it needs to be and it told the exact story it needed to tell and culminated one of the most compelling wrestling storylines in years by rewarding the best wrestler on the planet with a massive main event championship win after defeating 3/4 of Evolution in one night. WWE gets a lot wrong but MAN when they get something right, they get it SO right. And they definitely got this one right.

2. Daniel Bryan v. Triple H (WrestleMania XXX)

This here was the true match of the night at WrestleMania this year. The main event was the culmination but this stole the show. Triple H wrestles for the first time in 11 months and puts Bryan over clean after giving one of the performances of his career, including Crossface Chicken Wings and Dragon Suplexes. This is an all-timer and people may not even remember it with the magnitude of the main event overshadowing it. I hope they do, though, because it was brilliant.

1. The Wyatt Family v. The Shield (Elimination Chamber)

I think we will all remember this one forever. This feud had been percolating since last November but didn't really come to a head until the night after the Royal Rumble (#15 on this list). That launched one of the most anticipated feuds in years as the two powerhouse factions traded seering promos and creating visual imagery so compelling and anticipation so rich that fans would chant "THIS IS AWESOME!" just for seeing them in the ring together. The crowd was NUCLEAR hot for this match, chanting "THIS IS AWESOME!" before the match even started and trading several "Let's go Wyatts!"/"Let's go Shield" chants.

The match, of course, did not disappoint in the least with several guys debuting moves that dazzled the already frenzied crowd. Harper's superkick, dropkick, and wicked suicide dive all spring to mind. Rollins had his coming out party when he landed on his feet off a German Superplex, sent Harper to the outside, took him out with a suicide dive, landed on his feet, threw him back in the ring, and spring board kneed him in the face. Later in the match, he would drop a SICK plancha straight on Harper's head.

The story of the match progressed the Shield break-up story that had been teased for months when Wyatt took Ambrose out of the picture so that the Wyatts could gang up on Rollins, putting him through a table, and then take out Roman Reigns 3-on-1. Reigns almost prevailed but a distraction by Harper on a spear allowed Bray to hurl himself into Reigns and hit Sister Abigail for the win.

This match will likely live on forever in the lore of WWE. There have been three different rematches on Raw and Main Event and they've all been stellar but none of them came anywhere close to this one. This is the kind of match that makes stars--and possibly legends.


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