Editors' Choice: Who had the best 2014?
Who had the best 2014? It’s a simple question, really, but how do you quantify what makes a Superstar or Diva’s year the best? Certainly, title wins and five-star matches are a good start. Memorable moments and game-changing victories should also be taken into consideration. Still, at the end of the day, this is a rather subjective debate, but one that is definitely worth having. WWE.com’s editors take their picks and make their arguments for which member of the WWE roster had the greatest year.
Brock Lesnar became the one in “21-1” by ending The Undertaker’s unprecedented undefeated Streak at WrestleMania.
Anyone claiming a more successful 2014 than Paul Heyman’s prized client needs to offer one piece of evidence that trumps what Lesnar did on The Grandest Stage of Them All. That accomplishment alone shook the very foundation of the WWE Universe and the definition of success in the squared circle.
That said, The Beast Incarnate’s success at WrestleMania 30 disguises the real takeaway from his 2014: It’s not the “what” that Brock Lesnar accomplished that proves he had the best year; it’s the “how.” He didn’t just defeat The Undertaker; he sent The Deadman to the hospital. Lesnar battered Big Show when the longtime rivals met at Royal Rumble 2014. And with the help of 16 German suplexes, he completely disarmed John Cena en route to becoming WWE World Heavyweight Champion at SummerSlam 2014.
All Superstars dream of realizing a feat of that caliber at least once in their career. Lesnar did all three in one year, and even wrecked Chris Jericho for good measure. What doubts could you possibly have left? — MATTHEW ARTUS
Some members of the WWE Universe questioned whether Roman Reigns actually deserved the Slammy Award for 2014 Superstar of the Year, given the fact he was out of action from September to early December thanks to an emergency hernia operation. But take a closer a look at all The Big Dog accomplished in the first nine months of the year, and it’s easy to see how Reigns swayed voters.
Seemingly not a month went by without Reigns notching some major career milestone in 2014, starting with his historic performance in the Royal Rumble Match in January. Snapping a 13-year record held by Kane, Reigns eliminated an astounding 12 Superstars from the over-the-top-rope rampage. (For reference sake, after Reigns and Kane, the Superstars with the most Rumble Match eliminations ever are Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels — not bad company.)
Reigns also helped lead the onetime Shield past Evolution, precipitating the disbanding of the powerful stable. Despite the setback of Seth Rollins’ well-documented betrayal, Reigns rebounded in mighty form, nearly winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Money in the Bank. The punishing powerhouse saved perhaps his most impressive feat for his last pay-per-view match before surgery, downing Randy Orton in decisive fashion at SummerSlam, and before 2014 ended, Reigns returned with a bang (just ask Big Show and Seth Rollins) at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs … and Stairs. With a year like that, is there any doubt Roman Reigns made the most out of his 2014? — JOHN CLAPP
After months of being told by The Authority that he was a “B+” player, Daniel Bryan cemented his spot in WWE’s history books on April 6, 2014, when he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event at WrestleMania 30. The “Yes!” Man’s year was about more than his title victory, however, as his “Yes!” Movement captivated the WWE Universe thanks to a storybook journey culminating in one of the greatest WrestleMania moments of all time.
Bryan’s year wasn’t all about his in-ring accomplishments, as 2014 also included a huge personal highlight for Bryan when he tied the knot with Brie Bella. Unfortunately, The Beard’s amazing run got cut short when he had neck surgery in May that forced him to give up his WWE World Heavyweight Title.
Despite spending the last half of the year out of action, Bryan still enjoyed the most amazing year out of anyone on the roster, because quite frankly, no other individual accomplished what he did. Bryan created history on The Grandest Stage of Them All while winning the hearts of the WWE Universe. If that doesn’t make for the best year ever, I don’t know what does. — SCOTT TAYLOR
Dean Ambrose had an incredible 2014, entering the year as the United States Champion and a member of one of most dominant factions in WWE in recent memory, The Shield. Alongside Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins, The Lunatic Fringe became the longest-reigning U.S Champion in WWE history at 351 days and helped his black-clad cohorts overcome legendary faction Evolution twice!
Once Rollins turned on his partners, Ambrose would go on to hit a new level of unhinged aggression, battling the oppression of The Authority, “The Future of WWE,” Rollins, Kane and Bray Wyatt —all the while beginning a powerful new love affair with the WWE Universe. — MIKE BURDICK
You don’t need trunks and a pair of boots to rack up a solid 365. Hell, you don’t even need your own theme music. Like a modern-day Cicero, Paul Heyman employed expert oratory skills with dazzling consistency throughout 2014, and masterminded quite simply two of the most historic victories in ring history.
Sports-entertainment’s mad scientist led Brock Lesnar to what may have been the single most impactful victory ever when The Beast Incarnate pinned The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30. The shocking moment left even the most cynical of WWE fans stunned into silence. But with The Beast appearing only occasionally on Raw, it was Heyman who was able to take credit week after week for engineering the finale ultimo of The Streak.
At SummerSlam, Heyman’s prophecy of Lesnar conquering the World Championship was fulfilled in an unprecedented mauling of John Cena. Never before had a title win been as decisive, and it wasn’t Brock’s to boast, but rather a New York loudmouth in Joseph Abboud suits and Armani ties who reminded congregants for his sermons in arenas across the world.
For Paul Heyman, being the “one behind the one” isn’t just a catchphrase. It’s a manifesto. — ZACH LINDER
Nikki Bella found many ways to constantly keep herself in the spotlight in 2014. In addition to exploiting every major and minor issue of her romantic relationship with John Cena on E! Network’s “Total Divas” (cheap plug), the ever-so-slightly older Bella Twin was ever more manipulative in the ring.
At Summer Slam, Nikki shockingly slugged her own sister, allowing Stephanie McMahon to win a match that was to be Brie’s retribution for The Authority’s treatment of her husband, Daniel Bryan. Nikki followed up the betrayal by publicly refusing to accept Brie’s pleas of sisterly reconciliation with physical attacks and, perhaps even more hurtful, telling her sister, “I wish you died in the womb!”
At WWE Hell in a Cell, Nikki stole a win in the Bellas battle and as a result, gained Brie as her personal assistant for 30 days. The end of Brie’s month-long humiliation at Survivor Series saw the ever-so-slightly younger Bella Twin inexplicably distract WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee with a lip lock, allowing Nikki to win the title in most controversial fashion.
With the title around her waist, Brie by her side, John Cena on her arm, AJ on her tail and the entire WWE Universe marveling at this mastermind, Nikki Bella had the best year she has ever had and perhaps the best year any WWE Diva has ever had. — @JOEYSTYLES
When looking at who had the best 2014, it’s easiest to start with the guy who had the worst 2013, right? Dolph Ziggler’s fall from the mountaintop was as abrupt as it was absolute; the guy was World Heavyweight Champion at Easter, yet was taking a giant candy cane to the head from Fandango on Christmas. The Showoff’s 2014 was poised to be a similarly lost affair as late into the year as June, but then something happened: Dolph started winning. Again, and again, and again. His second — no, third — no, fourth — Intercontinental Championship came, plus a star-making spot in the Survivor Series main event, a run of instant-classic matches that should be required viewing at the Performance Center and a spot as the de facto reviver of said Intercontinental Championship.
WWE Network: Dolph Ziggler steals the show at Survivor Series
He credits the WWE Universe for pulling him out of the woods and back toward the main event, but he’s not giving himself enough credit. He always was this good, this was just the year everyone finally realized what it was they were missing. Zig Man!!! — ANTHONY BENIGNO
Seth Rollins took a giant gamble.
The Shield created its fair share of chaos in 2013, and midway through 2014, The Hounds of Justice started to powerbomb their way into legendary territory. The trio battled The Wyatt Family in a heated rivalry, absolutely decimated Attitude Era stars The New Age Outlaws & Kane at WrestleMania 30, and spoiled Evolution’s reunion tour with a pair of pay-per-view beatdowns.
Rollins shined with The Shield through all of it. The onetime Architect designed victories for his squad with sudden Curb Stomps and death-defying crossbodies, leaping from balconies and TitanTrons onto his rivals below on the concrete floor.
With Evolution defeated, though, Rollins took the biggest risk of all: He left the winning team to join the losers. The addition of Rollins injected new life into The Authority following weeks of crushing losses for Triple H, Randy Orton and Kane after WrestleMania 30.
With The Authority’s support, Rollins established himself as the “future of WWE,” capturing the Money in the Bank contract, prevailing in a Hell in a Cell Match and even costing John Cena the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Rollins may have gambled, but he hit the jackpot. — JEFF LABOON
From newbie NXT Diva to NXT Women’s Champion, Charlotte’s WWE career skyrocketed in 2014. After besting Emma and Alexa Bliss in the NXT Women’s Championship Tournament, the daughter of 16-time World Champion Ric Flair defeated Hart family Diva Natalya for the NXT Women’s Title at NXT TakeOver in one of the most memorable and competitive Divas matches of all time. Since her victory in May, Charlotte has defended the NXT Women’s Championship against her former BFFs, Summer Rae and Sasha Banks, as well as Bayley.
Who will dare to challenge this self-proclaimed “genetically superior athlete” in 2015? The future looks bright for NXT’s most dominant and charismatic Diva. It’s surely only a matter of time before Charlotte shakes things up in WWE’s Divas division. – KARA MEDALIS
Like a hulking Russian T-26 tank, the massive, yet shockingly mobile Rusev has run roughshod through his enemies since his WWE debut in April. Whether rolling over Mark Henry or trampling Big Show, the red menace dominated with authority — as well as with the spine-snapping brutality of The Accolade. Having never been defeated by pinfall or submission, Rusev enjoys a record even the staunchest patriot has to respect.
His performances in 2014 have been so intimidating, in fact, that even The Rock felt compelled to confront him and his minder, The Ravishing Russian, Lana. The unexpected skirmish only served to elevate Vladimir Putin’s favorite son and proved to the world that Rusev remains a super power to be reckoned with. — GREG ADKINS
At the age of 21, many adults are still wrapping up their college courses and determining what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Paige, on the other hand? She already had become the youngest to win the Divas Championship, and even captured her second title on her 22nd birthday – proving that "The Diva of Tomorrow" was a moniker firmly rooted in reality.
Paige wasn't done there, however, as the raven-haired phenom from Norwich, England, closed out 2014 by making her video game debut in "WWE 2K15," securing a spot on the new episodes of E!'s hit reality show, "Total Divas," and ranking No. 1 on Pro Wrestling Illustrated's "Female 50", which recognizes the best female grapplers in the entire world (not just WWE).
For some Divas, these accomplishments are enough to fill an entire career. For the 22-year-old Paige, it's just a small glimpse of what tomorrow will bring. We foresee a lot more boot-stomps and tap-outs in her opponents' future. — TOM HERRERA