Hello I'm PwnanObrien and you've clicked on a thread recapping the things that happened in the world of professional wrestling in 2014. Things like Roman Reigns being betrayed by Seth Rollins and his own testicles, the booking team proving it is possible to get Rey Mysterio over as a heel and the revitalization of AJ Styles' career due in part to his opponents really going the extra mile to make his finish look devastating. To fully understand 2014 though I suppose we have to begin at the start because that's how time works.
Over in the land of the rising sun New Japan Pro Wrestling kicked off the year properly with the 8th incarnation of Wrestle Kingdom, a show which featured 35,000 people packed into the Tokyo Dome to watch talented rising stars and Bad Luck Fale. It was an event so on par with WrestleMania and the Superbowl that Jim Ross feels the need to constantly tell us so.
Meanwhile in America WWE spent the month not getting the message fans had been literally screaming at them for the last year and instead decided that we needed yet another Cena vs. Orton match. As fans figured out that Daniel Bryan's only appearance on the show was his loss the Bray Wyatt in an opening bout things began to turn sour. Boos rained down on everything the men left in the Royal Rumble did and the night ended with returning babyface steroid grandpa flipping off the fans and yelling “deal with it.” The whole thing was so disappointing that Mick Foley briefly came out of retirement to go over his television in a hardcore match
Perhaps the most important story of the year, however, occurred the night after when top star and Walking Dead enthusiast CM Punk went on a permanent sabbatical. Amid rumors and speculations fans would spend the remainder of the year peppering shows with chants of his name. Those in charge of WWE would spend the following months omitting him from all conversations and covering his face up with a post-it note
like a jilted middle schooler.
The first of the month saw the joyous return of youtube's favorite G rated indie promotion CHIKARA as National Pro Wrestling Day saw the end of a year long storyline about shutting down the company which Dixie Carter would soon attempt to copy.
With Punk gone the WWE saw it fit to replace him in a feud with Triple H's Authority faction. Daniel Bryan was finally put back into the main event scene, forever dooming us to face Sheamus promos. As WWE scrambled to find a way to get the focus off Orton vs. Boo-tista fans were so excited for a face-off between The Shield and The Wyatt Family that they started chanting “this is awesome” before the match even began.
More importantly the month saw the launch of the WWE Network
, a commercial free multimedia streaming service pulling from an archive of thousands of hours of wrestling footage as well as live specials like the highly acclaimed NXT ArRival. Prices and participation may vary.
The road to Wrestlemania was paved with Usos vs Rybaxel matches as tensions sprang up between Real Americans Antonio Cesaro and Biff from Back To The Future. Meanwhile the main event scene heated up as Randy Orton and Batista each tried to convince us that neither of them deserved the title and Daniel Bryan's Yes Movement occupied RAW
Elsewhere Adam Rose was delighting fans at Florida's Full Sail University with a fun party gimmick that wouldn't be at all driven into the ground by the year's end. In fact the only noteworthy thing in March seemed to be NXT's Vengeance Week which featured rematches from ArRival and Mojo Rawley's shitty fan section texting and sitting on their hands.
Even with the announcement of Global Force Wrestling and the debut of AJ Styles as the new leader of The Bullet Club April was dominated by WWE. Wrestlemania 30 took place on April 6th 2014 in front of more than 75,000 people packed into the Mercedes-Benz Silverdome
. The show opened with Daniel Bryan defeating WWE COO and Shao Kahn lookalike Triple H. Antonio Cesaro sealed his place in highlight reel history by eliminating The Big Show to win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal and he was promptly rewarded with a year of losses on RAW.
The cheerful atmosphere was quickly sucked out of the arena when in a shocking upset John Cena defeated Bray Wyatt to continue his streak of hustling loyalty and respect. Arguably more shocking was The Undertaker's loss to a shaved Ghost Bear ending a more than two decade long streak set a somber tone going into the main event. Daniel Bryan capping off the night by capturing the World Heavyweight Championship was that much more of a celebratory moment by contrast. It was a deserved win for somebody who despite being called “the best in the world” for the majority of his 15 year career has remained notoriously humble. In fact it says a lot about the man's character that the first person he talked to after winning the belts was the terminally ill child that used his Make A Wish to see him months earlier. And then nothing bad ever happened to Daniel Bryan again.
None of that would matter though as the next night the world would learn to Bo-lieve
thus changing history for the better forever.
The run up to Extreme Rules had the difficult task of following wrestling's biggest night of the year but delivered a solid base of tournament matches for number one contendership for Big E's Intercontinental Championship. This idea was so well received for putting importance on the title that it hasn't been repeated since. The event was headlined by Daniel Bryan defending against challenger the feud between Kane and Zack Ryder. The show stealer however was the newly face turned Shield proving they can continue their streak of beating up old men with a win over Evolution.
Worlds collided as New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor put on two nights of shows in New York. Stars such as Jay Lethal, ACH, Jushin Thunder Liger, Kushida and Maria Kanellis's ass cheeks accompanied by the Aaron Paul clone that came out too muscly
. The headliner of the event was a triple threat between AJ Styles, Kazuchika Okada and Michael Elgin for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship of Not Being Michael Elgin.
Because fate hates us Daniel Bryan's bad luck crescendoed with necessary neck surgery that required him to relinquish his newly won World Heavyweight Championship. He did have one last match, going over a burglar in under a minute via submission.
His future is still uncertain but fans desperately wish for his return as evidenced by every other paragraph for the rest of this post. The whole month was clouded in despair as two thirds of 3MB was fired and following a show stealing brawl of a match against Evolution Seth Rollins turned on his teammates in the Shield. As if that weren't enough new Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett separated his shoulder putting him out for months. June sucked. Even JTG wasn't immune to the month's roster cuts
In happier news Freelance Wrestling
debuted bringing PWG style drunken indie shenanigans to Chicago. Already it features exciting unknowns that will have their talent and youth siphoned off by The Young Bucks in a bid to become immortal indie Gods.
WWE snuck Money In The Bank in at the very end of June almost like we wouldn't notice. Without several of their top stars the event didn't have the same excitement of years past. Paige defended her Divas title against Cameron, The Usos defended their belts against Harper and Rowan and John Cena won the vacant World Heavyweight Championship in a main event ladder match which featured Kane because of course it did. The only real interesting thing to come of all of this was Seth Rollins capturing the Money In The Bank briefcase and dressing up like one of the X-Men.
New Japan Pro Wrestling's G1 Climax
bridged the gap between July and August with a dozen days worth of matches so amazing you won't even notice all your time and money's gone from watching it all. Some nights were so great they featured career defining bouts that were out-shined by matches both higher and lower on the card. Also Lance Archer was there.
The same week Vince McMahon opened his next Pay Per View event with a minute long Adam Rose vs Fandango match. Battleground featured another Usos/Wyatts match and most foreboding of all the return of AJ Lee as she won her Divas championship back from Paige. The rest of the year would feature character derailment, hot potato-ing the title and ham-fisted lesbian overtones. The Miz returned as Johnny Cage to win the vacant Intercontinental Title and he would go on to have an entire month of relevance before being shown up by Damien Sandow.
With network subscription renewals looming WWE needed something shocking to get people interested again. They delivered with Brock Lesnar's one-sided uncomfortably 16 minute long victory over John Cena. During the match Lesnar had more German offense than the entire World Cup and delivered two F5s before mercifully ending the match.
The rivalry between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins heated up with the only Lumberjack match to ever spill into the crowd. In fact in the wake of Daniel Bryan's injury and CM Punk's departure Dean Ambrose emerged as the new anti-authority figure of the company. He's sort of half Austin half Pilman and nobody would be surprised if he hobbles his own ankle with a steel chair to prove a point.
The most headline grabbing news of the month however was Alberto Del Rio getting fired giving a fighting spirit slap to a racist social media manager. Del Rio would quickly make the move to AAA's TripleMania and is slated to appear at other promotions such as Ring of Honor.
In Reseda flippy man and professional male model for title belts Ricochet won PWG's Battle of Los Angeles. Ricoshet was everywhere in 2014 from Evolve to Dragon's Gate USA to New Japan and even the real Dragon's Gate that still has shows. He's even running around the newly formed Lucha Underground with a silly Puma gimmick. It's a little amazing that in a year when WWE signed Steen, Kenta, and Devitt they missed him.
King of Trios returned and brought the Spirit Squad with it. They weren't the only reunion at the show either as out of the 16 teams LAX reunited. All of them however were no match for 80s throwback The Devastation Corporation who rumbled crashed and smashed their way to victory.
A new WWE logo, the retirement of the big gold belt and Hideo Itami's debut at the much better NXT Takeover: Fatal 4-Way ushered us into Night of Champions. It was a night where star weirdos the Dust brothers won the Tag belts, Sheamus remained US champion, and The Miz lost his Intercontinental title to Dolph Ziggler and his heat to Damien Sandow. John Cena took a second run at the SNK fighting game boss that is World Heavyweight Champion and did slightly better before being sent back to a continue screen. Oh and somebody else was Divas champion. Paige? I think AJ won a match for the title but one of the Bellas was there.
September also saw the latest sidelining of a big name WWE Superstar as Roman Reigns' hype train was de-railed by a sudden hernia. During Reigns' recovery he was kept fresh in the mind of fans as he gave drugged up post-surgery promos, interviews with Giant Bomb
and even made a token appearance at the Slammys. Heal up Roman, we can't wait to be back to being uncomfortable with how much you're getting pushed.
A new king of pro wrestling was crowned as AJ Styles lost his IWGP title to Asian John Cena Hiroshi Tanahashi. New Japan's October 13th show featured five other title matches and Okada defending his right to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight championship against Tetsuya Naito. The event provided a crowd of thousands a satisfying night of action just like your mom does.
On the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of Halloween WWE put on its spookiest Pay Per View of the year with Hell in a Cell. The event was highlighted by Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose taking a massive fall of the evil cube. It was a harrowing sight that will be forever unfairly compared to HBKs similar spot or Foley's infamous fall all the while ignoring the fact that it only looked smaller due to the structure's larger size. It's almost a perfect metaphor for the state of wrestling in 2014.
New Japan's Power Struggle put on another night of amazing matches. Damien Mizdow became the tag team champions. Dean Ambrose moved onto a feud with Bray Wyatt which is exactly as crazy as it sounds. Survivor Series's main event pushed Dolph Ziggler as a main event star and fucking Sting showed up on a WWE show. All of that, however, was overshadowed by the dark cloud cast by two friends having a chat on a couch
Yes the episode of Art of Wrestling with Colt Cabana featuring CM Punk shed a lot of light on the dark side of WWE's behind the scenes atmosphere. Accusations of steroids, making people work injured and petty politics made watching the following Smackdown even more of a chore that usual. In the days that followed Vince McMahon would give his own toothless response and CM Punk would announce plans to work with UFC. It was all enough to make Grumpy Cat's appearance on RAW earlier in the month all the more appropriate as fans actively felt guilty for supporting this product.
The whole thing made fans wish for some sort of guiltless wrestling equivalent of abstract paintings, some kind of simple formless shapeless thing where nobody even moves much. Unfortunately we couldn't even get that since WWE axed Khali. What we needed was a pick-me-up.
December started right with New Japan announcing and releasing New Japan World
, a streaming service similar to the WWE Network except it costs less and is available in the UK. The archive of content dating back to 1972 was so well received by fans world wide that nobody seemed to notice or mind that they could have saved $140 on the G1 alone.
NXT put on its best show to date with R Evolution, a show which featured top to bottom good matches. Kevin Owens made the largest impact of all and no that's not a fat joke. The Lucha Dragons defended their tag titles against old timey strongmen The Vaudevillains. Baron Corbin wrecked Tye Dillenger in under a minute while Bull Dempsy made a fart in the crowd. Finn Balor
and Hideo Itami banished the Ascension to RAW. Charlotte and Sasha Banks proved again that women could have a main event caliber match. The emotional climax was the long overdue title win of Sami Zayn as he defeated friend and rival Adrian Neville in a match of the year contender. Then in a post-credits scene worthy of a Marvel film Kevin Owens powerbombed his best friend Sami Zayn into the ring apron leaving him battered and broken.
The show immediately received seemingly unanimous praise. Social media and message boards flooded with positivity about a WWE show for the first time in months. In a move that would make Ashley Remington proud Reddit users even sent Triple H a fruit basket in gratitude
. Maybe the highest praise comes from the fact that the main roster took this as a challenge, something they haven't done since the last days of the Monday Night Wars. NXT proved to a typically cynical fanbase that even though some shows might test a fan's patience and some bumps might test a wrestler's resilience there is an exciting future for pro wrestling.