Favorite WWE things of 2014

Oprah Winfrey’s favorite things list has become an annual highlight for women across the nation. For us wrestling fans, however, it has very little value. So to alleviate that issue, I present my favorite things from WWE over the past 12 months.

 

Fans’ rejection of Batista

Presumably, WWE went into 2014 thinking Batista would return as a major babyface and he’d challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXX. The only problem with that idea was that Batista wasn’t Daniel Bryan. So the WWE Universe sent a very important message to those running the show: We’re not going to just sit back and accept whatever you give us. As a result, WWE was seemingly forced to call an audible which saw Batista turn heel, Daniel Bryan get inserted into the main event picture, and the WWE Universe rejoice at WrestleMania as their guy captured the gold.

 

Paul Heyman

As the one behind the one in 21-1, Paul Heyman continued to do the best work of his career in 2014.

 

NXT

Easily my favorite show on the WWE Network, and worth $9.99 per month all by itself. Being able to build an affinity for these stars at a very early stage in their careers will pay dividends for WWE for years to come. It’s not all that unlike a fan of a MLB team becoming attached to their homegrown talent. That’s why so many fans in New York became upset when Robinson Cano left last offseason. They had been watching him since his days in the minors and built a strong appreciation for him. Similarly, I cannot wait to watch the careers of Enzo Amore and Sami Zayn develop along the way.

 

Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt (Royal Rumble)

Historically, this match doesn’t hold much weight, especially considering it was fresh off the heels of Bryan being a member of the Wyatt Family, which many fans try to forget. But if you watch the match in a silo and choose to only grade it on its in-ring action, it’s hard not to appreciate it.

 

Bad News Barrett

We only got to enjoy him for a portion of the year, but what we did get was simply amazing. Talk about getting a catchphrase over.

 

Damien Mizdow

It takes a special talent to take a less-than-stellar idea and turn it into gold. For a while, it seemed like Sandow’s impersonation persona was the kiss of death. But he managed to turn it into one of the most entertaining characters we’ve seen in years. That’s talent. Sandow reminds me a lot of Cody Rhodes in that respect. On paper, Dashing Cody Rhodes, mustachio man, and Stardust didn’t necessarily look like winners. But Rhodes certainly made them incredibly entertaining. Sandow has been doing the same with his Mizdow character.

 

Scott Hall and Jake Roberts

It was great to see two of the all-time best take their rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame, but even better to see that they are healthy and doing well. Here’s to wishing them happy and healthy 2015 and beyond.

 

Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena (SummerSlam)

What made this match so unique was that it went against the grain of everything WWE has done over the past several decades. I can’t remember the last time I saw a credible main eventer manhandled the way that Cena was manhandled. Thanks in large part to that decimation, Brock Lesnar is recognized as the monster he is today. Very well done.

 

Stephanie McMahon

The self-deprecation Stephanie McMahon has shown over the past year has been a valuable lesson on how to get your talent over. Yes, she shines at times. But in the end, it’s all about building her up so that she can get taken down. Evidence: Her work with Vickie Guerrero and Team Cena this year.

 

Survivor Series main event

For me, the match was about as perfect as you could get. It combined several compelling storylines, amazing athleticism, and an iconic debut. Can’t ask for much more than that … but just in case you needed more, Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler were the final two combatants. Very refreshing.

Photo credit: WWE.com

Kevin Nash, nudity, and the WWE Title

It was 20 years ago today that Kevin Nash defeated Bob Backlund at Madison Square Garden to become WWE Champion. During my research for the WWE Championship book, I was able to talk to Nash about his title run. The conversation resulted in one of the greatest answers to a question that I ever asked.

 

Me: Do you have any whacky stories about being WWE Champion?

Kevin Nash: I think that everybody at one time or another has put the title on nude, you have to do that. You have to have the belt on and be nude. I guarantee every guy has done it as a joke … walked up to their wife and said, “Honey, it’s a night with the champ.” Maybe I’m the only one.

 

Here are a few more less hilarious excerpts from our conversation, which have been previously posted on this site:

 

You competed as several different unsuccessful characters prior to coming to WWE. Did you ever think it wasn’t going to happen for you?
There was actually a time before I came to [WWE] where I was going quit and go back and bounce at a bar. I just didn’t think it was going to happen. There was so much nepotism going on in WCW; everybody had a kid that they were pushing. And if you weren’t in the good ol’ boy crew, you weren’t even gonna get looked at it.

When I came into WCW, I was in shape and I had long black hair. The first thing they did was cut my hair into a Mohawk. I was like “geez, that’s brilliant. Take a decent looking guy and make him as ugly as possible off the bat.”

Before ’93, before I signed with WWE, I was definitely thinking that this wasn’t going to work.

 

Are there any regrets that your WWE Title win was never immortalized on a historic pay-per-view or Raw?
At that time, that was the first year that we went to the fifth pay-per-view, which was King of the Ring. We just had the four pay-per-views back then. Of course, in those days you would have loved to win the title at WrestleMania. But WrestleMania was several months away. Plus at that time we were starting to get a little bit of an upswing in the house show business and it was good for the fans to know that titles did change hands at house shows.

To me it was a moment in my career like no other. It didn’t matter where it was. But that fact that it was in the Garden was special enough for me.

 

Were you shocked that success came so fast for you in WWE, considering your past with WCW?
I was amazed. I’m a goal-oriented person. I set a goal to become champion and when I won the Intercontinental title, I remember going back to the hotel and sitting on the bed and looking at it saying “wow, I’m a [WWE] champion. I’m the IC Champion,” which at that time meant sooner or later you would have a match against the champion. For me, I think it was the first King of the Ring when I had my first championship bout against Bret and it ended up in a DQ.

The next thing you know I came back from a European trip and Vince asked me to come out to the house … that’s when I knew. I was like “oh my God, I’m going to be the champ.” In my mind, I can picture it like it was a movie. The title didn’t jump around much back then. As Bret would say, “it’s real, it’s all real.” But like I said, the belt didn’t jump around, so it was a real honor.

 

Did you experience any fears from being on top?
I wasn’t scared because I had such a great crew of guys around me. I was wrestling with Shawn and Scott (Hall) a lot. I was wrestling with ‘Taker and Bret a lot. I was wrestling with Yoko. The six of us I considered really good friends … I had guys that could really go around me. My supporting cast was incredible. Everybody cared, everybody worked hard. You were gone 25 days on the road, then go home for four then go back on the road with these same guys. You spent more time by far with them than you did anybody, especially Shawn and Scott who I traveled with and later Hunter. It’s those guys in the car, you spend more time with them that you did anybody.

 

After nearly one year, you finally lost the gold to Bret Hart. A lot of people didn’t have a great relationship with Bret. Were you ok, so to speak, with losing to Bret?
It’s funny that people say they don’t have a good relationship with Bret, but I just think they misunderstood Bret. I always thought I had a really good relationship with Bret. A lot of times he and I would be on an European trip … I’d be in a jazz club in Germany, I’d look over and see Bret by himself, I’d be by myself, so we’d just sit and have some beers together. Bret was very much a lone wolf. But Bret had a very dry, budding, great sense of humor. Very sarcastic. We always had a respect for each other. And he was a pro. There was never a time when he didn’t lace ‘em up. You know if you were in there with Bret, you were gonna have a great match.

Also, be sure to check out the new WWE 50 book, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

2014 definitive Twitter guide for wrestling fans

We’re nearing the end of the year, which means it’s time for my annual Twitter guide for wrestling fans. For those not in the know, this is a guide of accounts I follow and find informative, helpful, and sometimes humorous. There’s a lot of garbage out there, and this list is designed to help wrestling fans weed through the accounts that offer very little value. As always, the only prerequisite of this list is that the account could not appear on one of the prior year’s lists (2012 | 2013).

WWE Night of Champions predictions

After going 7-1 with my SummerSlam predictions, you would think I’d be brewing with confidence heading into Night of Champions. In reality, though, I’ve never been so unsure about my picks heading into a pay-per-view. But hey, I’m not going to let a little lack of self-confidence stop me from potential public ridicule. So with that, here are my Night of Champions predictions:

 

 

Mark Henry vs. Rusev

I like America just as much as the next guy. And I even feel a little “rallied” after Mark Henry’s appearance on Raw this past Monday. But the truth is none of that is going to help the World’s Strongest Man in this one. I see WWE continuing to keep Rusev strong up until his rumored upcoming rivalry with John Cena. Of course, that means Henry will have to get his wig split against Rusev. Winner: Rusev

 

Randy Orton vs. Chris Jericho

If the Montreal Screwjob has taught us anything it’s that doing the job on the way out the door is a time-honored tradition. And according to rumors, Chris Jericho is heading for the exit after Night of Champions, which leads me to believe that Randy Orton goes over clean. Winner: Randy Orton

 

The Usos vs. Gold & Stardust

Gotta go with the Dust Brothers here for no other reason than Cody Rhodes deserves to be rewarded for embracing the Stardust character more than I’ve seen any other Superstar embrace a whacky character. Winner: Gold & Stardust

 

Paige vs. AJ Lee vs. Nikki Bella

Given the amount of time WWE has put into the Bella twins storyline, you would have to think that it’s far from over at this point. And if that’s the case, it can certainly (and probably should) continue without the Divas Championship in the mix muddying its purpose. As for AJ Lee, if she was going to be Divas Champion again, she could have very well won the title in a one-on-one match with her rival, Paige. It’s just cleaner that way. So by process of elimination, I’m going with Paige here. For extra credit, let’s throw in a Brie run-in that costs her sister the match. Winner: Paige

 

Sheamus vs. Cesaro

The way Cesaro has been booked in recent months doesn’t give me any confidence at all in his future. But at the same time, Sheamus’ U.S. Title reign has been flat since Day One. At this point, a little mix-up could be good for all involved. I’ll take Cesaro winning and becoming new U.S. Champion. Winner: Cesaro

 

Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins

I can’t envision a scenario where Seth Rollins would lose cleanly to anybody twice in the matter of six days, unless of course they’re doing that thing they did with Daniel Bryan where he lost a large number of matches prior to cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase. If that’s the case, I still don’t like it; but I get it. I also can’t imagine a scenario where Roman Reigns would lose, especially if he is, indeed, the chosen one. With all that in mind, I fully expect a Dean Ambrose sighting at Night of Champions. Even worse (and I hope I’m wrong), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ambrose swerve us all and help Rollins get the win. Winner: Seth Rollins

 

Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz

I figure if I pick The Miz enough, I’m bound to be right eventually. Winner: The Miz

 

Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena

Full disclosure: I’m a John Cena fan. I appreciate and respect everything he’s done and continues to do for the industry of sports-entertainment. And if it was my money that was on the line, I’d also have him as the face of the company, given the amount of revenue he’s generated over the past decade. But even the biggest John Cena fan would have to admit that him beating Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at this point in their respective careers makes little sense. For Cena, it would be just another title reign. And even worse, for Lesnar it would diminish the potential “Undertaker rub” he can give to the next Superstar who beats him. There’s real money that has yet to be made from that storyline. Why waste it?

On the flip side, WWE can’t make Cena look weak for a second straight pay-per-view. Remember, he’s the one driving the most revenue at this point, whether you like it or not. So in order to get out of this match with Cena looking strong and Lesnar keeping the title, I suspect we’ll see Cena go into a fit of rage and beat Lesnar with everything under the sun, thus causing a disqualification. Winner: Brock Lesnar