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