WWE WrestleMania 2014: Power Ranking Top 15 Moments from Flagship Show

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2014

WWE WrestleMania 2014: Power Ranking Top 15 Moments from Flagship Show

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    WrestleMania is an event that was built on and evolved from great and iconic moments.

    WrestleMania 30 continued the tradition started way back in 1985 by delivering some truly memorable, shocking and definitive moments for fans to hold onto and cherish forever.

    Whether it was Daniel Bryan's triumphant championship victory or the sad end to the greatest streak of all time, fans left New Orleans' Superdome with several images burnt into their memories.

    The moments that unfolded at this year's event will dictate both the immediate and long-term future of WWE.

    The youth movement played a big role on the show. Where did Cesaro's victory, Bray Wyatt's performance and AJ Lee's improbable upset rank? What about the outstanding match between Daniel Bryan and Triple H in relation to the main event?

    With perspective on my side, join this writer for a look back at the 15 greatest moments from what will go down in history as one of the best and, perhaps, most important WrestleMania events of all time.

15. The Demise of The Real Americans

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    Sunday's broadcast kicked off with a Fatal 4-Way elimination match for the WWE Tag Team Championship. The Usos successfully retained their titles after capitalizing on miscommunication between The Real Americans, Cesaro and Jack Swagger.

    It was the latest in a long line of slip-ups between Cesaro and Swagger. This time, there was nothing Zeb Colter could do to get them to put their differences aside.

    Swagger grabbed hold of Cesaro with the Patriot Lock but released almost immediately. Cesaro, on the other hand, took the former World Heavyweight champion down and delivered the Cesaro Swing to the delight of the huge audience inside the Superdome.

    It was the beginning of a huge night for the Swiss Superman and the end of one of the better tag teams in WWE.

14. One Last Parting Shot

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    With Daniel Bryan competing for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in a Triple Threat match against Randy Orton and Batista, and looking very good while doing it, Triple H and Stephanie appeared at ringside to try to prevent the Aberdeen native from realizing his dream and capturing the gold.

    The chief operating officer pulled the official out of the ring, blasted him and called for the returning Scott Armstrong to enter the ring. When Armstrong failed to deliver a fast count on Bryan, he infuriated Triple H. The Game grabbed a sledgehammer from underneath the ring but was cut off by Bryan.

    Seconds later, in one of the most memorable moments of an excellent main event, Bryan delivered a dive through the ropes and onto both Triple H and Stephanie, as well as Armstrong.

    After Bryan's victory over the Cerebral Assassin earlier in the night, catching The Authority with one last parting shot before going on to capture the top prize was poetic justice for the man WWE's resident power couple once referred to as a "B-plus player."

13. Bryan Gets Tabled

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    Sticking with the main event, one of the nastier bumps of the evening belongs to former WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton.

    Standing atop one announce table, Orton watched as Batista elevated Bryan in the air for a powerbomb and let go, sending Bryan free-falling. The Viper caught the challenger in a neckbreaker, crashing through the table in the process.

    Unfortunately for Orton, he landed back-first on a television monitor. He looked to be in a great deal of pain, and blood emanated from several lacerations on his lower back. Action came to a standstill as a stretcher was brought to ringside.

    As it turned out, the stretcher was a plot device for the remainder of the match, but it could have easily been for Orton, who showed a tremendous amount of toughness by continuing with the match despite what was probably an incredible amount of pain.

    The spot itself was an outstanding one and proved to be one of the most important moments of the match.

    Bryan would fight off the stretcher, his heart and determination not allowing him to quit, and go on to defeat the former Evolution teammates for the title.

12. 70,000 Yes! Chants

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    There was no elaborate entrance needed when Daniel Bryan made his way to the ring for the night's opener against Triple H. His "Flight of the Valkyries" theme and over 70,000 fans provided the spectacle for him.

    The moment the opening seconds of his entrance music played and he walked out on the biggest stage the industry had to offer, Bryan was greeted by the unforgettable imagery of tens of thousands of people raising their hands in the air and chanting "Yes!" in unison.

    The image tells the entire story of Daniel Bryan's rise to the top of the industry.

    Here was a guy who was once considered too small to succeed at the top of WWE, but thanks to the fans and their unwavering support of the highly talented wrestler, he gradually worked his way to main event status. The Yes Movement grew from week to week and, eventually, management simply could not ignore it.

    Bryan did the heavy lifting between the ropes, but it was the fans that willed him to the top of the industry. To see them greet him the way that they did as he made his first appearance of the evening was something truly special.

11. The Entrances

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    Bryan may not have had an elaborate entrance, but there were plenty of them going around Sunday night as WWE once again proved why it is one of the greatest live entertainment companies on the planet.

    Triple H's grand entrance to start the show included a massive throne, three stunning young ladies (NXT's Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks and Charlotte) flanking it and an awesome face mask and robe. The music that played and the close up of the King of King's face as he removed the skeletal mask added to the grandeur of the moment.

    Simply put, it was an entrance fit for a king.

    As great as that one may have been, entrance of the night honors may go to the enigmatic Wyatt Family.

    Musicians Mark Crozer and The Rels played the Wyatt Family theme song "Broken Out In Love" as Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan made their way to the ring. Vocalist Crozer had his face painted while his bandmates wore the old medicine man masks. The lighting was dark and unsettling and really added to the creepiness of both the wrestlers and the story that had preceded the match.

    WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton's entrance was slightly less grand but did feature the band Rev Theory playing his theme live as he entered the arena. Given the fact that Orton has long been one of WWE's marquee stars but had never had anything special for his entrance until WrestleMania 30, this one was a bit surprising.

10. AJ Triumphs

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    With so much attention being placed on the cast of Total Divas and the same six women getting airtime as a result of their involvement on the show, it was a pleasant surprise to see WWE resist the urge to take the Divas title off AJ and put it on a Bella Twin or Naomi just for the sake of giving that show a new storyline to follow.

    AJ has been the most over Diva on the roster for two years now, and her work as Divas champion over the last year has been far better than anything her challengers have accomplished. Yes, both Brie and Nikki Bella have improved as workers, and Naomi had one of the best comebacks in all of wrestling, but none of them deserved the moment at WrestleMania as much as AJ did.

    Knowing her backstory, where she came from and how hard she worked to achieve everything she has only makes the moment more special.

9. The Shield Dominates

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    The Hounds of Justice entered WrestleMania 30 as one of the hottest and most over acts in all of wrestling after executing a babyface turn weeks earlier by attacking the director of operations, corporate Kane.

    Sunday night, they reestablished their dominance by absolutely obliterating the New Age Outlaws and the aforementioned Kane in less than three minutes in what was the show's shortest match.

    There will be some who criticize the booking decision, especially since three of the best young wrestlers in the world were shortchanged in terms of time, but Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins look like world-beaters after dispatching of three very well known, prominent stars of the Attitude Era.

    It is no secret that Kane, Road Dogg and Billy Gunn are not getting any younger. Having a sustained match in which The Shield would have to show moments of weakness against them would have been counterproductive.

    Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose standing dead center in the ring, showing their unity after such a decisive victory, was a tremendous moment and perfectly set the table for what would go down on Raw 24 hours later.

8. Bray Creeps Cena Out

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    While it may not have been the prettiest or most scientific match on the card, the John Cena-Bray Wyatt bout at WrestleMania was a masterpiece of psychology that echoed themes from The Dark Knight and provided fans a nice break from the more conventional wrestling matches presented throughout the rest of the evening.

    Like the Joker in Christopher Nolan's 2008 film, Wyatt tried desperately to bring Cena down to his level, to show the world that heroes truly are a mirage and that at the end of the day, they are as shallow and depraved as the men perceived to be villains.

    When that did not work, when Cena refused to give in and blast Wyatt with a steel chair at his own urging, the cult-like leader turned to mind games.

    In one of the best moments of the night, Cena took off into the ropes to deliver the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Suddenly, Wyatt arched his back in the famous Exorcist pose and stared at Cena. The creepiness caught the former WWE champion off-guard and actually took him off his feet. Cena scurried into the ropes, clearly affected by the imagery before him.

    It was a great moment that added to the extraordinary story told by the performers.

7. Cesaro Slams His Way to Victory

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    A star was born Sunday night as Cesaro recovered from the split from his Real Americans partner Jack Swagger and defeated a field of very talented Superstars (and the Great Khali) to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

    The finish, which saw Cesaro lift Big Show in the air for a body slam, walk several steps and toss him to the arena floor, was a very fitting end to the match and mirrored Hulk Hogan doing the same to Andre some 27 years earlier.

    The win was the culmination of a year's worth of hard work from Cesaro. After missing out on a spot on the WrestleMania 29 card, despite his status as United States champion, Cesaro refocused himself, took the advice of several high-ranking Superstars and became a much better performer because of it.

    His matches against Sami Zayn were heralded for their overall quality, and Cesaro's breakout performance against John Cena prior to Elimination Chamber back in February made him one of the hottest workers in the industry.

    Now, with a big win in one of the best Battle Royals in WWE history, Cesaro has the opportunity to make a run at the top of the card. With so many young stars being spotlighted at WrestleMania and the following night on Raw, it appears as if the future is now for WWE, and Cesaro has every tool necessary to be one of the guys who stars in that future.

6. WrestleMania I Reunion

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    Prior to the night's main event, Mean Gene Okerlund was joined by Hulk Hogan for a short promo. The Hulkster, however, would be interrupted by two of the greatest foes of his career: "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff.

    Orndorff told Hogan that he would have beaten him if he had a partner that would watch his back. This made for some tension between him and Piper, which came to an end when Mr. T appeared. After some jawing back and forth, Piper (hesitantly) embraced T, and another storybook was closed, this one some three decades after it was originally written.

    While the backstage segment earlier in the evening involving Sgt. Slaughter, Ron Simmons, Ted DiBiase and Jim Duggan may have been tired and worn out, it was great to see WWE get great and meaningful use out of some of the legendary figures they had on hand.

5. Crowd Response to the End of the Streak

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    There are many images that will live on forever in the annals of WrestleMania 30.

    There is Daniel Bryan raising both the WWE and World Heavyweight titles high overhead as confetti falls and pyrotechnics explode. How about imposing Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose making their way to the ring with those awesome masks around the bottom portions of their faces?

    Even Cesaro hoisting Big Show overhead for a body slam was a truly memorable moment of the show.

    But one needs to look no further than the expressions on the faces of the audience members after the referee counted three and Brock Lesnar was announced the winner of his match against The Undertaker, forever becoming the "one" in 21-1.

    The stunned looks, the dropped jaws and the tears flowing down the faces of men and women in the audience tell the story of how much The Undertaker's storied streak meant to the fans of World Wrestling Entertainment.

    Never has an audience gone so quiet so fast and remained that way for as long as it did.

    The completely organic reaction made the moment as much as anything the performers did.

4. A Gathering of Icons

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    There was no better way to kick off the 30th WrestleMania than with the three biggest stars to ever compete at the event in Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Hulk Hogan.

    Those three men are absolutely synonymous with the Showcase of the Immortals and helped take World Wrestling Entertainment to heights it had never before seen.

    Nothing they said or did Sunday night was original or unique, but just the thought of them sharing the ring, going back and forth on the microphone with one another, spouting off with their trademark catchphrases and electrifying the audience as only they can was everything anyone could hope for.

    The beer bash at the end felt final. It felt like the end of eras gone by as WWE prepared to kick off a new era, with a new generation of stars and moments that today's fans can hold onto and cherish for years and decades to come.

    This great moment had social media buzzing and kicked off the evening with a bang.

3. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H

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    The most anticipated match of the night opened the show from an in-ring perspective and did not disappoint.

    Triple H worked his best match in years, focusing on Bryan's injured shoulder in an attempt to wear him down and end the Yes Movement once and for all.

    Bryan, as had been the case throughout his eight-month journey back to the top of the industry, showed great resilience and continually fought back.

    The MVP of the match, from a character standpoint, was Stephanie McMahon. The Billion Dollar Princess was excellent as she hurled insults in Bryan's direction and words of encouragement in Triple H's. The look on her face when Bryan caught her husband with a running knee and scored the victory was priceless and put the moment over that much more.

    This was the best match of the show and, some could argue, a more important moment than his title win later in the night.

2. The Streak Dies

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    There has been no outcome more shocking in WrestleMania history than Brock Lesnar's victory over Undertaker Sunday night.

    The end of the fabled streak brings about the end of an era that stretched two decades and featured wins over some of the most celebrated and decorated performers of all time. Hall of Famers failed to do what Lesnar did, and that should indicate just how monumental the win was for the Beast Incarnate.

    With one three-count, WWE lost one of its biggest draws. The streak sold pay-per-views more so than even Undertaker himself. Despite every win in it being scripted, there was an aura about that greatest win-loss record in wrestling history that could not be matched. 

    Saturday afternoon, just over 24 hours before WrestleMania 30, the streak was named the greatest moment in WrestleMania history during WWE Network's coverage of the event.

    It is a feat that will never be replicated. Ever.

    While there are many that have ridiculed the booking decision, and perhaps rightfully so, it does inject WWE with much-need unpredictability. If the streak was broken at WrestleMania, anything is possible. And for fans, that is very rarely a bad thing.

1. The Rise of Daniel Bryan

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    The rise of Daniel Bryan capped off one of the most memorable and unpredictable WrestleManias in very predictable fashion, as it should have.

    In the weeks leading into the show, the company made it very clear that the show would center around Daniel Bryan and his journey to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. With fans demanding it and Bryan's work backing them up, the company had no choice but to crown him the latest, greatest star in the company, and to its credit, it did it perfectly.

    Bryan's win over Triple H early in the show was an appetizer, and his submission victory over Batista in the Triple Threat match for the title, which also involved Randy Orton, was the main course.

    With the titles in his possession, the confetti falling from the ceiling and tears in his eyes, Bryan celebrated the greatest night of his life as his sister and niece shared the ring with him. Pyro exploded, fans continued to chant "Yes!" and WWE had its very own storybook ending to a phenomenal show.

    If appearances by Hogan, Rock and Austin and the definitive end of the streak helped bring one era to an end, Bryan's victory helped ignite a new one.

    A great moment for one of wrestling's great and most deserving guys.