Ranking the 25 Best WWE Matches of 2014
With 2014 coming to a close, it's safe to say that it's been a historic year for WWE.
Regardless of what you thought of the year on the whole, from an in-ring standpoint, 2014 was filled with marvelous matches that will not be soon forgotten.
Even during the WWE's "dark days" (from September to December), there was still a lot of outstanding action saving the product from being completely unbearable to watch. From the main events of pay-per-views to the opening contests of Monday Night Raw, intense wrestling could be found on just about any WWE program at one point or another.
Will 2015 pale in comparison to what we've seen from the extraordinary athletes this past year?
Criteria for the rankings include the match's build, storytelling, finish, aftermath, lasting impact, overall execution and other factors.
That being said, let's reflect on the highlights of what's being considered one of the better years in terms of fast-paced, suspenseful, solid wrestling.
25. Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton (Raw: February 3, 2014)
No two Superstars have faced off more times in the last year than Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton. Thankfully, their in-ring chemistry is so great it makes for a memorable match every time.
With his WWE World Heavyweight Championship defense inside the Elimination Chamber looming large, Orton was forced to go one-on-one with each of his Chamber opponents. The first of the five he went up against was none other than Daniel Bryan.
The two traded victories during the prior fall, but it was Orton who ended the feud as champion. This was Bryan's final chance to get one over on Orton, even if the title wasn't up for grabs.
As expected, Bryan and Orton contested a high-paced bout with the momentum constantly shifting between them. Truth be told, it was as good if not better of a match than their clashes from 2013.
Despite Kane's best attempts to interfere and aid Orton to victory, Bryan still managed to fend off his former tag team partner and take out the Viper for the clean victory. It was the boost Bryan desperately needed coming off his loss to Bray Wyatt at Royal Rumble.
24. John Cena vs. Randy Orton in a No. 1 Contender's Match (Hell in a Cell)
It's a match we hoped we'd never have to see again after 2009, but WWE has still made us endure it countless times since.
WWE looks at John Cena versus Randy Orton as the Steve Austin versus the Rock of this generation, when in reality it doesn't even come close.
That said, they always have good matches whenever they're in the ring together. Their latest clash inside Hell in a Cell at the October pay-per-view of the same name was no exception.
The announcement of them facing off at Hell in a Cell initially elicited a groan from the crowd. The stakes were heightened when it was later revealed the winner would be named the new No. 1 contender to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Thankfully, it didn't earn the main event slot of the show over Dean Ambrose versus Seth Rollins. However, it can be argued that Cena and Orton had the better wrestling match of the two Cell clashes that night.
Cena and Orton know each other so well they can anticipate each other's maneuvers. Thus, it was no surprise they had a reversal for each other's finishers.
It took an Attitude Adjustment off the top rope and through a table for Cena to put Orton away.
23. Sheamus vs. Bray Wyatt (Main Event: April 29, 2014)
If you aren't regularly tuning into Main Event on WWE Network, you're missing some exciting in-ring action. Not much of note ever happens on the show, but the program has hosted a handful of great matchups over the years.
Ahead of his huge Steel Cage victory over John Cena at Extreme Rules, Bray Wyatt was set to go one-on-one with Sheamus. The two had never squared off prior to this point, so fans were weary of what to expect from them on this night.
Wyatt and Sheamus are excellent athletes in their own right, but together, they proved they can make magic.
It was one of the most exciting encounters of either Superstar's career to date. Each struggled to put the other away, and not even Wyatt's band of misfits could help him secure victory.
Despite needing assistance to beat Cena a few days later, Wyatt was able to emerge victorious against Sheamus all on his own. All it took was a single Sister Abaigail to put the Celtic Warrior down for the count.
22. Alberto Del Rio vs. Sheamus vs. Christian vs. Dolph Ziggler (Raw: March 24)
After winning the Intercontinental Championship in November 2013, Big E had a major target on his back. He defended the title against all comers, including Curtis Axel, Damien Sandow and Fandango.
Christian, Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler all announced their intentions to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 30. However, each of them had their sights set on the Intercontinental title as well.
On the March 24 edition of Raw, they clashed in a Fatal 4-Way in which the winner would earn a shot at the gold the next night on WWE Main Event. None of the four seemed like obvious winners, making the match all the more unpredictable.
The action was electric from start to finish and there was never a dull moment. The Brooklyn crowd reacted to everything they did and sat in suspense as they waited for someone to score the victory.
Following a flurry of finishers, Christian escaped the fray as the new No 1. Contender. Never before had a shot at the Intercontinental title felt so prestigious.
However, Christian was deemed unable to compete on Main Event due to a concussion suffered in this match, and he hasn't laced up his boots since.
21. Randy Orton vs. Cesaro (SmackDown: February 14, 2014)
Through the fall of 2013 and into the start of 2014, Cesaro was on a hot streak while part of the Real Americans.
Unlike his tag team partner, Jack Swagger, Cesaro qualified for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber match at the February pay-per-view.
Randy Orton was forced to face off against each of his challengers going into the event and Cesaro was one of them. When they clashed on the February 14 edition of SmackDown, everyone expected a one-sided squash for Orton.
What we got instead was a pleasant surprise.
Orton and Cesaro hadn't had many matches together up to this point, so the bout felt fresh. Despite both competitors being heels, the live crowd that night definitely took a liking to Cesaro over Orton.
Cesaro gave the WWE World Heavyweight champion everything he had; he was out to make an impact a week before Elimination Chamber.
Following an astonishing uppercut out of nowhere, Cesaro followed it up with the Neutralizer on Orton for the clean victory to the roar of the crowd. It was an impressive victory that made fans look at Cesaro in a completely different light.
20. John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt in a Last Man Standing Match (Payback)
When the John Cena versus Bray Wyatt feud first started in January, fans were excited for what it would mean for Wyatt's future. The interactions between them going into WrestleMania were fantastic and the anticipation to see them clash at WrestleMania 30 was at an all-time high.
It was all downhill following their clunker of a match at 'Mania. They faced off in a lackluster rematch at Extreme Rules, in which Wyatt emerged victorious with help from Luke Harper and Erick Rowan.
Fans were ready to see the feud conclude after that event, but WWE insisted it continue. The rubber match was set to take place at Payback and held under Last Man Standing rules.
Last Man Standing matches have a tendency to be boring more often than not, but Wyatt and Cena really brought out the best of each other. Even the interference from the Wyatt Family and the Usos helped enhance the excitement of the contest.
Cena's inevitable victory came when he trapped the cult leader under a set of steel stairs. It wasn't an all-time classic, but it was by far the best bout the two ever contested together.
19. Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt (WWE TLC)
At Hell in a Cell, Dean Ambrose came close to finally getting his revenge on Seth Rollins before he was thwarted by the returning Bray Wyatt. The two feuded going into Survivor Series, during which Wyatt won their match by disqualification.
That same night, a Tables, Ladders and Chairs rematch was set for the TLC pay-per-view in December. They were given the main event slot over John Cena and Seth Rollins to the surprise of many.
They incorporated a lot of innovative spots into their match, which saw Ambrose take risk after risk. From steel chairs to kendo sticks, they utilized anything and everything in sight.
The only thing that worked against them was going on last. The fans had seen so many hardcore elements in all the previous matches that it made Ambrose and Wyatt work their hardest to top them.
After a hard-fought battle between the two chaotic characters, Ambrose accidentally electrocuted himself when tugging on a power cord. Wyatt capitalized by hitting Sister Abigail for the victory.
Although the finish felt anticlimactic, the two deserve credit for going out there and having a heck of a match. It speaks volumes WWE trusted them enough to close out the show on a high note as well.
18. Bad News Barrett vs. Sheamus (Raw: April 21, 2014)
Soon after WrestleMania 30, a tournament was held to crown a new No. 1 contender to the Intercontinental Championship.
Among the competitors were Bad News Barrett and Sheamus, both of whom had beaten their first-round opponents.
When Barrett and Sheamus went one-on-one on the April 21 edition of Raw, fans didn't expect to see anything new. These two have clashed countless times in the last three years, but they managed to have their best match to date.
Barrett and Sheamus work so incredibly well together it's a mystery they have yet to engage in a full-on feud with each other. This match was proof that a meeting on the pay-per-view stage is inevitable.
The hard-hitting action was nothing short of excellent. It was interesting seeing what these guys were willing to do to advance in the tournament, and it was evident they weren't holding anything back.
In what was considered a major upset victory, Barrett came out on top without having to resort to dirty tactics. He went on to win the Intercontinental Championship at Extreme Rules two weeks later.
Both brawlers are currently out with injuries, but it shouldn't be long before they're back and going at it once again.
17. John Cena vs. Cesaro (Raw: February 17, 2014)
Days removed from his huge victory over then-WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton, Cesaro was riding a massive wave of momentum going into Raw. His next opponent was slated to be fellow Elimination Chamber participant John Cena.
Cesaro and Cena had clashed only once before, so it was a fresh, exciting match. Cena looked to put Cesaro to the test and determine if he had what it took to hang with the main event players.
As he did to Orton three days prior, Cesaro pushed Cena to his absolute limits. He had a counter for everything in Cena's arsenal and the 15-time world champion struggled to put him away.
The fact they had to step inside the Elimination Chamber in six nights didn't occur to them at all. All that mattered to them in the moment was winning and earning an advantage going into the title match.
Cena's resiliency proved to be too much for the Swiss Superman, who fell victim to Cena's patented Attitude Adjustment. Fans have been anxiously awaiting a full-on feud between them ever since.
16. Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper in a Ladder Match (TLC)
On the November 17 edition of Raw, Luke Harper defeated Dolph Ziggler to capture the Intercontinental Championship. Ziggler invoked his rematch clause the following week on SmackDown, but he came up short of winning the gold because Harper got himself counted out.
The two clashed once more on the December 5 SmackDown, but Harper's intentional disqualification cost Ziggler the strap. Interim general manager Santino Marella granted Ziggler one last title opportunity at TLC, this time in a Ladder match.
Ziggler made it quite clear going into the event that he and Harper were going to steal the show, and that's exactly what they did. Both Superstars put their bodies through excruciating pain, all for the prestigious Intercontinental title.
With his hometown crowd cheering him on, Ziggler refused to give in to the punishment that Harper was dishing out. After laying out Harper at ringside, the bleached-blonde Superstar ascended the ladder to claim his fourth Intercontinental Championship.
It'll be difficult for anyone to find a better Ziggler match than this one. Will it go down in history as one of WWE's greatest Ladder matches?
15. Sheamus vs. Cesaro for the United States Championship (Night of Champions)
Cesaro was primed for a huge push coming out of his victory in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 30, but his alliance with Paul Heyman somehow went askew. Once their partnership dissolved, Cesaro was left directionless.
Shortly after SummerSlam, he entered a feud with Sheamus over the United States Championship. Nothing stood out about the rivalry, but the same couldn't be said for the match they'd have at the Night of Champions pay-per-view.
On a night that featured the rematch between John Cena and Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose's return, Cesaro and Sheamus stole the show. Similar to Sheamus and Bad News Barrett, it's crazy to think these two had never feuded prior to this point.
The styles of the two European competitors meshed perfectly, which made for a highly energetic matchup. In the end, Sheamus' brute toughness proved to be too much for Cesaro, but don't think this is the last we'll see from them in the ring together.
14. John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Title (SummerSlam)
At WrestleMania 30, Brock Lesnar did the unthinkable. He did what no other man had been able to before him. He conquered the Undertaker's 21-0 undefeated streak on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
Coming out of 'Mania, Lesnar was riding a massive wave of momentum. He disappeared from WWE programming following the event and re-emerged in late July, announcing his intentions to challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
John Cena welcomed the invitation with open arms. He and Lesnar fought in a No Holds Barred match at Extreme Rules two years prior, and this bout was destined to be another grueling war.
The big difference between the last time they fought and now was that Lesnar was faster, stronger and hungrier than ever. Nothing was going to stop him from taking what he believed was rightfully his.
When the bell rang at SummerSlam, fans didn't witness a evenly matched contest like they had the last time they clashed. What they witnessed was a massacre.
Suplex, after suplex, after suplex, Lesnar dismantled Cena piece by piece. Sixteen minutes and two F-5s later, Cena couldn't withstand any more punishment and succumbed to defeat.
As the prestigious prize hung high above his head, Lesnar had an aura about him. Never before had fans seen a monster own another Superstar, especially someone of the caliber of Cena, in such dominant fashion.
13. Paige vs. Emma for the NXT Women's Championship (NXT Arrival)
From the moment she became the inaugural NXT Women's champion to the moment she was vacated of the title in April, no one was nearly as dominant a champion as Paige.
She took on all comers in the eight months she held the strap, but it was her best friend Emma who posed the biggest threat to her reign.
In fact, it was Emma who Paige defeated to win the gold in the first place. Now, they were set to do battle yet again at the first live NXT special, Arrival. Never before had NXT been broadcast on such a huge platform as the WWE Network, so this was their chance to show the world what they were capable of.
In the match they had at Arrival, Paige and Emma made the belt feel more meaningful than any other title in the company. They put everything on the line, and in return, they were respected for it by the WWE Universe.
Both ladies busted out moves that you don't normally see from the Divas on the main roster. This was the same bout in which Paige debuted the PTO submission maneuver that she has since adopted as her finisher.
Every women's match at the NXT live specials has been excellent, but it was Paige and Emma who set the standard and made fans look at women's wrestling in a new light. It came as no surprise they were both promoted to Raw shortly thereafter.
12. Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank)
This year's Money in the Bank pay-per-view was centered around who would walk out as the new WWE World Heavyweight champion. The main event featured eight of WWE's top-tier stars competing in a Ladder match in which the vacated gold was up for grabs.
However, it was the traditional Money in the Bank Ladder match that stole the show.
Only days before the event, it was confirmed that six Superstars would vie for a future opportunity to contend for the WWE World Heavyweight title at any time of their choosing. Of all the match's participants, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins were the most obvious choices to win.
Despite that, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston and Rob Van Dam all had their shining moments. There was even a point when the Boston crowd believed Kingston would win, but it was not to be.
Ambrose came close to securing his possession of the opportunistic briefcase, but Kane of the Authority thwarted his plans. Rollins capitalized, won the match and has had the Money in the Bank contract by his side ever since.
11. Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (Raw: August 18, 2014)
One night removed from the Payback pay-per-view, Seth Rollins shocked the world by turning on his Shield brethren and aligning with the Authority.
Dean Ambrose didn't take kindly to this, and he made it his top priority to make Rollins' life miserable.
After clashing at the Money in the Bank and Battleground events, Rollins and Ambrose were finally set to go one-on-one at SummerSlam. A Lumberjack stipulation was later added.
Lumberjack matches are rarely enjoyable, but the two former teammates made the most of the stipulation and contested a great bout. Rollins scored the victory after receiving assistance from Kane.
A rematch between the two was made official for the next night's Raw. The stipulation, however, would be determined by the WWE Universe through a WWE App vote.
Of the stipulations available to fans to vote on, they chose Falls Count Anywhere. It was fitting of the feud between Ambrose and Rollins, as it allowed them to take the fight all around the arena.
They even managed to have a better match than the night before. From tables to kendo sticks, nothing was off limits for the former friends.
Again, victory was within Ambrose's reach, but Kane's inevitable involvement cost him the match. The fact they were given the main event slot of Raw was also a great touch.
10. Team Cena vs. Team Authority (Survivor Series)
For close to 15 months, The Authority ruled the WWE with an iron first.
From favoring the heels to ensuring that only members of their own faction hold the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the Authority was the most tyrannical force WWE had seen in a long while. And they needed to go.
Mr. McMahon announced that the five-on-five Team Cena versus Team Authority elimination tag team match at Survivor Series would carry a heavy stipulation.
If Team Cena won, the Authority would be removed from power. If Team Authority won, every member of Cena's band of misfits (with the exception of the Cenation leader himself) would be fired from WWE.
With so much at stake, it quickly became WWE's most anticipated match in ages. And its beautiful build-up in the weeks leading up to the bout only enhanced it.
While the match was by no means perfect (i.e. Ryback's quick elimination), it was the closest thing to a true pay-per-view main event we've seen from WWE since WrestleMania. Above all else, Team Cena member Dolph Ziggler was made out to be a star.
Big Show's shocking betrayal of his team and Cena's subsequent elimination put Ziggler in a precarious position. He was put in a 3-on-1 situation, but instead of succumbing to defeat, he battled back in an attempt to overcome the odds.
Ziggler's eliminations of Kane and Luke Harper were impressive, but Triple H's presence at ringside was too much for the bleached-blonde Superstar to handle. The Game took it upon himself to ensure his team emerged victorious.
Before a three count could be made, however, an unfamiliar entrance theme hit the arena. It was Sting.
As the St. Louis crowd came unglued, Sting approached the ring and laid out Triple H. Ziggler picked up the scraps and scored the victory, ending the Authority's reign of terror once and for all.
9. Charlotte vs. Natalya for the NXT Women's Championship (NXT Takeover)
When Charlotte made her in-ring debut on NXT TV in July 2013, she was as green as grass. She became a background player in the BFFs stable, but was gaining more and more experience by the week.
Then-NXT general manager JBL forced Paige to vacate the NXT Women's Championship when she was called up to the main roster and won the Divas title. A tournament to crown a new champion was held and culminated at NXT Takeover in May.
The tourney came down to the rookie Charlotte and the veteran Natalya. Many felt it was far too soon for Charlotte to be holding the gold, but in one match with the fellow second-generation star, she proved everyone wrong.
Not only was the wrestling above average, they also managed to tell a stellar story. Charlotte was looking to make a name for herself with her legendary father Ric Flair in her corner.
From Sharpshooters to Figure Four Leg Locks, it was submissions galore. But Charlotte managed to take advantage of Natalya for a split second, hit her finisher and score the three count.
What followed was an outburst of emotion from Charlotte, Ric and even Natalya. They all embraced each other in the ring and proved to the world that women's wrestling was not to be taken lightly.
Since then, Charlotte has had successful title defenses against the likes of Summer Rae, Bayley and Sasha Banks and will be ending the year as champion.
8. Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro (NXT Arrival)
If you only started watching NXT when it debuted on the WWE Network this past year, you missed out on one of the program's greatest rivalries ever: Sami Zayn versus Cesaro.
The bad blood between these two former Ring of Honor stars dates back to Zayn's arrival on NXT in May 2013. He defeated Cesaro on the night of his debut and the two traded victories in the months that followed.
Their most memorable match occurred in August 2013, when they clashed in a 2-out-of-3 Falls match. It was touted as one of the year's greatest matches, and rightfully so; it was nothing short of amazing.
Zayn and Cesaro went their separate ways for the remainder of 2013, but they rekindled their rivalry in the new year. One final matchup between them was made official for NXT Arrival, the first NXT wrestling show of any kind to air live on WWE Network.
In fitting fashion, their match kicked off the night. Anyone who hadn't seen a single second of action from NXT was hooked as soon as they saw Zayn and Cesaro lock up.
Zayn, a "rookie" in the eyes of the casual fans, gave Cesaro everything he got. He pulled out several impressive maneuvers (including an innovative running DDT through a turnbuckle post) and came close to securing victory on a number of occasions.
Despite coming up short, Zayn earned Cesaro's respect with a strong showing. They embraced each other with a hug and put their storied feud to an end—for now.
Some may say their Arrival encounter wasn't as good as their gem of a match from summer 2013, but even if that is the case, it still earned its spot in the top 10 of this list.
7. Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt (Royal Rumble)
After months of battling the Wyatt Family and coming up short, Daniel Bryan sent shock waves throughout the WWE Universe when he joined the clan on the final Raw of 2013. From the moment he aligned with the stable, he teased tension with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan.
Only two weeks into his tenure as a Wyatt Family member, Bryan broke away from the trio on the January 13 Raw. He challenged Wyatt to a one-on-one match at Royal Rumble, which was accepted by Wyatt.
Wyatt was still unbeaten by pinfall and submission at this point, and there was a feeling Bryan could be the one to hand him his first loss. The two opened the pay-per-view and set the bar so high that none of the other matches came close to topping it.
There wasn't a single dull moment during the matchup. The action was fast paced and the styles of the two former NXT stars meshed perfectly.
Wyatt proved that he was a better in-ring athlete than some people gave him credit for. He also proved he could hang with main event-caliber talent such as Daniel Bryan with the impressive outing he had on that night.
The finish came when Bryan dived through the ropes to the outside of the ring only to be caught by Bray Wyatt. Wyatt hit him with a Sister Abigail, nailed it once more in the middle of the ring and scored the clean pinfall victory.
6. The Usos vs. the Wyatt Family in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match (Battleground)
Cody Rhodes and Goldust brought the tag team division to new levels when they won the WWE Tag Team Championship in late 2013. It flourished for a while, but it was once again reduced to the norm by mid-2014, when many notable tandems disbanded.
However, the division was injected with life when the Usos won the WWE Tag Team Championship in March. They stole the show every time they were on the card, but their best opponents were undoubtedly Luke Harper and Erick Rowan.
The Usos and the Wyatt Family traded victories over the month of June, leading to a Tag Team Title match at Money in the Bank. The Usos emerged victorious that night, but their ruthless rivalry was far from over.
The Wyatt Family earned one last shot at the twin titles at July's Battleground pay-per-view. When it was announced the match would be held under 2-out-of-3 falls rules, fans knew they were in for a treat.
The two teams definitely did not disappoint. The first two falls were rather quick, but it gave them more time to go all-out for the third and final fall.
They had the Tampa crowd on their feet the entire time—for a Tag Team title match, no less! There was still a WWE World Heavyweight Championship main event and many more matches left to come.
After going to war for the gold, the Usos pulled out another win over the dastardly duo. Since the Wyatt Family split up a short while later, this probably should have been the moment when the Wyatts won the straps in retrospect.
It was all downhill for the tag team division from that point forward.
5. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (WrestleMania 30)
The bad blood between Daniel Bryan and Triple H dates back to SummerSlam 2013. Triple H cost Bryan the WWE Championship at that event, and Bryan hadn't been able to get his revenge over the Game.
CM Punk's departure threw the WrestleMania 30 plans into disarray. Triple H was now in need of an opponent at the Show of Shows, and who made more sense than Daniel Bryan?
Bryan challenged Triple H to a match at 'Mania, and after weeks of refusing, Triple H finally gave in. The stipulation was later added that the winner would earn a spot in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match later in the night.
As well wrestled as the match was (it was near flawless), it was the story that made it so great. Fans essentially knew what the outcome would be, but deep down they had a feeling there was a chance Triple H might eek out the win.
The best part about the bout was that interference was kept to a minimum (that was saved for the main event). It was a straight-up singles match that saw Bryan score a clean pinfall victory.
It's not often Triple H does the "clean job," so the win solidified Bryan as a star.
4. The Shield vs. Evolution (Extreme Rules)
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better booked stable in recent WWE history than the Shield. They made an immediate impact upon their debut at 2012's Survivor Series event and ran rampant over the roster for the next year and a half.
On the road to WrestleMania this year, they turned babyface and went up against the stable they were once aligned with, the Authority. Triple H couldn't rival the trio alone, however, so he enlisted the help of Randy Orton and Batista and reformed Evolution.
Members of the WWE Universe were excited to see these factions finally face off. Not only did the matchup meet expectations, it surpassed them.
The Shield and Evolution were cast as equals. It was a surreal clash of two generations and two of the greatest groups of this millennium.
The energy from the audience only added to the match's excitement level. While they fully supported the Shield, they were also appreciative of everything all six Superstars were putting their bodies through.
Seth Rollins awed the crowd with a spectacular dive off the railing onto Triple H and Randy Orton. The distraction allowed Roman Reigns to overcome Batista in the ring and score the win for his team.
For as long as they were together, the Shield was said to be the best faction since Evolution. With this victory, the young upstarts proved they just might have been better.
3. Daniel Bryan vs. Batista vs. Randy Orton (WrestleMania 30)
No one was more popular during WrestleMania season this year than Daniel Bryan. Fans were more anxious to see him compete in the main event of WrestleMania than anyone else on the roster.
Bryan was granted that opportunity when his 'Mania match with Triple H turned into No. 1 Contender's match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The winner would advance to the main event between Randy Orton and Batista later in the night.
Bryan walked into the Triple Threat match with the odds stacked against him. Triple H injuring Bryan's shoulder after their match obviously didn't help matters, either.
But that didn't stop Bryan from giving it all he had. The crowd, still in a lull from The Undertaker's storied streak being broken, was dead early on, but they came alive as the match picked up steam down the stretch.
Bryan was of course the star of the match, but Orton and Batista were both excellent in their roles. They had several suspenseful near-falls when fans bought into the possibility of them walking away with the gold.
Not even interference from the Authority could stop Bryan from getting his big moment. With everyone else down and out, Bryan secured the "Yes!" Lock on Batista and scored a tapout victory to a thunderous reaction.
Due to an unfortunate injury, Bryan's title reign was short-lived, but nothing will erase the memory of him holding the WWE World Heavyweight Championship up high as WrestleMania 30 went off the air.
2. The Shield vs. the Wyatt Family (Elimination Chamber)
From the moment The Wyatt Family arrived in WWE in July 2013, the biggest question on the minds of fans was when they'd clash with the Shield. It was only a matter of time.
They briefly brawled on an episode of Raw in November 2013. Although their altercation lasted no more than 60 seconds, the reaction it received from the live crowd that night in England was too loud to ignore.
One night removed from Royal Rumble, The Wyatt Family interfered in the Shield's six-man tag team match with John Cena, Sheamus and Daniel Bryan. They cost them spots in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber match, setting the stage for their own encounter at the event.
Not once in the build-up to their long awaited bout did the two trios come to blows. They only faced off in the middle of the ring, saving the physicality for the pay-per-view.
Before the bell even rang, the Target Center in Minneapolis was hyped with anticipation. The Wyatt Family and the Shield began brawling before the match could officially start, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
The two factions engaged in a war for the ages. It was unlike any other six-man tag team match either trio had competed in up to that point.
Watching it back, you'd think from the all the chaos that the match was no disqualification. But it wasn't. It was just six Superstars looking to prove a point that they were the most dominant force in all of WWE.
The match also planted seeds for dissension within the Shield (though they'd later regroup and remain intact for several more months) when Dean Ambrose disappeared and failed to help his teammates when they were in need of assistance.
In the end, Roman Reigns simply couldn't overcome the odds on his own. He fell victim to the numbers game when the Wyatt Family teamed up on him and pinned him for the win.
They clashed several more times after that, but none of their subsequent encounters matched the magic of the first.
1. Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn for the NXT Title (NXT Takeover: R Evolution)
While it may be bold to put a match from the "minor leagues" in the top spot of an article listing the best WWE matches of 2014, it was simply unlike anything else we've seen this year. Basically, it was perfect.
Daniel Bryan's rise to the top happened by chance. Granted, he got himself over in a huge way, but had CM Punk not left the company, there's a possibility he would have never gotten the main event slot at WrestleMania 30.
That didn't make the moment of Bryan winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship any less special, of course, but sometimes the greatest moments in history are ones that were planned from the start.
Zayn debuted on NXT in May 2013, and from his first night in, he was portrayed as an underdog. He came up short in all of his NXT Championship opportunities and in his big-time matches with Cesaro and Tyler Breeze, yet the Full Sail University crowd was always behind him.
If anything, his popularity only grew with each loss he endured. The crowd desperately wanted to see him win gold, and they'd finally see it become a reality at NXT Takeover: R Evolution.
The most recent NXT live special was built around Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn fighting for the NXT Championship. Zayn made a vow to himself that if he didn't walk away with the title, he'd have to leave NXT for good.
The energy in the building that night was unreal. It was a match well over a year in the making and everything about the build-up and execution of it was perfect.
One may cite the two referee bumps as one of the match's flaws, but if anything, they only added to the story. Zayn teasing a heel turn only to not go through with it was brilliant.
Neville was also amazing in his role as the confident, cocky babyface that'd do anything to keep the title firmly around his waist. But Zayn's hunger for gold proved to be too much for Neville to handle.
With one Helluva Kick, Zayn covered Neville for the three count and his first NXT Championship. The reaction he received from those in attendance when he finally captured the strap still gives me goosebumps.
The post-match celebration was equally amazing—as was Kevin Owens' vicious assault on Zayn. It's a testament to how great the NXT brand is that this masterpiece of a match landed the No. 1 spot above the rest.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and like his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.