The 10 Defining Moments for WWE in the Last Decade
When it comes to history, periods of time are often looked at in decades. We relate certain things to the 10-year period in which they took place and it is no different in professional wrestling.
When we look back on this decade in a few years, it could be known as the rise of the indie promotions and the start of a new time in the business.
WWE, while still the biggest dog in the fight, is no longer the only place a wrestler can make a decent living. Whether someone wants to work internationally or strictly in the U.S., there are plenty of great opportunities.
However, Vince McMahon is still the Godfather of the industry, and his company is still where almost every prospect hopes to end up one day, even if it's just for a little while.
We have seen a lot of big names come and go during the 2010s, and WWE is a different company in many ways than it was in 2009.
Let's take a look back at the 10 most defining moments for the company in this decade. We are going in chronological order so do not look at the order as a ranking.
CM Punk's Pipebomb Promo
When it comes to WWE, being able to have a good match is not the only thing that makes someone a star. They also have to be able to carry a promo.
The most successful Superstars usually end up being the best talkers who can also wrestle. If we look back at the thousands of promos delivered during the past decade, nothing stands out as much as CM Punk's famous pipebomb promo.
It all happened on the June 27, 2011, episode of Raw. Punk had just finished attacking John Cena when he sat down on the stage and proceeded to deliver one of the greatest worked shoots in the history of the business.
Everything he said resonated with fans, and it showed WWE was willing to give him a platform like never before. The company trusted him with a hot mic and he delivered one of its most memorable segments.
The entire speech dictated Punk's character for the remainder of his time with the promotion, and it will stand out for years as one of the best promos of all time.
The Rock Returns
When The Rock left WWE for Hollywood and distanced himself from his pro wrestling career, many fans assumed we would never see him in another match. We sure got that one wrong.
The Great One made sporadic appearances on WWE television to promote movies and such, but he returned for his first major role as the host of WrestleMania 27.
At the end of the night, he ended up helping The Miz retain the WWE title over John Cena to kick off a year-long feud that led to their showdown at WrestleMania 28.
The Rock was one of the biggest stars to come from the world of pro wrestling, and to see him return to the place that made him famous was a treat for fans of all ages.
As one of the best promo men in the history of WWE, he and Cena engaged in a war of words for months before they finally met in the ring.
The Brahma Bull has had a handful of matches since then but nothing will compare to that feud with Cena in terms of star power and hype. WWE let the program build for an entire year. That is not something you can do with just anyone.
Brock Lesnar Returns
When Brock Lesnar left WWE in 2004 after having what might be the best two-year run for a rookie in wrestling history, it looked like he had moved on for good.
He went out and made a name for himself in UFC and became one of the biggest draws in the sport's history. He even survived a near-fatal bout with diverticulitis and returned to defeat Shane Carwin to become the undisputed UFC heavyweight champion.
When his music hit on the April 2, 2012 edition of Raw—the day after WrestleMania 28—the WWE Universe exploded with cheers for The Beast Incarnate.
Ever since that night, Lesnar has been carving a path of destruction. He has defeated almost every big star in the company for over seven years while losing only a handful of matches.
It's hard to think of anyone who has been booked to be more dominant than The Beast in WWE history. The year 2012 was the beginning of the era of Suplex City, and we are all just living in Lesnar's world until he decides to hang up his boots for good.
The Shield Debuts
Stables have been an important part of wrestling for decades, with teams such as The Four Horsemen, DX, NWO, The Nation of Domination and Evolution standing out as some of the most prominent.
When we look back at the 2010s, The Shield will be viewed as the most dominant group of the decade. The New Day is a close second.
Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose all found success with the group and went on to become triple crown and grand slam champions in the company on their own. Most stables have one or two standouts, but it's rare that every member of a team goes on to win at least one world title.
The Shield first appeared on the main roster during the main event at Survivor Series on November 18, 2012. They attacked Ryback and Cena, allowing CM Punk to get the win.
Those first two years before Rollins betrayed the group was a textbook case of how to book a stable so every member looks strong. There were no weak links and no clear leader. Each man brought something different to the group to create a cohesive unit.
That night at Survivor Series gave them the momentum they needed to become one of the most iconic groups in WWE history.
WWE Opens the Performance Center
Pro wrestling schools have existed for decades but once WWE opened the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, every other school looked inferior by comparison.
This is not to say there aren't tons of great places to get a wrestling education. Plenty of wrestling schools are run by veterans who will impart great knowledge to their students.
Nobody else has the resources of WWE, though, and few could dream of being able to afford the kind of facility where the men and women of the developmental system train and hone their craft.
The PC gives WWE the ability to control a Superstar's training from the ground up to offer them the skills to succeed when they eventually appear on television.
The training center opened July 11, 2013, with a second facility in Enfield, England, opening earlier this year on January 11. The goal is for WWE to continue opening Performance Centers around the world.
Giving young wrestlers access to the kind of equipment and resources usually only seen with pro sports teams has helped in many ways. After a main roster star has been out with an injury, the PC is where they go to shake off the ring rust and rehab their body.
It is an expensive thing to operate but it has already proved a worthy investment, especially for those who have benefited from it.
The Launch of WWE Network
It seems like only yesterday when we were paying upwards of $50 for every WWE pay-per-view without any additional content beyond those few hours.
The WWE Network changed all of that. We are now spoiled by getting to pay $9.99 per month for PPVs and several hours of original programming every month in addition to the thousands of hours of previous shows from WWE, WCW, ECW and several other promotions from the past.
WWE is now in the same category as Netflix and Disney+. It is a monthly streaming service most fans won't think twice about when they are billed every month because the price is so reasonable.
On February 24, 2014, WWE Network launched in the U.S. and gave fans access to more content than they could possibly watch, and the future of the business was forever changed.
The first event broadcast live on the network was NXT Arrival but the first major PPV after the launch was WrestleMania 30. Both shows received critical acclaim and helped the new service cement itself as the place to go for WWE content.
WWE treats every WrestleMania like it will be the most important, but you would be hard-pressed to find an event more significant from the last decade than WrestleMania 30 in 2014.
The card featured such moments as Cena defeating Bray Wyatt, Cesaro winning the first Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and the apex of the Yes! Movement with Daniel Bryan winning the WWE Championship by defeating Triple H before beating Randy Orton and Batista in the main event.
This night also featured one of the only times we have seen Hulk Hogan, The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin share the ring and a few Steveweisers to kick off the show.
Even the more forgettable moments like The Shield going over Kane and The New Age Outlaws can be watched again and enjoyed years later.
WrestleMania 30 has a lot of memorable moments, but they all pale in comparison to what we will be talking about next.
The Undertaker's Streak Comes to an End
While WrestleMania 30 had several standout moments, nothing comes close to Brock Lesnar beating The Undertaker to end his 21-win undefeated streak at the PPV.
This was something many of us assumed would never happen. We thought The Deadman would retire with his record intact. The Beast Incarnate had other plans.
After three F-5s, Undertaker could not answer the three-count and The Beast was declared victorious. The crowd and the millions of fans watching around the world were in complete shock.
The entire stadium was sapped of its energy in that one split second. Many stood in silence while others booed the decision to give a part-time act like Lesnar such a prestigious honor.
We still talk about it over five years later. That is how significant this moment was in both men's careers. There is a good chance we will never see another streak like this in the future because few have the longevity and star power of The Undertaker.
It was a controversial decision, to say the least, but it probably didn't divide people as much as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will on Friday.
On February 23, 2015, The Bella Twins faced Paige and Emma in a match on Raw that lasted less than a minute and kick-started a social media movement with the hashtag #GiveDivasAChance.
For years, WWE had been treating its women's division like a sideshow, and fans were sick of seeing talented performers not being given the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
Thankfully, WWE took notice and implemented changes that led to the Women's Revolution. Less than four years after the inciting match on Raw, the division was given its own PPV on October 28, 2018, with the fitting title, Evolution.
The card featured moments like Toni Storm winning the Mae Young Classic, Lita and Trish Stratus returning to defeat Mickie James and Alicia Fox, Becky Lynch retaining her SmackDown Women's Championship against Charlotte Flair, and Ronda Rousey making Nikki Bella tap out to retain the Raw women's title.
It was a night that many would have thought impossible just a few years earlier. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated people.
WWE did not hold a second event this year but part of the reason is the women are no longer viewed as separate from the men. Many shows have been main-evented by members of the division, and we are seeing a whole new crop of talents coming from NXT and NXT UK to ensure the trend of great women's wrestling continues in WWE.
Kofi Kingston Wins the WWE Title
When WWE sets its mind on something, it can rarely be swayed. However, the company occasionally sees a grassroots movement growing and decides to adjust its plans accordingly.
This happened with the Yes! Movement and the Women's Revolution. The most recent example happened earlier this year when Kofi Kingston became the WWE champion at WrestleMania 35.
For over 10 years, Kingston has been a mainstay in WWE. He has had numerous standout moments at the Royal Rumble and won just about every title the company had to offer except the big one.
When he replaced Mustafa Ali in a Gauntlet match on the February 12 edition of SmackDown, he ended up lasting roughly an hour against some of the best the blue brand had to offer. The fans took notice and threw their support behind the veteran of The New Day.
Kingston defeated Bryan for the title at WrestleMania 35 to begin a six-month reign. It was an important moment both culturally and professionally for a man who had given his body to the business.
It was the feel-good moment of the year for a Superstar who deserved the honor as much as anyone in the company.
The last 10 years have had a lot of incredible moments, and narrowing down the list to 10 was difficult. Here is a list of honorable mentions that almost made the cut:
- Ronda Rousey's WWE debut.
- Becky Lynch being busted open on Raw.
- The first NXT TakeOver.
- CM Punk quits WWE, AJ Lee retires shortly after.
- Cody Rhodes leaves WWE and later forms AEW.
- Edge retires due to back issues.
- Bryan returns after being retired for three years.
- AJ Styles debuts in WWE.
- Shawn Michaels retires from in-ring competition.
- Lynch defeats Charlotte and Rousey in the main event of WrestleMania 35.
What do you think was the most defining WWE moment of the last decade? To see more artwork from Rob Schamberger like the painting from the title page, visit RobSchamberger.com.