It’s been an interesting year for WWE and the entire wrestling world. While several young wrestlers have emerged as potential top stars for years to come, major injuries and other circumstances forced WWE to lose several main-event stars.
Through the first half of 2014, Daniel Bryan was WWE’s most popular star in years, but a neck injury has kept him out of the ring for more than half the year. CM Punk left WWE in January, but the calls for him to return, his revealing podcasts with Colt Cabana and his new contract with UFC made him, possibly, the biggest name in wrestling over the past 12 months.
A few stars that wrestled for WWE for the majority of the year were able to distinguish themselves from the rest of the roster. While wrestlers like Dolph Ziggler and Damien Mizdow have come on strong as of late, five WWE wrestlers were among the best in 2014.
5) Roman Reigns
Reigns has been getting an increased amount of detractors because WWE has clearly pegged him to be their next mega-star, so it’s easy to forget how impactful he was during the first nine months of the year. He was a major part of The Shield’s programs with The Wyatt Family and Evolution, and he shined as a singles wrestler, namely, in the battle royal that earned him a spot in the Money in the Bank ladder match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
After winning the “Slammy Award for Superstar of the Year,” 2015 could be an even bigger year for Reigns. He’s the favorite to win the Royal Rumble and beat Brock Lesnar for the title at WrestleMania 31.
4) John Cena
Cena receives a lot of hate from WWE fans, but in a year that has seen such a dearth of talent, it’d be hard to keep the 15-time champ off the list. His feud with Bray Wyatt was one of the best in 2014, and it culminated with an exciting Last Man Standing Match at Payback. Even his SummerSlam match with Brock Lesnar, though one of the most one-sided title matches in history, might have been the most interesting of the last 12 months.
There’s no denying that Cena’s promos can be unbearable at times, but he let out his serious side a lot in 2014. When Cena is at his best and not pandering to the younger audience, there are few wrestlers in WWE history that can match his skills on the mic.
3) Bray Wyatt
No WWE superstar in the past few years has been able to come up from developmental and thrust himself into the main event scene as quickly as Wyatt. His first PPV match was against Kane at SummerSlam 2013, and he soon became one of the most interesting WWE characters of the last decade.
Since his return at Hell in a Cell, Wyatt’s feud with Dean Ambrose has been underwhelming, but he’s produced some of the most compelling television in WWE this year. His promos are often captivating, and his matches with Daniel Bryan at the Royal Rumble and The Shield At Elimination Chamber stole the show on each PPV. He’s helped turn Luke Harper and Erick Rowan into budding stars, and the reaction that he draws from the live crowd can’t be ignored.
2) Seth Rollins
Other than The Undertaker’s loss at WrestleMania 30, the moment when Rollins turned on his Shield brethren may have been the most surprising moment of 2014. Even though his elite athleticism and ability to take incredible bumps make him the ideal babyface, Rollins has managed to become the top heel in WWE.
As both a member of The Shield and singles star, Rollins has been involved with some of the year’s best matches. Whether it was jumping off the balcony at Extreme Rules or putting on one of the best lumberjack matches in WWE history at SummerSlam, Rollins always seems leave his mark on a PPV. Entering 2015 as Mr. Money in the Bank, his first reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion might not be too far away.
1) Dean Ambrose
There was a sense among many wrestling fans that Ambrose might get lost in the shuffle, once WWE finally decided to break up The Shield. After starring in the main event of two of the year’s final three PPV’s, Ambrose has proven that he has a long career ahead of him as a singles star.
No wrestler has been as entertaining as Ambrose in 2014, both on the mic and in the ring. Between his matches with Seth Rollins and Evolution, The Lunatic Fringe has been involved in multiple candidates for “Match of the Year.” Ambrose’s character is different than anything WWE has seen in recent years, and though he often behaves like a heel, he’s so entertaining that he’s become the best babyface in the company.