While the in-ring product sells tickets, and the long-term stories sell merchandise, surprises what keep fans coming back for more; unpredictability is the cornerstone of the modern wrestling product. But in year chocked-full of big moments, with historic names like Hulk Hogan, Sting, and The Rock hanging around, which one reigned supreme? Read on for our picks for “Best Creative Surprise of 2014″…
Brian Fritz (@BrianFritz): Daniel Bryan winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 30 would have been a big surprise if you said that was going to happen in January. But once the pieces fell into place, it wasn’t a surprise at all that he won the title and it was definitely what was best of business. Now, you can still make an argument that The Undertaker should not have lost at that show to end his legendary streak but when you look and the entirety of that decision, it was a great decision, even just to have the reaction following the three count at the New Orleans SuperDome where you could literally hear a pin drop. Everyone was looking around agasp of what just happened and it didn’t really sink in until the 21-1 graphic was shown on the jumbotron. Brock Lesnar had done the impossible. Just to pull off a surprise like that and get such an awesome reaction earns my pick here.
Michael A. Wiseman (@therealwiseman): There were some huge moments in 2014 – Daniel Bryan (finally) winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, The Undertaker’s streak being broken at the hands of The Beast, and Sting ruining things for The Authority at Survivor Series. Still, the moment that stood out in my mind as truly shocking was seeing Brock Lesnar completely demolish John Cena at SummerSlam. It’s not that John Cena lost, but that he lost in such a dramatic fashion – Lesnar made Cena look like he didn’t even show up for the event. And for WWE to consciously book resident Superman Cena to look so weak? It’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t expect from a company that normally plays things so safe. While we don’t know (yet) what the long-term implications of Cena vs. Lesnar are, or whether or not Lesnar will even be here this time next year, the fact that he knocked John Cena down a few pegs still rings out as one of those “truly shocking” moments in WWE history.
Dan Ryno (@DanRyno): For me, it’s the breakup of The Shield. While the separation of the WWE’s premier faction was something I had expected, I had no idea it would go down the way it did. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns had accomplished everything they could as a group: simultaneous championships, an awesome mini-feud with The Wyatt Family, and defeating former faction torchbearers Evolution on pay-per-view (twice). Pursuing successful singles careers seemed like the likely progression, but I figured the trio would jockey for the position of top babyface in the company. Rollins brutally attacking his brethren on the June 2nd edition of Raw, was unexpected, but laid the foundation for the next six months of feuds and major storylines.
Nathan McCarter (@McCarterN): The Shield was expected to break up at some point. While Rollins’ turn was expected at that time the split wasn’t a big deal. There was only one big creative surprise in 2014 – The Conquered Streak. We learned that Vince made the call just hours before the show, and the now iconic photo of the shocked fan in the front row tells the entire story. The Streak being conquered by Brock Lesnar was truly a jaw-dropping moment. So much so that everyone was too stunned to react in New Orleans. The three was counted and silence. You can’t get a bigger surprise.
Justin Kendall (@JustinDKendall): Brock Lesnar ends the Streak. Rarely is there an outcome of a wrestling match that can still shock fans. Lesnar conquering the Streak was one of those moments. I never thought the Undertaker would lose at WrestleMania. There’s a mythology there that sold pay-per-views. If Shawn Michaels couldn’t do it, who could? The match was nothing special (possibly because the Undertaker suffered a concussion early on). Even after a third F5, I expected Taker to rise. He didn’t. Lesnar became the One in 21 and One. And wrestling fans’ jaws collectively dropped.
What moment surprised you the most in 2014? Sound off in the comments below! Then, catch up with our entire Best of 2014: Professional Wrestling series as we count down to the new year.