This list excludes executives. It wouldn’t be as much fun with them. Also this list is the most important people, not the best or my favorite. Just the people who had the biggest impact.
10. CM Punk
CM Punk didn’t do much as an actual part of the WWE in 2014, but he still had quite an impact. When he walked out the door for good in January things began to change a bit. Daniel Bryan ended up in a Main Event, and other former indie stars started to climb up the card. I think him walking had a lot to do with that. At the end of the year in the podcast that “broke the internet” he told a very interesting story of how things are handled backstage. I think you are going to see things slowly change again in the way guys are treated both in medically and career wise. Finally the announcement of him signing with UFC could impact wrestling going forward, if he proves to be successful. Even if he doesn’t win, if he can make a decent living without “throwing his head at the ground every night” it may mean MMA is going to start pulling guys who want to be wrestlers toward being fighters instead.
9. Roman Reigns
Reigns could be way higher if he didn’t have his unfortunate medical issue. He started the year with a bang with a very impressive Royal Rumble performance. He played a prominent role in every pay per view until his injury, even main eventing a couple. The fans really bought into him as an upper card guy. I don’t think he is quite polished enough on promos to be the top guy yet, but there is no doubting that he just has “it”. He is a very good example at the strength of the development system the WWE has in place.
8. AJ Lee
Lee is the most important women’s wrestler on the roster. She has it all. She can cut a promo, she can work, and she can probably spin plates on a stick. Her program with Paige showed her value in getting other women over. Her success is starting to show a sea change in the women’s division toward actual wrestling. In the close of the year she made a Slammy acceptance speech that drove this point home. We aren’t getting three minute hairmare matches every month at PPVs now and she is a huge part of that.
7. Bray Wyatt
Bray’s 2013 was probably a lot bigger than his 2014, but his importance to the company showed this year. He wrestled John Cena at Wrestlemania. That is one of the most important slots to be in with the WWE. Other than Main Eventing and wrestling Undertaker at Wrestlemania being the guy to work Cena is the most important slot of the year. He also had a good program with the Shield that helped get those guys to the spot they are in. He had three main events and was called upon to be one of the guys to carry the main event at the end of the year while waiting for Brock to defend at Royal Rumble. However, his biggest impact comes from proving that a character like his can work. We have seen so many cookie cutter wrestlers in the past few years having a guy with a gimmick like his work has a big impact. I really hope his success leads to a more diverse roster when it comes to characters.
6. Sara Del Rey
Death Rey didn’t step into a WWE ring on TV once this year. She never cut a promo, announced a match, she was never even seen. How could she be so important? She is responsible for the women’s division. As mentioned earlier it appears the division is going through a sea change. We are now being treated to girls who can just flat out go, especially on NXT. Sara Del Rey is a trainer down there. It’s not surprise that girls with wrestling backgrounds like Bayley and Sasha Banks are doing very well, but girls with limited to zero previous experience like Charlotte are doing well also. I texted someone this year “When did Alicia Fox learn to wrestle?” The answer is when Sara Del Rey taught her, just like the rest of the women’s roster. That’s why she is on this list.
5. Brock Lesnar
If we were going for biggest year I don’t think anyone could top Brock. He beat Big Show in around two minutes at Royal Rumble. He ended the Undertaker’s streak at Wrestlemania. Let me say that one again; He ended the Undertaker’s streak at Wrestlemania. He destroyed John Cena at Summerslam, and walked out of Night of Champions still the WWE Champion. Unfortunately outside of a few TV appearances here and there that’s all he did. Had he even been half time instead of quarter time he might be number one. I do like the fact that the Champion isn’t wrestling every single night. It makes the title look very important when it is defended. The entire year for Brock was all about giving him the best positioning possible, and he has it. When it comes time for him to drop the title (hint hint WWE, Wrestlmania) the person who wins it is going to be strapped to a rocket as far as pushes go (hint hint WWE, make it a young guy). There isn’t a more important win right now in the WWE than beating Brock.
4. Dean Ambrose
Ambrose got crazy over with the crowd this year. He had a great showing at every PPV match he wrestled, three of them main events. As mentioned with Bray Wyatt, Ambrose was giving the ball to fill in the main event while the champ was not wrestling. Ambrose’s success like a few others on this list shows how important it is for the WWE to look at guys with lots of wrestling experience when making signings. Guys like him are the reason the WWE can’t ignore the indies anymore.
3. Seth Rollins
Rollins and Ambrose could be almost interchangeable on this list. I hate when lists have ties so I made the call to put Rollins at three. Rollins gets a notch higher because it seems the WWE is putting a lot of stock in him. He holds the Money in the Bank contract which almost guarantees him being WWE Champion in the future. Maybe the WWE Champion that unseats Lesnar.
2. John Cena
No real explanation necessary here. He’s John Cena, he sells the most merch, draws the most money, and he’s the face of the company. Love him or hate him anyone has to admit his importance to the company.
1. Daniel Bryan
I can’t imagine how big of a year Bryan would have had had he been healthy. In the five months he was active in 2014 he made an unbelievable impact on the WWE product. The last half of 2013 Bryan became white hot. This carried over to 2014 and a Royal Rumble snub inspired outrage with the fans. It was a rare example of when one guys power of getting over with the fans forced the WWE to change plans. The “Yes Movement” forced the WWE to give Bryan the ball at Wrestlemania. His impact was enormous. It showed the WWE that experienced wrestlers are the way to go. It showed the WWE how important a guy who can connect with the crowd is rather than a guy who has a good look. He was so over with the fans Brie Bella even benifited from him and was able to get over. Thus leading to Nikki and Brie working a program that is still going currently. No one in the WWE had a larger impact than Daniel Bryan in 2014.
Awesome article. I haven’t followed wrestling in years…but i watched it my entire childhood…it’s refreshing to see stuff like this on the site.
I’m planing a regular series that will hopefully get you all nostalgic about the people you watched back in the day. First one should be mid week.
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