With BT busting its gut as the new home for the WWE in the UK in 2020 and an increasing emphasis on the fast-rising NXT brand, our King of the Ring Andy Spoors reflects on another high impact decade for an organisation that refuses to stand still.
10) The Shield – 2012
Scour the pages of wrestling’s steeped history and dominating factions would be littered throughout. From The Four Horsemen and D- Generation X, to NWO and The Hart Foundation, groups of talented individuals have banded together countless times to create some of the most memorable moments in history. Sure, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns were by no means household names when they burst on to the main stage, but the manner of their arrival and somewhat of a cult following gave them instant gravitas. Making their way through the crowd towards the ring, dressed in SWAT like garb and laying waste to Ryback to stunned silence. An extended undefeated streak as a team, merely preceded the stars of all three men skyrocketing as individuals. Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins have held every title available to them in the company, main evented countless PPVs and Wrestlemanias to become three of the most instantly recognisable talents in the business today.
9) Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels – Wrestlemania 26 – 2010
At the turn of the decade, Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak was just as coveted as any championship WWE had to offer. Coming off the back of one of the greatest matches in Mania history the previous year, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker were involved in yet another classic, this time HBK putting his career on the line for one more shot at Taker’s streak. The athleticism showed by two performers entering their twilight years was impressive but it was the emotion and story told within the ropes that made this one of the feuds of the decade. The storyline directly leaked into The Undertaker’s next two Mania matches against Michaels’ best friend Triple H, the second of which included HBK as the special guest referee inside Hell In A Cell. With Undertaker living to fight another day, the shot of all three men stood at the top of the famous Wrestlemania ramp reflecting on the punishment they put each other through, will live long past the decade just gone.
8) John Cena vs The Rock – Wrestlemania 28 – 2012
Every generation has an icon that transcends the industry: Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Andre The Giant are just a few examples. Quite possibly the biggest mainstream star to emerge from WWE, however, is Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. A stalwart of the much-loved Attitude Era, a tidal wave of charisma and larger than life character, The Rock has graced the silver screen in some of the last decade’s biggest hits. However, as his star grew in Hollywood, a new hero in the squared circle began to emerge in the shape of John Cena. So when the pair faced off against each other for the first time in the sticky heat of Miami, fans knew they were seeing a once in a lifetime rivalry. The symbol of the 90s vs the Superstar of the next generation. The Rock, as always, turned up in incredible physical shape. A deafening home crowd witnessed The Rock come out on top. Cena’s downfall? Trying to use his counterpart’s signature move. The irony may have been lost on some, but the imagery certainly wasn’t.
7) Women’s Revolution – 2018
Okay, so it is debateable exactly when WWE’s women moved away from two-minute matches or paraded around in lingerie as nothing but eye candy. It is also debateable exactly who was responsible for it. Thankfully for everyone, it doesn’t matter. What does matter, is the leaps and bounds the entire division has come on within the last 10 years. Phenomenal female Superstars up and down the roster, storylines based on competitiveness rather than over a male counterpart. PPVs have been headlined, tag championships introduced and all manner of ‘first time ever’ matches undertaken. From the ‘Four Horsewomen’ to Evolution, the all-female PPV. This past decade was undisputedly 10 years that defined females in WWE and possibly beyond.
6) Daniel Bryan & The YES! Movement – 2014
Few Superstars can look back on the 10’s with quite so much mixed emotion as Daniel Bryan. Starting as little more than an indie darling and rookie on NXT’s original format, few could have suspected the meteoric rise Bryan experienced in the middle of the decade. But in the back end of 2013 into 2014, Bryan tapped into the one thing that can make or break your career, when he captured the hearts and minds of the WWE Universe and started the YES! movement. Facing off against bosses that had labelled him as nothing more than a “B+ player”, Bryan’s affinity with the fans pushed him all the way to a shot at the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 30. Overcoming Triple H to earn a shot later the same night in the main event, Bryan would end the night as Champion. Dubbed the “Miracle On Bourbon Street”, New Orleans was showered in confetti as Daniel Bryan beat out both Randy Orton and Batista. His story would not end there as just two years later, Bryan would be forced to retire through injury. As fate would have it, and after another two years of perseverance, he returned to a WWE ring once more, in none other than New Orleans. A true underdog story that will go down as one of the best in WWE history.
5) Ronda Rousey vs Charlotte vs Becky Lynch – Wrestlemania 35 – 2019
The aforementioned Women’s Revolution reached its possible climax in 2019. By climax, we by no means mean the years of degrading storylines and disappointments has been rectified. One of the last remaining feathers remaining in the cap of the Revolution was the chance to main event the biggest wrestling show in the industry’s calendar. Wrestlemania. Some of the biggest names in sport’s entertainment have never realised this dream. It needs the right Superstars, at the right time in the right rivalry to even stand a chance. Such a match presented itself, when Becky Lynch singlehandedly caught lightning in a bottle and turned the women’s division upside down. The legitimacy of Ronda Rousey, the legacy of Charlotte Flair and the drive of Lynch thrust the trio into the limelight. The image of Lynch hoisting both the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships high into the New Jersey night sky as fireworks rained down on the Metlife Stadium was as fitting an end to the biggest chapter in the Women’s Revolution.
4) Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker – Wrestlemania 30 – 2014
Truly the end of an era. On the biggest stage of them all, Brock Lesnar did what 18 men over 21 matches before him couldn’t do. Defeat The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Some expected The Streak to continue until The Deadman retired, others felt it would be a passing of the torch. Very few could have predicted The Beast would be the one to write himself into infamy by toppling Taker. The noise as the referee’s hand hits the mat to count three is a mixture of shock and confusion. Like someone let the air out of the room. The production decision to continually cut from a laughing Lesnar to faces painted in shock and disbelief, hammered home exactly how the whole world was feeling. It wasn’t just the end of an era, but a complete swerve from the company, who reportedly only told a handful of people to ensure secrecy. Safe to say, we will never see anything like The Streak again.
3) CM Punk vs John Cena – Money In The Bank – 2011
“Do I have everybody’s attention now?” Speak these words to any wrestling fan worth their salt and an enthused response will ensue. Sat crossed legged at the top of the Raw entrance ramp, CM Punk delivered one of, if not, the promo of all time. Verbal barbs aimed at the McMahon family and beyond, left the WWE Universe open mouthed and wondering if Punk had gone off script. Mentioning how he hoped the company would be better off after Vince McMahon’s death, possibly the worst of them but his wide ranging rant, ruffled many a feather. The plot thickened as Punk gained notoriety and became the hottest property in the business, just as his contract was due to be renewed. With his contract entering its final few hours, Punk challenged John Cena for the WWE Championship at the behest of the champion himself. Hosted in Punk’s hometown of Chicago, the crowd was firmly on the renegade’s side. Deafening support, “If Cena Wins We Riot” signs displayed all over the arena, we defy you to find a more impressive atmosphere for a wrestling event than this. Punk left Chicago as the Champion, hoping the barricade with a blow of a kiss to his soon to be ex-boss and sparking wild celebration. Reality imitating art, or art imitating life? The bad blood between WWE and Punk would continue for the best part of a decade amidst lawsuits. The WWE Universe would never forget this moment and the name CM Punk will forever be etched in infamy.
2) WWE Network – 2014
Years before Amazon, Disney and Apple launched streaming platforms, WWE rolled out their own Network, streaming not only past events, but live PPVs and all for less than £10 per month. Fans snapped up the chance to delve into PPVS and shows of yesteryear, but the original content created through reality shows and documentaries, gave fans the chance to peek behind the curtain. Streaming special events not available anywhere else, as well as every PPV in the WWE calendar forever changed the game. If rumours are to be believed, the network will see somewhat of a revamp in the next couple of years, with more content and tiers offered for hardcore and casual fans alike.
1) NXT – 2010
We have waxed lyrical about WWE’s black and gold brand but the impact NXT has had on WWE can’t be overstated. Developing from a novelty talent show style after thought, to one of the cutting-edge brands in all sports entertainment, NXT changed the way fans consumed WWE one week at a time. From the edgy metal vibe, to the spectacular action in the ring, the brand has forced itself into mainstream culture. Appearing at Download Festival and moving from a WWE Network exclusive to TV deals, there is one major reason why NXT finds itself on top of this list. Take a look at the Superstars on both Raw and Smackdown and you will see previous NXT stars littered throughout. Providing a platform for the Four Horsewomen to ply their trade in front of big audiences, catapulting The Shield members or stealing the show each Wrestlemania weekend for the past few years, NXT has been slowly influencing WWE in a way that couldn’t be fathomed pre 2010’s. We are excited to see what the next ten years brings for the best brand in the biz.