While some may consider 2014 not particularly eventful for professional wrestling, it turned out that A LOT happened. Some of it wasn't even remembered by year end, while other developments may well be remembered decades from now.
In counting down the Top 50 Wrestling Headlines of 2014, Canadian Bulldog's World considered the following criteria:
Was the event unique to this year? Or does it happen quite frequently?
What were the overall ramifications for said event?
Did the development have a profound impact on how this wrestler or promotion did business?
Did this development receive any mainstream publicity outside of the wrestling community?
When possible, we have tried to add a date to each development. Some of them combine more than one event (such as when a certain wrestler quit a certain company and later in the year announced he was joining a certain MMA promotion - just as an example), and some lump a string of developments to demonstrate an overall trend.
Ready? Here we go!
Canadian Bulldog's World launchesl changes Internet forever
Okay, fine.... maybe this one doesn't belong the other 49 headlines of the year; I can accept that. But without CBW, you wouldn't have weekly Top 50 lists like this one, not to mention a selection of interesting columns, photos and features. And the best is truly yet to come!
Cesaro gets a push... except not
All the stars appeared to be aligned for Cesaro earlier this year - he'd ditched his Real Americans gimmick, became a Paul Heyman Guy and at WrestleMania XXX, won the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale. But that was as far as he would get to top of the card, a move that has kept many fans puzzled.
The Miz sees double
It was probably booked as an afterthought, as newly-turned "movie star" The Miz brought Damien Sandow to ringside with him as his stunt double. Soon, it took on a life of its own, with the man now known as Damien Mizdow doing everything his boss does, including taking imaginary bumps in the ring.
Jericho returns to quiet Wyatt
In a single whirlwind segment on Monday Night Raw, WWE fans were treated to the surprise return of The Miz, the surprise return of Chris Jericho, and a brand new feud for Y2J with Bray Wyatt. Jericho and Wyatt battled on two straight pay-per-views, as well as a memorable steel cage match on Raw.
Critics humbled by Sheik movie
One of the best non-WWE documentaries ever produced about wrestling, "The Sheik" debuted at Canada's Hot Docs Film Festival and has steadily won over critics. The film, a behind the scenes look at The Iron Sheik (review here) surprised many fans, teaching them new things about the controversial figure.
Styles takes a Bullet for the team
Following his departure from TNA, AJ Styles decided to try his hand in other promotions. In April, he surfaced in New Japan Pro Wrestling, challenging IWGP Kazuchika Okada and becoming a heel, joining NJPW's Bullet Club, along with Jeff Jarrett and Kenny Omega this year.
Neville, Zayn tops in NXT
Despite being a huge showcase for new talent, NXT was truly focused on two men for most of 2014. Adrian Neville captured the group's championship in February from Bo Dallas and in the latter half of the year, engaged in a rivalry with his good friend Sami Zayn, who defeated Neville in December for the belt.
Rollins banks on it
As the "architect" of The Shield, Seth Rollins changed course in June when he attacked his former team mates and aligned himself with The Authority. Weeks later, he captured the Money In The Bank title opportunity in a ladder match and has proudly held that trophy ever since, waiting in the wings to cash it in.
Pat Patterson "outed"
During the season finale of WWE Legends House, it was revealed that former Intercontinental Champion Pat Patterson was gay. While coming out of the closet isn't that newsworthy in the year 2014, it's even less newsworthy because wrestlers and fans alike had known about Patterson's "secret" for decades!
Future Endeavored Day
WWE held its first major housecleaning in well over a year, announcing the release of 11 people in a single day. Names on the future endeavored list were Evan Bourne, Brodus Clay, Theodore R. Long, JTG, Drew McIntyre, Jinder Mahal, Camacho, Aksana, Curt Hawkins, Yoshi Tatsu and referee Marc Harris.
You don't have The Authority
After over a year of being the ultimate on-air authority figures in WWE, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were forced to exit the ringside area after their team lost at Survivor Series due to an unexpected appearance by the vigiliante Sting.
Roode regains TNA title
Bobby Roode had already set a record for being the longest-reigning TNA World Champion when he regained the belt in October (in a match was taped in September). This time, Roode did so as a babyface, ensuring that he will be a major part of TNA when it relaunches on its new TV home next month.
After months of speculation about whether TNA would be signed to a television contract, word came out that Spike TV had broken off negotiations. Why? Because they were allegedly told that Vince Russo was no longer working for TNA, when in fact he was (and bragging about it publicly). What a mess!
Alberto... Delll..... Reeeee-leased!
Alberto Del Rio had a huge amount of success during his relatively brief WWE run, holding four WWE/World Championships, winning the Royal Rumble and Money In The Bank. He was released after an alleged altercation with a racist employee.
WWE injuries pile up
It's been a number of years in WWE since injuries thinned out the roster as much as they did in 2014. Daniel Bryan was forced to relinquish his WWE World Heavyweight Championship and hasn't recovered yet, while Roman Reigns, Bad News Barrett, Ryback, Bo Dallas and others have missed their share of action.
When Rusev and Lana first appeared on Monday Night Raw to pin Zack Ryder, many didn't give the gimmick a chance to succeed. Then Rusev crushed Big E, Jack Swagger, Big Show, Mark Henry and Sheamus en route to becoming U.S. Champion. Could a WrestleMania 31 match with John Cena be in the offing?
Wrestler-hosted podcasts became the norm in 2014, with Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Jim Ross, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Bill Goldberg, Vince Russo and Taz invading iPhones everywhere. Over one week, Austin's podcast with Vince McMahon and CM Punk's appearance with Colt Cabana dominated the news.
Scott & Jake's redemption
Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Scott Hall began their road to redemption in 2013, where they moved in with Diamond Dallas Page in a last-ditch attempt to get sober and healthy once and far all. This year, they both were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, a big sign they've made huge strides in their lives.
For months, TNA President Dixie Carter trolled fans by making herself an on-air authority figure and making life miserable for fan favorites. Bully Ray had promised to get his revenge on Carter, and one fateful August night (which was actually taped in June), Bully finally powerbombed Dixie through a table.
Return of the Hulk
WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan returned to a WWE ring for the first time since 2007. Instead of wrestling this time around, The Hulkster was brought in as a spokesperson for WWE Network, as well as the host of WrestleMania XXX and a handful of promotional appearances here and there. Amazingly, Hulkmania began in the WWF thirty years earlier and Hogan manages to still get strong reactions with every appearance.
Eat. Sleep. Conquer The Champ. Repeat.
To say Brock Lesnar had a career year in WWE in 2014 is an understatement. But he never looked stronger than when he absolutely dominated John Cena to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam. The match was largely one-sided, with The Beast Incarnate managing an incredible 16 German suplexes on Cena before pinning him to win the championship and hold in throughout the year.
The Hogan/Austin/Rock 'Silver Dome' Summit
Silver Dome / SuperDome goof aside, the opening of WrestleMania XXX was monumental in that it was the first in-ring meeting of WWE legends Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. While it turned out to be little more than a talking segment, it was still a thrill to see arguably the three biggest draws in modern wrestling history attempt to outdo each other on the microphone, and fitting for Mania's 30th edition.
TNA finds new television Destination
Many people predicted the death of TNA Impact Wrestling when rumors first surfaced that Spike TV wouldn't renew their television contract. Several months later, the promotion announced its new home starting in 2015 would be on Destination America; certainly a smaller audience than Spike TV commanded, but still a way for TNA stars to continue plying their trade in front of a national audience.
CM Punks WWE
Following the Royal Rumble, CM Punk ended his relationship with WWE over a growing series of differences with the company. Only recently did Punk clarify he was working hurt and tired of WWE not giving him opportunities to shine. In June (on the day of his wedding to AJ Lee), Punk finally received his termination from WWE and by December, The Straight Edge Superstar had signed a multi-fight contract with the UFC.
The Ultimate Farewell
It's hard to believe this story is true. On April 5, The Ultimate Warrior was inducted into WWE Hall of Fame after more than a decade of bad blood between him and Vince McMahon. A day later, he made an appearance at WrestleMania, and a day after that, cut a remarkable promo on Raw where he declared that "every man's heart one day beats it's final beat." Just one day later, Warrior returned home to Scottsdale, Arizona and passed away from, incredibly enough, a heart attack, ending the life of one of wrestling's most enigmatic personalities.
John Cena captures 15th World Title
John Cena winning WWE's main belt seems like it's no longer news given how frequently it happens. Still, after Cena won the vacant WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Money In The Bank, he's surpassed Randy Orton, Hulk Hogan and Triple H - only Ric Flair has held more World Championship gold.
AJ's record reign ruined by rookie
AJ Lee had survived WrestleMania XXX with her Divas Championship intact; in fact, she become the longest-reigning champion in January and was at 295 days on April 7. Out of nowhere, NXT Champion Paige showed up on Monday Night Raw and successfully won the butterfly belt, ending AJ's record reign.
Michael Elgin goes rogue
In June, Michael Elgin captured his first Ring of Honor World Title and dropped it less than three months later. After work via issues were worked out, Elgin was set to return to ROH... only he used social media to claim that he was never coming back to the company. This led to a new "disgruntled employee" gimmick.
Ziggler finally steals the show
For years, fans have been complaining that Dolph Ziggler has never received a proper push despite having the tools and fan support. At Survivor Series, The Show Off got his opportunity, surviving a three-on-one disadvantage and winning the match for his team, effectively getting rid of The Authority.
Impact Wrestling fire(d) sale
As TNA Impact Wrestling began downsizing its operations, many of its top stars were either released or their contracts not renewed while the promotion looked for a new home. Among the casualties this year: AJ Styles, Sting, Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Kurt Angle (at least temporarily) and Bully Ray.
New theory of Evolution
Angered that The Shield wouldn't fight their battles for them, WWE COO Triple H declared war on Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins. To do so, he re-formed the Evolution faction along with Randy Orton and Batista. The group lost to The Shield on two straight pay-per-views before HHH got his revenge....
No more Excuses
After serving WWE as an authority figure for seven years and receiving major props for her talent at doing so, Vickie Guerrero decided to retire this year to focus on a career in medical adminsitration. She retired in June, but not before dumping Stephanie McMahon in a vat of pudding.
A Takeover of quality wrestling
The first live wrestling event to be televised on WWE Network wasn't WrestleMania XXX - it was NXT Arrival, a quarterly special later dubbed NXT Takeover. The first event featured the aforementioned Bo Dallas-Adrian Neville title match as well as Paige-Emma and Sami Zayn-Cesaro.
Rusev, Rose, Paige, Dallas called up
WWE hasn't been shy about showcasing its NXT talent on Raw and SmackDown. The night after WrestleMania, in addition to the aforementioned Paige title win, WWE debuted Rusev and produced "coming soon" vignettes for Adam Rose and Bo Dallas for the main roster.
Pitting Bella vs. Bella
SummerSlam was supposed to be where Brie Bella got her revenge on Stephanie McMahon, after The Billion Dollar Princess forced her to quit. Instead, Brie's twin sister Nikki turned on her, igniting a feud that.... well, it involved Jerry Springer, catfights, insults, a wasted stipulation and a lame reconcilliation later.
One of the most interesting developments in Ring of Honor this year was a cross-promotion with New Japan Pro Wrestling that led to a pair of iPPV's featuring matches between the two companies - Global Wars in Toronto, followed by War of the Worlds in New York City.
NXT snags KENTA, Devitt, Steen
With a roster whose alumnae include stars formerly known as El Generico, Pac, Tyler Black, Claudio Casagnoli and Jon Moxley, NXT was fast becoming the most impressive indy promotion in the world. WWE reinforced that goal this year by adding the former KENTA, Prince Devitt and Kevin Steen to its group.
Thank You, Mabel
Former wrestler Nelson Frazier Jr., better known by the ring names Mabel, King Mabel, Viscera and Big Daddy V, passed away on February 18 at the young age of 43. It's worth noting that he was part of the WWF/E for the better part of 15 years over various stints, and he even headlined SummerSlam in 1995.
Lashley makes an Impact
Whether he was competing in WWE, Strikeforce or Bellator, Lashley has been touted as a future World Champion. He fulfilled his destiny upon returning to TNA, where he turned heel and aligned himself with MVP and Kenny King, defeating Eric Young to win the championship.
Lucha Underground goes above ground
Reality television mogul Marc Burnett set out to produce a different kind of wrestling, and managed to do so with his series Lucha Underground, shown on both UniMas and the El Rey network. The production values are incredible, the action fast-paced and it could ultimately be a trigger for change in the industry.
Royal Rumble backlash
The Royal Rumble typically gets a pass from fans because of its exciting main event, but this year's didn't. Fans hated that Daniel Bryan wasn't in the main event, while wrestlers such as Rey Mysterio and the returning Batista were outright booed.
Thank You, Mae
WWE Hall of Famer Mae Young had often said she'd agreed to wrestle Stephanie McMahon's daughter on her 100th birthday, and it truly looked like she would make it to that event. However, she sadly passed away at age 90.
Global Force Wrestling
Announcements about new major North American wrestling promotions don't happen every day, so when Jeff Jarrett announced the formation of Global Force Wrestling, it received some attention. Announcing partnerships with Japan and Mexico (as well as its PPV promotion of New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom 9 in January 2015) are a big start.
Batista had been absent from WWE programming for four years, so it was assumed that he would receive a huge pop upon his return to wrestling. Within weeks, fans resented The Animal for taking the place of their beloved Daniel Bryan in the main event of WrestleMania XXX.
The Shield Explodes
Earlier in the year, it looked as though The Shield were going to break up, but in fact the trio became fan favorites after Seth Rollins was able to keep the peace. But after a successful main event at Payback, WWE COO Triple H got payback of his own when he convinced Rollins to turn on Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. All three men played significant roles in the WWE this year, but not as a unit.
RKO Out Of Nowhere goes viral
It likely started out of boredom, but a collection of Vine videos where Randy Orton was superimposed on top of people falling down because a serious Internet phenomenon in mid-October, being written up on Buzzfeed, Mashable and other sites that don't regularly follow sports entertainment. The viral videos led to Orton getting a brief babyface push before inexplicably being taken off the road to film a WWE movie.
It was a story that began at SummerSlam the year prior, and at WrestleMania XXX Daniel Bryan's dream of winning the main event of WrestleMania became a reality. To get there, Bryan had to defeat Triple H in Mania's opening match - no small task on its own - and then miraculously survive a Triple Threat match against Randy Orton and Batista to gain the gold. Injuries ended Bryan's reign after less than two months, but he still accomplished what many fans never thought possible.
Sting arrives in WWE
Sure... Sting had previously signed some sort of agreement to appear in WWE video games and make personal appearances, but would he ever show up in a WWE ring? That question was answered at the conclusion of Survivor Series, when The Icon had a staredown with Triple H, leading to his assisting in the victory of Team Cena. Will Sting now face The Game at WrestleMania 31, or will there be other plans for him by then?
The Streak is Conquered
During any other year, this may have been the biggest headline possible. The Undertaker had been undefeated in 21 matches at WrestleMania and he was expected to make that 22 after defeating Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX. But almost out of nowhere, an F5 by Lesnar caused The Dead Man to be pinned, putting his record at 21-1 and pulling off one of the biggest surprises in recent professional wrestling history.
Introducing the WWE Network
Why was the introduction of the WWE Network the biggest wrestling headline of the year? It was a business move that will forever change how wrestling is presented. The traditional PPV market, once the single biggest revenue driver for WWE and other companies, has been replaced by a product that's available for just $9.99 a month, and everything from wrestler's paychecks to special content to a home for WWE's NXT promotion, is tied to WWE Network. While they're not yet at the predicted one million subscriber number, it was a bold move that has ramifications for the entire industry.