WWE’s RAW and Smackdown shows have always been the driving force for WWE storylines and the front end of the day-to-day happenings of what goes on in the juggernaut wrestling company. 2014 was absolutely no different. It was a year of meteoric rises, as stars such as Rusev, The Shield, of course being made up of the individuals Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and recent Royal Rumble winner Roman Reigns, and most importantly, the winner of the Wrestlemania main event, Daniel Bryan got to take their rightful places in the bright spotlight. But before we got to Wrestlemania, and to each of the pay-per-views, there had to be some kind of build, some kind of story to get the fans interested in the product, to make them want to invest their money into a show. This 3-disc collection is a montage of all of those moments that made you shout, cheer, and enjoy the shows that aren’t on pay-per-view.
Let’s get this started with the first disc, as the host for this collection, Byron Saxton, introduces us to the first match, all the way back in January of 2014!
Now, this is a packed collection, so to go through and cover every single match would be an arduous task. It’s hard to pick and choose which matches and segments to cover, as considering this is a “best of” DVD, it’s bound to be filled with classics, but we’ll do our best and at least let you know what’s in store on this triple disc triple threat. The DVD itself is mostly segment after segment, but occasionally there are inserts from fans backstage reacting to the upcoming/previous segment, as well as a few video packages, so it mixes up the pace quite a bit.
The first disc is mostly pre-Wrestlemania matches and segments. The build up to Wrestlemania was a bit of a rocky one in 2014, but in the end, it worked out for the best. Daniel Bryan was the fan favourite going into Wrestlemania 30, but the Hollywood star Batista was the one who walked out with the Royal Rumble victory and the guaranteed spot in the main event. The first two matches follow alongside this storyline, as we get to see The Shield take on Daniel Bryan, John Cena and Sheamus, followed by a one-on-one match as Bryan takes on then current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Randy Orton. Both matches were evidently methods of building up Bryan to his rise to stardom, especially the second, as the bearded YES! Man comes out with a clean victory against the current champion, and it’s always fun to see Bryan wrestle, especially with the crowd behind him.
Following that, we get a cool fatal four-way on Smackdown with Kofi Kingston, Mark Henry, Jack Swagger and Rey Mysterio competing for a chance to face Big E for the Intercontinental Championship, a fun match with a few really unique spots. Of note is the fact that the DVD has an alternative commentary track with Zeb Colter and Byron Saxton. Zeb Colter is excellent as always. Speaking of excellent, and The Real Americans, we have John Cena cutting a promo on Cesaro, who previous to this also held a defeat over then WWE Champ Randy Orton. Cesaro and Cena have a fantastic, must see strong man style match, with Cesaro throwing Cena around as if he weighed the same as someone on the same weight level as… I don’t know… Kirby? A fantastic match where, even though Cena won, really made Cesaro into a solid star.
Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar‘s promo on RAW where they challenge The Undertaker to a match at Wrestlemania is probably one of the most “this just got real!” moments of 2014. The stare between The Beast and The Deadman deserves its place on this DVD, especially with the pen stabbing from Taker to Brock. Ouch. Super intense, and it’s awesome to hear the crowd react to Taker. Continuing with even more returns and fantastic heel promos, we have Batista coming out on Smackdown, who cuts a classic heel promo that would put many to shame. Many people have accosted Batista of having shoddy mic work, but that was the past. If you need any kind of reassurance that Big Dave is fantastic at talking, then watch this. The Guardians of the Galaxy and James Bond megastar finally turns his back on the crowd that has been booing him since the day he darkened their doorstep with his boulder shoulders. It’s almost as if the legitimate gripes of Batista come out in this, but either way you look at it, it makes for a super entertaining segment with ’tista looking like a super villain. Dolph Ziggler comes out and rises to Batista’s level, challenging him to a match. Ultimately, The Show Off loses to The Animal, but we get another star made.
Finally, to cap off Disc 1, we get the The Usos winning their first ever World Tag Team Championships against The New Age Outlaws. It’s been said many times before, but Road Dogg and Billy Gunn can still kick ass, and this match shows that they still have it in them. On top of that, we get a fantastic feel good moment as Rikishi’s boys walk out with the gold, er, bronze around their waists.
We kick off Disc 2 with what many feel is probably the best segment not only to happen in RAW in 2014, but in years, as Daniel Bryan invites a huge crowd of what he calls the “YES! Movement” to the ring, and occupies RAW – of course a callback to the Occupy Wall Street movement. This moment was the equivalent of Shawn Michaels throwing Marty Janetty through the barbershop window, the equivalent of Stone Cold Steve Austin driving down in the beer truck, the equivalent of Mankind being thrown off the top of the hell in the cell. This was the career defining moment for the bearded ring warrior from Aberdeen, Washington, and it’s a segment worth watching again and again. It’s worth watching just for the unanimous reactions from the fans, both in and outside of the ring, who are united under one word – YES!
Luke Harper takes on John Cena in a stiff match that built up to the bout between Bray and Cena at Wrestlemania. It’s a clever match too, as it ends with neither man losing, but with the lights going out. When they come back on, Cena is tied up in the ropes with a sheep mask tied to his face. Creepy. Now we skip to the night after Wrestlemania and we get to see Paige’s debut as she interrupts AJ Lee, and after being forced into an impromptu match with the Diva’s Champion, Paige wins the belt and becomes the youngest champion at the age of 21! Even if it is a little predictable what’s going to happen as soon as the challenge is laid down, it’s still an unbelievable moment that’s really heartwarming .
The Shield, previous to Wrestlemania, embarked on a face turn that transformed them from one of the most hated to one of the most loved groups in many years. As a result of that, the Hounds of Justice drew the attention of none other than the Authority, who placed the three men in a match against… well, 11 other men. We saw here a systematic beatdown of The Shield, followed by the reformation of Evolution, who stood tall over the three young up and comers. This storyline lead up to some of the best faction wars and six man tags in years. It came as no surprise that the reformation of Evolution shocked and excited many around the world.
Factions seemed to be somewhat of a theme in WWE in 2014, as Cena asks the fans why they turned on him and voted for him to not just face one member of the Wyatt family, but all three of them on the previous week’s RAW. We get what is as close to a heel Cena promo as we’ve seen in years, as Cena really lays it all on the line, quotes Batman and even namedrops NXT alumni Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn. But it’s all for naught as we are treated to one of the creepiest displays seen in pro-wrestling since the prime of The Undertaker himself, as The Wyatt family make their way to the ring, being sung all the way by a child choir to the tune of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”. The lights go off and on, and suddenly all the kids are now wearing the sheep masks. If Occupy RAW was the number one segment on this collection, then this was most likely tied number two with the segment that closes off this disc. Amazing, and another moment that made the career of The Eater of Worlds, Bray Wyatt.
Continuing with the storyline of Authority VS Shield, Dean Ambrose is forced to defend his US Championship in a 20 man battle royal, which he ultimately loses in the final two to Sheamus. This was a stellar battle royal, and was a good way of getting the US title off of Dean. Back to Cena and the Wyatts, we get to see Cena and The Usos take on The Wyatt Family in a six man tag team match. This was one of those unique situations where two feuds blended into one and exploded in a big kerfuffle, and a damn remarkable kerfuffle at that.
Bo Dallas, the longest reigning NXT Champion of his time, makes his debut on Smackdown in what could have been, yet again, the rise of another star. Ultimately, it seems like Bo has been left in the shadow of his brother, but maybe one day we’ll see segments such as this one yet again, as Bray defeats Sin Cara in what was actually a hilarious encounter. We also get alternate commentary with Mr Dallas himself on the DVD, which… well, listen for yourself. It’s inspirational.
And to cap off Disc 2, we get the iconic segment that is still engrained in the minds of every Shield fan ever, as Seth Rollins turns on Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, and in doing so, becomes the face of the Authority. This is still as much as a shocker now as it was when it happened, as the entire segment happens so organically and quickly (as well as being shot quite cleverly), that the surprise chair shot from Rollins to Reigns really came from out of nowhere. Ambrose’s look on his face also cemented this segment in history as one of the very best heel turns of all time.
Triple H and the sell-out, Seth Rollins, come out on Smackdown, and it goes without saying that Seth is booed to high heaven here, and for good reason. Seth cuts a classic heel promo, telling the fans that he doesn’t need to explain to anyone why he turned on The Shield. This wasn’t the best promo Seth cut last year, but it was probably one of the most memorable, as it was the first after his heel turn. It’s quite funny, as Rollins never seemed like one who would make a good main event calibre heel in WWE, especially on his own, as before The Shield, Rollins seemed to have sub-par mic skills and a speech impediment to boot. But all of a sudden, the now Mr Money in the Bank seems to have overcome all of that, becoming one of the greatest heels in the modern era.
2014 was also a year of many hellos and goodbyes. We got to say hello to Cody Rhodes’ alter-ego, Stardust (very much a mirror image of his brother Goldust), who makes his debut in a match against Rybaxel. Then there was the farewell of Vickie Guerrero, who is fired by Stephanie McMahon after losing an unfair “mud pool match”, but at least we got to see Stephanie be thrown into the mud and flail around like the creature from the black lagoon, which is hilarious. Stardust’s match also has alternate commentary from the man himself, which seems to be a running theme.
Stephanie continues to hog the spotlight in WWE, as the next segment is the contract signing between Brie and Stephanie going into their match at Summerslam. Somewhat entertaining, but as it’s been said before, Nikki is probably the better wrestler out of the two. It’s a shame that she didn’t get this story and match, but the entire thing was coming off the back of the story with Brie’s husband, Daniel Bryan, so at least that made a little bit of sense. Stephanie pedigrees both Bellas with the help of her husband, who gets as close to man on woman violence as we’ve seen since… probably Beth Phoenix in the 2010 Royal Rumble.
Again, we see the Authority in another segment, but this time, it’s to present Brock Lesnar with the new WWE World Heavyweight Championship, since WWE has a new logo due to the Network rebranding. The new belt looks fantastic, and I’m somewhat glad we’re back to one championship, but it’s sad to see Big Gold be retired once more. Heyman cuts an amazing promo and shows why, even as a non-wrestler, he will go down in history as one of the best talkers in pro-wrestling.
It’s time for part-timers now, as Bray Wyatt takes on Chris Jericho in a steel cage match that ends with Wyatt being victorious. This entire match is just enjoyable from start to finish. Notably Jericho has a hilarious moment at the top of the cage where he’s unsure whether to dive off or not. Probably not the most serious of cage matches, but one that put Wyatt over in a great way. In the segment following this we get to see The Rock interrupt Rusev and Lana, which makes the crowd go absolutely bonkers! In terms of part-timers, at least this year The Rock has stayed mostly out of the ring, but this segment makes me hope that he possibly could step back in one more time, perhaps against a certain… Bulgarian Brute? Rock, for the first time in quite a while, is actually quite hilarious and does a great job of not only getting the crowd in his favour, but putting over Rusev as a legitimate threat, as well. Let’s just see how he does for his cousin Roman.
As we come towards the end of the DVD, we get to see the 15 man tag team match from Smackdown’s 15th anniversary as team Teddy Long takes on Team John Laurinaitis to be crowned the best General Manager in Smackdown’s history. This is a super fun match where pretty much everyone, including El Torito and Hornswoggle in an aligator suit, get thrown and fly every which way around the ring, making for a fun mess. In contrast to this, the following segment is Randy Orton taking on Seth Rollins. The match itself is pretty standard, but the aftermath is what is still talked about to this day, as Randy Orton turns on The Authority, but pays for it, as Seth Rollins curbstomps Orton onto a set of steel stairs, and put it this way – we’ve not seen the Viper since. Another story that made Seth Rollins into an even more despicable villain.
We’re down to the last two matches, and the first of the two is the Triple Threat bout between Tyson Kidd, Cesaro and Dolph Ziggler. This was also featured on the WWE Live in the UK – November 2014 DVD, as it was, yes, live in the UK in November. As was stated there, this was a high paced super unique triple threat match where all three men got to do some never before seen moves that put the Liverpudlian crowd on the edge of their seat. Finally, we get to see John Cena, Ryback and Dolph Ziggler take on Seth Rollins, Kane and Luke Harper in what was a preview of the Team Cena VS Team Authority match at Survivor Series. This, like many RAW main events, breaks down into chaos in a bad way, but this time, it’s Team Cena who stands tall. Highlights of this include Erick Rowan throwing around a set of steel steps like the monstrous viking he is.
And that’s it for RAW and Smackdown in 2014. We saw some real shockers, some fantastic matches, some hilarious and intense promos and interviews, but on top of it all, we get them all collected right here in this 3-disc collection for your perusal and enjoyment, with only a few segments I felt should have been included. But hey, there’s only 3-discs, and for the sake of pacing, it was probably better in the long run. A very entertaining, informative and gratifying watch, this 3-disc collection goes to show that you don’t have to be on pay-per-view to be making history.
WWE Best of Raw and Smackdown 2014 is available on DVD from Monday the 9th of February.