The statement “Anything could happen in the WWE” is a motto that is shared by the higher-ups of World Wrestling Entertainment due to the magnitude of big moments that could happen at any time. The 2010s is a decade that had its fair share of ups and down and surely gave moments to remember and those for and fans and critics moments to talk about. Broken down by year, here are the best moments of the 2010s.
2010: Bret Hart Returning to a WWE for the first time in 13 years
As wrestling fans of WWE understood, the Montreal Screwjob was one of the most controversial moments in wrestling history and it was unlikely that Bret Hart would ever come back due to the bad blood and the wounds of the circumstances still not quite healed.
But there is a reason in wrestling we never say never. On the January 4th, 2010 edition of Monday Night Raw, Hart returned after a ton of speculation, to the surprise of many, even hugging longtime rival Shawn Michaels. Although this would all ultimately lead to a storyline featuring a McMahon power trip, it was still a bright spot to see Bret Hart in a WWE ring again no matter the reason.
Honorable Mentions: The Nexus Invasion, The Miz’s Money in the Bank cash-in & The Age of Orton: Orton’s WWE Championship push of 2010
2011: The Pipebomb
On the June 27th, 2011 edition of Monday Night Raw, in front of a Las Vegas crowd, CM Punk was given the microphone to air out his grievances in a promo that truly blurred the lines of reality and fiction, calling out the heads of World Wrestling Entertainment, John Cena, and shouting out the likes of New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor. Not since Paul Heyman or Joey Styles’ worked shoot promos in the past had there been something in wrestling that truly evoked so much emotion and really made the audience think about who’s really running things in a questionable time for WWE programming.
Establishing himself as “The Best in the World,” Punk held no punches back and it became a moment in time that on the flagship show would hold up with the likes of Austin’s Beer Truck, or The Rock’s “This Is Your Life” or even 1-2-3 Kid’s victory over Razor Ramon.
Honorable Mentions: The Rock’s Return to WWE, Money in the Bank 2011, & The Rise of Zack Ryder
2012: CM Punk’s Full Calendar Year as WWE Champion
Starting at Survivor Series 2011, CM Punk’s full calendar year as champion had a who’s who of challengers, twists, heel turns, and established the longest WWE Championship reign since John Cena’s 380-day reign (back from September 2006 through October 2007). Punk faced the likes of Dolph Ziggler, Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan, John Cena & Ryback. Many came close to winning against Punk, but the “Second City Saint” handled all comers with gusto and an attitude that really showcased his excellence as a main event talent.
Honorable Mentions: The Debut of The Shield, End of an Era: Hell in a Cell Match, & Once in a Lifetime: The Rock vs. John Cena I
2013: The Rise of the “Yes Movement!”
2013 was a solid year for Daniel Bryan. He was WWE Tag Team Champion, redeemed himself after an infamous WrestleMania 28 and had a solid rivalry with Randy Orton establishing himself as one of the great in-ring workers in the game. Or rather, doing so in front of a WWE audience as fans of Bryan’s American Dragon character already knew how exceptional he was. He just needed an opportunity to do so with the biggest audience of them all and in 2013, for Bryan, that journey began.
On the July 15th, 2003 edition of Raw, then-WWE Champion John Cena announced Bryan to be his opponent at SummerSlam. This would turn into one of the best matches WWE would have that year as Bryan was crowned WWE Champion. Although he would immediately lose the title to Randy Orton the same night, Bryan’s consistency in the ring, genuine good-guy nature, and solid promo work created the start of the ascension of a new main event talent within WWE’s ranks.
Honorable Mentions: The Dominance of The Shield, Mark Henry’s retirement swerve, & The Best vs. The Beast.
2014: The Reign of the “Beast Incarnate”
“Eat, Sleep, Conquer, Repeat!” That was the mantra worn on the shirt of one of the most dominant beings in all of sport and entertainment. Brock Lesnar did things that seemed impossible to many. WrestleMania 30 saw Lesnar end The Undertaker’s astonishing 21 win streak at the event, causing so much shock, confusion, and so many genuine feelings, it seemed like a mistake. Later in the year at SummerSlam, then-WWE Champion, John Cena was next to be conquered in a match that was virtually a squash. 16 German suplexes and a few F-5s later, Lesnar re-established himself as the alpha of WWE, and he was just getting started. Over the remainder of the decade, Lesnar dominated on top, even breaking the 434-day reign of CM Punk not that long ago.
Honorable Mentions: The Miracle on Bourbon Street: Daniel Bryan’s triumphant WrestleMania, Sting’s WWE Debut at Survivor Series, The Breakup of The Shield, & Paige’s main roster debut.
2015: The Heist of the Century: WrestleMania 31
Considered as one of the greatest “cash-ins” in Money in the Bank history, Seth Rollins at the main event of WrestleMania 31 ran like a mad man on a mission to shock the world and give the Levi Stadium crowd in Santa Clara, California, a memory that they wouldn’t soon forget.
During the Lesnar/Reigns main event, it was already a solid match without the cash in, but Rollins running to the ring, hitting the “Curb Stomp” on both Reigns and Lesnar really gave the audience a true WrestleMania moment. It was a solid end to an already solid event as a whole. It also led to Rollins becoming the top guy in the company, a status he held for quite some time and in some eyes, still holds today.
Honorable Mentions: John Cena’s United States Championship Open Challenge, Kevin Owens’ Main Roster Debut, & Undertaker/Lesnar feud
2016: A “Phenomenal” Year
Confirmed on January 20th, 2016, but making his debut at that year’s Royal Rumble, multiple time Impact Wrestling and IWGP Heavyweight Champion, AJ Styles would debut in WWE riding off the momentum that catapulted him to mainstream success.
Styles would go on to have some dream matches, one against Chris Jericho at Fastlane and at WrestleMania 32, put over Roman Reigns in their WWE Championship feud. He “Beat Up John Cena” in a feud that would put two company poster men against each other in matches previously unimaginable, with Styles scoring consecutive victories against Cena, leading to his first WWE Championship victory at Backlash against then-champion Dean Ambrose (now Jon Moxley). Styles would continue to hold the title until January 2017.
Honorable Mentions: The unveiling of the new WWE Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 32, The Shield, Champions all in one night & Goldberg’s WWE Return
2017: Bray Wyatt’s WWE Championship Win
February 12, 2017, Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix. Elimination Chamber 2017 was actually a pretty solid show, with three solid women’s matches and the Smackdown Live main event picture looking really solid and clear. However, this would also be a night that would shock the WWE universe as Bray Wyatt would win his first WWE Championship in the titular structure and match by eliminating the then-two most recent champions back to back, establishing himself as a main event player.
For this moment to be significant, fans and critics alike agreed that Wyatt was one of the few guys in WWE who had been booked questionable despite excellent character work and solid ring work. Wyatt winning solidified himself as one of the best the company has to offer. Although his reign would be a borderline transitional reign, Wyatt’s win would be one of the most memorable pay per view endings in the 2010s decade.
Honorable Mentions: Jinder Mahal’s shock win at Backlash, The Hardy Boyz return at WrestleMania 33 & Cena vs. Styles III
2018: The rise of “The Man”
SummerSlam 2018 was to many, supposed to be Becky Lynch’s moment. However, due to WWE’s booking, Charlotte would overshadow Lynch in the hype entering into the event. However, a heel turn would make the most of Becky Lynch’s character. Despite the fans cheering Lynch and showing their disdain for Charlotte, Lynch’s “The Man” persona would make her one of the most popular characters and draws the WWE has seen in a while.
Quarters 3 and 4 would be Lynch’s time, from Summerslam to TLC, Lynch was the hot topic on WWE programming and her matches were some of the most-watched. The WWE had something special in “The Irish Lass Kicker” and 2018 was the true rise of “The Man.”
Honorable Mentions: Ronda Rousey’s Dominant Rookie Year, Daniel Bryan’s In Ring Return & WWE Evolution
On February 12, 2019, one member of The New Day would be Mustafa Ali‘s replacement in the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match. It was revealed that night, this would be Kofi Kingston. Elimination Chamber 2019 would see Kofi get extremely close, but after a crash and burn splash from the top of the chamber pod, then-WWE Champion Daniel Bryan would capitalize and get the victory. However, the audience and the remaining members of The New Day wouldn’t let this slide by any means. As stated by Xavier Woods in the past on numerous occasions, the goal was to make Kofi Kingston WWE Champion. Fighting through insurmountable odds from management and the champion himself, thanks to Big E and Woods, Kofi would get his WrestleMania match and what a match it was as it would be the match of the evening and the moment of the year as Kofi Kingston in his first singles match try would get the victory over Daniel Bryan and win his first world championship in WWE as fans would rejoice not only at MetLife Stadium, but all around the world.
Honorable Mentions: 1st Women’s Main Event at WrestleMania, The Rise of NXT to the mainstream & The debut of Bray Wyatt’s “The Fiend” character.
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