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SMARK COUNTRY: Counting Down the Best of the Year

As 2014 closed out, I had trouble creating a list of the best matches of 2014. This past year featured a notable spike in the ring work from all of the major promotions, foreign and domestic. There were hundreds of potential candidates that I had to review.




The booking, the chemistry and ring psychology and the believability of the feud, not to mention the quality of the ring work, all factored into my decision. These are the finalists that I was compelled to select.

10.) The Wolves vs. The Hardys vs. Team 3D (Ladder match for the TNA Tag Team Championships; TNA No Surrender 09/17/14): This third match in a Tag Title series saw these three teams leave it all on the mat. Though lacking the charisma of a team like Edge & Christian, the Wolves proved that in a match, they can hang with the Hardys and 3D, masters of the brutality that these types of matches lend themselves to. There were a few solid ladder matches in 2014, but none as hard hitting, innovative and exciting as this match.

9.) Ryback, Big Show, Erick Rowan, Dolph Ziggler & John Cena vs. Rusev, Kane, Mark Henry, Luke Harper & Seth Rollins (Cena’s teammates employment vs. the Authority remaining in power; WWE Survivor Series 11/23/2014): It’d be easy to mark out over how WWE finally gave the chance for Dolph Ziggler to steal the show and win the big one (instead of John Cena). It’d be predictable to comment on how exciting it was to see the iconic Sting show up to prevent the Authority from interfering in the match. I could go on to praise how the older veterans like Mark Henry and Cena were willing to let the younger guys own that match. But the thing that made this match so good is the fact that for the first time in very long time, the 5-on-5 elimination tag match this year actually had importance.

8.) ACH, Nick Jackson & Matt Jackson vs. Kazarian, Christopher Daniels & Cedric Alexander (ROH Final Battle 12/07/2014 ): There were so many amazing spots during this match that I could barely keep up. A few of those planchas and suicide dives out of the rings actually made me bite my nails. These are six of the hardest workers in the company and with performances like this one at Final Battle, I’m sure main event pushes and/or World championships are in store for all involved.

7.) Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte (Women’s Championship match; NXT Takeover R Evolution 12/11/2014): This feud has been one of the primary reasons why I thoroughly enjoy NXT more than any other WWE programming. Flair and Banks showed their great technical prowess, but more so than most of the matches on this list, the ring psychology was astounding. It is a testament to two ring workers’ chemistry that they can have this many matches and none of them have felt stale. I yearn for both of these women to get called up to the main Raw/SmackDown roster and continue this feud on a grander stage.

6.) Minoru Suzuki vs. A.J. Styles (NJPW G1 Climax 24 – Day 7 08/01/2014): I am not a fan of interference by factions during big matches at even bigger pay-per-view/special events. But the usage of the Bullet Club and Suzuki-Gun were both kept to a minimum. I am thankful for this as these two men put on one of the best technical matches I’ve seen in quite some time. This is a feud that hopefully transcends promotions and I’d like to see this spill over into Ring of Honor or even TNA if possible.

5.) Gail Kim vs. Havoc (Knockouts Championship match; TNA Impact Wrestling 05/11/2014): This championship bout was a better David vs. Goliath match than the majority of the Daniel Bryan vs. Kane matches. There, I said it. That bump on the stairs alone could have done permanent damage to Gail’s face. These two athletes put each other through hell and these two women are only but two reasons that TNA Wrestling has had better women’s wrestling than Raw or SmackDown for nearly a decade.

4.) Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish vs. Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson (Best 2 out of 3 falls for the ROH World Tag Team Championships; ROH All Star Extravaganza VI 09/06/2014): My favorite tag team in wrestling right now up against a team that’s so good that they made it on my list twice. These teams brought some of the most innovative moves I’ve EVER seen in a tag team match. The Young Bucks throwing Fish into his partner, then using their signature super kicks into O’Reilly’s legs, causing him to do a tombstone piledriver to his own partner made me scream “holy $#!^ right along with the crowd in attendance.

3.) Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper & Erick Rowan (WWE Monday Night Raw 03/03/2014): This match had more build up and more fan anticipation than nearly any match of 2014. These six men delivered in spades. There are some that would put their first match at Elimination Chamber over this one. I implore them to watch again. This is the match where we saw Roman Reigns develop his ring psychology. This is the match that planted the seeds of Seth Rollins leaving The Shield. This is the match that showed me that Luke Harper and Erick Rowan SHOULD HAVE been multi-time tag team champions. This main event was a solid match from beginning to brutal end and gave us something that we haven’t seen from WWE in quite some time, warring factions.

2.) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsuyori Shibata (NJPW Destruction in Kobe ’14): This bout barely got edged out as my favorite match of the year. There was a palpable tension in the build up towards the match. Both men showed impressive technical prowess, high-flying and even brawled outside the ring. These performers threw everything at each other except for the kitchen sink. I became concerned at a certain point because of Shibata’s forearm and elbow strikes looking so devastatingly real. But let’s face it, these guys can make an arm drag look devastating. It ran just long enough to give the match time to breathe, but not so much so that it dragged. This was one of the most perfectly paced matches of this entire event and of the year.

1.) Sami Zayn vs. Adrian Neville (NXT Championship; NXT Takeover: R Evolution 12/11/2014): There’s taking it to the next level, then there’s beyond. That’s where Zayn and Neville took it at NXT Takeover: R Evolution. A feeling of uncertainty pervaded me. I honestly didn’t believe these men could live up to their prior performances in the ring against each other. This feeling dissipated within the first three minutes of the match. The spot where Zayn dove into the ring through the bottom and middle ropes, flew out of the perpendicular side of the ring and did a Tornado DDT to Neville pretty much solidified this as match of the year and the match wasn’t even done yet. Zayn finally winning the prize that has eluded him for so long, the NXT Championship, gave this match all the gravitas necessary to solidify it as the best match of 2014.

Though the televised wrestling programs week to week might not always be up to par, this past year has given us quite a few exhilarating matches. Do you agree with this list? What are some others that you feel deserve to be there?

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