#21 Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Jack Swagger — Money in the Bank Ladder Match for a WWE World Heavyweight Championship Contract (Money in the Bank)
WHAT WE SAID: Six Superstars went to Boston to climb their way into the World Title picture. They wouldn’t be upstaged. Jack Swagger powerbombed Rob Van Dam from a ladder to the mat. Kofi Kingston hit a reverse Boom Drop on top of a ladder. Dean Ambrose superplexed Seth Rollins to the ring, which Dolph Ziggler followed by dropkicking Ambrose with a ladder. The six competitors made spontaneity the painful norm.
Ultimately, improvisation nearly cost Ambrose his moment, though, as WWE trainers forced him to the back after he injured his shoulder with a devastating DDT on Swagger. But while Rollins scaled the ladder with no one in sight, the crowd chanted, “We want Ambrose!” prompting The Lunatic Fringe to re-enter the fray. With his arm hanging at his side, Ambrose booted Rollins from the ring with several chair blasts until a Tombstone from Kane allowed The Authority’s golden boy to become Mr. Money in the Bank. Rollins left with the contract, but his countless bruises served as painful collateral he’d never forget. — Jeff Laboon
WHAT THEY SAID: “That’s something you kind of dream about. The history of having that briefcase leads to being a WWE Champion most of the time. To know I have that in my possession and no one can take it from me is real special. And to do it with guys who are competing at that level — we had a hell of a Money in the Bank Match. It really was awesome from top to bottom, maybe one of the better ones in history. I was happy to be part of it and really psyched to come out on top. When you’re sitting on top of that ladder and you got that thing in your hands, knowing what’s inside of it and all that it means and what it stands for, it doesn’t really get any better than that for a young wrestler.” — Seth Rollins
#14 Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins — Lumberjack Match (SummerSlam)
WHAT WE SAID: Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins’ Lumberjack Match at SummerSlam was a perfect representation of the pure mayhem that was their rivalry.
The Lunatic Fringe selected the match’s stipulation because he thought the “wall of flesh” outside the ring would stop his former Shield “brother” from escaping. Not even a barrier of WWE Superstars could contain the hatred between these two men, however. Make no mistake, this was a fight. There was nothing pretty about this match, but that’s what made it so great. For every fan that enjoys a Dean Malenko–Eddie Guerrero classic, there’s a fan that loves a knockdown, drag-out fight between two guys who just want to beat each other senseless. This bout had gotten so out of control at one point that WWE’s then Director of Operations, Kane, had to order the lumberjacks to chase and retrieve both men as they fought among the WWE Universe.
This match was chaos at its pinnacle. From the unstable Ambrose’s top-rope dive on top of a sea of Superstars in the process of carrying Rollins back to the ring to the all-out brawl between lumberjacks that led to the match’s dramatic final moments, this was definitely one of the year’s best. — Scott Taylor
WHAT THEY SAID: “That wasn’t your traditional Lumberjack Match, that’s for sure. If you look back at the guys who were in that match, we beat the crap out of one or all of ’em at some point in our WWE tenure in The Shield. So when they got their chance they were gonna give us a whuppin’, too. … My suggestion to survive a Lumberjack Match is to avoid the lumberjacks! And we did a darn good job of that. But again, you take an opportunity like that, you hit it out of the park, and that’s what I thought the Lumberjack Match was.” — Seth Rollins
#5 The Shield vs. Evolution (Extreme Rules)
WHAT WE SAID: It is rare to have an encounter hailed as a dream match months before all competitors are even members of the active roster, but that’s exactly what happened with The Shield and Evolution. The level of expectation reached heights nearly impossible to deliver, but if any two teams could live up to the hype, it’s The Hounds of Justice and the newly reformed trio of Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista. Both teams had plenty to prove. A royally ticked-off Triple H, Orton and Batista needed to show themselves, the raucous crowd at New Jersey’s Meadowlands and the world that they could still compete with the hottest young Superstars in WWE. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns were attempting to keep their year and a half of momentum on a roll and prove they could hang with three bona fide icons.
With so much subtext, the faceoff devolved into a chaotic war that escaped the confines of the ropes. In the heat of battle, Rollins dove from the stands of the arena onto his opponents on the floor below. It reminded those watching that while Evolution had the veteran experience, The Shield had evolved into wrestling’s hottest property. — Zach Linder
WHAT THEY SAID: “Shield vs. Evolution is kind of the opposite of Shield vs. Wyatts. It was the future vs. the past, all fighting in the present, but that was on a completely different level as far as fighting for elbow space, who’s going to take charge and be the backbone of this company, being that Evolution is headed by Triple H, who is also The Authority and one of the highest figures in this company. It was really just rebellious young men fighting against established Superstars.” — ROMAN REIGNS
“Those are dream matches. When you look at three-man teams vs. The Shield, I mean, I never thought I would wrestle Evolution. They were dead and gone before we even got there. Just to be a part of those matches and to have some standout moments in those matches, particularly the two major dives. … That’s awesome to be one of the stars of those matches and take The Shield to the next level and separate us from the rest of the three-man teams in the history of WWE.” — Seth Rollins
#3 The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (Elimination Chamber)
WHAT WE SAID: It was a match the WWE Universe had been clamoring over for months. So much so that it received “This is awesome!” chants before it even began.
In 2012, The Shield arrived and put the entire WWE roster on notice, dominating everyone they came across and cementing themselves as the best trio the business had ever seen … until The Wyatt Family arrived. The backwoods cult led by Bray Wyatt tore through their competition much like The Hounds of Justice before them. It was only a matter of time before their paths crossed to determine which faction was superior.
The weeks of barbs thrown both ways added fuel to what wasn’t just a fire, but an absolute explosion. You could feel the intensity, ferocity, desperation and sheer hatred the two groups shared for one another in every blow and maneuver. Each Superstar treated his body like a weapon, both inside the ring and out, recklessly throwing it at his opponents to make a statement.
Though the Wyatts ultimately made that statement in victory, both trios proved something to the WWE Universe that night: that all six men possess the talent, heart and desire that turn Superstars into WWE Legends. — Mike Murphy
WHAT THEY SAID: “I’ve done a lot of things in my career to garner ‘This is awesome’ chants, but that’s the first time it ever happened when I was just standing across the ring staring at somebody. That’s fairly unusual, I would say, and that might be the first time in wrestling history I’ve ever seen that, period. To be a part of that and to feel that energy from the crowd, it literally gave me goose bumps. And knowing what we were capable of and what was to come was pretty exciting as well.” — Seth Rollins
#1 Team Cena (John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Big Show, Ryback & Erick Rowan) vs. Team Authority (Seth Rollins, Kane, Rusev, Luke Harper & Mark Henry) — Traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series Elimination Tag Team Match (Survivor Series)
WHAT WE SAID: As fun as it is to be contrarian, sometimes the best match of the year is simply the best match of the year. There were few — well, actually, no — contests that took the WWE Universe on a wilder journey than the main event of Survivor Series 2014, a 10-Superstar Elimination Tag Team Match that did nothing less than determine the future of the company itself.
And we don’t mean in the sense of the stipulation, either. Somehow, we knew, it was a given that Team Cena would be victorious and Cena himself would be the man to oust The Authority. But the finale the Universe likely predicted — a comeback for an outmanned, outmatched Cena — was flipped immediately on its head when the 15-time World Champion was KO’ed by a traitorous Big Show and the bout suddenly ventured into unpredicted territory.
The spoils of the detour, however, were undeniable: Cena’s elimination ceded the spotlight — albeit unwittingly — to an heir apparent who ended up going the whole damn distance. The hero of the match ended up being Dolph Ziggler, who most, including Ziggler, thought had seen his last main event long ago. Despite Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble proving they still had fight left in them and Triple H and Stephanie McMahon getting in one last burst of villainous venom, “Zig Man” brought it down to the wire and justice was served when Sting showed up to save the day. Come on, what more could you possibly want? — Anthony Benigno
WHAT THEY SAID: “For the first time in a long time I was nervous about the match. Not just because there was a lot riding on it, but because I hoped it would be in my hands when it came down to it. I knew the team would step up [and] do anything for me, but people’s jobs were on the line, so when it came down to me, I knew I couldn’t possibly let them down. Not was this only a big moment for myself, but it was a big moment for WWE to get The Authority out of power, to find a way to win, which for months and years, I had always done. Someway, somehow, find a way to win.” — Dolph Ziggler