The conclusion of last night’s WWE RAW brought not just the end of an episode but the end of the year for WWE. With 2014 just on the horizon before us, it may be worth a moment to take a look at some of the finest moments from the WWE in 2013.
Or as Matt Striker may say, those “Mark Out Moments” of the year.
5. The Rhodes Brothers win the WWE Tag Team Titles - WWE RAW, October 14, 2013.
For the majority of 2013, The Shield’s Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins looked unstoppable. At the very least, the team so frequently found ways to retain that the idea of Cody Rhodes and a returning Goldust defeating them for the gold seemed incredibly far fetched. Which is exactly why the Rhodes Brothers capturing the WWE Tag Team Championships from The Shield was a huge mark out moment for fans, even if it did come with a huge assist from Big Show.
Since that moment, Cody Rhodes and Goldust have been at the absolute top of their game. Goldust has arguably looked better in the ring now than he has in his entire career, not just in terms of work but in terms of shape as well, and his union with Cody has given a huge boost to Cody’s career at a time when Cody Rhodes seemed to be on the verge of being lost in the mix of WWE’s incredibly deep roster.
Through their wars with The Shield in recent months, Goldust and Cody Rhodes have energized the tag team division and brought a brand new awareness to WWE fans of just how good tag team wrestling can be.
4. Mark Henry’s Retirement Swerve - WWE RAW, June 17th, 2013.
It was a tear filled moment for the WWE Universe as long-time veteran Mark Henry, dressed in an incredibly memorable pink blazer, took to the ring to announce his retirement from WWE. Henry interrupted then WWE Champion John Cena, asking Cena to stay in the ring as he made his announcement. Mark Henry’s delivery was impeccable, as he fought back his tears and showed genuine emotion in his announcement to the WWE Universe, and the fans in attendance responded in kind, with numerous ovations and chants in Henry’s honor. Following the speech, John Cena acknowledges Henry’s accomplishments, raising Henry’s hand as both men clasp the WWE Championship, symbolically acknowledging all that Mark Henry had accomplished in his career.
And then, just when it seemed it was over, Henry swerved us all.
With one massive World’s Strongest Slam, Henry turned the moment on its head from a tear-filled goodbye to a mark-out moment for everyone in attendance and fans watching across the globe. Mark Henry’s World’s Strongest Slam to John Cena, and subsequent declaration that he had “a lot left in the tank,” may not have lead to a very memorable bout between the two at Money in the Bank, but the moment itself showed just how powerful a successfully executed swerve can be when used under the right circumstances.
Although Henry has accomplished little since this moment, his turn against John Cena is definitely one of the finest moments of the year.
3. AJ Lee’s “Pipebombshell” promo: WWE RAW, August 26th, 2013.
In 2013, AJ Lee became the longest reigning Divas champion in history. But above and beyond this accomplishment, AJ will be remembered for the promo she cut directed at the stars of the then newly released E! reality series Total Divas.
The promo, laced with insults and personal attacks on the likes of Natalya and The Bellas, was clearly meant to earn AJ Lee heat. But instead of reacting negatively to AJ’s promo, the crowd in attendance and WWE Universe at large embraced both AJ and the promo, due in no small part to the childish reaction to the promo on the part of Eva Marie and The Bellas Twins.
In the following months, WWE would try desperately to paint the entire cast of Total Divas as faces against a roster of jealous females. Yet the WWE Universe has repeatedly resisted this casting, thanks largely to AJ Lee’s emotional promo and the effort she puts in the ring as the WWE Divas Champion.
2. Daniel Bryan captures the WWE Championship: WWE Summerslam, August 18th, 2013.
Forget everything that happened immediately after Daniel Bryan won the title.
Forget the months of screwjob endings, of attempted burials, of WWE trying to transfer the “Yes!” chants from Daniel Bryan to Big show.
Forget all of the negative things that may have clouded this moment for you.
This was, at the second that Triple H’s hand fell for the three and the crowd leapt to their feet, a star-making moment. A moment which vindicated Daniel Bryan’s long, exhausting journey in WWE. From his initial run in NXT as the rookie who didn’t win a match, to his first release and return, from “18 Seconds” and everything after, Daniel Bryan’s WWE Championship victory over John Cena at Summerslam was a moment to remember.
The build to the moment was spectacularly done, with Bryan gaining a tremendous amount of momentum in victory after victory in an effort to prove that he was not the “weak link” of Team Hell No. And in the end, the payoff was tremendous.
While the last half of Daniel Bryan’s 2013 may be enough to frustrate and confuse even the most casual of fans, Daniel Bryan’s Summerslam moment was a true mark-out moment for a genuine underdog, and a reminder of why the sport of wrestling can at times be so fantastic to behold.
1. Dolph Ziggler’s Money in the Bank Cash In: WWE RAW, April 8th, 2013.
In front of an absolutely electric post-Wrestlemania crowd, Dolph Ziggler cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and successfully became the World Heavyweight Champion to a tremendous ovation. This moment, which should have been a career-changing event for Dolph Ziggler, was memorable for coming at just the right time in front of the perfect crowd.
The reaction from the audience was like something you would expect for a main event from one of WWE’s “Big Four” pay-per-view events, with the crowd going white hot at Dolph Ziggler’s entrance theme and positively nuclear for his win.
While Dolph Ziggler’s moment in the sun was short lived thanks to a concussion and a misguided decision to return the belt to Alberto Del Rio (and keep the belt on him), this moment stands out as the most memorable moment for all of 2013.
Disagree? Have a different set of moments? Please feel free to share here or on Twitter with @midcrdmanifesto!