The WWE, between 2010 and 2019 made a paradigm shift in its product, coming up with numerous innovations and certain risks. Some paid off, some didn’t. But they were all defining in one way or other. Here’s presenting the first series of matches which laid the ground work for current WWE programming and helped shape the product for the better.
CM Punk vs John Cena – 2011 Money in the Bank
Around about the middle of 2011, the WWE was becoming monotonous with the same wrestlers being pitted in the title picture. It changed during June 27 episode of Raw, when CM Punk cut the infamous Pipe Bomb promo, injecting an element of truth to the product. It was the beginning of kayfabe and reality becoming a bit of a blur with the WWE. With Punk’s contract set to expire after the Money in the Bank PPV, him threatening to leave with the WWE title added more drama to his match with John Cena, arguable the best of the decade. The two wrestlers went at it for almost 40 minutes and add to that the unpredictable outcome of Punk dropping Cena with the Go to Sleep to leave victorious was just the shot in the arm WWE needed to progress ahead.
Daniel Bryan winning the World title
The ultimate underdog story unfolded when Daniel Bryan won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. What made this special was the build-up: almost seven months of turmoil, bruises and numerous obstacles that were threw at him. When Bryan won clean against Cena at Summerslam and was crowned new champion, it was a step in a new direction. Bryan had become a crowd favourite with his high-flying move-set, terrific promos and a bunch of amazing programmes behind him, but moments after winning the championship, his moment was taken away from him. Triple H returning to his heel best and along with Stephanie and Randy Orton, forming The Authority, was indeed What was Best for Business. Everything seemed real – from Bryan’s mentor backstabbing him to fans hijacking the ring with the Yes Movement. It all culminated into Bryan winning the championship at WrestleMania 30, with not one, but two wins in the night – over Triple H and later over Orton and Batista in a Triple Threat match. The icing on the cake is how Bryan being over with the crowd slotted him in the WrestleMania main event picture. It was an indication how the WWE was now willing to listen to what their fans wanted.
The Rock vs John Cena – WrestleMania 28
Dream matches are no longer a certainty in the WWE. After The Rock vs Hulk Hogan, dream matches became limited, but when in 2011, the People’s Champion returned and cost Cena his title at WrestleMania 27, a clash between the best of two generations was set. The Rock vs Cena – WrestleMania 28, Once in a Lifetime. The Rock, one of the pioneers of the attitude era, vs Cena, the face of the company. Being tag team partners at Survivor Series, cutting scathing promos filled with personal attacks and cheap shots, a return to the Dr. of Thuganomics gimmick, revival of The Rock Concert – the year-long build-up to this match had everything. And add to it the satisfaction of wrestling a perfect match. The Rock hardly showed ring rust, pulling off an almost hour long segment with Cena at the main event of WrestleMania 28, and winning his first Mania match in nine years.
Bayley vs Sasha Banks – NXT TakeOver
With NXT going all out in mid 2010s, women superstars within the WWE were no longer seen just as an eye candies. They were professional wrestlers – who would pull off moves any male wrestler could. In Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Bayley and Becky Lynch, the world of professional wrestling saw the rise of the Four Horsewomen, who could go or an revolutionise the Women’s Revolution in the WWE. They broke down several barriers, the first of which was a first-ever 30-minute Iron Women match at NXT TakeOver in 2015. Bayley won but neither could hold back tears when it was all said and done. The women of professional wrestling had arrived and over the next four years, would go on to achieve so much, including the first-ever Women’s Hell in a Cell match, Royal Rumble match and a five-star triple-threat match at WrestleMania 32.
Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania 30
Perhaps no wrestling match in history left people more stunned than the outcome of the Brock Lesnar-Undertaker match at WrestleMania 30. With a 21-0 record, The Deadman and The Beast reignited their feud from 2002-03, so when their WrestleMania date was fixed, and The Undertaker entered the Super Dome, you’d have expected the streak to go on, wrong? Three F5s is what it took for Lesnar to do the unthinkable – defeat Undertaker at WrestleMania, bringing the streak to 21-1. What followed after the three count and the bell was beyond any word can put. A stunned silence falling over the arena, mouths left wide opened, hands on head and eyes almost popping out. The Undertaker’s streak was over, and with it, an era. More importantly, with that win, WWE billed Lesnar as this unstoppable monster who would bulldoze through anyone in sight. Lesnar defeated Cena in one of the most one-sided matches in history at SummerSlam later that year. He held on to the WWE Universal Title for a record 504 days before capturing the WWE Championship in October.