There has been plenty to discuss in the world of pro-wrestling over the past ten years.
The landscape of WWE has changed significantly during this period and while wrestling fans around the world have often been critical of the overall WWE product, there have been plenty of bright spots.
As we approach 2020 it has become customary to list the 'best of...' pretty much everything that has happened over the last decade. So here is a completely subjective ranking of the moments this author feels will define the decade that was.
10. The End of an Era
Undertaker v Triple H, WrestleMania 28 (1st April 2012):
A show-stealing performance from three of the all-time greats to close out a four-year programme centred around Shawn Michaels and Triple H's obsession with ending the Undertaker's WrestleMania streak. This match was billed as the end of an era, so to remember it in its full glory let's just pretend that the 2018 shows in Australia and Saudi Arabia never happened.
The addition of Shawn Michaels as the guest referee added a huge amount of drama to this Hell In A Cell match, which was a masterclass in WWE storytelling. After the Deadman prevailed to go 20-0, the three men took their bow on the stage to give us one of the iconic images of recent WWE history. A rare moment of the Undertaker breaking character on screen.
This was the last great WrestleMania match that either Undertaker or Triple H have had, so it is a slight shame that neither has yet decided to hang up the boots more than seven years later.
9. The Festival of Friendship
Kevin Owens turns on Chris Jericho, Monday Night Raw (13th February 2017):
For six months the friendship between Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens was the most entertaining thing on WWE TV. Both played their parts brilliantly as comedic heels and right from the beginning it was obvious that one would eventually turn on the other. But the festival of friendship was an example of how sometimes even the obvious outcome is still the best when it is executed perfectly.
This was one of the best angles that Raw has produced in recent years that combined comedy and drama to great effect. One of the highlights of Chris Jericho's WWE career that made him one of the hottest stars in the industry once again, before leaving for Japan and later All Elite Wrestling. As this decade comes to a close some 20 years after Jericho made the jump from WCW to WWE at the height of the Monday night wars, he now finds himself spearheading the upstart promotion AEW in the newly dubbed Wednesday night wars against NXT.
8. The Man Comes Around
Becky Lynch breaks her nose and breaks Twitter, Monday Night Raw (12th November 2018):
This decade has seen a boom period for Irish wrestling, with local promotion Over The Top Wrestling (OTT) emerging as one of the best on the global independent scene. We have also seen a number of Irish stars emerge on WWE TV including Sheamus, Finn Balor, Killian Dain and Jordan Devlin. But perhaps none have shone brighter than Baldoyle's own Becky Lynch, who caught fire in the second half of 2018 and has become one of the hottest stars in the industry.
Her rise took an unexpected turn on this night when a recklessly stiff swing from Nia Jax broke Becky's nose just six days before a scheduled clash with Ronda Rousey. The resulting concussion meant that Becky was pulled from the match, a blessing in disguise, as she instead got her moment six months later in the main event of WrestleMania. The closing images of this fateful night on Raw with Becky, covered in blood, grinning back at Rousey from the rafters sent social media into meltdown and became known as her breakout 'Austin 3:16' moment. A star is born.
7. The Heist of the Century
Seth Rollins cashes in Money in the Bank at Wrestlemania 31 (29th March 2015):
The main event of WrestleMania can often disappoint. The show has become so long in recent years that the crowd is often exhausted by the time the headline match takes place, so we have seen some forgettable matches closing out the biggest show of the year. But few main events have delivered more than in 2015 when Seth Rollins became the first man to cash in the Money in the Bank contract at WrestleMania to win the WWE title.
The match began with Brock Lesnar defending his title against Roman Reigns, a night that had long been anticipated as the moment where Reigns would be anointed as the new top star of the company, much to the dismay of the hardcore fans who had largely begun to turn on him. The outstanding Reigns-Lesnar match is underrated given that it often gets overshadowed by the conclusion. In the closing moments Rollins injected himself into the match and stole a victory to close the show with a thrilling twist.
6. The Great One Returns
The Rock returns after a 7 year absence, Monday Night Raw (14th February 2011):
In the quest for TV ratings, WWE often opt to spoil major returns ahead of time, so it is rare that something of this magnitude would be kept as a surprise for the fans. Ahead of WrestleMania 27, WWE announced that they would reveal a host for the biggest event of the year. That mystery man was revealed to be The Rock, who hadn't appeared on WWE TV since 2004 when his Hollywood career began to take off.
One of the most popular superstars in WWE history instantly reminded fans of what they had been missing, as few others can compete with his charisma and promo ability. This return triggered a feud between The Rock and John Cena where they headlined consecutive WrestleManias, with The Rock capturing one last WWE title in the process. The busiest man in Hollywood has been tough to nail down for regular WWE appearances in recent years, but fans are holding out that he has at least one more big match in him before he calls time on an electrifying in-ring career.
Kofi Kingston wins the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 35 (7th April 2019):
A simple tale of an underdog overcoming the odds. After 11 years in WWE it seemed as though Kofi Kingston was destined to be permanently stuck in the mid-card. His in-ring talent was often over-looked in favour of newer stars. But as fate would have it, there was an unexpected twist in his career early this year.
An injury to Mustafa Ali before the Elimination Chamber event saw Kofi drafted into the WWE title picture as a late replacement, seemingly to make up the numbers. But the WWE fans made their voices heard and Kofi became the sentimental favourite with a groundswell of support for the main event push his career deserved. WWE capitalized and told a story of Kofi overcoming all obstacles and finally winning the big one at WrestleMania by defeating, ironically enough, Daniel Bryan (more on that later). Few WWE champions have been as universally loved by the audience and the WWE roster behind the scenes, as Kofi has long been touted as one of the most popular members of the locker room.
The real outpouring of emotion at the end of the match from Kofi and his partners in The New Day took extra significance by the fact that he had become the first ever African-born WWE champion.
4. Women's Revolution
Bayley v Sasha Banks, NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn (22nd August 2015):
Probably the most significant change we have seen in WWE over the last decade has been the development of women's wrestling. WWE's female roster have now been positioned as a headline act and their ground-breaking progress over the last five years in particular has been one of the highlights of the modern era.
One of the key turning points was the epic NXT Women's Championship match between Bayley and Sasha Banks in front of a hot crowd at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn. One of the best matches of the decade, and arguably the best women's match of all time. The end of the match saw the two joined in the ring by Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch (collectively dubbed as the 'Four Horsewomen') to take their bow and signal a major shift, as all four would soon progress to the main roster and dominate the women's division to this day.
This was a significant moment not only for the women, but also for NXT, which has become the best brand in wrestling over the past few years with a string of consistently stellar pay per views.
3. The End of the Streak
Brock Lesnar breaks the Undertaker's streak at WrestleMania 30 (6th April 2014):
One of the most controversial moments for many WWE fans, some of whom are still angry about it to this day.
For years, the Undertaker's undefeated streak had become the centre-piece attraction of each WrestleMania. Most expected the Deadman to retire with his streak intact. But the backstage rumour mill suggested that if it were ever to be broken, it would likely be done by a rising star with longevity such as Roman Reigns or Bray Wyatt. So when already established, part-time mercenary Brock Lesnar became the next in line to challenge the streak, most expected a routine Undertaker win to go 22-0.
The match itself was a dud, as the Undertaker was badly concussed in the opening minutes and labored throughout. But the ending provided one of the most surreal moments in wrestling history when Lesnar scored the three count and the air was sucked out of the New Orleans crowd. Special mentions must go to Paul Heyman for his superb reactions and the WWE production team for delaying Lesnar's music so that the shock in the stadium was audible.
2. YES! YES! YES!
Daniel Bryan wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 30 (6th April 2014):
Before the story of Kofi Kingston, there was the 'Yes movement.' If there was a discussion about who deserves to be named as wrestler of the decade, then it would be hard to look past Daniel Bryan. His crowning moment came in New Orleans when he defeated Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista in the same night to win the WWE title.
If the rumours are to be believed, much like in the on-screen storyline, behind the scenes WWE management were resistant to making Daniel Bryan the top dog despite him becoming the most popular performer among WWE fans in 2013. The more they resisted his push to the main event, the louder the fans cheered for him, with his signature 'Yes' chant becoming a WWE staple of the modern era. On the same night that the streak died, Vince McMahon finally relented and gave the fans a moment they wanted as Bryan climbed the mountain to round off the best WrestleMania of recent times.
1. Pipe Bomb
CM Punk delivers his 'pipe bomb' promo on Monday Night Raw (27th June 2011):
Arguably the best WWE promo of all time and the most memorable moment of the past decade. In the summer of 2011 CM Punk was coming to the end of his WWE contract and had informed management of his intention to leave. Despite his popularity with fans, Punk had never clicked with some of the key WWE decision-makers behind the scenes and was unhappy with playing second-fiddle to top stars like John Cena and Randy Orton.
In an attempt to convince him to stay, Punk was put into a WWE title programme with Cena and given a live mic on Raw with no script to air his grievances. What followed was a six-minute promo that broke every backstage rule of what WWE superstars are allowed to talk about on-screen, and Punk became a megastar. He did eventually sign a new contract and went on the best run of his career, before leaving acrimoniously in 2014. But this was his career-defining moment that sent wrestling fans into a frenzy that is still talked about to this day.