#23 Cesaro vs. Randy Orton (SmackDown; Feb. 14)
Since his arrival in WWE, many had pegged Cesaro as a star of the future. But The Swiss Superman did not get a chance to truly prove it until he faced then–WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton on Valentine’s Day 2014. Cesaro showed off his impressive strength, mat wrestling ability and powerful striking acumen. With Zeb Colter and, surprisingly, the WWE Universe, willing him on, Cesaro took everything The Viper had and answered with blistering offense of his own. The King of Swing lived up to his moniker, dizzying Orton with his patented Cesaro Swing.
In the end, The Swiss Superman reversed an attempted top-rope superplex into a sunset flip powerbomb, followed up with a bone-rattling European Uppercut and the Neutralizer to pick up what should have been a star-making victory. — Bobby Melok
#15 Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena vs. Cesaro vs. Christian vs. Sheamus — WWE World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber Match (Elimination Chamber)
Why was the 2014 Elimination Chamber Match — featuring Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Cesaro, Sheamus and Christian at the pay-per-view of the same name — one of the Top 25 Matches of the Year? Let’s see: Five Superstars looked to rearrange “The Face of WWE” Randy Orton and capture his WWE World Heavyweight Title. Competitors constantly hurled each other onto every inch the unforgiving steel structure and through the pods themselves. Cena Attitude-Adjusted one Superstar onto another. And odd alliances were formed to seize the advantage.
Sheamus Brogue Kicked … well … everybody. Cesaro took Orton on a 27-rotation Cesaro Swing. WWE’s Apex Predator superplexed Sheamus (allowing Christian to hit The Celtic Warrior with a Frog Splash from the top of the pod). The “Yes!” movement erupted in every directing of the WWE Universe. The Wyatt Family materialized to obliterate the Cenation leader. And Kane emerged to finally help The Viper RKO Daniel Bryan into oblivion. Yep, that about covers it. — Muchael Burdick
#7 Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Batista — Triple Threat WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match (WrestleMania 30)
During the 2014 Royal Rumble Match, the crowd inside Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center showered the bout’s eventual winner, a returning Batista, with a chorus of deafening boos when it became evident that fan-favorite Daniel Bryan would not be entering the signature match.
With The Animal’s ticket stamped for WrestleMania 30 and a main-event title match set with WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton, Bryan was seemingly out of the title race. The WWE Universe, however, would not be denied. Due to overwhelming fan reaction at Live Events and on social media, The Authority was forced to reevaluate the “Yes!” Man’s role in the title hunt. As a result, he was given an opportunity to face Triple H at The Show of Shows; were he to defeat The Game, he would then be entered into a Triple Threat Match later that night for the WWE World Heavyweight Title. After successfully besting Triple H, Bryan lined up across from Batista and Orton for the main event. The 75,000 WWE fans inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans had reached a frenzied pitch by the opening bell. Having endured the punishment of both The Animal and The Viper, as well as interference by The Authority, Bryan nonetheless found himself in the ring alone with Batista near the match’s 23-minute mark. When Bryan slapped on the “Yes!” Lock, Batista tapped out, earning the “Yes!” Man the WWE World Heavyweight Title and a tsunami of “Yes!” chants that rippled throughout The Big Easy well into the waning hours of the historic evening. — Greg Adkins
#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. — Zack 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