While participating in the initial Greatest WWE Wrestler of All Time project, I would say my opinions on the history of WWE from WrestleMania I through WrestleMania XX was fairly well solidified. There were some hidden gems I found along the way that moved the needle on a few people but mostly that period of time was pretty well cemented. The two things I gained from the first project was that I learned how to really watch wrestling, as in pay close attention to the subtle and nuance that separates good performers from the greats. The second was I gained a greater appreciation for the pre-Hogan era of WWE. Most of the 1963 to 1984 period of time I hadn’t seen or spent much time thinking about. It’s an acquired taste for sure as the style is very different from what I am used to but I found many matches and wrestlers that I enjoyed greatly.
Going into this revised project, I realized that I had a very large blind spot for the 2010s. With all that has happened in the last couple of years, it can be lost on us that a decade ended just a couple years ago. For my part, the whole decade is kind of a blur. Certainly in terms of wrestling. I’ll be the first to admit that much of my opinions of the time were jaded by the cynical opinions of vocal masses online. I don’t know that I really gave the decade of the 2010s a fair chance while they were happening. There were also periods of time in which I was not watching. In many cases I just took the word for it from people who were watching and hating on everything they were seeing. The audience seems to split into two factions. Older fans who were too cool to enjoy their favorite show and little kids who thought John Cena was cool because we won all the time. Certainly, there is more to explore from this decade than that.
So my goal here is to go month by month and give a snapshot of what was taking place during this period of time. I’ll be watching all of Raw, Smackdown, and NXT. I’ll watch and do a write up on as much of this period of time as I can before the end of the year with my goal being to reach the end of 2019. I’m look at this with a completely open mind. I lose absolutely nothing by enjoying wrestling. I want this to be an honest appraisal of the decade. All in all though, it’s really just my opinion and I hope that this will inspire some conversation and excitement for the Greatest WWE Wrestlers Project.
We begin the 2010s with Sheamus as the WWE Champion, having just beat John Cena in a tables match at TLC in December. On Smackdown, The Undertaker is the World Heavyweight Champion, having won the title from CM Punk at Hell in a Cell back in October of 2009. Raw is knee deep in the Guest Host Era, featuring various celebrities promoting their newest projects with different degrees of interest or knowledge of the WWE product. Raw is more of a Sports Entertainment based show with comedy segments, long winded promos, fairly short matches, and the primary focus being only on the top few performers. It’s unfair to say there was no good wrestling on Raw. The show generally presented one or two good matches per show. Smackdown was more focused on in ring action. The matches tend to be longer. There are occasionally long promo segments, not nearly to the degree of Raw but they do exist. The cornball comedy isn’t nearly as pronounced with Santino Marella and Hornswoggle being on Raw. The World Tag Team titles have been unified with the Champions floating between both shows. The brand split is in effect but the rules of who can appear on what show tend to get a bit fuzzy.
Raw kicks off in grand fashion with the return of Bret “The Hitman” Hart to Raw for the first time in 12 years. In a feel good segment he buries the hatchet with Shawn Michaels. It looks like they will have a similar moment with Mr. McMahon to end the first Raw of 2010, Vince even promising to put Stu Hart in the WWE Hall of Fame. The segment ends with a low blow and Bret left laying in the middle of the ring. In the following weeks, Vince comes to the ring to run down Bret Hart, telling the WWE Universe (this phrase has been a thing for over ten years and it is still grating.) that they will never see Bret Hart again. The Undertaker and later John Cena interrupt Vince in consecutive weeks to appeal on Bret’s behalf. This will continue into February.
Sheamus is our WWE Champion, on a meteoric rise that few have seen in recent WWE history. He’s only been on Raw for a few months and he is already WWE Champion. John Cena would like an opportunity to regain the title but Sheamus is moving on to bigger and better things. Like a mini feud with Evan Bourne. Randy Orton overcomes the issues he is having with on having within his faction, Legacy, to become Number One contender. The Legacy feud gets in the way of any meaningful build for the Sheamus vs Orton Match at Royal Rumble. John Cena will get another shot at Sheamus but the match ends in DQ with Orton attacking Sheamus to save his title match at Royal Rumble. Sheamus may be the Champion but he sure isn’t treated like the focus of Raw or anything.
Legacy explodes! Not quite the Mega Powers exploding but still. Ted DiBiase Jr and Cody Rhodes have taken about enough abuse from Randy Orton. Orton has had about enough of their bumbling and screwing up. They begin a slow motion break up. This leads to Royal Rumble where Rhodes and DiBiase cost Randy Orton the WWE Champion, solidifying the perception of Sheamus as a weak Champion. I don’t know who to cheer for here as both sides have a point.
The latest DX revival is winding down. Shawn Michaels and Triple H are the Unified Tag Team Champions. But Shawn very badly wants to avenge his lose to The Undertaker last year at WrestleMania. When he calls out the Undertaker directly, he just says no. So Shawn is focused on winning the Royal Rumble to go on and challenge the Undertaker’s streak at WrestleMania. Unfortunately, the road to WrestleMania is going to take a few detours for The Heartbreak Kid. For DX’s part, they defeat JeriShow on Raw, banishing Jericho from the brand forever. Forever lasts until next week where Jericho is teaming with Mike Tyson against DX. Tyson turns on Jericho, giving him a blackeye. Next for DX, in a six man match teaming with their mascot Hornswoggle, they contend with the formidable challenge of The Miz, Big Show, and Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame in a Raw main event we will never forget no matter how hard we try. DX puts DiBiase and Rhodes in their place the next week. Shawn will not be successful in his attempts to win the Royal Rumble, which sets him off.
Speaking of The Miz, he really comes into his own in 2010. Miz is our US Champion, having held the title since beating Kofi Kingston on Raw in October. MVP wins a number one contenders four way, earning his title shot at Royal Rumble. Miz cuts a great promo on the 1/11 Raw. Starts in the backstage area and walks into the arena and the ring talking about his very real struggles to get where he is at today in WWE. MVP interrupts him and cuts a very good promo of his own, talking about his criminal past and how he is open about it to keep others from following in his path. The fans are really getting behind the MVP face turn. On the strength of this promo they are able to build to their match at the Royal Rumble for the US Title. It was a pretty good match, all in all.
Also happening on Raw, the Diva’s Title has been held up because of an injury to Melina. There will be a tournament to determine a new champion. Maryse seems to be the focus of his storyline. She has an interesting moment, crossing paths with The Miz between matches. Miz speaks French to her. This will lead to children at some point in the future. Also on Raw, Jack Swagger is very confident he will win the Royal Rumble. He issues a Over The Top Rope All American American Challenege and loses every time. The Guest Host segments eat up a good portion of the show. It gives a lot of camera time to people like Hornswoggle, Santino Marella, and The Bella Twins.
The Undertaker is our World Heavyweight Champion. His role for the month is to tell Shawn Michaels he is not at all interested in having a rematch at WrestleMania and waiting for a number one contender to emerge between Rey Mysterio and Batista. When Rey prevails, Undertaker cuts a promo telling Rey he has no chance and will Rest In Peace. Rey’s retort is that he is not afraid of The Undertaker. The match at Royal Rumble is fine. Rey has a better match with Batista to gain the title shot than the title match itself.
CM Punk is going some great work establishing the Straight Edge Society. I love the attention to detail that they admit Luke Gallows was Fetus then CM Punk helped him get off drugs and he became normal again. What does that tell us about Jesse? What was in those Biscuits and Gravy? CM Punk preaches the benefits of the Straight Edge lifestyle. He invites people into the ring to pledge their allegiance to CM Punk. He shaves their head as a sign of devotion. These segments drag a little. In one of these head shaving segments, Serena Deeb joins the team. As of yet, she hasnt seen in ring action. It’s helping Punk get over. He has a great spot in the Royal Rumble where he clears the ring and gives his sermon between eliminations. Punk and Gallows earn a Unified Tag Team Title Match which will not take place at Royal Rumble.
Laycool are having very entertaining segments on Smackdown. They work very well together in their mean girls routine. They are fat shaming Mickie James. They go so far as to shove a cake in the face of Mickie, sending her off crying. Layla mocks Mickie mercilessly wearing a fat suit in a segment. Mickie gets the last word in this match, winning the Women’s Title at Royal Rumble.
Chris Jericho accepts his fate, being banished from Raw and relegated to Smackdown. His story on Smackdown is more or less just that he is heading to Royal Rumble with the goal of winning it.
Batista is doing some of his best character work as a heel. He demands the spotlight, whines a lot, and wants the World Heavyweight Championship. He has probably the best two TV Matches of the month again Rey Mysterio, trying to get the Number One Contenders spot. Once that doesn’t pan out, he moves on to the Royal Rumble, which he doesn’t win.
Who does win the Royal Rumble is this man, Edge. This story isn’t necessarily Smackdown exclusive but it is the biggest moment of the month. Edge was out with an Achilles injury. He wasn’t expected to return until after WrestleMania. So when his music hits at the Royal Rumble, it caught everyone off guard. This is one of the best wins in Royal Rumble history. Keeping this secret a secret really paid off in an era where every detail was leaked to the wrestling news sites. The surprise of the moment was enough to carry the rest of this Rumble match in a way that has rarely been seen.
- The 2010 Royal Rumble.
- Rey Mysterio vs Batista. #1 Contenders Steel Cage Match. 1/15/10 Smackdown
- Rey Mysterio vs Batista. #1 Contenders Match. 1/8/10 Smackdown.
- Randy Orton vs John Cena vs Kofi Kingston. #1 Contenders Match. 1/11/10 Raw.
- Kofi Kingston vs Randy Orton. 1/4/10 Raw.
- Chris Jericho vs Rey Mysterio. 1/1/10 Smackdown.
- John Morrison & R Truth vs Drew McIntyre & Chris Jericho. 1/22/10 Smackdown.
- DX vs JeriShow. Unified Tag Team Title Match. 1/4/10 Raw.
- Sheamus vs John Cena. 1/25/10. RAW
- Shawn Michaels vs Rey Mysterio. 1/29/10 Smackdown.
- Dolph Ziggler vs Kane. 1/15/10 Smackdown.
- CM Punk vs Triple H. 1/29/10 Smackdown.