Mount Rushmores of Wrestling is a series that breaks down the cream of the crop of professional wrestling in our quest to come to a consensus on the top four of any given category. In today’s edition we’re looking at the best WWE Superstars of the 2010-2020 era.
JJ: The Beast Incarnate is the most dominant force to grace the squared circle in the history of professional wrestling, let alone the past ten years. Besides beating people up in UFC, WWE is where Brock Lesnar is best known for exerting his will upon those foolish enough to cross his path. It all began back in 2002 when he debuted with WWE. Within the span of a few short years, Lesnar had three runs as WWE Champion before leaving the company in 2004. Fast forward to eight years later in 2012 and Lesnar is back on WWE television to dominate John Cena — the Superman of WWE — like he’s a child’s plaything, absolutely destroying Cena on repeated occasions and making him bleed like a stuck pig courtesy of brutal elbows to the head.
From there, Lesnar’s revenge tour only got worse, culminating in one of the most shocking moments in the history of both WWE and the professional wrestling industry: breaking The Streak. The Undertaker is a character that’s been synonymous with WrestleMania for over twenty years by destroying one opponent after another. Each year, every fan watching the greatest show on earth knew one thing for certain: the Undertaker would beat whatever opponent stepped in front of him. At least, that used to be true, until Brock Lesnar arrived. At WrestleMania XXX, Lesnar shocked the world by breaking the Undertaker’s undefeated streak and declaring himself in as the most dangerous man in pro wrestling.
The remainder of the decade didn’t get any better for Lesnar’s opponents. The Beast secured two additional Universal Championship runs — one of which is the longest in company history at 504 days — and delivered Suplex City to the world by making John Cena eat sixteen German suplexes in a row at SummerSlam. Following the introduction of Suplex City, Lesnar continued to tear through the top echelons of the roster, destroying the likes of Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose to name a few.
So while Lesnar may be gone from WWE these days, his reign of terror and enduring legacy of destroying anyone and everyone in WWE very much lives on.
Dana: “I feel I have a responsibility to the younger wrestlers on the roster, the ones who aren’t signed yet, and the future of pro-wrestling as a whole to help make this place better and to change this place. I certainly can’t change it by sitting on my couch in Chicago.”
Punk was only an active WWE Superstar until January of 2014, but he made a large enough impact that he proved his own quote wrong. Not only did his presence raise the product up in what was considered one of the most dismal times in wrestling, but his absence left a huge gap to be filled. That gap was not fillable by one single person — it took an entire new brand to fill the hole he left.
The amount of stuff Punk accomplished from 2010 to the beginning of 2014 is kind of wild. He led two separate factions in the Straight Edge Society and the New Nexus. He cut what many still consider one of the best promos of all time with “The Pipe Bomb.” In fact, if I were to say something negative about what CM Punk brought to wrestling, it’s that he was TOO good on the mic. Just like somebody no-selling a punch, Punk could no-sell people on the mic. He made Kevin Nash look like a big dummy in their short lived feud. “OMG, Kevin Nash. WTF, thought he was dead. LOL.” Punk was also part of the first five star match in WWE since HBK fought the Undertaker at Badd Blood in 1997 with his match against Cena at Money in the Bank.
Speaking of the Undertaker, Punk was such a dastardly heel during the build up to WrestleMania 29 that the baseline of a heel for me now is “yeah, but like, did they wipe the ashes of their opponent’s real-life-deceased kayfabe father all over their body?”
To top it off, he held the WWE Champion for 434 days, giving him the moniker of Longest Reigning WWE Champion of the Modern Era.
JJ: This selection should come as a surprise to absolutely no one. Daniel Bryan in my opinion is the best total package wrestler in WWE for the past ten years, with Lesnar only edging him out because of Bryan’s first retirement being forced upon him. Besides the fact that the man is a Grand Slam champion, he’s also headlined countless pay-per-views, been the face of the company, and has the greatest WrestleMania story in company history (this isn’t open for debate).
If his accolades aren’t doing it for you, how about the fact that he’s a master storyteller, has phenomenal in-ring ability, a great sense of humor, and he’s just so damn likeable? Bryan has every tool in his chest that a wrestler could possibly hope for, from his technical/submission ability and mic skills, to his willingness to take risks and comedic timing. But he also has something that you just can’t teach: his humility, regular Joe persona, and connection to the fans. As an underdog, Bryan used all three to do something that no one has ever been able to do like he has before: he forced WWE to listen to its fans and the subsequent pieces that fell into place helped create one of the biggest stars and best stories in company history.
Daniel Bryan was forced to retire from the ring in 2016 due to injuries. But being the Hal freaking Jordan of the wrestling world, he refused to give up or back down in the face of his dream being taken from him. And so, for three years, he fought for inch after inch after inch, until he pulled his way out of the hole he had fallen into, proved countless medical experts wrong, and returned to in-ring action. That alone was impressive enough, but he wasn’t done. No. Bryan went on to reinvent himself as a heel, capture the WWE Championship, and feud with the best WWE has to offer.
I could go on. But if I need to at this point because you still aren’t convinced, then you’re a lost cause.
Dana: Seth Freakin’ Rollins. From the hardcore kid having banger matches with the likes of Dean Ambrose and Richie Steamboat in FCW, to the Architect of The Shield cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase on Brock Lesnar at Roman Reign’s expense at the biggest stage of them all; Seth Rollins’ name is nearly synonymous with “WWE Superstar” in the 2010s.
At first glance Seth and Punk may seem similar, but I think they’re both on this list for very different reasons. CM Punk was a borderline flash-in-the-pan and (he’ll have you believe) succeeded despite WWE, while Rollins succeeded in large part because of the longevity and the way that he has toed the company line. His list of accomplishments speaks to being a long term company dude and is frankly staggering.
Seth Rollins was the first ever FCW Grand Slam Champion, which means he won all the belts possible (Florida Heavyweight, Jack Brisco 15, and Florida Tag Team) at the time. He is the inaugural NXT Champion, a six time Tag Champion, a United States Champion, a two time Intercontinental Champion, a two time World Champion and a two time Universal Champion. And on top of all the gold he claimed, he also won the Money in the Bank briefcase and the Royal Rumble match. If Seth wasn’t one of the major faces of pre-WWE Network NXT, there’s a strong argument to be made that NXT would not be where it is today.
Rollins generally didn’t have the best match on the card, but it’s not like he’s a slouch in the ring, and you know you’re going to be entertained by his storylines for the most part. I think he is far more successful being an annoying POS bad guy than a “I’m happy to be here in front of the WWE Universe” good guy, but again, Seth can toe the line and he toes it well.
Oh yeah, and on top of all, that he was a founding member of what will be remembered as one of the best factions in wrestling of all time in The Shield.
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