There's a reason we love the Royal Rumble more than a regular battle royal: The staggered entrants allow for pace, storyline and a much wider space for the talent to work in. Kofi Kingston cheated physics when an otherwise mediocre Andre The Giant Memorial thinned out with the usual false elimination spots. Cesaro tossed Kingston almost straight up and over a ring post, allowing Kingston to make a fantastic, improbable landing with both feet safely on the bottom ring step.
It was awesome because it worked, but it was amazing because it was even booked at all. That's not a spot that works even a third of the time when you run through a match before a PPV. Marvel at the execution but credit the confidence to book it in the first place.
4. Daniel Bryan kicking out of a Pedigree
A great opening match (maybe one of the best ever to open a 'Mania) offered the rarest of reactions when Triple H caught Bryan in a pedigree amidst a series of a false finishes and reversed holds. All credit is due to the most hated man on the pro wrestling Internet -- at that moment even the smarkiest of smark fans thought they were about to witness yet another Triple H self-promotional masterpiece. Groans washed over the crowd as well as Twitter. But Bryan kicked and the joy inside the Superdome was as genuine as it was loud. There's no better accomplishment in pro wrestling than fooling 100 percent of the crowd in 2014.
Turns out there's an upside to WWE's most reviled strategy: If you book John Cena to go over clean long enough, eventually you'll run out of ways to do it and someone else might steal the shine.
Cena's match against Bray Wyatt was blocky and slow in the best way possible. The match's most memorable physical moments were interspersed with dialogue and facial expressions that told a story. I can't remember a 'Mania match that descriptive. This is a feud that works across the spectrum of WWE fandom -- unsettling for 12-year-olds, rewarding for smarks -- and it's all thanks to Wyatt's rising star. If he's not main eventing 'Mania by 2016 something has gone terribly wrong.
Good God Almighty!
After a night where everything that mattered was booked wonderfully, the main event took an early right turn towards hokey when Triple H and Stephanie McMahon reappeared to run-in on Bryan, switch refs and flirt with a potentially disastrous go-home segment of the night's final match. Luckily the goofiness was muted in the match's final act, allowing Bryan and Orton to steal the show. The triple threat served its purpose -- Bryan went over clean and Orton didn't take the fall, allowing for immediate storyline options and a satisfying babyface win. Credit Triple H and WWE Creative: They've booked another Ring of Honor Internet darling into the title picture, but they did it their way and it still worked.
It was time. For a promotion that's ever mindful of its roster's age, WWE spent far too much time Sunday night celebrating its way, way past. I'd guess that maybe half of the arena's audience understood the relevance of that WrestleMania 1 reunion promo. Yet there was "The Streak," a gimmick that dates so far back that it forces mentions of such luminaries as Giant Gonzalez. Over the past decade the WWE has done a mostly admirable job of retiring off its legends into non-wrestling roles with respect and delicacy, all while "The Streak" lumbered on.
It was time. And if you take The Undertaker's physical well-being into mind, you could argue it was past time. At some point the gimmick began to slowly cheapen the legacy of one of the industry's greatest performers. "The Streak" was born as an unintentional circumstance and built into a marketing ploy that became impossible to sustain. With Brock Lesnar's win on Sunday, The Undertaker is free to either end his unparalleled career or work without the constraint of the gimmick. Maybe he'll return to 'Mania and work again (maybe against Sting, as it's been rumored for so long). Maybe he won't. Either way, it was time, and we can assume Taker was gracious and mindful enough to end the streak with a surprise that provided a genuine shock to fans. At its best "The Streak" provided a string of amazing WrestleMania moments, but its end might've been the most memorable.