Top 10 WWE Moments of 2023: The Most Breathtaking and Show-Stopping Moments of the Year!

The WWE has had one of its best years on record in terms of storytelling and fan reactions. But were the best moments of the year?

The WWE has had one of its best years on record in terms of storytelling and fan reactions. But were the best moments of the year?

WWE has seen its fair share of controversy in recent years. Several money scandals, storylines being completely dissected by conflicting heads of creative, and several wrestlers all leaving the company and joining alternative wrestling promotions such as All Elite Wrestling (AEW).

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However, this year has had its fair share of absolutely amazing and breathtaking moments. Those moments reminded us that we can still be entertained despite everything. So, here are ten of those moments!

DISCLAIMER: These moments aren’t written in any particular order and are entirely subject to the opinion of the writer. Is your moment not on the list? Tell us on X (formerly Twitter) @The_Illuminerdi!

1. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens vs. The Usos at WWE WrestleMania 39 Night One

Watch highlights of the Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn vs. The Usos Title Match at WrestleMania 39

Obviously, the first half of the year kicked off with one of the best overarching storylines WWE has told in years with Sami Zayn and the Bloodline, the faction of WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns. Throughout the end of last year, Sami Zayn worked his way into the Bloodline by proving himself to the heel faction and reigniting his stunted WWE career following the comedy match at last year’s WrestleMania.

While there are MANY moments involving Sami Zayn this year that could have made this list, including Zayn’s raucous entrance into Montreal on the SmackDown before this year’s Elimination Chamber match to his original and fan-favorite theme, the culmination of the storyline is what truly made this list.

WWE WrestleMania 39 - Night 1 Kevin Owens and Samy Zayn
Image Credit: WWE

For those unaware, following last year’s final SmackDown show loss to John Cena and Kevin Owens, the Bloodline began steadily turning on Sami Zayn leading into this year’s Royal Rumble. However, in the aftermath of the main event of the Royal Rumble, Sami turned on the Bloodline by attempting to save Kevin Owens by hitting Reigns with a steel chair, officially turning face.

Following this, Zayn went on to face Reigns at the Elimination Chamber Premium Live Event in Montreal, which ended with him losing due to interference from the Bloodline members. Following this, Zayn, with the help of Royal Rumble match winner Cody Rhodes, reconnected with Kevin Owens and challenged Jimmy and Jey Uso to an Undisputed Tag Team Title Match at WrestleMania.

The match itself was hyped beyond belief, with both Sami and Kevin coming out victorious and Undisputed Tag Champions at the Showcase of the Immortals. If you know Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, you know that this match was the culmination of their shared careers, and in a few months, WWE successfully crafted one of the greatest tag team matches in recent memory.

2. L.A. Knight confronting Logan Paul at WWE SmackDown in London

Of all the new Superstars making waves in the WWE this year, L.A Knight is by far one of the most influential. Simple catchphrases, a combination of finishing moves and personality that just screams Attitude Era Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, and a presence that has taken the WWE Universe by storm, L.A. Knight has proven to be one of the fastest-rising stars in the company.

The Megastar has proven his worth both in and out of the ring, and following his storyline with the late Bray Wyatt that concluded at this year’s Royal Rumble, his promos and in-ring ability have skyrocketed him to megastardom. But when thinking back on this year’s numerous L.A. Knight moments, there are two that largely come to mind.

First, on the Monday Night Raw episode proceeding this year’s Money in the Bank Premium Live Event, L.A. Knight confronted the other members of the eponymous ladder match in a promo battle to advertise the event. The subsequent promo he cut was short and to the point, absolutely destroying Ricochet, Shinsuke Nakamura, and the recent addition to the match, Logan Paul.

While that promo was quite possibly one of his most scathing, it pales in comparison to his entrance into London’s O2 arena on the SmackDown the night before the PLE was set to take place. During a segment of the Grayson Waller Effect (hosted by the Australian Heel Grayson Waller), L.A. Knight entered the arena to cut a promo against Logan Paul, Waller’s guest on the interview show.

The crowd reaction alone is worth the watch, generating a smile of true excitement as L.A. Knight absolutely decimated Paul and Waller on the mic, creating one of the best moments of the year just by saying one word: YEAH!

3. Pat McAfee and The Rock return to WWE SmackDown for Season Premiere

Watch The Rock’s electrifying return to WWE SmackDown

Oh, you thought we were done with the Attitude Era symbolism? Nah nah! In a year filled with epic returns and electrifying moments, only a few truly stand out among the rest. While the subsequent returns of Randy Orton, R-Truth, and CM Punk definitely make their mark, there’s a reason Pat McAfee and The Rock returning to WWE Television stand out: no one knew.

With most other returns, rumors were flying around about their eventual appearances. Even with CM Punk, rumors circulated he’d be going to WWE immediately after he was fired by Tony Khan and AEW. But for the season premiere of Friday Night SmackDown on Fox in Denver, Colorado, no one expected the return of the Great One.

Proceeding the events, The Rock made an appearance on the College Football commentary desk in Colorado hosted by McAfee the same day of the SmackDown taping, leading to some rumors of a surprise appearance, but no one really knew what was happening until the most electrifying theme in Sports Entertainment hit following a back and forth between Pat McAfee and Austin Theory.

It was one of those moments that made everyone excited. One of the loudest fan reactions of the whole year. The only question is…will the Rock return to wrestle at the Showcase of the Immortals next year in Philadelphia? Time will tell.

4. CM Punk Returns at WWE Survivor Series: WarGames in Chicago

Hell must have froze over for this to happen! It’d been almost ten years since CM Punk walked out of WWE following a controversial series of events that led to Punk being released from his contract on his wedding day. In those ten years, Punk largely disappeared from the limelight, with a not-so-successful debut in the UFC, a return to color commentary on a now-defunct WWE after-show hosted by Fox, and a very successful but equally controversial series of runs in AEW.

However, following Punk’s multiple altercations with The Elite (Kenny Omega, Nick and Matt Jackson (the Young Bucks), and Hangman Adam Page) as well as Jack Perry (formerly Jungle Boy), Punk was fired from AEW under extremely controversial conditions. In the few months it’s been since All In at London’s Wembley Stadium earlier this year, speculation was abound regarding Punk’s position in the wrestling business.

But all rumors and speculation were squashed when following the monumental return of Randy Orton and the finale of the Men’s WarGames match at Survivor Series in Chicago, the Cult of Personality blared throughout the arena, launching every fan in attendance into a frenzy of cheers. Hell froze over and suddenly the wrestling world was shaken to its very foundations. The Voice of the Voiceless has returned.

5. Bad Bunny vs. Damian Priest at WWE Backlash
Watch the full match!

In the wrestling business, celebrity appearances in matches are almost always panned as the WWE pandering to the audiences. Most of the time, the WWE is trying to get more ticket sales by advertising this specific celebrity personality’s appearance at the show. Fans know not to expect an amazing match. Hell, most fans use these matches as an opportunity to use the bathroom between the matches they actually care about.

That was until Bad Bunny and Logan Paul arrived on the scene. Previously, the only celebrity wrestler to have had any notable matches was Stephen Amell of Arrow fame, but in 2021 when Bad Bunny and Logan Paul entered WWE, they upped the ante with their stellar in-ring performances.

Bad Bunny began his tenure with WWE by marking a special performance at the 2021 Royal Rumble performing his song “Booker T” while the eponymous wrestler stood stoically while Bad Bunny hopped around him to fan applause around the world. However, this also started a program with long-standing WWE Superstar Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, leading to a stunning WrestleMania tag-team match, featuring Miz teaming with his Dirt Sheet stable-mate John Morrison whilst Bad Bunny teamed with Damian Priest.

Since the win at WrestleMania, Bad Bunny went on to perform in the 2022 Royal Rumble, achieving a Final-Five finish before being eliminated by Brock Lesnar. Then, following a special appearance at WrestleMania 39 as a special guest commentator during the Dominick Mysterio vs. Rey Mysterio match, the award-winning hip-hop artist intervened on Rey’s behalf. This led to a feud beginning with his former teammate Damian Priest, who was in The Judgment Day stable with Dirty Dom.

After being announced as the host of Backlash, which was also being held in Puerto Rico, Bad Bunny and Damian Priest agreed to settle the score in a San Juan Street Fight, with Bad Bunny being supported by the Latino World Order (Rey Mysterio, Zelina Vega, Santos Escobar, Joaquin Wilde, and Cruz Del Toro) whilst Damian Priest was supported by the Judgment Day (Finn Balor, Rhea Ripley, and Dominick Mysterio).

The match is amazing as it clearly showcased Bad Bunny’s talent in in-ring competition, Damian Priest’s legitimacy as not only a safe wrestling partner but as a dominant force within the WWE, and surprised fans many times with the returns of two of Puerto Rico’s most lauded wrestlers, Savio Vega and Carlito. The match was one of the MANY highlights of the night, and definitely upped the stakes in future celebrity performances in WWE.

6. Gunther breaking the Intercontinental Championship Record

Watch highlights from Gunther’s Title Reign

When it comes to dominant forces in WWE, none can argue that Gunther has certainly left his mark on the business. One of the strongest and most talented wrestlers in recent years, Gunther was championship material from the moment he stepped into NXT with his stablemates in Imperium, Giovanni Vinci and Ludwig Kaiser.

Many pegged him as world champion material from the get-go, but none knew just how powerful he would be. Instead of going after the Universal Championship or the Heavyweight Championship, Gunther set his sights on one of WWE’s lower championships, the Intercontinental Championship. The IC Title is often considered one of the most historical stepping stone championships in WWE’s long history, with many, many superstars winning it and going onto historic careers.

However, in recent years, the IC Title began to be pushed into a more mediocre position while more emphasis was placed on the two main championships, changing hands constantly. But it wasn’t until Gunther got his hands on it that the championship began receiving the elevation it desperately needed. None more so than now that Gunther has gone largely undefeated during his reign, leading to him eventually breaking the Honky Tonk Man’s 454 Day-long Reign this year.

It should come as no surprise that Gunther is considered by many to be top-star material, especially now that he has successfully defended the title for a combined 553 days and counting. Every day, he inches closer to breaking The Miz’s record of a combined 592 days from his combined 8 reigns. Gunther’s reign has reignited the title’s extensive history and brought it back to a level on par with the WWE Championship.

7. Zelina Vega vs. Rhea Ripley at WWE Backlash

Zelina Vega’s emotional weekend at WWE Backlash

Going back to Backlash for a bit, I wanted to take a look at the truly impressive year that women’s wrestling has had within the WWE. The year kicked off with Rhea Ripley winning the Women’s Royal Rumble and going on to capture the Women’s World Championship at WrestleMania 39 and is still champion to this day. Rhea had a lot of stunning and brutal matches in 2023, but one of the best was at Backlash.

Entering into a feud with Rhea was Zelina Vega, the only female member of the LWO. Following a longstanding rivalry between the LWO and The Judgment Day due to both stables having a member of the Mysterio family on each team, Backlash was stacked to become an absolute monster of a back-and-forth between both stables, leading to Zelina requesting a match against Rhea at Backlash, which was granted.

The match itself showed the stunning talent that Zelina had as a wrestler, something that many knew but hadn’t been utilized to great effect until Backlash. While Rhea came out on top, it was the post-match that guaranteed this as a moment of the year, as the Puerto Rico crowd cheered and gave Zelina a standing ovation. Having spent most of her career as a heel, the moment was heartwarming and affirmed Zelina as a main event superstar, even if she hasn’t seen much forward movement since then.

8. Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar Trilogy

Watch highlights from Brock Lesnar vs. Cody Rhodes at WWE SummerSlam

Okay, I know I’m kinda cheating here, putting three whole matches as a singular moment, but this trilogy of matches stunned the world in many, many different ways. So, let’s dive into it.

After returning to WWE at WrestleMania 38 in 2022, Cody Rhodes went on to have an absolutely stellar run within the company. This was exemplified perfectly with his Hell in a Cell match with current WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins, a match that was stunningly controversial due in part to the fact Cody was visibly injured and was removed from the active roster following his victory over Rollins at the event.

Returning at the 2023 Royal Rumble, Cody went on to win the titular match and challenged Roman Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania 39’s Night 2, losing due to the interference of The Usos. The next night on Raw, Cody challenged Roman to a tag-team match with Roman to team with Solo Sikoa. Cody’s partner wasn’t revealed until the end of the night when Brock Lesnar, Reigns’ longstanding rival, returned and…turned heel on Cody.

The trilogy of main event matches were each amazing in both storyline and in-ring action. The first match was at (unsurprisingly) Backlash, where Cody came out on top following a reversal of Lesnar’s submission hold and several weapons and an exposed turnbuckle busting open Lesnar’s face. Following the match, Cody was injured in an attack by Lesnar at the following Raw, leaving Cody’s arm broken (kayfabe).

Post WrestleMania 39 WWE Raw - Cody Rhodes and Brock Lesnar
Image Credit: WWE

The broken arm led to Lesnar beating Rhodes at Night of Champions in a stunning match, with Rhodes using the titanium-enforced cast to his advantage throughout the match. Despite an excellent showing from Rhodes, Lesnar locked in his Kimura Lock submission hold, leading to Rhodes passing out in the middle of the ring, giving Lesnar the victory.

The feud came to an end at Summerslam in the final match of the trilogy. Lesnar spent most of the match attempting to win by count-out, but despite the damage he took, Rhodes continually broke the count even with a few close calls. In the end, Rhodes beat Lesnar following several amazing moments, including Rhodes locking in the Kimura Lock on Lesnar. Following the match, Lesnar personally endorsed Rhodes, an uncharacteristic move due to his heel status.

The trilogy showcased both performers’ abilities as wrestlers and as performers, with Rhodes and Lesnar both receiving praise for their talent.

9. The WWE Fastlane Press Conference (Yeet!)

Watch the full segment of the WWE Fastlane Press Conference featuring Main Event Jey Uso and Cody Rhodes

Taking a moment away from wrestling for a moment, let’s look at one of the funniest moments of the entire year. Following Rhodes’ rivalry with Lesnar, Cody returned to his main mission of fighting against the main villains of the Raw brand, the Judgment Day. Teaming up with the returning fan-favorite Main Event Jey Uso, Rhodes and Uso beat the Judgment Day’s Finn Balor and Damian Priest to win the Undisputed Tag-Team Titles.

This moment is special in a lot of ways, chief among them is that this is Jey’s first reign as Tag-Team Champion without his brother Jimmy, who was working with The Bloodline after turning heel earlier in the year. It was a celebratory moment as Jey continued to reestablish himself as a main event-level superstar and a top babyface in the company. But while the match itself was amazing, it was the post-show press conference that left many fans in good spirits (pun intended).

Following the match, Jey and Cody appeared at the Press Conference, with Cody himself stating plainly that the two had had some “libations” between the two appearances, celebrating the win in style. The majority of the press conference was directed at Rhodes with questions regarding his upcoming appearance on NXT the following week and his current run and its relationship with his late father Dusty Rhodes.

Though the hilarity never stopped throughout the entire segment, with Jey struggling to keep both the Tag Titles on his shoulders and chiming in with an occasional “Yeet”. Cody himself played off some of the hilarity, chiming in with a “Do you feel him, sir?” following a question directed at Jey regarding his feelings about going solo and winning the titles without Jimmy.

This entire segment needs to be seen to be believed.

10. The Usos turning Face on the Bloodline on WWE SmackDown

While clearly not the most stunning moment in the WWE of the year, it was one of the biggest storyline moments in the Bloodline storyline since Roman Reigns’ Universal Championship reign began in 2020. From the get-go, Roman and his relationship with his cousins Jimmy and Jey Uso was a complicated one, with many comparisons of Reigns’ heel persona being made to abusive and manipulative, making Reigns a compelling villain.

However with the bad came the good, as Jey rose to prominence as Main Event Jey Uso during this period of time. Though, following his comedic match with Johnny Knoxville at WrestleMania 38, Sami Zayn joined the Bloodline and skyrocketed their popularity to insane levels, though it also began a feud with Jey Uso.

To the fans around the world, the story was clear. Jey was manipulated into being a member of the Bloodline from the beginning, suffering the abuse of Roman the whole time. Then comes Sami who willingly joins the Bloodline. The story writes itself.

But following the Uso’s loss at WrestleMania 39 to Sami and Kevin Owens, the Bloodline began to fracture, culminating in Jimmy and Jey turning on Roman to the WWE Universe’s applause. Seeing Jey break free of Roman’s torment and going on to beat both Roman and Solo at the following Money in the Bank PLE, with Jey himself giving Roman his first pinfall loss since his reign began in December 2019.

While the Usos’ eventual breakup was inevitable, this moment solidified Jey and Jimmy as solo superstars each talented beyond working together. Jey went on to challenge Reigns at the Night of Champions PLE, though lost due to Jimmy’s interference. This moment solidified the storytelling prowess of WWE and the Usos.

What’s Next for 2024?

2023 has certainly been an incredible year for WWE, for fans and superstars alike. Though with the return of CM Punk and Randy Orton at Survivor Series, 2024 is already starting to look like another banger year. CM Punk has already begun his feud with Seth Rollins, announcing last week his intent on entering the WWE Royal Rumble PLE next January, while Randy Orton formally challenged Roman to a match for the championship at the same event.

The Judgment Day is also in the process of leading into 2024 on their own front, with rumors abound about a possible break-up coming before WrestleMania 40 in Philly, possibly teasing a 2-on-2 Tag-Team match between Damian Priest with Dominick Mysterio vs. Finn Balor with J.D. McDonough. Though it’s impossible to predict exactly what will happen in the next few months, be prepared to see a truly stunning year in the coming months!

Was your favorite WWE moment of 2023? What was your favorite moment that did not make it onto our list? Let us know on Twitter! Follow us @The_Illuminerdi to receive updates on wrestling as well as other entertainment media news!

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