Greetings, salutations, and Happy holidays! Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas (or Festivus if you’re a rebel who watches Seinfeld). Not to get too involved with the current program, I wanted to do a year in review this week since this is the final week of 2018 and nothing really eventful is occuring this week. This week’s WWE Wednesday is discussing the year the company’s had whether the good, the bad, and the who who who who….Bad Day reference anybody? Ooook.
Let’s discuss the good first, because despite my criticism over the last couple of weeks, there were some positive moments in WWE. For starters, the women in WWE dominated 2018 in terms of headlines and match highlights. We had the first all womens Royal Rumble match which also had the rightful honor to headline the ppv. The rumble featured many returns, a few renewed rivalries, and some new star power in the roster. But in the end, there can only be one winner and that superstar was Asuka who deserved that moment, probably more than anyone that competed in the match after showing everybody why nobody in the roster at the time was ready for Asuka. Although she suffered her first loss at Mania against Flair and had a few bumps throughout the year, the Empress of Tomorrow would rally and win her first Smackdown championship at the final ppv of 2018.
Another major highlight also took place at the Royal Rumble. We had the arrival of Rowdy Ronda Rousey who made her presence felt at the end of the women’s Royal Rumble letting Asuka, Smackdown Champion Charlotte Flair, and Raw Champion Alexa Bliss aware that the former UFC Bantemweight Champion is here. Ronda would make her debut at Wrestlemania in a mixed tag team match with Kurt Angle as her partner to face WWE COO and former 14x World Champion HHH along with his wife and part owner, Stephanie McMahon. Rousey shocked the world with her quick knowledge of the ring and her impressive skill set. It would mark her first victory in a winning streak that still hasn’t been broken as I write this. Since Mania, Rousey has gone to compete in a handful of top quality matches and ultimately winning the Raw Women’s Championship from Alexa Bliss at Summerslam.
One female superstar that completely took control of her destiny in 2018 is Becky Lynch. Nobody, man or woman, has gained such a popular fanbase than Lynch did in the year. She’s been a babyface throughout her entire WWE career, but at Summerslam when she lost her triple threat match against Carmella and Charlotte for the Smackdown Women’s Championship, Lynch snapped and became a whole new person attacking her best friend who had just won the title. You’d think the fans would boo and disapprove this new Becky, but quite the contrary. The crowd absolutely loved this new aggressive persona and felt she was robbed of not only the match, but a push to the main event picture she had been fighting to reach her whole life. Even when she won the first ever Women’s Smackdown Championship, it seemed like management was overlooking her and her potential. That all changed at the tail end of the year when Becky regained the title from Flair and dubbed herself “The Man”. Her popularity only continued to grow as fans understood her struggle and related her fight in the same way we’ve all fought for recognition of our hard work. Although she lost the title at the TLC ppv in a triple threat TLC against Asuka and Flair, Lynch still has a champion swagger that could easily carry her into the main event scene in 2019.
The women evolution hit a new high when WWE finally created a ppv exclusively to the ladies of past and present WWE superstars. Trish Stratus and Lita returned, along with Tori Wilson, Ivory, and Michelle McCool and we had Becky Lynch face Charlotte Flair in a Last Woman Standing Match which should be considered match of the year because nothing was as intense as that match. Well done to all ladies involved.
While the ladies took over most of the headlines in 2018, the men had some impactful moments. Queue the haters, it’s a Roman Reigns nod. Reigns had quite the year in regards to chasing the Universal Championship. He headlined, yet failed to capture the belt from Brock Lesnar, who hasn’t really been around since winning it the Wrestlemania prior. Reigns spent the bulk of the year chasing the title until finally achieving his goal at Summerslam. Say what you will about Roman Reigns, he was a major workhorse, not just in 2018, but his whole career and absolutely deserves his place in the main event picture and as the face of the company. However, his title run did get cut very abruptly as I’ll mention that later, but whether you loved him or hated him, he was must see and I for one respect the man’s drive and ambition.
One of Roman Reigns’ biggest foes (no pun intended) was also a major highlight in 2018 and that guy was Braun Strowman. Now I’m not sure what WWE management had in mind for Strowman, but the fans already envisioned a main event push for the Monster Among Men and they petitioned hard for it. While Strowman didn’t get a high profile match at Wrestlemania, he did get a rather unique storyline. He was set to compete in a tag team championship match, but didn’t have a partner. We wouldn’t know his partner until the big night when he revealed his partner would be a fan in the audience. Even with a 10 year old fan in his corner, Strowman managed to win the tag team titles by himself. Since then, Strowman has won the Money in the Bank contract and has been in a few high profile matches regarding Reigns and Lesnar. He’s currently on the sidelines dealing with an elbow injury, but hopefully will pick up the new year where he left off.
With our ups comes our downs. One of the biggest blows came from a real life situation. In late October, Reigns announced that he his leukaemia had resurfaced and would have to take time off to battle the cancer. Love the man or not, you never wish this kind of thing to a man, especially a good, hardworking father who puts his family ahead of his own life. The entire wrestling and sport world was rocked by this news leaving many people their thoughts, prayers, and best wishes. I myself wish Roman Reigns a speedy recovery and looking forward to seeing the Big Dog take back his yard.
It seems that politics played a part in every single aspect of our lives and WWE was not immune. The company was set to travel to Saudi Arabia to air a WWE Network special entitled Crown Jewel. All looked good and ready until news broke out about the controversy surrounding the Crown Prince and a Turkish journalist who went missing and ultimately killed in the Consulate. This obviously looked bad and decisions had to be made fast even though any decision was going to cost WWE a significant amount. The final call was to continue the ppv as is even though stocks did take a hit and superstars did protest the outcome such as John Cena and Daniel Bryan. But as Vince says “the show must go on”.
My biggest complaint of the year took place at the last two months of 2018 when the creative team seemed to have called it a year. I’m not going to write this like some ignorant fan yelling for not getting whay they want like THEIR champion or THEIR main event without any thought of the longterm goal. I get it that writing for a multi-million dollar company can be hard work and even stressful. I also understand that writing five hours of content is no picnic. I don’t even entirely fault the company as much as I do USA Network and Universal for putting that kind of pressure on the creative team. But it boggles my mind when ridiculous content is allowed on television when something more constructive could’ve taken its place. Lucha House Party was a waste, Dean Ambrose’s heel turn was poorly handled and some of the promo work felt forced. Sometimes it’s best to let some of these men and women handle their own work as the end result comes off more organic and entertaining. The writers also needed a hook to start the show and lately, it’s the same formula every Monday from 8:00-8:17; recap, promo, interfere promo, make match, commercial break. I’m not hooked nor interested until later in the show but by then, the show is already dwindling down and the ending is almost as lack luster as the beginning.
2018 has been a rollercoaster year for WWE in front of the camera and behind the scenes. We saw women shatter the glass ceiling and we saw milestones get celebrated. We witnessed heartbreaking announcements and headscratching storylines. Although I did express some frustration towards the direction of the company, I was a fan of this business for 30 years and will continue to stay loyal even in the lows. Here’s to a strong and successful 2019 and to new milestones to achieve.