So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #020: The Year in WWE… The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In 2018, The WWE was up, down, and all around. As I skirted towards canceling my WWE Network subscription several times… I never mustered the courage enough to say “no more”. I’ll even freely admit the only times I used my subscription was to watch the PPV’s — save, of course, for Crown Jewel and the Super Showdown. It seems the 5 hours of program I pay for otherwise via my cable bill tends to give me enough content in a given week. Such that I’ve never felt a desire to burden myself with NXT, 205 Live, or any other original programming the McMahon family wishes to inundate me with.

With that being said, I still consider myself to be a fan. I follow RAW and Smackdown Live every week, and typically watch more than enough YouTube shows on the subject than I care to admit. With the end of the year upon us, it’s time to do what so many (too many) of us smart marks do; make a list of things to argue about with one another.

I present to you now, without any further needless banter, my 2018 year in review. And because I believe in ending snarky things with a smile, we’ll go in reverse order. 

The Ugly

Simply put, Crown Jewel was top-to-bottom the drizzlin’ shits (as Stone Cold might say). From making clear that the WWE would honor its multi-year multi-million-dollar deal with a country whose leadership is suspected in the murder of a journalist living in America, to peddling out quasi-apologetic racist Hulk Hogan, straight through to the hilariously bad booking of the show, it could not have been any worse of an event. But hey, it did declare Shane McMahon the best in the world. So, we have that.

In other ugliness, I’d be remiss to not mention the slew of injuries that plagued the active roster over 2018. Heck, look right now to those folks still recovering: Sami Zayn, Braun Strowman, Kevin Owens, and Alexa Bliss. But none more potently a kick to the nether-yayas than the Big Dog Roman Reigns. Joseph Anoa’I shocked the wrestling world to its core in late October — telling the WWE universe the leukemia he’d battled a decade ago ceased to be in remission, forcing his current hiatus from action. The ripples sent through storylines and the locker room finally gave Reigns the babyface pop Vince McMahon wanted so badly over the last few years… but at a cost no one — fans included — ever wanted to pay.

Oh yeah. Also? Consenual Penis.

The Bad

For starters, the booking in and around the Universal Title. What should feel like a top prize of the company has spent its life around the waist of Brock Lesnar for 9 out of 12 months of 2018. The only other man to hold it? Roman Reigns, who vacated it when he stepped down due to his aforementioned medical malady. And with the belt primed for a new waist to wield its cherry-hewn strap? It landed straight back on the shoulder of the man who’ll defend it the absolute least amount of times humanly possible — unless Vince McMahan parts with hundreds of thousands of dollars paid per fight and/or TV appearance. While there was a time when I’d ruthlessly defend the idea behind an unstoppable juggernaut maliciously clinching on to his coveted title and defending it sparsely — in an effort to elevate the worth of the championship when it did change hands — as presently presented? It feels mostly like the WWE writers room stuck on repeat.

Brock aside, RAW has tanked its ratings to record lows no less than five times in 2018. The response to this? A commitment by the McMahon family to listen to the fans. While I’m morbidly curious as to what all that means… I firmly come from the camp that says “show me… because you’ve burned me before.

Across both brands, one thing that became very apparent across the smarkyverse has been the poor booking across the board from the call-ups from NXT who debuted on the main roster. SAniTY,  No Way Jose, The IIconics, Ember Moon, the Authors of Pain, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, and Drew McIntyre have all suffered massive setbacks from their “over-like-rover” pushes back in Hunter’s Florida Territory. I’d perhaps save only McIntyre from being considered a complete bust. Andrade has wrestled a handful of amazing matches, but has won no gold, had no storylines, and ultimately is nothing more than a “mid-card good hand”. Ember Moon may have the single best finisher in the business… but it means nothing when her character is essentially “chick who came out of that awful fighting game War Gods, and I guess is a wrestler”. AoP may have gotten the tag titles for a hot pissing minute, but at what cost? And the less I say about No Way Jose, the better. And SAniTY is… there. I guess.

The Good

Never count out the WWE fully from delivering moments of pure un-snarky “Ice Cream Kwissmiss” (thank you, Tights and Fights), when it comes to their product. All snark (and love for New Japan…) aside, the WWE are the giants of the industry for good reason.

This year saw the return of Daniel Bryan to the squared circle. And while it took a bit longer than most of us would have liked to see the rocket strapped to his ass… When the dust settled on the mid-card feuds, we were left with the new Daniel Bryan. And I make no qualms about it: I never (eeeeeeeeever!) thought Bryan Danielson would be a full-blown heel again in his career. Shows what I know! The American Dragon is reborn in his hyper-vegan heel persona, and it’s made Smackdown Live infinitely better to watch. That Bryan is willing to crotch kick for his dreams makes him the kind of unpredictable threat that we crave to see defeated… but secretly don’t mind seeing be successful.

I don’t need to mince words on this one: Becky Lynch is the Man. That she became The Man through sheer force-of-will is exactly as it should be.

We also have seen decent turns by Seth RAWlins as the new go-to babyface, Dean Ambrose adopt a Bane-esque heel he was truly born to play, as well as an unforeseen turn by Elias into a budding crowd favorite — if they can just book him into a better feud. And while I’d mentioned the promise to listen as potentially being lumped in the ‘bad’ category above… I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that seeing Vince and Family actually owning up to some mistakes, with a vow to course correct. Hope springs eternal in professional wrestling. And who are we to argue when it means Mustafa Ali wrestles Cien Almas just because?

My Biggest Wishes for 2019

And let’s end of a quick top ten of things I’d like to see happen in 2019, because this is my end of the year wrap up, and I think it’s worth a shot.

1. Lynch-Rousey Mania match in the Main Friggen Event.

2. Baron Corbin does his patented baseball-slide-out-of-the ring spot, and mysteriously lands in the Impact Zone.

3. Jason Jordan returns, admits Kurt Angle isn’t his father… R-Truth is. They feud with the ‘B’ Team — who adopts Nikki Cross as their good luck charm.

4. Women Tag Belts. Make it so.

5. Brock drops the Universal Championship, heads back to UFC, and gets decimated. He sulks at his farm for the remainder of the year, and counts his money.

6. Paul Heyman and HHH convince Vince to give them the books on RAW and Smackdown. (no one said my list has to be anything more than a pipedream!)

7. The New Day doesn’t split up… but they do start competing for singles titles. Seriously.

8. For one night only… we reunite 3MB.

9. For the last last last last last LAST time… the Undertaker retires, and takes his Hall of Fame spot.

10. CM Punk returns to the WWE, to announce he’s done wrestling. He’s now the advocate… for The Elite. (I actually don’t want any of that, but I wanted some smart marks’ heads to implode at the thought of it)