With only a few days left, I am going to attempt to do another Year in Review thing here. If you’ve read any of my previous attempts, sometimes I finish for every thing I talk about (books, movies, wrestling, TV) and sometimes I barely finish one category. Wrestling gets the most traffic around these parts so that’s what I’m starting with. If I get any further, we’ll see. No promises. As far as the order, after number 1 it’s just the order I thought of them in, not a particular ranking. I’m keeping it mostly positive here, as I am not interested in some long screed about what was terrible and just how terrible I thought it was. Plenty of places to go if you’re looking for that kind of thing. So with no further adieu, let’s dig in.
Happiest Moments of the Year
- Roman Reigns wins the Universal Title
- Asuka wins Smackdown Women’s Title
- Mustafa Ali gets called up to Smackdown
- Evolution Pay Per View
- Mia Yim gets signed by WWE
Two title victories, one signing, one promotion, and one whole show. I became a fan of Mia in last year’s Mae Young Classic and started looking up some of her indie matches on YouTube. Then I got to see her in person at a NOVA Pro show this year and rooted for her again in this year’s Mae Young Classic. She’s been trying to get to WWE for some time now and had a setback late last year when she broke her ankle but she finally was able to break through and get an NXT deal this year. Mustafa Ali has been my favorite wrestler on 205 Live almost since it’s inception, and from all appearances is a genuinely good guy in addition to being a great performer. So glad to see him get to mix it up with guys on the main roster now. Evolution was a crowning achievement and should serve as proof now and forever that the ladies can work just well as the guys, often better. But the big two for me are the title victories. Asuka went through some early success followed by real adversity over the Spring and Summer then some rehab during the Fall while teaming with Naomi before finally winning some gold to close out the year at TLC, and like I said then winning after going through some struggles and battling back is always a better story than just showing up and winning everything because you’re good. But the big moment for me as a fan was Summerslam with Roman finally getting a win over Brock Lesnar and winning the Universal Title. After two years of not holding either of the top two titles, a year and a half of being used mainly to elevate other people (Braun Strowman, Bobby Lashley, the Revival, to name a few), and a WrestleMania ending that was head scratching at best to finally get a big win in a title match on pay per view (before that he was 3-7 in his last 10 pay per view title matches) was like our favorite team winning a championship for us Roman Reigns fans, with all the suspense and drama as that match went on. In that short time, we ran through the entire gamut of emotions before finally getting a release and some real joy at the end of a pay per view for the first time all year.
Best Finish of the Year
- Men’s Royal Rumble
- Smackdown Women’s Title Match, Summerslam
Not a long list here. These were two finishes that I thought stood out for their cleverness and storytelling. The Men’s Rumble transitioned from a 3 on 3 standoff between guys who started during the Ruthless Agression Era (Cena, Orton, Mysterio) vs guys who started in the last few years (Reigns, Balor, Nakamura) to 2 on 2 between Franchise Players Cena and Reigns vs Japan darlings Balor and Nakamura to a 1 on 1 between Reigns and Nakamura before Nakamura finally won it. Just brilliant sequencing by whoever drew it up. The Smackdown Women’s Title finish was the perfect encapsulation of Becky Lynch’s struggle up until then – fighting off two opponents, finally getting the champion in her grasp as she locked Carmella in the Dis-Arm-Her, only to get caught with her back turned by Charlotte and hit with Charlotte’s Natural Selection finisher and pinned. It was a great defeat from the jaws of victory moment, the kind of thing that would lead one to snap and assault their best friend after the match.
Most Enjoyable Matches
- Charlotte vs Asuka vs Becky Lynch, TLC
- Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs Triple H & Stephanie McMahon, WrestleMania
- Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii, G1 Tournament
- Women’s Money in the Bank Match
- (tie) Women’s Battle Royal, Evolution and the All In Battle Royal
I’m not talking best worked matches here, just stuff that’s fun to sit down and watch. The TLC Main Event had everything – spots, emotion, brutality, and storytelling. Three of the best women wrestlers in the world and one of several All-Time Great performances from Charlotte Flair this year. The Mixed Tag at WrestleMania was Sports Entertainment Awesomeness through and through, and encapsulated everything good about professional wrestling all in one match. Might be the best wrestling debut ever, Ronda Rousey’s also. Goto vs Ishii was two tough guys beating the crap out of each other for 18 minutes. No ridiculous stuff just stiff shots, slams, and suplexes. My favorite match of the year from New Japan. The Women’s Money in the Bank was a real showing out for Naomi and Ember Moon with the usual very good work from Charlotte, Becky, and Sasha Banks and a few good spots from Natalya and Lana. Lastly the Battle Royals. Battle Royals can absolutely suck if they’re lazily booked and thankfully neither of these were. Both of them had lots of cool sequences, exciting spots, and false finishes. More of that in 2019, please. Honorable Mentions go to The Men’s and Women’s Royal Rumble matches, the Men’s Elimination Chamber match, and the 4 Way Ladder Match for the North American Title at NXT Phiadelphia.
- AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura (Last Man Standing, Money in the Bank)
- Seth Rollins vs Baron Corbin (TLC Match, Monday Night Raw)
- Roman Reigns vs Bray Wyatt (Elimination Chamber Qualifier, Monday Night Raw)
- Charlotte vs Carmella, (Smackdown Women’s Title Match, Smackdown Live)
- John Cena vs Finn Balor, (Elimination Chamber Qualifier, Monday Night Raw)
- Anything on 205 Live between Mustafa Ali and Buddy Murphy or Hideo Itami
There are a lot more I could add here (The RAW Women’s Title Match from Christmas Eve, any of the Reigns/Miz matches from early in the year, the six man Shield vs AOP/Baron Corbin match from RAW), but I’m sticking with these six. Most of these are TV matches that get lost in the ether but the Last Man Standing Match was a truly great pay per view effort that gets dismissed because of how badly received the Styles/Nakamura program ended up being. I highly recommend all of this stuff for a second (or first) look. The 205 guys deserve your attention even if you just cherry pick the best stuff.
Best Worked Matches
- Charlotte Flair vs Becky Lynch, Evolution
- TLC Main Event
- Daniel Bryan vs Brock Lesnar, Survivor Series
- Charlotte Flair vs Ronda Rousey, Survivor Series
- Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor vs The Miz, WrestleMania
I’m sticking with pay per view stuff here, but there were a ton of matches on RAW and Smackdown that could be considered. The two matches I have at the top are there because both of them worked tables, chairs, ladders, and other weapons in seamlessly, logically (for a wrestling match of course), and without looking like spots for the sake of spots and the participants did such a great job showing emotion throughout. Bryan vs Lesnar started out as a one sided massacre in the making then transitioned into a great back and forth match where Brock actually sold his ass off. Flair and Rousey was a rare Rousey match where her opponent did not look or fight like they were overmatched. Charlotte returned the physicality that Ronda brings and made it into a great match. The Triple Threat to open WrestleMania set the tone for a show with several greatly worked matches.
TV Matches to check out
- Men’s Gauntlet Match, Monday Night RAW
- Daniel Bryan vs AJ Styles (2 times), Smackdown Live
- Roman Reigns (vs Samoa Joe, vs the Miz twice, vs Bray Wyatt, vs Bobby Lashley, vs Finn Balor, vs Baron Corbin)
- Becky Lynch vs Charlotte (Smackdown Live)
- Andrade Cien Almas vs AJ Styles, Smackdown Live
These are just a sample but there’s a lot more out there. There were a ton of good matches on TV this year no matter how you felt about the overall booking. And there were a few non-WWE matches I watched that fit the bill here, namely the 4 Way ROH World Title match with Dalton Castle, Jay Lethal, Matt Taven, and Cody and the Ironman Match featuring Jay Lethal vs Jonathan Gresham.
Bumps of the Year
- Kevin Owens off the cage, Extreme Rules
- Roman spears Braun through the barricade, Super Showdown
- Charlotte spears Asuka through the barricade, TLC
- Becky Lynch dive off the ladder onto Charlotte, TLC
Barricades and tables ruled the day. Roman spearing Braun to save Dean Ambrose was spectacular, and Charlotte’s on Asuka was downright brutal. Becky’s dive off the ladder was punctuated by the hard landing and Charlotte’s letting out a loud moan that made it clear just how rough it was. But Owens getting tossed off the top of the cage by Strowman and through a table, followed by Strowman’s condescending announcement that Owens had won the match as a result, was absolutely scary.
Best Teams of the Year
- Undisputed Era
- The Bar/Usos/New Day
- The Young Bucks
- So Cal Uncensored
Not a banner year for tag team wrestling. Two through four are all great teams and had lots of good matches with a few great ones sprinkled in, but tag team wrestling just wasn’t prioritized on the WWE main roster this year and SCU was largely playing third fiddle to the Bucks and the Briscoes in ROH. The Bucks finally won me over with their overall talent and double team work, but I will never get over those parts of the match where they take some move that shold kill you dead and barely sell it. Sorry, guys. So that leaves Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong. They had lots of good matches against a variety of opponents and did great in all of them.
Performers of the Year
- Charlotte Flair
- Roman Reigns
- Seth Rollins
- AJ Styles
- Mustafa Ali
- Ronda Rousey
- Velveteen Dream
- Tomasso Ciampa
- Buddy Murphy
2 through 10 are in no particular order. They all had some absolutely stellar moments in my opinion. But I have Charlotte first because she was put in the biggest sink or swim moments of the year and showed out every time. Roman was great as usual but unfortunately his best matches were on TV and not on bigger shows; that’s not his fault and it’s mainly because of who his pay per view opponents were, but I can’t . Seth Rollins had lots of great stuff on TV and pay per view but also had some major duds in big moments. Styles was a bit of an enigma; like Roman I don’t blame him but he was booked in a lot of foregone conclusion situations on big shows that took the air out of the balloon. Ali was mostly relegated to a smaller stage on 205 Live most of the year but had a year full of great work there. Ronda may be the best rookie I’ve ever seen but her booking was very heavily managed to protect her. Dream is the best overall performer in NXT and the best character by far, and Ciampa was next when it came to character work while being better in the ring. Murphy and Ricochet are the two big surprises for me as I expected nothing from Murphy like what we actually got and was very skeptical that Ricochet would adapt well to the toned down WWE style. Both proved me wrong in major ways.
So that’s all the ‘Best Of’ from the my World of Wrestling in 2018. We’ll see if I can fit in anything else.