Some Of The Best And Worst Of Wrestling In 2018

There was a lot of good in wrestling this year. Impact has gotten much better, to the point that I actually look forward to it most weeks. 205 Live isn’t dirt useless anymore. NXT is still busy being NXT, which you’ll never hear me complaining about. There’s a British NXT now which looks pretty good, although I haven’t yet figured out how to cram even more wrestling into my life so I haven’t been watching it consistently. Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega had one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. New Japan in General has been impossibly great, and so many of the shows now have English commentary that a huge barrier to entry for a lot of people basically no longer exists. Ronda Rousey has no right to be as good at wrestling as she is so quickly. WWE did an all women’s show and didn’t mess it up. Becky Lynch is awesome and I hope they don’t mess her up. Daniel Bryan is back. All In happened and could end up changing the landscape of the entire business in ways we don’t fully understand yet. I could go on, but that’s not why we’re here.

Why are we here? To be negative!

WrestleCrap’s annual Look Back In Horror is out, counting down 50 of the worst things about wrestling in 2018. On the surface it seems like finding 50 bad things about current wrestling should be pretty easy, a task you could take on without a whole lot of research. But as I sit here reading this thing over it strikes me again just how much product there is now and how little of it stays in my memory. So good on Justin Henry here, who says that the hardest part was narrowing it down because so much came immediately to mind.

Anyway, let’s look at a couple of these.

46. Dolph Ziggler just shows up in the Rumble
The last year-plus of Ziggler’s WWE run has been bizarre, to say the least. First, he spends an inordinate amount of time ripping off the entrances of legendary figures. Then he vacates the US Title before walking out of SmackDown in late in 2017, saying the fans didn’t deserve him. Then…he just shows up as #30 in the Rumble match, no explanation. Okie doke.

And did he win the Rumble? Of course not. He was a complete non-factor, meaning we wasted months or at least what felt like months on this story that could have possibly been interesting. Like what if he kept winning belts and then laying them down to make his point that he’s the best around but isn’t appreciated? I’m sure you could do something with that. but instead he went back to just being a guy. They changed him up later in the year when he went on that run with Drew McIntyre, but I just can’t care about the poor guy anymore.

45. Survivor Series presents: the new math
Apparently, Raw was supposed to squash “inferior” SmackDown on Survivor Series night, recording a clean sweep in their head-to-head match-ups. Guess nobody clued in the agent and/or participants of the pre-show 20-man fracas, as SmackDown won there to ostensibly go up 1-0, only for that result to be strangely ignored. The angle that was to come of it (Shane turning heel) was also dropped.

Fuck this. Fuck this to hell. This stupidity should have made the top 10 easy. Smackdown wins, then later when Cole on commentary tries to say after a Raw win that they’re shutting out the Smackdown side and Graves corrects him, it’s explained that it was on the Kickoff show so it doesn’t count. What the shit? Way to make sure that nobody ever bothers with a Kickoff show again, guys. Those things are already enough of a chore to get through if you’re not like me who watches after the fact so I have the benefit of fast forward, and now you’re telling us there’s no reason to? I know they won’t do it, but I’m dying for them to book a title change on a preshow only for the former champ to come out and protest that he’s still the rightful title holder because of the Survivor Series preshow tag match precedent. And by the way, if you’re inclined to argue that I’m wrong when I say that the writing process is unnecessarily difficult, things like these are why I’m right. You don’t screw up something this obvious without their either being too many people involved or spending too much time on unimportant things like making sure all of the robot interviewers are programmed to say “please welcome my guest at this time” with just the right degree of woodenness.

42. The ending to Reigns vs. Strowman, Hell in a Cell
Braun’s Money in the Bank cash-in concluded in a way that was unsatisfactory for all, as Brock Lesnar stormed the Galoob WCW steel cage, broke in, and annihilated both Braun and Reigns with F5’s. Doing a non-finish in a match that’s supposed to be a theoretical fight to the death didn’t exactly sit well with the San Antonio crowd.

Another one that should have been higher. They’ve been slowly killing one of their best stipulations for years, forcing feuds into the cell just because it’s October and there happens to be a PPV named after it coming up, but this was it for me. I don’t care if I never see another HIAC match as long as I live after that garbage. And it didn’t help that the two most unstoppable forces in the entire company just laid around doing nothing for what felt like half an hour while all the silliness was going on outside.

30. The Manhattan Center portion of Raw 25
It was cool that WWE decided to run The Manhattan Center, birthplace of Raw, for the show’s 25th anniversary special (complete with ICOPRO banner!). What was less cool was the galling lack of activity in the building, which fans in attendance (some of whom dropped three figures on tickets) loudly noted. When Jim Ross has to fend off claims that he fell asleep, that tells you a lot.

I feel awful for those people, but that entire show was no good. I remember literally one good segment and it was Stone Cold and the McMahons right at the start. Everything else was just some matches we’d see anyway, a lot of talking that we’d see anyway and a bunch of segments where it was just like oh hey, look at these old guys for a second.

13. Lio Rush – mic’ed up version
It pains me to put a gifted CZW alum this high on the list, but to paraphrase Snitsky, it’s not his fault. When Rush was paired with Bobby Lashley as his pesky, chattery mouthpiece, it added something to the overall presentation, because Rush makes for an effective and confident loudmouth. But when his mic’ed-up verbiage was actively detracting from Lashley’s matches, it about sunk the gravy boat early in the voyage. Less is more.

Everything they’ve done with Lashley since he’s come back is complete nonsense. Why not let him throw dudes around, be strong and have good matches? He can do all of those things. He can even talk for himself. He doesn’t need the annoying mouthpiece, and he sure as hell didn’t need whatever that stuff was with his sisters.

Yes, they made the list too.

He’s been used so badly since his return it kind of feels like they’re still mad at him for something from the old days.

Braun Strowman became one of WWE’s absolute premier acts – a remorseless monster with punishing offense, tremendous presence, and an obvious sense of humor. Through strong booking, fans grew to love Strowman and his visually-pleasing mayhem, appreciating him far more than they did Roman Reigns, whose sustained push staggered onward. When Reigns regained the Universal belt, Strowman was hastily turned heel to feud with him, an arrangement that (surprise) didn’t take.

It didn’t help that it didn’t feel like a heel turn so much as a response to babyface Roman having his Shield buddies back to help him beat up anyone who posed a threat to the belt. If three guys kept kicking the shit out of you and making it damn near impossible for you to advance in your career, what would you do? Braun finding a couple of guys to back him up isn’t evil, it’s smart.

4. Drake Maverick: Author of Piss
When WWE strikes gold with some sort of moment or gag, they’re very quick to repeat it over the ensuing weeks, milking it into oblivion. They even do the same thing for bits that fall flat, like when Drake Maverick peed himself in Big Show’s clutches at Survivor Series. In a staggeringly-dumb bit, Maverick stole Bobby Roode’s robe, stuffed it into the commode, then peed on it, while Roode suffered from astonishment paralysis.

This one I’d just be able to write off as WWE doing WWE things if Drake Maverick wasn’t who he was. Yes, let’s take the no nonsense general manager of 205 Live, a brand that needs all the help and credibility it can get, and make him into a cowardly, pants pissing heel. Better yet, we’ll make him a part-time cowardly, pants pissing heel. How are you supposed to take a guy seriously on Tuesday when you saw him be anything but with your own eyes 24 hours earlier?

I’m sure there’ll be another list next year, but here’s hoping for more good than bad in 2019.

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