2018 Year Out Review Submitted by LoneLee on 12/26/2018 at 08:35 AM
It never fails. December cannot be capped off be without some sort of reflection of the year as a whole. Whether it's a best of show or a review article (such as this one) this is a month when individuals consider the rights and wrongs experienced in the past 12 months and use that as a proponent to anticipate the coming year. Will it be better? What changes can we make to ensure it? Or are we doomed to relive the same triumps and tragedies again? In professional wrestling's case, just as much as things change, somehow it always stays the same. 2018 was perhaps one of the most memorable years in professional wrestling since it's peak in the early 2000s. Instead of doing a list or bullet points, I wanted to look at as only myself, the Toxic Fan can. What worked, what didn't, and what to look forward to.
Anything not run by Vince McMahon. Now, this isn't a shot at WWE as a whole. NXT has been a gem since before its very first Takeover event dating back to 2014. SDLive has had its moments of rising stars and revitalizing of stagnant characters. Just so happens that Vince is rarely or never at the tapings. Even 205 Live has rememerged as what it was originally intended to be in showing the athleticism of the Cruiserweight division. Not some attempt at another Jerry Springer-like drama, sampled on their flagship show. But let's forget about WWE for a second. This paragraph won't be complete without recognizing the incredible success of ALL IN. The continued touring of NJPW to the United States. The slow but sure rebuilding of IMPACT Wrestling. The stars created from the possibly folded Lucha Underground. The NWA mattering again. Right down to whatever local promotion you support being held in a nearby American Legion. Even in the days of WCW and ECW,Wrestling has never been more of worldwide appreciated phenomenon since social media became a prominent form of communication and exposure. Meaning, you don't have to work for Vince to make a name for yourself anymore.
What didn't work
Stale booking. Did I even need to say it? Going back to what Vince controls, how many PPVs this year came away without heavy criticisms or some type of negative hashtag trending? How many times did Raw feel more like a chore than a pleasure? Heck, even the 25th anniversary of the show felt like just another episode with some quick appearances from names of the past. For too long, it has felt like Raw is just a show made to go through the motions to get to a PPV wich in turn is just another event to set up for Wrestlemania. Booking has been tired, stale, and predictable with the same faces at the top of the mountain for too long. I'll throw this in too though, at least it's easy to access. While we may have the means to watch more promotions in this day and age, it doesn't come cheap. Almost every promotion has it's own streaming service (HonorClub, NJPWWorld, WWNLive, FiteTV, WWENetwork) it's not cheap to be a wrestling fan these days. Also with some cable not carrying channels like El Rey Network or PopTV, it takes a hit in the ratings game. We the netizens usually find a means to view the programs either on delay or by a shady process but how does that really support the promotions? I don't have the Pursuit Channel so I'm not sure what this means for my IMPACT Wrestling days...
Looking forward to
Everything. If you're as gullible as I am, you have that glimmer of hope that the McMahon regime promised a change in the product. The only reason I find it intriguing is it comes close to the anticipated announcement of All Elite Wrestling. The Elite have done an incomparable job of listening to the fans and giving them what they want resulting in them being easily the most popular names on the indy scene. What happens when they get more frequent national exposure? AS WWE continues to create its own competition with brand splits and divisions, independent contractors and promotions continue to work together to give fans the purest form of wrestling. With the fall debut of SDLive on FOX, WWE will have to continue to adhere to network demands, possibly even more than ever.
Characters matter again. It's easy to name Becky Lynch as the success story of 2018. Her failed heel turn resulted in happy accident, generating enough popularity to be on the cusp of Austin or Rock levels. Why? Because she has character. For too long, wrestlers have just been a name and a set of moves. "But who is this guy/girl? What drives him/her? What's he/she about? Why should I care?" These are basic questions are once again being answered as wrestlers find their stride in personality. This was a breakout year in character personalities overtaking the old fashioned way of presenting someone as a face or heel. Are we supposed to boo them? If you want. Cody can be a hero at ALL IN but a villain in NJPW. Really he's neither, It's whether we choose to follow their beliefs and motivations now, as it should be.
What didn't work
Flip flopping. And I don't mean Cruiserweights or anyone Jim Cornette might despise watching in the ring. I mean personality changes. Having said stated what I did in the above paragraph, this year had to have set a record for face/heel turns. I think we're years beyond the terms "face or heel" anymore, let's Instead call them "character motivations." Granted WWE has faced an unfortunate set of circumstances with the growing number of injuries. With that comes an audible in storytelling and a voided spot that needs filling. Regrettably for the shifting stars it becomes difficult to settle into a certain type of character and keep a grounded fanbase. Honestly, who cares about Big Show anymore, other than for his size? And that's not a shot at Big Show, it's just unfortunate that he's always used to fill a role. Nia Jax went from naive "different looking" friend, to being bullied, to losing to the bully overall and becoming one! What the hell kind of message does that send?
Looking forward to
A little more listening to the masses. Not the fans who are determined to find faults in the product regardless of the hard work. But the characters and athletes with a genuine fanbase. Naito didn't become a sensation because he was shoved down everyone's throat. People chose to be "Tranquilo" and follow along in his aggravating yet comical antics. People like Chris Jericho, who continues to reinvent himself in each and every feud that he's involved in, still captures the emotions of the hardcore and casual fans. Bully Ray is one of the last intense heels that makes me want to throw something heavy and dense at his boulder-sized head. Why? Because these two guys come from an era where a little more creative freedom was allowed. I know I'm beating a dead horse with this and perhaps a little more than wishful thinking than anything, but if WWE is promising change yet again, I hope that means trying to accentuate a talent's natural personality instead of forcing them to act out a scripted one.
- We will see the Women's division main event Wrestlemania.
- The proposed change in WWE is leading to another heel Authority storyline
- All members of The Elite will be household names
- More wrestlers or wrestling personalities will start their own podcasts
- Brock Lesnar will leave WWE and never ever come back
- CM Punk chants will finally die out