As far as years in wrestling go by, we’ll probably do well to ever reach the heights of the Attitude Era, but the year when we all finally realise that may eclipse them all.
WWE programming has been on a downward slope in the last couple of months, but as far as contemporary creative booking goes, 2018 wasn’t bad all told.
Seeing the actual women’s revolution advance from a small show of defiance into a fully-fledged display of equality has been an overall high point for the company and the wider audiences who now accept that athletic ability isn’t gender exclusive.
But as far as individual moments go? Well, we’ve got you covered there, too.
6. Triple H and Batista Stand-Off
At SmackDown 1000, the former members of the legendary stable Evolution reunited for what people believed must have simply been a PR stunt and a feel-good nostalgia boost for crowds to increase viewership.
But in a rare example of good booking, WWE left an undertone of a possible blockbuster Wrestlemania match between Batista and Triple H, as the wrestler-turned-movie star reminded everyone that Triple H has never actually beaten him in the ring.
So often the throwbacks are riddled with bad scripting, but this one hit all the right notes and left a hot Washington DC crowd in hysterics.
This got REAL tense REAL quick.
— WWE (@WWE) October 17, 2018
5. Ronda Rousey putting Triple H through a table
Rousey’s introduction to WWE was their planned marquee moment for 2018. She was the big free agent acquisition and her opening segway into prominence in terms of storytelling would be exceptionally important.
As is usually the case with creative, when they come under pressure, they turn to involve the McMahon-Helmsley alliance. It wasn’t ideal, but it did qualify Rousey as a show stopper from early on by proxy – even if the real message behind all this is that the authority remain firmly in control.
At a contract signing on Monday Night Raw, Rousey went face to face with ‘The Game’ and proceeded to sideslam him through a table. It was bold, and it was memorable and that’s why it makes this list.
4. Gargano v Ciampa – NXT Takeover New Orleans
Simply put, it’s the best match WWE ever sanctioned. Naturally, it came with the subplot that it was unsanctioned to suit the narrative – but anyway.
The storyline that organically built up between Gargano and his former DIY colleague Tommaso Ciampa was the best build since Stone Cold and Vince McMahon, but no storyline that included both ever culminated in a match of this quality.
The two men fought for 37 bloody minutes and those minutes featured high-risk spots, technical prowess, story-specific references, near-falls, use of surroundings and show-stopping reversals.
If you ever want the template for how to write a feud, look at how NXT creative went about outshining their own marquee pay-per-view. No Wrestlemania match came close to that.
No Wrestlemania match probably will ever come close to that.
3. War Games
Sometimes the biggest issue WWE face is how stale concepts can become. They have a narrative and matches of certain allure that simply run dry because they tap the well time and time again without any foresight.
When NXT introduced War Games, it opened up a new realm of storytelling because of the way the match is set. While the original match itself is still being spoken about today, it’s possible that the sequel even exceeded it.
This is mainly down to the competitors in question – Pete Dunne, Ricochet, the War Raiders and The Undisputed Era.
That’s combining charisma with old-school technique while adding in a touch of brute power and a sprinkle of high-flying action.
The formula is less complicated than WWE Creative would let you believe.
— WWE (@WWE) November 18, 2018
2. Daniel Bryan Returns
If you’re unfamiliar with the Daniel Bryan story, then you’ve not fully engaged with professional wrestling over the last five years.
Bryan was a cult figure on different circuits before WWE took a chance on him. Usually, he was cast into the everyday ordinary roles and not given much prominence. But as audiences became more and more learned about the processes of booking, the executives were forced to act.
This culminated in Bryan winning the biggest prize on the grandest stage of them all – cementing his rise as one of the all-time greatest stories in WWE history.
But due to a series of injuries, Bryan was forced to retire from in-ring competition – a moment which broke the hearts of all who followed his journey.
However, in 2018, Bryan was cleared to return to the ring and compete once again.
Perhaps no words could possibly do justice to the significance of this moment, so it’s best to hand it over to the video.
1. Becky bleeds charisma
There’s no doubting that WWE didn’t mean for this to happen, but the birth of ‘The Man’ has seen fans speculate that a women’s match could main event Wrestlemania for the first time ever.
After trying to turn Becky Lynch into a villain at Summerslam spectacularly backfired, the Irish woman went on a fiery run to the top of the business that led her to an unforgettable meeting with WWE’s golden girl Ronda Rousey on Raw.
As the Raw Survivor Series team was being named in the ring, there was a ruckus in the dressing room and there was the iconic sight of the former UFC champion locked in the Dis-Arm-Her.
Becky then did her best Stone Cold Steve Austin impression walking to the ring to face down the entire Raw women’s team. An invasion and a broken face followed, but more importantly a star was born…