What an incredible and absolutely insane year this has been. It’s time to look back on all that made these twelve months so brilliantly eventful. Here are the Top 10 Things That Happened in Pro Wrestling in 2018.
10. British Wrestling Returned to TV
This year, we saw British wrestling make a comeback on prime-time television when WOS Wrestling was given a weekly series during the summer. WOS gave exposure to many great British talents, and introduced children around the country to the ridiculous high-flying ability of Will Ospreay. Over on FreeSports, RevPro was given their own weekly show entitled World of Pro Wrestling, featuring some amazing performers from around the globe including Jushin Liger, Colt Cabana, El Phantasmo, ZSJ, KUSHIDA and more, as well as New Japan’s Kevin Kelly on commentary.
Although these shows perhaps haven’t been as successful as we could have hoped, they still have given a group of worthy wrestlers increased national exposure which they thoroughly deserve, and it’s a great sign of how popular British independent wrestling is. Hopefully going forward, we can see a more successful expansion of British pro wrestling on television.
9. Improvement of IMPACT
Throughout 2018, IMPACT Wrestling has gone from strength to strength, rebuilding the reputation it once had after several years of misdirection and mismanagement. Thanks to an array of amazing talent, both behind the camera and in front of it, IMPACT has brought back many scorned fans, and created some brand new ones. Along with crafting some of the most creative, interesting and often violent content on wrestling television, IMPACT have put on some of the best pay-per-views of the year.
This year they have partnered with Lucha Underground, signed some incredible talents such as The Lucha Bros, Brian Cage and Jordynne Grace, put on captivating and often brutal matches both on television and PPV, and finally seem to have a clear vision of who they are and what their goals are. If you’ve not given IMPACT a chance yet, you’re missing out.
8. Improvement of 205 Live
205 Live started the year as a failing brand fronted by a problematic champion. By the end of the year, it became a weekly factory for top quality matches and moments.
After Enzo Amore was released abruptly from WWE, Daniel Bryan introduced Drake Maverick as the new GM of 205 Live to save the show, and rebuild the entire landscape of it. From there, a tournament to crown the new Cruiserweight Champion was created, filled with new and familiar talent. This is where 205 Live was introduced to one of WWE’s best performers of 2018 – Buddy Murphy.
After failing to graduate to the main roster after a rather uneventful run as a tag team champion, Buddy Murphy floundered in NXT for two years, wrestling almost exclusively on live events barring a few sporadic TV squash matches. Despite this, those that had seen Murphy performing in person couldn’t be more complimentary about how good he was as a solo wrestler, so much so that Murphy began calling himself NXT’s Best Kept Secret.
Finally, all of Murphy’s hard work paid off at the beginning of this year when he was brought in to 205 Live, where after just one match, he immediately made an impact. With a new look, incredible physique and an impressive arsenal of moves, it was clear Murphy had a wealth of potential. Throughout the year, Murphy would put on a stream of standout matches, culminating with him winning the Cruiserweight Championship in his home country at Super Showdown. If any 205 Live roster member has the chance to move up to main roster and be a huge star, The Juggernaught is that man.
And of course, we cannot forget about Mustafa Ali. The Light of 205 Live is an amazing performer that is willing to utterly destroy himself on a weekly basis for the sake of a good match. What’s more, he’s also putting out some of the most unique and captivating promos you will see in WWE today. All of Ali’s hard work was rewarded with a championship match at WrestleMania, and a damn good bout at Survivor Series as well.
205 Live has clawed its way back from definite termination in 2018. It is a platform for talents to prove just how good they are, and thankfully, more and more fans are slowly coming around to watching on a weekly basis.
7. NXT UK
WWE has a show filled with talent from the UK and Commonwealth countries, filmed in UK venues, and with some of the most gorgeous championships we’ve seen in the company for years – that right there is a sign of how crazy the world of pro wrestling is right now.
This year we finally got the weekly programming we all expected we would be getting in 2017 when NXT UK was created following on from another two day UK Championship Tournament special. The show exhibits the variety of talent that the UK scene has to offer, delivering at least one great match with every episode.
From a viewing perspective, NXT UK has been consistently entertaining since it started. From a talent perspective, it has given a whole roster of people employment with the biggest sports entertainment company in the world, which also allows them to work other select independent shows. As a fan of UK independent wrestling, it has been wonderful to see so many people I’ve seen live many times all finding success and achieving dreams simultaneously.
Plus, Pete Dunne got to be in a War Games match – how fucking cool is that?
6. The Announcement of G1 Supercard
When an arena show sells out in less than a day, you know you’re in for something special.
For the first time in over fifty years, Madison Square Garden will host a non-WWE wrestling event, which marks a major step forward in the globalisation and popularity of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Teaming with Ring of Honor, the two companies will put on one of the biggest highlights of WrestleMania weekend inside the world’s most famous arena.
As well as being a huge achievement for New Japan and ROH, G1 Supercard is a massive landmark in pro wrestling in general. Following on from the major success of All In, G1 Supercard will continue to show that there are very viable options for both fans and performers away from WWE, and that the state of pro wrestling globally right now is outstanding.
What’s more, the response to this announcement is a testament to how New Japan Pro Wrestling have made efforts to make their product more accessible to a global audience. This year has seen a big growth in live English commentary options on their streaming service, an increase in shows outside of Japan, a huge surge in subscribers to their product around the world, and an increase in English-language content both on YouTube and NJPW World.
With this one announcement, it was clear that WWE’s stronghold over pro wrestling has certainly began to loosen. Sure, they will always be at the top, there is no competing with such a global corporation, yet there’s still room for other promotions to capture a major audience to sell-out arena-level success around the world.
5. Becky Lynch
In the latter half of 2018, Becky Lynch became arguably the hottest person in WWE thanks to her captivating personality, wrestling ability, character, and promos. When she held her SmackDown Women’s Championship above her crimson-smothered face after a bloody in-ring brawl on Raw, she established herself as a major star.
Becky Lynch is presenting herself and placing herself in situations and story lines in a way we’ve rarely seen from female talent in WWE. Her feud with Charlotte has been fuelled by enthralling themes of competition and violence rarely seen in modern WWE, and the overwhelming response from fans towards their feud, as well as Becky herself. have already began to impact the way other members of the women’s division are being used (e.g. the amazingly brutal Rousey vs. Charlotte).
Branding herself as The Man, Becky has made a point that being the best does not have anything to do with gender. She is obliterating gender roles and establishing that the man no longer has to be a man. Becky Lynch has sparked a major shift in WWE, and for one cannot wait to see how that all plays out in 2019, with one match in particular peaking everyone’s interest.
Few can walk into an arena and command as much attention as Becky Lynch can right now. She is shrouded in an aura of badass charisma that is hard to not get behind. Becky has managed to tap into a side of her personality that makes her undeniable, and in my opinion, she can lead the charge into yet another significant change in the way women’s wrestling is handled by WWE.
If this momentum can continue for the next twelve months, 2019 will be the year of The Man.
4. Tommaso Ciampa
When it comes to standout performances, 2018 has belonged to Tommaso Ciampa.
Returning back in January to attack his former tag team partner, Johnny Gargano, Ciampa introduced the world to one of the greatest and most effective heels in modern pro wrestling. From NXT television, to TakeOvers, to Twitter, Ciampa has been absolutely sublime in every way possible. With Gargano, he crafted a multi-month epic tale that offered match of the year candidates and character development we had not seen from either man. Once that feud was over, Ciampa demonstrated that his true talent for villainy stretched beyond his feud with Gargano, as he transitioned perfectly into the NXT Championship scene, having great battles with Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream.
Tommaso Ciampa is one of the most complete packages in pro wrestling today. Each piece that makes up his persona, from look to in-ring style to entrance music, is combined together perfectly to form arguably 2018’s biggest standout pro wrestler. Ciampa is one of wrestling’s most deplorable, detestable individuals of this generation. Blackheart has separated himself in every way he can with incredible results that will be discussed for years to come. He’s not evil to the point of being cartoonish or comedic, he’s just a despicable human being, and the most effective heel in wrestling today.
3. Some Absolutely Spectacular Wrestling
Do I need to explain this to you? Just look at any month from this year, and you’ll be able to name at least five matches you wanted to tell everybody about immediately after watching them. For in-ring quality, we are (at least in my opinion) experiencing the greatest period in pro wrestling history. Regardless of what type of wrestling you enjoy, there is a plethora of new content out there for you to enjoy.
Thanks to the pure gifts that are NXT TakeOvers, high quality indie promotions, the occasional WWE main roster standouts, and the MOTY machine that is New Japan Pro Wrestling, 2019 has been a conveyor belt of greatness between the ropes.
2. All In
Sometimes a pro wrestling show is more than an event, it’s a game-changer.
After many rumblings in the wrestling community, it was revealed in early 2018 that The Young Bucks and Cody Rhodes were planning on financing their own independent wrestling show inside an arena. After months of tireless promotion through social media and their YouTube show, Being the Elite, tickets went on sale for the show with only one match announced and barely any talent revealed. Thanks to the hype shrouding the Bullet Club supershow, tickets sold out astonishingly in less than thirty minutes.
With 10,000 tickets gone in a matter of minutes, it was clear that All In was going to be something special. What followed was a stream of talent announcements, a whole convention in partnership with the show, sponsorship from major brands such as Cracker Barrel, and even a pre-show broadcasted on the WGN American television network.
When it was time for the event itself, viewers watched in awe and anticipation, and very few were disappointed with what months of hype had lead to. All In was one of the best top-to-bottom shows of the year, offering something for various types of wrestling fan. Filled with star-making moments, inflatable penises, a cute dog, Jericho shenanigans, and a whole load of brilliant pro wrestling, All In was a celebration of the thriving scene outside of WWE, and laid the groundwork for the aforementioned G1 Supercard.
Arguably, the greatest thing to come from All In though was not the night itself, but the consequential impact it has had on the careers of many stars:
- Marko Stunt was plucked from almost obscurity prior to All In. After an impressive showing at Joey Janela’s Lost in NY show in the summer, Marko was announced for the Over the Budget Battle Royal the following day, experiencing a sudden surge in popularity. Prior to that weekend, Marko had less than 1,000 Twitter followers – now, although he sadly is injured currently, Marko now has over 6,000 followers, has competed in PWG’s BOLA tournament, and has been featured on shows across the US.
- Although she was already popular, Jordynne Grace was introduced to many thanks to All In, and is remembered for hoisting the behemoth Brian Cage on her shoulders during the Over the Budget Battle Royal. Since All In, Jordynne Grace has been wrestling a hectic schedule, and was recently signed by IMPACT Wrestling.
- Bandido went from little notoriety with most fans to competing in PWG’s BOLA, holding the PROGRESS Tag Team Championships with Flamita, and wrestling in the main event of one of the biggest shows of the year.
- Joey Ryan came back to life.
- Joey Janela was given the chance to show his ability and potential as a major star on a much bigger stage, which hopefully he’ll be able to demonstrate more of once returning from injury.
- Penelope Ford was given a chance to show off her insane athleticism and ability, which has led to an increase in demand for her at independent shows across the US.
All In wasn’t just an incredibly fun show, it was a piece of history. On September 1st, we witnessed something special which will be talked about for years to come, and will have impacted on the pro wrestling industry in ways we have yet to realise. When it comes to the standard of pro wrestling shows, this is The Elite.
Rey Mysterio Returns to WWE
Renee Young Joining the Raw Commentary Team
Titus’ Fall at Greatest Royal Rumble
The Career Resurgence of PCO
Tomohiro Ishii During the G1
WWE Signing Amazing Talent
Shinsuke Winning the Royal Rumble
Return of PAC
- Daniel Bryan Lives his Dream Again
What else could it be? A man who was told he would never wrestle again fought every day for two years straight, trying every treatment he possibly could, just so he could prove people wrong and return to doing what he loves best.
Confession time: When Daniel Bryan announced his retirement in 2016, that is the only time pro wrestling has ever made me cry. To see such a great performer clearly so full of passion for his career having to give up everything after a series of hardships was utterly heartbreaking, especially given how Bryan is one of my favourite ever in-ring performers. Just as his career reached incredible heights of success, it was over… or so we thought.
Bryan’s retirement came about when he was told by a doctor that he had a lesion on his brain, which Bryan believed to be a cut due to the terminology used. This caused great concern for Bryan and WWE, and as such, the decision was made for him to give up his in-ring career on the following Monday Night Raw. A day after retirement, Bryan was contacted by another doctor, who informed him that in medical terms, a lesion actually refers to any sort abnormal change in tissue or an organ, so perhaps his diagnosis was not as bad as first thought.
After shedding light on this new information, Daniel Bryan was determined to figure out what this lesion was, and that it wasn’t something that could prevent him from competing. Bryan put himself through hours of daily treatments and a series of impact tests for two years straight. Thanks to his admirable determination, it was revealed back in March that Daniel Bryan was once again able to wrestle.
The wrestling world erupted in delight. Not only were we getting to see a truly brilliant performer do what he does best once again, we were also able watch a man scratch and claw his way back to his dream, and be rewarded for all of his hard efforts. Seeing Bryan walk out to his music at WrestleMania accompanied by a sea of Yes! chants, it was possibly the most heartwarming moment of the year, and those goosebumps are something I will never forget.
And sure, perhaps Big Cass wasn’t the first feud people wanted from Bryan, and it did take a while for him to truly find his groove, but as we’ve seen with his recent character change, the current WWE Champion is just as good as ever. Daniel Bryan is so damn good at what he does that he’s managed to get crowds of people to boo him despite how inspirational and admirable his fight back to the ring earlier this year was.
Daniel Bryan has been given a second chance as a professional wrestler, which may just be one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever witnessed in my lifelong obsession with this sport, let alone in 2018. Regardless of what else happened in these last twelve glorious months, this will be what defines this eventful year for me.
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