10 Things to Get Most Excited About on WWE Programming in 2018
Even the most pessimistic WWE fan has to be giddy thinking about some of the moments, matches and events that will come in 2018.
Braun Strowman will add another 12 months of fury and ruin to our memories. A brand-new tournament, WrestleMania and the women's division making history all make it easy to get excited. New faces and sidelined stars will make an impact on the year too.
WWE will inevitably disappoint chunks of the audience with the Superstars it chooses to push to the background or how it books its shows, but there's good reason to be hopeful as 2018 kicks off.
There are things about the coming year that are sure to be excellent. The Monster of Men is one of them. A bolstered roster is another. And another one is spelled N-X-T.
1st Women's Royal Rumble Match
It's finally going to happen. Women will battle in their own Royal Rumble match, 30 years after the bout's inception.
On the Dec. 18 Raw, commissioner Stephanie McMahon announced the history-making match is on its way.
We are going to see Asuka tear it up in a Royal Rumble and Nia Jax play the contest's monster. Surprise entrants are sure to round out the field, meaning fans could witness Trish Stratus or Kaitlyn return. All the drama of this contest will now feature the women's division, from early entrants outlasting their foes to opponents forming temporary alliances.
This will also mark the first year we get two Royal Rumble matches in one night. That's going to make the Jan. 28 pay-per-view brim with big moments.
There's nothing quite like the first of anything, and that will be the case as the warriors of the women's division look to survive the Rumble.
Braun Strowman's Rise
From overturning an ambulance to pelting Roman Reigns with an office chair, Strowman gave Raw lasting image after lasting image in 2017.
The Monster Among Men carved out a niche for himself as the red brand's resident Typhon. His acts of destruction produced a steady supply of highlights. And he is one of the New Era stars WWE has had the best handle on.
The writers simply find ways for him to run over people and leave a trail of rubble behind him.
That's only going to continue in 2018. WWE is bound to realize what it has in Strowman and showcase him even more.
A battle with Triple H could be on the horizon after Strowman laid out The Game at Survivor Series. A feud with John Cena or a David-versus-Goliath rivalry against Finn Balor are intriguing options too.
Strowman is a megastar in the making, and watching him entrench himself in the top tier is going to be a joy to watch.
WWE's hunt for talent never ceases. Never mind how deep the roster is, the company made sure to bring in one of the most compelling tag teams in the world and a high-flyer of the highest order.
Mike Johnson of PWInsider reported both War Machine and Ricochet are expected to join WWE in January. He also noted former Impact Wrestling star Rockstar Spud is headed to Raw's cruiserweight division.
Each of these rumored additions would be a valuable asset.
Hanson and Raymond Rowe of War Machine are big, talented bruisers with heavy-hitting styles. They will be tremendous going up against fellow hosses such as The Authors of Pain and The Bludgeon Brothers.
Whether Ricochet will fit into the WWE world is unclear, but he's a hugely talented, popular wrestler with enough athleticism for three men. It's going to be mighty fun to see him go up against WWE talent. And he has the potential to be special. Seeing how this portion of his career pans out will be must-watch.
And don't sleep on Spud. He will instantly compete with Enzo Amore for the title of the cruiserweight division's best talker and most colorful character.
Kurt Angle in a Solo Match
Kurt Angle in 2018 won't look like 2003 Kurt Angle, but the Olympian likely has a classic or two left in him. He's a technical wrestling master, superb storyteller and a beloved figure. In a matchup with a young star, he's bound to do something memorable.
To this point during this WWE run, he's mostly served as Raw's general manager. He got in the ring twice in 2017, teaming with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs and fighting alongside Team Raw at Survivor Series.
Before he retires, WWE is sure to give him at least one singles match.
Angle could take on Finn Balor or Seth Rollins and tear down the house. The Impact Wrestling Hall of Famer could also face his storyline son, Jason Jordan, to create a passing-of-the-torch moment. There would be ample sparks in each of those cases.
And there's nothing quite like seeing Angle execute a German suplex, a sight we will thankfully soon witness again.
It's not necessarily the best PPV of the year, but WrestleMania is always the biggest, the most electric and often most memorable.
WWE is sure to bring in plenty of star power. Anyone from The Rock to Ronda Rousey may show up.
Some of the matches that could comprise the card are enough to get any fan salivating: Asuka vs. Paige, John Cena vs. Samoa Joe, AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. WrestleMania 34 will also be the first time a female Royal Rumble winner challenges a champion.
New Orleans is a terrific host city. The audience will be lively. The energy will be off the charts.
Superstars Returning from Injury
Raw and NXT's rosters are going to experience makeovers by way of injured Superstars' returns.
Big Cass' push ended abruptly thanks to an ACL tear. Drew McIntyre's NXT title reign ended with a torn bicep. A torn rotator cuff forced Jeff Hardy out of action.
All those names, plus Tommaso Ciampa, Dean Ambrose, R-Truth and others, should be back too.
That's going to allow WWE to resume Cass' rise, perhaps promote McIntyre to Raw or SmackDown and give "Woken" Matt Hardy his brother to play with. Plus that eventual blood feud between Ciampa and Johnny Gargano will be staggeringly good.
What Happens with Asuka's Streak
The Empress of Tomorrow went from being unstoppable at NXT to unbeatable on Raw. Asuka held the NXT Women's Championship for a record 523 days. At Survivor Series, she blasted her way through the competition to become Raw's sole survivor.
WWE has deftly built her up as a force to be reckoned with, and the buzz around her will only increase as she extends her streak. The longer Asuka remains undefeated, the more dramatic power her eventual defeat will have.
Will WWE allow Asuka to keep bowling over her foes? Will she seize the Raw Women's Championship and put a stranglehold on it? Will we see someone finally stop her?
Those questions are among the most intriguing ones about WWE in 2018. Asuka's streak has become an appealing narrative element, a must-see feature of the company's content.
That will continue to be the case in the year to come until a new apex predator conquers her or she suffers an upset on the level of Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson.
The Mixed Match Challenge
The Mixed Match Challenge is going to be sneaky good.
Mixed tag team wrestling isn't usually a highlight, but this event—set to air live on Facebook—will be different. First off, it's a tournament, which creates natural drama via its format. Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet noted: "Sources tell us Vince McMahon is pulling out all the stops with MMC to impress Facebook’s top brass," which is reason to be hopeful.
There promises to be a number of intriguing pairings for the event too.
Powerhouses Jax and Strowman could team up. Goldust and Asuka could align and blind fans with the most colorful of entrances. Becky Lynch could partner up with Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura or who knows.
A fun vibe should permeate the tourney, and it's always great to get something fresh on the WWE calendar.
'Woken' Getting Weirder
Matt Hardy fans spent much of 2017 waiting for him to break down and become the unstable version of himself he played in Impact Wrestling. But legal battles held up the transition of that character to WWE. So we saw no sightings of Vanguard 1 or Senor Benjamin on Raw.
Toward the end of the year, though, a loss to Bray Wyatt led to that long-expected character shift.
Hardy is "woken" rather than "broken," but it looks as though he will be just as eccentric and unique as he was on Impact Wrestling. As 2018 rolls on, WWE will get a chance to better showcase this character. Hardy will have more time to experiment with it. And WWE TV will be better off for it.
A fight at the Wyatt Family compound, more sightings of Napoleon the fish and Jeff morphing into someone new are all on the table as WWE Creative and Hardy team up to blow our minds.
NXT Killing It Again
Unlike the hit-or-miss nature of WWE's PPVs, NXT TakeOver events delivered every time out in 2017.
Any quality list of WWE's best matches of 2017 burst with NXT showdowns. That's sure to be true for 2018. WWE's third brand is a haven for top-notch wrestling, and its roster is loaded.
NXT will feature compelling stories that will threaten to outdo what Raw and SmackDown Live offer. Kairi Sane chasing Ember Moon for the women's title, Gargano's pursuit of NXT champ Andrade "Cien" Almas and The Undisputed Era's continued dominance will all be great.
Throw in the fact that up-and-comers like Lars Sullivan and Velveteen Dream are poised for breakout years, and NXT alone is reason enough to get pumped about what unfolds in WWE in 2018.