Shinsuke Nakamura and the 8 Most Disappointing WWE Stars of 2018
There are a number of reasons why a WWE Superstar could have had a disappointing 2018.
Underwhelming in-ring returns and an inability to grow their characters are often reasons a wrestler fails to impress. This year, though, the blame lies less with the Superstar themselves and more with a creative team that failed to capitalize on their abilities.
From tag teams called to the main roster and mysteriously dropped to internationally recognized stars whose statures were diminished by questionable use, the year was not kind to a collection of talented individuals who found more success elsewhere in the company.
Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe arrived on SmackDown Live over the summer, making the jump to the main roster despite an NXT run that never felt like it had been properly concluded.
Concerns about their prospects were confirmed when they lost to Jeff Hardy and The Usos before falling off the radar on Tuesday nights.
The trio did nothing of note at all in 2018, becoming complete afterthoughts on a brand known for utilizing as much of its talent as possible.
It was not until they re-emerged in December—attacking Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows and The Usos—that their prospects began looking up.
7. Finn Balor
Finn Balor is perhaps the most interesting case in this countdown.
The Irishman appeared on Raw every week, battled the likes of Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins in main events and was consistently one of the most popular stars on the roster.
Yet, he rarely won those high-profile bouts and felt more like a midcard star elevated occasionally rather than the headliner his talents and fanfare suggest he should be.
Balor wandered aimlessly in and out of programs with Elias and Baron Corbin, waiting for the next big match in which he could showcase his skills.
As the year came to a close, he seemed to be building momentum.
A win at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs over Drew McIntyre and a victory over The Scottish Psychopath and Dolph Ziggler in a Triple Threat match on Christmas Eve have him rolling as 2019 arrives.
One can only hope the new year brings an opportunity for Balor to climb back into the main event and maybe even challenge for the Universal Championship he never lost.
EC3 arrived to much fanfare in NXT in 2018.
The former TNA world champion looked destined to achieve great things in the developmental brand before becoming a massive star for WWE.
Unfortunately, he struggled.
He never won in high-profile bouts, including the Ladder match for the NXT North American Championship on WrestleMania weekend and a singles clash against Velveteen Dream.
Every big match EC3 competed in, he dropped, leaving some to wonder why the company bothered signing him if there were no plans for him beyond being a glorified enhancement talent.
Sure, he benefited from television time and worked against substantial stars, but his inability to build momentum for himself created doubt over his chances of success in WWE during his second go-round with the company.
Then came the revelation that EC3 will be making his debut on the main roster shortly.
After a subpar 2018, perhaps he can finally succeed in a company that has yet to utilize him to his fullest potential.
5. Bobby Roode
Bobby Roode was the star of NXT. On SmackDown, he was the United States champion, working alongside the likes of Randy Orton. When he wound up on Raw, though, The Glorious One's 2018 took a turn for the worse.
Roode arrived on Monday nights with no creative direction. He wrestled meaningless matches before inexplicably seeing his star power diminished via a new tag team with Chad Gable.
The duo had their first feud against The Ascension—the same enhancement team last seen filming comedic bits with Breezango—before jumping into Raw Tag Team Championship contention.
Sure, they beat AOP to win the titles in December, but Roode's year proved so underwhelming by that point that no championship reign could turn it around.
Once the main event attraction on the company's hottest brand, the ill-advised babyface turn, midcard run, and tag team purgatory made him a disappointment this year.
4. Andrade 'Cien' Almas
The first half of 2018 was a monumental one for Andrade "Cien" Almas.
As NXT champion, he wrestled one of the matches of the year against Johnny Gargano in January, then followed it up with an equally good title defense against Aleister Black.
When he dropped the title and made the jump to the main roster, El Idolo appeared poised to be the next big thing on Tuesday nights.
He battled AJ Styles hard and worked Daniel Bryan in quality matches. Alongside Zelina Vega, he was one of the hottest acts in the business.
Then he disappeared, and a year that started so hot ended with a thud. Almas inexplicably dropped matches to Rusev and newcomer Mustafa Ali in between stints of doing nothing. He appeared on SmackDown rarely and randomly, two death knells for a Superstar trying to gain consistency.
Almas suffered one of the most disappointing years of all, thanks in large part to the downward trajectory it ended with.
3. The Revival
Together, The Revival's Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder are a generational tag team.
Only Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling can claim to feature teams with better chemistry than the former NXT tag team champions. Yet, for as good as they are, they have failed to find the same success on Raw that they did during their time in NXT.
Wilder and Dawson have survived major injuries to continue unleashing their brand of old-school tag team psychology, yet they have had little success.
They failed to unseat The B-Team's Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel as champions. They were beaten by Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. They could not upset Bobby Roode and Chad Gable to close out the year.
Even when they battled Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre for the titles, assuming the role of de facto babyfaces, they were unsuccessful.
No matter what, they could not get on a roll or win a championship. It only enhances how poorly utilized they were when it came at a time that the Raw tag division desperately could have used them.
Asuka entered 2018 riding an undefeated streak that would reach 914 days before she lost to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34.
Despite that success and an unmatched aura, WWE Creative wasted little time tearing her character apart, shipping her to SmackDown Live, where she proceeded to lose a rivalry to Carmella and take Naomi on as a tag team partner.
Even a victory in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match for the SmackDown Women's Championship on December 16 could not erase what was a year of professional disappointment and frustration.
She felt like an afterthought when Flair and Becky Lynch were embroiled in such a red-hot rivalry that her involvement made little sense.
Her first title defense, against former partner Naomi, felt too forced to give anyone thoughts that her title reign will somehow reverse her fortunes heading into the new year.
1. Shinsuke Nakamura
One would think a Royal Rumble win in January would be all Shinsuke Nakamura needed to spark a banner year in WWE.
The Artist won the high-profile Battle Royal in January, turned heel at WrestleMania and challenged AJ Styles for the WWE Championship multiple times over the spring. Yet it never really felt like the creative team was fully behind him.
When he sunk into the midcard, competing in meaningless rivalries and matches before winning the United States Championship, that suspicion was essentially confirmed. Even as the U.S. champion, Nakamura's character was underdeveloped, and his role on the show was undefined.
The Japanese Superstar was just a guy, something someone of his charisma and stature should never be.
It never got better.
On Christmas night, he lost his title to Rusev, bringing an underwhelming 2018 to its conclusion.