Ranking WWE's Top 10 Best Booking Decisions in 2018
When one looks back on 2018, it will not be fondly remembered for the wealth of creative successes on the part of WWE's crack writing team.
The year was uneven, messy and downright insulting at times, but through the madness, injuries and nonsensical developments, there were the occasional bright spots that left fans eager for more from some of their favorite Superstars.
From heel turns to jaw-dropping debuts, there have been more than a few booking decisions WWE should be commended for over the last 12 months.
10. Rousey Obliterates Alexa Bliss for 1st Raw Women's Championship
Ronda Rousey's victory at WrestleMania 34 catapulted her to the forefront of the women's division, and her victory over Alexa Bliss ensured her as the face of the Raw brand.
The win at SummerSlam in August was a one-sided decimation of Little Miss Bliss that culminated with The Baddest Woman on the Planet grabbing the champion, pulling her arm back and tapping her out in her vaunted armbar submission.
The match was perfectly executed, the loudmouthed villain catching the beatdown fans had wanted from the unstoppable badass she had tormented for weeks.
Like so many of Rousey's matches, it was laid out expertly and the performers involved carried out the vision in spectacular fashion.
9. The Ultimate Deletion
WWE chairman Vince McMahon has long been just stubborn enough to not take a character that wasn't his creation and put it on his show.
That changed this year as the Broken Matt Hardy figure manifested itself in the form of Woken Matt Hardy and feuded with Bray Wyatt. While injuries robbed fans of seeing a genuine character arc, it was a breath of fresh air at a time when the product was growing ever more stale.
The Woken character led to The Ultimate Deletion, a unique main event on an episode of Raw that allowed Hardy to flex his creativity and provide fans with a look at a product they were unfamiliar with.
The entire ordeal ran off the rails a bit when Wyatt became an ally of the popular babyface, but for a brief moment, WWE Creative let down its guard and gave fans a look at what it could be if it wanted to.
8. Mustafa Ali Jumps to SmackDown Live
Mustafa Ali was one of the bright spots of 205 Live in 2018 and one of WWE's most consistent in-ring workers. He also had a knack for inspiring fans through social media. In all, he was an asset for the company that simply could not be wasted on a show seen by a fraction of the audience.
When he unexpectedly debuted on SmackDown Live late in the year, WWE Creative rewarded his hard work and immediately programmed him against world champion Daniel Bryan.
The Heart of 205 Live scored a victory over the WWE champion in a big tag team match and proceeded to build momentum on Christmas night with a win over Andrade "Cien" Almas.
As the calendar prepares to turn, Ali looks poised to have a big 2019 for the blue brand. That is, if he can keep the attention of Vince McMahon and the writing team. If history is any indication, that will not be a problem.
7. Samoa Joe's Cerebral Turn
Samoa Joe has long earned the reputation of a badass between the ropes. He is a bruiser, a brawler and a submission artist who can choke his opponent out with total disregard for his well-being.
In 2018, the Joe character took an interesting turn as he became a more cerebral villain, pushing his opponent's proverbial buttons and toying with their emotions.
Joe targeted the family of AJ Styles, unleashing an anger and rage in The Phenomenal One that he was able to momentarily use against him. He has spent the remainder of the year doing the same to Jeff Hardy, drudging up the demons from The Charismatic Enigma's past.
While he has still to win that defining match in WWE, the change in character freshened up a performer who played a major role in the blue brand's creative plans in 2018.
6. Constable Corbin's Tyrannical Reign
There were many problems with the Raw creative process in 2018. One that was not, though, was the appointment of Baron Corbin to the role of constable, then interim general manager.
For all the criticism the last two months of the flagship show caught for its diminishing creative returns, Corbin thrived in his role. He was a rare authority figure who also competed in the ring, not unlike the role Triple H played at the turn of the century.
It was an attempt by the writing team to freshen up the tired authority figure and, on that front, it worked. Here was a GM who could back up his orders in the ring, something fans had not seen in nearly two decades.
Did WWE Creative go overboard with the booking of the character? Yes, a bit too predictably at times, but the Corbin character got heat and provided fans with a look at a heel the fans can sink their teeth into and genuinely dislike.
5. Randy Orton's Heel Turn
Randy Orton's heel turn last summer brought with it a more dangerous and sadistic version of The Viper than fans had ever witnessed before.
He was ruthless, vile and unforgiving. He specifically targeted the most popular Superstars on the SmackDown roster as payback for what he considered disrespect at the hands of the fans.
No Superstar received more punishment for his relationship with fans than Jeff Hardy, who was brutalized on several occasions ahead of a Hell in a Cell match against the third-generation performer. In that match, Orton used a screwdriver to sickeningly twist the earlobe of his opponent.
From targeted assaults on the limbs of Hardy and Tye Dillinger to stealing the mask of Rey Mysterio, Orton thrived as a villain.
As SmackDown looks to the new year, The Viper figures to be a major part of the creative plans and for the first time in years, that is not such a bad thing.
4. Call It an Evolution
This past October, WWE produced the first-ever all-female pay-per-view event entitled Evolution.
Live from Long Island, New York, the show featured two superb championship bouts pitting Becky Lynch against Charlotte Flair in a Last Woman Standing match for the SmackDown women's title and Ronda Rousey vs. Nikki Bella for the Raw Women's Championship.
The event was produced like a men's show, and while the commentary team repeatedly bashed its audience over the head with the history being made, WWE's production team did not make the event feel like a sideshow. Instead, it was more intimate, thanks to the lighting effects and no-nonsense approach to the women's wrestling that fans bore witness to.
The show and its performers were treated with respect, and as a result, the show came across far better than previous attempts to spotlight the female Superstars.
3. Daniel Bryan's Downward Spiral
Daniel Bryan proved the doubters wrong this year, returning to the squared circle after three years on the sidelines to compete at WrestleMania 34 as Shane McMahon's tag team partner against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
Somewhere along the line, though, his push became muddled in mediocrity and a high-profile feud with The Miz disappointed. There were questions surrounding his intentions to re-sign with the company but when he did, he immediately defeated The Hollywood A-Lister and entered the WWE Championship picture, engaging AJ Styles in what appeared competitive rivalry.
That is, until the five days out from Survivor Series.
After enduring a year of frustration and a losing streak in high-profile matches, Bryan snapped, delivering a low blow to Styles and captured the WWE Championship for the first time in four years.
The low blow was the culmination of a storyline that lasted throughout the year, whether intentional or not. The real frustration Bryan had to have experienced after the way in which his character was handled manifested itself in a perfectly timed heel turn.
The Yes! Movement that had defined another era of Bryan's career was dead. There was no chant, no smiling and no underdog story.
He was a changed man, his anger over the way fans had treated him upon his magical return boiling to the surface. He blamed them for the environment, repeatedly lashed out at them by using the word "fickle" to describe them and viciously attacked everyone from Styles to Mustafa Ali to R-Truth.
The Bryan heel turn freshened up a performer who has continuously changed and evolved over the course of time. Most importantly, it provided SmackDown with a new lead villain at a time when it desperately needed one.
2. Ronda Rousey KIcks Ass at WrestleMania
Ronda Rousey wrestled her first match at WrestleMania 34.
That bout, a genuine Match of the Year candidate, saw her unleash on both Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in crowd-pleasing fashion.
For a rookie who had never competed in a televised wrestling match before, the former UFC star was confident and strong as she hit her marks and demonstrated perfect timing while doing so.
From a booking standpoint, presenting her as an ass-kicking machine right out of the gate set the tone for her run with the company. She possessed that big-fight feel and fans ate it up.
From the moment she tapped McMahon out with an armbar, WWE had a genuine star who could carry women's wrestling on her back and bring it to the mainstream in a way others could not.
It was a brilliant first performance, and those within the creative team laid it out to perfection.
1. Becky Lynch: The Man
There is no Superstar who defined WWE's 2018 more than Becky Lynch.
In a year when the company took a much more focused approach to highlighting women's wrestling, she broke out of the pack and emerged a genuine star.
A heel turn at SummerSlam sparked a push for the Irish-born competitor, but it was not until she began cutting scathing promos based in reality that she connected with the fans in a way that eventually made her the most popular star in the entire company.
Referring to herself as "The Man," she took a no-nonsense approach to her character, verbally cutting down her fellow performers both on and off the screen. No one was safe, including Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair, both of whom found themselves on the receiving end of Lynch's scathing words.
By the time The Man had her nose broken, blood pouring down her face just six days from the Survivor Series pay-per-view in November, her status as the hottest and most popular star in the sport was solidified.
Much of the new and improved Lynch could be chalked up to herself. She cut the promos, she expressed herself the way she did, and she entered arenas with such swagger that fans connected with her. WWE Creative realized how popular she was and gave her more of a platform than she had received before.
Suddenly, she was headlining pay-per-views and closing out episodes of SmackDown. The writing team knew how hot she was and rather than trying to stunt her growth as it had for so many other unscheduled stars in the past, they let her run with the ball and she scored each and every time.
In a year when WWE Creative did a lot right with its female talent, no booking decision proved more beneficial to a single performer or the company as a whole during a time of creative bankruptcy elsewhere, than the focus on Lynch and her character.