Craig Wilson, Brian Damage, Jamie Lithgow and Benjamin Trecroci
As we approach the end of this calendar year, in typical fashion, we look back over the last twelve months of Wrestling in our penultimate Sunday Sermon of the year.
Craig: Before starting this post, I cast my eyes back to comments last year and am not convinced much has changed for me. Waning interest, flicking in and out of shows and finding Raw a near impossible show to watch without the benefits of a fast-forward button.
That said, there have been some highs. I’ve loved Becky Lynch’s recent run, including her social media output. Daniel Bryan’s return to in-ring competition has definitely been a big moment this year. Oh, and some of the PPVs have been rather good – last week’s TLC anyone?
But Raw is still a big problem. Dwindling viewership numbers, a tired and plodding feel and far too much filler. It led to the return of Vinnie Mac but that’s not a well that the company can really turn to every time, is it?
Brian: I think a lot of the highs happened outside of the WWE’s empire. Oh sure, NXT has been good and NXT UK has just started to develop and then there was the all women’s pay per view Evolution. WWE has had some truly shining moments, but let us look at what has occurred outside of WWE’s universe. Cody Rhodes continued to market himself as the ultimate independent contractor who succeeded without WWE’s marketing machine behind him. The All In pay per view was good, but the way it sold out in record time was amazing in of itself. New Japan continues to grow and expand past the land of the rising sun as a major player in professional wrestling. They continued to put on great shows one after another.
Impact Wrestling under the leadership of Anthem Sports and creatively under Don Callis and Scott D’Amore has been the comeback promotion of the year. I don’t know how many times that we as fans have counted out TNA/Impact and deservedly so. However, this latest formula has worked for the company and it has returned to being a legitimate player in the industry once more.
The lows, of course, has to include Monday Night Raw and WWE’s overall product creatively. I think Roman Reigns leukemia diagnosis threw the company into a tailspin of sorts because they really built the company around just Reigns as the guy. Once the guy was put on the shelf for an extended period of time, it became nothing but a glaring hole for WWE.
Don’t forget, we lost a lot of wrestlers in 2018 including Brian Lawler, Nikolai Volkoff, Paul Jones, the Dynamite Kid, Dick Slater and of course Bruno Sammartino among others.
Jamie: I should be able to keep this all fairly positive, largely because I don’t think I have seen a single episode of WWE Raw this year. That in itself is pretty telling. Instead, I’ve been more closely following the world of wrestling outside the WWE bubble. Brian rightly mentions Cody Rhodes’ entrepreneurial spirit and the continued success of New Japan. How about adding Ring of Honor (with New Japan) selling out Madison Square Garden ahead of their big show this coming Wrestlemania weekend? Obviously, WWE is still the be-all and end-all for most casual fans and easily the top promotion out there. However, I heard an analogy about a canary in a coal mine this week and I wonder if 2018 will be remembered as the year that the first real warning signs presented themselves? I mean, WWE keep producing a flagship show that fewer and fewer people are watching while seemingly every other promotion out there gains momentum.
Craig: A fair point to raise the names of some of the in-ring icons who have passed away this year. As you get older as a wrestling fan, you see more and more of your heroes pass away. The death of Jim Neidhart was one that affected me badly, growing up watching the Hart Foundation.
Generally speaking, I’d say that this would be the best time for someone to challenge the Vince McMahon’s wrestling monopoly. It wouldn’t be cheap but it’s probably the most vulnerable the promotion has ever been.
After much badgering from Jamie, 2019 will be the year that I delve into New Japan Pro Wrestling. Starting with a subscription and using the day off I have on 4 January to watch Wrestle Kingdom 13 – as previewed, recently, by Jamie here.
I would also agree with Brian’s analysis regarding Roman Reigns. The WWE has definitely not been able to cope with his departure from the company to deal with his illness.
Brian: New Japan is definitely worth the investment. It is by far the most entertaining wrestling I have watched the past couple of years. With that said though, I am really hoping that WWE means what they say and changes with the times. People want to watch wrestling matches not 20 minute comedy skits.
2019 should be a really interesting year in the business. Ring of Honor continues to grow, they are teasing a possible 5th season of Lucha Underground, Impact Wrestling will find a new television home and what will be with All Elite Wrestling? Is it really going to happen? If so, when?
That brings us to the current IWGP heavyweight champion Kenny Omega. Word has it that his contract will expire in 2019. Will he jump ship from New Japan and if so, where will he land? Could a WWE run be in his future? Maybe he will resign with NJPW or maybe he will help kickstart All Elite.
As you can see, a lot of questions and a lot of unknowns in the New Year, but one thing is for sure, a lot will go down.
Benjamin: Wow Jamie wish I could’ve been as strong as you and not have watched Raw in 2018. Outside of a few episodes it’s been a huge miss on Raw this year.
But 2018 has been one heck of a year outside and inside of the WWE.
From All-In selling out in Chicago in minutes to ROH booking a show at MSG. NXT UK and some of the developments overseas are very interesting. Personally I haven’t watched any NXT UK as of yet but I’m ready to check it out.
There’s been a ton of news that couple years ago would’ve sounded preposterous.
This new All Elite promotion is likely going to be the biggest story of 2019 as to where guys like the Young Bucks,Kenny Omega,etc are going to end up.
Also, still can’t believe Smackdown is going to be on FOX at prime time on a Friday! Really hope the reports of it being presented of “true sport” come to fruition otherwise it could go south and wrestling will be continue to be seen as a joke to this larger mainstream audience.
Well there is our take. What have been your highs and lows from 2018? Leave them below in the comments.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.