It’s been an interesting year for WWE’s main roster. Despite being packed full of talent (to a historic degree), quite a few have struggled to elevate their standing in the eyes of the crowd – with a few notable exceptions.
Part of the problem could be the general excellence of NXT. Each of 2018’s TakeOver shows knocked it out of the park, arguably overshadowing the following main roster PPVs in the process. In WWE’s ‘developmental’ system, it seems as though the Superstars are given a greater degree of creative freedom – as well as a more concise timeslot to avoid over-saturation.
Still, I don’t want to make it sound as though 2018 has been a poor year for the main roster’s various Superstars. We have seen unquestionably great moments, from title wins to shocking turns, with a handful of fantastic matches along the way.
Before we begin the list, it’s important to remember a few honourable mentions:
Shinsuke Nakamura: followed a strange trajectory in 2018, winning the Royal Rumble before losing at WrestleMania. A big slump followed (despite his US title win) but the initial burst at the start of the year is worthy of merit.
Carmella: is one of 2018’s most improved in-ring performers, while maintaining her natural charisma and charm – whether as a heel or babyface. Her title feud with Asuka was hampered by bad booking (and the inclusion of James Ellsworth), but her cash-in on Charlotte remains a highlight of the year.
Braun Strowman: continued to get better this year, and is now one of WWE’s biggest Superstars in a figurative sense as well as literal. Unfortunately, his momentum was sapped after winning Money in the Bank courtesy of a very unwise heel turn. At least he goes into next year a babyface again.
Drew McIntyre: looks set to be a major player in 2019, but his push began in earnest recently, so he just misses out on the list.
Finally, since we’re not including the 205 Live roster on this list, it only seems fitting to mention the three most impressive stars of the brand – Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali, & Buddy Murphy.
Asuka sneaks onto this list by virtue of enjoying a very good start and finish to the year. She won the inaugural women’s Royal Rumble match, before heading to WrestleMania 34 to have a very good title match with Charlotte Flair?
The only issue? She lost. Usually, that wouldn’t be such a big deal in itself, but there are two key factors at play. One: her unbeaten streak was over (although at least it was to a strong opponent). Two: the rest of 2018 was largely horrible for Asuka.
The Empress of Tomorrow is probably deserving of a higher place on this list given her ability, and it’s good to see her end the year as SmackDown Women’s Champion – but everything between April and December was painful for fans of the most dominant champ in NXT history.