But also, with the arrival of summer comes the realization that we're halfway through the calendar. And that's as good a time as any to give something of a mid-year lookback.
While many will herald the greatest of NXT and their Takeover events (and why not? There've been four or five at-or-borderline five-star matches on those shows), the main roster has had its own share of high-quality bouts. Nothing quite on the level of Johnny Gargano's three Takeover matches, but impressive matches nonetheless.
For this list, I will look back at the previous six months of WWE programming, both their pay per views and their TV programs, to name what I feel are the main roster's 10 best matches so far this year. As it turns out, the first six months of 2018 have provided some truly great showings...
10. Seth Rollins Vs. Finn Balor (Monday Night Raw, 30 April 2018)
The WWE roster had to be thoroughly exhausted in the midst of this globetrotting expedition. The 30 April Raw from Montreal took place just days after Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia, and for much of the night, the diminished energy had been apparent. That was, until the main event.
With just six nights to go before Backlash, Rollins and Balor delivered a superb IC title match that was right in line with Rollins' hot streak of excellent bouts. The final six minutes or so were just pedal-to-the-floor frenetic, as Balor looked to be on pace to defeat Rollins, perhaps making the IC title contest at Backlash a WrestleMania rematch. It wasn't to be, as Rollins finished Balor off with a Curb Stomp, ending what will certainly not be Rollins' only appearance on this list.
9. The Miz Vs. Finn Balor Vs. Seth Rollins (WrestleMania 34)
It's fair to say that this was the best IC title match at WrestleMania to not incorporate ladders since Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper pummeled each other 26 years ago. And as far as including the ladder matches go, it's definitely in the neighbourhood of the WrestleMania 31 match won by Daniel Bryan. It ain't touching Shawn vs. Razor, but very few matches ever do.
Rollins, Balor, and Miz kicked off 'Mania with a zippy Triple Threat match that incorporated your usual elaborate sequences and dramatic near-falls, almost totally non-stop action all the way through. Many thought it'd be Balor's time, but giving Rollins the spotlight as Raw's de facto top champion was the better call.
8. Gauntlet Match (Monday Night Raw, 19 February 2018)
Certainly it was a surprise to see WWE devote an hour and 45 minutes to one match, but more so, it was pleasantly surprising to see fans hang in there, enjoying the seven-man Gauntlet Match all the way to the finish. The wind did leave the sails a wee bit after Rollins' elimination after the first 65 minutes, though, but not so severely that the match itself was ruined any great deal.
While Rollins' portion with Elias was fine unto itself, the first two matches against Reigns and Cena were a nice slice of something different. You couldn't have had a better showcase of Rollins' endurance, agility, and overall wrestling acumen than in his two unabridged bouts with a pair of polarizing babyfaces. Both Reigns and Cena looked exceptional as well, keeping up with WWE's MVP of 2018 in a pair of 25-plus minute showcases.
7. Charlotte Vs. Asuka (WrestleMania 34)
The ending didn't seem to be in doubt, because very few people fathomed that Asuka's unbeaten streak was in any jeopardy. WWE had strongly played up the fact that Asuka had not been beaten since her arrival in October 2015, and Charlotte merely looked like the presiding torch-bearer that Asuka would slay en route to her coronation.
But that's not what happened, obviously. It wasn't quite the same stunned silence as when Lesnar conquered The Undertaker's Streak, but the Superdome was nonetheless startled when Asuka tapped clean to the Figure-8. Prior to that point, the two women had the greatest Women's title match in WrestleMania's decades-long history, with the coolest spot being Asuka catching a Charlotte Moonsault with a Triangle Choke.
6. Women's Money In The Bank Ladder Match
Ladder matches through the years have seen the bar raised to where the expectations centre around wackier, more elaborate and dangerous stunts that had been seen previously. One downside to that supposition is the levels of contrivance go up, and half the match becomes about convenient placement and such.
The women's Money in the Bank match didn't go down that road, instead delivering literally 18-and-a-half minutes of unrelenting action, one sequence flowing into another with a bare minimum of downtime - from Sasha Banks wilfully ragdolling herself for the sake of entertainment, and Naomi hitting the coolest non-ladder move, a Buff Blockbuster off of the ring apron. Alexa Bliss winning annoyed some people (especially poor Jack, whose "Candle in the Wind" rewrite dedicated to Becky Lynch should be dropping any day now), but that was the point, wasn't it?
5. Men's Royal Rumble Match
While the night was a little more remembered for the first-ever women's Rumble bout, it had to settle for second-best Rumble match on the night. Make no mistake, the women's match came off well enough and was very enjoyable (especially if you clicked on a language option other than English - I brushed up on my German that night), but the men's match featured just a little more substance and style.
Finn Balor's near one-hour performance earned deserved raves, as did some well-chosen cameos (Rey Mysterio, Adam Cole). Creative ideas like Heath Slater's shock elimination of Sheamus, and having a super-extended finish in which Cena and Reigns played it a little more heelish, made the match feel the freshest it's been in years. Certainly, this places on the higher end of best Rumble matches ever.
4. Men's Money In The Bank Ladder Match
WWE is very inclined to use Braun Strowman as equal parts frightening force of nature and human cartoon, and that's just fine. The Money in the Bank Ladder Match won by Strowman made full use of Braun's larger-than-life persona. How can you not love any match in which Strowman runs straight through a horizontal ladder, causing The Miz to freeze in abject terror?
This match *had* to place high on the list, lest Kevin Owens' on-screen death be in vain. Like the women's match earlier in the night, the men's battle cut an urgent pace, displayed a modicum of psychology (the horde trying to take Strowman out early), and some well spaced-out visual shocks that didn't burn the crowd out. And kudos to Chicago - after four hours of wrestling, they were still all in on this.
3. Seth Rollins Vs. The Miz (Backlash)
It was almost as if everybody that had to follow Rollins and Miz's IC title match just said, "Screw it", and phoned in their performances. That's an exaggeration, of course, but the consensus coming out of Backlash was that the show would've been a complete loss if the opening match hadn't been so incredible. Nobody was "beating the traffic" during this one.
Perhaps it was a bit excessive to have Rollins kick out of two Skull Crushing Finales, but if WWE wants Rollins to look like a veritable superhero, then so be it - he has the finesse and athleticism to pull it off. The struggle over the Figure-Four was old school goodness, and truly it was a match with something for all tastes. Being on the 2018 Backlash card was like being the bright kid falsely placed in reform school.
2. Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey Vs. Triple H & Stephanie McMahon (WrestleMania 34)
To call this match a pleasant surprise would be a gross understatement. Like a lot of viewers, I'm over The Authority and evil bosses in general, and I didn't particularly have much desire to see Rousey (as much of a fan of her UFC run as I was) take part in an Attitude Era fantasy camp. Then I was proven wrong.
Helmsley and Stephanie reminded me so much of 1990 Savage and Sherri, infusing creative cheating and underhandedness into what I like to call an "audience match" - where every subsequent move is an emotional button pressed hard. Rousey shined brightly in her debut, looking like she'd been wrestling a full schedule for some time, and her making the wicked queen tap out was a perfect ending. It must be said, though, that if Stephanie weren't such a reprehensible character (read: great heel), Rousey's win would not have been as sweet. Keep this in mind as Rousey looks to do things to the arm of the sneering, snotty Alexa Bliss.
1. AJ Styles Vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (Money In The Bank)
With a handful of undesirable finishes, the Styles/Nakamura feud seemed like a sure thing that had inexplicably gone bust. A Last Man Standing match signed for Money in the Bank led to the requisite jokes ("Another double-dick kick knockout, sure"), and expectations were tempered as a result of some perceived bad faith in the earlier bouts.
There were some who didn't care for the match (partially because they felt Nakamura was denied an assured coronation), but I loved the way that it slowly built into a furious crescendo. Nakamura's defiant arrogance and Styles' rising anger made for a potent combo, as demonstrated when Nakamura taunted Styles in the closing stages, only to eat a swift kick to the 'nads. Some Last Man Standing matches are just excuses for plunder-filled brawls, but this one told a clear story, and might just be the most resounding feud-ending win that Styles has had in WWE. Hopefully, appreciation for this match will grow as time marches on.