2018 gave us so many great matches in the ring, but due to various injuries and writing themselves into a corner the stories this year were less than satisfying. Here is a list of 7 things wrestling fans want from WWE creative this year.
1. Give control of RAW & SmackDown to Triple H & William Regal
Triple H is NXT's father figure and he could be that for RAW & SmackDown. William Regal has been the greatest authority figure in WWE since Jack Tunney. He treats the NXT Superstars with respect but lays down the law when he must. His investigation into who injured Aleister Black was a great running story that gave the spotlight to each member of the NXT roster over several months of television. RAW & SmackDown has been plagued for 20 years with the McMahons meddling; centering RAW around their family drama. As Vince has stepped away from an on-camera role, Stephanie McMahon has taken the spotlight with her on-camera persona consistently making Superstars look like little kids. The men get talked down to and slapped. The women get belittled and treated like whiny children while Stephanie takes the credit for WWE's evolving female product. On SmackDown, Shane McMahon inserted himself into feuds and has stepped in the ring for WrestleMania and subbed himself in the finals for the World Cup at Crown Jewel resulting in him winning and being named "best in the world". Triple H and William Regal have figured out the right balance on NXT. We want our Superstars to be bigger than life without the McMahons cutting them down. The ripple effect of this change would allow the Superstars to get themselves over in feuds that can actually be resolved in a quality wrestling match instead of a gimmick match built to hide the holes in the McMahons' wrestling ability.
2. Tag Team Wrestling
Bret Hart, Edge, Jeff Hardy, and Shawn Michaels all started as tag team specialists. Tag team wrestling is a fantastic way to give TV time to new Superstars who may need to develop some in front of the audience's eyes. Tag team wrestling can keep the audience entertained by having a higher workrate while still having good match psychology due to the ability to tag in a fresh competitor. We're not talking about just pairing individual wrestlers together for a few matches. We're talking about a team that stays together for months and maybe even years. Bret Hart's feud with Shawn Michaels started while they were members of the Hart Foundation and the Rockers, respectively. Both men were introduced to the audience through their pairings and we wanted more from them. So when they finally broke out into individual careers, they already had momentum to propel them to the top of the card. WWE has so many great tag teams in the men's division and we'd love to see more from them but WWE is completely missing a women's tag division and it's time for that to change. Rumors have been swirling for months about the introduction of a women's tag team championship title but we've yet to see any change. Tag team wrestling is a perfect antidote for shorter audience attention spans in 2019 while introducing characters to build for the long-term.
3. Smart Heroes
WWE's babyfaces have suffered from bouts of complete loss of logic and total stupidity making it hard to cheer for them. Even Seth Rollins lost all logic and reason stopping in his TLC match against Dean Ambrose because Dean suggested they do the SHIELD fist bump. No sane human would ever stop their title match for such a thing. The match got chants of "This is boring!" for a reason. We can't get behind idiotic heroes. Every babyface has to smile and wave. We want heroes to show aggression when necessary. The viciousness of Becky Lynch is part of what got her so over with the crowd. There is not one male babyface who matches Becky Lynch's intensity right now. WWE has had a problem with fans cheering for heels more than they do faces because fans can't get behind someone who doesn't make sense. Roman Reigns has been portrayed as an underdog throughout his career while being given opportunity after opportunity to become champion. Throughout his run, only heels criticized him and seemed to want his spot as #1 contender for Brock Lesnar's Universal Title. This makes every other hero seem like they are content with their place in WWE. Why would we support an athlete that doesn't care about winning?
4. Make Championships Matter
Week after week on RAW three hours go by and no one mentions wanting the Universal Title. It seems that it's only reserved for Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, & Braun Strowman. Every wrestler on the roster should want to be champion. We should hear about it from the Superstars and see the Superstars trying to work their way up. Champions should display their titles proudly and talk about being on top. Every Superstar should want to win their matches so they can get a shot at being on top. If the action is not about winning, we don't want to see it. This can work for heels too: when Kevin Owens dubbed himself a "prizefighter" in NXT, we knew exactly what he wanted and anticipated consequences for when he didn't get what he wanted. Making championships matter will focus matches and promos and cut out some of the meandering segments and matches we've seen over the years. This should prevent segments like "Bayley, This is Your Life" and "Lashley's Sisters": two of the worst pieces of TV ever put out by WWE. Recently, WWE successfully had Tyler Breeze return to NXT TV to challenge for the North American Championship. This made the North American Championship feel more important than it has been in months while giving Tyler Breeze, who has been without a story for weeks due to his partner being injured, something to fight for and the audience someone to cheer for. It would be nice to see them do this on the main roster more often.
5. Make Braun Strowman Strong Again
When WWE was building Strowman to contend for the WWE title, he was featured in segments showcasing him performing massive feats of strength. With so much of our world being uncertain, Braun gave us certainty. He's strong monster that plows through any obstacle in his path until he succeeds. His rallying cry of "I'm not finished with you!" followed by his persistent chase of Roman Reigns made us fall in love with him. Finally we had a character that is determined to have resolution. Since then, Braun has switched between heel & face while being put in in-ring talking segments over-exposing him to the audience. Braun can regain that magic and be built up again. No Superstar has the size and power of Strowman and he is someone that should be protected on the roster as an attraction.
6. Use Sasha and Bayley
When she debuted on RAW in 2015, Sasha Banks was the the hottest female Superstar in the company. People would chant "we want Sasha!" in every arena that WWE traveled to. In response, WWE reduced Sasha's role on TV relegating her to six-man tag matches with no notable feuds. The pop that Bayley received upon her debut at Battleground 2016 was deafening and two and a half years later the reaction to Bayley is almost entirely gone. These two put on classic matches in NXT and have floundered on the main roster. The stopping and starting of pushes for these two has been agonizing. With Sasha turning face to heel to face over and over again, nobody knows where The Boss stands. Bayley seemingly has accepted her role on the main roster and has shown no desire to compete for the women's championship. She shows no frustration when she loses or is betrayed by other women on the roster. We really have no idea who Bayley is anymore because we don't know what she wants. For two women who were some of the most talked about wrestlers in 2015 to come out to very little reaction in 2018 shows how much WWE has killed their momentum. These two are not a lost cause and we fans want to see them succeed. WWE needs to go beyond their 3-week push formula of talent and commit to a story for these women.
7. Stop Saying That You Listen To Us and Actually Listen To Us
When wrestling stories feel organic, the fans respond bigger and more genuinely than when it feels produced. Stone Cold Steve Austin's rise to popularity felt organic, as did The Rock's, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan. Fans gravitate towards stories and characters that feel genuine. This past year, the fans latched on to Rusev and his "Rusev Day" gimmick. WWE even put Rusev's March 11th match at Fastlane with Shinsuke Nakamura on their 'WWE Match of the Year 2018" collection. You couldn't go anywhere WrestleMania weekend without hearing "Rusev Day" chants. It culminated in a championship match with AJ Styles at Extreme Rules in July and then Rusev was slowly made more and more irrelevant on WWE television. If WWE was actually listening to the fans, they would have jumped aboard with us and ridden that momentum with some gold for Rusev instead of giving us a break-up with his friend Aiden English over a weird love triangle story. Becky Lynch managed to hold on to her momentum in spite of WWE trying to book her out of it multiple times. It's been clear since July that the fans loved Becky Lynch and wanted to cheer her on. WWE's response was to turn her heel against Charlotte Flair. This lack of ability to hear what the audience is asking for is soul-crushing when WWE consistently says they are listening to us and giving us what we want. They're basically gas-lighting the fanbase and it's the most frustrating part of being a WWE fan. If WWE actually follows through on this "new era" where the WWE Universe is truly the authority in WWE, hopefully we'll see this change. Until then, this list is just a wishlist. Hopefully WWE Creative can give us a holiday miracle.