Plenty of lists are made at the beginning of a year. People like to set goals or create some New Years Resolutions. Things they want to accomplish, what they'd like to do. Maybe it's lose weight, or get a new job. Perhaps the goal is to travel more or read a book.
This, however, is not one of those lists.
Instead, this is going to be a list of twenty things we don't want to see happen in WWE this year. Sort of a reverse set of resolutions, if you will. We won't be saying what surprises we want, or what matches we hope to see even. Nope, this one is going to be all about what we don't want to witness in a WWE ring. Or, for that matter, in the company at all. Some of these will be perhaps a little bit out there-but just because they sound crazy does not mean they can't happen. And because they could happen, and this is a list of what we don't want to happen...well, they make the list.
20 AJ Styles leaving
A year ago, this might have seemed like such a remote possibility. Heck, even a month or so ago, it would have been a bit of a reach. Now? Not so much. The landscape of professional wrestling changed with the creation of All Elite Wrestling. Here's the new reality: wrestlers who are free agents have another choice, one that seems to be offering good pay and a less crazy schedule. Sounds pretty good, right? They've already brought in several wrestlers WWE was chasing (The Young Bucks and Cody Rhodes, among others), and also secured former WWE titleholder Chris Jericho and ex-Crhiserweight Champion Neville, aka PAC. All signs point to the company landing Kenny Omega too. What does all this mean? Well, AJ Styles has a history with pretty much all of those wrestlers. He's been looking for a lighter schedule. And, his contract is expiring soon. Here's hoping that the Phenomenal One doesn't walk away.
19 The Undertaker Retiring
OK, I am conflicted here. I remember his debut. I remember it being replayed over and over on the Saturday morning Superstars program, which at the time was all I had access to as a young wrestling fan. I've seen all his changes, heel and babyface. I remember The Streak, and wish it had never been broken. I remember seeing him look really bad...but I remember seeing him look awesome too. He still has perhaps the best ring entrance in history, and even after this many years, it still gives me goosebumps. Ignoring his busier schedule in 2018, he's pretty much been good for one match a year, but what an attraction it has become. I suppose it lost some of the luster once the streak was broken, but you know for a fact there are fans who travel from far and wide, each year, to WrestleMania, hoping to see him work yet another match. Sure, he's in the twilight of his career. We expect his inevitable induction to the WWE Hall of Fame any year now. I just hope it isn't this year.
18 The move to FOX to go badly
This is a big one. When WWE announced it had agreed to terms with FOX to broadcast SmackDown, it was significant. FOX is throwing big money at WWE for those rights. The show, long a staple on the USA Network, having bounced around among several nights over the years, is going to get a new home this Fall. With the new channel and big money comes a new night( Friday, last we heard), I expect the set may get a makeover, which WWE tends to do from time to time anyway. With the change, they might also give us some new talent, either NXT graduates or hot free agents that didn't get gobbled up by All Elite.
That sounds exciting and all, but the move will have challenges too. Remember, WWE moved SmackDown to Tuesdays in an effort to lessen travel for the production crew, who were setting up both shows. Now, logistics get changed. Something else that I wait to see: the RAW after a big show – WrestleMania or SummerSlam for example – was always must-see. Still is. People expect debuts and returns as WWE starts new programs. Waiting for Tuesday was bad enough, and it almost always felt like SmackDown got the short end of the stick (big surprises on Monday, or once you saw who debuted for RAW, you kind of figured who was left for SmackDown). Now, waiting till Friday? I don't even know. The move should be good...but here's hoping it goes smoothly.
17 WWE Being Afraid to bring back better PPV names
Fine, I admit this one is a bit random. That said, hear me out. WWE owns the entire library of WCW and ECW PPV names, not to mention others. Over the years, that has not stopped them from rolling out some terrible names and even worse logos – Great Balls of Fire, anyone? For wrestling fans hoping for some classics, we got a glimmer of hope in 2017 when WWE revived – as a house show – WCW's old Starrcade. They brought that event back for 2018 too, though they moved it out of the Carolinas. Now, there are rumblings that WWE could once again resurrect King of the Ring, though possibly as a new all-female PPV or another network special. Add to that the fact WWE is working on getting legal control over Halloween Havoc. Sure, some of that could just be for the archives and future DVD, but here's hoping WWE retires some of the other ones and replaces with some classics. Worst case, give us more network specials that are glorified house shows. There are worse things in life.
16 Brock Lesnar as Universal Champion
I can't speak for everyone here, but I hope that Brock Lesnar is no longer champion when we head into Spring. I get it, they panicked when Roman Reigns was lost to go off and battle leukemia. The reality is, they had plenty of other options, all probably more appealing than crowning Brock Lesnar as Universal Champion once again. I was one who actually hoped that WWE held the title open for a little while. My preference was to have a Universal Championship tournament. Whether this mostly played out on RAW, with the finals happening at Survivor Series, or if they held the final few rounds on that PPV, a tournament just made sense to me, and it didn't need to invoke Lesnar.
There is one thing many fans are growing tired of – seeing the same faces at the top. Fans were tired of seeing Roman Reigns shoved down their throats in spite of the heat he had. Same for John Cena. This isn't even hate for Brock Lesnar. Rather, it's a decry that the roster has plenty of other options who should be considered and who are there full-time. These guys can't grow and develop (or prove they aren't cut out for it) if they never get the chance.
15 Men to main event WrestleMania
I don't even care if they had, like, Kenny Omega battling Cody Rhodes. Or any other male Superstar dream match. This is nothing against the Superstars from the men's locker room at all. Several are bringing it and have brought it, night in and night out. In any other year, I could lobby for those guys to get a sniff at the main event. I am quite certain WWE will bill the show as having multiple main events, something that they've done before. But, we all know what the true main event is - that coveted final slot to close the show. And this year, in 2019, the women have earned it. They deserve it. It's time. Only a couple years ago, the Women's Triple Threat match stole the whole show. There are rumors of another Women's Triple Threat match being considered for WrestleMania. If true, it should do more than steal the show. It deserves to make history.
14 The return of James Ellsworth
So, the good news on this is, I bet WWE agrees with us. James Ellsworth was an odd duck. Somehow, a local enhancement talent – a jobber, let's be honest – latched on and got more than the 15 minutes of fame he was hoping for. Sometimes he was funny. Most times, though, he was good at being annoying. While WWE thought the booking made sense, I thought having Ellsworth get involved in the first-ever Women's Money in the Bank ladder match was a mistake. To taint the first of that match for women was frustrating to me. The upside to all this is that it would seem Ellsworth might be a bit toxic now. He found himself in hot water at the end of 2018, due to accusations of certain outside-the-ring activities. I highly doubt WWE goes near him anytime soon.
13 WWE Keeping Hulk Hogan away much longer
I get it. Hulk Hogan said some really insensitive and hurtful things many years ago, and someone had the idea to record them. Years later, they surfaced and did major damage. WWE disavowed him. He was persona non grata. He, like so many others in his position before him, apologized profusely. He did his time, he laid low. WWE finally made amends, and he was back in a very limited role for Crown Jewel. Following that event, it looked like WWE didn't want to touch him again. Time does heal all wounds, and Hogan was just back on RAW to help memorialize his friend, "Mean" Gene Okerlund. Fan reaction seemed mostly positive, so here's hoping we get a bit more of Hulk Hogan in the year to come.
12 RAW or SmackDown without a General Manager
Maybe it's just me, but the one bummer about Vince McMahon's December "major announcement" was the fact that we lost out on a RAW General Manager and a SmackDown one too. I was tired of the GM-elect schtick from Baron Corbin, but the general manager role hasn't always been a dud either. I actually really enjoyed Paige in that role and was happy WWE found a way to keep her around and involved in spite of her career-ending neck injury. Besides, let's be honest: Vince McMahon does not want to be on TV much, and too much of Shane or Stephanie McMahon can be a bad thing. Triple H too, for that matter. It was frustrating seeing him as the good guy man behind NXT one night, and the heel authority figure on RAW the next. We're just waiting for that switch to be flipped again...but I'd rather see some general managers back in place instead.
11 A parade of old Superstars in order to appease fans
With All Elite Wrestling officially announced, and clearly loading up on, well, some elite talent, 2019 is shaping up to be a challenging year for WWE. Honestly, it was already challenging. WWE saw ratings for RAW and SmackDown go very low as 2018 faded away – it's what prompted Vince McMahon and his progeny to step into a RAW ring in early December and take control of both shows. AEW just figures to make things even harder. One thing WWE had a bad habit of doing in years past, was to bring back some legends, maybe for a RAW or two, or perhaps a longer run, sometimes as a general manager, sometimes for a big match or something of a program. But you could always count on a return of someone when ratings slumped.
As much as many of us like nostalgia acts, the lack of them is not what has driven ratings down. It's not what is causing attendance to slump. WWE has, and needs to push, the current generation talents they have. The roster is loaded with exceptional male and female Superstars. Push those. Be creative. Innovate. Take risks. Mix in the nostalgia when it makes sense and adds something (like, to put someone over).
10 A long wait for another all-women's PPV
Seems reasonable enough, right? WWE actually did a lot of firsts when it came to women in 2018. They launched the first Women's Royal Rumble as well as first Women's TLC match. Evolution was the big one, though. It was a big deal, don't get me wrong. I just hope that assuming it gets a 2019 edition (as of this writing, nothing has been announced), it gets a better treatment. Let's be blunt: Evolution was treated more like a glorified house show. No offense to Long Island, but the Nassau Coliseum is not a premier arena. The lighting and production screamed "house show". While I normally wouldn't care about the aesthetics, provided the show was good (and the show was good), my beef is that, well, it's the first Women's PPV. Give it the premium treatment. And now, don't hesitate to announce another all-female PPV (or two) for 2019. You have your own network, after all. Might as well use it.
9 A rushed Horsewomen vs. Horsewomen match
We all know this clash is destined to happen. It's been coming for a while now. It was a hot rumor back during the first Mae Young Classic, as now-NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler competed and had her MMA Horsewomen – Ronda Rousey, Marina Shafir, and Jessamyn Duke – cheering her on at ringside. Backstage during that event, the MMA Horsewomen and WWE Horsewomen had a bit of a photo-op. Now, a bit over a year later, Baszler is the two-time NXT Women's Champion. Ronda Rousey left UFC and is now RAW Women's Champion. Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir are working in NXT and recently made their television and PPV debuts.
So, we know it is coming...I just hope WWE does not rush this one. Yes, the WWE Horsewomen are more than ready and capable. The MMA Horsewomen, however, need time. Of the four, the best in the ring is Shayna Baszler – she has the longest professional wrestling career of the four. Rousey has acquitted herself nicely and is doing fine as champion. Shafir and Duke, however, are still green. You can see promise and potential there...but unless they learn rapidly, this match should wait a while.
8 Celebrities wasting time on air
This is a request, really. I get it – celebrities watch WWE. WWE gives celebrities replica championship belts. WWE likes the exposure, and I don't blame them. All I am asking for here is that we don't get a new David Arquette in 2019. We don't need a celebrity with a title reign. We don't need heavy celebrity involvement really at all. Like, no Jon Stewart getting involved and costing John Cena his match. If you want celebrities on TV, plant them in the stands and show them when you pan the crowd. Have them be a guest ring announcer or timekeeper. Don't waste valuable time on them. WWE has too many people as it is and not enough time. Don't waste that precious airtime on someone who, relative to the wrestling product, does not matter.
7 WWE being afraid they were wrong
Wow, this one sounds like something your mother might tell you, doesn't it? Here's where I am going with this: WWE holds grudges. Specifically, Vince McMahon holds the grudges. The expression "don't cross the boss" has real meaning in WWE. Look at how long it took The Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage to get inducted into the Hall of Fame. That was those Superstars being who they were, and Vince McMahon was (and is) too proud to flinch when there's a stalemate. Sometimes it works out OK, other times it ostracizes Superstars. One such outcast is CM Punk. Punk has been chanted for basically ever since he left WWE. In spite of an abysmal UFC career, he has not given up. WWE could use someone like him. Fans would love having him back. But WWE won't admit they were wrong (whether they were or not is not the point). WWE needs to stop being so stubborn. It might actually make things work out.
6 Sidelined Superstars
2018 was a rough year for Superstars and injuries. Shall we name just a few who missed significant time due to injuries? Dean Ambrose lost a ton of time, and nearly much more, due to an injury that required surgery and had complications. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn both went under the knife and were gone for the latter part of 2018. Then there's Roman Reigns, who had terrible luck. He finally won back the Universal Championship, only to relinquish it a short time later after his leukemia came back. If those aren't enough, how about Becky Lynch sustaining a broken nose and other injuries? Sure, she's back now, but her injury cost us a clash between Ronda Rousey and Lynch at Survivor Series. There are plenty of other talents who missed substantial portions of 2018. While injuries happen and we expect 2019 to be no different, we don't want to see too many of those bad injuries in the year ahead.
5 An XFL crossover
Vince McMahon announced he was reviving the XFL, and he used a lot of his own money to make it so. He said up front that he would not use XFL to promote WWE. He said we wouldn't get any crossover at all, unlike the first time around. That time, the WWE influence on the football league was unmistakable-and generally not a good thing. Sure, fans loved the Attitude Era Superstars, but it made little sense. No one would take the league seriously...though Rod Smart, aka He Hate Me, is now etched in memory banks all over. So, when he announced it this time, Vince McMahon made a promise: no more cross-promoting. No appearances by wrestlers. Since that time, some sleuths have opined that McMahon is instead using WWE production staff to finish things like TV graphics in time. I can allow that, even if it does make XFL and WWE look so close together (again). But as long as we really don't get any unwanted tie-ins and such, then life will be OK.
4 Tag team wrestling marginalized
This is one that is near and dear to my heart. I am a huge tag team wrestling fan. I have been since, as a young boy, I was exposed to great matches involving the likes of Legion of Doom, Hart Foundation, The Rockers, and Demolition. My perspective might be a bit biased, but to me, that era always feels like the best tag team wrestling I could see, at least in WWE, over my lifetime. I saw outstanding tag team wrestling in ECW, but that is neither here nor there. I am not saying WWE lacks strong tag teams. I am, however, saying WWE seems to struggle to use them.
We've got the Usos and The Bar and New Day, and all three are likely headed to the Hall of Fame when their wrestling days are all said and done. We have the Good Brothers, but you'd probably never realize it – one of New Japan's best tag teams in recent years has been overlooked lately, which is sort of my point. It's time to realize that tag team wrestling can be very good and that they have some good ones to leverage. Just like the women deserve some of that main event fun, so too do the great tag teams that WWE employs.
3 Same old matches
I can pick on say, John Cena versus Randy Orton. We saw that match. Often. Some matches were very good, maybe even great. But when you see the same match very frequently, it's hard to keep things fresh. WWE does actually have a good bit of depth across the three brands, so keeping programs unique should not always be too much to ask for, but sometimes it is. That said, I think there's new thinking at play in WWE Creative. I would not have previously expected to see Mustafa Ali versus Daniel Bryan, but here we are, having seen that match and loved it. Someone saw something in the former member of 205 Live, and the cruiserweight Ali seized the moment. He's now seen as a full-time member of the SmackDown roster and has had several matches pitting him against Bryan. Here's hoping WWE is willing to give more of those opportunities out in 2019. There would be no harm in letting guys like Elias or Apollo Crews have a bigger opportunity.
2 Messing up the Network
I am sure if I did a poll, many of our readers (like myself) pay a monthly fee for the WWE Network. I love it. With the price of PPVs getting exceedingly expensive (and the bang for your buck really not there most shows), when WWE announced this over-the-top model, it was a breath of fresh air. Since being announced, all the company has done is put more and more content on the Network. Some of it is their own archival footage, while others they acquired or created themselves. In 2018, there were early rumblings indicating WWE may shift to a tiered pricing model which grants you access to certain content. Supposedly, one tier might provide house show broadcasts (think Starrcade, but more often). This may not be a bad idea, but I feel the novelty of watching a house show stream live would wear off rather fast and doesn't really scream out to me as if it's something I'd want to spend more for. I know for me, the price point is good, the value is there, and I hope they don't mess with success too much.
1 Superstars Being Held Back
This is kind of a general statement. I know that WWE is doing everything it can to maintain a reputation of a more family-friendly form of entertainment. That being said, this is sports entertainment and things happen. People get hurt, colorful language gets included, it happens. I am not advocating cursing for the sake of cursing. What I am saying is that, perhaps, at least the later portions of a given television show might push the envelope a bit. With the old Attitude Era, you could tell what time it was basically by checking the matches on TV. Certain acts you just had to wait till the kids were supposed to be in bed. Ideally, WWE would start allowing Superstars to be more expressive and willing to touch on hot, perhaps controversial topics. Now, I don't want anyone to be something they are not, but if some colorful language came out, or someone got really banged up? I say, go with it. WWE needs to trust in its performers that they know the rules but that they can push them, within reason, to maximize the entertainment value being offered to the fans.