As 2018 comes to a close, wrestling fans everywhere look back at the fond (and not so fond) memories it provided us with. In such a big year for WWE, with possibly more content than ever before, there's plenty to reminisce on. And a lot of it has to do with the superstars involved. WWE's best moments often come from the best creative talents; the ones who connect with the crowd like no other and are willing to push storylines. It was a year of super highs, though just as many lows. Surely, not every moment was a hit, but there were a few that made a particularly big splash. In no particular order, here are our top 10.
10. Finn Bálor's WrestleMania Entrance
In terms of great WrestleMania moments, Finn Bálor had one of the most-talked-about entrances. Flanked by members of LGBTQ+ Balor Club Worldwide and in rainbow themed gear, Bálor made his position clear. Wrestling is a space for everyone. In a company that doesn't have a particularly good track record with both representation and acting as an ally, it was a really big deal. It doesn't really matter whether it was a statement about Bálor's own identity or simply him acting as a leader in pushing WWE forward. Bálor is one of the top guys in the company; he is involved in just about every promotional event they do, so for him to take this kind of stance really matters.
9. Charlotte Flair Ends Asuka's Streak
Streaks in wrestling, a predetermined sport, are tricky. Writers have the ability to choose how and when it will end but that's harder than it sounds.
By the time Asuka won the first Women's Royal Rumble, she had an undefeated streak longer than Bill Goldberg's. She had willingly vacated the NXT Women's Championship to make her SmackDown debut. It had gotten to a point where Charlotte Flair was the only person who seemed capable to defeat her. At the same time, it also felt like maybe she wouldn't even be able to get the job done. The two faced off in one of the best matches of WrestleMania 34. Flair beat Asuka clean and cemented her legacy. The two hugged after because the competition is more important than ego.
8. Carmella's Cash-In
Carmella's Money in the Bank win was not exactly what fans were hoping for, seeing as it was James Ellsworth who actually pulled down the briefcase. So when WrestleMania rolled around, and Carmella still hadn't cashed in, some started to get a bit worried she would be unsuccessful. Carmella proved everyone wrong by successfully cashing in the MITB briefcase on Charlotte Flair the Tuesday after WrestleMania.The cash in also marked the debut of the IIconics, which was entertaining in itself.
It was the start of a pretty good Women's SmackDown Championship run that we don't think anyone saw coming from her. This was Carmella's big moment and she was fearless in picking up the ball and running with it.
7. Johnny Gargano Turns Heel
Recently, NXT has garnered a reputation of being really creative with its storytelling. Instead of talking about Aleister Black's attack and subsequent injury, they showed William Regal being called to the scene in the middle of an interview. It became a central point of multiple storylines, including Nikki Cross, Velveteen Dream, and Lars Sullivan. Who attacked Black? We all knew it was Johnny Gargano, but that didn't matter because the story was so interesting.
After weeks of investigation, Cross claiming wildly that she knew who did it, and plenty of pointed fingers, we found out: Gargano jumped Black from behind in a moment that stunned fans even though they probably knew it was him all along. The heel turn wasn't hamfisted, it felt like the natural progression of a man who had lost seemingly everything. In fact, it felt perfectly right.
6. Dean Ambrose's Return
Little known to the WWE Universe, Dean Ambrose's injury was much worse than initially thought. Ambrose suffered a serious infection during surgery that nearly cost him his life. So the moment he got back to WWE, they were ready to push him as a seriously big deal. There were whispers around him returning at SummerSlam, but that didn't damper the moment when it actually happened. Seth Rollins milked the moment for all it was worth as he let Dolph Ziggler know that "since you've got that Scottish Psychopath in your corner, I figure I ought to have a lunatic in mine." The pop could be heard for miles, and Rollins' clearly real excitement only added to it.
5. Dean Ambrose Turning On Seth Rollins
The moment Dean Ambrose returned, rumors started flying about when—not if—he would turn on Rollins. It seemed like the natural next step of their story, and frankly, Rollins had it coming. Fans were surprised when Survivor Series came and went, no heel turn to be found. Then Reigns announced his leukemia, and WWE pulled the trigger. We'll put aside for a moment the questionable decision to make a man's cancer central to a wrestling storyline, though, because it made all the sense in the world.
Ambrose was hurt, he was scared, and he lashed out on Rollins. It caused the moment to be so much more emotionally charged than if he had done it at SummerSlam. Unlike most heel turns, a hush fell over the crowd when this one happened. Pure shock.
4. Daniel Bryan's Return
If Daniel Bryan's retirement speech was one of the hardest moments of 2016, his return was definitely one of the best of 2018. Even if you were concerned about his health, it was hard to deny how exciting it was to have him back in the ring. The match alongside Shane McMahon against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn was good, if unmemorable. His entrance, on the other hand, was something else. There was a rush that came over the WrestleMania crowd the second his music began to play. As one of the most over faces to ever come through the company, it's not surprising that almost everyone was emotionally invested in this return.
3. Daniel Bryan Turning Heel
Once Bryan was fully back, the question became what to do with him. The simple fact of the matter was, Bryan would never be more over than he was in 2014 leading up to WrestleMania 30. It felt like anything they would do at this point would look flat in comparison. So Bryan, with his exceptional mind for the business, pushed for a heel turn. It was against everything we understood about his character and yet was so perfect. All it took was a low blow to AJ Styles to win the Universal Championship, and we ate up his new persona. Then, he cut the promo of his career by saying he was killing the Yes Movement.
It's yet another case of a performer going all in on their character and creating something truly special. Fight for your dreams and your dreams will kick AJ Styles below the belt for you. Put it on a shirt.
2. Roman Reigns Relinquishing The Universal Title
Of all the moments on this list, this is the saddest, but it is so important. It defined 2018 in many ways.
Once in a while, something will happen that will break us out of the make-believe and have to look at wrestling through the lens of reality. That's what happened when Roman Reigns came down to the ring and said, "My real name is Joe, and I've been battling Leukemia for 11 years."
Leaving the Universal Title in the ring, Reigns was then joined by his Shield stablemates. They hugged and the crowd chanted, "Thank you, Roman." WWE had kept it so hush-hush that when we cut back to commentary, Renee Young, Dean Ambrose's wife, was stunned. Corey Graves, a close friend of Reigns, also struggled to keep it together. It rippled through the entire wrestling community, no corner untouched.
1. Becky Invading Raw
The Man easily made our list, which should hardly be a surprise. Becky Lynch had a phenomenal year, and the cherry on top was her leading the "SmackDown" invasion of "Raw." We haven't seen a whole lot of pay-per-views that centered around the women's division.
Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey was, without a doubt, the money match on the show.
WWE proved they knew it with this amazing invasion segment. During the bawl in the middle of the ring, Lynch ate a full punch from Nia Jax, causing her to bleed all over the place. It gave her a truly remarkable moment, celebrating in the stands with a mask of blood. It was shocking, exciting, and inspiring.