For WWE, 2018 wasn’t all roses. They saw their newly-crowned Universal Champion leave the company for leukemia treatment. They released fan-favourites Enzo Amore and Neville, both former Cruiserweight Champions, in a span of months.
When all things considered, however, WWE did have an eventful 2018 year. They annexed the United Kingdom market with the launch of NXT UK. They escaped widespread criticism for going forward with the Crown Jewel event. They saw Bullet Club divide into two factions. Most importantly, they signed a multi-million deal with Fox.
Numerous wrestlers also had an immense year. First and foremost, Becky Lynch has transformed into a phenomenon after her becoming The Man. Dean Ambrose, Asuka, Mustafa Ali, Gran Metalik, Buddy Murphy, Sami Zayn and The New Daniel Bryan all have undergone significant character transformation, especially in the second part of the year. They’ve now become more relevant than, perhaps, they’ve ever been. In the same breath, many wrestlers had forgettable years. A few fell from grace while others continued to languish in the undercard.
The following article will look at 20 struggling wrestlers, analyzing why they now find themselves in a slump.
While narrowing down to just 20 wrestlers from a list of 120 main-roster superstars, we had to make a few omissions but none so significant as The Colons. Primo Colon and Epico Colon have, in fact, had worse a year than a few of the wrestlers we’ve listed below. However, the writer reckons they weren’t relevant enough in 2018, unfortunately, to even make our list.
20 The B-Team
The B-Team have had a year of ups and downs. Midway through the year, they won the Raw Tag Team Championship against all odds but, since dropping their titles, they’ve largely been an afterthought in a depleted Raw roster, wrestling only filler matches. It hardly looks like their tag-team careers will be revived in its current incarnation either, as WWE are looking to push fan favourites like The Revival and Breezango going forward. While Curtis Axel’s in-ring career has already peaked, there’s still hope for Bo Dallas given his NXT resume and being related to former WWE Champion Bray Wyatt.
19 Bobby Roode
Indeed, most wrestlers would love to be in Bobby Roode’s position. In less than three years in the WWE, the 41-year-old veteran wrestler has won three major titles: NXT Championship, United States Championship and Raw Tag Team Championship. However, considering how over he was during his NXT run, one can’t help but tag him as a struggling wrestler. WWE squandered all the momentum he’d built during his NXT Championship reign by turning him face upon his main-roster debut. It looks like WWE will probably have Chad Gable or Roode turning on one another in the coming months for a low midcard feud, further diluting the Bobby Roode brand.
18 The Revival
WWE did seem invested in The Revival given their booking them to beat cash-cow The New Day twice. However, back-to-back injuries to Dash Wilder and Shane Dawson meant WWE lost their interest in the two-time NXT Tag Team Champions. In recent weeks, they’ve had them wrestle Lucha House Party in fun matches and even had Seth Rollins highlight their plight in a promo. For far too long, The Revival have waited on the sidelines for WWE to pull the trigger on them. With the McMahons promising to listen to the vocal majority of fans, it’s likely they will have a memorable 2019.
17 Finn Balor
WWE did see potential in Finn Balor, much like they did in The Revival. Much like Shane Dawson and Dash Wilder, the Irishman sustained a long-term injury when the WWE were rocket-strapping him – when they were looking to make him a serious main-eventer no less. He hasn’t recovered since surrendering the Universal Championship. Every feud he’s been in, even against fellow top performers like Elias and Bray Wyatt, has been lackluster, putting it mildly. With Raw now putting the limelight on Drew McIntyre, his near future looks dire. In the long term, however, he is certain to regain his status. A move to SmackDown may help him regain some momentum.
16 Mojo Rawley
Not many wrestlers today voice their concerns over their position in the company, as doing so can result in a Emma-esque release. Mojo Rawley, one-time ARMBAR winner, however, has lately been pouring out his grievances out not so subtly for the WWE fans to see. Unlike other struggling wrestlers like Bayley, though, he doesn’t have a big fan base to pump out tweets asking for WWE to put him in high-profile matches or chant his name in WWE arenas. Given his age, charisma and marketability, though, chances are high he ends up having a decent career as a mid-card wrestler.
15 No Way Jose
No Way Jose worked well in the confines of NXT, with the Full Sail University chanting his name loud during his entrances. His supposed feuds with main-roster Baron Corbin and Mojo Rawley both flopped in recent times. Not long after his main-roster debut, he was demoted to Main Event, a graveyard of WWE careers. Given his size and ability to construct character, one may think Vince McMahon will want to push him in the coming months. Since there’s been little or not interest in his character, though, it’s likely he’ll only be utilized to cool down brawls between Brock Lesnar and whoever he’s feuding with until his contract runs out.
14 Zack Ryder
Few wrestlers in WWE have had as long a career as Zack Ryder. A smart worker, he has been with the company for over a decade now, and has won numerous titles, with the Intercontinental Championship the most recent. However, in recent months, especially following The Hype Bros’ breakup, he’s only been sparingly used, oftentimes only in Main Event. All hope’s not lost, however, as WWE are now producing a show called Zack & Curt Figure It Out currently. There’s a chance the 33-year-old doesn’t just stick around longer other struggling wrestlers but also goes through a The Miz-like revival.
WWE is actually listening to the fans. Their producing The Fashion Files to find out who threw the pie at Kevin Owens is a case in point. Breezango, after building their brand on SmackDown, was demoted to undercard feuds and filler matches on Raw. An untimely injury to Fandango hasn’t helped matters either. Tyler Breeze, though, has been quietly building his brand again, wrestling big matches, against Dean Ambrose and Ricochet, for the Intercontinental Championship and NXT N.A. Championship. Perhaps, it’s all done to promote their upcoming show, but it must work out eventually given their genius and versatility.
12 Titus O’Neil
The Titus Worldwide had a lot of potential in the early days. It could have elevated the status of Dana Brooke and Akira Tozawa. Instead, the faction put them in a worse place than they were in before its formation for whatever reason. No wrestler has recovered from its failure, perhaps with the exception of Apollo Crews, who’s gaining solid screen time alongside Elias and Finn Balor of late. Titus O’Neil, meanwhile, has done nothing major in years, with his ‘Titus Worldslide’ botch the highlight of his career in the last few months. It was fun while it lasted, but there’s little chance WWE keeps him after his contract expires.
Becky Lynch’s recent rise to superstardom must give hope to Bayley fans; however, her following in the footsteps of The Man is unlikely because of one specific reason. Bayley doesn’t carry herself like a star, unlike her Irish counterpart, as she’s rather content looking like one of the fans. It works in a small arena like NXT, but one needs a certain level of legitimacy to be treated like a big deal on the main roster. Plus, with Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey now on the same level as Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose of the company, there’s little chance Bayley will reach the heights she was initially expected to.
10 Sasha Banks
Looking at Sasha Banks’ resume, one may consider her one of the biggest stars today. Indeed, she is, but her booking in recent times has made her a second-string wrestler, with Alexa Bliss, Ronda Rousey, Asuka, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair the cream of the crop. It’s unknown why she, a supremely talented woman, finds herself embroiled in meaningless feuds, but the common consensus is that Vince McMahon isn’t impressed by The Boss. Perhaps, she’ll benefit from a Superstar Shake-Up, but she must hope she doesn’t end up in a show that has at least two of the aforementioned four.
9 Ember Moon
Most recent NXT call-ups have done well on the main roster, save for Ember Moon. The former NXT Women’s Champion lost all her mystique after her promotion to Raw. With Ronda Rousey, a babyface, now on Raw, it’s unlikely WWE will want to put the title on her or consider doing a face vs. face angle. Her stocks have plummeted so much in recent times that a revival will now need so much effort from writers, producers and the wrestler. Chances are low she manages to convince the higher-ups to push her when WWE veteran Sasha Banks is struggling herself.
8 Aiden English
Rusev Day mightn’t have become as big a phenomenon as it has without Aiden English. He made Rusev more enjoyable than he already was and had the fans chanting Rusev Day every time he held the microphone. For some reason, though, WWE chose to kill Rusev Day prematurely, after a lazy angle involving Rusev Day and Lana. While Rusev has recovered from the break-up, the former NXT Tag Team Champion has become completely irrelevant. It’s been ages since he last appeared on WWE television. It’s going to take a miracle for him to be as popular as he once was.
Sanity recently resurfaced after being kept away from WWE television for months together. They returned alongside The Club but, when compared to The Club, they’ve achieved little in the WWE. Sanity worked well in NXT because they had Nikki Cross in their team but, with her joining Raw in coming months and Bludgeon Brothers returning in a few months, they will find earning the admiration of their employers and the fans difficult.
Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe can be so much more, but their gimmick is certain to make them an afterthought in the current tag-team scene that’s dominated by The Usos, The New Day and The Bar.
6 Shelton Benjamin
Well informed WWE fans rejoiced when the dirtsheets revealed WWE’s interest in re-signing Shelton Benjamin. An unfortunate injury thwarted WWE’s plans, as his return was delayed by many months. Although he didn’t become a upper mid-carder straightaway as expected, his teaming up with Chad Gable felt like the first step toward his reaching the heights he deserves to. However, with his former tag-team partner now on Raw, he now looks lost on SmackDown. His coming to the Rey Mysterio’s rescue after a Randy Orton beatdown or his challenging Daniel Bryan for the title would make him relevant again, but it remains to be seen if WWE is willing to make that happen.
5 Sin Cara
With WWE bringing back Rey Mysterio and featuring Lucha House Party, comprising Gran Metalik, Kalisto and Lince Dorado, Sin Cara has found himself at the periphery. His knee injury hasn’t helped matter either. However, it’s likely he won’t be setting the world alight upon his return as well, as the wrestler who’s now donning the Sin Cara mask, Hunico, is essentially fighting a losing battle. Sin Cara is a failed character and, unless Daniel Bryan puts on the mask like Hulk Hogan did the Mr. America mask, the character won’t ever become as relevant as it was pencilled in to become in the buildup to the original Sin Cara’s debut.
4 The Club
The Club returned to call out The Usos during a recent episode of SmackDown. It didn’t feel like the fans had been missing them during their long absence, however, as the audience didn’t bother to react to their entrance. That said, Karl Anderson looks like a serious deal, while Luke Gallows’ brand is certain to help him get yet another chance to make it in the WWE. However, it’s certain they won’t be able to reach the heights they rightfully can in a roster that has The Usos, The Bar and The New Day. Perhaps, they’ll benefit from a move to Raw, where there’s a dearth of top tag teams.
3 Tye Dillinger
Tye Dillinger is a case of right talent at the wrong time. He has the looks, talent and personality to be a solid mid-card act, but he was a just a few months late to the party. Meanwhile, before Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, AJ Styles and Drew McIntyre have all become bigger brands than he’s ever been, essentially making him nothing but the wrestler who came out to a good pop at number 10 at the Royal Rumble. Perhaps, he’ll benefit from teaming up with a fellow struggling wrestler, like Mike Kanellis or Aiden English but, as things stand, he looks unlikely to make it in the WWE.
Asuka had an excellent start and end to the calendar year. She won the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match in January and defeated Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch to become the SmackDown Women’s Champion at TLC in December. Between two big moments, however, her character suffered big-time, being humbled by The Queen at WrestleMania and being forced to do “fun segments” with Naomi and The Miz. There’s a chance WWE chooses to push her to the levels of the Ronda Rousey and Alexa Bliss. However, there’s an equal chance that her win at TLC is the modern-day equivalent of Chris Jericho defeating The Rock and Steve Austin in one night.
1 Andrade Almas
WWE knows how big a star Andrade Almas is in the Latino countries given their booking him to wrestle big-name wrestlers like Rey Mysterio at house shows in those countries. However, on SmackDown though, they haven’t utilized him properly, instead putting the limelight on aging stars like Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton. While it’s important to feature veterans to appeal to casual fans and ex-WWE fans, they’ve dropped the ball on the former Los Ingobernables star. He has done nothing of note after leaving NXT, where he put on some amazing matches toward the end of his time there. Maybe, WWE will render him the chances he deserves when one of the legends chooses to take some rest.