I won’t lie, this has been an incredibly difficult list to write, but not for the reasons I wanted it to be. In an ideal world, the Raw superstars would’ve been used to their full potential and my struggle would’ve been determining who the best of the best was in 2018. For the most part, I’ve had to look at who the best of the worst was thanks to some terrible booking decisions by Vince McMahon.
A lot of the superstars on my Raw Wrestlers of the Year list deserved better, as did so many wrestlers who didn’t even make the cut (I still can’t believe how badly The Revival has been booked). But wrestling is a fickle business and we need to look at the positives. Some of these guys didn’t achieve true greatness in 2018, but they sure left us with something to remember.
10. Ember Moon
Ember Moon made her debut on the main roster with an appearance at the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match, just one day removed from successfully defending her NXT Women’s Championship against Shayna Baszler at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia. Even with a kayfabe arm injury, Moon put on an impressive showing until long-time rival Asuka eliminated her from the Rumble. We wouldn’t see Moon again until the Raw after WrestleMania.
When Ember Moon officially came to Raw, our expectations were high. To begin, “The Shenom” picked up a lot of victories, including pinfalls on the Raw Women’s Champion at the time, Alexa Bliss. Although her push has been massively derailed, WWE can count on Ember Moon to deliver on the big stage, as proven by her excellent efforts in the women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match and the battle royal at WWE Evolution.
Ember Moon’s main roster run hasn’t quite gone the way we were expecting it to go, but she has laid the foundations for a great career. With her talent, dependability and fan support, Ember Moon could soon eclipse the rest of the Raw women’s division in 2019.
9. Brock Lesnar
I know Brock Lesnar hasn’t exactly been the greatest champion in the history of WWE, but the man still had a ridiculously lengthy title reign with the Universal Championship, and when gets pumped for a match, he really goes for it.
Brock Lesnar kicked the year off securing victory over Braun Strowman and Kane in a triple threat match at the 2018 Royal Rumble to retain the Universal Championship. From there, he took things… shall we say, “easy”… while reigniting an old feud with Roman Reigns. In what was probably one of WWE’s most boring WrestleMania main events ever, Lesnar retained the title against Reigns, before successfully defending it for the second time against the “Big Dog” in a steel cage match at the Greatest Royal Rumble. “The Beast Incarnate” was finally dethroned at SummerSlam by Roman Reigns, but real life events soon changed plans in WWE.
When Reigns vacated the Universal Title to focus on his battle with leukaemia, Vince McMahon made the decision to put the belt back on Brock Lesnar at the Crown Jewel event in Jeddah. With his first run with the strap, Lesnar became the longest reigning world champion in the modern era and he is currently the only WWE superstar with two reigns as Universal Champion.
At Survivor Series this year, Brock Lesnar reminded us why Vince McMahon and WWE hold him in such high regard. In his scheduled Champion vs. Champion match against Daniel Bryan, Lesnar arguably had the best match of his career since his bout with AJ Styles at Survivor Series 2017. Lesnar silenced most of his critics with a win over Daniel Bryan, but the Universal Champ hasn’t been seen on WWE programming since.
Brock Lesnar will always remain a controversial superstar in WWE. His matches haven’t always been must-see, but he remains a massive draw for the company, and is finishing off 2018 as Universal Champion. In terms of his booking, Brock Lesnar has been the one to beat this year.
8. Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin has had a very topsy-turvy year since coming to Raw after the Superstar Shake-up. He hasn’t had much luck in the ring, but he’s damn well made a name for himself as an authority figure.
For some reason, Stephanie McMahon appointed Baron Corbin as Constable of Raw to keep an eye on the General Manager, Kurt Angle. Corbin soon became a thorn in the side of Angle as the “Lone Wolf” looked to gain more power. When Stephanie McMahon ordered the Olympic gold medallist to take a very long vacation, Corbin found himself as the acting General Manager, and he’s been looking to make it a permanent position ever since.
In the ring, Baron Corbin’s time on Raw has been pretty dull to say the least. An everlasting feud with Finn Bálor over height has been waging for what feels like an eternity and Corbin’s failed to come out on top. Since screwing Braun Strowman out of the Universal Championship at Crown Jewel, the acting GM has had a much bigger problem than Bálor to deal with. Now, if Corbin can find away to overcome the “Monster Among Men” at TLC this month, he’ll be named the permanent General Manager of Raw.
Baron Corbin has never been the most exciting competitor, but his character work is top notch. This has probably been the former US Champ’s best year in WWE, and I wouldn’t mind at all if he becomes Raw’s full-time GM. Just keep him away from Finn Bálor in 2019 please, Vince.
7. Dolph Ziggler
After a massively wasted return to regular WWE programming at the 2018 Royal Rumble, fans were delighted to hear Dolph Ziggler had moved to Raw following the Superstar Shake-up. Since coming back to Raw, the “Show-Off” has made himself relevant again, and he even picked up a few title victories along the way.
Dolph joined Raw in April and brought Drew McIntyre to the brand with him. Once they finally broke free from their naff feud with Titus Worldwide, Ziggler went on to become a huge thorn in the side of Seth Rollins with McIntyre’s assistance.
Dolph Ziggler was able to beat Seth Rollins for the Intercontinental Title during an open challenge in June. The two entered into a long-running feud for the belt, culminating with a Seth Rollins victory at SummerSlam.
It wasn’t long before Dolph Ziggler was wearing gold again. He and Drew McIntyre went on to defeat The B-Team for the Raw Tag Team Titles after robbing The Revival of their shot at the straps. Zig-Intyre were eventually knocked from their pedestal by Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose in late October, as their feud found its way into the tag, midcard and world title divisions.
Ziggler is currently reeling from his loss to Shane McMahon in the finals of the WWE World Cup at Crown Jewel, and he recently lost another IC Title match against Seth Rollins. He’s taken more of a back seat to Drew McIntyre in the last few months, but still remains one of Raw’s main go-to superstars.
Dolph Ziggler reminded us all he still has a lot left to offer in WWE. His work this year has been solid, and his IC and Raw Tag Team Title victories have only improved his already impressive resume.
6. Alexa Bliss
The last month or so has seen Alexa Bliss take some time out of the ring to recover from a concussion, but that hasn’t stopped her from being one of the biggest WWE superstars on Raw this year.
“Little Miss Bliss” kicked the year off right as the Raw Women’s Champion, but fans were starting to wonder why she hadn’t been defending her title. As a result, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle told Bliss she would have to put her championship on the line in the first ever women’s Elimination Chamber match. Though incredibly unhappy about having to defend her title in such a barbaric match, Alexa entered the Chamber and managed to leave with the title around her waist.
Alexa Bliss would enter into a feud with Nia Jax leading into WrestleMania, where Bliss eventually lost her Raw Women’s Title after months of bullying Jax over her weight. Despite this setback, Bliss found her way back into the title picture when she qualified for the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match a month later.
WWE’s “Five Feet of Fury” went on to win the MitB 2018 ladder match, and she cashed in her guaranteed title shot the very night she won it. Interrupting the Raw Women’s Championship bout between Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey, Alexa Bliss won the match and was soon thrown back into a feud with Jax, as well as Rousey.
Bliss fended off Nia Jax at Extreme Rules in the first ever women’s Extreme Rules match, but Rousey toppled the champion in decisive fashion at SummerSlam.
Alexa Bliss suffered a concussion in October and has transitioned into a supporting role while she recovers. At present, acting GM Baron Corbin has given the former champ a job overseeing the women’s division where she’s trying to cause a rift between Sasha Banks & Bayley.
On a show where Ronda Rousey has become the highlight of the women’s division, Alexa Bliss has done an excellent job keeping herself relevant, and she’s managed to carry her feuds on the mic. With her charisma and the backing of WWE, Bliss has certainly become one of Raw’s most integral wrestlers.
5. Drew McIntyre
“The Scottish Psychopath” came to Raw in April as Dolph Ziggler’s muscle, but Drew McIntyre has become so much more in recent months.
As mentioned earlier, Drew McIntyre came to Raw from NXT to be Dolph Ziggler’s hired help. From the get-go, Drew stated his mission was to rid Raw of complacency while establishing himself and Ziggler as Raw’s elite superstars.
Drew McIntyre spent most of the year helping Ziggler retain his spot at the top of the midcard, but after the two teamed up with Braun Strowman to form The Dogs of War, McIntyre sought a championship run of his own. After destroying The Revival backstage, Zig-Intyre forced their way into a Raw Tag Team Title match with The B-Team, winning in decisive fashion. Long-time rivals Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose soon took the titles, but McIntyre had established himself as a threat to the roster at this point by turning on Braun Strowman and forcing Dolph Ziggler into a lackey role.
As 2018 draws to a close, Drew McIntyre is continuing to rid Raw of weak superstars, attacking the likes of Braun Strowman, Kurt Angle, Finn Bálor and Dolph Ziggler. “The Scottish Psychopath” is forming a close bond with Raw’s acting General Manager, so expect great opportunities to come his way in 2019.
4. Braun Strowman
Braun Strowman: the unstoppable monster that WWE just don’t want to pull the trigger on. “The Monster Among Men” achieved a lot this year, but the Universal Title proved to be quite elusive.
Braun started the year off on the right foot when he challenged Brock Lesnar and Kane for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble, but he failed to win the title. From there, Strowman entered the Elimination Chamber for the right to take on Lesnar once more at WrestleMania, and he set the new elimination record for taking out five competitors (The Miz, Elias, John Cena, Finn Bálor and Seth Rollins) in one match before falling to Roman Reigns.
Of course, the Universal Title isn’t the only championship Braun Strowman chased in 2018. After losing at the Elimination Chamber, Strowman found himself in a bizarre situation that led to him becoming the No.1 contender to the Raw Tag Team Titles despite not having a partner. He eventually went on to beat Sheamus & Cesaro for the straps at WrestleMania with a little help from a 10 year old boy in the audience.
With that one day title reign under his belt, Braun Strowman looked ahead to the Greatest Royal Rumble event where he set another record in WWE. That night, the “Monster Among Men” took out 13 competitors in a single Rumble match, toppling Roman Reigns’ record of 12. Strowman went on to win the whole thing, and he took home a title and trophy that haven’t been seen on WWE programming since.
In June, Braun Strowman went back on the hunt for the Universal Championship. He won the 2018 Money in the Bank Ladder match and after a squash feud with Kevin Owens, the “Monster” in the Bank teased cashing in on Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns respectively. In the end, Strowman failed to cash in successfully, but continued to chase the title until very recently, as he’s shifted his focus to taking out Baron Corbin for screwing him out of winning the belt at Crown Jewel.
Overall, Braun Strowman has achieved a lot this year. However, most of it had no payoff, and the one title he wants more than anything remains out of his reach. 2019 may very well be the year the “Monster Among Men” becomes Universal Champion. Or it could just be the year he picks up a few more pointless accolades.
3. Roman Reigns
Despite real-life setbacks, Roman Reigns did what was beginning to seem impossible; he beat Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship. But before that happened, things hadn’t quite gone the “Big Dog’s” way.
Roman Reigns started 2018 as the Intercontinental Champion, but lost the title to The Miz on Raw’s 25th Anniversary Show. From there, Roman set his sights back on the Universal Title. After losing the 2018 Royal Rumble match at the very end to Shinsuke Nakamura, Roman focused his efforts on the Elimination Chamber, where he would eliminate Braun Strowman for the right to face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.
The main event match for the Universal Championship was dire in the opinion of many fans, with the added insult of Lesnar going over yet again. This trend continued as Roman Reigns kept receiving shots at the title. It took until SummerSlam in August, but Roman finally dethroned Lesnar as Raw’s top champion.
In his short stint with the belt, Roman Reigns defended the Universal Championship against Finn Bálor and Braun Strowman, starting a feud between The Shield and Strowman’s Dogs of War. Before the rivalry could come to a satisfying conclusion, Roman announced he was relinquishing the title to focus on a much bigger battle: leukaemia.
It hasn’t been the best year for Roman as he spent most of it getting his arse kicked by the “Beast Incarnate,” but fans worldwide showed solidarity and respect when they learned their Universal Champion had cancer. There’s no return date set for the “Big Dog,” but expect a very warm welcome should he return to the ring in 2019.
2. Ronda Rousey
Remember at the Royal Rumble when Ronda Rousey came out to point at the WrestleMania sign and we instantly assumed she was gonna be crap at wrestling? Well, how daft do we look now? Ronda might be a bad sign pointer, but she has thoroughly cemented herself as one of WWE’s top stars this year.
After making her intentions clear that she was heading to ‘Mania, Ronda Rousey ended up bypassing opportunities at the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Titles, entering into a feud with Triple H & Stephanie McMahon instead. It’s fair to say most of us were expecting the tag match between The Authority and Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle to be a bust, but it ended up being the best match of the night. And it was so good to see Stephanie McMahon finally get her comeuppance after all these years.
Following her successful in-ring debut at WrestleMania, Ronda Rousey was thrown into the Raw Women’s Championship picture against Nia Jax at Money in the Bank. It can be argued Rousey’s push was done too soon, but once again, the “Baddest Woman on the Planet” flourished.
Alexa Bliss’ Money in the Bank cash-in scuppered Ronda Rousey’s dream of becoming Raw Women’s Champion, but she bounced back and soon took the title from “Little Miss Bliss” at SummerSlam.
Since becoming champion, Ronda Rousey has played the part perfectly. She has defended her title against the likes of Bliss, Nikki Bella and Mickie James, and she and Charlotte Flair stole the show in their Survivor Series exhibition match.
Ronda Rousey has had one of the best rookie years in WWE history, and she can only get better as time goes on. Expect to see a lot more of Rousey as we head into 2019, and let’s just enjoy watching her kick some ass.
1. Seth Rollins
No one has even come close to matching Seth Rollins this year on Raw. The man simply took the entire brand on his back and stopped it from completely sinking. From his excellent title runs to his incredible in-ring performances, let’s take a closer look to see why “The Architect” is our Raw Wrestler of the Year 2018.
Seth Rollins walked into 2018 as one half of the Raw Tag Team Champions with Jason Jordan, but their run was cut short by The Bar due to Jordan’s legit neck issues.
Without a championship around his waist, Seth won a match to qualify for the Elimination Chamber bout. One week before the event, Rollins put on a phenomenal performance in a seven-man gauntlet match. Rollins started the match off by putting away Roman Reigns, as well as John Cena. After a total of 65 minutes in the ring, the longest anyone has ever wrestled in a single match on Raw, Rollins was finally pinned. The Elimination Chamber bout didn’t go well for the “King Slayer” though, as he was taken out by Braun Strowman.
WrestleMania season soon got well underway and Seth Rollins became embroiled in a feud against The Miz and Finn Bálor for the Intercontinental Championship. All three men put the effort into making their feud the must-see rivalry on Raw, and at WrestleMania Rollins picked up the win and the IC Title.
Seth went on to proudly defend the IC Championship against the likes of Miz, Bálor, Samoa Joe, Elias, Mojo Rawley and Kevin Owens until Dolph Ziggler dethroned the champ after accepting Rollins’ open challenge. The two went on to feud over the title during the summer, culminating with Seth taking his title back at SummerSlam with a little help from the returning Dean Ambrose.
Not content with just being Intercontinental Champion, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose joined up once more with Universal Champion Roman Reigns to reform The Shield. Taking up their Hounds of Justice personas, Rollins, Reigns & Ambrose feuded with Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre.
The night Roman Reigns stepped back to fight his battle with leukaemia, “The Architect” & “Lunatic Fringe” defeated Zig-Intyre for the Raw Tag Team Titles, only for Dean Ambrose to throw their friendship away.
Seth Rollins was soon forced to defend the tag belts by himself against AOP. It was a great effort, but the monstrous duo was able to defeat the IC Champ. As 2018 draws to an end, Rollins and Dean Ambrose are feuding with the Intercontinental Championship on the line.
“The Architect” went above and beyond this year to keep Raw interesting, and it’s amazing to think he’s nowhere near the Universal Championship scene. But hey, if anyone can climb to the top of the Raw mountain, it’s Seth Rollins.
Raw has been terrible this year, but a few glimmers of hope managed to keep us watching. It looks like 2019 will have a shaky start, but with the likes of our Raw Superstar of the Year Seth Rollins leading the charge, things might soon pick up.
Who was your Raw Superstar of the Year? Don’t forget to let us know in the comments below and tweet us @CultVultures and @I_Do_Things_SC with your answers.
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