Think back to Jan. 1, 2018. Think back to where WWE was. Think back to Roman Reigns being the ace of Raw, Daniel Bryan being the general manager of Smackdown, Becky Lynch being an also-ran.
What the hell happened this year?
There's a strong case for 2018 being the weirdest year in WWE history. Reigns shockingly and devastatingly announced he has leukemia and surrendered the Universal Championship in October. Bryan miraculously and rapturously announced he was cleared to wrestle in March. And Lynch turned against her best friend, Charlotte, only to turn into the hottest wrestler in the entire company.
Of course, that's not all. The beloved Bryan turned heel in November, had the long-awaited match with Brock Lesnar that fans thought they'd never see and, so far, has been absolutely killing it as a bad guy. (Which is no surprise to Ring of Honor fans.) In fact, 2018 has seen the most high-profile character turns in awhile: Bryan, Lynch, Shinsuke Nakamura, Charlotte, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton.
Reigns and Lesnar also shared some weird moments, namely Lesnar's inexplicable victory in the main event of WrestleMania 34. Reigns finally dethroning the Beast after chasing him for three years felt like the most forgone conclusion in recent WWE history, but Vince McMahon delayed it for reasons that are still unknown. Reigns winning the championship at SummerSlam still felt special, and the match's layout and use of Strowman was certainly smarter. But it didn't make the main event of WrestleMania feel any less pointless and bewildering.
One of Reigns and Lesnar's matches took place at WWE's first of two 2018 shows in Saudi Arabia, the result of a long and lucrative deal between the Trump-connected McMahon family and the kingdom. And damn, those were weird. Not only did we get disgraced racist Hulk Hogan returning to a WWE ring, Shane McMahon winning a tournament to crown the best wrestler in the world and Titus O'Neil face-planting through the ring apron, but WWE's deal with the human rights-abusing nation attracted even more media scrutiny after its leader reportedly ordered the execution of a U.S. journalist.
As far as WWE goes, though, none of those things even approached the weirdness of Shawn Michaels having his first match in 12 years at the second of those Saudi Arabia shows. Oh, he's bald now, too.
There's so much more: Ronda Rousey debuting for WWE — and actually being pretty good at wrestling, almost as naturally good in her rookie year as fellow Olympian Kurt Angle was. AJ Styles holding the WWE Championship for almost the full calendar year and having no "match of the year" candidates to show for it. Matt Riddle and Meiko Sakamoto wrestling in WWE rings. Dean Ambrose turning against Seth Rollins the very same night their Shield brother, Reigns, announced the return of his leukemia. NXT surrendering the role of WWE's prestige brand to freaking 205 Live.
I know this could be a recency bias: That I'm inclined to think 2018 was the weirdest year of WWE yet because it's the one I just lived through. And I know 1992, 2001 and 2011 were pretty damn weird, too. But this year, which saw so many new faces appear and so many familiar ones go to strange new places, might just be the weirdest in WWE yet.
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