2018 was quite an eventful year for professional wrestling, especially WWE. While viewers might have tuned out, the money kept coming in and at least financially, WWE is more stable than ever. Here we take a look at the five biggest news stories of 2018 for WWE and how they happened.
There were a lot of stories that could have been included in this list but we feel these were the most important ones for the company over the past 12 months.
#5 – Daniel Bryan returns to active competition
Daniel Bryan must go down in history as one of the most loved WWE Superstars ever. His run leading up to his first WWE title win at WrestleMania XXX was perfect creative writing. Against all odds he did it. Unfortunately, Bryan had to retire from wrestling due to his many concussions and while still under a WWE deal, he was brought back as Smackdown General Manager.
Bryan never accepted the fact that he would not return to the ring. He made it very clear that if he is not cleared while in WWE, he will leave when his contract expires. Then, on March 20, the news that everyone was waiting for arrived: Daniel Bryan gets cleared to return to the ring.
Just three weeks before WrestleMania, WWE quickly added him to the card and in the same place where he won the WWE title four years earlier, Daniel Bryan returned to the ring, teaming up with Shane McMahon to take on Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. His return wasn’t as wildly successful as everyone thought it would be though. Unlike his first run towards the WWE title, this time around, good creative writing wasn’t on his side. But Bryan still ended 2018 on a high as the WWE champion, having won the title from AJ Styles on an episode of Smackdown in November.
Stories to read:
- Daniel Bryan hopes that percentage of getting cleared for WWE return has increased
- Daniel Bryan gets WWE medical clearance to return to the ring
- Daniel Bryan to kick off Smackdown Live tonight, comments on return
- Daniel Bryan to undergo Impact testing after every match
- Daniel Bryan to wrestle at WrestleMania 34
#4 – Ronda Rousey officially arrives
The rumors of Ronda Rousey joining WWE ran for years ever since she teamed up with The Rock at WrestleMania 31 in a surprise segment and took on Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in THE WrestleMania moment that year.
Rousey continued her MMA dominance but after two bad losses in a row, she decided to hang up her gloves for good. She started appearing on WWE television and at NXT every now and then and even trained at the WWE Performance Center.
When WWE announced the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble, the rumors intensified that Rousey would be one of the 30 individuals to make history. The only problem was that Ronda Rousey traveled to Colombia to film a movie and documented her journey on her social media. Numbers 1 to 30 came out during the Rumble and Ronda was not there. But then, as Asuka stood in the middle of the ring with both champions to her side, “Bad Reputation” kicked in and out came the baddest woman on the planet. No words, just pointing at the WrestleMania sign.
And with that, the Rowdy one had arrived. She went on to have a memorable WrestleMania debut with Kurt Angle against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, had a great match against Nia Jax at Money In The Bank, and at SummerSlam she won the Raw Women’s title from Alexa Bliss. She main evented the first-ever WWE women’s pay-per-view Evolution against Nikki Bella and also main evented her first Madison Square Garden show in December. All in all, a very successful WWE story and a terrific year for one Ronda Rousey.
Stories to read:
- Ronda Rousey jets off to Colombia for movie, says she won’t be back for the Rumble
- Ronda Rousey has arrived, signs full-time WWE deal
- Ronda Rousey: “This is my life now”
- Triple H explains negotiating with Rousey and the logistics behind her Rumble surprise
- Ronda Rousey gets her dream WWE in-ring debut at WrestleMania
#3 – WWE signs 10-year deal with Saudi Arabia
Often called the deal with the devil, WWE announced in March that they had signed a 10-year deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to present multiple events every year as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 festivities.
It’s very obvious why WWE decided to enter this agreement: money. Lots and lots of it. The first event, titled The Greatest Royal Rumble at the 60,000-seater King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, generated more money for the company than multiple WrestleManias combined. While WWE was criticized for even entering such a deal with a country that harbors one of the worst human rights records in the world, the criticism was mainly subdued…until Jamal Khashoggi.
Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi reporter who worked for the Washington Post and in the weeks leading up to the second WWE event in Saudi, he was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. WWE Crown Jewel, at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh, was a touch and go but ultimately, amidst much more harsher and broader criticism, WWE forged ahead with the show, doing their best to avoid mentioning Saudi Arabia.
The 10-year deal remains valid and WWE will be going back to the country in 2019 for more shows and more money.
Stories to read:
- WWE to present The Greatest Royal Rumble with 50 WWE Superstars in Saudi Arabia
- Triple H addresses criticism of WWE choosing money over values and performing in Saudi Arabia
- WWE returning to Saudi Arabia for Crown Jewel in November
- Crown Jewel officially a go in Saudi Arabia
- WWE avoids mentioning the country of Saudi Arabia during whole Crown Jewel broadcast
#2 – Roman Reigns takes leave of absence due to leukemia
On Monday, October 22, the professional wrestling world was stunned when Roman Reigns announced live on Raw that he had leukemia and was therefore surrendering the Universal title. It was a story that caught everyone by surprise, including those in WWE.
On Raw, Reigns introduced himself by his real name of Joe, and said that for the past 11 years, his leukemia had been in remission. No one knew that he had leukemia in the first place, let alone that it had returned. But in an emotional segment that kicked off Raw, boos turned into cheers, tears, and sad faces as WWE’s poster boy said goodbye, for now.
The former champion made it clear that it was not a retirement speech and once he was done beating cancer, he’s coming back for his title. “I am coming back because I want to show all of you, the whole world, I want to show my family, my friends, my children, and my wife that when life throws a curveball at me, I am the type of man that will stand in that batter box…I will crowd the plate, I will choke up, and I will swing for the fences every single time,” Reigns said, as fans gave him a standing ovation.
This was undoubtedly the most shocking story of the year and thankfully, the fans reacted to it with the utmost respect. Two months have passed but there is no new news on how Reigns is doing.
Stories to read:
- Roman Reigns surrenders Universal title and reveals battle with leukemia
- Pro wrestling community rallies behind Roman Reigns
- Roman Reigns’ announcement catches everyone by surprise backstage
- The day the wrestling world stood up and cheered for Joe Anoaʻi
- Triple H explains why Reigns never disclosed he had leukemia before
#1 – WWE secures massive television deals with USA Network and FOX
The last time that WWE signed a television deal in the U.S., the company felt that it got shortchanged. With television right fees increasing for pretty much anything airing on television, WWE’s TV rights were sold for cheap. But when 2018 came around, the story changed as WWE managed to secure two television deals with two of the biggest networks in America worth over $2 billion over a five-year period.
The first deal was officially announced on June 27 between WWE and FOX, the new home of Smackdown Live come October 2019. The deal called FOX paying WWE $205 million per year for Smackdown for five years, totaling $1.025 billion. As a comparison, NBCUniversal paid just $30 million for the rights of Smackdown back in 2010.
After the FOX announcement, WWE issued another press release announcing that Raw would stay on USA Network for the next five years. The deal with NBCUniversal is slightly more expensive than the one with FOX, with Raw costing USA $265 million per year for a total of $1.325 billion over a five-year period.
With the new television deals in place, WWE will be getting a whopping $2.35 billion for their shows, or $470 million per year, way up from the projected $300 million maximum that analysts were predicting. And with the good news, WWE stocks also shot up 138% and at one point in September it was up 216%.
Stories to read:
- New Smackdown FOX deal worth over $1 billion
- WWE deal with NBCUniversal for Raw worth $1.325 billion
- Rupert Murdoch attended meeting with FOX and WWE for Smackdown deal
- WWE stocks shoot up 17% after new TV deals announced
- A look at how the WWE/FOX/NBCUniversal television deals were negotiated