The top 10 mic moments of 2018
It’s a simple formula: Get on the mic, and make the crowd want to see your match. The greatness lies in the execution, and the cunning creativity of the WWE roster was on full display in 2018. Whether it’s heartfelt comeback addresses, biting back and forths, or even a bona fide children’s book, some of the most memorable magic in 2018 didn’t come from between the ropes, but out of a microphone. Here are the 10 turns that will stand the test of time.
“Fight for your dreams, and your dreams will fight for you” (SmackDown LIVE, March 20)
It still feels like yesterday when the words “Daniel Bryan medically cleared for in-ring action” jumped from fantasy to our “Breaking News” feed. But if the report felt like a dream, Bryan’s testimony sure made it become a reality. For all the curveballs that life throws, his message served as a reminder that within every dark night is a brighter day. Where he was once lost, the mission to find himself and achieve his goal allowed The Beard to turn impossible to possible. “Fight for your dreams, and your dreams will fight for you,” he gallantly emphasized, and in recounting the tumultuous limbo that kept him sidelined for those two years, Bryan’s story became our story. No video montage or editorial op-ed could have encapsulated that notion better. That said, on March 20, 2018, Daniel Bryan returned to prove dreams really do come true. — RALPH BRISTOUT
“Night-Night AJ” (SmackDown LIVE, Sept. 11)
Last year, Samoa Joe made this list for whispering in a man’s ear. This year, he made it for writing a children’s book about how he was going to incapacitate AJ Styles and take the WWE Championship. Admittedly, this affair had a bit more production to it, so points must be docked for a lack of spontaneity. But the former NXT Champion remains unmatched in the creativity with which he threatens bodily harm; that he ultimately fell short of the title doesn’t make this flex any less legendary. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
“Is that why you don’t respect me?” (SmackDown LIVE, July 24)
A week after trying to deform Jeff Hardy’s ear, Randy Orton explained his sickening actions on SmackDown LIVE. At the heart of his diatribe was the question of why The Legend Killer-turned-Legend didn’t receive the same respect shown to other Superstars. Calling himself “the one constant in WWE,” Orton wondered if he’d be held in higher esteem if he had co-opted “some sweet hand gesture,” paid dues as an “indie darling” or had only shown up during WrestleMania season. Despite his heinous attack on Hardy and the thinly veiled swipes at WWE fan favorites, The Viper made a compelling, if biting, argument. — JOHN CLAPP
“Time to see if you’re still alive” (Raw, March 12)
The first time John Cena challenged The Undertaker to a WrestleMania match, it was an earnest request to bring the legend out of self-imposed exile and prove he still had one more match left in him. By the end, weeks of silence had turned the 16-time World Champion purple-faced with frustration and, maybe, a tinge of desperation. (“DO SOMETHING!”) This, then, was the turning point; the first time Cena’s give-the-people-what-they-want approach started to mingle with trash-talk and snide remarks about The Phenom’s Instagram presence meant to goad him into a fight.
Par for the course in a Cena call-out, but a few key wrinkles flipped the dynamic on its head: Undertaker was openly Cena’s last chance to make it to WrestleMania after coming up short in the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber Matches, and the clock was starting to tick. All of which meant The Cenation Leader was coming at a prospective opponent from a position of weakness, giving his throaty shouts into the void a markedly different tone than usual. He’s not wrong that the audience wants the match, but you get the sense Cena’s the one who needs it. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
“Out of the last little bit of respect that I have left for you, Deadman, I will put you down” (Raw, Sept. 10)
When you fight someone you respect, you get better every single time. That’s why Triple H and The Undertaker (and Shawn Michaels) kept crossing paths all those years, and that’s why the billed “Last Time Ever” between The Game and The Deadman was set up to be less a final battle than a celebration for two men who had nothing left to prove. But somewhere along the line, someone said the wrong thing and all that went out the window — or maybe, they hit the nail on the head. Maybe The Deadman was delaying the inevitable. Maybe Triple H did trade his soul for the keys to the kingdom. And maybe this town ain’t big enough for the two of them anymore. Maybe, just maybe, respect is overrated. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
“You are relics of the past, waiting to be eviscerated” (Raw, Oct. 15)
Nikki Bella and Ronda Rousey are both key but curious figures in the Women’s Evolution for the simple reason that they both kind of missed it. True, Nikki helped close the book on the Divas Era, but an injury sidelined her for most of the ensuing three years while Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and the rest ran the table that she helped set. And although Rousey — then still in UFC — was certainly an inspiration for the new class, her arrival was more of a crescendo than a flashpoint. Their back-and-forth on Raw wasn’t just an intensely personal series of insults (though it definitely was that), it was two women making a last-minute case to be counted among the movement’s pioneers before WWE Evolution ushered in the dawning of the next era. It is fascinating. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
“It's easy to be there during the good times, but where the hell were you during the hard times?” (Raw, Aug. 13)
Dolph Ziggler’s skills were as sharp as ever in 2018, but the crowd’s love had gone elsewhere and the irony did not escape him. His last turn on the mic as Intercontinental Champion — ostensibly a justification for bringing Drew McIntyre to the ring as backup against Seth Rollins — was full of righteous indignation and hard-earned bitterness, as it became quickly clear the wounds of abandonment had not quite healed. “Not one of you stayed,” The Showoff said flatly of his journey back to title contention, and his brazen prediction that Rollins would eventually lose favor too seemed less like bitter posturing than an inconvenient truth. Eventually, another workhorse will storm the scene, and it’ll be Rollins wondering what to say. Maybe it’ll be something like this. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
“The show must go on, and so it does” (Raw, Oct. 22)
In the wake of Roman Reigns’ announcement that he would be abdicating the Universal Title to battle leukemia, Paul Heyman didn’t so much shoot from the hip as speak from the heart, becoming an advocate of a different kind with a tearful, impassioned tribute to the now-former champion. And then, just as quickly, he was back to carnival barker mode, hyping up the Brock Lesnar-Braun Strowman bout for the vacant title that had suddenly taken on a whole new urgency. That, too, was a masterful pivot, but the whole night might be among Heyman’s finest, most concise pieces of business: Moments after the curtain was harshly ripped away, he allowed a glimpse of the stricken man behind it, if only for a second, before getting back to the great and powerful matters at hand. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
“You’re not the baddest b---- on the planet; you’re the luckiest” (SmackDown LIVE, Nov. 13)
Just hours after finding out that she would not be cleared to compete to face Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series, no one would have blamed Becky Lynch for being down about being forced to withdraw from such a huge battle.
But with a bruised and swollen eye, a broken face and a severe concussion, Lynch stood defiant and declared, in the one-liner of the year, that Rousey was the luckiest woman on the planet, because she didn’t have to face the SmackDown Women’s Champion at Survivor Series. Declaring that this was only a delay in the beating that was coming Rousey’s way, Lynch picked Charlotte Flair and demanded that The Queen finish what she started.
If there were any doubts about it heading into that night, there was no denying it after: Becky Lynch is The Man. — BOBBY MELOK
“The ‘Yes!’ Movement is dead” (SmackDown LIVE, Nov. 20)
Daniel Bryan’s message upon returning was “fight for your dreams and your dreams will fight for you.” But he was the one fighting, so shouldn’t the victory be his? And what’s the use of leading a movement if it ultimately moves on? In a year where fallen folk heroes got wise to the fickle whims of the audience, Bryan — who was threatening to plateau after a rousing but somewhat aimless comeback tour — was the only one who decided to punch back by driving a stake through the heart of the “Yes!” Movement and leaving his old self dead and buried in an unmarked hyperbaric chamber. The WWE Universe wanted Daniel Bryan back. They got their wish. Now they have to live with the consequences. — ANTHONY BENIGNO