2020 was a year full of uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic affected people and businesses all over the world, and WWE was no exception. The start of 2020 forced the company to shift their biggest annual extravaganza, WrestleMania, to the WWE Performance Center. This change was just the tip of the iceberg of the obstacles WWE faced in 2020.
WWE taken a lot of criticism last year, as the company's handling of the pandemic has been questionable. Many fans criticized WWE's decision to produce weekly programming when the pandemic was at its peak. A plethora of WWE Superstars tested positive for COVID-19, which validated these concerns.
Then, to cut some costs, WWE released many wrestlers, agents, referees, and staff members. This move was controversial because the ex-employees were left to fend for themselves during a pandemic. Plus, the turmoil surrounding WWE Superstars putting out content on Twitch drew even more negative publicity. Still, unfazed by these challenges, the company has continued to persevere.
Vince McMahon & Co. have received a lot of flak over the past few years for their failure to try out new things. The formulaic template for the company's weekly shows has frustrated plenty of fans. But 2020 was the year of experiments in WWE. From the futuristic ThunderDome to the unrivaled cinematic matches, WWE didn't shy away from thinking outside the box last year.
Here's a look at three pleasant surprises that WWE gave fans in 2020:
#3 WWE's newest singles stars - Big E and Jey Uso
Tag team wrestling in WWE hasn't always received the spotlight that it deserves. There have been a lot of great tag teams in the company's long history. But WWE's complete indifference to the division has meant that these stars often fail to reach their full potential. Rather than investing in quality teams, WWE frequently uses the tag titles as props in storylines.
Many wrestling fans and commentators have believed that there is a ceiling to tag team wrestling in WWE. Given the current state of the tag division in WWE RAW and SmackDown, it is hard to dispute that tag team wrestling has never been at the forefront of WWE programming.
The company is also notorious for breaking up tag teams. Over the past decade, practically every tag team has parted ways at some point. It is difficult for a tag team specialist to break out as a singles star. While tag team specialists Edge and Jeff Hardy went on to become world champions, the past few years haven't been kind to tag wrestlers trying to break out on their own.
So it came as quite a surprise when Jey Uso and Big E were pushed as prominent singles stars. While fans have always wanted to see Big E shine by himself, Uso's singles push was unexpected. But the former WWE SmackDown Tag Team Champion has been a revelation as a singles wrestler.
His feud against Roman Reigns was one of the highlights of WWE in 2020. Uso has racked up wins over prominent singles stars like AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, and Kevin Owens this year. He's currently a henchman for "The Tribal Chief", and he is heavily involved in the feud between Reigns and Owens.
On the other hand, Big E's success in his singles career has been slow and steady. The former NXT Champion split up with his New Day stablemates during the 2020 WWE Draft. The former tag team champion reached new heights when he defeated Sami Zayn last week on SmackDown to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Big E is undoubtedly a force to reckoned with on the blue brand in 2021.
#2 The Undertaker's final bow in WWE
The Undertaker has been one of the most prolific performers in WWE history. "The Phenom" has been one of the pillars of WWE programming for the last three decades. His incredible body of work will be hard to replicate. "The Deadman" is also unparalleled for his devotion to the industry.
It's no secret that The Undertaker hasn't been his usual self inside the squared circle in recent years. The quality of his matches has significantly declined during their period. Naturally, his retirement from in-ring competition has been a major talking point among many fans.
After three decades in which he remained in-character, The Undertaker finally opened himself up to the public eye by appearing in shoot interviews. Following his match against AJ Styles at WrestleMania, WWE announced a multi-part documentary series on "The Deadman" titled, "Undertaker: The Last Ride. " In the final episode, "The Phenom" revealed that he has retired from in-ring competition.
WWE announced that Survivor Series (2020) would host The Undertaker's retirement ceremony. His "Final Farewell" at the show was remarkable, and it allowed the legend to say goodbye. It started with a plethora of WWE Legends paying tribute to The Undertaker's in-ring career. "The Deadman" delivered his farewell speech, which concluded one of the most storied careers of all time.
#1 Roman Reigns becoming the biggest star in WWE
Roman Reigns' WWE career has been quite fascinating. "The Big Dog" has been called the most polarizing figure in the business for a long time. WWE's multiple attempts to position Reigns as its top babyface failed miserably. For a while, it seemed like Vince McMahon & Co. were hellbent on proving the fans wrong. It took a real-life tragedy for the fans to warm up to Reigns.
He received a lot of praise for pulling out of his scheduled match against Goldberg at WrestleMania 36. "The Big Dog" citied his kids, his elderly parents, and his own compromised immune system as the reasons why he no longer wanted to perform during the height of the pandemic.
At the time, there were reports of a possible rift between Reigns and WWE. The rumors turned out to be completely untrue, as "The Big Dog" returned to the company at SummerSlam (2020.)
But something about him was different this time around. Reigns unleashed a new side of himself by attacking The Fiend and Braun Strowman to close out "The Biggest Party of the Summer." Then, Reigns won the WWE Universal Championship a week later at WWE Payback.
Fans couldn't believe what they are seeing. It seemed like WWE had finally bitten the proverbial bullet and turned Reigns heel. His alliance with Paul Heyman confirmed that Roman Reigns had indeed turned to the dark side.
Reigns' evolution into "The Tribal Chief" has been the best thing on WWE programming in 2020. Reigns' return infused new life into SmackDown. The blue brand has soared to new heights with Reigns as its top heel, and his feud against Jey Uso was one of the best rivalries of 2020.
"The Tribal Chief" had a spectacular Champion vs. Champion match against Drew McIntyre at Survivor Series. Reigns then ended 2020 by successfully defending the WWE Universal Championship against Kevin Owens on the Christmas Day episode of SmackDown.
Reigns' character work over the past few months has been truly spellbinding. His promos are sharp, crisp, and to the point. "The Head of the Table" oozes confidence and charisma every time he steps inside the ring. Finally, Reigns has become the most must-see star in the business today.Published 01 Jan 2021, 20:12 IST