Craig Wilson, Earl Marx, Brian Damage, Jamie Lithgow and John Carbery
Following on from last week’s Sunday Sermon, where we reviewed 2016, this time around we look ahead to the coming 12 months and share our hopes for the year ahead. Whether it’s breakout stars, champions or even WrestleMania main events, all of it is covered in this latest Sunday Sermon.
Craig: Happy new year readers. As we enter 2017, it seems only right to discuss what we hope to see in the next twelve months, when it comes to wrestling.
I think after numerous failed attempts, I’m going to stop suggesting that this could be the year that Dolph Ziggler become a top main event talent. Based entirely on my betting history, this might now be his year…
But, to quote Lance Storm, if I can be serious for a minute: the one thing I am really keen to see this year is the return of Finn Balor. He made have only really had a cup of coffee on the main roster before injury, but his return will be big. Time will tell whether or not that will be at the Royal Rumble but if it is he has to be a possible winner, right?
Sticking with the Rumble, I do hope that the suggestion that Tye Dillinger will come out at number 10 are true – what a fun moment that will be, regardless of how long he lasts in the match itself.
Elsewhere, I hope Kevin Owens’ title reign kicks up a gear, hope to see American Alpha reach the top of the tag team mountain on Smackdown Live and hope to see the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka finally grace either Raw or Smackdown.
What about you guys? What do you want to see in the next 52 weeks inside the squared circle?
Earl: I too hope the Christmas or holiday time was awesome for all.Here’s where I am at now;
The Continued Fine Tuning of the Women’s Division on the Main Roster – Women’s wrestling on the main roster continued to shine. We went places I could not have imagined we would go and managed to come back with a little bit sanity. Were there some controversial title changes? Sure. Were there questionable stipulations for the competitors that did not necessarily suit the styles of the competitors? I would say so. Did we anticipate where they would go next? A very big YES! This is what it is about – we should wonder where they are taking the action next. This is the “hook” – what keeps us looking and what keeps us coming back. At this point, I hope the “powers that be” look back at the year and see, based on appropriate feedback, what worked and what did not. The system needs to be tuned, but they are definitely on the path if you can get someone like me to watch women’s wrestling. For quite some time, I did not watch them wrestling as I did not consider it meaningful. I’ve been reformed!
Meaningful Feuds for the United States Championship – I meant to write this is a “low light” for 2016, but one can hope for more. The Miz has reinvigorated interest in the Intercontinental Championship by being a compelling character that focuses on the title being a part of his character. Is that happening with the United States Championship? Does Roman Reigns even care about being a United States Champion? It does not seem like to me. I am not a Reigns hater, but if him dropping the title to someone who cares more about it is what it takes, we must make it so.
Variation in Feuds for the Raw Tag Team Championship – Not to bash The New Day, but we had more teams in the Raw tag division. Now that they are no longer the focal point, we can get some new feuds going. Just to ensure my thoughts on this were not tainted, I did write this while having a bowl of Booty-Os.
Evolution of 205 Live – I loved the CWC, but was very disappointing in the handling of the cruisers on Raw. This 205 Live show is their focal point. This is the outlet to flesh out the characters more, develop their own style of working, and advance their stories at a meaningful pace. I am a fan of the action, but, at the cruiser’s outset, that’s all it was. They are just now beginning to go beyond that. Let’s hope they stay on a good course.
“Substantial Players” in the Main Event Scene on Both Main Rosters – My last hope is somewhat tricky. I would like to see more players in the main event scene on both of the main rosters, BUT I would like them to have better build. Take Dolph Ziggler in 2016. Analyze his first half of 2016. Look at how randomly we won the opportunity to face Dean at SummerSlam. Did you really “feel” he had a chance? I did not. As of this writing, he is preparing to face AJ Styles and Baron Corbin in a triple threat match for the WWE Championship. The “feeling” is STILL not there because, after his Miz feud, Dolph has floated. We need “players” who are compelling. “Players” who are drive interest. It just cannot be this “flavor of the moment” nonsense we are given (especially after beating a character down for months). When you actually think about, it seems like James Ellsworf (yes I misspelt purposely) had a better claim for believing he could beat AJ Styles than Dolph Ziggler. It’s all in the build.
Jamie: Most of what I would wish for is completely unrealistic so I won’t even bother. WWE will not be cutting back their main roster output and Raw will continue to be three decades, sorry hours, long. I also can’t wish for better matches because as a fan of wrestling of some 25 years I honestly can’t remember a time when I’ve had it so good in that regard. What I would like to see, however, is better and more compelling stories. I feel like WWE switches between overly simplistic most of the time to needlessly complicated on other occasions. The simplistic storylines appear to be created so that younger fans can follow the plot, but that’s not a problem for JK Rowling and her moderately popular book franchise about a young wizard. A strange point to make I grant you, but the Harry Potter books – and many other fictional books, movies, tv shows etc. – attract fans young and old but do not feel a need to dumb things down. Something a little deeper than Wrestler A dislikes Wrestler B because Wrestler B doesn’t respect the fans just doesn’t cut it. I’ve been following Raw and Nitro from 1996, which both followed a PG-ish model – this was pre-TV classification – and at times I’ve genuinely had to think about a story and connect the dots for myself. If modern day WWE could once again remember that they are also a TV show and not just a massive marketing exercise with ‘sports entertainment’ interspersed between commercials I’d really enjoy that.
What else am I looking forward to in 2017? Shinsuke Nakamura’s probable main roster debut. There’s a whole host of dream matches awaiting the King of Strong Style but for me, and this might just be me, he has to show up and face John Cena. Going straight in against Cena means people who have never heard of Nakamura will know he’s a big deal, and thus his future matches with Styles, Owens, Rollins etc. will mean so much more to so many more fans. Let’s face it, they can split the brands, have two champions and do all they want with the new generation but John Cena will be the face that runs the place until he decides not to be.
Brian: I would love to see Ring of Honor get some major financial backers behind it and rise up to a legitimate competitor to the WWE. ROH has always generated future stars for the WWE, whether it was CM Punk, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Just imagine what they could do if they had some real money behind it and got a legit television deal.
I want to see Lucha Underground continue to grow and thrive. Here’s hoping they continue to get renewed and continue to grow into a nice little alternative to the WWE juggernaut. As for TNA, I would hope that Dixie Carter is removed from power, but since that is really unrealistic, I am hoping that the company continues to improve as a viable #2 promotion.
As for the WWE, I would love to see Kenny Omega and Ricochet signed to deals. I am really rooting for Tye Dillinger to FINALLY get the call-up to the main roster and remain there. It would be nice to see Kurt Angle return to the company even on a part-time basis. I would also love to see Sting have one more match and let it be a victory!
John: January is going to be an interesting month no matter what. I always look forward to New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom shows and I’ve no doubt they’ll kick 2017 off with the usual bang. The are plenty of quality matches lined up but the one I’m most invested in is the IWGP title match between challenger Kenny Omega and champion Kazuchika Obama. I’d love to see Omega win the big one but things move slowly in NJPW and I wouldn’t be surprised if I had to wait another 12 months before The Cleaner picks up the belt. If he ever does.
The WWE UK championship tournament should be very interesting indeed. I’m hoping Bruiserweight Pete Dunne gets the gold on the night. I also hope WWE’s new British chapter is provided stiff competition by the revived World of Sport brand on ITV.
Finally, for January, we have the Royal Rumble which is always interesting for one reason or another. I’d personally love to see a returning Finn Balor win the rumble and challenge for the title at Wrestlemania, but the rumble is always unpredictable for a number of reasons so it’s hard to call.
Craig: It’s clear that there’s certainly lots to look forward to in 2017, then…
Like John, I’m also looking forward to the WWE UK Championship tournament, even though I wasn’t able to get tickets for the two shows. The return of World of Sport has, if you believe all you read online, forced the WWE’s hand on this one but it’ll still be interesting to see how it, and WoS, do.
I’d love to e able to get back into Lucha Underground but for the same reason as I’m not going to see much, if any, of Wrestle Kingdom, is that there simply isn’t enough hours in the day to be able to watch all the wrestling that is available. However, it would be good to see Lucha Underground and Ring of Honor kick on a gear this year.
Does anyone hold out any hope of seeing anything from Global Force Wrestling this year or a revival for TNA?
Earl: I totally agree with Brian on the GFW/TNA sidebar. I don’t know, if in today’s landscape, I see Jeff Jarrett as a viable player (perhaps I should say owner). There is always the possibility that these two entities could come together again to do work, but alone…I can’t see GFW going far.
As for TNA, I cannot say I am a fan of their product, but I too am a fan of alternatives for us fans to watch. This time (probably like last time), I think the bell is ringing for Dixie. I think she’s out, new ownership is in, and they can really focus on productively differentiating themselves from WWE. I do not think there is a true “No. 2” company to WWE – there is WWE and then the rest. If they keep this in mind and really fine tune their product and presentation (comes off pretty low budget on TV), they can not only retain fans, but gain as well. My bet? They back the money truck up to The Hardy Compound and hope for the best.
John: I’ll admit I love the Broken Hardy antics so if TNA survives and I get a few more YouTube classics I’ll be happy. Beyond that I don’t really care what happens in the impact zone.
In 2017 I also hope the flo sports platform can provide independent companies with a way to reach new audiences.
I’m concerned that a hiring bubble may have formed in WWE though as regards independent talent. In 2016 they hired dozens of high profile names to contacts and don’t seem to be slowing down. I have to wonder how long these wrestlers will be able to gestate in NXT before its demanded they start making serious money for the company. I have a feeling there will be a cull at some point in 2017 and a lot of fans will be shocked at some of the wrestlers wished the best in their future endeavors.
What are your hopes for 2017? Leave them in the comments section below.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.