Earl Marx, Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow, Russ Morgan & John Carbery
A bit of fun today, readers, as we share some of our predictions for the year ahead. Nothing is off limits and we’ve even included some ideas submitted by readers online and via email. If this goes all according to plan, we’ll come back to this in January of next year and see if anyone got any correct.
1) Pro Wrestling Fans Will NOT Be Happy – Ok. This was a free one. Ha. Seems like no matter who is pushed, how they are pushed, who isn’t pushed, who isn’t this or that, there will be no happiness or unity amongst wrestling fans.Ha. This is what keeps the discussion going I suppose
2) The WWE Network WILL Continue to be a Great Value – As a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember, sometimes, I truly am in amazement at the WWE Network and what I pay monthly for it. Every few months, we get something new at the same price. Even Netflix has tiered pricing. I’ve read the ‘E is flirting with this idea, but, even as it is now, what really matches it’s value (if you are a fan)? .
1) Roman Reigns WILL Reclaim His Spot at the Mountatintop – I know some may or may not agree with this, but I predict Roman reclaiming his run at the top of the WWE. Now, I get that this could happen as soon as the Royal Rumble of 2016, but it is overdue. I think he has served his time and will be “THE Guy” once again. Now will he do it with a little bit of an edge? Hmm…
2) Cesaro WILL Break Away From Sheamus as a Solo Star – I think the pairing of Cesaro and Sheamus has served Cesaro well in terms of exploring more of his personality. We know he has the in ring talent. He has a unique look. He has an odd connection to the fans that really isn’t based on his personality, but more of the love of his in ring work. I think his personality will show forth and I wouldn’t be surprised if he heels it up by year’s end.
3) Bray Wyatt WILL NOT Break Out as a Solo Star – Before one huffs and puffs at this, I have a serious fear that the ‘E just does not really know what to do with Bray. I am a huge fan, but as the years are passing, I fear Bray will be known as a “good hand”. I don’t think 2017 is going to be his year either. I feel we’ve got one more year of the Wyatt Family to look forward to.
The Slightly Unexpected
1) Roster Cuts – I am not sure who, but I am a little leery of all of the deals and workings the ‘E currently has in place. We know the cream of the crop rises to the main roster when there is a space open. We’ve got tourneys in the works, etc. In addition to this, they are bringing in new talent with NXT. While I am all for people having opportunity, where does the buck stop? Who doesn’t make it? I fear we will see cuts in due time like we haven’t before.
2) Nakamura WILL NOT Be Featured Heavily Upon Main Roster Debut – I know. I know. I know. Nakamura is a star. Yes – I have heard this a number of times before and will admit there is a quirkiness about him. He can go. But you also know how the main roster can be. Everyone can’t turn into an AJ Styles. There are a few Apollo Crews’ floating out there underutilized. There’s only so many spots at the top. I think Naka’s rookie year is not going to be what many internet wrestling fans look for.
That’s where I am going to start. More may come soon. Ha.
1) The length of Raw and Smackdown won’t change – Yup, in spite of what virtually everyone bar the USA Network and the WWE think, Raw will not go back to two hours this year. There’s good news – it won’t go to four and Smackdown won’t increase to three, but I do not see Raw shortening. Sure, the ratings nearly always tail off for the third hour but until the USA Network find a killer show to replace that last hour then we’re stuck with a Raw show that is too long. Suck it up, kids.
2) 205 Live will change from current format – This is obvious as, in its current state, 205 Live doesn’t really work. For starters, it doesn’t have to be live as forums and wrestling phone-ins are full of people saying they leave the Smackdown Live show before 205 Live starts. And why not, the WWE does little to promote it bar a throwaway match on Raw. I say it again, for a cruiserweights show, it has far too many mat based wrestlers. If you are tuning in expecting a show reminiscent of the Nitro era high flyers then you are in for a disappointment.
3) The next tranche of NXT graduates will feature some undeserving promotions – the WWE has a habit of calling up to the main roster NXT talent that either isn’t ready or they don’t have a proper plan for. Don’t expect this to change.
4) No current champ will end year with that title – none of Owens (Universal), Jericho (US), Charlotte (Raw women’s), Cesaro & Sheamus (tag), Rich Swann (cruiserweight), AJ (WWE), Ambrose (IC), American Alpha (Smackdown), Alexa Bliss (Smackdown women’s), Nakamura (NXT), Asuka (NXT women’s) or DIY (NXT tag) will end the year as a champion
1) Renee Young becomes an announcer on Smackdown – Brian and I discussed this previously, but with Renee now a more prominent act on Smackdown Live, I wonder if this will lead to her becoming a voice on the show. The Smackdown commentary doesn’t have a really good fit at the moment and already could do with a refresh, what better way to stir things up than add Renee as an announcer. It’ll certainly help further to differentiate the show from Raw.
2) New Day split but Xavier is break out star – Don’t get me wrong, Big E. will be a success too but I think Xavier will do best. An underrated member of the trio now, but I see bright things for Woods going forward. He certainly deserves it.
3) Nakamura will end 2017 as a reigning or former champ on main roster – I don’t think we’re far from seeing Nakamura join the WWE roster; the night after WrestleMania? When he does debut, I see the WWE cashing in on his natural charisma and connection with the crowd to push him to the hill. I don’t necessarily expect him to win the WWE or Universal title, but he will win a title and either end the year holding it or having lost it.
The Slightly Unexpected
1) The WWE adds another main roster title – don’t ask me exactly what, but let’s not be too surprised if we see another title added. I think we can rule out a hardcore title, though…
2) WWE has a full-time female WWE referee – Whilst I think it’s more likely that Renee will don the Smackdown headset, I think it’s more unexpected that a female will wear the ref’s outfit on a WWE show full-time. You never know, but it’s a long shot.
Let’s see how I do in a year’s time…
1. Stephanie McMahon will fire Mick Foley as General Manager of Raw. I think the writing is on the wall here. Like the latter-day version of Mr McMahon, Stephanie exists on television purely to hint at and then ultimately fire people. Foley will probably resurface on Smackdown when Daniel Bryan gets bored and does something else with his time.
2. Baron Corbin will not become a star. His character is that of a wrestler who isn’t interested in wrestling and just does it because he can. As a result fans are completely apathetic towards him and I don’t see this changing because there is no way out for a character like this, beyond developing amnesia and forgetting he hates wrestling.
1. A tag team wrestler will win Money in The Bank. A member of New Day? Cesaro? Whoever it may be, making a member of a tag team Mr Money in The Bank would at least provide a new spin on what is becoming a slightly tired formula. Jealousy from their partner could set in before or after a cash-in and help to elevate both men, as a feud between the pair (possibly over a heavyweight title) would be inevitable.
2. WWE will not sign Kenny Omega, but they will sign Adam Cole… BAY-BAY! Omega is the current buzz of the wrestling world, but I think his Bullet Club comrade will make the jump to NXT before Omega inevitably comes on board, after he has held the IWGP Title.
1. No Way Jose will get over huge on the main roster. At first glance he appears to be your average, dancing, comedy act but there’s something different about No Way Jose. It might be his physicality or the way Cory Graves and Todd Phillips put him over as a tough guy on NXT. He reminds me a little of Tommy Dreamer in that he could be just be one brutal match away from becoming a cult hero. If ever a character could benefit from a blade job or a beating from Brock Lesnar it’s this guy.
2. Paul Heyman will betray Brock Lesnar. Let’s face it, the Brock Lesnar agrees to a big match and Paul Heyman does all the promos routine is getting a little old. They’ve done this angle before, in 2003, but WWE are no strangers to repeating history while pretending otherwise.
1. Samoa Joe and Nakamura will get promoted to the main roster.
2. Brock Lesnar to beat Goldberg at some point
3. Randy Orton does the dirty on the Wyatt’s and goes over Bray.
1. The Bullet Club in some form or guise will be reunited, probably by Balor. If another member jumps from NJPW, it will be merch central.
2. Samoa Joe to be put in a program with Brock Lesnar. This to me is the perfect match.
3. The fallout of the inevitable breakup of Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho.
The Slightly Unexpected
1. Either one of Bobby Roode, Austin Aries or Tye Dillinger to break onto the main roster and hold a title before the year is over.
2. WWE doing away with “non-title” matches. For me it’s just lazy booking to get a challenger over. Also it makes a champion look weak leading up to PPV’s.
3. The future of the British Belt maybe even defending it on the UK indy scene.
1. WWE will continue to struggle for most of the year to create new stars. Even though its supposedly a “New Era” the same old shit comes out of the booking office, on RAW at least. Right now, probably have one of the greatest rosters of all time and one of the worst booking teams of all time. If your company isn’t turning record profits with the talent and TV time that WWE has at its disposal then there’s something rotten at the top, its been rotten for years and it isn’t going to change any time soon. Every other part of WWE’s business model seems to have changed drastically in 2016 and for the better, the last thing to go is the stagnant creative swamp that’s dragging everything down with it. But I have little faith in that happening and I think as a result we’ll get the same shoddy booking that prevents new stars from being created again in 2017.
2. New Japan will struggle in the US, at first. NJPW is planning a full on invasion of North America and Europe this year. They’re starting small with their G1 Special shows in July from LA. NJPW is well known amongst hardcore wrestling fans the world over and after the recent success of Wrestle Kingdom 11 they’ve had even more exposure but the one thing the company seems to struggle with is promoting its product to Western fans. WK 11 pulled in nearly 6000 new subscribers to their New Japan World streaming service from the US alone and that’s without any promotion on their part whatsoever, so there is an interest but I think they’re going to find that they have to come up with a new strategy when they promote a near full time schedule on foreign shores and I think that’s something they’ll be slow to do. They also need to secure Kenny Omega to a multi year contract and put the IWGP Championship on him asap if they’re going to expand into English speaking territories.
1. WWE will simply have to do something with all the exciting talent they’ve signed. Chris Hero, Kimber Lee, Heidi Lovelace, Tommy End, Big Damo, the 16 men from the UK tournament. In 2016 WWE went on a hiring spree while their developmental system was still clogged up with signings from years previous. At a certain point they’re going to have to make serious moves to recoup some of their outgoings.Maybe this will lead to a major talent cull? It used to be the axe fell after Wrestlemania every year and a bunch of lower card wrestlers would receive their marching orders but WWE haven’t really fired any great amount of talent in the last few years. This could mean a big shift of NXT talent to the main roster or a spreading out of talent into a global territory system beginning with the UK and possibly expanding into Asia before the end of the year. A lot of people are thinking that WWE is going to go after the Japanese market go head to head with NJPW. However, I think if they’re going to go for an Asian territory they’ll focus on China. Japan is a closed shop in many ways and WWE only draw there as a novelty once a year. China is a brave new world for them and could turn into their most profitable market in time.
2. As a follow on from that several NXT talents will have to make their main roster debuts this year. They have Shinsuke Nakamura signed to a big money guarantee, so while he’s wrestling in community centers some weeks for NXT he’s still making main event money, otherwise he’d still be in Japan. WWE should want to make Nakamura a star to make good on their own sizeable investment in him and I think The King of Strong Style has what it takes to become a major main event player for the company. Whether this happens or not is really up to the creative team but I would hope that by Wrestlemania he’s on the main roster and by Summerslam he’s in the main events. Similarly Samoa Joe needs to be called up asap. While its been said that McMahon doesn’t see main event potential in Joe I think if they gave him a solid mid card push with a run as either Intercontinental or US Champion it’d change his tune. In all I think WWE have a large talent pool to draw from in NXT that they should use in the coming year, whether its a success is yet to be seen.
1. John Cena will turn heel. A bold prediction and one that probably won’t come true but it makes so much damn sense. Cena is winding down his full time schedule and why not give him a run as a heel on the way out? If WWE are serious about building a new babyface star to replace him, who I don’t know, the best way to do it would be to have them vanquish a heel super-Cena.
2. NJPW will sign away at least one major player from WWE Most high profile wrestlers who leave WWE end up in NJPW anyway but with the Japanese firm becoming more aggressive in 2017 I could easily see them making a play for a top level WWE talent should any of them have a contract up in the coming 12 months. NJPW are trying to make a splash outside of Japan and what better way than to get a WWE main eventer on board.