Pro Wrestling is experiencing a mild-boom period. It’s not as big as what was happening in the Attitude era, but still pretty big. The WWE Network has been something of a game changer for the business. With the amount of content available, a percentage of fans are turning into wrestling “Super Fans”, who watch the product daily.
This trend hasn’t just had positive impacts for WWE however, but for pro wrestling in general. Independent wrestling promotions are experiencing arguably their hottest period ever. Now, even small promotions are able to fly in top stars knowing that they’ll make their money back in the form of increased ticket sales. Take the Young Bucks as an example. While the duo in signed to Ring of Honor, and NJPW, they make the bulk of their money performing on the independents and selling their merchandise. Wrestling is so successful now that you do not even need to be a performer for a top company, and you can still be raking in more than enough money to be comfortable.
That leads us to what will happen throughout the remainder of 2017. Five months down and seven months to go, wrestling is likely headed into an important era in its long history.
Here are 15 Bold WWE predictions for the remainder of 2017.
15. Jinder Mahal Fails A Wellness Test
Much has been made of the change in Jinder Mahal’s physique since his WWE return in 2016. While he was by no means out-of-shape when he first returned, he has since become a sculpted, veiny, and ripped WWE World Champion. This has led to speculation that Jinder is receiving benefits from some “black market supplements”.
To Jinder’s credit however, he has not failed any drug tests associated with WWE’s Wellness Policy. It seems like it has been a long time since anybody failed a Wellness Test however, which makes it difficult to tell if the program is a deterrent, or if people have just figured out a way around the system?
The impact Jinder failing a Wellness Test would have on the company’s plans to expand into India would be immense. Something tells us Murphy’s Law could just come into play here for WWE.
14. JBL Gets Released
WWE can’t fire JBL right now, but they might want to. If WWE fired JBL too soon after the Mauro Ranallo situation, it would be an admission of guilt on the company’s part. WWE is not the best at admitting when they have done something wrong.
Instead look for JBL to be released later on in the year. Despite his long tenure with the company, fans and media are looking for an excuse to jump on JBL. Stories regarding JBL’s bullying were spread through major media news outlets recently, making it more likely they would cover a future story regarding something he says or does. Keeping JBL is risky for WWE, but releasing him eliminates that risk.
The bottom line is, if Byron Saxton messes up and says something he shouldn’t have, it probably won’t be a news story, but it will be if JBL does the same.
13. Out-of-Character Undertaker On The WWE Network
While an active wrestler, Undertaker never appeared out-of-character. When he started working the gimmick, things were far different in pro wrestling. Good guys weren’t allowed to ride with bad guys, and performers were expected to pretend everything was real, even when the cameras weren’t on.
As a result, Undertaker hasn’t even appeared at the Hall of Fame ceremony outside of character, or at any other WWE function.
Now that he’s retired, expect that to change. A WWE Network sit-down interview with Mark Calaway would draw a massive viewership for the Network. He has never sat down and given his side of every backstage incident for the entirety of his 27 year career. You could literally put together a ten-part series of Jim Ross speaking with the Undertaker, and it would be the best thing the Network would produce all year.
12. The Shield Reunite On RAW
Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns are all currently assigned to the Raw brand. They are all “good guys” as well, leading to a likely Shield reunion.
WWE, like they have done the last few years, are going to try everything they can to get Roman Reigns over before WrestleMania. One thing they have yet to try for Roman since his singles run began, is putting him back together with Rollins and Ambrose, both of whom are popular with fans. That is to say they’re at least more popular with fans than Roman.
By putting Roman side-by-side with Rollins and Ambrose, WWE would be hoping that their popularity will rub off on him a little bit. It won’t work, but they’ll try it at some point this year nonetheless.
11. Return of Mauro Ranallo
This might seem implausible, but there is a high probability Maura Ranallo returns to WWE this year. Speculation is, the lines of communication between the two sides remains open regarding a potential return.
Originally, Vince wanted Mauro to give the SmackDown brand a unique feel. After the brand split however, Vince wanted Mauro to be more like Michael Cole, and speculation is Vince was the one in JBL’s ear encouraging him to run down Ranallo on an episode of Bring it to the Table.
WWE’s charity work with Be A Star runs counter to what is believed happened to Mauro at the hands of Vince and JBL. This is a wrong the company will want to right in some way. Don’t expect Mauro to be back on the main roster however, he’ll be safely away from Vince.
10. WWE Network Special From India
We’ll even let you know when this is going to happen; in September. It hasn’t been announced, but it’s going to happen.
WWE has already booked a live event tour of India that month, and conveniently the SmackDown brand has a champion of Indian decent in Jinder Mahal. Technically, he’s from Canada, but his roots go back to India. His Uncle, the Great Gama Singh, used to play a similar role in Stampede Wrestling during the territory days of pro wrestling.
With 1.3 billion people living there, WWE feels there is room for significant growth in India. With Jinder Mahal standing atop the WWE pedestal, the company feels the time is right for a major Indian expansion. A WWE Network special from India being planned and recorded during the live events tour this fall, makes all the sense in the world.
9. Kurt Angle Wrestles
Kurt Angle will wrestle again in WWE, though not on a regular basis. Ever since signing with the company and being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Angle has hinted to the media that he has not wrestled his last match. For years, he had let it be known he would like to have his last match inside a WWE ring.
Now that Angle is the GM of Raw, it puts him into several storylines with top stars. Much like Shane McMahon entered into a feud with A.J. Styles that led to a match, expect for Angle to do the same.
WWE could hold off his return match until WrestleMania, but SummerSlam seems a more realistic goal. Angle isn’t getting any younger, and waiting all the way until 2018 to have him wrestle seems unlikely.
8. Conor McGregor at SummerSlam
Speaking of SummerSlam, we’re going really bold here and predicting Conor McGregor makes an appearance.
WWE and Conor have made no secret they would like to work together. While Conor won’t admit it, he’s a fan of sports entertainment, which is why he has brought so much of it to the UFC. Conor knows how much of a response he got from wrestling fans after he sent out a tweet last year stating he could slap all their heads off. He’ll want to cash in on that at some point.
Rumors are those involved are trying to get Floyd Mayweather versus Conor McGregor booked for the fall, the timing of which makes SummerSlam a perfect place to promote the fight. Conor will show up, cut a promo on Floyd, and some small angle will be filmed which might lead to another appearance at WrestleMania 34.
7. The Miz Turns Face
We can’t believe we’re saying this but The Miz is going to turn face at some point in 2017. Unlike the last time he was a good guy however, the fans are actually going to cheer for him.
Miz has improved drastically over the last couple of years, and fans are starting to notice. He created a lot of buzz with his semi-scripted performances on Talking Smack and has since become a very entertaining character. Hardcore fans are starting to notice the effort Miz is putting into his character, and they’re showing him appreciation for it. That kind of appreciation usually results in a babyface turn.
This year at WrestleMania, the fans cheered for Miz over Cena. While some fans love to hate on Cena, they used to really hate Miz too. That the hardcore fan base at WrestleMania cheering for him is a sign of changing opinions regarding the former WWE Champion.
6. “Broken” Matt Hardy Appears in WWE
At the moment, current Impact Wrestling owners, Anthem Sports and Entertainment, are preventing the Hardy family from using their “Broken Universe” characters in WWE or any other promotion.
Technically, this is the same as what WWE would do if the Hardys had developed the characters on their programming, but the backlash towards Impact for preventing it from happening is bad PR for a company that absolutely cannot afford anymore bad PR. Impact would be wise to just to bite the bullet on this one and let them use the gimmick. If anything, they should allow them to use the gimmick in exchange for the Hardys saying positive things about the company. That is the best Impact can hope for at the moment.
At some point cooler heads will prevail, and this gimmick will end up in WWE where Hardy fans will be able to experience it again.
5. Gimmick Change for Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler would be better if he wasn’t Dolph Ziggler anymore. There comes a point where fans have seen a wrestler try and fail so many times, they wonder why he keeps trying anymore.
They have turned him heel on SmackDown, but that is only delaying the inevitable, you need to completely reboot Dolph, or release him. Perhaps what they should do is keep him off TV for awhile, and bring him back with a new gimmick that makes the character fresh.
It doesn’t have to be anything major, just show us a few vignettes that lead us to believe he’ll be returning, and will be much better when he does. Maybe he went to Thailand for two months to study Muay Thai, or went to Brazil and learned BJJ, just give us something new about the character that leads us to believe he could win again.
4. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens Part II
Oh it’s not over. WWE made sure to leave room for the possibility of Owens and Jericho picking up right where they left off before Jericho left to tour with his band Fozzy.
Jericho beat Owens for the US Title at Payback, which also caused him to be transferred to the SmackDown brand which just so happens to be where Owens now wrestles. Owens would win back his title on the next episode of SmackDown, and then injured Jericho badly enough that he’ll be gone for his entire summer tour schedule.
At the moment, Jericho is saying he doesn’t know if he’ll ever return to WWE, but that is just him working the angle. Rest assured, Jericho and Owens will pick up their feud in late 2017, leading to their second straight WrestleMania match against each other in 2018 or perhaps even earlier.
3. Return of Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan is on his way back, only it can’t happen just yet. Even though he has won his monumental lawsuit against the media giant which leaked private audio recordings of the Hulkster, there are still some legal proceedings to go through. He won’t be back until after those proceedings are done.
Hogan is gone from WWE, in part to let the public forget about some rather nasty things he said years ago, but also to show damages in his lawsuit. WWE dropped him from all their events, but don’t think for a second the two sides weren’t talking all along. By WWE dropping Hogan, it only increases the damages he could sue Gawker for. Ergo, Hogan can’t come back to WWE until everything to do with that legal case is finished.
Should that case finish up entirely in 2017, Hogan will be back before year’s end.
2. Kane Retires
Fun fact, 50-year old Glenn Jacobs has wrestled more matches in WWE than anyone in the company’s history. Amazing huh? He beats out Hulk Hogan, John Cena, the Undertaker, and literally everyone else. Considering he has been with the company for 22 years, rarely been injured, and hardly ever took time off until he was well into his 40s, this isn’t all that surprising.
Kane has been the ironman in WWE, however, he’s currently talking a sabbatical to focus on his Mayoral run in Knox County, with a planned election date in 2018.
As Kane builds up to his upcoming Mayoral run, his involvement with wrestling will be come less and less frequent. Nobody has earned a retirement from wrestling more than Kane, and he’ll officially announce his own sometime in 2017.
1. Ronda Rousey Signs With WWE
Ronda Rousey is a huge WWE fan, and Stephanie McMahon is a huge Ronda Rousey fan. With Dana White stating he doesn’t believe Rousey will ever compete in the UFC again, what is the hold up preventing Rousey and WWE from starting their working relationship?
This is purely speculation and opinion, but we believe Rousey is secretly training to be a wrestler and won’t sign with WWE until she’s confident and on-par with what the women in WWE currently do. Luckily for Rousey, judo is an excellent background to learn to be a pro wrestler. Just ask literally every wrestler in Japan who trained in Judo before becoming a wrestler.
Rousey is not the kind of person who just wants to walk into WWE to be a celebrity, she’ll want to be a wrestler. If she can get to the point where her in-ring work is passable, expect WWE to consider the idea of Ronda Rousey versus Charlotte Flair highlighting WrestleMania.