2016 ending has everyone discussing New Year’s resolutions. We are looking forward to 2017 and the big changes that will happen. The same can be said for wrestling. Instead of resolutions, fans are trying to forecast the happenings that will occur. No one would have predicted Kevin Owens, A.J. Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura closing out 2016 as the WWE World Champions this time last year. The company has changed dramatically with new stars emerging in the era of the brand split. The women’s divisions and tag team divisions have finally seeing resurgences as well, reaching new peaks this year.
Next year will see opportunity continue to open for those talented enough to seize them. A few stories ending the year will play a huge role in next year’s WWE landscape. We’ll try to take a glimpse into the future by deciphering some big events that will unfold. It will be a combination of wrestling knowledge, factors already in play and a bit of boldness to formulate these picks. Next year is bound to be huge for the future of the company with it being the first full calendar year under the brand split. We’ll find some names to re-emerge, leave, stand out or make history with fifteen bold WWE predictions for 2017.
15. Kurt Angle Returns In The Royal Rumble
Wrestling fans have been impatiently waiting on the return of Kurt Angle to the WWE. The wrestling legend left the company over a decade ago following a bitter falling out. TNA employed Angle for the majority of time since then, but he became a free agent earlier this year. Angle has been very public about his desire to end his wrestling career back where it started in the WWE.
The timing is perfect for Angle to return in the 2017 Royal Rumble match. There are very few moments that would garner a huge ovation and create headlines in the way an Angle return would. WWE needs more depth and familiar faces joining the two rosters following the brand split. Angle coming back in the Rumble as a surprise and having a big match at WrestleMania against someone like Rusev or The Miz makes too much sense not to happen.
14. Charlotte Flair Loses Title at WrestleMania and Doesn’t Win It Back All Year
Charlotte Flair has absolutely dominated the women’s division all year, going undefeated in singles matches on PPV. You are guaranteed a Charlotte win if she’s involved in a big PPV match. Sasha Banks would defeat her three times on Raw to win the Raw Women’s Championship, but Charlotte always won it back weeks later on the PPV.
Bayley will be the one to eventually end Charlotte’s PPV winning streak with WrestleMania 33 being the ideal show for the huge title change to take place. The bold prediction here is that Flair will not only drop the belt but go without the championship for the rest of the year. Raw has enough time to have two storylines going on with the women at all times. Charlotte moving away from the title picture for a while and allowing new ladies to be in that position after she loses is something that has to happen.
13. Bray Wyatt Gets Kicked Out of The Wyatt Family
The current incarnation of The Wyatt Family features Randy Orton joining Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper. It has freshened up the act, but we can all sense they’re splitting up sooner than later. Everyone is thinking Orton will be the one to get kicked out. The face character of Orton starting to follow Bray’s leadership made it too obvious that he was eventually planning to turn on them.
That would be too predictable and WWE will likely go another route. Many pundits believe Wyatt has huge face potential as a singles star. Fans dig his unique style and love the presentation that goes along with his persona. 2017 will be the year for him to move forward without the group behind him. Harper and Orton will blame Bray for the group’s shortcomings and kick him out. Wyatt will head into WrestleMania 33 as the face working against Orton and his new version of the heel stable.
12. Adam Cole Against Kyle O’Reilly Main Events an NXT TakeOver show
ROH Final Battle 2016 was main evented by the exciting match of Kyle O’Reilly defeating Adam Cole to win the Ring of Honor World Championship. Both men have been pillars of ROH since the company lost their last core of stars (Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, and Sami Zayn) to the WWE. Cole and O’Reilly are both about to enter free agency with their value being very high. WWE desperately needs new credible talents to build NXT around with guys like Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe ready for the main roster.
O’Reilly not re-signing with the company despite being the World Champion says a lot about his uncertainty. WWE aggressively hitting the free agent market means they’ll definitely want Cole and O’Reilly. They would both instantly become among the top performers in the promotion. The writing is on the wall for Cole and O’Reilly to join the WWE. They’ll main event a TakeOver special before the year ends.
11. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn Win Tag Team Gold
The personal rivalry between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn was arguably the best feud in WWE all year. They have tremendous chemistry together that is impossible to find with just about any two other wresters in the world. Owens and Zayn started out together as a tag team for many years in Ring of Honor and other smaller promotions before their wars started.
WWE cashed in on their prior feuds, so it would only make sense for them to find a way to get the best of their tag team work. Owens is currently the WWE Universal Champion but it’ll be hard for him to remain in the main event picture for the entirety of 2017. The same can be said for Zayn trying to move up the card. Both men will need to change things up at some point during the year and becoming a tag team seems more than realistic. If they team together, they are definitely getting those Raw Tag Titles.
10. Chyna Gets Inducted Into The WWE Hall of Fame
Chyna’s passing in 2016 left the wrestling world heartbroken as one of the Attitude Era’s biggest stars left us too soon. WWE was criticized for not inducting Chyna into the Hall of Fame while she was alive due to the petty and personal issues regarding her falling out with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Sadly, it sometimes takes the loss of someone to remind you of their accolades.
WWE will finally realize that Chyna deserved this honor and they’ll induct her into the 2017 Hall of Fame class. The legacy of Chyna should be celebrated by the wrestling world. Some may look at it as being too late but educating new fans of Chyna’s impact on the industry will just make her memory live on with such an honor coming. Hopefully Triple H and Stephanie do the right thing to make this happen.
9. Big E Turns On New Day
No one saw it coming when Seth Rollins turned on Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose to end The Shield. Everyone expected Ambrose or Reigns to be the one that eventually ended the super group. The New Day continues to be a huge marketing success for the WWE with huge money coming in through merchandising. However, there’s nothing more they can really accomplish as a trio.
2017 will be the year one member turns on the other two to become a singles heel. On the surface, Kofi Kingston or Xavier Woods having a singles heel run with their charisma seems more likely, but Big E will be the one to turn. Vince McMahon has always viewed Big E as a special talent and the WWE is always searching for the next big singles star. Big E will become a heel main eventer leaving Kingston and Woods to continue the New Day as a duo.
8. The Hardys Return And Win Tag Title Gold
Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy will be the hottest free agents available for the WWE in 2017. Rumors have circulated that the company will aggressively bring in new and old faces into the WWE next year to make Raw, SmackDown and NXT all have deeper rosters. The success of Broken Matt and Brother Nero in TNA have made the legendary tag team among the most popular acts in wrestling today.
Triple H is reported to be a huge fan of Matt’s vision making him a priority to bring back into the company. Jeff has always been a big star and one of the top names in the business that doesn’t work for the WWE. The landscape will change when The Hardyz return to the WWE under their current gimmick which will see them dominate one of the tag divisions,
7. Finn Balor Wins Royal Rumble and Regains WWE Universal Championship At WM
Finn Balor was destined to be the first ever WWE Universal Champion when defeating Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. WWE viewed him as the man to build the Raw brand around, but an injury forced him to relinquish the title just one night later. Balor’s return will be a huge moment. The Royal Rumble match was made for surprises and Balor returning as The Demon would provide one of the best moments in Rumble history.
Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins have been the faces of Raw in Balor’s absence with Owens being the WWE Universal Champion. No one has thrived enough to be the clear top guy. Balor’s opportunity is still there. Look for him to win the Royal Rumble match and defeat either Owens or Reigns at WrestleMania 33 to regain the title he never lost.
6. Braun Strowman Defeats Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg
Bill Goldberg is rumored to have signed a contract for three matches in 2017. We’re all expecting the Royal Rumble match and another showdown with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 33 to be two of them. What is the third? Enter Braun Strowman. WWE is hell bent on making Strowman the next big dominant force in wrestling. There would be no better way for Braun to get elevated than to have him destroy two legends.
Following his likely WrestleMania loss to Lesnar, the WWE will have Strowman interrupt Goldberg’s farewell speech and beat him down, leading to one more match. Strowman will become one of the very few wrestlers to ever defeat Goldberg cleanly. To add to his momentum, Lesnar will also do the job to Braun. Vince McMahon believes strongly in Strowman. There is no stopping his push with Braun officially in the upper card now.
5. Brock Lesnar Quits
Brock Lesnar has become severely disappointing for the WWE this year. Lesnar had two lackluster bouts in huge spots with Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 32 and Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2016. The only time Lesnar created attention for the company was when he failed a drug test in the UFC and when he lost to Goldberg in 86 seconds. Lesnar lacking the passion or commitment in his work for the WWE is starting to show.
It is common knowledge that Brock doesn’t like wrestling and only does it because WWE pays him a lot of money. The beast of a man has made enough money for any lifetime and it’s only a matter of time before he officially quits. 2017 will be the year Lesnar ends his time in pro wrestling and the WWE may very well be better for it. Lesnar’s true passion is MMA and Bellator would be willing to offer him a huge contract if he’s willing to accept it.
4. Bayley Becomes Biggest Female Star In WWE History
This is a long-term prediction that will be official by the end of 2017. Charlotte Flair has been positioned as a dominant heel champion. Sasha Banks not being able to end Charlotte’s undefeated PPV streak was definitely planned for a reason. WWE believes Bayley has bigger potential as a face and they’re saving the moment for her.
As mentioned earlier, the belief here is that Bayley defeats Charlotte at WrestleMania 33 to win the Raw Women’s Championship. Bayley connects with the younger audience in a way that is reminiscent to John Cena. It’ll take a lot of work but Bayley has the potential become a massive star for the WWE.
Her talent and reliability will help her rise to new heights in 2017. Bayley will thrive in the role as the face of the division and become the most popular female star WWE has ever had.
3. Shinsuke Nakamura Wins The WWE World Championship
The star power and inherent charisma of Shinsuke Nakamura is clear as day to anyone watching him perform for the first time. From his entrance to his theatrics to his in-ring work, Nakamura has the it factor every wrestler desperately wants. Nakamura is currently the NXT Champion, but his talent is ready for the bigger stage.
WWE will call up Nakamura in the first half of the year and make him a fixture on the main roster. The SmackDown Live brand seems more likely due to his ties to Daniel Bryan. WWE can use their past relationship to have Bryan sign Nakamura to SmackDown. Nakamura will survive the language barrier and thrive with the opportunity. WWE is more open-minded than ever. Once the momentum of Nakamura hits the main roster, he is heading right towards the WWE World Championship.
2. John Cena Ties and Breaks Ric Flair’s Record
Despite moving into a part-time role, John Cena is still the face of the WWE. No one is more associated with the WWE brand than Cena. WWE tried to have Roman Reigns become the new face of the company, but the numbers showed he was nowhere near Cena’s level. With 15 World Title reigns under his belt, Cena is just one championship win away from tying Ric Flair’s record.
Cena is destined to finally get his win back over A.J. Styles at the Royal Rumble and tie Flair’s record of sixteen title reigns. His schedule for 2017 is unknown, but you have to believe he’ll be around far more than he was in 2016. Cena will work enough to lose the title and win it back again at the end of the year to make history for the most World Title reigns in North American wrestling history.
1. The Undertaker Retires
The biggest story of 2017 for pro wrestling will be the saddest one. The Undertaker will be 52 years old when he enters WrestleMania 33. Everyone still loves watching The Undertaker in his handful of matches each year. The clock is ticking and everyone has to retire at some point. The Undertaker has made more than enough money to live for the rest of his life, so it comes down to ending it on his terms.
It would feel wrong for Undertaker to end his career on any show other than WrestleMania. The rumored match of a showdown with John Cena is the biggest money match on the table and there’s no possible way to end a career on a better note. The Undertaker will lose to Cena in the main event of WrestleMania 33 and reveal his retirement. WWE fans will celebrate him like the hero he has been to them for decades.