The wrestling world is an ever-changing one, and with the development of technology and social media, and the ever-growing talent of the performers within the business, you can never predict the future. That is especially true today, as we see Triple H’s influence is changing the WWE, and all over the world, things are happening that we would never expect.
This list aims to look at 15 things happening today that wrestling fans worldwide never thought they would see just five years ago. From records being set and records being broken, to WWE finally taking a more lenient stance on their rules and regulations, one can only imagine what the landscape of pro wrestling will look like in another five or 10 years.
15. NXT Becoming A Phenomenon
In 2012, NXT was just an upstart developmental promotion for the WWE, an upgrade from the former FCW that ran in front of less than 20 people down in Florida, and it started off fairly slowly. This was a chance for the WWE to showcase their own, homegrown talent that would one day be starring on the main roster, and that’s where it began to pick up. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Big E, Xavier Woods and more all featured early on, but then NXT really started to get the ball rolling. They signed names like Pac (Neville), El Generico (Sami Zayn), Kevin Steen (KevinOwens), KENTA (Hideo Itami) and more, and that led to NXT as we know it today. After the slow start, it would have been hard for fans to imagine that this little, developmental section of WWE programming would be able to top WWE PPVs, and even sell out the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
14. The Undertaker STILL Main Eventing WrestleMania
The Undertaker has been a key part of WWE programming for almost three decades, and his legendary undefeated streak at WrestleMania was the biggest story in wrestling. Five years ago, when he just squeaked past the white-hot CM Punk, it looked like his career at the top was coming to an end, and it was all but confirmed the following year when his streak came to an end against Brock Lesnar. Flash forward several WrestleMania events, and the Deadman is still going on last, and while the idea of him being the main event of ‘Mania isn’t too out there, fans just expected him to be gone by now. We think it’s the end of the road for the legend now (who knows with The Undertaker?), and he lasted longer than anyone could have imagined.
13. A Gaijin Winning The G1 Climax Tournament
The G1 Climax is one of the biggest and most prestigious wrestling tournaments in the world, contested by the elite main event stars in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and despite it having existed for over 40 years, no non-Japanese (gaijin) performer has ever had his hand raised in victory. Rick Rude and Karl Anderson both came close, making it to the final in 1983 and 2012 respectively, but it wasn’t until 2016 that “The Cleaner” Kenny Omega stepped up and put in a performance for the ages, bringing home the prestigious trophy. He may have lost in his subsequent title match against Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 11 (in a great six-star match), but his journey to the victory catapulted him into the main event scene in Japan, right where he belongs.
12. SmackDown Being Better And More Consistent Than RAW
The original WWE brand split began in the early 2000s, and when the calendar hit the 2010s, the split was coming to an end, with the WWE beginning to promote the “RAW SuperShow,” which meant that all performers appeared on both shows. By 2012-13, Smackdown was basically pointless, as it was less its own show than just a recap of RAW with some matches that were seen on RAW as well. In 2016, WWE brought that to an end, and introduced its newest split, and by all accounts, SmackDown is the superior show, with time being utilized better and stories being told in a more logical and enjoyable manner. Five years ago, you would have been crazy to even watch SmackDown, but in the present day, fans enjoy the product much more, despite WWE still pushing the idea that RAW is the “A-Show.”
11. Jim Cornette On WWE Programming
Jim Cornette has often been referred to as one of the brightest minds in the history of the wrestling business, and he has been involved both as a booker and manager in several territories, as well as working backstage with Ring of Honor, WWE and TNA. To most fans today, he will just be known as the King of the Shoot Interviews, as he has many memorable soundbyte interviews on YouTube. He hasn’t held back any punches, and he has been overly critical of people backstage and in front of the screen for WWE, so it was expected that he’d never be with the WWE again, as having him in front of a live mic is quite dangerous. Yet he was chosen to induct the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express into the Hall of Fame, and he did an admirable job doing something no one expected to see.
10. Two Women Main Eventing A WWE PPV
For years, whenever women became big in the WWE, the company would always refer to the time that Lita and Trish Stratus main evented a Monday Night RAW episode. But with the level the women are at today, that just won’t do, and Charlotte and Sasha Banks proved that, by taking it to the next level, main eventing the Hell in a Cell PPV. That event featured the first-ever Hell in a Cell match contested by women, meaning this group of female stars has shattered all limitations previously placed on the Divas, and are aiming higher, as Sasha and Bayley have spoke of their dreams to main event WrestleMania. Whether that happens or not is yet to be decided, but one thing is for sure, if you had told the casual wrestling fan five years ago what these women were doing today, they would have looked at you like you’d lost your mind.
9. Wrestling’s Very Own World Cup
Every major sport in the world has its World Cup, whether it may have 64, 32, 16 or eight teams, and as wrestling tries to further transition into a more realistically-presented sport, the people at WhatCulture Pro Wrestling decided to give wrestling its own World Cup. There are eight qualifying brackets featuring England, Scotland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Mexico, USA and the “Rest of the World” region, and two wrestlers from each of those brackets will head on to a 16-man finals tournament. This may not be on the level of the WWE or NJPW, but with some of the biggest names in the wrestling world like Will Ospreay, Alberto El Patron, Rey Mysterio and Michael Elgin all competing, it is very important nonetheless, and in five years from now, it could be recognized as one of the biggest tournaments in the world.
8. Women Being Treated Equally In The WWE
The women’s division in the WWE has always been a weak point, and even during the prime of Lita and Trish Stratus, they were treated as a side show for their looks. In the year 2012, Divas were still hired and pushed due to their looks, and less for their in ring capabilities. That all changed with the introduction of NXT, as Emma and Paige pioneered a movement that has been furthered with the Four Horsewomen of NXT. Nowadays, we see three very full rosters with women who are just as talented, if not more talented than the men. Because of this, they are treated much better today than they have been in the past, as we see them competing in Hell in a Cell, tables matches and more. That is something the WWE should be commended for.
7. Independent Promotions Being Mentioned On WWE Programming
We all know that Vince McMahon is a little crazy, but everyone that has ever worked for him talks about how dedicated he is to the WWE, to the point where he doesn’t know what’s going on elsewhere in the world of wrestling. Mentioning an outside promotion on WWE TV was also considered a sin, with exceptions such as CM Punk and John Cena bringing up the likes of ROH, New Japan and PWG. Those were very shocking moments indeed, but those two were top stars, and fans after that thought we wouldn’t hear anything outside of the WWE mentioned without punishment. Fast forward to 2017, and the WWE promoted a tournament in the UK, and mentioned all the independent promotions across the pond like Progress, Rev Pro, ICW and more. Still, it’s something we probably won’t see very often.
6. Goldberg Having A Feature Match At WrestleMania
After becoming one of the biggest stars in the industry while with WCW, Goldberg came over to the WWE, and his run was a massive failure. As the two parties split on bad terms, it was highly unlikely that they would ever come together again, and that sentiment remained the same around five years ago. Then in 2016, the huge announcement came, as Goldberg was announced as a featured star on the video game WWE 2K17, and after the Ultimate Warrior and Sting, it seemed like his return to the squared circle was imminent. Then came Survivor Series, where Goldberg beat Brock Lesnar in just 86 seconds. He then competed in a series of bouts with Lesnar, and even made an appearance in the Royal Rumble and briefly held the Universal Championship before losing it to Lesnar at WrestleMania.
5. Indie Stars Using Their Names And Nicknames In The WWE
When stars like Tyler Black, Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson all came to WWE some time ago, they were forced to transform into Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Daniel Bryan, and while they retained their large fanbases, some wish they could have retained their names from the independent scene. Still, higher-ups in WWE were adamant that that would never happen. This continued on for several years, but then came the likes of AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, Samoa Joe and Austin Aries, who all made huge names for themselves in TNA, ROH and other independents, and the company let them keep these huge names. It’s in the best interest for both parties, as the performers don’t have to reinvent themselves, and the WWE can capitalize on such big stars. Hopefully this continues heading into the future.
4. The U.K. Having The Hottest Wrestling Scene On The Planet
The United States has always been the mecca for professional wrestling. Despite the rich grappling history in places such as Mexico and Japan, the biggest wrestling promotions and biggest stars have just always come from America, and while it’s still the home of the WWE, it’s no longer where the hottest independent stars in the world work. With promotions such as Progress, Rev Pro and WCPW in England, and stars like Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jr. and Marty Scurll making names for themselves, the U.K. has become hotter than anywhere else, and it even inspired WWE to host a tournament exclusively made up of U.K. performers. We see more and more performers from this region making a name for themselves in ROH, Impact, WWE and NJPW, and it may change again in five years, but for now, nowhere in the world is more important in the wrestling universe than the U.K.
3. WWE Titles Showing Up And Being Defended At Independent Shows
When CM Punk dropped his infamous “Pipe Bomb” in 2011, one of the biggest talking points was the name-dropping of ROH and New Japan, and the idea that he would defend his WWE title there. The idea was scoffed at by every wrestling fan in the world, despite being quite useful. In 2017, WWE have not only seen their Raw Tag Team titles appear at an IWC show, courtesy of the Hardy Boyz who were fulfilling indie bookings they took prior to their WWE contract being signed, but their UK Championship was defended in a completely separate promotion. Tyler Bate defended his brand new UK title against Mark Andrews at a recent Evolve show over WrestleMania weekend, and although the WWE and Evolve have a partnership, it was still unheard of a few years back.
2. The Undertaker Having TWO Losses At WrestleMania
As we’ve already mentioned The Undertaker is quite possibly the greatest superstar to ever set foot in a WWE ring, and for 21 straight matches on the Grandest Stage in sports entertainment, he came out on top. But that all changed at WrestleMania XXX when he was conquered by the Beast, Brock Lesnar. That was shocking enough for the entire WWE Universe, and to see the Deadman defeated was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. After he bounced back with victories over Bray Wyatt and Shane McMahon, no one expected him to lose again. In his assumed retirement match, he went down to Roman Reigns, and to anyone five years ago hearing that the Undertaker lost twice at WrestleMania just wouldn’t be believable at all.
1. WWE’s Roster Being Flooded With Former TNA Talent
This one was an obvious no-no for the WWE for many years, as TNA was their main rival, flooded with many high-profile former WWE superstars, but with Triple H’s evolution with his backstage role in the company, many things have changed, and this one has certainly helped the company in a big way. Names like AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, Samoa Joe and Austin Aries have all played key roles within the company over the past year or so, and five years ago, you would have been committed to a mental asylum if you even thought any of those names would ever even reach the WWE. In the year 2017, however, all four of those men are stars within the WWE, with Roode reigning in NXT, Aries the biggest name in the Cruiserweight division and both Joe and Styles at the top of their respective brands. Out of all the things on this list, this is both the least likely, as well as the thing that has most helped the company over the previous year or so.