WWE is in an important transition period right now that will be paramount to the next decade in the company. The brand split is allowing new stars to get called up from NXT to the Raw and SmackDown Live brands. 2016 has seen the company now utilize two World Champions, two Women’s Champions, two Mid-Card Champions and two Tag Team Champions. The Cruiserweight Division on Raw, along with the 205 Live show, also needs a credible champion to represent its distinct brand. Many stars have held gold for the first time this year but that’s just the beginning of the new talent making an impact.
As we continue to progress in the brand split, many more talents currently on Raw and SmackDown Live will be tasked with stepping up. Opportunities will be opening up for new champions to be crowned and we’ll see if they can run with the ball. Some of the current NXT stars and free agents could also make their way up to the Raw and SmackDown Live rosters in a big way. We are going to look specifically at stars that have never held a title on the main roster. These are fifteen wrestlers that will win their first WWE Championship in 2017.
15. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows: Raw Tag Team Championship
The New Day being in the process of breaking the record for longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions of all time doomed Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. WWE signed them as hot free agents out of New Japan to become a huge part of the tag team division. They feuded with New Day for months on the Raw brand, but they suffered losses in every major match they were in.
WWE couldn’t fully push them due to the Tag Title record being in the back of their minds. Anderson and Gallows lost all of the momentum and excitement from their shocking debut by doing the job to New Day enough times. New Day losing the Tag Titles to Cesaro and Sheamus has finally opened up the tag division again. Anderson and Gallows are too talented to not hold the titles for a strong stretch of time in 2017. Expect them to be the ones that dethrone Cesaro and Sheamus early next year.
14. Austin Aries: Cruiserweight Championship
WWE is clearly trying to invest in the Cruiserweight Division and it’s not working right now. All of the wrestlers are talented, but lack star power or familiarity with the mainstream wrestling audience. One man that has what’s lacking right now is Austin Aries. His past success in TNA and ROH give him a more relevant track record than the other cruiserweight stars.
Aries is as talented as anyone else involved in the division and adding his personality would do wonders for a class of wrestlers struggling to find entertaining personas. His heel character and promo work have made him stand out in the wrestling industry for years. WWE has made him the color commentator for the 205 Live cruiserweight show during his time on the injury list. Aries being a strong part of the show means he is bound for it when he’s cleared and there’s no doubt he’ll hold that purple title in 2017.
13. Naomi: SmackDown Women’s Champion
The SmackDown Live women’s division has been among the strongest points of the show since the brand split. We’re actually getting two-to-three storylines per show about the female stars on the roster. Naomi has added new elements to her character in a change from heel to face. Fans “feel the glow” with her innovative entrance and her talent speaks for itself.
Naomi is arguably the most athletic women on the SmackDown Live roster and brings it in the ring every time out. She is currently dealing with an injury, but it appears to be minor enough to have her back in a short period of time. SmackDown Live loves to give opportunities to talents ready to run with the ball. Naomi’s talent will allow her to get the chance to finally emerge towards the top of the division next year.
12. Cedric Alexander: Cruiserweight Champion
One of the better wrestlers in the cruiserweight division has been Cedric Alexander. Fans at Full Sail chanted “please sign Cedric,” leading to Triple H unofficially signing him in front of everyone at the Cruiserweight Classic. ROH failed to push Alexander as a top star in recent years and he took a huge risk by leaving the company for a spot in the Cruiserweight Classic.
Alexander proved you should always bet on yourself if you can deliver strong performances. The presentation of the cruiserweight division has delivered lackluster results, but Cedric is one of the few to get positive reactions from the crowd. Alexander winning the Cruiserweight Championship at some point in the next year is a safe bet with him having all of the tools to lead the division.
11. Adam Cole: Intercontinental/United States Champion
Everyone on the list so far is currently on the WWE payroll, but Adam Cole is still a part of Ring of Honor. Cole’s contract expires in March and he recently lost the ROH Championship to Kyle O’Reilly. WWE clearly could use a talent like Cole, leading to the assumption that he is going to undergo a change of scenery.
Cole heading to the WWE is a safe bet and so is his success. The independent wrestling star has everything WWE looks for in a star. He looks great, can work and has strong character skills. Cole even has a reputation for being a PR wizard in making media appearances. With all that, we think WWE will push him to the moon. Even if he starts in NXT, Cole will get to the main roster quickly and capture a Mid-Card Title. SmackDown Live seems like a better fit and the Intercontinental Championship would look great around his waist.