2018 might become the greatest year in professional wrestling history. Seriously, there is lots of evidence which points to this being the case. The industry is on an up-swing to some degree. While WWE attendance and ratings are down, the number of pro wrestlers working in the industry right now is higher than it has been in quite some time.
In some circles, wrestling has become cool again. High school kids are even wearing wrestling related t-shirts to school again, something we haven't seen since the early days of the nWo invasion.
There is even mounting evidence that WWE is changing their ways and are becoming more in-tune with what the purist wrestling audience wants. They don't always give that audience what they want, but they have shown multiple times they do know what that would be. The company demonstrates on NXT that they know what wrestling fans want, it's just they can't, or won't, always give it to them.
The WWE Network and the promotion's global expansion has a lot to do with the current state of pro wrestling. Access to the network has also helped the product in various ways. This can only yield good results. With the above points in mind, here are 15 changes that will drastically affect the WWE in 2018.
15 Brock Lesnar to UFC
Lesnar's team has already teased talks about returning to MMA. Before Jon Jones tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, he had called out Lesnar. A super-fight between Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones would be a sizeable payday for Lesnar, one he would not be eager to turn down. With a looming suspension for Jones, that bout appears to be off the table, but there are other fights for Lesnar.
Ever since Conor McGregor, the UFC is in "money-fight" mode. It is now less important than ever for Lesnar to actually be good at MMA. UFC wants his name and the PPV revenue, he's proven to be able to draw. With his character becoming a little stale, a change of scenery can do both sides some good.
14 More Women Superstars
2018 might go down as the most important year in the history of women's wrestling. Not only is the current crop of female WWE talent coming into their prime athletic years, there are more women in WWE's system than ever before. In 2018, there will be more on the main roster than ever before too. The number of women being accepted to WWE developmental appears to be greater than ever and that only looks to continue.
The question has been raised a few times about the possibility of giving the women their own show. Triple H has countered that this isn't necessary as it is for the Cruiserweights, as the women have divisions on Raw, SmackDown and NXT. An all-women promotion would have many benefits, however, such as Mid-Card titles and Tag Team Titles that could be added.
13 Global Expansion
Now, more than ever, WWE wants to become a global brand. While the company has been saying this for a long time, the bulk of their live events and promotional efforts have continued to be in the United States. Look for that to change in 2018, however.
That is starting to change and the trend will continue into 2018. We've already seen WWE go into the UK and sign up all the top talent there. WWE has also held tryouts in India, China and other places all over the world. There are more international athletes in WWE's Performance Center than ever before, and WWE has shown a willingness to showcase international talent like never before.
In 2018, expect the WWE UK show to finally become a reality, and look for WWE to sign up other stars who can help them break into different markets.
12 Reduced John Cena Appearances
Unfortunately for WWE, John Cena means bigger ratings and better live event attendance. He sells a lot of merchandise and brings out big crowds to see him at non-televised events. The lack of Cena-related revenue coming into the company means they might have to cut corners elsewhere. We've already seen WWE eliminate pyro from wrestler entrances due to budget cutbacks, just think what we might lose when Cena isn't around anymore!
Cena's reduced schedule will also mean increased dependence on Roman Reigns, which the Cena-haters tend to like even less. Just how long Cena is gone for depends on how well he does in Hollywood. Based on his previous movies, we'll leave that up to your imaginations.
11 More Part-Timers Return
While WWE fans may lose Brock Lesnar for a big chunk of 2018, they will gain some new part-timers for the big events. WWE has learned the value of having big name Superstars who only appear from time-to-time. Expect more names from the past to try their hand at a shortened or reduced schedule.
Batista, who is currently enjoying a nice run in Hollywood, isn't so busy he couldn't come in for a few PPVs a year. Chris Jericho is another name the WWE can easily slot in once his musical career slows down. Goldberg could easily find himself back in a part-timer position in 2018. Trish Stratus is another name which comes to mind as a potential returning legend in the Women’s Divisions.
10 WWE Superstars Leave for the Independents
In 2016, we saw Cody Rhodes request his release from WWE in order to hit the independent scene. He has since said he makes more money now than he did when he was in WWE. Expect more wrestlers in 2018 to make the same decision as Cody.
He's not the only person to claim they make more money on the independent scene, Joey Ryan has mentioned he would make considerably less money by signing with WWE than he would by continuing his current successful independent run. The Young Bucks merchandise sales are also strong enough to lure many current WWE Superstars into free agency as well.
If there is a name on WWE's roster who you feel is being held back, expect them to look for ways out of the company sometime in 2018.
9 Concussion Lawsuit Ongoing
WWE is currently being sued by 51 former wrestlers claiming the company withheld information regarding the long-term risks of concussions and failed to provide adequate care for the athletes on their roster. It is the exact same type of lawsuit which is going on in many major sports, including the NFL, where Baron Corbin is one of the plaintiffs apparently.
As Vince McMahon told Kevin Owens on a recent episode of SmackDown, he doesn't fear lawsuits. This one could make some of his shareholders afraid, however, as it could hit them deep in the pocketbooks. If WWE has to dole out a large sum of money (to all 51 plaintiffs) in this case, it'll impact their value. It could also cause further cutbacks to the Network or other aspects pertaining to the product.
8 Daniel Bryan Leaves WWE
Daniel Bryan has stated his intention to wrestle again once his WWE contract runs out in 2018. He was on Edge and Christian's podcast recently and stated his doctors believe there is no reason he could not return to wrestling.
Bryan is also said to be doing sessions inside a hyperbolic chamber to rehabilitate parts of his brain which may have been damaged due to concussions. Football legend Joe Namath has been undergoing the same treatment with excellent results.
Ring of Honor, a promotion for which Bryan was once champion has expressed interest in bringing Bryan back into the company if that is what he wants. Current ROH Champion Cody Rhodes has even taunted Bryan by using his "Yes!" finger-pointing gesture during his recent title defense against Minoru Suzuki. Could we see Cody versus Daniel Bryan for the ROH World Championship in 2018? Yes! Yes! Yes!
7 Kenny Omega To WWE
While WWE might lose Daniel Bryan in 2018, there is also a very good chance they end up with Kenny Omega. Many wrestling fans believe Omega to be the best pro wrestler in the world right now.
Omega is friends with many current WWE Superstars, including Xavier Woods. Omega has been on Woods' YouTube gaming channel UpUpDownDown. Omega and the Young Bucks once wore New Day t-shirts during an entrance for New Japan Pro-Wrestling as well.
While Omega is loyal to New Japan Pro Wrestling, his window for joining WWE is closing and he may want to make the jump before it's too late. His contract is believed to be up on January 5th, 2018 (a day after the annual Tokyo Dome show). Expect Triple H to make a big push for Omega, especially considering he's the guy who could draw the largest non-WWE live crowd in the United States.
6 Dolph Ziggler Just Gives Up
Dolph Ziggler wrestles like a guy who believes he should be the star of the show but has been relocated to the under-card anyway. He wrestles that way because he is that way.
On the surface, it appears as though Ziggler is putting everything he can into what he is given but deep down you can tell he has checked out mentally. A few years ago, the company started to get behind Ziggler but they never fully committed. Now, after many years on the outside of the main event picture, it is looking less and less likely he'll ever graduate to that level.
Ziggler will turn 38 in 2018 and has been looking for a way out of WWE for some time now. Expect him to request his release in early 2018, if he even makes it to the end of the year.
5 Ronda Rousey To WWE
That Ronda Rousey has been training for a WWE career is not a particularly well-kept secret. Stephanie McMahon has made public statements about hoping to sign Rousey if she was to officially retire from MMA. Expect Rousey to announce both her retirement from MMA and her WWE signing in 2018, possibly in the same breath.
Ronda Rousey is a huge star and would put a large spotlight on WWE's female athletes. Whether Rousey will be facing Charlotte Flair or Stephanie McMahon is not currently known. Stephanie and Rousey previously come into storyline conflict with each other at WrestleMania 31.
Rousey's background in combat sports is said to be a good base to build on for wrestling. Even if she doesn't develop as a wrestler she could still be presented as a Brock Lesnar type figure. That way she would only ever have to use judo tosses and arm-bars.
4 Miz Becomes Greatest Intercontinental Champion of All-Time
If the Miz doesn't lose the WWE Intercontinental championship between now and February 16th, 2018 , he'll break the record for most days with the title.
Breaking such a record will allow Miz to declare himself as the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time. In storyline, he would be correct too. While many fans might wish this would lead to a storyline rivalry with the Honky Tonk Man (well maybe), so far there are no signs that will happen.
The Miz's storyline accomplishments are actually fairly immense. To break such a long-held record with one of the oldest titles in company history is historic. Miz also has a victory over John Cena in the main event at WrestleMania. He was helped by The Rock, but still.
While his haters won't like hearing this, The Miz is a first-ballot Hall of Famer all the way at this point.
3 Women's Royal Rumble
WWE fans will hopefully get to see the first ever Women's Royal Rumble in early 2018. Let's just hope it goes a little better than the first women's Money in the Bank match did. If James Ellsworth ends up winning the Rumble, we will know it did not.
Between Raw, SmackDown and NXT there are more than enough women wrestlers available to pull off a 20 to 30 person match. Something to consider is that it will be everyone's first time in a Rumble match that night, so things might not go altogether smoothly. Just having this match will help to elevate WWE's Women's Division up to the level of the men's, however.
A Rumble match also gives WWE the excuse to bring back a few names from the past, such as Trish Stratus, for a one-off performance.
2 Expiring Television Contract
WWE's contract with the USA Network expires in 2019, so expect 2018 to be filled with cheap ploys to increase ratings. The promotion will want to look as strong as possible when they sit down with network executives to negotiate their new television agreement.
Expect WWE to spend most of 2018 building up their leverage for negotiations with USA and other networks. The company was not pleased with the deal they got during the last set of negotiations but they may have an entirely new plan this time around. Now, with the WWE Network firmly established and high social media numbers, WWE can claim they don't' even need television anymore, giving them a touch more leverage.
Still, television rights revenue has a big impact on WWE's bottom-line, so expect them to want high-ratings and high social media numbers for the end of 2018. Expect hot-shot angles and big returns.
1 Conor McGregor at WrestleMania
Conor McGregor might just step into the ring at WrestleMania in New Orleans this year. There is too much money to be made on both sides for it not to occur.
The idea was teased in 2016 when Conor McGregor tweeted derogatory comments about the WWE roster that went viral. That his comments gained a lot of traction has been noticed by Conor's team and they will want to turn that reaction into money. Conor would need UFC's permission to perform at WrestleMania, but as we've seen this summer when Conor faced Floyd Mayweather, these things can get worked out.
Triple H has said that Conor would be able to pull off the same type of performance Floyd Mayweather did at WrestleMania XXIV versus The Big Show. If Conor could help expose the WWE Network to his large fanbase, it would mean big business for both.