2018 is going to be a major year for WWE. WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans has been planned for a full year with Vince McMahon having high expectations for the event. Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, A.J. Styles and many others will be the top stars in the company entering the new year after a strong 2017. The respective women’s divisions and tag team divisions on Raw and SmackDown will see changes as both brands try to improve their all-around product. We'll see a combination of plans continuing from this year and new things coming to the WWE.
Sadly, it is hard to trust WWE given some of the recent mistakes they have made. The argument can be made WWE currently has its greatest roster of all time, yet they continue to drop the ball on making these stars look credible. Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor and Bray Wyatt are three wrestlers to take a hit in the past year. It proves not everyone will benefit from the decision making in WWE. We're going to take a look at some of the negative stories that will hit the wrestling world next year. These are fifteen major mistakes WWE will make in 2018.
15 Re-signing Brock Lesnar
The WWE contract of Brock Lesnar is reportedly expiring after WrestleMania 34. Lesnar has expressed interest in returning to the UFC. Despite the current run as Universal Champion likely going into WrestleMania, Lesnar is a forgotten man as he barely appears on television. The handful of Lesnar matches are cool every year, but they don’t really add much to WWE’s bottom line.
There is almost no difference in the Raw ratings, WWE Network subscription numbers and live attendance figures when Brock is on the show compared to when he’s not. Lesnar is the highest paid star in WWE by a lot. The contract is not worth extending unless he is improving those numbers. WWE is expected to renew the contract and re-sign Brock long term. This will just be a waste of money given the lack of a difference Lesnar makes.
14 Building 205 Live around Enzo and Nia Jax
WWE is still trying to make 205 Live and the Cruiserweight Division a success. It wasn’t too long ago that the Cruiserweight Classic tournament on the WWE Network had the wrestling world talking about the fantastic matches on each show. WWE has failed to replicate this on the main roster following the Cruiserweight Division project.
Enzo Amore has become the face of 205 Live as the Cruiserweight Champion. The decision for 205 Live to start touring with live events will see his star power tested. Nia Jax is reportedly joining the division as a character and will be the special referee for live event main events between Enzo and Kalisto. Vince McMahon trying to build the cruiserweight division around Enzo and Nia will kill any chances of success. 205 Live will be lucky to survive 2018.
13 Another Superstar Shakeup
The Superstar Shakeup earlier this year did lead to some positive changes. The Shield reuniting on Raw and the combination of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn taking over SmackDown are things we can’t complain about. However, switching a large percentage of wrestlers on the roster less than a year into the brand split was a bad look.
Another Superstar Shakeup is expected to take place after WrestleMania 34. This will give the writers a chance to have fresh stories with talents going back and forth. Sadly, it hurts the appeal of the brand split knowing that these rosters really don’t matter. Wrestlers like Apollo Crews, Kalisto and Rusev prove that switching brands won’t result in better opportunities as all men have struggled following the first Superstar Shakeup.
12 Continued War With Bullet Club
Vince McMahon has gone after the Bullet Club following their “invasion” of a WWE event. Cody Rhodes, the Young Bucks, Marty Scurll and Adam Page showed up outside of a WWE Raw show with many fans. This reportedly infuriated McMahon and the reactions have shown that. WWE fired former writer Jimmy Jacobs for taking a picture with the Bullet Club outside of the venue.
The more hostile action taken directly against the Bullet Club saw WWE send a cease and desist letter threatening to sue the Young Bucks if they continue to do the “too sweet” sign. WWE going after the Bullet Club is just making them more relevant. Rhodes and the Bucks plan to run a show in a major venue. WWE selling their anger and frustration towards the Bullet Club will continue to make fans give support to the Bullet Club.
11 Finn Balor Falling Lower Down The Card
Finn Balor looked like a million bucks when debuting on the main roster following the brand split in 2016. The first month on Raw saw him defeat Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins cleanly to become the first ever Universal Champion. An injury forced him to relinquish the title just one night later after winning it. Balor has yet to receive his rematch and is now fading out of the upper card picture.
The recent rumor of Balor being removed from a Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar revealed that Vince McMahon is close to giving up on him. McMahon reportedly views Balor as being “another Dolph Ziggler” aka a talented in-ring performer that is not over enough to main event. Despite fan support and credibility being on his side, Balor is expected to move down the card and that will be a disaster.
10 Letting Daniel Bryan Leave The Company
Daniel Bryan is going to become one of the biggest stories in 2018 as his WWE contract is set to expire in September. The desire of Bryan to return to the ring will have his future be a huge story to pay attention to. Bryan has stated that he wants WWE doctors to clear him so he could wrestle for them again. If WWE doesn’t clear him, Bryan will be more than happy to leave the company and wrestle elsewhere.
New Japan, Ring of Honor and the entire independent circuit has been booming thanks to the success of the Bullet Club and other free agents. Bryan leaving WWE would add to the narrative of wrestlers being better off outside of WWE. Cody Rhodes becoming a major star and Bryan being content outside of WWE are two major players that could inspire others to leave.
9 Continuing To Push Jinder Mahal
Jinder Mahal being WWE Champion for the majority of 2017 proves you can never truly figure out WWE. There can still be surprises and pushes that come out of nowhere. Mahal however isn’t the best example of success for an enhancement talent getting pushed. The title reign of Jinder was rather disappointing given most of his matches disappointed.
Both Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura saw their popularity and momentum dwindle after long feuds with Mahal. WWE ended up quitting on him before the destination goal of him defending the title in India. Mahal may not be the WWE Champion again soon, but he is expected to remain in the main event picture. This would be a negative for the SmackDown brand as Jinder failed to step up in the long time period given to become a top star.
8 Jason Jordan Mega-Push
WWE is currently trying to portray Jason Jordan as a face, but there is some intricate storytelling going down. Jordan gets strong boos every week thanks to his pandering to father Kurt Angle for opportunities. WWE reportedly wants to have Jordan turn heel to have a match with Angle at WrestleMania 34. This storyline and being the opponent of Angle in his first singles match back for WWE is a massive opportunity.
Jordan is clearly going to be pushed huge in 2018 if the company believes in him enough to have such a spot on WrestleMania. Everything has shown that Jordan is not ready for this spot. The athletic ability is there, but his lack of promo skills or personality seem like they would ruin his believability against a legend on the biggest show of the year. Jordan becoming a main event heel is not a good move for WWE.
7 Baron Corbin Winning WWE Championship
WWE fans were spared from the once guaranteed outcome of Baron Corbin becoming WWE Champion this year. Corbin won the Money in the Bank briefcase and was rumored to be winning the title all year until a bad decision backstage. The bad attitude of Corbin saw him yell at a WWE doctor in front of the locker room.
WWE responded by having Corbin lose his title shot and get punished for a few weeks. Vince McMahon ended the punishment earlier than expected due to his love of Corbin as a performer. Corbin is up there with Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman when looking at the guys McMahon specifically wants to build the future around. The lackluster talent of Corbin will be another instance of Mahal when he has a long boring reign as WWE Champion in 2018 to fulfill the missed opportunity from this year.
6 Keeping Braun Strowman As A Face
The move to turn Braun Strowman face seems like a good decision in theory. Strowman has been getting huge pops ever since he destroyed Roman Reigns earlier this year. Fans that dislike Reigns have fallen in love with the work of Strowman this year. Braun managed to step up as a credible threat to Brock Lesnar before the disappointing singles match.
WWE turned Strowman into a face character when putting him against Kane and The Miz. This is reportedly going to set up a singles match between Braun and Triple H at WrestleMania 34. Unfortunately, most face wrestlers will struggle if not the top star on a show. WWE protects Roman Reigns and A.J. Styles on their respective shows. The other faces like Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor will struggle to keep momentum. Strowman will follow suit if WWE continues booking him as a face.
5 John Cena NOT Challenging For WWE Championship at WrestleMania 34
One of the biggest marketing tools WWE will have going forward is the record on the line whenever John Cena challenges for the WWE Championship or Universal Championship. Cena is tied with Ric Flair in WWE’s record books for the most world title reigns at 16 each. The next win makes Cena the sole record holder and will be a massive moment.
WWE reportedly won’t have Cena take part in either of the title matches. The next opportunity for Cena will likely be at a later show. This is a missed chance to add interest into Cena’s match in a major way. If WWE doesn’t want him to break the record here, losing to A.J. Styles or another credible champion is still a great use of him to help put them over.
4 The Rise of Elias
If you have been watching WWE long enough, you can pick up on the little things when Vince McMahon likes a wrestler. Elias started off as a comedic wrestler that would do his songs. However, his competitive matches with Finn Balor and wins over Dean Ambrose showed the early signs of belief in him. Elias has since received more and more television time as the year went on.
WWE tried to convince fans that he had a star making performance against Roman Reigns for the Intercontinental Championship a few weeks ago. This all proves Elias is one of the wrestlers Vince wants to push. The career of Elias should skyrocket in 2018 with an Intercontinental Championship win. Elias being moved to SmackDown and getting a push like Jinder Mahal isn’t a crazy thought. Sadly, his lack of in-ring skills will only hurt the viewer in the long run.
3 Putting Ricochet in Cruiserweight Division
Ricochet is currently one of the biggest names on the free agent market. The Lucha Underground contract he signed many years ago is finally expired, and he has the chance to sign with WWE in early 2018. Triple H reportedly has strong interest in acquiring Ricochet. It remains to be seen whether WWE will place him in NXT, Raw, SmackDown or the Cruiserweight division.
The Cruiserweight division is clearly the worst of the options on the table. As great as Ricochet is, one talented wrestler isn’t enough to save the failing division. WWE will likely waste him on 205 Live trying to make him the face of the show. If the booking is still poor and the rest of the matches are still treated as jokes, Ricochet will just be dragged down to mediocrity. Ricochet must be hoping his deal will start him in NXT.
2 Another Year Built Around Roman Reigns
The biggest plan from WWE for 2018 will see them have Roman Reigns win the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 34 by defeating Brock Lesnar. Vince McMahon reportedly had this idea in motion since late 2015. Chris Jericho originally was supposed to defeat Kevin Owens for the title at WrestleMania 33 to drop it to Lesnar the following month. The plan was always to have Brock win gold early in 2017.
McMahon wants to have the moment of Reigns dethroning Lesnar to end a WrestleMania event. Seth Rollins cashing in at WrestleMania 31 prevented it the first time and nothing will get in Vince’s way this time. This story between Reigns and Lesnar being set so far in advance has already hurt the momentum of Finn Balor, Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman. Sadly, this means the product will continue to be stale. Everything on Raw being centered around Reigns just diminishes the others.
1 Ronda Rousey Debuting In A Team Match
Ronda Rousey training to make her WWE debut will be one of the biggest wrestling stories of 2018. The first match of Rousey is planned to see her team with her MMA “Four Horsewomen” friends Marina Shafir, Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke against WWE’s “Four Horsewomen” of Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch. The idea is cool in theory, but it will take away from the magic of Rousey in the ring.
WWE is missing out on the opportunity to have Rousey in a singles match to get more attention. The potential of Rousey being on her own is a bigger draw than marketing her as one of four ladies on a team. Regardless of if it's Charlotte, Sasha or another woman in WWE, Rousey’s first match should be a singles bout with the tag match coming later.