Well, it’s the that time of year again; the time of year when excitement starts to build, rumours start to swell and everyone starts saying that The Undertaker will finally retire. It’s WrestleMania season, of course, and with just a few months left until the biggest show in the wrestling calendar, storylines are starting to come together, big plans are starting to formulate and the WWE are starting to put the wheels in motion to put on one hell of a show. Or, at least, they should be, but the most likely case is that Vince McMahon will change his mind the night before Mania and have R-Truth win the Universal Championship for the lols. Because of this, any number of things could happen between now and the Grandest Stage of Them All, but some are definitely more likely than others and that’s what we’re going to be discussing today. Obviously, this is all speculation and mostly my opinion, but I like to think most of it makes sense. If not, then sue me, I guess. Actually, please don’t, I really do need the cash. Anyhow, let’s crack on, shall we?
15 Vince McMahon Returns To TV
Let’s start with something pretty simple, shall we?
Vince McMahon used to be a pretty regular fixture on WWE TV, whether as a play-by-play commentator or as the evil authority figure, Mr. McMahon, that he has relished playing since 1997. Well, I say “playing”. I think Vince might go a bit method sometimes. In the past few years, perhaps due to his increased responsibilities backstage or perhaps due to his age, Vince has rarely made appearances on WWE television. He turned up at the end of 2015/beginning of 2016 to inject some life into the Roman Reigns vs Sheamus feud (lord knows it needed it) and to set up Shane McMahon vs The Undertaker just before WrestleMania 32. We last saw Vince at Payback 2016 when he announced that both Stephanie and Shane would be co-running Raw. I guess he hasn’t appeared on TV since then, because that would have been way too many McMahons on TV. Two is already enough.
With his two children heading into WrestleMania for the first time since taking charge of opposing brands, there’s every possibility that Vince could make an appearance to give either words of advice or rile up his two sprogs. There’s every chance Vince could become involved in a storyline; perhaps in the Triple H vs Seth Rollins feud on behalf of his son-in-law, maybe he’ll get involved with Undertaker or maybe he’ll just book himself to win the Royal Rumble again. Who knows. Either way, I firmly believe that Vinnie Mac will return to our screens between now and April 2nd. Which is great news, just to see Vince’s walk.
14 Paige Leaves WWE
I’m amazed this hasn’t happened already.
Paige didn’t have her best year in 2016. After falling out favour with the WWE top brass (perhaps due to the women’s scene being dominated by Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch), Paige injured her neck in July/August, missing out on the brand split in the process. This was followed up by a suspension on the 17th August, due to a violation of WWE’s wellness policy. Then, on the 10th October, Paige found herself suspended again for her second violation of the wellness policy, which led to her being prohibited for 60 days. Paige hasn’t appeared on WWE TV since June 27th and seems to have been forgotten about by both the company and the fans. Then again, most women on the WWE roster seem to have been forgotten about. Where the hell in Summer Rae?
It is important to note that Paige has claimed that both of her violations were not due to banned substances, but prescription pills for her neck injury, as well as logistical issues with returning paperwork on time. Her issues with WWE, combined with the departure of her boyfriend, Alberto Del Rio, from the company in late 2016, makes it highly unlikely that Paige will ever return to our screens, either through being fired or asking for her release. A talented young woman who had such a promising start to her WWE career, it would be a real shame for Paige to leave the company, especially under such controversial circumstances. However, if there really is this much bad blood between Paige and WWE, perhaps it’s best she gets out while she can and tries to make a career for herself elsewhere. If she wants to come back to Norwich, England, she is more than welcome to and I’m definitely not saying that just because it’s where I live, it’s not, honest...
13 A Major NXT Star Debuts
This one is a little vague, I know, but I’ll explain in a minute.
NXT has been a great way to provide WWE audiences with an insight into the next big stars of the main roster. Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and many, many more mega stars of the main roster were all introduced to television audiences through NXT, which meant that, when they made their debut on the main roster, fans knew exactly who they were and exactly how good they were. Just forget about The Ascension, The Vaudevillains and Tyler Breeze, because the company sure has.
The Royal Rumble has always been a great way to debut new stars in the WWE and, over the past few years, we’ve seen Sami Zayn and Rusev appear on the main roster for the first time in the Rumble match. With rumours going around that Samoa Joe or Tye Dillinger could be making an appearance in the Rumble, we could be seeing this point of the list come true sooner rather than later. If not, then maybe Joe will turn up after the Rumble to set up his rumoured “big push” into WrestleMania, or maybe we could even see the debut of other top talent in NXT, such as The Revival, Hideo Itami or maybe even Shinsuke Nakamura or Bobby Roode, depending on the outcome of their match in San Antonio. With the current main event picture of Raw as stale as month old bread, an NXT call up would be a great addition to the red show leading into WrestleMania. Let’s just hope they end up as a Kevin Owens, rather than a Bo Dallas. I shouldn’t joke, it’s tragic really.
12 Renee Young Gets More Involved
This one is highly unlikely, but you really never know with WWE.
Renee Young has a familiar face to WWE fans over the past few years. Her appearances on screen as a backstage interviewer and host of the pre-show kick-off panels means that she’s been right at the forefront of the action in WWE for some time now and her more recent role as host of Talking Smack means she’s actually been able to interact with wrestlers more and more, helping to develop their characters and build on storylines. Towards the end of 2016, Renee found herself involved in a feud for the first time when she slapped The Miz on Smackdown for insinuating that Young favoured Dean Ambrose because the two were in a relationship. This was not only the first public acknowledgement of Young and Ambrose’s relationship, but also the first time Renee became a target for a specific wrestler, with Miz’s wife, Maryse, slapping Young the next week for assaulting her husband. I mean, in all fairness, she is right. Can you imagine if you worked for a company and one of your co-workers’ partner, who just happened to work in the same place as you, slapped your other half for exposing their sex life on national TV? Actually, no, I can’t imagine that. WWE is a weird place to work.
The reason I bring this up is because of a rumour I read the other day. Miz and Ambrose’s feud doesn’t seem to have completely finished just yet; no doubt Miz will challenge Ambrose again for the Intercontinental Championship, as per his rematch clause. However, according to some sources, Miz and Ambrose’s feud will carry on all the way to WrestleMania, although not for the title. One idea floating around, apparently, is to have Miz and Maryse take on Dean and Renee at WrestleMania in a mixed tag team match. I know. I’m unsure too. I can see it happening though; imagine if Miz and Ambrose were both involved in, say, an Elimination Chamber match for the IC title (the Pay-Per-View is a few weeks away and WWE do like getting the most out of gimmick matches) and they both lose, with Miz eliminating Ambrose, but not winning the title This could further their feud without involving the belt and maybe lead to their respective partners becoming invovled. Whilst Renee has no in-ring training yet, this can be hidden in the multi-person format, especially with Maryse being a former champion. Whilstit might be everyone’s cup of tea, it is exactly the kind of crazy stunt WWE would pull for their biggest show, so don’t count out the backstage reporter become less and less “backstage” over the next few months.
11 Mick Foley’s Job Is Put On The Line
Before we get started with this one, I have just one thing to ask; why, Mick, why did you do this to yourself?
Mick Foley is widely regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers, not just in the WWE, but of all time. His “everyman” look made him instantly relatable to the average wrestling fan and his incredible promo work, plus his, shall we say, laxed attitude towards his own personal safety led to Mick becoming one of the most popular and widely respected wrestlers of all time. Then he decided to ruin it all. His current run as the GM of Monday Night Raw has been pretty damn awful; he’s been cut down to size countless times by Stephanie McMahon, delivered nonsensical, rambling promos and his emotions have been all over the place. Seriously, he looked like he was about to cry when he put Cesaro and Sheamus together as a team. Maybe that fall from the Cell did more damage than we thought.
With rumours growing that WWE want to get rid of Mick and very few fans stepping up to challenge this, there’s every possibility that ol’ Saint Mick’s job could be put in danger between now and WrestleMania. Maybe Foley’s job could be put on the line in a match – Mick’s wrestler vs Steph’s, if Mick loses, he’s gone – and perhaps a match of this scale could be booked for the Grandest Stage of Them All. There’s every chance Mick could just get fired outright, but WWE would be missing a big trick by not turning it into a storyline and maybe putting Mick’s job in jeopardy could generate some sympathy for the Hall of Famer and help rebuild the image his current run is slowly tearing down. I wonder who’ll replace Mick if he does leave. Maybe Dude Love could do it. Or Mankind. What about Cactus Jack? I reckon they’d all be fantastic.
10 People Warm To The Cruiserweights
Please, the Cruiserweight Classic was so good and what we have now is just so bad.
The Cruiserweight Classic (CWC, because I’m lazy) was a spectacle. 16 of the finest cruiserweights from all corners of the globe putting on incredible wrestling matches and introducing the more casual fan to a whole new style of wrestling never seen before on WWE TV. Seriously, this was verging on indie levels of flippyness. The CWC was won by TJ Perkins, formally Manik in TNA for all you non-WWE weirdos out there, and, by winning the tournament, he became WWE’s brand new Cruiserweight Champion. And before you ask; no, this was a different belt to the one Hornswoggle won. Despite the CWC being amazing, WWE could not carry this momentum over to the main roster. A lot of the people in the crowds on Raw hadn’t seen the CWC, so these were just random dudes in funny tights fighting for no decent reasons. Also, what made the cruiserweights special back in the day was that they were different to the hulking, muscly main event guys, whereas nowadays, more agile wrestlers like Seth Rollins and AJ Styles now dominating the main event scene, there’s nothing really special about the Cruiserweights anymore. Unless you’re Noam Dar, then you’ve got being Scottish on your side, which is a nice little novelty.
Despite a pretty rocky start – and by “pretty rocky” I mean that nobody reacted at all when Brian Kendrick won the Cruiserweight title at Hell in a Cell, absolutely nobody –, things do seem to be picking up for the Cruiserweights. Rich Swann is pretty popular as champion and introducing an established character like Neville as the main heel of the division has got plenty of fans interested. With Neville set to take on Swann for the title at Royal Rumble, maybe things will start to pick up for the guys under 205lbs and maybe, just maybe, fans will actually start to take an interest. Or not. Wrestling fans are fickle as they come. I should know. I read your comments.
9 Anderson And Gallows Win The Tag Titles
It kinda happened on Raw the other week, kinda.
To use their forbidden names, “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows were a sensation in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). The men were both key members of the incredibly popular stables, Bullet Club, with Anderson being a founding member and former leader. Together with men like AJ Styles, Finn Balor and Kenny Omega, Anderson and Gallows ran riot over NJPW, wreaking havoc by interfering in matches, destroying ringside and showing complete and utter disrespect for the rules, something that was rarely seen in Japan, especially on this scale. Holding the IWGP Tag Team Championships three times as a duo, Anderson and Gallows were mega-stars in the Land of the Rising Sun, so, when it was announced that, alongside Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, the two had been signed by WWE, people were very excited. Then they did that “Old Day” sketch, and everybody cried. Everybody.
After a very promising start and then just the saddest fall from grace, Anderson and Gallows seem to be back on track in their current feud with Sheamus and Cesaro. After beating the champs on Raw in a title match, fans everywhere, myself including, believed the duo had finally captured the tag titles they should have won months ago, only for the decision to be reversed on account of Sheamus getting disqualified. Dammit, Sheamus, must you ruin everything? It’s obvious that there’ll be a rematch and there’s every chance Anderson and Gallows could take the titles in that one, maybe building to a WrestleMania title match with Enzo and Cass, arguably the most popular team on Raw not called New Day. WWE can still makes Anderson and Gallows great and giving the tag team championships would be the first step to making that happen. The second step would probably be making them stop “too sweet”-ing all the time. Seriously, we get it, you’re fans of The Kliq, get over it.
8 Seth And Triple H Face Off
Because it has to happen eventually, right? Right?
Ever since Seth Rollins won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 31, fans have been fantasy booking the day he’d turn face by beating his old mentor, Triple H. It might have gone down at Mania 32 had Seth not gone and got injured, the fool, but, if all goes according to plan, Mania 33 will be the site of The Architect vs The Game. Not that you’d know it from the build-up. Yes, the feud that just won’t start has been the butt of many Internet jokes for the past few months now. When Trips cost Seth Rollins the Universal title by Pedigreeing him on Raw way back in August 2016, fans have been waiting for the confrontation between former master and student that would set in motion the feud that would culminate at WrestleMania. And, whadda you know, we’re still waiting. Still. Waiting.
Yes, apart being a massive babyface on NXT, the Cruiserweight Championship and the UK Championship tournament (pick a character, for God’s sake, Hunter!), The Game hasn’t been seen on Raw since costing Rollins the title. This has led to the fans becoming disinterested to such an extent that, when Rollins finally announced he was going after Triple H in December of 2016, most of the crowd had to remind themselves who Triple H was. Rumours state that Rollins vs Triple H has been set in stone for Mania, so the two have to have some sort of faceoff to set up their match. Perhaps we’ll see it at Royal Rumble; it would make perfect sense for The Cerebral Assassin to take out his former protégée either before or during the Rumble match. Maybe he’ll cost Rollins another title match somewhere down the line. Or maybe he’ll just unfollow him on twitter or something stupid. Jesus, this feud has been handled so badly. I almost miss Reigns vs Triple H from last year. Almost.
7 We See New Intercontinental and United States Championship Belts
Because one of them smells, apparently.
The WWE has seen a lot of new belts and designs recently. The Women’s Championship was resurrected at WrestleMania 32, Smackdown got its own tag and women’s title following the brand split, a brand new world title was created, the Raw tag titles got an overhaul and let’s not forget to mention we have brand new champions in both a weight class and an entire country. Well done Tyler Bate, by the way, love the stache. Well, if rumours are to be believed, the new, umm, belt-ing, I guess, isn’t done yet, because two of wrestling’s most prestigious titles are in for a makeover. The Intercontinental and United States Championships have heritages that stretch back to the 1970s and have been held by some of the greatest wrestlers ever to walk the Earth. The United States title was once held by David Flair, but we won’t hold that against it.
This change in design wasactually hinted to on Smackdown recently, when current IC Champ, Dean Ambrose, asked Shane McMahon for a new belt, because former holder, The Miz, had made it smell of “fake tan” and other silly Hollywood stuff. With their current outlook on belt designs to go by, expect both titles to look very similar when they do get redesigned. I’d personally like to see a return to the oval shaped IC title from the early 2000s and am quite a big fan of the current United States Championship design, so this could end up as a win-loss situation for me. Whilst a new belt design can be an interesting moment, we have had a lot over the past year and, with titles in the WWE becoming more and more homogenised, it would genuinely be a shame to add two of its more unique belt designs to that list. Speaking of the United States Championship, and lists...
6 Chris Jericho Loses the US Title and Turns Face
Remember when Jericho used to be a part-timer? Me neither.
It is hard to imagine the current landscape of WWE without Y2J, especially Raw. Since returning in January of 2016, Jericho has been involved in high-level feuds with AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, all whilst providing hilarious moments, catchphrases and the best bromance in WWE since Team Hell No with Kevin Owens. WWE fans have found it impossible not to cheer Jericho for his hilarious one-liners and glorious gimmicks, despite him being a heel, which, combined with his closeness to the Universal Champion, has made it all but a certainty the two will face off for the title at some point. Also, they’ve teased it a bunch of times, it’s beyond a rumour now, it’s a matter of time.
The logical option would be to have Owens cost Jericho his United States Championship, which Jericho won from Roman Reigns on January 9th. Owens will most likely interfere in one of Jericho’s matches, certifying the split in their friendship that will, hopefully, turn Chris face in the process. This leaves Jericho free to either challenge Owens for the title at WrestleMania or at least be in the corner of the person who does. Whilst it is truly crazy to suggest that a guy who debuted for the WWE in 1999 should be in a world title feud against one of the company’s fresher faces, Jericho is more popular than he has ever been and is by far and away the most popular main event level talent on Raw right now, which is kinda sad, when you think. I truly believe that, sooner rather than later, Team Jeri-KO will split up and, when they do, Kevin Owens is going to get............................................................................................................................................................................................................ IT!!
5 Goldberg Wrestles Again
How the hell is Goldberg one of the most popular wrestlers on WWE’s roster in 2017? How?
When Big Daddy Bill made his return to WWE in the build-up to Survivor Series, he brought a whole tonne of nostalgia with him. Fans who grew up watching WCW were absolutely delighted to hear Goldberg’s old music and to see the man who once held the greatest streak in wrestling history emerge from the cloud of steam, exactly as he had done in the late 90s. The long-rumoured rematch between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar was set in stone for Survivor Series, speculation ran rampant over how things would go down, but I think it’s safe to say that very few people saw Goldberg going over Brock in 1 minute and 26 seconds. Jesus, it’s crazy to just write that down.
The most divisive wrestling result of 2016 by a country mile, Goldberg vs Lesnar was supposed to be the final chapter in Goldberg’s storied wrestling career. However, due to an overwhelmingly positive fan response to Bill’s comeback, plans were changed and Goldberg was the first name announced for the 2017 Royal Rumble. Again, insane. With all roads seemingly heading towards a third and final confrontation between Bill and Brock at WrestleMania 33, it’s likely that the two men will interact during the Royal Rumble, setting up a match further on down the line. However, if WWE want to continue to build Goldberg as a dominant force, they might benefit from having him enter the ring again. Obviously, they’d need to hide his weaknesses, so perhaps another dominant squash match would work best to keep Goldberg strong. Oh, lord, it’s going to be Rusev, isn’t it? What did he do to deserve this?
4 Kurt Angle Returns to the Ring
DUN DUNNA DUN DUNNA DUN DUNNA DUN DA, DUN DUNNA DUN DUNNA DUN DUNNA DUN DA! Sorry, I just love that theme.
WWE shocked the wrestling world when, with no fanfare or build-up, they announced the first entrant into the Hall of Fame as The Olympic Hero, Kurt Angle. Despite the shock, no one could complain with such a decision, as Angle’s career has been one of the most decorated and impressive of any pro wrestler ever. Winning a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at 1996 Olympic Games, Angle signed for the WWE in 1999, going undefeated for over a year. He would go onto win nearly every single championship the WWE ever produced, main eventing WrestleMania XIX and putting on other classic matches with the likes of Shawn Michaels, Eddie Guerrero and John Cena. He then went to TNA where he is widely regarded as the most influential man in the promotions history, becoming their first ever world champion in 2007, as well as the Tag Team Championships and X-Division titles and was even inducted into their Hall of Fame for 2013. Hmm, that’s two years in a row now that the headliner for the WWE Hall of Fame has been a TNA Hall of Famer first. Did someone say gimmick infringement?
With Angle being such a popular figure in wrestling and still an active performer, WWE will most likely want him to step into the ring one last time with them. In my opinion, it should be against Brock Lesnar, which would have to happen after Mania 33 to allow for Brock to face Goldberg. However, there are still plenty of perfectly good options for Angle to face between now and Mania 33; John Cena, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, or maybe WWE could recycle some of his old TNA foes, like AJ Styles or Samoa Joe. Of course, they won’t tell you these feuds have already happened, but we’ll know. Even if Angle doesn’t get into the ring, WWE could very well announce Angle’s return between now and Mania, perhaps for The Show of Shows itself. Seeing Kurt Angle back in WWE would be a welcome sight for millions of fans across the globe and to see him wrestle for the promotion one last time would be the stuff of legend. Just, for god’s sake, please don’t make it Rusev. You’ve hurt him enough, WWE, ok, just leave him alone!
3 John Cena Wins The WWE Championship
It’s going to happen one day, just get over it, ok?
Look, Ric Flair might be one of the greatest pro wrestlers ever and his record of 16 world championships (according to WWE, that is) is extremely impressive, but he’s not a WWE guy. Only two of Flair’s world title reigns came in WWE; the rest took place in the NWA or WCW, which has got to sting a company as proud as WWE. Since they are the biggest wrestling organisation in the world, WWE will want one of their own creations to hold such an esteemed record and you can’t argue that Cena hasn’t been the biggest company guy in their recent history. John has gone above and beyond to promote the company through his charity work, outside ventures and presence in the world of business overseas (the dude learnt Mandarin to help build relations with China, that’s insane). Also, he’s an incredible wrestler, don’t you dare deny it.
Cena will tie and break Ric Flair’s record one day and that day might come sooner rather than later. He’s booked to face AJ Styles at Royal Rumble for the title and it’s entirely possible that Big Match John could unseat The Phenomenal One as WWE Champion. This could lead to a programme involving Cena and The Undertaker (as many fans have hoped for) or maybe even a rematch with Styles at Mania. Perhaps John might not win the title at Rumble, but in the Elimination Chamber instead, giving Cena some serious momentum heading into WrestleMania. Whilst plenty of people are hoping/expecting a Cena heel turn to factor into the title win and WWE have teased this with Cena’s comeback promo on Smackdown a few weeks ago, I just don’t see WWE ever turning their biggest draw heel. Whether you like it or not, Cena is going to becoming a 16, 17, 18, who knows how many times world champion and there is nothing you can do about it. Even the loudest of “Cena Sucks” chants won’t stop it.
2 Roman Reigns Wins the Universal Championship
Despite the past two WrestleManias being ruined or nearly ruined by the happiness vacuum that is Roman Reigns, WWE are still insistent on pushing him down our throats as he enters a Universal Championship match against Kevin Owens at Royal Rumble. After Reigns pinned Owens a few months ago, he was given a title match at Roadblock: End of the Line, which was thrown out when Owens was attacked by his best friend, Chris Jericho, in an attempt to get Reigns disqualified. However, those pesky heels couldn’t get away with this underhanded tactic and Reigns was given another shot at the title for... reasons, at the Royal Rumble, only this time with Chris Jericho hanging above the ring in a shark cage for... reasons. A lot of things about this match don’t make any sense.
Reigns’ recent run as the United States Champion has turned even more fans against him, so it’s truly worrying that WWE believe he can hold the world title effectively. But, if the rumours are to be believed, this is exactly what will happen at Royal Rumble, perhaps with Reigns taking on The Undertaker in a WrestleMania programme, which just sounds great. Really, really great. Sigh. I personally think Reigns needs to have some serious work done to him before he can be considered a viable main event threat. A heel turn would probably fix a lot of the damage done to his character, but, like Cena, I really don’t see this happening. If you thought Roman was bad before, just imagine how bad things will be if he gets the strap. I might actually give up wrestling, I mean it.
1 Finn Balor Returns as a Heel
This one got you thinking, didn’t it?
I was tempted to just put “Finn Balor returns” as this point and be done with it, but that’s pretty much a certainty, so I decided to give it some thought and, actually, was very excited by the prospect of this. When Balor when down with injury the night after SummerSlam 2016, it was as the inaugural Universal Champion and as a one of the most popular stars on Raw. However, despite the old saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, Balor could actually benefit from a return as a heel.
Think about it; the guy who put Balor on the shelf, Seth Rollins, is now a face, so perhaps Balor’s motivation could be that the fans are supporting the wrong man. Also, if Anderson and Gallows do start to pick up some steam, the long-awaited “Balor Club” could start to take shape with Balor leading the group to the same levels of destruction and mayhem they accomplished in New Japan. Maybe Balor could take on The Undertaker to see who’s better, the old demon or the new, and perhaps a big win for Finn could be used to set him up as one of the company’s future stars. Yes, I know Raw’s main event scene doesn’t really have a relatable hero, but I think this issue could be solved with Jericho face turn and there’s no reason Balor can’t be used to elevate either an existing midcarder like Big Cass or perhaps a member of The New Day, or maybe even an incoming NXT call-up – dare I say it, Shinsuke Nakamura. I can dream, dammit. A Finn Balor heel turn might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you can’t admit it wouldn’t be shocking and, above all, interesting. Because lord knows Raw needs to be more interesting. I have more fun clipping toenails some weeks, I really do.