With 2017 right around the corner, the WWE will be entering its thirty-seventh year of business. While some things are likely to remain the same, such as Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and AJ Styles being involved in high profile feuds, other things are bound to change. There will be debuting stars who will both flop and excel. There are those who we may never see again, such as The Undertaker or Goldberg. There will be unexpected returns.
The brand split has balanced out the talent on WWE's roster and allowed for more stars to have their moments on the big stage. For instance, if there were no WWE Universal Title, a guy like Kevin Owens has a better chance of getting lost in the shuffle. If two women's titles don't exist, we probably don't get to see either Becky Lynch or Alexa Bliss hold a Women's Championship for a long time - if ever.
Here are fifteen things to look forward to in WWE in 2017.
15 The Debut of the Revival
Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder seem to be universally hated which is a credit to their heel characters. The wrestling ability of these two cannot be doubted regardless of your opinion of them. The matches they put on against DIY (Gargano and Ciampa) at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II and at NXT TakeOver: Toronto were absolutely stellar. Yet, their matches against American Alpha (Jordan and Gable) at NXT TakeOver: Dallas and NXT TakeOver: The End may have even surpassed the matches against DIY. Point blank, when The Revival is in the ring, you watch and you are entertained. Raw is in desperate need of a heel tag team; The Club has failed miserably at filling that void and have shown they're not much without AJ Styles. This is where The Revival can and should step in.
14 Surprise Entrants at the Royal Rumble
Surprise entrants at WWE's January PPV, Royal Rumble, are a foregone conclusion. Sometimes fans are caught off guard by a returning superstar such as in 2008 when John Cena returned early from injury and ended up winning the Royal Rumble. Other times an unwelcome superstar returns and seizes the shine from other competitors that deserve a Royal Rumble victory more so then the unwelcome superstar such as Batista in 2014. One thing is for certain, the Royal Rumble will feature surprise entrants; there will be those that fans enjoy and there will be those that fans could care less about. For instance, Samoa Joe would be welcomed with open arms. On the other hand, if Kevin Nash returns, most would have an excitement level of zero.
13 NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III
WWE bills SummerSlam as "the biggest party of the summer". Along with bringing the PPV to Brooklyn from Los Angeles in 2015, WWE has had NXT TakeOver take place on the Saturday prior to SummerSlam. No disrespect to SummerSlam but in the past two years, it has been TakeOver that's been the biggest party of the summer. In the inaugural TakeOver from Brooklyn, Bayley and Sasha Banks provided one of, if not the greatest women's match of all time. Just take a look at all of the individuals in the crowd tearing up after Bayley's victory! At the end of the weekend, Banks and Bayley were the talk of the town. At NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II, Shinsuke Nakamura finally claimed NXT's most illusive prize, the NXT Championship by defeating Samoa Joe and the Revival put on a stellar match against DIY. SummerSlam needs to step up its game!
12 The Debut of Bobby Roode
Not since Fandango's theme song "ChaChaLaLa" have WWE fans seen a song as popular then that of Bobby Roode's "Glorious" theme. While Roode hasn't seen his song downloaded by the masses on iTunes like Fandango did (Fandango's theme was once #11 on the U.K. iTunes chart) Roode gets showered with love by fans once his theme hits. Roode plays a heel on NXT, but you wouldn't know it based on the reaction Roode receives simply based on his theme. The Scarborough, Ontario, Canada born Roode actually had a prior stint with WWE (albeit sparingly) from 2001-2004. Roode was billed as Rudy Roode and competed on Sunday Night Heat as well as dark matches. Roode has certainly evolved in the twelve years since and has all the tools to be a solid mid card talent for the company.
11 The Debut of Asuka
By way of Osaka, Japan, Asuka is the most dominant female currently on the NXT roster. She has held the NXT Women's Championship for 250+ days and very may well surpass Paige's record setting title reign of 308 days. She is mere days behind passing Charlotte for second place who held the belt for 258 days. Asuka is the most dominant female presence in NXT today and she's been booked strong as she's taken and successfully defended the title against Bayley as well as having victories against the dominant Nia Jax and WWE veteran Mickie James. Asuka has shown she can get over as both a babyface and as a heel in NXT which showcases her ability to diversify herself and succeed in either role she is placed in.
10 Seth Rollins vs. Triple H
Rollins was Triple H's golden boy when he was a part of the Authority. However, all good things must come to an end and Triple H ended up delivering a pedigree to Rollins in a fatal four way match on Monday Night Raw between the forenamed Rollins, Roman Reigns, Big Cass and Kevin Owens for the vacant WWE Universal Championship. Triple H hasn't appeared on WWE programming since betraying Rollins; as a result, Rollins hasn't been able to get redemption. Rollins has made it no secret that he intends to get back at Triple H the first chance he gets. All signs point at the two tangling up during WrestleMania. Regardless of when the two do face off, it will happen soon and it will happen in 2017.
9 The Possible Return of Kurt Angle
The 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist has been rumored to be making a return to the WWE and the E can utilize him in a number of ways. For one, since Angle is now forty-nine years old, it's clear that he can't wrestle an everyday schedule, but can still wrestle on special occasions. Angle can create a Team Angle 2.0 by serving as a manager for American Alpha, Jason Jordan and Chad Gable. Shelton Benjamin can also be leveraged if need be when returns as he is currently signed to the Smackdown roster. Jordan and Gable are the WWE's most polished tag team in terms of in ring ability but lack a mouth piece as neither possesses impressive mic skills. Angle could easily fill this void for the former Olympian, Gable and the former collegiate star at Indiana, Jordan.
8 The Influx of Talent that WWE Will Sign
The WWE is the biggest fish in the sea in the wrestling business and it is the goal of every wrestler to one day step in the squared circle of the WWE as its the biggest stage a wrestler can perform on. In the past two years, WWE has raided the majority of TNA's main event talent such as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode and Eric Young. They've added a number of talent from the independent scene such as Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. They've added Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor by way of New Japan. Point blank the WWE is stacked with talent! This does not mean that they won't be adding more talent to the roster. With intriguing names such as Ricochet, Adam Cole, and Will Ospreay available, the WWE will not stand pat and will pull the trigger on a number of talents.
7 Sasha Banks and Bayley Feuding on the Main Roster
The Sasha Banks and Charlotte rivalry has been the most entertaining women's rivalry on the main roster since that of Trish Stratus and Lita. Yet, while Banks and Charlotte bring out the best in each other, Banks actually tells a more compelling story with Bayley. Banks would need to transition into the heel role as her working as a babyface would significantly water down the feud. Bayley and Banks were recognized by PWI for putting on the best match of 2015 with Banks defending her championship against Bayley at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. The two had one hell of a rematch as well at NXT TakeOver: Respect when they competed in the first every iron woman match which lasted for thirty minutes. Give these two a ring, sit back and relax and watch them steal the show (don't be offended now, Ziggler).
6 The Undertaker Wrestling in What Could Be His Final Match
This makes for a bittersweet entry as it would make for Taker's swan song, but its hard to dispute that his time hasn't come. Taker is fifty-one years of age and rarely wrestles more than once a year. While he moves pretty impressively for a man of his age it isn't hard to notice that he's lost a step. The streak may not exist anymore but becoming the second person to defeat Undertaker at the PPV where he is 23-1 could do wonders for a wrestler's career. If this is indeed Undertaker's last match he should go out by putting over a young and emerging talent over as opposed to an established talent such as John Cena or Randy Orton. The aforementioned names are already as accomplished as they can be and don't need the victory over Taker to solidify his legacy. However, a victory over the Deadman could do wonders for a prospective star such as Kevin Owens or Bray Wyatt.
5 The Debut of Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura has been with the WWE NXT brand since April of 2016 when he debuted at Wrestlemania weekend against Sami Zayn at NXT TakeOver: Dallas. When Nakamura inked with WWE he was told that he wouldn't be spending a lengthy amount of time in NXT and would be on the main roster shortly. Nakamura has been in NXT for just over eight months now. He is currently in his second reign as NXT Champion, but it would be rather surprising to see him in NXT all throughout the 2017 calendar year. The "King of Strong Style" has acclaim to being the best wrestler on the planet and their are plenty of feuds such as with AJ Styles, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose that fans would instantaneously clamor to see.
4 WrestleMania 33
It's the WWE's biggest PPV of the year so it always aims to (but doesn't always) deliver. So far we know that the Big Show will be taking on Shaquille O'Neal. That doesn't exactly provide for excitement. However, the WWE is interested in seeing if they can have UFC's Ronda Rousey take on Charlotte. Seth Rollins will likely face off against Triple H. Finn Balor has an outside chance of returning for the event. Shane McMahon will hopefully perform a death defying stunt that does not injure him but makes for quite the WrestleMania moment. The card is over three months away from occurring and with the exception of the Big Show facing O'Neal nothing is set in stone. But, whether it may or may not deliver, the WWE will be sure to pull out all the tricks to make it a memorable spectacle.
3 The Return of Shawn Michaels at the Royal Rumble
Shawn Michaels has refuted numerous returns to the WWE and has been steadfast in declaring that his match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVI was indeed his last. But, the 2017 Royal Rumble is taking place in Michaels hometown of San Antonio, Texas. Styles furthered speculation by tweeting a picture of him and Michaels on a poster with the words "Royal Rumble". Styles caption read, "interesting photo.....or not?" to add more fuel to the fire. Michaels would be welcomed back with open arms by both WWE's brass and its fans as this would make for a dream match that many thought they'd never see happen. Seeing AJ Styles in WWE is surprising enough; seeing AJ Styles face off against Shawn Michaels in a WWE ring one year after he debuted would blow the roof off the Alamodome in San Antonio.
2 The Debut of Samoa Joe
When Samoa Joe was signed by WWE it was baffling to see he was sent down to NXT as opposed to being directly sent to the main roster considering Joe had over fifteen years of experience on both the independent scene and TNA. Despite this, it's been a blessing in disguise as Joe has provided fans with entertaining feuds with the likes of Finn Balor, Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura. He's also the first person to hold the NXT Championship twice (Nakamura recently achieved this honor as well by beating Joe). Joe has been in NXT for a little over a year and its crystal clear that he's more than paid his dues. Joe has thrived as both a heel and a face throughout his wrestling career which gives the E an interesting chip to play with.
1 The Return of Finn Balor
Finn Balor was drafted by Raw with the fifth overall pick in the 2016 supplemental draft. Balor, who at the time was in NXT came as both a welcome and surprising addition at the five slot as he went ahead of talents such as Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt and Kevin Owens. Balor ended up debuting on his thirty-fifth birthday and won a fatal four way match against Rusev, Cesaro and Kevin Owens. He then defeated Roman Reigns to face-off against Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. Balor came out victorious but it was a bittersweet moment. Balor ended up injuring his shoulder as a result of a power bomb by Rollins (which Rollins has received plenty of criticism for). Balor required shoulder surgery and he had to relinquish his newly won belt. Fans only got a taste of Balor on the main roster for a month. However, in his short time on the main roster Balor made it clear that he is a main event player for years to come.