Ever since Triple H gained more influence in the WWE, we have seen the CWC, the new UK Championship, and, most importantly, NXT. And with The Game understanding that the wrestling world should be brought closer together, we have seen many fresh, new talents emerge under the WWE banner.
In 2017 that will no doubt continue, but what about existing performers who have yet to taste WWE gold? We feel as though there are many wrestlers currently within the company who are more than deserving of their first big win, and 2017 could very well be the year that they accomplish it.
This list will detail 15 performers who we think should win their first gold in a WWE event in the upcoming year.
Author's note: This will relate to stars winning their first belt on a new brand (main roster or NXT), so this accounts for stars who have won titles in NXT winning their first gold on the main roster, as there are several of them included in this article.
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15 Braun Strowman
Braun Strowman was given the chance to break off from the Wyatt Family following the brand split, and has been very entertaining killing jobbers every week, but 2017 will be time for him to expand his game into longer and more detailed storylines and matches. Thus far, Strowman has looked impressive, and it may take some time, but it looks like he may be suited for these longer matches (more than people thought anyway), and WWE are obviously high on the monster. It might be sooner than fans would like, but there’s no doubting that WWE have big plans for Strowman, and if his rise is booked properly, he could be a dominating, heel monster for years and years to come.
14 Noam Dar
Noam Dar recently made his debut in front of a raucous hometown crowd, and he has been a really solid addition to the roster, putting on a great match with Cedric Alexander on the second episode of 205 Live. At just 23 years of age, it’s easy to see that WWE think very highly of the young Scot, and it won’t be out of the realm of reality to think that he will be battling for the Cruiserweight Championship early in 2017. His in ring work may not be as exciting as other performers, but he knows his strengths and plays to them well, and if he defines his character, we could be looking at one of the standouts for the currently struggling Cruiserweight division.
13 Cedric Alexander
A former Ring of Honor stand out, Cedric Alexander cut 20 pounds to join the Cruiserweight Classic, and boy was it worth it. After a solid first round win, he put up the fight of his life in a losing effort to Kota Ibushi, and it resonated with the fans and Triple H so much that WWE were forced to sign the high flier to a WWE contract. Since then, he has been a star on the rise in NXT, and has featured heavily in the Cruiserweight division. Whether it’s the NXT Championship or the Cruiserweight Championship, or even a higher up belt in WWE, it’s just a matter of when not if for the supremely athletic and explosive Alexander (let’s just hope the Alicia Fox thing doesn’t stick).
12 Authors of Pain
The Authors of Pain have recently emerged with the backing of WWE Hall of Famer Paul Ellering, and at his command the duo have run roughshod over everyone in the NXT Tag Team division. Their first major accolade came at NXT Takeover: Toronto, where they won the second ever Dusty Rhodes Memorial Tag Team Classic, and though they aren’t very polished yet, they will be a big part of WWE in the not too distant future. First though, they have to conquer the NXT tag team scene, and that should no doubt come in 2017, whether it’s at the hands of the Revival, current champions DIY or even TM61, they are not only here to stay, but to dominate.
11 Enzo & Cass
Given their immense popularity, unique characters and improvements in the ring, it’s hard to tell why the pairing of Enzo Amore and Colin Cassidy have yet to ascend to either the top of the NXT or RAW Tag Team division. From their electric charisma to their captivating catch phrases, they won over the boss, to the surprise of some, and look primed and ready to dethrone anyone in their way in 2017 (once they get past this ridiculous Enzo/Lana story). WWE might be saving this for a special occasion, perhaps WrestleMania in their old stomping ground in Florida, but whatever the occasion, this team has worked hard and earned their popularity, which will make the moment a memorable one.
10 Jack Gallagher
Jack Gallagher only recently made his 205 Live/RAW debut, but has already shown he has the unique character and innovative offense that could not only make him a star in the cruiserweight division, but may even transcend it. The Extraordinary Gentleman comes from the U.K, and with a skillset that is reminiscent of British wrestling legends, he offers something different for fans. With the three or four matches fans have seen, Gallaghers popularity has grown each and every time, despite not even scratching the surface of his full move set. We are also yet to see the man involved in a major feud of any kind, so his promo may be lacking just a bit, but with time, the ability to develop and a meaningful storyline, we may see Jack Gallagher grow into a superstar, and a champion right before our eyes.
9 Roderick Strong
Roderick Strong debuted in NXT recently, and despite his quite impressive resume on the independent scene, he wasn’t received as well as some other stars during their debut. Regardless, the Messiah of the Backbreaker looks set for a big 2017, with NXT probably losing it’s top heel in Samoa Joe, the very underrated Strong can step in and be a very serious contender to Shinsuke Nakamura’s second title reign. We have yet to see him be highlighted the way some fans may have expected, but we know that NXT always uses good long term booking strategies, so expect them to start building him away from the championship very, very soon. With the technical talent and the presence that Roddy possesses, it would be absolutely no surprise if he was the one to dethrone the King of Strong Style, and win his first championship in WWE.
8 Austin Aries
Ever since his heel turn on No Way Jose, Austin Aries has been fantastic on NXT, and despite his recent, gruesome eye injury on a house show, the Greatest Man that ever lived looks poised to have a great 2017. He recently appeared on commentary with 205 Live, and made his intentions known that when healthy, he expects to compete for, and win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. This could breathe new life into a division that hasn’t had much of the way in characters or story lines, and with a man as well known and charismatic like Aries to join the top of the division will be huge. Whether Aries stars with a bang or works his way up the card, there is no doubt that he could be the man to catapult this division into relevancy.
7 The Club
The Club came to WWE with a lot of hype and excitement, but as WWE love to do, they have turned stars from Japan into regular guys on the main roster, and that is disappointing to many fans. The duo of Karl Anderson and former WWE employee Luke Gallows turned up, and were immediately reunited with Bullet Club mate AJ Styles (we only got a tease of Finn Balor), and were treated as nothing more than the Phenomenal One’s sidekicks. Since then they have been treated as a joke, losing every big match possible, but if WWE wants to make something of RAW and its tag team division, they need to revitalize the Club. Sometime in 2017, we will have to see the New Day’s record championship reign come to an end, and a reinvigorated Club would be the perfect way to do so.
The Huggable One debuted in WWE the night after Summerslam, and to say that she got a deafening ovation would be an understatement, a clear admiration from the entire WWE universe of her amazing work in NXT. Since then however, WWE have failed to portray her as the star everyone knows she is, and her development has seemingly been put to the side in favor of Nia Jax and the seemingly never ending rivalry between Sasha Banks and Charlotte. This has to change for WWE’s sake in 2017, and it looks like she will be the clear challenger in the near future, perhaps leading to the match everyone wants at WrestleMania, Sasha vs. Bayley. Both women have been vocal about their goals of main eventing the big event, and it might seem a bit early, but it would be as good a match as any for that milestone.
5 American Alpha
The makeshift duo of amateur stand outs Chad Gable and Jason Jordan came together in NXT, and after their first Takeover match, the Full Sail fans, and entire WWE Universe knew they had something special on their hands. The pair then had a classic feud with the Revival, before finding themselves drafted to Smackdown as an integral part of their tag team division. After a feud with the Uso’s cooled down, the two haven’t been featured as prominently as fans hoped, and have been relegated to pre show matches on PPV’s. With the emergence of the new Wyatt Family, the competition on Smackdown has never been tougher, but if WWE continue to showcase this team as the stars they have been so far, it’s only a matter of time until the fans and WWE push them over the top, giving them their first taste of main roster gold.
4 The Revival
Simply put, the Revival are the best tag team in the world, and that can’t be questioned after their improved promo work and classic matches with DIY, American Alpha and Enzo and Cass in 2016. Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson have come up through the NXT system, and should be on the main roster come WrestleMania time in 2017. At this event, the throwback duo should no doubt be in contention for the titles on whichever brand they reside, and knowing their history, they will be able to drag a classic match out of anyone. I might not be telling anyone anything new here, but the Revival are everything that’s great about professional wrestling in 2016, so here’s hoping it continues on a bigger stage.
3 Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe finally made his way to WWE in 2015, and after a lackluster baby face run, the former Samoan Submission Machine has been as hot as anyone on the NXT roster. After losing his NXT Championship for the second time, it seems the former ROH and TNA standout is on his way to the main roster, and if he is used correctly, he could be a main event star. Joe might debut to a huge ovation from the fans who have seen his indy or NXT work, but ultimately, he could be the biggest heel in the company in weeks if done properly. It’s hard to say which championship Joe will capture first, but if WWE are smart, they will book him similar to NXT, and will have a monster heel on their hands for years to come.
2 Sami Zayn
It may surprise some people to know that Zayn has not tasted gold on the main roster, but after his original call up was halted by an injury, the WWE haven’t had a clue how to book Sami Zayn, and that must change in 2017. He wasn’t even featured at Summerslam, and after winning his feud with the now Universal Champion Kevin Owens, it’s a major surprise that he hasn’t been more prominent. That is now slowly starting to change, as he is embroiled in a feud with Braun Strowman, and when Zayn again proves he performs well in any situation, WWE won’t have a choice but to push him. He might not be in the Universal title picture any time soon, but the thought of a heel Roman Reigns battling the Underdog from the Underground over the U.S title could make for must see TV heading into WrestleMania.
1 Shinsuke Nakamura
This one is a no-brainer, and as soon as Nakamura makes it to the main roster, whether RAW or Smackdown, he should be thrust straight into the main event picture. Whether it comes immediately after WrestleMania or later in the year, The King of Strong Style will no doubt have his eyes on the top titles, and if WWE are smart, they would see the dollar signs that he presents and put the top belt on him upon arrival. From his electric charisma, his unique yet entertaining promos, his over the top entrances and his amazing move set, there is nothing that Shinsuke can’t do, and WWE should take advantage of this and put him up against guys like AJ Styles.
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