The Road to WrestleMania is nearly upon us. Clash of Champions in December will be the final pay per view of the year and after that we’ll all be eagerly anticipating the Royal Rumble that takes place at the end of January. It’s by far the biggest and busiest period in WWE’s calendar and you can rest assured that the wheels are very much in motion for a lot of what the company has planned to go down in New Orleans in four months time. What the time of year also brings along with it is a return of part time talent. Superstars WWE seem to believe are needed in order to carry the company through their most important months.
While WWE try to get basically everybody they possibly can in the company onto the WrestleMania card, many will have to settle for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal or a four corners tag team match on the kick off show. Being on the WrestleMania card doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be spotlighted. As touched upon above Vince McMahon and co will already have a skeleton of what they want the WrestleMania card to look like. That means certain Superstars are about to be featured on Raw and SmackDown Live so much that you’ll be sick of them by April. It also means that some stars who deserve much coveted Mania spots will not, and prepare yourself for some of those stars to be buried as we get closer to The Showcase of the Immortals.
15. Bury: Hideo Itami
There was a time not so long ago in WWE where both Hideo Itami and the cruiserweight division were surrounded with unreal amounts of hype. Itami’s signing to NXT pre-dated the likes of Kevin Owens and Finn Balor even. However some long term injuries since then have derailed his stateside career. Now the Japanese star is on a collision course with 205 Live. The cruiserweight division is far from the place to be right now. WWE’s recent attempts at trying to boost the division’s appeal via inserting bigger stars into its ranks have not only failed, but Austin Aries left the company and Neville currently has one foot out the door. Hideo is set to be the next cruiserweight experiment and in all honesty it won’t matter how he’s booked, being sent to 205 Live is starting to become a death sentence.
14. Shove: Enzo Amore
Another man who has been sent to 205 Live in an attempt to get more eyes on the product is Enzo Amore. Muscles Marinara is currently the Cruiserweight Champion and to be honest he may be doing WWE’s purple brand more harm than good at this point in time. The company seem to think that Enzo has to be a part of every single angle on 205 Live. You can’t watch the show or the cruiserweight segment on Raw without getting a big slice of Amore. Maybe WWE are right to be doing this and it’s the only reason people are tuning in to 205 Live. However with a guy like Enzo there really is only so much you can take. Nevertheless expect plenty more from Amore over the next few months.
13. Bury: Bobby Roode
NXT fans were waiting with baited breath for Bobby Roode to be called up to the main roster. Then earlier this year the lights went out on SmackDown Live and an arena full of people sang along to The Glorious One’s extremely catchy entrance music. As seems to be the norm with NXT stars making the move to SmackDown Live, Bobby’s first rivalry was with Dolph Ziggler. Although it makes sense as The Showoff is an experienced WWE hand, it takes the momentum out of new acts. Roode is lined up for a shot at Baron Corbin’s United States Championship, even as soon as Clash Of Champions in December. Don’t expect him to win though and by WrestleMania he’ll be lucky if he even warrants a place in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal.
12. Shove: Mojo Rawley
The call up of Mojo Rawley during the 2016 draft came as something of a shock. He’s one of those Superstars who most probably felt had more to do in NXT before coming to the main roster. Nevertheless he has been on SmackDown Live ever since and someone behind the scenes at WWE clearly thinks quite highly of him. While his (now former) fellow Hype Bro was out injured Mojo got a minor singles push, even winning the battle royal mentioned in the previous entry. Now that he has turned on Zack Ryder it appears as if we’re going to be getting an awful lot more of Rawley. If, like many, you find Mojo Rawley somewhat annoying then strap in because you’re about to get a whole lot more of him between now and WrestleMania.
11. Bury: Bayley
Any one remember how big a deal Bayley was when she was NXT Women’s Champion? It feels like a lifetime ago, I know. Women in the brand were coming and going and the suspense was building to the leader of Hug Life being called up and the potential within her was almost immeasurable. By this point most would have expected her to be spear heading the women’s division on Raw and be one of WWE’s most valuable assets along with that. Instead she is quickly becoming the red brand’s designated loser. In multi woman matches she often takes the fall and she is nowhere near the top of the pile. Sadly Bayley’s descent only seems to be getting worse each week and she probably won’t have a prominent spot in New Orleans.
10. Shove: Shane McMahon
Whether you’re watching Raw or SmackDown Live WWE want you to remember one very important thing, at the end of the day it’s all about the McMahons. Stephanie has returned to being the first face the WWE Universe see most Monday nights, and over on the blue brand the top angle has revolved around Shane for a while now. He competed in the main event at Hell In A Cell, captained SmackDown Live’s male team at Survivor Series, and be prepared for him to be wrestling at least once or twice more between now and April. What’s so frustrating about his self inserted presence in big pay per view matches is that he isn’t performing elsewhere. SmackDown Live is supposed to be the land of opportunity yet one of the top opportunities is being given to the man in charge time and time again.
9. Bury: Breezango
As much as they might imply that they think otherwise, WWE don’t particularly like their Superstars getting themselves over when that wasn’t what was planned for them. It seems like an extremely backwards way of doing business but there you go. They want hand picked stars like Roman Reigns to be their top guy. That’s why Vince McMahon is likely seething at the popularity of Breezango right now, especially since Tyler Breeze is not well liked for leaving Raw early one time following his arrival on the main roster. In fact it’s highly likely that this double act were paired together as a joke. They’ve made the most of it though and the fans love them. Expect WWE to do everything in their power to reverse that though.
8. Shove: Jason Jordan
WWE built up an incredible amount of intrigue earlier this year when they teased Raw General Manager Kurt Angle having a huge and potentially life changing secret. When he finally revealed said secret it turned out to be that Jason Jordan is his long lost, illegitimate son. If that initial announcement had been followed up with something, anything, then maybe the story line wouldn’t have fallen as flat as it has done. Despite there being no real angle to speak of it hasn’t stopped WWE from aimlessly forcing Jason Jordan upon us each and every Monday night. He currently seems to think he can take on all comers but isn’t having much luck, and will likely be spotlighted at WrestleMania against a much bigger star.
7. Bury: Carmella
There was a time not so long ago when it appeared that WWE were extremely high on Carmella. Not only did The Princess of Staten Island win the first ever women’s Money In The Bank match, but when they had the chance to crown somebody new in the rematch they stuck with Carmella and she now currently holds the briefcase. All of a sudden though, since the release of her lap dog James Ellsworth, Miss Money In The Bank has disappeared from television. There’s currently something of a reshuffle going on in the women’s divisions on both brands following the latest NXT call ups. Maybe WWE are trying to make us forget about Carmella and the briefcase so that she can return and surprise us when she cashes in. Considering Charlotte Flair is currently champion though it’s far more likely that when the cash in comes, Carmella will be unsuccessful.
6. Shove: Brock Lesnar
For nine months of the year Brock Lesnar is far from shoved down the throats of the WWE Universe. In fact at the time of typing this most fans would probably love to see him on Raw each week, or at least on pay per views so that he can defend his Universal Championship. Well fear not, it’s coming. From January through until WrestleMania you won’t be able to sit through more than ten minutes of WWE programming without an announcer reminding you that The Beast Incarnate will be appearing ‘this coming Monday’ or whenever he’s due on TV next. It’s amazing that WWE are still so willing to let Lesnar be one of their World Champions when he is never around to defend or even show off the title. Here’s hoping that the championship is given to someone who can do that sooner rather than later.
5. Bury: Finn Balor
Speaking of Brock Lesnar, someone who is owed a shot at The Beast and his Universal Championship is Finn Balor. The Irishman had to relinquish the title just one day after winning it at SummerSlam 2016 following a serious shoulder injury but is yet to be given the opportunity to win it back. There were rumours that WWE were building to a Balor versus Brock match around Royal Rumble time, but apparently those plans have now been scrapped. As with Bayley, WWE don’t seem to know the potential they have in their hands when it comes to Balor. The Demon could headline any show anywhere in the world, but apparently injuring your shoulder means you lose that privilege. What the company have planned for Finn at WrestleMania 34 is unclear, but it probably isn’t going to be anything monumental.
4. Shove: Triple H
During the Shane McMahon entry we touched upon how everything that goes on in WWE revolves around the McMahons. Well that counts just as much for the man who married into the family, Triple H. The Game seems to be under the illusion that WrestleMania can’t possibly go ahead without him wrestling in one of the top positions on the card. That looks set to be no different this coming year. WrestleMania may still be four months away but The King of Kings has already positioned himself so that he has three mortal enemies, all of which would be considered ‘main events’ if they were to take place in New Orleans in April. Let’s hope he winds up facing Shane McMahon so that the first family of wrestling can keep all their issues tied up neatly in one showdown.
3. Bury: Bray Wyatt
At the beginning of 2017 things looked to be on the up for Bray Wyatt. Not only did he become WWE Champion inside the Elimination Chamber, but he went through both John Cena and AJ Styles during the match in order to do so. Then just a matter of weeks later he was defending what is supposed to be the company’s most prestigious title against Randy Orton in a match way down the WrestleMania card. The Eater of Worlds could and should be one of the biggest and best Superstars in all of WWE. He is quite literally the total package and such a unique talent along with it. Hopefully he is on the verge of helping Matt Hardy kick start the Broken Universe under WWE’s roof, but beyond that the company just don’t seem that invested in him.
2. Shove: Roman Reigns
There was only ever going to be one man who topped the ‘shoved down our throats’ side of this list, and that man is the current Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns. The Big Dog may have the most predictable path to his WrestleMania 34 destiny of anybody on the roster. Unless WWE throw us a curve ball then Roman will be facing, and beating, Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship. If that happens he will have headlined four WrestleManias in a row, a feat only achieved by Hulk Hogan before him. Between now and then it wouldn’t be surprising to see Reigns close out every single Monday night Raw. Vince McMahon is unrelenting in his push of Roman and no amount of boos and jeers are going to stop the boss from having him feature heavily on WWE television in the coming months.
1. Bury: Shinsuke Nakamura
Before Shinsuke Nakamura joined WWE he was one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling that wasn’t competing for Vince McMahon. Triple H managed to change that and brought The King of Strong Style to NXT. At Full Sail he won the adoration of the fans along with the NXT Championship. Unfortunately while on SmackDown Live WWE have proved that more often than not they simply don’t know how to book foreign Superstars. Like Bobby Roode, Nakamura started his main roster career with a rivalry opposite Dolph Ziggler. That garnered very little interest and then an attempt at trying to capture the WWE Championship from Jinder Mahal almost extinguished his flame altogether. Fans are hoping for a Nakamura – AJ Styles title match at WrestleMania 34, but it probably isn’t going to happen.
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