From the Shield reuniting, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn teaming up, to Jinder friggin’ Mahal winning the WWE Championship, 2017 has seen a lot of things that we did not expect. It’s been a year of record-tying title reigns, glorious call-ups, and Jinder friggin’ Mahal. There were also rumors that had circulated throughout the internet that never came to fruition. Undertaker didn’t return at SummerSlam, Shane McMahon didn’t pre-tape a stunt at Hell in a Cell, and Big Show didn’t square off with Shaquille O’Neal at WrestleMania.
That being said, 2017 is almost over and we’re not about to look back and nitpick at everything that could’ve and should’ve come to be (at least not in this article). Let’s jump forward to next year. Let’s take a look at what 2018 has in store for us. What big changes are bound to happen, what matches to expect, and what returns we will see. Let’s also take this time to dash some hopes and dreams we might share. The ones that are not going to happen within the year, no matter how much we want to will them into existence.
In the off chance that any of these entries are incorrect, feel free to comment one year from now about how hard I goofed and how I don’t know squat about wrestling. But to quote WCW’s criminally underrated James Vandenberg, “I could be wrong, but I doubt it.”
Here are eight things we will see in the WWE in 2018, and seven that will definitely not happen.
15. WILL: The Undertaker Inducted Into The WWE Hall Of Fame
Despite a lackluster match against Roman Reigns at this past year’s WrestleMania, the Undertaker had an amazing post-match send off. When the Dead Man left his trademark hat, gloves, and duster in the center of the ring, walked down the entrance way, raised his fist, and was lowered through the mist, it was a fitting end for the man who had given 27 years of his life to the WWE. With countless amazing matches behind him and being the greatest example of making a larger than life character work, Undertaker will take his much-deserved next step and be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame’s 2018 class. The 25th Anniversary of Monday Night Raw will be emanating from the Manhattan Center in January with Taker rumored to be making an appearance. What better place to announce him entering the HOF than at the very venue where he wrestled in the Main Event a quarter of a century ago?
14. WON’T: Kenny Omega Wrestling For WWE
Currently, every wrestling fan’s favorite hobby is to fantasy book the WWE debut of Kenny Omega. Will he make a surprise debut at the Royal Rumble? No. Will he enter into a feud with AJ Styles or Finn Balor over who is the rightful leader of the Club? No. At least not in 2018. 2017 has been the biggest year for the Cleaner. He main evented Wrestle Kingdom 11, Wrestling Observer Newsletter gave four of his matches 5-plus star ratings, he became New Japan’s first United States Heavyweight Champion, and is set to participate in a dream match against Chris Jericho at NPJW’s biggest show of 2018. His contract may be up early next year, but Omega won’t leave NJPW until he’s done the one thing that has eluded him, beat Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and that isn’t likely to happen until Wrestle Kingdom 13 in 2019.
13. WILL: Asuka Defeated
The Empress of Tomorrow has not lost a singles match since debuting in NXT in 2015. She spent the majority of career in developmental as NXT Women’s Champion and exited the promotion without a single blemish. Since making it to Raw, she has continued this streak and will see it out through the rest of the year. While keeping her record going, Asuka will claim the top prize on Monday nights. Surely, she will enjoy a dominant reign (although, it won’t come close to her 510 days as champ in NXT), but it all has to end sometime. When you build up a wrestler up and give them a winning streak as impressive as Asuka’s there is only one thing you can do to it: break it. Next year we will see Asuka take her first loss in the WWE. It will be interesting to see her try and reclaim her former glory after realizing she isn’t invincible. It’s too early to tell if she’ll fall to a veteran like Charlotte, a monster like Nia Jax, or an old rival like Ember Moon. What we do know is in 2018, someone, somewhere will be ready for Asuka.
12. WON’T: The Modern Day Maharaja As A Big Time Player
As a lifelong wrestling fan who has seen just about everything the WWE has to offer, there is nothing I love more than a surprise. Which is why I was thrilled when the Modern Day Maharaja shocked the world and defeated Randy Orton at the Backlash pay-per-view in May to become the WWE Champion. I was ready to watch Jinder rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, after a series of bland matches against Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura and not being able to cut a promo without taking three steps forward followed by three steps backward, it became abundantly evident that Mahal doesn’t have what it takes. He has since dropped the championship to AJ Styles because creative didn’t believe a Jinder Mahal/Brock Lesnar match at Survivor Series interested anyone. Even though he will most likely reclaim his title before the year is done for the company’s tour of India, that will be his final run at the top of the mountain. For the rest of 2018, WWE will hinder Jinder once and for all.
11. WILL: Less Pay-Per-Views
As we previously reported, the 2018 PPV schedule will look pretty empty compared to this year’s. According to Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Radio, there will be only one special per month for the first quarter of the year. This will come as a relief for a lot of fans who have grown exhausted by the constant onslaught of shows. This gives Raw and Smackdown the opportunity to let their storylines grow organically over time, giving them better payoffs. By the time 2017 is over, WWE will have aired 16 pay-per-view events on the WWE Network. This is tied with 2006 for the most ever, and that’s not including the five NXT TakeOver specials. I for one will be thankful to have some extra Sundays freed up. No longer will I have to force my wife to watch more Baron Corbin or Bray Wyatt (her two least favorite wrestlers) matches than she already needs to.
10. WON’T: The Cruiserweights Taken Seriously
Despite getting relatively little praise and acclaim, 205 Live has a surprisingly great roster made up of some of the best cruiserweights in the world. It’s a shame that their segments on Raw are usually some of the shortest on the show. We’re talking “2008 Divas Match” short. With their own show being an afterthought following Smackdown, there doesn’t seem to be much care put into that either. Feuds like Noam Dar vs Cedric Alexander and TJP vs Rich Swann dragged long after they stopped being exciting. Their championship rivalries are often the same title defenses happening way too often. 2017, also saw the exit of two of their most talented performers in Austin Aries and Neville, who left after being fed up with how they were treated. WWE’s plans in 2018 will continue to ignore the cruiserweights, no matter how much promise they may have. Can we at least get a Mustafa Ali title run while nobody is looking?
9. Will: More Main Roster Factions
Leading up to WarGames, NXT has gone all in when it comes to factions. The Undisputed Era, Sanity, and Authors of Pain (Feat. Roderick Strong) are breathing new life into NXT’s tag division. Any of these collections could and should be called up next year and would instantly make an impact on whatever roster they’re on. Throw in established groups like the New Day, the Shield, and even the Miztourage, and you’ve got yourself the recipe for some huge battles. It’s been a long time since WWE has had so many capable teams at the same time. Sure, the first half of 2014 was filled with amazing six-man matches between the Shield and both the Wyatt Family and Evolution, but we’re gearing up for something bigger. This will give more people the opportunity to shine against a variety of enemies. If they play their cards right with the Undisputed Era, it could also lead to them each huge stars, like the Shield.
8. WON’T: Any Sort Of Push For The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal Winner
I believe there is an old saying that goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, knock it off. Fool me four times, kill me now.” That is how WrestleMania’s Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal can be summed up. It all started out so promising when Cesaro body slammed Big Show over the top rope to win the first one in 2014. He went on to declare himself a “Paul Heyman Guy” and then…nothing. The next year, Big Show didn’t gain anything from his victory. It took Baron Corbin over a year to win a championship. This past year’s event was only used for a celebrity cameo when Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski helped his buddy Mojo Rawley claim the prize. Even though the match is a great way to get as many wrestlers as possible on the show, the winner has never gotten anything out of their victory. They might as well abandon the match because there is no way they’ll turn it around in 2018.
7. WILL: Kane Retirement
2018 will be a huge year for fans of the Brothers of Destruction. The Undertaker will claim his rightful spot in the WWE Hall of Fame and his bar-be-cued baby brother will hang out the mask for good. If there is any chance you love Kane half as much as I do, you are enjoying watching him destroy some of the very best Raw has to offer like Finn Balor and Seth Rollins. Unfortunately, this push isn’t leading to another championship opportunity. This current mean streak is building to a passing of the torch from Kane to Braun Strowman. In 2018, after an incredible two-decade career, the Big Red Machine will wrestler his last match against the Monster Among Men. After losing gracefully and putting over the promising new big man, the Devil’s Favorite Demon will ride off into the sunset…or become mayor of Knox County, Tennessee.
6. WON’T: Curt Hawkins Winning A Match
Curt Hawkins current gimmick, besides “I have a cane,” is that he has not been able to win a match since he re-debuted in 2016. The man has lost over 120 matches since returning. Most angles involving losing streaks are meant to make the wrestler sympathetic and get the crowd invested in them picking up their victory. That’s not the case for Hawkins who is, as he puts it, the is the captain of the “Star Factory.” This means his only job is to take a loss and make other wrestlers look good while he lays down. He may be well-liked backstage and a competent in-ring performer, but there is no point in giving Curt any wins during the rest of his tenure. They should probably “face the facts” and cut ties with Hawkins because getting a win over him gets less and less impressive with every “three-second tan” he takes.
5. WILL: The Bellas Return
If you watch as much WWE-centric reality television as I do (let’s call it “research”), then you’ll know the past few seasons of Total Divas and Total Bellas have focused on Nikki and Brie’s life and careers outside of the ring. They have had their fair share of setbacks, the most recent season of Bellas dealt with Brie’s pregnancy and Nikki return from injury as well as her WrestleMania engagement to John Cena. Currently, they are both out of action, but fans of their shows know they are always itching to get back between the ropes. With Daniel Bryan’s road schedule being as hectic as it is, a Brie fulltime return probably isn’t in the cards with a newborn baby, but a few one off matches here and there aren’t out of the question. Nikki has a better chance at a full return since her fiancé is going to be very busy filming movie after movie.
4. WON’T: No Reunion For The Club
Between Ring of Honor and New Japan, Bullet Club Fever is at an all-time high. A recent invasion attempt from the hottest faction in pro-wrestling managed to really get under Vince McMahon’s skin. After firing writer Jimmy Jacobs for taking a picture with the Elite, WWE is making it known that they do not want to be associated with the group. Oh, and there’s also the cease and desist that was sent to the Young Bucks for doing the “Two-Sweet” hand gesture and “Suck It” crotch chops. This has all given the Biz-Cliz more press and popularity than they had already garnered. WWE will have a different mindset in 2018. Since the last thing they want is for wrestlers outside of their company to succeed, they will no longer draw attention to Bullet Club. AJ Styles and Finn Balor will be fine as they’ve been able to really connect with the audience. The people who are going to be hurt the most are Gallows and Anderson, whose entire identity can be summed up with “we used to be in Bullet Club.”
3. WILL: Sami Zayn And Kevin Owens Breakup
It’s always great to see real-life friends palling around on screen. After watching Sami Zayn save Kevin Owen’s from being utterly flattened by Shane McMahon at this year’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, it has been a true joy seeing the duo together on-screen. Knowing their backstage bromance, it’s heartwarming as hell to see Owens take a break from trying to Powerbomb Zayn on the apron and be buddy-buddy with his best man. However, if there is one thing we know about Kevin Owens is that he truly only cares for Kevin Owens. We’ve seen it with Chris Jericho, and will see it again with poor, poor Sami Zayn. Thankfully, this friendship is new, so we should get some more enjoyment out of the pairing. It won’t be too long until we see go from best friends forever to fighting forever (again). That is, of course, if the two can stay out of trouble.
2. WON’T: Daniel Bryan Return To A WWE Ring
Daniel Bryan’s story is as heartbreaking as it is inspiring. His amazing in-ring skills and fighting spirit made him a beloved figure that you couldn’t help but get behind. He broke down barriers for undersized wrestlers in the WWE and accomplished everything one can during his six years on the main roster. He currently acts as the General Manager of Smackdown, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for the former World Champion. Sadly, a serious of debilitating concussions and seizures have kept Bryan on the sidelines for years. Despite WWE’s unwillingness to let him back in the ring, he yearns to relive his former success. He has sought out his own personal doctors who believe he can return to the ring, but it is Vince McMahon who has the final say. Since WWE is in a never-ending lawsuit against former employees in regards to CTE and new information regarding the dangers of concussions are discovered daily, there is no way the billion-dollar company will allow Daniel Bryan to wrestle for them again.
1. WILL: Roman Will Reign Supreme
WWE has been working towards this one since as soon as Roman Reigns set foot in developmental in 2010. There have definitely been starts and stops along the way, but between injury, illness, and a perfectly-timed Money in the Bank cash-in, Vince McMahon has been behind Roman every step of the way. Having already main evented the past three WrestleManias Roman Reigns is bound to go four for four. The pieces are all set, he won’t even need to win the Royal Rumble to get his shot at Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship (and WWE would be just plain evil to have the Big Dog win the event in Philadelphia again). He will be the man to end the Beast’s year-plus run as Universal Champion, in the same arena where Lesnar beat The Undertaker, the very man Reigns retired at last year’s event. If it was anyone else, it might be the most epic and anticipated match in a very long time.
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