As 2017 begins to come to a close, we can observe WWE taking some notable shifts in how they’re presenting some of the talent on the roster. This isn’t abnormal for the current time of the year, as they’re gearing up for the next calendar year, and deciding who they want to elevate. There’s more young talent in WWE than there has been in a long time, and you can bet that we’re going to see some of the confirmed rising stars from 2017 continue to get pushed next year, along with new ones being created.
By the same token, there are certain wrestlers who will undoubtedly take a step back. It’s the natural progression of the WWE operation. For new stars to be created, others will inevitably be buried to some degree, or even be released all together. We can already observe some indications as to who that will be, and also estimate who may be waiting in the wings to take their spot on the roster. There’s no question that 2018 will be an eventful year in terms of roster shakeup, so let’s take a look at what’s on the horizon.
Ranked below are 8 WWE talents who will see a huge push in 2018, and 7 that will be buried.
15. Baron Corbin (Pushed)
WWE went all in this year to make Corbin a legitimate threat in the top-half of the roster, and he currently hold the United States Title; his first reign with any title on the main roster. Opinions vary on the quality of Corbin as a talent, but the majority likely aren’t too high on him in terms of being a viable superstar for the long-term. His in-ring skills and charisma have both come under ridicule at times. There’s no denying it though; Corbin is going to see an even bigger push in 2018.
He’s truly shaping up to be one of the top dogs in the company. WWE is high on him, and as we’ve seen in the past, if that’s the case, it doesn’t really matter what any outside opinion is. The ex-NFL practice squad member is going to be an integral part of 2018 pay-per-views, as well as multiple title scenes. Be prepared for it.
14. Dolph Ziggler (Buried)
Some may argue that Ziggler already has been buried, and his gimmick impersonations character would go a long way in confirming that. He’ll likely suffer an even greater setback in 2018, or just be released all together. While he’s had a very good run with WWE all things considered, and is one of the most tenured members of the roster right now, Ziggler’s time with the company appears to be nearing its conclusion.
Furthermore, many will agree that there’s just not much left for him to do. With multiple Intercontinental Title, World Heavyweight Title, and United States Title reigns to his name, any more of a main event run would run the risk of holding back upcoming talent, in exchange for something everyone has seen before. Ziggler seems to be on the outs, but it’s not for a lack of overall production.
13. Enzo Amore (Pushed)
There was much speculation how Enzo would fare after his tag team with Big Cass abruptly came to an end due to an injury to the latter. WWE was quick to answer that question, and Enzo is currently on his second Cruiserweight Title reign of the year, and there will undoubtedly be more to come.
The questions surrounding Enzo never had to do with his charisma, but rather his in-ring ability, considering the overall talent-level of the other cruiserweights on the roster. That question seems to have been answered, at least in WWE’s mind, and it seems as if we’re going to see Enzo be a major player in the singles ranks during 2018 and possibly beyond.
12. Jinder Mahal (Buried)
Mahal’s much-maligned WWE Title reign has finally come to an end, and there’s a good possibility that he may be slowly phased out of the company from here on out. In the grand scheme of things, it seems as if Mahal was nothing more than a transitional champion, but it was still a title reign that garnered a lot of attention, and spurred a lot of debate within the wrestling community.
With A.J. Styles now holding the strap, Mahal is a candidate for regression in 2018, and there’s a decent chance that he may never hold a prominent place in the company again. Mahal has had one title reign going on seven years with WWE, and that’s not a good sign for him to repeat. He’ll likely be on the roster next year, but will be taking a backseat to other talent.
11. Tony Nese (Pushed)
This one isn’t a given, but with a lot of rumor and talk about WWE wanting to legitimize the Cruiserweight Division, as well as 205 Live, Nese is a prime candidate for a push next year. First off, he’s one of the best and most underrated in-ring workers in the world today. Second, he has the charisma if given the right gimmick, to be a major face for the company, and ascend through the ranks in the coming years.
Truly, WWE could be sitting on a goldmine here. With quality booking around him, and a couple of marquee feuds, Nese’s push could end up being something that could pay dividends for years to come. It’s up to management to recognize the potential, and make a much-needed new star for the Cruiserweight Division.
10. Rusev (Buried)
Ever since his last United States Title reign, Rusev has been knocked down the roster on a consistent basis, and it’s looking like he may not be with the company much longer. He has a throwback gimmick, and his heel tactics don’t lend themselves to much variation with booking. So while he’s been involved in some notable feuds, and is a better worker than many give him credit for, the fact is that Rusev just isn’t varied enough as a character to sustain long-term main event status.
It’s probably the best thing for his career to take a step back. Being buried on WWE for the rest of his days in the wrestling business is selling short what he could be able to accomplish elsewhere. He’s ready-made for a run in Japan, and would fit quite well in NJPW, and their penchant for pushing his style of wrestler. For 2018 in WWE though, he looks to be on the outs.
9. Jason Jordan (Pushed)
Everyone knows this one is coming. Jordan has been getting a lot of air-time lately in the Kurt Angle storyline, and seems primed for a heel turn at the start of the new year. After the disbanding of American Alpha, he’s really come into his own as a singles wrestler, and clearly has the kind of natural talent that can carry him for a long time.
Quietly, he’s become one of the true rising WWE stars over the past few months. He’ll need some good booking to truly ascend to the next level, but that seems imminent at this point, and if he makes a full heel turn, he could be a headlining star in no time. There’s a lot to like about Jordan, and his future with the company.
8. Shinsuke Nakamura (Buried)
All of Nakamura’s title opportunities have been thwarted since entering the company earlier this year, and it’s a tremendous misuse of such a renowned international talent. Not that we should be surprised, because WWE has a history of mishandling international wrestlers, going back for the last 30 years or so. Perhaps Nakamura was never going to become a top-flight star in WWE, but he should at least be given the opportunity to have classic matches, and feuds that aren’t random or disjointed.
At this point, it’s unlikely that we see Nakamura get another title shot for the rest of his time with the company. This was clearly viewed as some kind of cross-promotional roster addition on WWE’s part, and little else. It’s a shame really, because Nakamura has proven to be one of the best wrestlers in the world, but it just wasn’t in the cards here.
7. The Shield (Pushed)
In one of the biggest WWE storylines over the past half of the year, The Shield’s reformation has been a point of intrigue and speculation as to what will happen going forward. Although Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose’s tag title reign has ended, you can bet that they’re going to get another shot, as they’ve been a pick-me-up for what has been a struggling tag division as a whole.
Exactly how far they’ll go is up for debate, but this is a move that’s been able to clear some space in the singles ranks, while simultaneously not burying Ambrose and Rollins. It’s a remarkably savvy move by WWE management, showing they can still manage personnel adequately if they want to. They’ll probably be one of the most pushed tag teams in 2018, as The Shield reunion continues on in full force.
6. Samoa Joe (Buried)
In a way, Joe was always being used as enhancement talent from the moment he signed with WWE. He’s closing in on 40-years-old, and if they wanted him to hold any kind of a title, they would have already made the move. There’s no question that Joe’s top-notch reputation has allowed him to be used as a renowned opponent to up-and-coming WWE stars, but there’s only so long you can have him keep losing matches and maintain legitimacy. Ultimately, if there are no plans to elevate him, he’ll have to moved soon.
Don’t be surprised if Joe gets cut from WWE all together next year, or goes back down to NXT in some capacity. He isn’t in the position to make a title run, and the prime of his career is essentially over.
5. Paige (Pushed)
The past year has seen tumultuous times in Paige’s career. Since the middle of 2016, she’s dealt with multiple infractions of the WWE Wellness Policy, as well as suffering injuries that have kept her out of action. She’s been recently cleared to return to the wrestling ring, but WWE hasn’t made the move to bring her back yet. At the same time, they haven’t released her either. This indicates that 2018 is looking like the year that Paige returns to WWE.
If she does, there’s no doubt that she’ll be pushed to the top of a very competitive Women’s Division; one that looks very much different from the time that she left. It would be a captivating storyline, and Paige is still extremely young at the age of 25, that a return doesn’t have to be rushed. When it does happen, likely next year, it should be planned out perfectly, garnering a ton of attention.
4. Sami Zayn (Buried)
This is another veteran wrestler who’s worked in a ton of different promotions that has a cap on how much he can achieve in WWE. It would have been interesting to see Zayn with the company five or so years before he signed, but a this point he’s not much more than a veteran talent that is going to be used to get younger wrestlers over.
His recent heel turn isn’t going to really change this. It merely alters the list of wrestlers that Zayn will be used to put over, in some degree or another. His work as El Generico on the Indie scene will always stand the test of time, but he was never the right fit for the WWE way of doing things, and signed when he was squarely out of his prime.
3. Braun Strowman (Pushed)
WWE has always loved their powerhouses. If Strowman qualifies as anything as a wrestler, it’s exactly that. He’s a physical specimen, and there’s no two ways about it. Predictably, he’s risen through the ranks in a very short time with WWE, and only figures to grow ever more in the coming years. They keep putting him in high-profile situations, and that’s a clear indication that they’re high on him for the long-term.
Again, this isn’t a surprise. WWE will likely use Strowman as their next heavyweight monster that can come in to any situation and automatically clean house. It’s a necessary position to fill, but how we will fare when he inevitably gets a major title reign? That is up for debate, and remains inconclusive. We’ll likely find out sometime in 2018.
2. Brock Lesnar (Buried)
The on-and-off appearances that Lesnar has been accumulating for a while now are about to come to an end. He’s currently the Universal Champion, that is true, but there’s a time limit on how long he’s going to hold the title. There is no long-term viability for Lesnar anymore. He’s an aging talent that was always more of an attraction than a wrestler, anyway.
Ostensibly, Strowman is the one who’s going to take his place in the company. He’s essentially a carbon copy of Lesnar in terms of his character makeup, and is younger to boot. Overall, there’s just not much reason to keep having Lesnar be an integral part of the company. Expect a departure in 2018, this time for good.
1. Finn Balor (Pushed)
Now fully recovered, Balor is once again gaining traction as one of the premier wrestlers in the company right now. It’s taken some time to get him up to speed again, and build him up as a legitimate draw, given all the time he had off because of his injury. It’s been successful though, and Balor has had a string of pay-per-view victories that has set him up for another main event run in 2018.
It’s a good move, and just about everyone wants to see it. Balor has one of the best characters in the company at the moment, and he would have been pushed through the roof initially, had he not suffered the injury at SummerSlam 2016. Regardless, we’re going to see the same thing soon, and don’t be surprised if he gets at least one reign with the Universal Title in 2018, along with some marquee feuds.
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