After WrestleMania 34, the rest of 2018 is going to be monumental. Seriously, there are signs that WWE is in for their most important year since quite a while. Not only will it be an important year for WWE but professional wrestling as a whole is about to embark on a truly interesting and industry-changing period. Nothing this important has happened since WCW and ECW closed down in 2001.
Whether these changes are good or bad for wrestling will be anyone’s guess. Most likely, some will be great for wrestling whereas others will be terrible. One thing is for sure though, wrestling is in its hottest period in over a decade and a half and there are no signs that will slow down anytime soon.
One of the themes which kept popping up while researching this article is that WWE faces more competition now than ever before. Granted, they are in a far better position to deal with competition now than they were when Ted Turner ran WCW. WWE has enough money that it would take something truly disastrous to cause them to go out of business (such things happen, however) but all the same, WWE will face more competition in 2018 than they have since they won the Monday Night War. Here are 15 which will dramatically change WWE after WrestleMania 34.
15. Main Roster Superstars to NXT
Late last year, Triple H told NBC Sports that we might see more WWE main roster Superstars sent to NXT in the near future. The idea here would be to give developmental prospects more veterans to work with and also give main roster Superstars who have grown stale a chance to freshen up their character.
We have previously seen this in the past with wrestlers such as Cesaro and Tyson Kidd going down to the yellow brand but it has been awhile since it occurred. Dolph Ziggler is a likely candidate to be sent down to NXT. Considering the amount of time he is spent on the main roster and how stale his character is feeling these days, it could be beneficial for Ziggler to spend some time in development. It would also be beneficial for the young trainees who would then get to train with him. The brand can also serve a purpose for injured wrestlers getting eased back into WWE programming.
14. Brock Lesnar Leaves WWE for UFC
Granted, we have seen this scenario play out before. Brock Lesnar gets down to the last few months of his current deal with WWE and all of a sudden the rumors start circulating that he could return to the UFC. It’s easy to assume those rumors have been planted by Lesnar’s team (cough* Paul Heyman cough) but that’s what many thought last time and it turned out not to be the case.
Lesnar picked WWE over UFC in his last contract negotiations but would later regret it. He then somehow got Vince McMahon to approve him returning to fight at UFC 200 despite being under contract to WWE at the time. Now over 40, and still having to sit out the remainder of a USADA suspension, Lesnar’s last gasp for more MMA glory is going to have to come soon if it ever is to come again at all.
13. Improved Cruiserweight Division With Triple H In Charge
A recent breaking story, Vince McMahon is letting go of 205 Live and giving the reigns to Triple H behind the scenes. Vince has stepped down and as of the writing, Hunter is now in charge of the program. That alone is huge and a big step towards the re-launch of the brand.
2017 was a rough year for the Cruiserweight division. First, they lost Austin Aries shortly after WrestleMania, then they gained Enzo and lost Neville, and then they lost Enzo as well. It’s gone about as poorly as could possibly be imagined.
Yet, there is reason to believe 205 Live will become a great show. The division has several new stars debuting lately who have potential to become major players in the division. Roderick Strong, Tyler Bate, and Hideo Itami are all very talented wrestlers who have been featured in the Cruiserweight division as of late. Originals, such as Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali have also turned up their game as of late. Expect the purple brand to become a popular show for pure wrestling fans as 2018 rolls on.
12. Final Deletion Style Segments
While some fans are growing impatient at the pace of which Matt Hardy’s storylines are developing in WWE, Hardy has assured the WWE Universe that “Final Deletion” style matches and segments will debut in WWE later this year. It’s possible we see the first one at WrestleMania but that’s purely speculation.
For those who have never seen them, the “Broken” Matt Hardy universe matches from Impact Wrestling are unlike anything ever in wrestling. The closest comparison would be Lucha Underground, which has similar elements of the supernatural. Lucha Underground is far less silly than what the Hardy family puts out, however. Many felt what Hardy was doing in Impact Wrestling was revolutionary (or entertaining, at least) and hope to see it continue in WWE. It seems likely the Matt Hardy versus Bray Wyatt rivalry is concluded with such a match.
11. Vince McMahon Focused on Football
While the XFL won’t debut until 2020, some are wondering how much time Vince McMahon will take away from WWE to work on his new football project.
It’s tough to know what impact Vince’s new company will have on the current WWE product. Some feel Vince being away will have a massive impact on WWE programming and will lead to increased influence from Triple H. Despite being Vince McMahon’s son-in-law, Triple H has a more old-school and traditional style of wrestling booking than Vince does, as evidenced by his work with NXT. Some feel that Triple H would be an improvement over Vince McMahon and are looking forward to him having more creative control.
Others say that Vince won’t decrease the time he works on WWE, however, and that nothing at all will change in WWE as a result of the XFL. We’ll see how this one plays out.
Triple H has made no secret that he feels Ricochet is a can’t miss addition to his NXT. Expect him to be put in a position to shine on TakeOver events for the rest of the year, at least.
What might disappoint some initially is that we are not going to get the Ricochet we’ve seen in New Japan Pro Wrestling or from Lucha Underground. WWE’s developmental program will want him to tone his style down considerably. He’ll be given long matches, however, with plenty of time to have amazing matches. Imagine Ricochet against Adam Cole or Aleister Black? He’ll still do all his amazing moves, it’s just Triple H will make sure he does them when it matters most.
Another idea as it relates to Ricochet is the possibility of having him compete on 205 Live. With all the recent additions to that brand, he could have some pretty great matches there as well.
9. Lengthy Roman Reigns Title Run
Brace yourselves. The time is now for the lengthy Roman Reigns Universal Championship run that Vince McMahon has been building towards for years. Reigns is his chosen guy and he’s going to get him over no matter how much the fans boo him.
If the rumors are true and Roman Reigns is to wrestle and defeat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, it means he’ll be champion for an extended amount of time. Vince is out of monsters to feed him, Reigns will have defeated them all. The Roman-haters might choose to think optimistically and that maybe this year is sink or swim for Roman. Perhaps if he really isn’t able to replace John Cena, they will try going with someone else. Seems unlikely, however. That title will be on Reigns for a long time in 2018 as it stands.
8. Part-Time John Cena
After WrestleMania, we won’t see much of John Cena for a while. He’s got some projects in Hollywood he wants to work on and now in his 40s, he’s looking to reduce his schedule further. This means a lot of things, obviously. Cena has occupied the most visible spot on the roster for the last decade plus. In recent years, he’s been sharing that spotlight more and more with Roman Reigns and now that Cena is moving into a more part-time position, Reigns is supposed to be the next in line at the top of the pecking order.
Even less Cena means there’s another top babyface spot available. This opens the door for someone like Finn Balor or A.J. Styles to be featured in more prominently. Less John Cena might not be best for business but it’s a dilemma the WWE will face following WrestleMania.
7. Triple H Gains Backstage Power
Triple H and Vince McMahon have different takes when it comes to the WWE product. Vince McMahon is the king of sports entertainment but Triple H is more of a traditional wrestling guy. He grew up idolizing Ric Flair and was trained by Killer Kowalski. His wrestling influence is evident in NXT, which seems to be booked with a much more traditional style than what is shown on the main roster.
With Vince McMahon spending less time concentrating on WWE in 2018, perhaps we’ll see more Triple H-styled booking on the main roster. This would mean more tournaments, less backstage skits and more real life characters – an approach more geared towards die-hard wrestling fans rather than casual ones. Again, if Vince is to focus more on the XFL, expect Hunter to grow in power.
6. Daniel Bryan Leaves to Wrestle Again
This is a tough one. If Bryan is healthy enough to continue wrestling like he says he is, then maybe it’s good he wrestles again if that’s what he wants to do. On the other hand, if it isn’t safe for him to wrestle, then let’s hope he doesn’t end up doing so. It’s really tough to know what to think of the idea that Bryan will leave WWE to go wrestle somewhere else.
Ring of Honor has said that they would welcome him back with open arms but they didn’t say if it would be as a wrestler or on-air personality. Bryan has admitted to having had seizures which were later deemed to have been related to head trauma. It doesn’t sound like something WWE will ever be okay with Daniel returning. Later this year, it’s going to be interesting to see what Bryan ends up doing. We expect a clearer path on his future once WrestleMania passes.
5. Ronda Rousey in WWE Full-Time
While her definition of full-time might differ slightly from others, Ronda Rousey is in WWE and working on what appears to be a part-timers schedule (for now). Anytime she’s on the-screen means good things for WWE.
Rousey is a mainstream media star. She’s the biggest mainstream star they have signed to the company right now. Rousey will help WWE reach audiences they haven’t been able to reach. People who have never watched wrestling before but love Ronda Rousey are going to tune in, along from other exposure from sporting stations and entertainment tabloids as well. It will also place a huge spotlight on women’s wrestling, something the women’s roster is ready for. No matter what one’s opinion on how and when she pointed at the WrestleMania sign, Ronda Rousey in WWE creates tremendous opportunity.
4. More Indie Connections
WWE has been doing something in recent years that they generally stay away from, helping other promotions. In the past, WWE has developed relationships with organizations such as ECW, but that hasn’t been the case since they invested so much into their own developmental program, however. There are signs this is changing though.
WWE has agreements with several independent promotions, such as EVOLVE and various European promoters who keep Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate wrestling a regular schedule. Expect more of these relationships to develop on an international basis. If WWE wants to gain a foothold in some of the hot international markets, then they’re going to need help on the ground. That’s where local promoters come in. Expect more of that in 2018 with the WWE constantly on the hunt to expand.
3. UK Division Finally Gets Their Own Show
It’s going to happen, it just hasn’t happened as quickly as many fans would like. What WWE won’t be quick to bring up in regards to this division, is that they were forced to act quicker on it than they wanted. Local promoters were looking as though they could create real competition for Vince later, so WWE jumped the gun a little locking up talent. As a result, they have guys like Oney Lorcan, Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, and more signed to contracts with no real division for them to compete in.
2018 was a more realistic target for WWE to get their UK division started in a more structured format. Expect that to be what happens with the division later in the year. There’s just too much excitement about wrestling in the United Kingdom right now for WWE to drop the ball on this.
2. Women’s Wrestling Gets Major Push
In 2018, expect WWE to try and get as much women’s wrestling on-air . The belief in the company right now is that their biggest mainstream star, Ronda Rousey, is going to be competing in the women’s division so it only makes sense to center their programming more so around it. This is something that has been building in the promotion for the last few years. Possibly in anticipation of the megastar coming to their company, WWE has done a lot to increase the number of women on their rosters and improve the quality of matches performed by those women in recent years.
There is enough talent now in these divisions that they can be occupying three or even four matches per show. That’s what WWE will need to do to show that the Women’s Titles are now on-par with the men’s.
1. Expiring TV Contract Implications
WWE’s television contract expires in 2019 which means they will be in negotiations for a new deal starting later this year. To ensure their company gets the best deal they possibly can get, expect Vince McMahon and WWE to go all out for the remainder of the year to ensure that ratings are high.
A Vince McMahon program that is motivated by ratings is a big win for the WWE Universe. We’ve all seen what Vince McMahon can do when he’s motivated to boost ratings in the short-term. This is the guy who won the Monday Night War despite having less money to compete with Ted Turner for talent.
Rumors are WWE plans to negotiate not only with the USA Network but also with Fox Sports, Amazon and even Facebook as different types of companies are now looking to acquire content rights.
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