The landscape of WWE right now is one where a lot of change could be taking place rather quickly. Coming off a year where there was no shortage of debate centered around the storylines and personnel of the company, more of the same is on the horizon for 2018. Ultimately, WWE is a large enough entity that it would take a lot to sway a lot of its consumption for the immediate future, but the long-term implications are a bit more complicated.
Who is pushed now, who departs and enters the company, and what decisions will be made will all go along way to establishing a successful year, or potentially constructing a bad one. So much is in play right now, with so many rumors floating about, that it's difficult to get a read on any situation. We can guarantee however that the results, no matter what happens, will effect the company going forward. WWE has set themselves up so that they aren't going to be in jeopardy in the event of a single-year failure, but they still ave a lot they can achieve if they play their cards right in the near future.
Ranked below are 10 major things we predict will happen in WWE in 2018, and 5 that will happen in 2019.
17 2018: The Undertaker Will Be Seen For The Last Time
We all thought 'Taker was going to hang it up for good after WrestleMania last year, but that hasn't been the case. He made a notable appearance at Raw 25, giving a rather confusing promo that leaves his future in doubt. It may not have been the most fitting way for him to go out, with the end of the 'Mania match last year as a far more ideal sendoff, but it seems that may be what we're looking at.
It wouldn't be a total shock to see him wrestle one more match at WrestleMania, though it would be kind of redundant. Whether or not Raw 25 proves to be 'Taker's last WWE appearance or not, there's little doubt that he'll retire in full by the end of 2018. Perhaps the end to a career with this amount of clout should have been better thought out, but lo and behold, here we are.
16 2018: The Cruiserweight Division Is Disbanded
The big relaunch of the Cruiserweight division by way of 205 Live hasn't seen the success that many thought it would. There's enough sheer talent in the division to be sure, but the booking, storylines and presentation of the whole thing has been sub-par to say the least. A lot of the individual wrestlers should still be retained, just incorporated into Raw and SmackDown Live more often instead of shoehorning them into a B-show.
WWE and cruiserweight-based wrestling were never really on the up-and-up. It failed before, because the company didn't want to sacrifice anything for match quality, which is the best way to get a division like this over. Unfortunately, the Cruiserweight reboot was a complete failure, and the division should be officially scrapped sometime in 2018.
15 2019: Talent Exchange With New Japan
With New Japan Pro Wrestling emerging as one of the top competitors to WWE, and far and away as the most popular promotion in Japan, don't rule out the possibility of a working relationship between the two companies. Some may say that it isn't possible, but WWE has set a precedent for working with competitors to combine their talent.
They did with ECW in the late-'90s, and they've brought some notable wrestlers from Japan over for a run before as well. So as much as WWE can seem like an isolated promotion most of the time, that's actually a little misleading. With New Japan on the rise as potentially the second-biggest promotion in the world, by 2019 WWE should be ready to work with them in some capacity.
14 2018: Shinsuke Nakamura Will Win The WWE Title
It's almost shocking that WWE made the right booking decision here, having Nakamura win the Royal Rumble, sending him to WrestleMania to face A.J. Styles for the title. Not only does it promise to be one of the absolute best WrestleMania matches in history, it's a well-deserved push for Nakamura himself, as he has been one of the best wrestlers in the world for a long time now.
It's all shaping up for him to go over at the biggest event of the year. Even if this is indeed Nakamura's only title reign in WWE, it shows that the modern version of the company is willing to buck their traditional booking tendencies, and put an international talent on top. Nakamura should be one of the most unique WWE Champions in history, if he does indeed win the title, and that's a good thing for everyone involved.
12 2018: Daniel Bryan Leaves
Bryan's contract with WWE is up later this year, and he's already stated that he'd like to leave the company if they refuse to clear him to wrestle once again. It's tough to blame his competitive nature. Bryan was one of the best in-ring performers of his generation, before injuries forced him into an early retirement. While he's been suitable in other on-screen roles since his departure from in-ring action, there's little question why he would want to wrestle once again.
It just seems unlikely that WWE is going to clear him to do so. With all of the narratives surrounding sports injuries today, it really wouldn't be in their best interest to risk this. Ultimately, Bryan probably leaves the company to work some high-profile Indy shows, or maybe even make an appearance in NJPW.
11 2019: Conor McGregor Debuts
A certified attention-seeker like McGregor can only stave off rumors and requests to go to WWE (while dissing WWE and its wrestlers) for so long before he caves. The pairing is a perfect match for the kind of bombast that is intended to happen with these kinds of appearances. McGregor, at the end of the day, is an entertainer, so why not go to the one wrestling promotion who values sheer entertainment over everything else?
It's bound to happen sooner or later. It would benefit both sides, and although there may be some initial reluctance, the payoff is to great to turn it down. McGregor will hold off for another year, but by 2019, expect the wheels to start turning on this, and for him to at least make one appearance in a WWE ring.
10 2018: Ronda Rousey Wins A Title
The speculation for months leading up to Rousey's WWE debut turned out to be entirely correct. It's official; she's signed with the company, and will be a full-time WWE performer, in lieu of making a comeback attempt at MMA. In a lot of instances, this wouldn't be a good move, but Rousey's love for the business has been made public on many occasions, and if she's all-in, there's a good chance she can succeed.
Naturally, she's going to win a Women's Title in due time, probably sometime later in the year. She's a full-fledged star with tons of crossover appeal, and ultimately, that will carry her through to a decent title reign no matter what happens. How quickly her in-ring ability can improve is the question, but she'll get a lot of leeway to succeed here, because of her name value alone.
9 2018: Brock Lesnar Won't Wrestle Another Match After Losing The Universal Title
In what has been a painfully long title reign, Lesnar retained the Universal Championship yet again at the Royal Rumble, defeating Braun Strowman and Kane. This really has gone on long enough, and each month that Lesnar retains the title at a major show, it just decreases the credibility of the belt. And it's a belt that needed to cultivate a prestige, being a new championship that was added to the ranks relatively recently.
Lesnar's shtick has grown stale, and it must be dawning on him that he's at the end of the line in wrestling. He's done everything there is to do, his matches aren't good anymore, and he has a one-dimensional character that has been played out. For the sake of the Universal Title and its future, we should all hope that Lesnar decides to call it quits for good this time. All things considered, it makes a lot of sense for 2018 to be the last year he steps in a wrestling ring.
8 2019: Kenny Omega Makes The Jump
The biggest American-born wrestling star in the world right now to have never wrestled in a WWE ring, Omega will eventually cave to the pressure. It likely won't be in 2018, given that he's still a top talent in NJPW, and still has to win the IWGP Heavyweight Title, but you'd have to think that a move to the biggest company in the world is going to come at some point.
Sometime in the next year, it's likely that Omega is booked to win the IWGP Heavyweight Title, and get a fairly significant run with it. After that concludes, he won't have much left to prove in NJPW, setting himself up for a WWE run. Some believe that Omega has sworn off the prospect of appearing in WWE entirely, but much like it was for A.J. Styles a few years ago, the allure is likely going to be too great to pass up.
7 2018: Asuka Wins The Women's Title
The first Women's Royal Rumble was a huge hit this year, and with Asuka coming away as the victor, it's difficult to see how she doesn't get a long reign with the Women's Title. She's been building momentum for months on the main roster, and has an extremely impressive resume outside of WWE. Without a doubt, she deserves a chance as a main-eventer in the company.
WrestleMania is when we'll likely see the title change take place, pitting Asuka against Charlotte, despite the fact they're currently on different brands. It's shaping up to be one of the better women's matches of the last several years, and a match worthy of such a high-profile event. Asuka's time has come to lead the Women's Division in 2018. WWE is making the right call on this one for sure.
5 2018: Braun Strowman Wins A Major Title
It's only a matter of time before Strowman's push goes the distance, and he's able to capture a major title in the WWE ranks. There's been too much of his involvement, and too much stock put into his character for there not to be a payoff at the end of it, and when it's all said and done, he'll probably be holding the Universal Title at some point in 2018.
Not only would it get the belt off the over-the-hill and disinterested Brock Lesnar, but it could take Strowman's character in a new direction as well. Though WWE has consistently had someone play the "maniacal powerhouse" character in just about every era of the company, Strowman's version of it seems to have more depth. They need to give him a title run to see just how high his ceiling is as a main-event talent.
4 2019: Shane And Stephanie Go Off-Screen
For a while, we had all of the McMahon family playing somewhat prominent on-screen roles with the company. It's understandable, and they've filled much needed roles in that realm before. But with Vince getting older, and also taking on the project of Alpha Entertainment, coinciding with the relaunch of the XFL, it wouldn't be surprising to see Shane and Stephanie take more backstage-oriented roles.
They'll be the ones, along with Triple H, needing to run the company after Vince retires for good. Full on-screen roles while simultaneously doing so aren't impossible, they just aren't conducive to the greatest amount of success. At some point in a year or so, the appearances of the younger McMahons on WWE broadcasts should be sporadic, not the norm.
3 2018: A.J. Styles Leaves
Styles finally made the jump to WWE late in his career, and he's seen much success in a relatively short amount of time with the company. This should come as no surprise, as he's been one of the top wrestlers in the world for over a decade now, and has succeeded all over the world. It would seem as if his time is coming an end with WWE however, as Styles ascended so quickly through the ranks and is now left without much to do.
With the impending match against Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania, Styles will most likely be booked to lose the title. This would set up an obvious exit time from the company, at least temporarily. Styles has been nomadic for his entire career, wrestling in a bevy of different promotions, and there's little reason to believe he's changed his philosophy. Consider him a candidate for departure late in the year.
2 2018: The Big Show Will Retire
Having suffered numerous injury over the past few years, it's amazing that Show is still able to get in the ring at all, considering his age. He's been one of the foremost stars in the company for a long time now, and although his usage has decreased in recent years, he's still over with the fans without a doubt. This would seem like an ideal year for him to bow out of WWE all together.
Perhaps it happens at WrestleMania, or at a later point in the year, but Show deserves a sendoff match at a major show. He's earned the right to go out with some fanfare, and even if it won't end up being one of his better matches, it'll still be a proper farewell to one of the best and most notable WWE stars of the last 20 years.
1 2019: The Company Will Be Sold
This has been buzzing around as a rumor for a while now, and while it's tough to say it is legitimate possibility, one can't help but think that there's an outside chance it happens in the next few years. Vince is getting older now, and presumably interested in other avenues of promotion other than wrestling. Case in point, he sold $100 million in WWE shares to fund Alpha Entertainment. At the very least, he wants his reach to be longer than just wrestling.
So how crazy would it be if the McMahons (and Triple H) wanted to sell the company to a new majority owner? No doubt it would be an absolutely massive deal, and there would be some changes to come with the new ownership, but functionally it still could mean a similar WWE product to what we've been seeing in recent years. Anything could happen, depending on the buyer, but it wouldn't necessarily mean the company would be doomed for a massive change.
So we'll just have to wait and see. But it wouldn't be a total shock if Stephanie and Shane didn't want to continue running such a monumental and important company for the rest of their lives.