Too often the fans' hopes for WWE run up against the wall of Vince McMahon's plans, leaving both parties disappointed. But, sometimes everyone is on the same page and it's all fried gold until dawn. Being a WWE fan is very much a rollercoaster of emotions, and here we're examining the rumors that have us either dreading or salivating for the future.
Raw and SmackDown are barreling towards the middle of the calendar year with Money In The Bank and SummerSlam already closing in, and big changes come with those big events. The dual-branded philosophy has forced changes across the board, with lower-tier acts now much farther from getting their chance to shine on PPV. This change is the one that makes the least sense, but it's already happened so we're delving into the rest of the fallout from that decision along with all the other rumors, scuttlebutt, and whisperings about WWE's imminent future.
Fans often hope directly against the direction WWE seems to be going, such as last year when Jinder Mahal's WWE title run was a constant source of misery and bad television almost the entire run. On the flip side, it gave us AJ Styles' epic WWE Championship win in Manchester that led to a dream match between The Phenomenal One and The Beast Brock Lesnar, so swings and roundabouts. Buckle up as we take the bend because we're getting into the rumored highs and lows on the horizon.
16 Hope Isn't - Bobby Lashley Vs Brock Lesnar Cancelled
So far the Bobby Lashley return on Raw has been so oddly botched that it boggles the mind. Someone who proved in Impact Wrestling that he can be a show-stealing world champion level guy has been little more than a sideshow as Roman, Strowman, and Lesnar all make him seem inconsequential. That is precisely the opposite of what we're hoping for given the rumors of a Lesnar SummerSlam match that were floating around recently, so fingers crossed WWE is just in a holding pattern for now until Bobby's true course is set on the main event. The Dominator has had precious few moments of personality since returning to a decently positive reaction the night after WrestleMania.
Whether WWE is keeping him stagnant on purpose until they spring him into action is debatable since Lashley is the wrong side of 40 and waiting with him isn't really an option they can utilize. Lashley has an impressive 15-2 record in MMA, mostly in the reputable Bellator promotion, so a 'superfight' against UFC's former biggest draw in Lesnar is a no-brainer that WWE would be crazy to let slip through its fingers. Here's hoping that between Lesnar's WWE and UFC duties they find time to have this sleeper dream match within a WWE ring.
15 Hope Is True - Ronda Rousey's SummerSlam Singles Match
Ronda Rousey may have stated that she wanted to have a normal WWE contract and to not be handed anything, but she's been sparingly seen since WrestleMania and clearly WWE is taking great care not to screw up her progress with fans. Her WrestleMania match exceeded all expectations by being thoroughly entertaining with Rousey herself showing great skills for her experience level, but since then they've hesitated. It appears that's because her first milestone as a single's competitor is being held back for another big stage. That stage being the midyear extravaganza, SummerSlam, which is advertised as the second most prestigious event on WWE's calendar year.
Rumor is that Rousey's involvement with Natalya is not just a reflection of their training partnership outside the ring but a harbinger of their coming animosity when Nattie turns on Rousey down the line.
While Natalya has a rough record portraying a compelling character, her one shining strength is taking someone inexperienced to a better than good match. She did it with Charlotte Flair in NXT and if the match is anywhere in that ballpark, Rousey will have again impressed WWE fans beyond expectations. There will be a few tag team matches between now and then, but pencil in SummerSlam for the first dose of solo rowdiness.
14 Hope Isn't True - The Good Brothers Are Not So Good To AJ
We saw a sign of this a few weeks back when Karl Anderson threw himself in the way of AJ copping another of Shinsuke Nakamura's Kinshasa attacks, and then AJ wasn't able to do the same in Karl's defense. The only reason plausible for the Good Brothers/The Club hopping back and forth from Raw to SmackDown like they've done since arriving is to feed into storylines with both Finn Balor and AJ Styles as a legacy of their Bullet Club heritage. While some may say it's a waste of Karl Anderson being in the best shape of his life while also an underutilized talent, the tandem seems extremely superfluous without their former leaders involved, and this may be the one shot they got to break free of that. Not only will turning on their former leader AJ Styles give them some direction but it will bring another heel team to SmackDown's tag division, and perhaps even allow more members to become 'Good Brothers' in a quasi-Bullet Club form within WWE's control.
WWE figures AJ Styles is going to need feuds when he eventually drops the WWE title, since he's unlikely to hold it right throughout the year, and Gallows and Anderson provide the foil for AJ to move his focus away from the championship without seeming like WWE is sidelining him. Fans may not wish AJ away from the title picture, but WWE has plans and often steamrolls towards them regardless.
13 Hope Is True - Drew McIntyre - Main Eventer
Vince McMahon proclaimed Drew McIntyre the 'Chosen One' and a future WWE world champion back during his first under-performing stint in the company, but now everyone and their dog is calling for Drew to finally ascend to that lofty perch. Hall of Famers like DDP and Stone Cold Steve Austin are singing his praises as a believable, intense performer with the look WWE wants in their marquee names, and fans are quickly gravitating towards him due to those same qualities along with a very engaging character and presence. Suffice to say, Dolp Ziggler's rapid improvement is a distant second concern next to McIntyre's potential to become everything he wasn't the first time.
Every indication we've gotten so far is that WWE is testing to see whether his rejuvenated persona that he cultivated outside of the company translates to the bright lights back in WWE and nothing so far has gone amiss.
His NXT run was solid if brief and his Raw partnership is paying dividends early, so it's not out of the question to see McIntyre figuring big in upcoming plans, even by the end of the year. From his redone entrance music, to his brutish look and gruff promos the man is giving himself the best chance possible to be a top champion and fans are quickly sharing that hope.
12 Hope Isn't True - Rusev Day Splits
It's been a revelation born from a random pairing, and sometimes that's what it takes to break through in WWE (see: New Age Outlaws). Rusev's simmering fan support burst forth when Aiden English was allowed to bolster it with his melodious introductions and since then fans have tried to support the team whether WWE tries to short-circuit that momentum or not.
It seems that WWE is now going to break them away from each other to further spite the audience and return Rusev to Lana and Aiden English to obscurity, a baffling decision that fans are against.
While Rusev certainly had fans waiting for any chance to cheer him when this tandem came along, English has been the member of the team to actually add more to the association, his legitimate singing skills utterly unique among the WWE fraternity.
Hopefully, the imminent split is a stepping stone for English to better things, as Rusev's victory over Daniel Bryan hopefully is for him, but fans will still mourn the loss of this odd team that provides so much effortlessly entertaining enjoyment. Rusev Day isn't over yet though, and while the pair continues the WWE fans can hope both men end up on their feet.
11 Hope Is True - Andrade 'Cien' Almas - SmackDown Sensation
For those who saw Andrade 'Cien' Almas in NXT, you can only hope the sky is the limit when he breaks onto the SmackDown scene. He's been kept quiet in his early tenure, not even appearing on the blue brand the first few weeks after moving in the Superstar Shakeup, with Zelina Vega putting out some selfie videos in place of the man himself. As of this writing, he is less than a week away from his Smackdown debut, and the one phrase that has been consistently associated with him coming up, even back throughout his NXT tenure, is 'WWE wants him to be their Latino star'.
Almas has everything in his arsenal to be the big Latino hit that Alberto Del Rio wasn't able to be and WWE have sought for since Rey Mysterio's full-time run ended. Andrade Almas has an irresistible swagger to him that perfectly compliments his level of in-ring acumen. He has a hybrid fighting style few can match along with the intensity and look to doubly ensnare fans new and old. Zelina Vega has been a vital ingredient to his success and presuming WWE don't 'Ellering' the two upon his debut, she could be the next great female manager after Sunny. NXT fans who know their work are ripe to be excited, and unfamiliar fans will quickly be singing his praises if designs go swimmingly.
10 Hope Isn't True - Braun Strowman Going Soft
The early signs of it are there with Strowman suddenly going back on his established 'destroy everything in my way' modus operandi and becoming randomly buddy-buddy with Bobby Lashley and more bizarrely Roman Reigns. Apparently, Braun is 'finished with' Roman now as the only acknowledgment of their previous destructive feud was a small nod that was absolutely missable if you hadn't already fallen asleep during Roman's interminable entrance saunter when they tagged together. The next week, when he told a bizarre story about murdering a bunch of kids in a treehouse, it was terribly reminiscent of Roman's phase where he spoke in nursery rhymes, and it's got to stop before it does lasting damage.
Between Braun's 'friendly monster' display at WrestleMania with Nicholas and this worrying trend now developing, fans are rightly concerned that Braun's appeal is going to be diluted. The formula for Braun has been so simple and well executed these last two years that it seems willfully dumb for WWE to try to mess with it, but mess with it they shall. In much the same way that many fans wanted Strowman to win the Universal championship last year while he was still a ferocious monster, they could sour on him as he suddenly becomes a happy-go-lucky, playful monster who's 'just having fun'.
9 Hope Is True - Women's Tag Team Championships
The Women's divisions on both shows are finding out that even with added depth, there are precious few segments that are available to be filled. We've had a massive amount of women's tag team matches with this influx of talent and the rumor mill is spinning that the result of this eventuality is that a championship is in the works to cater to the tag format of professional wrestling. There are already multiple viable tag teams waiting to be crowned and as NXT pumps out more stars of varying levels of entertainment and wrestling ability, a secondary title will further enhance the female landscape in WWE.
The IIconics would be the likely first champions for such a title, their long-established chemistry has translated well to the main SmackDown Live roster, and they would have a strong lineup of challengers for the gold. Natalya and Ronda Rousey have been shown as friends and could even beat The IIconics to the gold if WWE wants to immortalize Ronda as an inaugural champion. The Bella Twins are always circling. Any combination of the Four Horsewomen is viable. The former Absolution. The Riott Squad. Tamina & Lana. Mickie James and Alexa Bliss. It's a surprisingly stacked division and fans would dig on more gold for the women's revolution.
8 Hope Isn't True - Randy Orton Heel Turn
The man himself may enjoy it more, and some fans consider him a far better heel than a face, but that's not the opinion of this article. Randy Orton as a rogue neutral force is his best version, RKOing faces and heels alike with no clear indication of who could be in his crosshairs next. Randy Orton's version of a heel is long, boring matches where his offense slows down to a snail's pace and he pulls a poor man's imitation of 'crazy' in the same vein that Mick Foley maligned years ago. When he went with his Mankind performance he specifically skipped all the grimacing and head grabbing 'lunacy' that is a staple of Orton's heel leanings and we've already seen it a thousand times anyway.
Despite that opinion, the current indications are that Randy will trend towards the heel side as a result of being paired across from Jeff Hardy in the United States Championship scene, leading to him reverting to his favored but futile heelish brooding. Randy Orton should realize that even as a face he plays essentially a heel who just hates everybody, and that's more compelling and versatile a persona. He recently explained some solid logic on why he and Jeff Hardy were 'cool' with one another, then ended up RKOing him anyway. It was great, and it would be lost with generic heel writing if he went back to the dark side officially.
7 Hope Is True - Cruiserweight Tag Team Championships
For a lot of the same reasons as the introduction of women's tag team titles would work, the cruiserweight division is stacked with performers who would excel given a tag championship to contend over. The cruiserweights may not be taking off among casual fans, and they've essentially stopped appearing on Monday Night Raw, unfortunately, but the talent in that division is so stacked with exemplary wrestlers that giving them something else to fight over can only help. From The Lucha House Party trio, to Akira Tozawa and Hideo Itami, to Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher, and a few other potential combinations there are the beginnings of a division.
The division has potential, but not all the teams need to come directly from the current show either.
The Singh brothers may be working with Jinder Mahal currently, but if they showed up with the Cruiserweight Tag Team Titles around their waists while at his side that'd be some golden cross-promotion for the brand. Sin Cara can always return to teaming with Kalisto to make two lucha teams possible. Mark Andrews and Tyler Bate are right there to aid the numbers, as are Chad Gable, Daniel Bryan, and Finn Balor, and that's not even getting into any NXT teams or outside junior heavyweights WWE could priority-sign for the show. With all that on the table, the titles can't get here fast enough for fans of that high-flying tandem action.
6 Hope Isn't True - Two Men Walk Out Of The Bar
Sheamus and Cesaro have undoubtedly been good as a tag team the last couple of years, proving to belong among the top tier of competitors such as The New Day and The Usos, but their time is apparently short. Sheamus' oft-reported neck injury is a ticking time-bomb for when it's going to force him out through injury or retirement and with Cesaro still having plenty left to give they'll be separating the pair despite their obvious chemistry before long.
While it makes some practical sense for the two to make something of their split with a feud, we'd much rather see them go the seldom ventured route within wrestling where a team amicably splits apart.
We've already had their initial bunch of matches when the two were first paired together on-screen by Raw GM of the day Mick Foley, and another run of matches would still feel overdone even this far removed. Cesaro still has time and the talent to ascend those elusive last few rungs of the WWE ladder and The Bar has been more of a holding pattern rather than a catalyst. Sheamus has been able to extend his career with the tag team situation, but the split is coming. Fans don't want to see another feud, they want Cesaro's chance and Sheamus to go out with this solid team as the backdrop.
5 Hope Is True - Money In The Bank Contract Is Open To Both Brands
It's been a while since this has been the case because for the last few years the Money In The Bank winner's options were limited in some form or another. That looks to end this year with both brands competing for a single case once again. Last year's Money In The Bank PPV was Smackdown exclusive and ended with a disappointing thud when the winner was Baron Corbin, who managed to double down on that thud when he failed to cash in against WWE Champion Jinder Mahal. Before that, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship had been unified for a few years and so the last half decade has passed with the Money In The Bank losing some of it's spontaneity and unpredictability.
No more as whichever superstar wins the briefcase, both the male and female recipient will likely have the option to catapult themselves over to the other show without warning to challenge a champion who may not be expecting it.
This brings back some of the most fun options when it comes to cashing in. Jack Swagger may not have been a good champion but his frantic week with the belt where he tried to cash in on Raw and then successfully did on Smackdown was exciting and a potential star-maker. Someone from Smackdown jumping over into a Universal Championship match to steal the belt from Brock would be cataclysmic within WWE, and cement a truly lasting moment.
4 Hope Isn't True - Jinder Mahal's Just Getting Started
The Modern-Day Maharaja found himself as one of the most maligned WWE Champions of all time last year and WWE looks at that negativity as another avenue to try something with Roman Reigns. When Jinder was catapulted from irrelevance to inescapable as the top guy on Smackdown fans gave him a short leeway to prove himself and he failed in almost every way imaginable. It was too much too soon, and his recent US title aspirations suited his skill ceiling far more, but WWE sees an opportunity that means more prominent screen-time for him as Roman's 'uncheerable' opponent.
WWE, and presumably the man at the very top, are showing no sign of stopping the efforts to get Roman Reigns cheered, and Jinder is effectively them scraping the bottom of the barrel, or raising the bottom of the barrel up high enough to bounce their chosen star off of it.
It has already begun failing as of this time, with Jinder interfering in Roman's Money In The Bank qualifier and immediately getting cheers for doing so.
Not even Jinder, who spent last year mocking Nakamura's face and accent without a hint of entertainment to be seen, gets booed against Reigns it seems. But it's going to play out anyway and we can only hope it doesn't take up too much television time each week.
3 Hope Is True - Lethal Yes Lock
Daniel Bryan's finishing submission hold has been significantly upgraded even from it's pre-injury status in his few return matches. This could be a purposeful choice by WWE, with them finally getting behind Bryan enough to bolster him with this significant arrow for his quiver. Few submissions hold any legitimate tension in WWE due to so many instances of opponents escaping, surviving, or simply not ending enough matches to appear dangerous. Daniel Bryan is a good enough performer and has high enough ring psychology to make a lethal submission a compelling storytelling element that enhances his matches rather than simplifying them.
The way he battled with Big Cass at Backlash to apply the hold and only once it was properly sunk in did it cause an immediate tap out is a very good early indicator for ongoing success. With this added aspect, Daniel Bryan can lose the occasional match like he did to Rusev and still appear both dangerous and vulnerable. WWE would ruin Bryan if he suddenly became a superman with no weaknesses who only lost via shenanigans (it ruined both Cena and Reigns for most fans) so this small but vital detail is an important clue towards hopefully Bryan recapturing his pre-WrestleMania XXX momentum.
2 Hope Isn't True - Woken Matt Goes Back To Sleep
WWE may have put the tag team championships on Matt Hardy and his liberated cohort Bray Wyatt, but there's been precious little progress in story, character, anything else from The Woken One. Matt Hardy's Broken Universe received a boost leading into WrestleMania with the critically acclaimed Ultimate Deletion segment between Hardy and Bray, but besides that WWE seems fine keeping that potential goldmine off to the side when it should be just picking up steam. Outside of one fun segment where Matt and Bray chilled with Jeff before he tagged with Seth Rollins and Finn Balor, the insanity has been virtually nonexistent. That is not something fans wanted from the Hardy's WWE return.
Matt Hardy's creativity is going to waste and while it has provided Bray Wyatt with a life-raft for his spiraling legitimacy that is not reason enough to pause something that worked best when leaping from crazy to insane to wacky to goofy, then back again. 'Delete' chants are now an obligation rather than fans rejoicing in their Woken savior, and there's little indication of a change towards anything WWE essentially promised by bringing Matt home. Matt could be running all over Raw creating new combinations to play off of and mix into interesting entertainment, but all signs point to little developments for hopeful fans to latch on to.
1 Hope Is True - Batista Gets His One Last Run
No one seems to be pushing harder for this than The Animal himself, lamenting being 'ghosted' by Triple H in the leadup to WrestleMania over finding a role for the Guardians Of The Galaxy star. Batista also re-tweeted an article asking why WWE wasn't falling over themselves to bring him in, especially now that his profile is bigger than ever, although the tweet was subsequently deleted. All of this may be legitimate grievances between two parties unable to come to a business agreement or, and this is what our money is on, we're already seeing the beginnings of the feud materializing. It's an uncharacteristically subtle bit of WWE storytelling by their standards, but Triple H is the man with both the power to make this work and in the right position since Dave has consistently said Triple H is the one guy he'd want to fight in his last big run.
Batista's last run in WWE began horridly when the Daniel Bryan train was not going to be derailed and The Animal's triumphant return was the casualty. Since then he's starred in multiple massive movies like Spectre and Infinity War and surely WWE isn't stubborn enough to let one of their homegrown superstars stagnate on the vine. Fans want another chance to cheer the man and this sneaky feud looks to be the foreshadowing of it.