2016 will hopefully be a pivotal and positive year for World Wrestling Entertainment. The conclusion of this year’s WrestleMania season began what has been referred to as a “New Era” in the WWE, an era that has seen multiple individuals receive call-ups from the NXT developmental brand to the main roster. Things will be shaken up even further beginning in the middle of July when the WWE adopts the brand split fans saw following the death of World Championship Wrestling. Once again, Raw and SmackDown will have different and separate rosters. Wrestling fans everywhere have to be hoping that WWE will do better with this idea the second time around now that those running the promotion know what did and did not work last decade.
Part of the transition affecting the WWE this summer will include some noteworthy stars taking steps away from main-event slots and from live events. John Cena is the biggest example. While Cena is not making a complete exit from the WWE as did The Rock, one does not need to have access to WWE contracts to see that Cena is looking ahead and thinking past his in-ring career. One cannot help but wonder: Who will be the top stars in the WWE five years from now and during the summer of 2021? Fans may not like who is projected to be the company’s top star for 2021, but all should be able to see the writing on the wall and understand who will be carrying the ball for the company for the foreseeable future; so long as that individual follows certain guidelines as it pertains to what he is allowed to put into his body, that is.
15. Ronda Rousey
We chose to begin this piece with a pair of individuals we hope will be in the WWE at some point in the near future. Even before Ronda Rousey lost to Holly Holm in November 2015, there was speculation in the sports world that Rousey was potentially eyeing the end of her days with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Rousey already has plenty of opportunities outside of fighting, she is a known fan of the WWE and of pro wrestling, and she could find success and make quite a bit of money as a member of the WWE roster. Rousey has the look and the personality needed to be a top star in the WWE in 2021, and she is already accepted as a legitimate fighter. A career in the WWE likely awaits Rousey if she chooses to go down that path. While we enjoy watching Rousey fight, it would also be fun to see her play the role of the Brock Lesnar of the WWE women’s division.
14. Kenny Omega
Remember when it seemed unthinkable that A.J. Styles would ever work a main event of a WWE show? That is no longer the case as of July 2016, and that gives us hope that others currently not on the roster will eventually be embraced by the WWE. Kenny Omega has done well to get over and become a star in other promotions. All that is left for Omega to do is sign with the WWE and find success in that organization.
A brand split that includes NXT having a touring roster of its own means that the WWE is in need of depth more so than at any point of the current decade. Signing a talented performer such as Omega makes all kinds of sense for the company, and Omega would deliver the goods if presented with that opportunity. We want to see Omega be one of the top stars in the WWE by the start of 2021, if not sooner.
13. Enzo Amore
Some guys simply have that “it” fans often read about as it pertains to pro wrestling talents. Enzo Amore is one of those guys. Amore is already one of the best promo guys in the WWE even though he has been on the main roster for only a few months. He plays a believable and entertaining babyface in peril. Why should anybody think that Amore will not improve with more time on the WWE roster and after having feuds with multiple noteworthy veterans?
Maybe Amore will never win the WWE Championship. That doesn’t mean that he won’t be a big star in 2021. Amore is already over among fans, and his promos theoretically should move merchandise during events. While we love the team of Amore and Big Cass (more on Cass later), wrestling fans should be excited to see what Amore can do when on his own. Those thinking Amore can only flourish as a member of team may be surprised come 2021.
12. Corey Graves
Do not assume that every star in the WWE has to be a wrestler. After all, Jim Ross was one of the most popular figures signed by the WWE during his run as lead announcer. Issues caused by concussions prematurely ended Corey Graves’ in-ring career, but they also resulted in Graves finding his feet as a color commentator.
Graves is still in the infancy of that portion of his career, and yet he is already one of the best announcers and presenters the company has in its arsenal. The WWE would be silly to not add Graves to the main roster and then allow him to shine as a commentator on cable television shows and also during pay-per-views. Graves changes his character from babyface to heel and back again all during a single show, but he does so in a way that is entertaining and does not insult fans. He should be a top star by 2021.
11. Sasha Banks
It doesn’t matter if we are talking about 2016, 2021 or any year between. Sasha Banks should be one of the top female stars in the WWE over that period of time. Yes, Banks happens to be a beautiful woman, but that alone is not why she is so beloved among so many WWE fans. Banks was involved in multiple memorable matches during her time in NXT, and her encounter with Bayley in August 2015 may have been the best WWE contest of that year.
It should be pointed out that Banks has worked better as a heel during her time in the WWE, and thus we have to assume that she will eventually be given an opportunity to shine as a heel on the main roster. Either way, we don’t see Banks losing momentum before 2021. The WWE would have to mess things up and do so in a big way to squander Banks.
10. Alexa Bliss
It was not all that long ago when it appeared as if Alexa Bliss was missing a certain something necessary to be a top star at any point let alone in 2021. Then, the company had Bliss turn heel while on the NXT roster. This proved to be magic for Bliss, as she has flourished as one of the top female heels in NXT. While she is undersized compared to other female wrestlers signed by the WWE, Bliss wrestles and works as a heel about as well as any woman who is on the main roster.
There will eventually come a time when the WWE elects to turn Bliss babyface once again, and the company could have a top star and top character is that turn is properly executed. Bliss may very well be the top female star to emerge from this NXT class when we review the matter in 2021; so long as the company keeps Blake and Murphy away from her.
9. Noelle Foley
What you have to remember is that we are looking far into the future and forecasting who may be WWE stars five years from now. Noelle Foley, the daughter of WWE legend and pro wrestling icon Mick Foley, has unofficially kicked off her WWE career thanks to a reality show that will be featured on the WWE Network. While Noelle is very much so a work in progress as of July 2016, she is a stunning young woman who should have a home in the company for years to come and not just because she is related to wrestling royalty.
We cannot say for sure that the baby girl of Mrs. Foley’s baby boy will make it as a female wrestler, but Foley could potentially become a top star in the WWE as a presenter or as an announcer. The sky is the limit for Foley in the WWE if she chooses to pursue such a career.
8. American Alpha
You get two for the price of one at this portion of the piece. The team of Jason Jordan and Chad Gable, known as American Alpha in the NXT portion of the WWE Universe, is the best duo in the company, one that quickly became popular among fans because of the numerous great matches they had after becoming a team. While we believe that American Alpha should be the WWE Tag Team Champions as quickly as possible, there will one day come a time when the company splits them up and allows them to work as singles competitors.
Both Jordan and Gable have the goods to be top stars for years to come and up through 2021. If the company does things right and keeps them separate from each other for some time, there should be a big WrestleMania match in their futures. Gable versus Jordan could be a main event match anywhere in the country.
7. Big Cass
Those who have any familiarity with the types of acts that WWE has pushed over the years should not be surprised even a little bit that the company would love Big Cass. Cass is supposedly seven-feet tall, and WWE fans know all too well that you can’t teach that. While Enzo Amore is currently the major talker of the two during segments that feature the tag team, Cass has shown that he can hold his own on the microphone as a solo act.
It seems that it is only a matter of when and not if the WWE will break this team up to see if Cass can swim on his own either as a heel or a babyface. We believe fans will embrace Cass as a face and as a top star, and we expect Cass to remain hot among WWE viewers up through the summer of 2021. Bada boom.
6. Apollo Crews
We realize that the WWE has not done many favors for Apollo Crews after calling him up from the NXT brand to the main roster in 2016. That’s alright. There is still plenty of time to fix those mistakes before the summer of 2021 rolls around. Crews has not been great on the microphone during his brief stint in the WWE, but he more than makes up for that with his work in the ring.
Perhaps the best way to make Apollo Crews a top star in the WWE at some point will be to turn him heel and align him with a manager such as Paul Heyman or with somebody else who can serve as his mouthpiece. Crews is too good to be wasted by the WWE. We are betting on the WWE realizing that and making full use of his physical gifts en route to featuring him as one of the top stars in the WWE by 2021.
There is, jokingly speaking, no hope for the WWE and for the business, in general, if the company cannot get things right with Bayley. Bayley is a babyface unlike anybody else currently signed to the roster, a worker who is over with younger audiences and also with adult fans who cheer Bayley on during matches and who want hugs from the former NXT Women’s Champion.
The promotion can get heat for any character just by having that person turn on Bayley. It’s an easy formula, and it is one that worked time and time again in NXT. Bayley probably should have been called up to the main roster after SummerSlam 2015, as she had already done it all in NXT after winning the NXT title from Sasha Banks. The WWE has a star in the making in Bayley, and she very well could be the top female babyface in the WWE come 2021 so long as the company doesn’t trip over itself while booking her character.
4. Seth Rollins
One concern some fans may have about Seth Rollins is the state of his knee following a gruesome and painful injury that he suffered in the fall of 2015. Rollins has completed a successful return to the ring, and he looks as good as he did during his run as the WWE Champion. Assuming that he is able to remain healthy and avoid future physical setbacks, Rollins possesses all of the tools to be a top star in the WWE in 2016 and all the way through to 2021.
Rollins has a tremendous look, and he works great inside of the ring as either a babyface or a heel. There is a future big babyface run there for Rollins if the WWE does not drop the ball with the character as the promotion did earlier this year. Mistakes happen, but Rollins’ character has survived that blunder and may, all things considered, be stronger than ever when all is said and done.
3. Dean Ambrose
Perhaps the only thing that will keep Dean Ambrose from being one of the top stars in the WWE in 2021 will be the WWE itself. Ambrose has managed to get over among pockets of WWE fans even though the company has not protected him as it did Roman Reigns, and Ambrose was rewarded with a deserved WWE Championship run in 2016.
Odds are that Ambrose will not be the hottest babyface in the WWE in the summer of 2021. From what we have seen, those tasked with making such important decisions for the WWE simply do not view Ambrose as they do John Cena or Roman Reigns. While some fans may not like that, this does not mean that Ambrose won’t become a big star who moves the needs and who moves merchandise. Fans of Ambrose should have plenty to cheer about during WWE shows from 2016 through the summer of 2021.
2. Finn Balor
Finn Balor has everything to be a top WWE star in 2021. Balor is a great wrestler who can put on entertaining matches with just about anybody on the main WWE roster. The former NXT Champion can play heel or babyface, and he may make the change from babyface to heel at some point in 2016.
Balor’s “Demon” character has what is currently the best entrance in the WWE. It is an entrance that will bring fans to their feet at a WrestleMania show. That Demon character will also move a ton of merchandise, particularly among younger WWE fans. Balor seems to be a future WWE Champion as of July 2016, and there is currently no indication that his body will betray him to the point that he will not be able to go for the promotion in the summer of 2021. The WWE has quite a gem in Balor.
1. Roman Reigns
We have no reason to believe or assume that the WWE is going to halt with its push of Roman Reigns as the company’s top star. Reigns, truth be told, has the goods to be the top heel or even the top babyface in the WWE come 2021 if the promotion stops trying to make Reigns an updated version of John Cena.
The former member of The Shield is an underrated worker in the ring, and Reigns can cut decent promos when the figurative handcuffs are removed and when he is not pandering to younger audiences. To borrow a phrase from one of the greatest pro wrestlers in the history of the business: Whether you like it or you don’t like it, you’d better learn to love it. Roman Reigns will absolutely be the top star in the WWE in 2021 if the company has any say in who gets over among fans.
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