In order for its' survival, the WWE has had to basically reinvent itself over the past few years by bringing in some of the best young wrestling prospects in the industry, upgrading its Women's Division, increasing its' exposure with the new WWE Network, and basically starting a brand new Era in professional wrestling with a brand split and a re-drafting of the roster to each of the WWE's main television shows, Raw and SmackDown Live.
It all began in January with the 29th Royal Rumble where we were all shocked when Triple H emerged victorious in the 30-man Royal Rumble match and would be wrestling for the WWE World Heavyweight belt at WrestleMania as his reward.
The WWE also finally brought in one of the best professional wrestlers in the world, A.J. Styles, who has been nothing but a breathe of fresh air for the WWE having lived up to the hype, something that rarely happens in the business. The WWE also brought in the rest of his posse, Gallows and Anderson, and they have already put themselves over in the Tag Team Division.
The Women's Division finally returned to it's initial success in the WWE and has now grown into a solid roster of female talent that could very well be the biggest story of the upcoming year, depending on who gets the call-up from NXT. Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Alexa Bliss all provided the shot to the arm that was needed to legitimize the division in 2016.
Vince McMahon even brought in Goldberg to face-off against Brock Lesnar and bring back a feud that died off ten years ago. Even at 50 years old, Goldberg was able to ignite a crowd at Survivor Series and is signed on through WrestleMania 33, at least. It was also recently reported that he is scheduled to be a major part in the Royal Rumble and might have a few matches between now and WrestleMania 33.
Through all of the surprising entrances and shocking returns, the WWE did a lot in 2016 to cement its' legacy and the future of the business. Although the ratings and viewers continue to decline, it is not the only thing that determines whether or not the WWE is going to be around another 10-15 years or not. They look at revenue from 30 other various avenues including Pay-Per-View events, merchandise, and the WWE Network, which has provided the WWE with nearly $152 million last year.
With all of that said, let's take a look at the upcoming year for the WWE and all of the title changes we can foresee happening before the clock strikes midnight and we are all celebrating another New Year, in 2018.
15 15. Baron Corbin, WWE World Champion
It has already begun!
Just a couple of weeks ago, Baron Corbin was added into the main event match of SmackDown Live to wrestle for the WWE World Championship belt against A.J. Styles and Dolph Ziggler. Although the title remained safely in the hands of A.J. Styles following their Triple Threat match, it was Baron Corbin who emerged as a legit star that will eventually upset someone along the way and win the WWE World Championship later in the year.
After being nearly left for dead last May, Baron Corbin has continued to climb in the ranks of the WWE and by finally getting his title shot the other night on SmackDown Live, it solidified a lot of the things we already knew about his future in the company and that he is also being watched closely by WWE's front office.
14 14. Enzo and Cass, Raw Tag Team Champions
Now that The New Day have ended their historic WWE Raw Tag Team Championship run which saw them hold the belt a record 483 days, the Tag Team belts on the Raw roster are the two most coveted belts on the roster.
Enzo and Cass have owned Raw like The New Day did when they began their title run. Their popularity and rise to one of the companies top contenders for the belt has slowed down recently while Enzo Amore has spent time dealing with injuries.
The two men need each other to be successful right now and splitting them up would not do either of them much good so any of the singles matches or rumors you are hearing about them are just plain wrong. Without Enzo, Cass has a big problem staying relevant in the company. So if the WWE was ever going to make a move with these two men, it will be in 2017, probably around Clash of the Champions.
13 13. Jack Gallagher, WWE Intercontinental Champion
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!!!"
The crowd chanting "Yes" as Daniel Bryan pointed to the sky was one of the best moments in wrestling over the past few years. He earned the respect of the fans by constantly getting better and never giving up on his dreams even after the WWE kept trying to get rid of him. The WWE fans are like a teenage daugther and the WWE is her father. The more he tells us not to like someone, the more we rebel and like them anyways.
Jack Gallagher is falling into the Daniel Bryan category because the more we see of him, the more we want him to win a WWE title belt. He just keeps entertaining us in ways we did not expect from a pale white dude with a handle bar mustache and a 1920s fashion sense.
He is going to win something in 2017, the WWE will have no choice but to reward him following his rise in the ranks.
12 12. Paige, Raw Women's Champion
After having such an amazing 2015, Paige's career took a massive downswing following a neck injury that is going to keep her out of wrestling for another several months. After being diagnosed with this unknown neck injury, Paige began dealing with severe pain that required surgery. But prior to the surgery, Paige was prescribed, legally and by a doctor, pain meds which caused her to fail a WWE wellness test resulting in a 60-day suspension last year. Shortly after she returned from the suspension, Paige failed another one and was given a second 60-day suspension.
So as she continues to recover, the rumor mills are flying about claiming she is not going to ever return to the WWE but we doubt she stays away very long once she sees the pay difference a female wrestler earns in the WWE compared to everywhere else.
Her return could happen later in 2017, just when we all but forgot about her abilities and talents. But since her first debut on the main roster immediately placed the Divas Championship on her on Raw, expect her next return to be at a PPV, possibly replacing a scheduled wrestler in the women's title match, or just be adding her after she arrives to the arena.
11 11. Neville, WWE Cruiserweight Champion
WWE's Roadblock: End of the Line pay-per-view gave us plenty of exciting moments a couple of weeks ago but as far as the Cruiserweight division is concerned, the biggest moment of the entire PPV was when Neville showed up and attacked Rich Swann and T.J. Perkins, making him a heel in the process.
The heel turn is a clear sign that a title reign is imminent for the oddly popular Cruiserweight wrestler from England. If Neville fans are going to have their way, his title belt victory could last most of the year if the WWE does it right.
First, establish him as a marketable heel, check. Next, they need to give him a reason to hate Rich Swann, or whoever is champion, check. They did that the moment he challenged the entire division and started calling himself the "King of the Cruiserweights." Finally, give him a few non-title matches against Rich Swann leading up to a main event matchup at the Royal Rumble and let him hold the title until August or later.
10 10. The Miz, WWE World Champion
A professional wrestler does not need a title belt to get over and become a legend, just ask The Undertaker, who has only won the World Heavyweight Championship three times between 2007 to 2009 for a grand total of 207 days. He started wrestling for the WWE in 1990 and 17 years later he won a belt, which he honestly did not need because he was already a Hall of Fame legend.
We are not comparing The Undertaker to The Miz, but we are trying to make a point about his character's charismatic personality and how The Miz won the WWE World Championship belt once, in 2010. He was able to dominate the WWE for years without that belt but 2017 feels like he is going to get a push, just to change things up and stop the fans from getting bored.
People hate him, fans included, and that has been the staple for his entire career. He is one of the greatest heels in WWE history making him a great mark for a mid-year title run.
9 9. Gallows and Anderson, Raw Tag Team Champions
The tag team of Gallows and Anderson have worked all over the world including New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor, arguably the two biggest wrestling promotions behind the WWE. They have also seen much success on the independent circuit and finally joined the WWE in April of 2016. Since then, they have worked themselves into an important role within the WWE Tag Team Division and have completely separated themselves from their former Bullett Club member, A.J. Styles, as a very marketable duo.
They have beaten the likes of Enzo and Cass and The New Day in a non-title match before they lost the belt last year. All the while, preparing themselves for a possible WrestleMania tag team championship. If not at WrestleMania 33, the odds for their future as tag team champions is going to have to wait until after the WWE Draft.
8 8. Braun Strowman, WWE United States Champion
When Braun Strowman signed with the WWE in May of 2013, he was quickly assigned to the WWE Performance Center where he began his training. He then started showing up as part of The Wyatt Family in August of 2015. Since then, he has turned into a viable singles wrestler that has a ton of potential moving forward and is the odds-on favorite to win the 2017 Royal Rumble.
Braun has come a long way in a short amount of time and is now starting to feel like the WWE is going to put him in a championship belt very soon. Since he has lost his first post-draft match just last month, Braun has turned into a massive giant that is going to tear up everyone in his path. That alone makes him a top choice for the WWE United States Championship belt being given to him after he wins the Royal Rumble.
7 7. Finn Balor, WWE Universal Champion
One of the hottest wrestlers out of NXT last year was Finn Balor, who ended up gaining plenty of steam following his selection by the Raw brand in the WWE Draft last summer. He quickly worked his way into contention and by SummerSlam, he was beating Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship only to find out he tore his labrum putting him out of wrestling for several months. So he had to relinquish the belt and is now in recovery.
But he is almost ready to return and has been rumored to be preparing for a Royal Rumble appearance this month. If his shoulder is not ready to go by January 29th, then we might have to wait until SummerSlam or Survivor Series before he gets the title shot he deserves.
6 6. Bayley, SmackDown Women's Champion
In NXT, Bayley was a massive hit with the fans and she grew a fan base that has followed her into the main roster on Raw. However, because the WWE was giving us Charlotte and Sasha Banks just about every single weekend, they lost track of Bayley and her storyline. It felt like they were just forcing her out there to wrestle just to make sure we do not forget about her.
But that was 2016, and since the WWE does not like to look backwards, we can easily say that 2017 is going to be her big year thanks to their mistakes of using her poorly last year. They owe it to her to give her the run she deserves but not on Raw. SmackDown Live needs her right now and a trade could happen sooner than you think.
5 5. John Cena, WWE World Champion
After a two-month absence from the WWE, John Cena made his epic return on SmackDown Live a few weeks ago leading to a title match at the Royal Rumble. He is scheduled to face WWE World Champion A.J. Styles for the belt and will not be entering the rumble match, as was previously rumored.
But what does this mean for John Cena, Ric Flair's record, and The Undertaker?
It means John Cena is going to win the belt after a shocking appearance from The Undertaker causes A.J. Styles to become distracted just long enough for Cena to take advantage and drop an Attitude Adjustment on him for the victory. It would lead right into a battle between John Cena and The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33, something fans have longed for since the rumored return of The Undertaker surfaced.
4 4. Roman Reigns, WWE Universal Champion
You can hate Roman Reigns all you want, but make sure not to misunderstand the difference between a bad wrestler and a wrestler that requires a little seasoning. Roman is the latter and the fans have turned on him because of it.
If he was a heel, the hatred would be fine and well-deserved. However, the WWE continues to push him as a babyface so the hatred towards him comes across as genuine hatred for the man, not the character. Like it is his fault for being forced into the spotlight by the WWE front office.
That being said, we expect Roman Reigns to win the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble and then carry it until much later in the year. It is time for the WWE Universal Championship belt to find a permanent home for most of this year and he would be an excellent choice.
3 3. Asuka, Raw Women's Champion
If Asuka were to get her shot in 2017, it will happen at SummerSlam. She is not rumored to be leaving the NXT this year but that can always change once the WWE has their annual roster draft. We are not expecting her name to be called during the draft but after it so that the WWE can control where she goes after they see how the brands are looking following the draft.
But Asuka has the personality and the popularity to make the leap from the NXT to the main roster without slowing down at all. Even if she ends up not winning the belt right away, she is going to be involved in a feud with the top of the women's division, guaranteed.
With so many variables in play (Will she be called up? Which brand will she go to? Does the WWE even need her yet?), it is a very tough prediction but we still think she gets the push that she has been waiting for since early 2016.
2 2. A.J. Styles, WWE World Champion
How can we predict that A.J. Styles is going to win the WWE World Championship when he is the current WWE World Champion? That's like saying the Dallas Cowboys are going to win the NFC East in 2017 before they even make the Super Bowl.
But this choice is based on one thing, that he is going to lose that belt very soon and it is going to turn into a fight to get it back, or a feud with an unknown WWE superstar.
But given his meteoric rise in the WWE, A.J. Styles needs to lose it to someone that can carry the brand, like he has done with SmackDown Live. So if you are thinking like that, he should lose it to John Cena at the Royal Rumble. With The Undertaker rumored to be wrestling at WrestleMania 33, A.J. Styles could be the man that gets to wrestle him pushing back his chance to regain the title belt another month or so, just before the WWE Draft.
1 1. Shinsuke Nakamura, WWE World Champion
NXT has two incredibly talented singles wrestlers, Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura. However, the talent pool is thin beyond that point with a lot of young, fresh faces that are too green to take over the brand just yet. This has actually penalized Shinsuke Nakamura, who continues to hold the NXT Championship belt. He will continue to hold the belt for most of 2017 too.
His biggest moment will happen when the 2017 WWE draft puts him on SmackDown and begins a rivalry between him and possibly AJ Styles, whom had one of the greatest feuds in wrestling ever, or another major star. Either way, and even with the majority of predictions going against this idea, we think he gets his chance at Survivor Series in November.
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