There’s no doubt 2016 was a weird year for WWE. From Shinsuke Nakamura making his WWE debut to AJ Styles becoming WWE Champion, there are things that happened during the calendar year that fans had confidently filed away into the “No Chance In Hell” file a long time ago. It seems as if the company has finally decided to pull no punches in their efforts to re-establish themselves as a household name. As the calendar turns to 2017, there’s little doubt that the world’s largest wrestling brand will continue to do whatever is necessary. As such, we’re likely in for the most unpredictable year in company history.
Still, this is WWE we’re talking about. No matter how unpredictable the company may become, long-time wrestling fans will no doubt be able to identify some of the same patterns they fall back on time and time again. While 2017 will no doubt feature a few surprises that nobody could have possibly anticipated, there are some moves WWE will make which are close to a guarantee. These are the top 15 things that will happen in WWE in 2017.
15. Brock Lesnar Walks Away
You can’t read too much into Goldberg’s domination of Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. The fact that Lesnar was destroyed by even more of a part-timer doesn’t mean that WWE has abandoned all hope. However, you do have to wonder how Lesnar feels about his time in WWE. There are a couple of big-profile matches he has left to participate in (Samoa Joe being one of them), but it’s becoming more and more obvious that his mystique is starting to wane. While the money will always be there for Lesnar, odds are still good that 2017 is the year that he finally decides to step away from WWE in order to pursue other (maybe slightly less lucrative) pastures. Will it be a loss for the company? Yes. But it may be time to build a new monster.
14. Roman Reigns Goes To SmackDown
Is the Roman Reigns experiment over? Maybe. There’s certainly no denying that WWE has stepped off the gas a bit in regards to their early efforts to get Roman Reigns over with children of all ages. While you can never rule out the possibility that Reigns will sneak back into a title reign at any time, it’s starting to feel like WWE is going to have to take a different route with their young star. The most obvious solution seems to be to put him on SmackDown. SmackDown’s value has grown tremendously as of late, but it’s still the B-show in some ways. While there was a time when WWE would have never considered bringing Roman over to SmackDown, perhaps a slight step out of the company’s biggest spotlight will do him some favors.
13. Asuka Remains In NXT
This is a bit of a tough one to figure out. In case you haven’t noticed, NXT’s women division hasn’t exactly improved since the Four Horsewomen left for the main roster. Despite some of the creative team’s best efforts, they just haven’t been able to replicate the success they had with those four in the rotation. The lone bright spot has been Asuka. She’s arguably the best female wrestler in the world, which would make her an ideal call-up candidate if it weren’t for the fact that NXT needs her so much. As tough as it is to imagine her spending another full year in NXT, it’s highly doubtful she’ll be ready to leave by the time the draft comes around. Instead, she will likely remain NXT champion until after WWE’s women’s tournament is completed.
12. The Revival Kickstart A Real Tag Team Division
While Asuka’s main roster future remains in doubt, the same cannot be said of The Revival. After spending the better part of the last two years becoming one of the best tag teams in the world, The Revival are ready for their main roster debut. What’s funny is that there are some people that still don’t appreciate just how good these two are. While they’ve had the benefit of working with some great teams in the past, these are two of the only guys in professional wrestling today that are capable of putting on the match of the night while remaining genuinely despised. They’re so good, in fact, that WWE is almost forced to rebuild their tag efforts around them despite the fact that they have traditionally failed to commit to a real tag division.
11. Sami Zayn Will Have A Better Year Than Kevin Owens
Sami Zayn’s main roster debut was botched from the very start. While having him feud with Kevin Owens was a good idea, the fact that WWE just thrust him into that feud without any main roster build really took away his momentum. Since then, Zayn has been wandering aimlessly through PPVs and weekly shows. WWE certainly seems to recognize and appreciate his talent, but they clearly have no idea what to do with him. Expect that to change in 2017. Kevin Owens is riding a bit of a career high at the moment that can only fizzle out from here. In comparison, Zayn is just starting to receive the underdog push he should have gotten from the start. One way or another, Zayn will find a way to outdo his longtime friend in 2017 by having a career year.
10. Kurt Angle Returns To WWE
Kurt Angle tells a story about how a fan approached him at an airport sometime during his TNA tenure and asked why Angle doesn’t wrestle anymore. It’s a funny story and also kind of a sad one. Kurt Angle is arguably one of the greatest competitors in WWE history, but WWE hasn’t really had the chance to pay him the proper respects over the last decade or so due to his move to the competition. Now that Angle is in his twilight years as a competitor, it’s now or never in terms of a WWE return. As there’s no known bad blood between the two parties, there really doesn’t seem to be any reason that this return wouldn’t happen sometime in 2017 after Angle has finished completing his indie obligations.
9. A Major Talent Raid of the Top Indie Names
Recent years have seen WWE dip into the indies for talent in ways that they never have before. The introduction of NXT has changed the game in terms of talent acquisition by giving WWE an outlet for guys and girls that they wouldn’t have previously considered to be main roster material. As impressive as their reach for new talent has been thus far, we haven’t seen anything yet. In addition, 2017 will be the year in which WWE goes all out in terms of bringing the very best onboard. Adam Cole, The Young Bucks, Naito, Ricochet…there is no name that should be considered too big for WWE to grab anymore. Prepare for weeks of incredible debuts that will lead to NXT having one of the best rosters we’ve seen in years.
8. Bray Wyatt Finally Becomes World Champion
It feels like someone has thrown this prediction out for every year since Bray Wyatt made his WWE main roster debut. Wyatt is just so different from everyone else on the roster. He looks different, he wrestles different, and he has a definable character that is deeper than any other character on the roster. Despite all this, Wyatt has yet to receive that big singles push he so richly deserves. It’s hard to say why that is, but WWE’s failure to properly utilize Wyatt should come to an end in 2017. Thanks in part to the roster split, Wyatt finally has a chance to break through the glass ceiling and snag the opportunity to become a world champion on either RAW or SmackDown. This simply must happen.
7. Samoa Joe Dominates The Main Roster
Samoa Joe is another one of those incredibly talented wrestlers that seems to be eternally stuck on the NXT roster. He’s been ready to make the jump ever since he debuted, but WWE has preferred to keep him as a perennial contender in the developmental system. It feels like that run is coming to a close, though. When it finally does in 2017, prepare for Joe to receive the kind of monster push that he should have gotten over 10 years ago when he was the best wrestler not signed to WWE. It may have taken years for WWE to realize what Joe brings to the table, but now that they seem to have finally come around, there’s no way that they’re going to let one of the greatest power wrestlers that has ever lived not tear through the main roster.
6. Finn Bálor Turns Into A Top Heel
Much like Samoa Joe, Finn Bálor’s rise to the main roster seemed to be inevitable from the moment he stepped into NXT. How couldn’t WWE recognize that he’s one of the most compelling acts in all of wrestling. To WWE’s credit, they did a pretty good job of getting Bálor on the main roster in a timely manner and making him a champion. Unfortunately, an injury derailed what should have been a monster push for Bálor. When Bálor does return, he will do so as a babyface. We’d be surprised if he ended the year that way. Bálor is one of the best heels in the world when he wants to be, and a proper heel is something that WWE is seemingly always in desperate need of.
5. Chris Hero and Cesaro Become Tag Team Champions
In case you didn’t hear, the great Chris Hero is likely coming back to WWE. You might remember Hero from his time as Kassius Ohno in NXT. If that was the last you saw of him, then that means you missed out on Chris Hero’s simply unbelievable 2016 run during which time he put on some of the best matches you’ll likely ever see. While he could continue to put on similarly great singles matches, the best option is to pair him with his good friend Cesaro. These two spent a few years on the indie circuit as a very innovative power-style tag team.. There’s nobody on the roster quite like them, and WWE would be doing a disservice to the wrestling world by keeping them apart.
4. Hulk Hogan Returns to the Company
WWE never hold grudges for very long. They might hold on to them for way too long (we miss you Randy Savage), but they always seem to come around eventually. That’s especially true in the case of Hulk Hogan who WWE just can’t seem to hate forever. While Hogan’s incredibly controversial racist comments forced WWE to disown him pretty hard this last time around, there’s simply no way that they’re going to go the rest of Hogan’s life without bringing him back into the fold. In fact, it seems likely that his return will happen as soon as 2017. The heat on Hogan has dissipated just enough as to ensure that WWE will be able to properly handle his return without being burned by the media.
3. Donald Trump Makes An Appearance
If you think a Hulk Hogan appearance would be wild, that’s nothing compared to this potential cameo. As you no doubt know, Donald Trump is about to become the next President of the United States. As you also probably know, Donald Trump has appeared on WWE television several times in the past. While you might think that there is no way that the sitting President of the United States would ever appear on WWE, it must be said that Trump has thus far proven to be an exception to nearly every political rule. While we’re not quite ready to commit to Trump actually participating in a match again, we would bet that his close ties to the McMahon family will ensure that he makes some kind of cameo at some point in the year.
2. Cena vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania in a Retirement Match
Here’s a bit of a stretch mixed in with a sure thing. The WWE has been trying to make John Cena vs. Undertaker happen for years now, as it is one of the only marquee matchups left to do. For one reason or another, the timing has just never worked out. As it doesn’t seem that they’re backing off this matchup anytime soon, we’re willing to bet that it comes to pass in 2017 for the simple reason that neither man is going to be around long enough prior to the event to really work their way into any other feud.
However, we’re willing to go a step further by betting that their WrestleMania match is going to be more than an exhibition. Instead, it’s likely that both men will put their careers on the line.
1. TNA Invades WWE
Yes, this is another one that fans have been predicting for years now. Yes, this is also another one that those same fans have been wrong about every single time. It just feels like it’s finally time for TNA to fold. The company is doing all that they can to stay alive, but there’s no way that they can stay in business unless a small miracle helps them to pay their considerable debts. This closure could happen as soon as 2017, at which point WWE will have a second chance to do a proper invasion storyline.
With the help of NXT talent already in NXT and on the main roster, they have the chance to run a kind of double agent story the likes of which the wrestling world has been dreaming of.
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