WrestleMania is the biggest show of the year, put on by the biggest wrestling company in the world. Particularly in recent years, the show draws 70,000 plus in live attendance, well over a million live viewers from home, not to mention that it’s a show hardcore fans tend to watch over and over on the WWE Network, and one the DVD of the show is a consistent best seller for the company. WrestleMania is the site of major rivalries getting blown off, like last year’s final stand for Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, as well as first time big matches WWE has been building toward like Seth Rollins vs. Triple H.
With all of these points in mind, it makes sense that wrestling fans would place so much weight on WrestleMania. While few smart fans would call it the best show WWE puts on in a given year, it’s the one that will have most eyes on it and that, more likely than not, will be best remembered.
But what happens after WrestleMania? Historically, WWE faces a lull as casual fans stop watching, part time megastars ride off into the sunset, and the company is left with a mismatch of rematches and trying to make the most of fresh call ups from NXT who may or may not be ready to connect with the crowd.
There is some buzz, however, about what WWE may have in store after WrestleMania 34. With the possibility of some big names coming back to the fold, major heel and face turns, and brand shuffling, there could be some very interesting times ahead. This article looks at fifteen WWE storylines to expect after this year’s ‘Mania.
15. Bobby Lashley Vs. Brock Lesnar
When Bobby Lashley debuted on the WWE main roster, comparisons to Brock Lesnar came in immediately. By the time Lashley came in, Lesnar had already departed from WWE and started with UFC, and so the idea of the two ever getting in the ring together felt like a pipe dream.
Now, Lesnar looks to be in the twilight of his partnership with WWE. The general consensus is that he’ll drop the Universal Championship to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania, and that the respective sides probably won’t be interested in collaborating for as many dates in the years ahead, if at all.
Meanwhile, Lashley is reportedly done with Impact Wrestling because they can no longer afford him, and the rumor mill suggests there’s mutual interest between him and WWE.
The jury’s out on whether Lashley would work a full-time schedule for WWE, but for whatever his contract might look like, you have to assume WWE’s priority would be getting these titans in the ring with each other for what could be a fun spectacle of a one-off main event, particularly for one of the B-PPVs the company has trouble drawing for.
14. Braun Strowman Challenges For The WWE Championship
All indicators suggest that Roman Reigns will win the Universal Championship at WrestleMania and proceed as the clear cut face of Raw moving forward. While not every fan likes this conclusion, it’s all but an inevitable outcome and, to be fair, Reigns has grown as a performer, particularly in the ring, as the years have gone by.
So what happens to Braun Strowman? The Monster Among Men is in an awkward spot for having feuded extensively with Reigns already, and arguably having emerged more over than WWE’s chosen one. He’s got enough organic momentum behind him that it’s hard to imagine WWE squandering it in a secondary position. The obvious conclusion? A move to SmackDown.
While SmackDown has its top stars, and they’re really talented guys to boot, people like AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn don’t fit WWE’s prototypical mold for “the guy.” When WWE shuffles the deck between brands, as they tend to do after ‘Mania, there’s reason expect Strowman to switch shows and become an immediate player in the WWE Championship scene.
13. Sasha Banks Turns On Bayley
For the length of her time on the WWE main roster, Bayley has had Sasha Banks cast as her on screen best friend as the two battle heels like Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss. The tandem works well together, and plays off their real life bond. However, it’s no secret that as good as the two can be as a team, they are better as rivals, as demonstrated by the tremendous series of matches they put on against one another in NXT in 2015.
Bayley is about as natural a face as WWE has at this moment. While Banks’ size makes her a good underdog, she’s at her best with a heel’s vicious edge.
Rumors of Banks turning on Bayley have been around for over a year now. When the dust settles from WrestleMania, you can expect WWE to finally pull the trigger, and set up Banks to go through Bayley en route to challenging Asuka (or Charlotte Flair if they move to the blue brand).
12. A Very Cena Wedding
WreslteMania 32 saw WWE cash in on its reality TV properties Total Divas and Total Bellas with a reality bending moment. After John Cena and Nikki Bella won a mixed tag team match against The Miz and Maryse, Cena proposed in the ring.
A year has gone by and the wedding hasn’t yet happened. In real world terms, that’s not so long to wait between a proposal and a wedding ceremony, but in the world of sports entertainment, it’s an eternity. Many have speculated Cena and Bella’s wedding would be featured on Total Bellas—a win-win for a ratings draw and show likely assuming most of the costs of the ceremony. Another possibility. Cena-Bella may follow in a tradition Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth established 17 years earlier with a PPV wedding. Not every wrestling couple could justify being featured so prominently, but Cena is the defining star of his generation, and Bella is an important WWE performer in her own right, meaning that it could very well happen.
11. Johnny Gargano And Tomasso Ciampa Come To The Main Roster
Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa have emerged as some of NXT’s best celebrated stars. The tandem took a starring role in the tag team division last year, putting on truly excellent matches with The Revival and The Authors of Pain. From there, they worked a white hot split angle, with Ciampa turning heel on his partner. Unfortunately, Ciampa suffered him an injury that took him out of action; against the odds, the rivalry has remained relevant as Gargano willed his way up the NXT ranks, and as Ciampa made his return at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia.
Gargano and Ciampa are likely to square off at TakeOver: New Orleans during WrestleMania weekend, but the rivalry is intense enough that it’s unlikely to be a one and done affair. While this feud could carry on at the NXT level, Gargano in particular has gotten over enough hand proven himself enough as a lent to feel squandered in developmental. Garagano vs. Ciampa may well follow in the footsteps of Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn, remaining intertwined as they head up to the main roster.
10. Shane McMahon Turns Heel
The storyline of Shane McMahon warring with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn largely dominated SmackDown this winter. One of the more intriguing elements of this angle has been the degree to which WWE embraced shades of gray booking. Bryan tended to advocate for Owens and Zayn, but never fully turned heel to align with them.
McMahon stacked the deck against the two heels to the point he could almost be read as heelish himself.
For their own part, Owens and Zayn have been entertaining enough in their roles that it’s hard to really boo them.
While this particular angle is inching closer to its shelf life, it will be interesting to see what WWE does with McMahon as he moves on from it. Yes, he’s got some nostalgia popularity attached to him, given the starring role once played in the Attitude Era. Just the same, there’s a real argument to be made he’s at least equally natural as a heel. McMahon could be an entertaining foil for Nakamura, Braun Strowman, or whomever else might wind up in the top face spot for the blue brand.
9. The Authors Of Pain Vs. The Bludgeon Brothers
After years of largely wasted potential, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan seem to have hit their stride in their rebranded gimmick as The Bludgeon Brothers—a monster heel tag team bent on destruction. Harper, in particular, is a deceptively polished worker, and its fun to see him pushed properly.
It seems like it’s only a matter of time before they capture tag team gold, and it may well happen at or leading into WrestleMania. WWE has set the duo up as unbeatable, and it would be a lot of fun to see them go at it with another big man tandem that can go in the ring—namely, The Authors of Pain.
Akam and Rezar have developed nicely over their year plus in NXT, growing from fairly traditional monster heels, into legitimately solid workers. While they were originally cast in their obvious role as bad guys, they’ve proven, too, their ability to play de facto faces opposite The Undisputed Era. The Authors could make wonderful foils for The Bludgeon Brothers as spring rolls along.
8. Absolution Dissolves
When Paige returned to WWE television, a big part of her mystique was that she didn’t come alone, but rather teamed up with Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. The trouble for this faction is that Paige quickly suffered what WWE is billing a career ending neck injury, leaving her two heaters and proteges largely adrift without their leader.
Where does Absolution go from here? While the team could stick it out, especially if Paige is wiling to hanging around in a manager and mouthpiece role, it seems more likely that the group will split before long.
The good news is that Rose, in particular, is quite arguably a better face than heel anyway, and so might have some good matches against Deville before the two try to truly make it on their own in the women’s division.
7. Sami Zayn Vs. Kevin Owens
Between NXT and their time on Monday Night Raw together, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens assembled quite the rivalry. Their friends turned foe storyline made organic sense, the promo work was good, and two had both undeniable and chemistry to put on great match after great match, including their classic at Battleground 2016. Things took a turn in late 2017, however, when the long time rivals formed a kayfabe alliance against Shane McMahon.
While many fans were skeptical about Zayn’s ability to play heel, the duo has largely thrived in the SmackDown spotlight as an annoying pair of buddies who poke and prod at McMahon while chasing world title gold. There’s certainly still mileage on them working together, but rumor has it WWE is all too eager to match them up against each other again. One of the more interesting questions is who would be the heel and who would be the face at this point. For all of Zayn’s clear gifts as a good guy, his heel character is still fresh, and experts like Paul Heyman have advocated for Owens to have a face run. We just might see this whole dynamic shift before 2018 is up.
6. Bobby Roode Turns Heel
Bobby Roode followed up an outstanding run on NXT with a rock solid tenure on the main roster thus far. Interestingly, WWE has chosen to cast him as a face. The prevailing logic seems to be that his theme song is so over that fans can’t help but sing along, making him a de facto good guy. However, for those who watched him in developmental, let alone those who followed his career in Impact Wrestling, there’s little debate that Roode is even better in a heel role.
The smart money is that WWE is getting what they can out of Roode as a hero, only to turn him and achieve new levels of heat when he does go rogue.
Some have theorized Money in the Bank would be a vehicle for the turn, though that would probably require him to switch brands in the meantime. Otherwise, he has hovered in the upper mid card well enough so far that a transition to the main event, and a heel turn to give him the extra push, could well be imminent.
5. Kurt Angle Vs. Jason Jordan
WWE drafted Jason Jordan to Raw and cast him as Kurt Angle’s estranged son in a not so subtle effort to define the young star’s character and give him a big push. Folks have generally agreed that the idea was to help Jordan get over as an upper card talent, and then likely as not to book him opposite his kayfabe dad.
The Jordan experiment has had uneven results. Most fans seem underwhelmed with his efforts, for, while he’s an undeniably great athlete, his personality hasn’t really justified the push and he’s tended to come across as out of his depth if not outright annoying.
Since WWE started more purposefully playing with shades of gray, however, and teasing that the entitled young character may turn heel, he has had some intrigue around him.
Kurt Angle’s shelf life as an in ring performer will only run so long.
4. Cien Almas On The Main Roster
La Sombre was a top lucha star, and perceived as big signing for WWE when they brought him in. Rebranded as Cien Almas, guy failed to find his footing and get much traction for his first tow years in NXT. However, he’d wind up being a textbook case of the NXT system working as, given enough time and experimentation, he more than found his way. Greater experience working in the US, a heel turn, and getting paired with Zelina Vega all got him over as a top level star.
At press time, Almas is the reigning NXT Champion after unseating Drew McIntyre and besting Johnny Gargano in his first TakeOver title defense. In addition, he’s now made his first, one off, main roster appearance as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble. Almas did himself proud, lasting nearly a half hour and scoring an elimination on Kofi Kingston. If past precedent is to be trusted, a run like that suggests he’s main roster bound before long, where he’s likely to get at least a rock solid mid-card push.
3. Alexa Bliss Turns Face
Over the past year and a half, Alexa Bliss has been the surprise success story of the women’s division. First she rose up to earn an opportunity as SmackDown Women’s Champion, then surprised fans by working her way up the Raw ranks, to beat Charlotte flair to the honor of becoming the first woman to have won both the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championships.
What’s next for Bliss? While she plays a great heel, there’s a very real argument to be made that she’s done all she realistically can in that role.
Bliss is now a familiar figure, whose Mixed Match Challenge chemistry with Braun Strowman won over a lot of fans. Add on her diminutive size, and she could naturally slide into the role of underdog face, especially if Sasha Banks turns heel to open up a high profile face roster spot.
2. Brother Nero Gets Woken
Jeff Hardy threatened to set the WWE Universe on fire when he returned with his brother Matt at WrestleMania 33. After a few months, the bloom was off the rose for their nostalgia act. Jeff got injured, and Matt found a new direction when legal issues resolved, and he got to start his Woken gimmick in WWE. So what will become of Jeff when he comes back to TV?
There’s more than one route WWE could go, but especially if the Woken gimmick gets over sufficiently enough to continue into summer, then Jeff reprising his Brother Nero role from Impact Wrestling seems like the next natural step as the Hardys push their eccentric act as far as it will go.
1. Asuka Vs. Ronda Rousey
Rumors abounded about Ronda Rousey showing up in WWE this fall into winter. She finally made good on it with an appearance after the women’s Royal Rumble. All indications are that she’ll wrestle at WrestleMania, though the exact terms aren’t yet known. Will she challenge Charlotte Flair for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Or will she face off with Stephanie McMahon in either a singles match, or a mixed tag?
We’ll know Rousey’s ‘Mania fate soon enough, but questions remain about what WWE will do with the former MMA star next. One line of thought has her facing off with Asuka.
Asuka has been booked as undefeated straight through her NXT run and first months on Raw. After she won the Rumble, the smart money is on her taking the Raw Women’s Championship off Alexa Bliss at WrestleMania.
The jury is out on how smoothly Rousey will transition into sports entertainment, but if the experiment works, then WWE will be looking for ultra-credible challengers to believably face off with The Baddest Woman on the Planet. Asuka vs. Rousey could be one heck of a women’s dream match come SummerSlam.
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