John Canton: It’s the first week of January, which means it’s time for the annual TJRWrestling staff predictions column. I’m not sure how many times we’ve done this, but it’s at least been four years in a row and maybe more. That’s not really important, though, because this isn’t about looking at things from past. Instead, we are going to look ahead to the next twelve months in the world of wrestling. As you might expect, the focus here is on WWE because that’s mainly what we cover on this site.
Since we have a big team of writers and contributors, there are rules that I asked everybody to follow for this column.
Each contributor on our team was asked to write out five predictions for 2017 in wrestling and as you might expect, most of the predictions are based on things related to World Wrestling Entertainment. Each prediction has to be 150 words or less because it’s going to be a lot of reading for you, dear reader.
All of us had to follow simple rules stating that the predictions need to be things that can have a definite yes or no ending. For example, saying “the tag division will be great this year” is not valid. It needs to be a more direct prediction that can produce a yes or no result. Saying “James Ellsworth will win the WWE Title” (what?) is fine because he will either win or lose. Simple enough, right?
The other thing to note is that nobody saw other people’s picks, so there will be repeat predictions. All they did was email it to me and not other writers. Thanks as always to Melo Man for the banner at the top.
Let’s get on with our 2017 predictions. I gathered them all, made them all look shiny for you here today and my predictions are at the bottom. Enjoy.
1. Triple H will compete at an NXT Event
Much as he did last year before his match with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 32, I expect HHH to have a couple tuneup matches leading into what’s sure to be a match against Seth Rollins this year. I think it would be a nice “wink wink, nod nod” moment for him to step inside an NXT ring and blend the HHH that everyone loves for what he’s created in NXT with the HHH inside the ring that everyone still bashes for not putting people over. Plus if he went against someone like Tye Dillinger or Roderick Strong, the rub he would give that opponent by getting in the ring with him would be monumental. NXT is known for its “holy shit” moments, and HHH is fully aware that a moment like this would be another one for the brand.
2. Zack Ryder will turn heel upon his return
Dolph Ziggler’s heel turn this week on Smackdown sparked an idea and necessitated a change in my predictions. I thought to myself, who else could use a fresh start with a character change? One name immediately popped in my head, my broski, Zack Ryder. Obviously the cliche thing to do is for someone coming off major surgery to come back as a babyface and get the big return pop, and Ryder has never lacked for the sympathy vote, but just imagine Dolph Ziggler beating down on Mojo Rawley and when Ryder’s music hits, everyone is happy to see him back and save the day. However, instead he doesn’t help Mojo and sides with his real life friend in Ziggler. I could see them being this generation’s version of Rated RKO, two guys who deserved much more than they’ve been given and now they’re finally just going to take their opportunity.
3. NXT will air on Cable TV at some point in 2017
This prediction comes from my last NXT Spotlight of the year, which you can read right here. Even with all the original content and archived material that the WWE Network offers, its two biggest selling points are the PPV events and NXT. The Network is the only place you can see either. However as WWE continually sticking to the third hour for Raw has shown, TV money talks the most. At some point, USA will want a peice of the NXT pie and I would not be surprised to see a Takeover event, or maybe a live event in a special city/venue, be aired live on USA Network. This will upset a fair amount of NXT loyalists I would guess, but in the era WWE is in now, more of everything, NXT on cable TV seems like a sure bet.
4. The first ever women’s Ladder/MITB Match will happen
I had said heading into TLC in December that Smackdown needed to let Becky Lynch defend her Women’s Title in the first ever women’s ladder match to keep pace with Raw having the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell match. That of course didn’t end up coming to be, but I don’t think we’ll have to wait much longer for it to take place. As of right now, MITB is scheduled to be a Smackdown only show. I would have it be a dual brand show, but that’s neither here nor there. If it sticks to Smackdown, that gives them the ability to put the uber talented likes of Becky, Alexa Bliss, Natalya, Naomi, Nikki Bella, & Carmella try and compete for a shot at the Women’s Title. This will truly be a sight to behold as they continue to take the new division to new heights. Literally.
5. Eva Marie will be a Women’s Champion
Wait, you didn’t think I actually forgot about my girl did you? The one name convienently missing from the list of Smackdown competitors above is currently filming movies with the likes of Nicholas Cage and Al Pacino. She transcends the division in a way no one else can, as she has the most true heel heat out of anyone in the division. It would be an epic sight to see her in that MITB match and not do a damn thing, but after all the women take themselves out, she comes climbing the ladder and claiming the briefcase. The heat she would have, deciding when to cash in the briefcase would be some compelling television. Of course, this doesn’t have to be the way she wins the title, but WWE has invested a lot in her and it’s time to cash in on that investment.
1. KURT ANGLE WILL FINALLY RETURN TO WWE
It’s hard to say exactly when as I would have thought for sure by now it would have happened, but I really do hope that my favorite wrestler of all time has one last run in the WWE before he decides to call it quits for good.
It is just a shame it could not have happened sooner while we still had an active Daniel Bryan on the roster. That would have been a fantastic match. But a feud with Rusev would be great. It would be even better if he was still the U.S Champion but hey that’s WWE for ya I guess. Other possible dream matches with Cesaro, Ziggler, Miz and maybe even Lesnar again sound like a dream come true. But we shall see. Here is hoping.
2. TYE DILLINGER WILL DEBUT ON THE MAIN ROSTER
Kurt Angle is my all time favorite wrestler, but as of right now, Dillinger is my current favorite in terms of an active WWE wrestler goes. There is no reason he should be in NXT anymore. He has been a veteran for many years now from being on the indys, the poor ECW revival, FCW and now NXT. He is 35 years old and in the prime of his career. Many other wrestlers also speak very highly of him such as most recently Nakamura. The guy has it all. He’s a great wrestler, great on the mic and has a very easy gimmick to get behind just like Daniel Bryan. But instead of the yes chant, he has the ten chant and it’s genius. I think Smackdown would be the best place for him at this point, especially after his most recent Twitter feud with Miz. That IC title would really look great on him that’s for sure.
3. ROMAN REGINS WILL FINALLY TURN HEEL
I called this last year and the year before but it has not happened yet. It should have happened a long time ago. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The best babyfaces are the ones who started off as a fantastic heel first. Don’t believe me? Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, Daniel Bryan. The list goes on and on. I know as part of Shield he was technically already heel but I don’t really count that now that he has a singles careers. They should have turned him already but Vince is just way too stubborn to pull the trigger on this one. This needs to happen and here is hoping that predicting this again for the third time will make it so. After all, third times the charm right?
4. THE REVIVAL WILL DEBUT ON THE MAIN ROSTER
Along with American Alpha and D.I.Y, Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson are without a doubt the best tag team in WWE right now. And although a feud with Gable and Jordan on Smackdown sounds fantastic, I think RAW is where they will best be suited. It would be awesome to see them be the ones to finally beat New Day for the tag title belts and go on to hold it for a long period of time as well. RAW could really use a top heel team since the failure of Gallows and Anderson.
5. WE WILL FINALLY GET TRIPLE H VERSUS SETH ROLLINS
Is it just me or has this been the worst build up to a potential feud in ages? Obviously it would make more sense if Triple H was actually around for Seth to want to get revenge on him for costing him the Universal Championship but he has been nowhere to be found except on NXT. WE also never got an explanation as to why he turned on him and literally handed Kevin Owens the title. Maybe it will happen at Wrestlemania or maybe it will just never happen at all and they will want us to just forget about it like they want us to forget about Katie Vick. Regardless, I am still confident it will happen.
1. Kurt Angle will return to WWE and have a World Title match
It’s looking likely Angle will be returning to WWE some time in 2017, but I can’t see him not being involved in the title mix at some point. It doesn’t even matter what show he ends up on, I think it would be silly not to give him a title shot – even if it’s just to elevate his opponent.
2. AJ Styles will be traded to Raw
I hope I’m wrong with this, but given the history of WWE and especially if Smackdown continues to rise in ratings, it would be typical of WWE to steal the best performer from Smackdown and have him on Raw. Styles is in the best place now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they hauled him to Monday nights in order to boost flagging ratings.
3. A NXT Match will feature on one of the ‘Big Four’ WWE PPVs
I think it will be Summerslam, but I can see one match on the card being an NXT feature (participants currently on NXT and not on main roster). I think WWE will see this as introducing non-NXT viewers to the product, however at such a big PPV, many fans will know them. This could be a good move and a potential show stealer if it were to happen.
4. Charlotte Flair will lose & win the Women’s Title at least four times in 2017
Call me crazy, but I have the feeling WWE is trying to get Charlotte to win her title a record amount of times to have her on par with her father. Her undefeated PPV streak (as it is in 2016 anyway), makes me think she’ll win more in 2017, and with more opponents, I can see her winning the title on PPVs and losing it on Raw shows.
5. Roman Reigns will go full heel on everyone and it’ll be great
I can see after an underwhelming main event in which he’s booed by the crowd – again, Reigns will go full heel on everyone and anyone. It’ll grate with people for a while, but will eventually get over and see him rise in popularity. If done right, WWE may have to push the boundaries on the PG rating a couple of times to get him over. One can dream, right?
I’m cautiously optimistic about WWE in 2017. Despite a few strange booking decisions, there were a lot of positives in 2016, which can often get lost in amongst the general internet rage about all things wrestling related. Having said this, we know Cena is beating the title record this year, and Reigns is never turning heel. So, without further ado, here are my predictions for what will hopefully be a stellar year for WWE (excluding prediction 1).
1) Hulk Hogan Returns to WWE Programming for a Retirement Program
I feel sick just writing that. I think I need to go and curl up and cry in the shower at the thought of those damn red and yellow feather boas. However, a Hogan redemption/retirement angle would undoubtedly equal dollar signs for Vince. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen, and if Hall and Nash come anywhere near the ring on our screens this year, I’ll never watch again.
If Goldberg can come back and squash Brock Lesnar, then I’m sure Hogan, with just a single strum of that air guitar, can make all those Hulkamaniacs conveniently forget about that unforgiveable and shameful racism; just because you don’t think someone is listening, doesn’t make racism acceptable, Brother!
Prediction 1.5: Hogan returns, cuts a promo about wanting one more title run and then gets destroyed by Braun Strowman. Did I mention I’m not a fan?
2) Nakamura beats John Cena to become WWE Champion
The possibility of Nakamura vs Cena was floated by my housemate, @wrestlingbants, and in my mind the ball kept rolling. I’m perfectly happy with John Cena beating the record this year, I think it’s a dead cert, but Cena should do the favours for a true superstar, and the biggest babyface the company will have. There are so many possible ways to set this up that even the creative team at WWE couldn’t mess it up! Ideally, I’d want Nakamura to be introduced as a surprise challenger on the Raw after Wrestlemania, just as ‘Big Match John’ is celebrating his record equaling title victory. However, that would mean the title being on the line between Taker and Cena, which I don’t think is required.
Prediction 2.5: Summerslam main event? I’ll be found playing the air-violin in pure joy should this happen.
3) Tye Dillinger to Headline a NXT Takeover Event
Please? It’s been well documented that Dusty himself had signed off on Tye being called up long ago, but for some reason it has yet to happen. This is a guy with a gimmick that is already over with the fans, and is a legitimate top class wrestler. Put simply, he deserves a shot at being the face of NXT. I loved the Bobby Roode/Dillinger program that was running up until NXT Toronto; now, let them do it again later in the year, but with Tye chasing the title that would be held by the Glorious One.
4) Ricochet debuts in NXT
His gravity defying match with Will Ospreay last year may have divided the wrestling world on what constitutes as a ‘wrestling’ match, but there is no denying the outrageous talent and charisma of Trevor Mann. He has stated before his desire to be in WWE, and how he wants to ‘go the route’ of wrestlers such as Finn Balor and Kevin Owens, who won the title in NXT and worked up the chain. Although talented enough to go straight to the main roster, Ricochet arguably doesn’t have the same name value as AJ Styles did when he first entered into the Royal Rumble, having worked under a mask as Prince Puma, and Helios before that. Ricochet could create the proverbial waves within NXT. Make no mistake, the boy is not just flips and twirls – he can wrestle.
Prediction 4.5: Ricochet wins the NXT Title within two months of his arrival.
5) Finn Balor Turns Heel and Reunites the Bullet Club
The injury of Balor was a blessing in disguise. There were the immediate Vince McMahon-isms evident when Balor debuted on Raw, none more obvious than in the constant Demon King gimmick being pushed right down our throats. However, after a long lay-off, Balor can return to a hero’s welcome and inevitably retrieve the belt that he never lost. This is where he needs to get ahead of the curve. Vince will push the Demon King down the throats so heavily that the crowd could quickly turn on Balor, so why not beat them to it. The ‘Club’ are floundering and should have been tag champs by now. Get the ‘Balor Club’ set up, get some respectability back to Gallows and Anderson, and then set up the mouth-watering Survivor Series show down.
Prediction 5.5: Survivor Series 2017 – The Balor Club Vs The Shield
1- Enzo and Cass win the Raw tag titles at WrestleMania
They’ll win their feud with Rusev, win a #1 contender match against Sheamus/Cesaro (maybe even a 4-Way), and beat the champs Gallows and Anderson.
2- Gallows and Anderson get traded/drafted to Smackdown and the Club gets reformed
It will only be temporarily. AJ Styles will turn face in the early summer. Gallows and Anderson become Samoa Joe’s hired goons.
3- Big E breaks off from the New Day on Raw after WrestleMania
After he breaks free, Big E becomes a monster heel and challenges for the Universal Championship (Roman?), but he won’t win it this year.
4- Baron Corbin wins Money In The Bank
I’m going to regret this because I picked Bray Wyatt the last few years. Corbin cashes in on the champion (Cena?) on the same night. He’ll probably only hold on to the WWE/Universal Title for a month.
5- The Revival will go to Smackdown after WrestleMania and win the tag titles from American Alpha
They’ll feud for the rest of the summer where they’ll probably trade the titles a couple of times.
BONUS- Asuka doesn’t lose the women’s title until NXT: Brooklyn III (Ember Moon). She then debuts on the Smackdown after Summerslam.
1. Miz will win the WWE Title
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who had a better 2016 in the WWE than The Miz, who somehow overcame the shadow of straight-to-video releases and midcard hell to provide some of the best matches (and, equally importantly, moments) of last year. Regardless of whether his beef with Daniel Bryan gets physical at some point, which would explain why they continue to run with it, having the authority figure feud with the championship challenger is generally money. Miz has been a champion before, but it was played as more of an overreach than a serious reign and it worked with his character.
WWE rewards those who make the crowd react, and that makes this prediction a lock. Miz isn’t singlehandedly responsible for the blue brand’s dominance, but he’s delivered as a feature player. You could even potentially book a double turn out of this. Plus: More Maryse. Everybody wins.
2. Shinsuke Nakamura debuts at the Royal Rumble and goes to Smackdown Live
There are plenty of guys who are poised to make noise after their promotion from NXT, but none close to the level of excitement that surrounds the tantalizing tease of Nakamura’s violin filling our ears. The Royal Rumble has the cachet of Lesnar/Goldberg going for it, but WWE’s been more than consistent with their “surprise” entrants and it worked wonders for AJ Styles last time. If you’re looking for someone to rival that guy’s sizable skills, look no further than the King of Strong Style. Having him appear at the Rumble elevates that important event.
As to what happens following that moment, there are many divergent paths but it’s the blue brand that needs a solid face with Cena’s part-time status and Ambrose’s likely departure for Shield territory. When Finn Balor returns from injury on Raw, Smackdown will need an opposition force of equal validity. The Nakamura Era begins.
3. Bobby Roode spends the majority of 2017 as NXT Champion
NXT was the program that produced the most watchable events last year, and it’s no surprise given the parent company’s long-awaited decision to open the doors to talent from elsewhere. With TNA’s future severely in question, the upshot is that folks who you’d never have imagined in a WWE ring have had a chance to show their abilities in a bigger way. The real competition is not between Monday and Tuesday nights, but in the fundamental difference in methodology between NXT and WWE.
Take a trip through the names that have held NXT’s biggest belt and it reads like a who’s who: Rollins, Neville, Zayn, Owens, Balor, Joe, and the aforementioned Nakamura. WWE’s next main event heel is Roode, with a closet full of championships and an attitude reminiscent of “Ravishing” Rick Rude. Why bet against the longest-reigning TNA champ not duplicating the feat? 293 days would be glorious.
4. Kurt Angle will not appear in the WWE in 2017
WWE has treated their nostalgia acts like Christmas morning, tearing through the wrapping paper of every toy on their wish list and then setting it aside when the batteries run out. While Goldberg has been exciting, how long can that story go? The botched Sting debacle shows Titan Tower’s attempts to rehash (and rewrite) the past can produce individual moments but inconsistent results in the longview.
Of all the rumored names to be headed back to Connecticut, none carries more weight than Kurt Angle. While there’s plenty of bad blood on both fronts, it hasn’t stopped Vince from extending olive branches to former foes in the name of a payday. No doubt Hulk Hogan, Batista, and plenty of others will continue the trend in 2017. As for Angle, though, he’s always been his own best marketer. I’ve no doubt it will eventually happen. Smoke but no fire this year.
5. Cesaro will win the Universal Title
Wishful thinking? Perhaps. There remains nobody more deserving of a run with the big belt than Cesaro, who has simply performed at a different level since practically day one in the WWE despite getting abbreviated pushes, precious little talk time, and inane creative lapses like the current team with Sheamus. Cesaro is in a similar situation to Daniel Bryan in that he is the saving grace of Raw more often than not, and also continues to go largely unappreciated even when the angle actually is that he’s largely unappreciated.
WWE’s surprising decision to put the belt on Balor before his unfortunate injury shows they are doing better at adjusting the perception of what their main champion looks like, and the benefit for Cesaro is he can play either side of the fence. Should WWE turn Roman or not, Cesaro would be the perfect opposition and the best opportunity to give the universe what they demand.
1. Braun Strowman will win the Universal Title (or World Title if he moves to SmackDown)
I mean…he kind of has to, right? Otherwise, what is the point of the major push? They have some gold on their hands, if not in five star match quality, then certainly in storyline and character, from really building Strowman up, over the course of the whole year, as being unbeatable only to be…well, beaten by someone. That is the kind of career-making win you can’t buy in WWE and you can’t buy it because it doesn’t come around very often. In order to be truly unbeatable, he has to have the title at some point, ergo he will.
2. At least one major Raw star will move to SmackDown
I think SmackDown not only needs the bodies, but really with so few people at the top on each show, the match-ups are going to get even more repetitive very quickly. For that reason, I see a lot of movement in the midcard division – and at least one of the major stars from Raw, and I class a major star as one who has won one of the major titles before, will move to freshen up the top of the card on the blue brand.
3. Mick Foley will be removed as Raw GM
I don’t think this should happen, but the fact is very few Raw GMs last very long at all. Mick’s feud with Stephanie is bubbling just under the surface and in 2017 I think it will bring itself to the fore and result in Mick’s departure because, really, Stephanie isn’t ever going anywhere, is she?
4. No new WWE in-ring shows will be scheduled
We now have Raw, SmackDown, NXT and 205 Live every week on our regularly scheduled programming. That’s 4 major in-ring shows and in my opinion that’s one too many when you combine it with, often, two PPVs a month. Whilst I don’t think they will get rid of one, at least not next year, there surely can’t be room for any more expansion – I just don’t have the eyeball room.
5. SmackDown will start to regularly eclipse Raw in terms of viewing figures
It’s the better show. I know that’s not often enough, but I can’t see how Raw will regain that mantle and given enough time on top, SmackDown will easily start to beat Raw. I think that’s a problem for WWE’s flagship show, and I have a slight concern that WWE won’t like SmackDown ‘winning’ one little bit. Will that mean they deliberately sabotage SmackDown’s success in order to bolster the failing red brand? Well, they did it before.
1. Samoa Joe will win the Intercontinental Championship
When Joe signed with WWE back in May of 2015, he was already one of the best workers in the world. He was brought to the NXT roster to help develop younger talent, as well as to provide NXT with a main event player. He’s done everything he has been asked to do, had a great series of matches with Finn Balor and Shinksuke Nakamura, has held the NXT title twice, and the time has come to get him up to Smackdown.
Joe can immediately inject some much needed main event star power to a lean Smackdown singles roster. I would love to see him debut at the Royal Rumble and immediately get involved in a feud with either The Miz or Dean Ambrose (Joe can effectively play either the face and heel role), and eventually become the IC champion by Summer Slam.
2. Shinsuke Namakmura will win the WWE World Championship
Boy I’m loving Smackdown, huh? I have both Joe and Nakamura going to their roster, which I think is the smart thing to do. We are quickly seeing feuds get old due to the lack of depth in Smackdown on the singles roster. Can you imagine matches between Nakamura with the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, The Miz, Dena Ambrose, Bray Wyatt and Shinsuke’s old and new nemesis, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe?
Nakamura is right there with AJ Styles as being the best wrestler in the company these days. He has off the charts charisma and is right up there with Styles with his in-ring work. Sadly, I don’t see Nakamura in a title match until Summer Slam or maybe at Survior Series, but I definitely see him winning it the strap before the close of 2017, preferably against Styles or Cena.
3. Ricochet /Prince Puma will sign with WWE and join the NXT roster
He has been one of the most talked about non-WWE talents over the past 24 months. He is one of the hottest free agents out there and if WWE wants to cash in on his prime years, they need to sign him now. It looks as if he is done with his Lucha Underground contract and he can say all he wants about winning various New Japan titles, but I really think the time is now for him to come on board.
Ricochet is also a perfect guy to bring into the NXT brand as it will help soften the Samoa Joe and Nakamura defections to the main roster. He can become the new face of the brand. He also has a history with several guys on the NXT roster, Austin Aries and Roderick Strong who are both strong heels that great feuds can be built off of.
4. John Cena will finally turn heel
Some say it will never happen, but what better time than now! He is basically becoming a part timer, so it’s time to start phasing him out and a great way you can do so would be making his character a recurring heel that shows up to wreak havoc from time to time.
We have been seeing more of an arrogance in his promos lately which could be the smoldering to the fire of a heel turn. Also, it could really help Cena in finding a new popularity with the fan base. Once of the things that has set the all-time greats apart from the others is their ability to reinvent themselves. Hogan, Michaels, Stone Cold, Undertaker, etc. have all been able successfully do this. With the exception of his brief heel run early in his career, Cena has been the same guy. The time for change is now.
5. NXT will become a two hour show
While I am one for strongly believing that less is more, when it comes to NXT, I think it needs to become a two hour weekly live program. Sometimes it seems like we don’t get to see talent for an extended amount of time. This expansion to 2 hours will help keep characters fresh in the eyes of the fan base.
I’m also not sold on the 205 Live program either. While I applaud the efforts to get the cruiserweights more time, I think a better way would be to the make them permanent fixtures on the NXT brand show. Featuring them on a specific cruiserweight only show, can be a bit much. I like a combination of cruiserweights, tag teams, heavyweights and women matches in my wrestling programming. You can achieve this by ditching 205 Live and making NXT two hours.
1.) Shinsuke Nakamura will Win A Secondary Title on the Main Roster
Shinsuke is a star. Why he is still dwelling on NXT is beyond me. I believe his days are numbered on the yellow brand. It might be after Takeover: San Antonio or not later then Takeover: Orlando.
The question is where does he go on the main roster? I would prefer Smackdown but he would fit nicely onto either show. His star power and superior wrestling would be a benefit to either show. But I believe he will not be pushed into the main event right away, he will earn his place and the confidence of the main show runners with a lengthy secondary title. He will add a lot of prestige to either the Intercontinental or US Title in 2017.
2.) Baron Corbin Wins The Money in the Bank
One of these years I will guess the Money in the Bank winner right in my predictions. It is clear Baron Corbin is a future WWE Champion in the Smackdown writers eyes. He has increasing been getting more mic time and matches with the upper card talent. To his credit he has held his own as his match quality has improved. Where does he go next?
I believe he is a perfect candidate to win the Money in the Bank. He is well presented as an opportunist and his ability to play mind games with a WWE Champion would be a fun use of the summer months.
3.) Bayley will Defeat Charlotte for the Raw Women’s Title at WrestleMania 33
It is clear the WWE really likes Charlotte Flair. She has an impressive and unending reign as Women’s Champion. She played hot potato with the title with Sasha, but it was clear Charlotte would always get the better of Sasha at the pay-per-views. Heck she is a heel who doesn’t even have to cheat to win her matches. Enter Bayley.
Bayley is getting the underdog role for sure. It is strange to see the WWE telling us she isn’t worthy of Charlotte’s title despite the fact she has already beaten her repeatedly. But since WrestleMania is the place of the title chases ending, expect the “underdog” Bayley to get her moment for the first time at WrestleMania.
4.) The WWE will have a Tournament and New Brand in Asia
The upcoming UK tournament is an interesting idea. Use a tournament to jumpstart a new territory. The UK indy scene is pretty hot and this gives them a clear leg into evaluating the region’s talents for eventual bringing up to NXT and/or the main roster. I don’t think this is a one time thing for the WWE.
I think Asia is their next territory choice at some point in 2017. They are constantly promoting their efforts in China, India and Japan. Which the amount of potential fans and wrestlers in the region ranging in the tens of millions it is only a matter of time before they push into this money making region as well. I think it will happen this year.
5.) Enzo & Big Cass Will Break Up
Enzo & Big Cass were the hottest tag team in NXT. They have been extremely popular since debuting on the main roster in April of 2016. They are involved in an idiotic feud with Rusev but their popularity is still going strong. That is why the WWE will break them up. They have a habit of bad tag team decisions.
We know the WWE does not see the members of this tag team equally. Judging by the fact Big Cass was in a number one contenders match and Enzo has been nothing more then the guy getting abused for months, it is clear where this is going. Big Cass will be pushed as a singles star and Enzo will be a comedic mid-card act. I think their popularity would be much stronger together. It would be stupid to break them up but the WWE will have other ideas in 2017.
1. Mark Henry or Kane wins the André The Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania
In the brief three-year history of the André Battle Royal, WWE have used the match to elevate an emerging star (Cesaro), acknowledge a modern giant (Big Show) and give an NXT call-up an immediate impact (Baron Corbin). This year, I think the pendulum swings back towards rewarding a popular veteran. We joke about Mark Henry being a THREAT TO WIN every over-the-top-rope affair in which he competes, but with retirement surely on the horizon for the World’s Strongest Man perhaps he’ll finally deliver on that promise before dusting off the salmon jacket for real. If not Henry, my insurance choice is Royal Rumble specialist Kane, who is also a logical choice for a token battle royal win on the big stage before he eventually hangs up his boots.
2. Samoa Joe and The Revival win main roster gold
These men would, I think, top most people’s lists for soonest main roster call-ups from NXT in 2017, but I’m going to go one step further and say WWE has big plans for them when they arrive. Joe has undergone a career renaissance and is currently doing some of the best heel work on any WWE show, while The Revival wrestled a good half-dozen of the company’s best tag matches in 2016 and have received glowing praise from a number of industry veterans. So not only will they debut, I predict they’ll all be entrusted with main roster titles before the year is out.
3. Evie joins WWE and wins either the rumoured women’s tournament or the NXT Women’s Championship
Given that Alexa Bliss has (rightfully) reached the top of the mountain in double-quick time, this now becomes my wish-fulfilment prediction for 2017. Kiwi wrestler Evie has an athletic look and hard-hitting moveset with the potential to tick boxes among WWE fans and executives alike, but I’m going to hedge my bets here; if she doesn’t win the women’s tournament rumoured for the WWE Network early this year (because who among us would’ve picked TJ Perkins to win the CWC?), I’ll say she dethrones Ember Moon (or whoever’s in that spot) for the NXT Women’s Championship further down the road. Even if neither happens, as long as she’s on the WWE payroll in 2017 we all win. Team F’n Kick for life.
4. Raw cuts ties with the cruiserweight division
I very nearly made this pick “WWE drops 205 Live”, but its role in providing more in-ring content for the WWE Network suggests that’s unlikely to happen. I do, however, wonder how soon Vince McMahon may tire of having to book five minutes of cruiserweight action on Raw each week in front of unresponsive main roster crowds. I’m guessing the division will be spun off entirely into 205 Live (possibly recorded at Full Sail, especially if my next pick comes to pass), but one way or the other I could definitely see Raw washing its hands of the cruisers this year.
5. WWE announces SmackDown Live will be extended to three hours
Look, I don’t want this and you don’t want this, but I reckon it could conceivably happen. Following WWE’s brand split the two-hour Tuesday night show has, on balance, received the better critical reviews and there’s evidence that sentiment is beginning to bleed through – witness Raw crowds cheering at the prospect of Sami Zayn being traded away and being told SmackDown had topped the weekly ratings. If this continues into 2017, is it not possible the USA Network could eventually say “that show is working; make us more of that too”? In the end it comes down to money, and if USA offered to pay for a third hour of SmackDown Live – in an era when TV revenues are generally on a downward trend – WWE would bite their hand off.
1. Shinsuke Nakamura will win either the WWE World or Universal Championship
When Nakamura gets called up to the main roster, he will be an instant star. Similar to how Finn Balor was used upon being drafted to Raw, I see Nakamura making his main roster debut in a big way.
Since he’s still in NXT, it’s up in the air as to what brand he will be drafted to. However, I think once called up, he’ll be either Raw or Smackdown’s top champion by the year’s end.
2. There will be five different Cruiserweight Championship holders this year
In 2016, the cruiserweight division was only around for three and a half months and already had three different champions. If that is any indication, I think the Cruiserweight Title will continue to be a championship that changes hands to a different person every other month or so.
On the other hand, I can just as easily see Neville winning the title and having a lengthy run with it. Five different title holders is a big number, but I wanted to have some fun and be a bit risky, so why not!
3. John Cena will not become a 17-time World Champion (which would break Ric Flair’s record)
If Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks’ rivalry last year taught us anything, it’s that you can become a three time and four time Women’s Champion in a matter of months. Therefore, my above prediction could be dead wrong, but I don’t see it happening.
From chatting with friends and reading comments from wrestling fans, it almost seems that Cena breaking Flair’s record and becoming a seventeen-time World Champion is a guarantee for 2017. Although I think Cena will eventually break the record, I don’t think it will be this year. I see guys like Styles, Miz, Orton, Wyatt, Nakamura and/or Samoa Joe, and maybe even Baron Corbin being big competitors for the World Title on Smackdown at some point in 2017.
Although Cena may win it again in 2017, I don’t see him winning it twice. Maybe he breaks the record next year at WrestleMania 34.
4. Goldberg will wrestle a WWE PPV post-WrestleMania 33
I don’t know if I want to see this predication happen because I don’t know where you go with a 50-year-old Goldberg after his feud with Lesnar ends, but I see it happening. Although I don’t know the state of this now, but his merchandise sales through WWE was doing great leading up to and post-Survivor Series. The crowd is clearly hot for him and when he said on the Raw after Survivor Series that he has one more WWE Title run left in him, the place went nuts. I think WWE sees this and will want to milk this out as long as possible. Maybe he puts over Reigns or someone else in the process. I don’t know if he’ll be around long after WrestleMania, but I definitely do see him having at least one more PPV match after then.
5. Braun Strowman will win the WWE Universal Championship
It’s no secret that Vince McMahon loves his “big guy” wrestlers, and Strowman is no exception. He’s already being billed as a favorite to win the Royal Rumble match, and although I don’t think he’ll win, I do think he’ll own the Universal Championship at some point during 2017. Either that, or he falls down the ladder quickly like Rusev or so many others before him. We shall see.
1. Wyatt Family implosion when Erick Rowan returns
With their recent defeat and the loss of the Smackdown Live tag team championships, a hint of dissension among the Wyatt Family members appeared evident. What has made them so effective has been their triad mentality of all for one and one for all as no one part is greater than the whole. It appears that, rather than it building to Randy Orton would having a program with Bray Wyatt, the Eater of Worlds is poised to play the part of peacekeeper within the group. That could very well continue until a healthy Erick Rowan returns, causing Orton to be ousted from the group, much to the dismay of Bray Wyatt who never appeared to have an issue with The Viper. However, a weaker voice on the part of Wyatt could mean that he becomes trapped within the confines of the very group he created.
2. John Cena defeats The Undertaker at Wrestlemania
John Cena’s upcoming WWE championship match against AJ Styles suggests that these two will once again have another classic confrontation. A returning John Cena will no doubt bring about more criticism towards him, and the usual mix of fan hate or fan appeal. But Cena capturing the WWE championship at the Royal Rumble is very much a possibility. As Wrestlemania approaches, one match that is heavily discussed is a John Cena/Undertaker match up. As two men that have been integral parts of Smackdown in the past, it would be a case of who was more committed to the brand more between them? Will this be The Undertaker’s swan song? Will it be for the WWE Championship? That would be another potential storyline that could play itself out leading to Wrestlemania.
3. Finn Balor returns and turns heel
Whether it’s as The Demon or simply as the leader of the Balor Club, Finn Balor will make his return to the main roster before the midway point of the year. That return will be met with a hero’s welcome, until he does something that calls into question whether or not he is a face. When he was forced to relinquish the title, Balor was firmly entrenched as the WWE Universal Champion. However, the injury that took him out of action also meant that a relaunch was possible. Balor could easily realign with his former Bullet Club colleagues on Raw, and once again build up a faction that shows there are strength in numbers. It would give him direction, and he would be another foreign character to play a cocky heel, much like what made him so successful during his time in Japan. It also gives Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson another opportunity to be pushed.
4. Samoa Joe is called to the main roster
Samoa Joe has long been called one of the greatest wrestlers in the world. Samoa Joe has achieved all he possibly could during his time with NXT, and it appears that the need for him to be brought to either Raw or Smackdown Live is at hand. After losing the NXT championship for a second time to Shinsuke Nakamura, the question now is what is Joe to do? It was decided in a recent fatal four way match that Bobby Roode would next be challenging Nakamura for the championship. The possibilities that lay ahead for Joe on the main roster are vast. Whether it is as a face or as a heel, Joe is poised to have several matches with top level talent and compete for one of the championships on either brand. He may be a need on the Smackdown Live brand, but a possibility of having him compete as part of Raw isn’t out of the question either.
5. Brock Lesnar will cost Goldberg his chance at a championship at Wrestlemania
Revenge is a dish best served cold. It also appears as though money is a keen desire for WWE where Lesnar and Goldberg are concerned. Their upcoming confrontation as part of the Royal Rumble suggests that one will cost the other a chance at the title. It could very well be that Lesnar costs Goldberg his chance, leading to a match between the two at Wrestlemania. A match of that magnitude would need that type of build in order to be effective. In the case of Lesnar, who could argue that over the past few years he has been built as this indestructible monster. What happened at Survivor Series was nothing short of a miracle, to see him lose, and in such convincing fashion, to Goldberg. The animosity has to be building, with both set to beat each other down and eliminate the other when they least expect it.
Matthew J. Douglas
1. Dean Ambrose will Turn Heel by the Year’s End
At least I hope he does. The guy is missing the edge that he had back in the Shield days. He’s just too wacky right now. Playing dress-up and cracking wise. In The Shield he felt unstable. He was a combustible element that could tear things down at any moment. Most importantly, in The Shield, he was cool. Right now, he is just a cartoon character that just kind of does things without rhyme or reason. There was a method to the madness at one point.
I say they should turn him heel, on the heels of a Shield reunion. Make us believe its going to happen, have them ready to face off with The Club or something like that, and after they’ve cleared the ring, have Dean turn on Seth. When Roman tries to stop him, he turns the beating on him too. The explanation is easy “I never forgave you Seth, and I never will. And Roman, the minute you did forgive him, you and I were done”. Simple and compelling.
2. The New Day will Disband
I say this with a heavy heart, as I love The New Day together. That said, it just feels inevitable that the WWE will move toward a dissolution of The New Day, which is just unfortunate. Honestly, I really just wish that the WWE would come to the realization that they don’t have to break up to do new and different things.
Big E could set his sights on singles gold, with Kofi and Xavier running interference to assist his personal goals. They could decide to make another run at the Tag Team belts. They could as a trio attempt to capture the Money in the Bank Briefcase, etc. It shouldn’t be difficult to keep them aligned but adjust their goals and desires as a unit and as individuals within the unit. It just takes a slightly more detail oriented approach to the writing.
3. Sami Zayn will Win a Championship
Sami Zayn has the inherent likability to possibly be the WWE’s biggest babyface. He just seems like a good and genuine guy that people at large like to get behind (not unlike Daniel Bryan was). He was in two of my favourite five matches of the year (against Nakamura and against Owens), and despite that, it feels like he’s stagnated as a character and performer as the year came to a close.
This year I believe he will capture gold. Whether that is the Universal Title or the United States Championship (or a title on the Smackdown Brand perhaps?) Sami Zayn will enter 2018 having won his first main roster Championship, and be well on his way to becoming the eternally supportable babyface near the top of the card, as he should be.
4. Cesaro and Sheamus Won’t Make it to Summerslam as a Tag Team
I believe this wholeheartedly, as from a writer’s perspective, their story doesn’t have much legs. They are an odd couple (or buddy cop) Tag Team, that didn’t want to be teaming, but have begun to work together well enough to find success as a team. But now that they’ve found success, I’m not sure where you go from there. I guess you can try working toward them actually being friends, but that’s about it.
It’s odd, but putting the titles on them when they did, only started the countdown clock to when they’ll be breaking up (which is funny because they obviously wanted to put the belts on them earlier than they ended up doing it). If you wanted to give the team real lasting power, the journey to win the belts needed to be longer. The goal of winning them is what keeps them motivated and unified. The only thing they have left now is “Boo”, “Yay”. It’s not a lot to work with.
5. The Miz’s Rivalry with Daniel Bryan will Culminate in a Lengthy Feud with Shinsuke Nakamura (That John Canton Will Name Best Feud in the 2017 Johnny Awards Column)
The Miz had a spectacular back half of 2016 and only seems to be trending up after the first Smackdown Live of the new year. He remained the talk of the town for his picture perfect bitter interview on Talking Smack post Intercontinental Championship loss to Dean Ambrose, facing off with Renee Young and his arch nemesis, Daniel Bryan. Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz has been one of the WWE’s best feuds, without the two even touching one another.
In 2017 I believe that Bryan will sign Shinsuke Nakamura and enlist the King of Strong Style’s aid in shutting up The Miz and his “Soft Style”. Strong Style vs. Soft Style will not only be a thing on the Blue Brand in 2017, but this pairing will shock people with it’s grandeur. These two are picture perfect foils for one another, Nakamura will take respect for The Miz to new heights, and I’m predicting that it will not only happen, but it will win a Johnny Award for Best Feud in 2017!
I don’t like picking things that would be considered easy. I just hope I improve on my 0 for 5 from last year!
1. All three members of New Day will win singles titles
I think The New Day split is coming this year, but predicting that isn’t enough. I’ll take it to another level by saying that all Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods will all hold singles titles in 2017 as well. Big E or Kofi are likely to win midcard titles like they have done in the past. Outside shot for Big E winning one of the two big belts, but I doubt it happens. As for Woods, he would probably fit in well as a popular guy in the Cruiserweight division, so he can win that title.
2. Rusev will win the Universal or WWE Title
I’m a big Rusev fan and feel like WWE hasn’t used him the right way. It may be too optimistic of me to think that this will be the year where he finally gets over the hump and becomes a top guy, but I feel like at some point it’s going to happen. Maybe he’ll get there by winning Money in the Bank or maybe it’s just a monster push. Whatever it is, I’m going with the Bulgarian Brute finally becoming a top guy this year.
I put both titles in there because guys are going to switch shows during the year either through trades, a “draft lottery” and other methods. It’s hard to guess what show a guy might be on in six months from now, so I’m saying Rusev will win one of the two major titles in 2017.
3. AJ Styles will have at least two pay-per-view matches against Shinsuke Nakamura
And I will mark the f**k out! Predicting “Nakamura goes to the main roster” is easy because he’s not going to stay in NXT forever. I want to add to that prediction by saying that AJ Styles, my wrestler of the year in 2016, will have two PPV matches with Nakamura. Their matches in Japan were amazing and I think WWE has to be aware of the chemistry they have. I don’t care if it’s face vs. face or one of them is a heel. They need to have at least two PPV matches. It should be three or four really, but two is a solid prediction I think.
Make it happen, WWE. Please and thank you.
4. Kevin Owens will turn face
The current Universal Champion Kevin Owens is one of my favorite guys in WWE right now. He works hard, he’s a great talker, has entertaining matches and is one of the funniest guys as well. He also gets cheered quite a bit even though he’s a heel. I get the sense that by year’s end, WWE will give in to the crowd and make him a face. It also wouldn’t shock me if he catches on really well as a face almost like a Steve Austin type of face that still acts like a heel, but is cheered for it.
I was going to be even bolder than that to say Owens will win the tag titles with former best friend Sami Zayn, but I’m not going to go that far because they may be on opposite shows.
5. England will host a main roster PPV for the first time since SummerSlam 1992
We have a lot of readers in England that are very vocal about how they want WWE to have a pay-per-view event. It was nice of WWE to have a NXT Takeover in England in December 2015 and the upcoming UK tourney is nice, but that’s not main roster. Since WWE is likely going to have more than 12 PPVs again this year, why not hold one of them in England? My suggestion is for an arena rather than an open air football/soccer stadium. An arena in London or Manchester makes the most sense.
The WWE Network allows them to air anything they want at any time. If London, England had a PPV event in May, June or July for example, it could air at 3pmET for those of us in North America with a 8pm start time in England. What’s the problem with that? If the North American crowd doesn’t want to watch it live then that’s their choice. They can put on WWE Network to watch it any time they want.
The best thing about the England shows is the vocal crowd. Those fans are as passionate about WWE as anybody, so as long as the work is good the reaction is going to be strong. It’s time for WWE to give England fans a PPV. I think 2017 is the year for it.
That’s all for this year’s predictions column. It came in at just under 10,000 words, so if you read it we sincerely thank you.
To the team that helps make up TJRWrestling, thank you so much for all that you do. We had a great 2016 where the views for the site went up by about 30% and I’m optimistic it can grow even more. Please continue to read (and share) our content here on TJRWrestling.net every day because we will continue to do the best to bring you unique and interesting content.
Feel free to post your own predictions or comment on ours in the comment box below. I’m sure a lot of us will want to know what you think, so please use the comment section below.
Thanks for reading.