John: Hey yo. The new year is here, which means it’s time for those us at TJRWrestling to come together and offer up our takes for what we think might happen in the wrestling business in 2018.
Before we get started, I want you to know I made the guys here come up some predictions that aren’t easy. You aren’t going to see something like this: “Roman Reigns will beat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.” That’s because it was reported last March that it was the plan to do it at WrestleMania 34. I told the guys we need to be bold a bit. Some of them sent me stuff that I had to send back because they needed to clarify better. What I want are predictions that we can answer with a yes or no reply when I look back on this column in the last week of December 2018.
Here are our predictions. Check them out and feel free to offer up your predictions in the comments below as well. It’s a fun exercise even if you go 0 for 5 like several of us did last year. Also, shoutout to our graphics guy Steve Melo for the sweet banner up top. He always does a great job with our banners and he’s joining us for these predictions too. Let’s get to it.
- Chris Jericho will wrestle more matches outside WWE than in it
He’s already one up with his match against Kenny Omega that will have just taken place by the time you read this. Plus, he has his cruise he’s doing in October that I fully expect him to compete in. The possibilities are endless for the cruise with all the ROH roster and legends that will be on the ship. Y2J and Rey Mysterio vs. The Young Bucks anyone? Also, if you listen closely to his Talk is Jericho podcast with the likes of Jimmy Jacobs and Cody Rhodes, he’s had quite a bit critical to say about WWE. Not to mention I believe he’s bitter that HHH/WWE/NXT blew him off for the cruise. We know he won’t be at WrestleMania due to Fozzy touring and with all the ventures he has, I don’t get the sense WWE is any type of priority.
- Finn Balor will end up on the 205 Live roster
I hate to even write this, but with the never-ending crusade to make the 205 Live division relevant, this just seems like a matter of time to me. When Hideo Itami was brought to the main roster for 205 Live, but teamed with Finn in his debut match, I had this picture in my mind of Vince watching it from Gorilla and thinking, “Well God damn pal, Finn isn’t any bigger than this guy, put him in 205!” Perhaps the Balor Club forming with Gallows & Anderson will lead to bigger things, but per recent history with WWE booking, it will be a short-term idea to appease some fans and Balor will be back on an island after WrestleMania season. Once the decision is made, I could even see him winning the Cruiserweight Title right away to give the decision some validity.
- There will be a women’s Elimination Chamber match
WWE’s train of thought is getting from one first to the next for the women’s division. After they make history by having the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble, they will double down on the “Road to WrestleMania” and when Raw presents the Elimination Chamber PPV in February, there will be the first-ever women’s Elimination Chamber that night as well. Last year, they introduced a new version of the Chamber, which makes it not as punishing to have to compete in, thus allowing the women the opportunity to compete. (Not saying they couldn’t have competed in the original incarnation, but even the men have mentioned that original chamber was far too unforgiving.) The thought of Nia Jax completely dominating in a match like that would be worth it on its own.
- “All In” will sell out a 10,000 seat arena
“If you book it, they will come.” I’m sure this is the mindset that Cody & The Young Bucks have had ever since the idea to book a 10,000 seat arena came to pass. I want this prediction to come true simply for the fact that they deserve it. Getting the Hot Topic deal has been such a game changer and yes, there will never be another WWE, but this is the most anyone has ever done to change the business since WCW was in existence. With the plethora of options from ROH, indies, and NJPW, and perhaps the rematch for Jericho & Omega in their back pocket, this is a show that fans not just in the United States but out of the country will flock to. If you’re a true pro wrestling fan, this is a prediction you should all want to come true.
- Aleister Black will win the NXT Title and spend all of 2018 in NXT
Black is the closest thing to a rock star that NXT has had since Finn Balor. Nakamura had that vibe too, but I think Balor took it to another level. When I attended War Games last November, the reaction and awe that Black received was really cool to see. Triple H has to see the special entities he’s created and realize all of them are getting fumbled badly on the main roster. With someone as unique as Black is, I can see him putting the title on him to ensure he stays with the brand, much like what he did with Asuka and help continue to bring the perception up. I don’t think Gargano will win in Philly so I think Black unseats Almas for the title in New Orleans during WrestleMania weekend. I believe 2018 can be a huge rebound year for NXT and Black will be at the forefront of it.
1. Pete Dunne to be called to the main roster and win the Intercontinental or US Title
I had the pleasure of reviewing the UK Championship Tournament in 2017 for TJRWrestling and it was awesome. There were some top talents, but both Tyler Bate & Pete Dunne (who’ve both appeared in NXT) were easily the standout stars. Dunne is a great wrestler and should be on the main roster. Is he too small to be considered a heavyweight contender? Possibly, but he would flourish in the mid-card. I just hope they keep him as far away from the 205 as possible.
2. Dean Ambrose to turn heel by the end of 2018
With the unfortunate injury to Ambrose that’ll likely rule him out for a good while, coupled with Reigns’ march towards WrestleMania, I can’t see how the Shield can last the year. Rollins won’t last long as part of the team and will undoubtedly go solo soon. I think the breaking point will be a returning Dean Ambrose who will come back as a heel and possibly feud with Rollins.
3. Chris Jericho will wrestle Kenny Omega at a WWE event
I’m torn between this and ‘Chris Jericho to not appear in WWE in 2018’. I’ll go out on a limb here and say after their match in Japan, Jericho will return to WWE and Omega will interfere in some way to push this feud on. I don’t think Omega will be a WWE employee, more like a one-time deal on a PPV or something.
4. Asuka to win the Raw Women’s Title and defend it successfully for 5 PPVs
It’s a given that WWE is saving Asuka’s title win for a big event – although you never know with WWE, remember Bayley’s first title win on a Raw in February instead of WrestleMania? Regardless, I think Asuka should beat all-comers once she gets the gold and build for a huge PPV match with Ronda Rousey down the line.
5. Batista will return to WWE
I think WWE dropped the ball big time on Dave Batista’s last run with the company. He wanted to be a heel, we wanted him to be a heel, but WWE made him a good guy and then they turned him after the Royal Rumble win in 2014. Now with much more star power behind him than before, he’d be a great short-term addition to Raw to excite the crowds. I can see a positive reception for him, should he return, and hope he can go on a great last run with the company.
1. John Cena becomes Intercontinental Champion and The Miz wins the Universal or WWE Championship
Two things happened when Roman Reigns beat The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship in November: Miz stopped carrying a title on Raw, which felt weird, and WWE made sure to note that Reigns had completed the Grand Slam. On the second point, there’s nothing that WWE says matters that John Cena never wins; the 17th World Title is the one everyone talks about, but that could conceivably wait – Goldberg, The Rock and Brock Lesnar have all proven part-time major title reigns are viable. Cena’s time as a regular-enough TV presence to viably carry a secondary title is dwindling though, so I say that part happens first. The Miz’s consolation, meanwhile? A well-deserved second chance to run with the ball at the top of one roster or another. If WWE can afford to give Jinder Mahal six months, they can give The Miz a couple at least.
2. A Money in the Bank cash-in changes the announced Survivor Series card
The idea here is a logical, concurrent progression of two things that happened in 2017. One, WWE ran out of ideas for booking Money in the Bank briefcase holders (Baron Corbin made Damien Sandow’s cash-in look like a star being born, while the less said about James Ellsworth and Carmella the better). Two, WWE had to book a spate of television title changes to arrive at the Survivor Series card they wanted. Assuming both concepts – briefcases and brand warfare – are still in place in 2018, I call WWE announcing a champion vs champion match for Survivor Series that then gets changed due to a ‘surprise’ cash-in. Two birds with one briefcase-shaped stone.
3. WWE abandons 205 Live
Double or quits on this one, after I was wide of the mark last year with “Raw cuts ties with the cruiserweight division”. Despite a talented roster working their tails off, 205 Live viewership still isn’t making headlines and live crowds are still largely cold to it. This month’s cruiserweight-only house shows looked like being an acid test of marketability, then Bray Wyatt vs Matt Hardy needed adding to the card while elsewhere WWE is squeezing 205 Live’s recording schedule in favor of a new Facebook venture. I can just about see a case for continuing a division in name, though the dependency first on Neville and now Enzo Amore is not healthy, but if many of the contracts offered after the Cruiserweight Classic were for two years I could definitely see a currently-budget-conscious WWE cutting their losses this year and downsizing.
4. WWE will hold both a women’s Elimination Chamber and women’s TLC match
Women in WWE have broken a lot of new ground in the last 18 months or so. We now hardly bat an eye when they command the main event segment of Raw or SmackDown Live, while this month’s first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match joins first-ever cage, cell, ladder, tables, Iron Man and Last Woman Standing matches in recent times. Some questions for the women’s division this coming year are a minefield to call – Asuka’s ongoing undefeated streak, the impact of recent and future NXT call-ups, the apparently looming threat of Ronda Rousey and associates – but a safer bet is for them to complete a full house of the major WWE gimmick matches. By my count, this requires an Elimination Chamber and a full TLC contest, both of which should be served by the eponymous pay-per-views in 2018.
5. Both Raw and SmackDown Live’s General Managers (Kurt Angle and Daniel Bryan) will lose their on-screen jobs
This last prediction started life as the question of whether Daniel Bryan will wrestle again. Bryan’s WWE contract is widely known to be up in 2018, as is his desire to step back between the ropes if medically able; the theory goes that if WWE doesn’t clear him to do so he will seek that opportunity elsewhere. Might WWE’s doctors change their minds before his contract ends? Either way, he wouldn’t end 2018 as an authority figure on WWE programming. Conversely, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle is now wrestling in a WWE ring again and has recently found himself at odds with Stephanie McMahon and Triple H in storylines. Can his character survive 12 months in that role? One way or the other, I think neither Bryan nor Angle will last the year as a WWE General Manager.
1. Shinsuke Nakamura will win the Royal Rumble Match
I know this may seem like an obvious pick to some people since Styles vs. Nakamura at WrestleMania has been rumored for a long time and is likely to happen. However, as we see most years, the person who we all think will or should win the Royal Rumble Match, never really ends up winning. I also think there are other strong contenders like Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman that could be in the match, so nothing is guaranteed.
With that being said let me explain why I decided to go forward with this prediction anyway. Although his match quality hasn’t been the same since debuting on the main roster (and aside from his match with Sami Zayn in 2016, his style’s been pretty different from his NJPW days) … Nakamura’s still my guy. I know what he’s capable of and I want to see him succeed. It’s as good of a time as any to finally give him that big moment.
2. The Raw Tag Team Titles will change hands six times
Vince McMahon proved to us in 2017 that he is currently gung-ho about rapid title changes. In 2017, the Universal Title changed hands twice, Intercontinental Title changed hands three times, Cruiserweight Title changed hands four times, Raw Women’s Title changed hands four times, WWE Title changed hands five times, Smackdown Women’s Title changed hands five times, Smackdown Tag Team Titles changed hands five times, Raw Tag Team Titles changed hands six times, and the United States Title changed hands nine times! NINE times! That means, not including NXT, we saw the “shock” of a title switch a combined 43 times!
There was a poll on WWE.com recently where they asked which veteran WWE Superstar is most likely to win a WWE/Universal Title in 2018. The choices were Triple H, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker and Goldberg. Do I want any of those people to hold not just a World Title, but ANY title in 2018? Hell no. They had their time. However, even though sometimes nothing has come of these polls, that poll tells me WWE is putting it out there to at least see if it garners a reaction or if fans would be interested in this.
I’m not going to commit to a World Title, but I will say that I think Kurt Angle will win “A” title in 2018. With Triple H winning the Royal Rumble match and WWE Championship two years ago, and Goldberg walking into last year’s WrestleMania as Universal Champion, it’s certainly not that far-fetched.
4. Jinder Mahal, Drew McIntyre and Heath Slater will team together for one match
Unlike my previous two predictions, I’d actually like to see this happen. When the rise of Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal was happening in WWE, I couldn’t help but keep thinking “man, these guys were just a goofy jobber faction a few years ago.” It’s also funny to think back to how Slater was the leader of that group and how Mahal and McIntyre have now become much bigger stars.
I don’t think teaming 3MB together for one night only would hurt any of them. They don’t need to come out wearing the old outfits or anything either. I just think it would provide a funny moment to sit back and take a look at how much things have changed. Slater getting on their nerves and trying hard to “get the band back together for good” could bring some laughs too.
5. Rusev will win the Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Rusev’s “Happy Rusev Day” t-shirt is currently WWE’s top-selling piece of merchandise. Anybody that’s been watching Smackdown as of late can hear the loud, positive reaction’s he’s getting from the crowd. He’s a bigger guy, foreign, talented, good personality – all the stars are aligned. When Rusev was traded to Smackdown, it looked like he was going to be in a program for the WWE Title upon returning to the ring. However, that didn’t happen and it seems like that push was given to Jinder Mahal instead. With Rusev now being over with the fans in a big way, I think a WWE Title feud is on the horizon; and what’s one way to get there in WWE land? Winning the Money in the Bank Ladder Match.
1. Daniel Bryan wrestles at least once this year
With the growing animosity between Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon, one would anticipate that they would face each other. However, in order to best protect him and prove that he isn’t ‘against’ Shane that they actually team up against one another to face Owens and Zayn. In providing equal opportunity also means fans get to see just how good Bryan still is and lends itself to showing fans that is can still go and that he still ‘has it’. Now with his contract up in the fall, does that mean will he compete for the WWE or another company? That’s another story. However, he seems primed to want to compete once again regardless of where it is.
2. Triple H will compete once again at Wrestlemania possibly against Kurt Angle
Over the past few years if there has been something that has been a staple with Wrestlemania it has been Triple H’s in-ring involvement. With his match against Sting to his battles with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, he maintains such good condition that is impossible to think of him not being in a ring once again. Only this time, Triple H will once again resume competing at Wrestlemania with the motivation of beating the current Raw General Manager Kurt Angle. Their history with one another certainly lends itself to some creative match building here between the two of them.
3. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will win the Smackdown Live Tag Team Championships
While there is nothing to suggest they will, their success as a tag team has to translate into something. Therefore, the ultimate payoff would be to have them capture the Smackdown Live tag team championships. In doing so it would be Zayn’s first championship and only adds to Owens list of accomplishments. What is another way for these two to get under the skin of Shane McMahon? By having them hold championship gold of course. With no sure guarantee of when that would happen, these two have tag team championship gold once again in their sights.
4. Braun Strowman will win the Universal Championship
He isn’t finished with us and for the simple fact that it has been teased so many times before, but a Strowman championship reign should happen sooner rather than later. We don’t know if it will be at Wrestlemania, but being the focal point of the promotion may be just what was needed for him, and the brand. Whether it is defeating Brock at Wrestlemania or Roman at another point of the year, Strowman still remains a heavy favorite to capture it at some point in 2018. He has to square off against the likes of Balor, Joe, Reigns and possibly Triple H to do so, but a championship reign seems inevitable.
5. WWE and UFC to have a cross-promotional match
With the issues of Jon Jones and the UFC and Brock Lesnar, this year may be the time when all parties come together to engage in a cross-promotional match. Whether that means the use of the Four Horsewomen (Ronda Rousey and friends), Jon Jones or Connor McGregor, the build would be a super money-making opportunity for all involved. The biggest issue may be who succeeds or not which could be a stumbling point as UFC often boasts that the WWE is choreographed and they are legit. To have them lose would be an issue unless they don’t lose legitimately, but because the WWE used underhanded tactics.
1. Jason Jordan will turn heel and admit he isn’t really Kurt’s son leading to a match
No one was happier than me to see my favorite wrestler of all time, Kurt Angle, return to WWE last year. I only wished it was kept a surprise. Nothing seems to be kept a surprise anymore these days when it comes to wrestling. To say that I have been disappointed with the way WWE has handled Angle’s return would be an understatement. Then you add on this story of Jason Jordan being his “son” and suddenly any care I had left went right out the window. I can only hope it leads to a reveal that Jordan faked the whole thing, turns heel and Angle puts him over in a revenge match and we can all forget this ever happened in the first place.
2. Jinder Mahal will hold the US Title for the majority of 2018
I’m not sure if he will win the current tournament that has been set up on Smackdown, but I do predict a long title run with Jinder holding the US Title for the majority of the year. It also puts him in the exact position that he should be on the card in an upper mid-card act along with the Singh Brothers. Here is hoping that this is the case and he stays away from the WWE Title because he did that title absolutely no favors in 2017.
3. Dean Ambrose will go heel and turn on his Shield brothers
I went 4 for 5 on my 2017 TJR Wrestling predictions. The only one I got wrong was suggesting that Roman Reigns would finally go heel. What was I thinking, eh? Like Cena, if it hasn’t happened already, it obviously never will. Vince is a stubborn dude, what can I say? And poor Dean. After years of staying injury free, he is now out for nine months and will miss WrestleMania. WWE did a storyline where they made it look like that Samoa Joe took him out, but in actuality, it was Seth Rollins that accidentally hurt him when attempting a suicide dive onto Joe outside of the ring and taking everyone down with him. If I were booking Dean’s return, I would tease a Shield reunion and then have Dean destroy Seth and Roman with a steel chair the same way Seth did in 2014. To Roman, he can say it’s not personal. To Seth, he can say that’s payback and for taking almost a year of Dean’s career that he can never get back. A heel Ambrose would certainly be fresh as well.
4. Asuka’s undefeated streak will come to an end
All good things must come to an end. Just ask The Undertaker and Goldberg. Here is hoping that when Vince does finally decide to end Asuka’s undefeated streak that he won’t have it be because Alexa Bliss electrocuted her or some crap like that. It will more than likely be Ronda Rousey, who I also predict will probably win the upcoming first ever women’s Royal Rumble match and my guess is it will be her versus Asuka at Wrestlemania. But who the hell knows at this point? I’m sure Vince will change his mind and have Ronda electrocute Asuka instead.
5. Daniel Bryan will wrestle again…in WWE
Yep yep yep. I think as of right now that everything is being kept hush-hush but we could very well see Daniel Bryan wrestle again. He has already made it clear on multiple occasions that if WWE won’t let him wrestle that he will go elsewhere once his contract expires. And I don’t think that is a chance WWE is willing to take. They might finally cave and their doctor might finally give in and let the guy wrestle again. They seem to be hinting at a possible feud with Shane it would seem. I personally feel that he still has unfinished business to take care of with the Miz. There are so many possibilities in terms of dream matches, but one thing is for sure is that it definitely will not be the same Daniel Bryan from before as I would hope he adopts a much safer in ring working style.
1.) Shinsuke Nakamura will not win the WWE Title or Universal Title in 2018
Shinsuke is a star. Why no one in the WWE has figured that out yet is beyond me. I mean who would take one of the most decorated champions in New Japan history and have him lose to Jinder Mahal on multiple occasions? It is beyond insulting. I don’t see Nakamura’s position getting any better in 2018.
Shinsuke Nakamura hasn’t had a lot of success on the Smackdown roster. His matches have been quite brief, he has been on the losing end of nearly all his feuds and he rarely appears on Smackdown. It is quite clear the WWE writers do not see him as a major star. He is not regarded as a possible top face or heel on either brand. He might get some title matches, but the WWE will not give “The Artist” his due.
2.) Sami Zayn wins the Money in the Bank
Sami Zayn is a fantastic heel. The way he took his natural babyface tendencies and made himself so obnoxious in late 2017 was a highlight of Smackdown. I think it will all be rewarded in a big way in 2018.
Zayn needs something to raise his credibility as a real threat. One of the best ways to do this will be to give him the Money in the Bank briefcase. He would hold the case beautifully and could play some nice mind games with whoever is the current WWE Champion. He has certainly earned his way into a prominent role on either brand and it will be rewarded at June’s pay-per-view event.
3.) Daniel Bryan will not wrestle a WWE match
This prediction really pains me to say. Concussions are a really dangerous thing. As we learn more and more about CTE, you cannot let a wrestler with a history of ten documented concussions and post-concussion seizures to step foot into a WWE ring. There might be some wrestling companies who will allow it, but not an organization like the publicly traded WWE.
I can see it is killing Daniel Bryan to not wrestle right now. He could have dream matches with Nakamura, Balor, Owens, Zayn and Styles to name a few. You could see WWE practically printing money with one of its most popular stars ever.
I just hope that once Bryan leaves WWE that he will think of his long-term future. I am sure he has considered all the risks of coming back to a wrestling ring and you know WWE has too.
4.) The WWE UK brand will get a weekly show
It has to happen, right? Last January, the WWE gave us an amazing tournament for the new WWE UK Championship. We had some an amazing title match at NXT Takeover: Chicago, a few NXT television appearances and a special in May. With the unbelievable talent of Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, Mark Andrews, Wolfgang and Pete Dunne you wouldn’t want to waste time not showcasing them on WWE television as often as possible. But in 2017, we had no weekly show for them.
I think that will change in 2018. I mean you cannot afford to string along that title and its talented competitors without a real home for too much longer. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a small UK venue to do a couple of weeks of television tapings every few months. The WWE will finally figure out this growing market this year.
5.) The New Day will finally break up
You know the writing is on the wall. Multiple members of New Day have been referring to themselves as “the one team that doesn’t break up”. That seems to be a true nail in the coffin to one of the most entertaining teams in modern WWE.
I am actually surprised the group has lasted as long as it has. The New Day got a fresh lease on life when they moved to Smackdown last year. They had an amazing feud with The Usos. but they seem to be running out of opportunities as a group. I am pretty sure it will be Big E that will break off into a singles career. It will be a sad day when the pancake loving New Day finally ends their run in 2018.
1. Kings Of Wrestling (Cesaro and Kassius Ohno) will reform!
There have been reports about Sheamus suffering from Spinal Stenosis, the same injury that ended Edge/Stone Cold Steve Austin’s careers. If true, unfortunately, his days as a full-time wrestler may be coming to a close sooner rather than later. I’d like to hope that they’d give Cesaro a nice run as a single’s superstar. However, my impression is that they see him mainly as a great hand in a tag team. So the question is who should his next Tag Team partner be? I think it should be Kassius Ohno.
They’ve worked together as a team before (in Ring of Honor), have great chemistry, and it would be very cool to see them reunited again in a WWE ring. I say WWE calls up the other KO and reforms the Kings of Wrestling when The Bar disbands.
2. A Cruiserweight will win a non-Cruiserweight Championship
The biggest failure of the cruiserweight division to this point has been their segregation from the rest of the roster. It was nice to see Cedric Alexander team with Goldust this week, mainly because it tears down the imaginary barrier between Cruiserweights and their heavier colleagues.
I predict that this barrier will completely fall later this year when a Cruiserweight surprises either the Intercontinental or United States Champion (whoever it may be) and answers an open title challenge and wins the title. That or two will form a team and win the Tag Team Championships on one of the two brands. Here’s to hoping it Cedric Alexander or Hideo Itami that is part of this moment, though it really could be any cruiserweight. It’s the perfect WWE end of summer surprise to spark interest.
3. Dean Ambrose will not turn heel on The Shield upon his return
It sucks that Dean Ambrose, one of my favourite superstars on the WWE roster, will possibly be sidelined for up to 9 months. While I do think that the time he’ll be out is being slightly exaggerated, as a fan of his it’ll suck not to see him out there each week. With that said, I do think his absence is a blessing in disguise. The goofy Dean Ambrose shtick was beginning to get old, even with me, a big fan of his.
When he returns, I think he’ll be hungrier and bring an attitude that we haven’t seen from him since The Shield’s break up. More importantly, his absence will only make the fans love him more. His return pop will be huge… and he will not turn heel on his Shield Brothers.
4. The Club vs The Shield will be a PPV main event and lead to a shocking heel turn
The Club vs. The Shield will be a blockbuster PPV match. Fans will be very excited to see Finn Balor, flanked by the Good Brothers, take on Universal Champion Roman Reigns, and his Shield Brothers, Seth Rollins, and a returning Dean Ambrose. The feud will come about when Finn reminds everybody that he was the first Universal Champion, that he beat Roman and Seth en route to becoming the first Universal Champion, and that he never lost the Title. After weeks of teasing, they’ll brawl which will set up the Ambrose return and the match being made for an upcoming PPV.
It will also be the backdrop for a huge turn. Everybody will expect Dean Ambrose turns on his Shield brothers, handing the victory to The Club. Instead, The Shield will turn heel collectively by doing something truly despicable to The Balor Club, and then take over the WWE. Club vs. Shield will last for a while afterward, with Balor chasing the title.
5. A member on the New Day will win the WWE Championship
I’ve been beating the drum for a while that if Jinder Mahal can have a lengthy WWE Title reign, Kofi Kingston of The New Day certainly deserves one. The WWE is dipping their toe in the water now with Xavier Woods competing for the United States Championship. I see New Day returning to their heelish roots and setting their sights on the WWE Championship in 2018.
The entire program will run for a couple months and will see The New Day help Kofi win the WWE Championship. Kofi/New Day will defend the belt in the 2/3 Falls Rematch against the former Champion (likely AJ Styles) where the former champ almost overcomes the odds but falls just short at the third stage. That’s because The New Day switch in a fresh competitor for each fall. The former Champion will then win back the belt in a one on one match, thus ending the magical run atop WWE for The New Day. Nobody in the WWE deserves such a run more than The New Day for their work over the last couple years.
- Shinsuke Nakamura wins the Royal Rumble
Last year I posited that Nakamura would debut at the Royal Rumble; while that didn’t happen, my feelings for leading off with this bold prediction are many and varied. Everyone knows the Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns story at this point, but what about the WWE Title and an opponent for AJ Styles? WWE has teased Styles/Nakamura before (at Money in the Bank), and it got a HUGE reaction. They noticed.
Nakamura was one of the biggest examples of WWE killing momentum in 2017, and this would be a great way to atone for those sins. In addition, the Rumble is here in Philly again, and they owe us for that Roman Reigns fiasco a while back. When even The Rock can’t save you from rampant boos, it’s a tough pill to swallow a second time.
Styles/Nakamura has the potential to be a program of the year right out of the gate. Make it so!
- Samoa Joe wins Raw’s Money In the Bank
It’s more than fair to say that Baron Corbin winning MITB and blowing the chance just to finish the year on a high note is one of the largest head-scratchers when recounting the last year, so once again I’ll think positively and expect WWE to right the ship in the minds of the fanbase. That means you need a briefcase winner who brings with him the aura of success. Joe has been a factor since his arrival on the main roster, and despite some false starts against Lesnar and an unfortunate injury, he has for the most part delivered in my mind.
It’s difficult to look past the aforementioned Lesnar/Reigns faceoff to predict what’s next for the Universal Title, but Joe has faced off against both and is the perfect heel to have licking his chops in wait. His combination of attitude and athleticism make him the choice.
- Asuka will be 2018’s longest-reigning champion in WWE
I’m especially happy with this since Asuka isn’t even a champion yet! To expect her to have a momentous year in 2018 is hardly a stretch, but I’m going to go a few steps further and make it historic. WWE has presented dominating female angles before: this is a company that touted Moolah as the longest reigning champ EVER! With all the accomplishments women’s wrestling has made in WWE this year, including a separate Royal Rumble, the time is right to tell that story again in a much different way.
Asuka captures the imagination uniquely, and that’s the type of thing WWE needs as it continues to grow internationally. It’s a simple enough blueprint that they already employed while she was in NXT, so it’s simplicity itself: Expect Asuka to displace Alexa Bliss sooner rather than later, and set a new standard by having it the majority of this calendar year.
- Sanity debuts on Smackdown and wins the Tag Team Titles
It wouldn’t be a proper prediction column without an NXT call-up, so let’s make it four! Sanity is perfect for the main roster in very short order: they’ve got a mix of solid veteran talent, they feature both genders, and their gimmick is over with the NXT fans. They can also play either side of the fence, as seen by their face alignment with Drew McIntyre. On top of all of that, they employed the famous “Freebird Rule” while they were tag champions. Sound familiar?
Smackdown already boasts an incredibly popular group which follows a good bit of that same script in The New Day, and their feud with The Usos was one of the best things about pro wrestling last year. TND was invigorated, and with it the division, but you can’t reheat leftovers forever, a fact which WWE is both keenly and grudgingly aware of.
- Daniel Bryan wrestles in 2018
It’s increasingly evident that Daniel Bryan will indeed be involved in serious physicality again this year, whether it’s under the roof of WWE or not. He has all the cards, as he’s been a model employee involved in both some of the biggest storylines of the last year and (shockingly) the personal side of things due to his marriage into the Bella Total Divas empire. Tell me you don’t see Vincent Kennedy McMahon licking his chops imagining an Odd Couple spinoff with merch machine John Cena?
We’ve already seen some developments on this front, as Bryan has been in the ring (albeit in referee mode) and the fans as expected have been eating up the tantalizing thought of the “Yes!” movement renewed. There are still obviously hurdles to clear, and no way WWE allows him to fully wrestle without being cleared, but Bryan’s in-ring story is not over.
Stuff will happen and people will complain! Oh wait, that doesn’t count, but it’s pretty accurate.
1. Three men will win their first WWE or Universal Championships: Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe and Rusev
I think Strowman is an obvious choice and he should have won it in 2017, but WWE is so set on giving Brock Lesnar a one year run. This should be Strowman’s year.
Samoa Joe is one of the best heels in the company. He deserves a run as a top guy. It might be on Smackdown after WrestleMania.
This is the second year I’m making the Rusev prediction because I’ve been on the Rusev bandwagon for a long time. Maybe I jumped the gun last year although I really think if he was given Jinder Mahals’s push he would have done a lot better. Now that the “Rusev Day” stuff is seeing him win over the crowd (an important thing), this is the year where WWE can hopefully push him to that next level. It makes sense to turn him face due to the “Rusev Day” reactions. It’s a silly concept that works. Rusev can go on this winning streak and people will buy in because he’s got a lot of credibility as a bigger guy that has a strong personality and is capable of good matches.
2. Chris Jericho will have three major NJPW matches against Kenny Omega
It’s rare for me to make a non-WWE prediction, but with all the Jericho/Omega talk I feel like making a prediction about my fellow Canadians. They had their match at WrestleKingdom 12 (I won’t spoil the result here), but I don’t think that’s the end of this storyline. I believe they will have another match in New Japan in a few months and then I think they’ll do a blow off match possibly at an American NJPW show because if Omega/Jericho III happens in the US it would draw a huge crowd. Perhaps it could be at the “All In” show planned by Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks that Kurt mentioned earlier. That show is likely going to have ROH/NJPW support too, so it makes sense to have Jericho/Omega III on US soil.
I also believe Jericho has no matches in WWE this year. He’s free to do what he wants and after his Wrestle Kingdom performance, I think he’ll want to do more.
3. Sasha Banks will move to Smackdown, turn heel and win the Smackdown Women’s Title
I think Sasha Banks is a great talent that is the best heel women’s wrestler in WWE this decade. I’m talking mostly about her NXT run when she really opened up people’s eyes. I think she can do Alexa Bliss’ act better than Bliss can because Banks did it first and Banks has better matches. I understand why WWE booked her as a face against Charlotte. It’s time to change things up, though.
Banks is lost in the shuffle on Raw and has been for a long time. She’s too good to not be featured more. With Asuka likely staying on Raw all year as the face of the division that will probably be in the title picture a lot, Banks should be moved to Smackdown (likely post WrestleMania when they change up the rosters again) and have a better chance to get to the top again. Turn her heel and put the title on her.
4. Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano will each hold the NXT Championship
I’m so excited about Ciampa’s return to NXT following his incredible heel turn on his tag team partner Johnny Gargano. The story sets up beautifully with Gargano set to challenge NXT Champion Andrade ‘Cien” Almas at NXT Takeover Philadelphia on January 27. I don’t know for sure if Ciampa will be cleared from his ACL surgery, but it will be about eight months. Ciampa is likely going to show up, cost Gargano the title and off they go. The story doesn’t need the title right away, but I would have Ciampa win it around May (or maybe August) and then have Gargano finally beat him for it towards the end of the year.
Ciampa vs. Gargano will have one of the best feuds this year. They are too good not to and NXT’s creative team are smart enough to give them the chance to show what they can do. I’m very excited to see this rivalry lead the way for NXT this year.
5. Women’s Tag Team Titles will be introduced on Raw and Smackdown
This isn’t something I necessarily want. I just think it’s something WWE will do. Some of the other guys mentioned women’s Elimination Chamber, TLC, and other stuff. I think Tag Team Titles are the most likely new addition for the women this year.
The problem with the idea is there aren’t enough women on both brands to allow them to have a credible tag team division. There are 18 women on Raw and Smackdown in terms of full-time talent right now. If they want to have a credible tag team division they probably need around 30 women, just so they have more actual teams. Adding women from NXT is possible as well as bringing back more women from the past, but I’m not sure if WWE really needs more titles right now. I don’t mean to be a hater. Just a realist. If it does happen I hope it works out.
That’s for all us. Thanks for reading and like I said earlier, feel free to offer up your predictions in the comment section below. You can also let us know what you thought about our predictions as well.
Have a great year and thanks for supporting us at TJRWrestling. Big things coming in 2018!