The huge changes taking place in WWE in 2016 are setting the table for a shocking 2017. Many new stars were signed to add talent depth with the brand split being the major story of the year. WWE completely changed the landscape with Raw and Smackdown Live being two different brands with unique rosters. No one would have predicted the year ending with Kevin Owens and AJ Styles as the two major world champions in WWE. The opportunity has been open for stars to take the ball and run with it. NXT becoming a successful third smaller brand changed WWE’s vision and they now sign the hot names on the free agent market.
Various legends still working for WWE are in their later years. We are witnessing the last years of legendary talent merging with the new stars being born. The roster is truly like a fantasy video game of wrestlers from all eras and backgrounds squaring off. This year was the early stages of the new look WWE and 2017 is bound to get even more interesting with enough time to establish the unique brands of stars. The entire wrestling world is changing and next year will be one of the most fascinating yet. We’ll look at some of the huge wrestling things that are probably going to happen in 2017.
15. The Undertaker Retires
The Undertaker manages to return every single year for a big WrestleMania match and never appears to look his age. Maybe he’s really a dead man coming back to life that has found the fountain of youth. At the age of 51, Undertaker will have to start thinking about no longer risking his health in the strenuous occasional matches he works. The rumors of a WrestleMania 33 showdown between Undertaker and John Cena make the most sense for a farewell.
Cena is the only active wrestler on the same level of Undertaker as a respected WWE icon. The two men could tell a great story and Cena presents everything that would be needed of the final opponent of Undertaker. There’s no telling if WWE will advertise this as a match with Undertaker’s career on the line. Cena would be hated more than usual for being the one to retire Undertaker. It may be beneficial to either have Undertaker announce it as his final match or just not reveal it until the next night for a celebration of his career.
14. John Cena Ties Ric Flair’s Record
The rumored WrestleMania 33 match between John Cena and The Undertaker would likely be the main event of the show. Smackdown Live’s WWE World Championship would factor into play under such circumstances. A very good bet would see Undertaker defeat AJ Styles in his home state of Texas at the 2017 Royal Rumble to win the WWE World Championship. Cena would win the Royal Rumble match to set up the dream WrestleMania main event.
An important stat to remember is Cena still is one title reign behind Ric Flair and his next world championship will tie Flair’s sixteen reigns. Cena defeating Undertaker at WrestleMania 33 is the perfect setting for him to make history. WWE has clearly held out on this achievement waiting for the right moment and the right moment is approaching. Cena will win his sixteenth world title reign when he defeats Undertaker at WrestleMania 33.
13. Sasha Banks Wins Women’s Royal Rumble and Goes to Smackdown
Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks have feuded all year with the Raw Women’s Championship going back and forth between them. They made history main-eventing the first ever WWE show at Hell in a Cell with the first match inside of the cell between two women. Banks recently lost the final match in the series at Roadblock: End of the Line in an Iron Man Match. With no road to a big title match on Raw, Banks heading to Smackdown Live in time for WrestleMania 33 would seem likely.
Bayley is clearly being set up as the challenger to Flair on the Raw side. Smackdown Live has a stacked women’s division but it lacks someone with the star power of Banks. WWE continues to make history with the women and it is time for us to witness the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match. Banks has revealed in interviews that she has wanted to be a part of Smackdown since the draft. Expect her to win the first ever women’s Royal Rumble and head to Smackdown Live to challenge Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella or Alexa Bliss for the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
12. Mick Foley is Replaced by Triple H as Raw GM
The work of Mick Foley as the Raw General Manager has not been impressive. Foley has struggled to keep up with the current product making errors on the microphone and having peculiar moments when interacting with wrestlers. Everyone loves and respects him for the legendary career he had as a wrestler. However, it is becoming more and more obvious that Foley isn’t the right man for the job of the GM on Raw.
Of the two General Manager picks for the brand split, rumors circulated that Daniel Bryan was a long term pick for the Smackdown Live brand, but Foley was a short term choice for Raw. WWE will have to write Triple H back into the show soon with his WrestleMania 33 match with Seth Rollins coming up. Regardless of if it happens before or after the match, Triple H will return to a state of power. Stephanie McMahon firing Foley and replacing him with her husband makes sense for her hated heel character and will happen in 2017.
11. WWE Buys ROH’s Library
WWE was rumored to have interest in buying TNA’s library but not the company this year. It made sense considering TNA was in bad shape and not worth much as a current product. The library however is very valuable. Legends like Kurt Angle and Sting along with current WWE stars like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe have lots of classics in TNA that could be beneficial to the WWE Network. The same applies to the library of Ring of Honor.
ROH’s library may be the richest of any that WWE doesn’t currently own. Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins and numerous others made their name in ROH with legendary battles before coming to WWE. The company is continuing to sign ROH and the library is worth a lot to them. ROH is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, meaning WWE won’t be able to buy the company for a cheap price. The perfect middle ground would be purchasing library and allowing ROH to continue running shows.
10. The Miz Wins MITB Again
The success of the Money in the Bank Ladder Match transitioned into its own PPV in 2010. One of the winners of the match on the Money in the Bank PPV was The Miz. Fans were shocked to see him take the briefcase and cash in to become the WWE Champion. It was the only world title reign of Miz but he has been so good this year that he is on pace to have another chance. Money in the Bank provides the perfect opportunity.
A character like Miz was meant to have the MITB briefcase. Miz is a ruthless and sneaky heel that will use anything to his advantage for success. The possibility of cashing in a world title shot at any time would just add greatly to his act. Miz has emerged into a top heel again and history will repeat itself. Expect Miz to win the Money in the Bank Ladder Match for the Smackdown Live brand and cash it in to become the WWE World Champion in 2017.
9. Finn Balor Turns Heel to Form The Balor Club
Finn Balor’s main roster debut and huge push to the top of the Raw brand was a great early moment for the brand split. Summerslam 2016 saw Balor become the first ever WWE Universal Champion but, sadly, suffered a serious injury in the process. Balor relinquished the title just one night later and is currently on the injured list. The return of Finn will be huge for WWE in 2017 as they’ve set him up in a major way to make an impact.
Balor has ties to Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows as all three were members of the Bullet Club together in New Japan. WWE separated Anderson and Gallows from AJ Styles in the draft but managed to keep them on the same show with Balor. With a long year coming, Balor will likely turn at some point after his return to form the Balor Club. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns are already top faces on the Raw brand. The heel side needs help aside from Kevin Owens and Balor Club could make up the depth.
8. New Day Breaks Up
The success of New Day in 2016 dominated the WWE tag team scene like no one else ever has. Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E won the Tag Team Championship back at Summerslam 2015 and held it until the end of 2016 at Roadblock: End of the Line. New Day have been among the top acts in WWE with fans of all demographics. The success has led to huge merchandise sales with t-shirts, Funko Pop figures and even their own cereal.
New Day has done just about everything they can achieve together after they set the record for longest reigning tag team champions in WWE history. That’s why WWE will likely break them up at some point in 2017. The point of the brand split was to create new stars and the success of New Day provides three potential singles stars. WWE viewed Big E and Kofi as main-eventers at certain points in each of their careers. New Day breaking up would allow them to try that again.
7. Samoa Joe Defeats Brock Lesnar
Wrestling fans are still in awe at Bill Goldberg wrestling his first match in over twelve years by destroying Brock Lesnar in just 86 seconds at Survivor Series. It was the first decisive loss Lesnar has suffered since ending The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania. The expectations are for Lesnar to get his win back over Goldberg at WrestleMania 33 in hopes of it all freshening up his place as an attraction star.
Lesnar started to get stale before the Goldberg feud. It became boring seeing him do the same thing every match dominating the entire roster with no one really posing a threat to him. Humanizing Brock and building him up will help do that but someone new needs to emerge as the next bad-ass in WWE. Samoa Joe is the perfect man for the job. Look for Joe to make his main roster debut in 2017 and become a huge star by defeating Lesnar before the year ends in a dream match.
6. TNA Dies
The current state of TNA is not good. They have been losing money all year and have struggled to run shows consistently. Anthem Sports and Entertainment have purchased the majority rights to become the owner of the company going forward. It would appear that someone replacing Dixie Carter is a good thing, but the lack of commitment to TNA is showing. There’s no information about future shows or plans for what the company will look like in 2017.
TNA is not a place wrestlers want to work. The various contracts expiring in 2017 will see wrestlers jump ship to other companies with TNA struggling to survive. They have cheated death so many times, but TNA has to run out of luck sooner or later. Unless something drastically changes, TNA is going to finally go out of business next year with WWE being there to pick up the scraps of the video library.
5. Bayley Becomes Face of Women’s Division
2016 has been the year of Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks. Both women have been at the forefront of pushing the women’s division to new heights. WWE established Charlotte’s dominance as a top heel winning every singles PPV match she has participated in all year. The streak of Charlotte is being set up for someone special to end it in a big way. That special person is definitely going to be Bayley.
As incredible a performer as Banks is, Bayley has the bigger potential as a face character. Banks is cheered for the appreciation of her talent but Bayley is someone the fans believe in. The pure and lovable character of Bayley appeals to all demographics, including a younger audience that loves their hero. That has been something desperately lacking in the women’s division for years. Bayley defeating Charlotte at WrestleMania 33 to become the Raw Women’s Champion and the face of the women’s division is the most fitting story to play out.
4. WWE Changes Rating to TV-14 for Raw
There have been recent changes in the WWE product to make you wonder about the show rating. The storyline between Lana and Enzo Amore has featured adult content. Wrestlers are using swear words on the microphone again. The strict PG rating is no longer as strict as it once was. WWE is definitely never going to go all the way back to having wrestlers bleed in the ring or women wrestle in thongs. However, they are definitely adding a bit more of an edge to the program.
The brand split means Raw and Smackdown Live can each experiment with different things. One of the shows could try to go back to the TV-14 rating and make the rare edgy segments into a more common thing. Raw needing the extra edge of momentum for a three hour show would make sense for it to be the show that has the new rating. Don’t be surprised if the recent mild adult-orientated segments start to become a bigger factor on Monday nights.
3. WWE Gives Up on Roman Reigns as “The Guy”
Roman Reigns has been the most heavily-pushed WWE wrestler in recent history. The fans continue to boo him out of the building and WWE continues to push him to the moon. Reigns dropped the ball this year when violating the wellness policy with a failed drug test. Imagine getting the biggest promotion of your life with the entire company working around you and doing the worst possible thing. That’s what happened to Reigns.
WWE punished him for a little while but he is back in the main event picture. 2017 will continue with Reigns being pushed and the fans rejecting him. Wrestling pundit Dave Meltzer claims the numbers show Reigns isn’t a bigger draw than the other top stars on the roster and he isn’t anywhere near the level of John Cena. WWE will eventually have to realize Roman is one of many great guys on the roster and not “the” guy. The third consecutive yearly monster push failing will be enough to do so.
2. Seth Rollins Becomes New Face of WWE
2016 has not been one of Seth Rollins’ best years. The former WWE World Champion missed WrestleMania 32 with an injury. Rollins returned to defeat Roman Reigns to win his second WWE World Championship but lost it minutes later to Dean Ambrose when Ambrose cashed in his Money in the Bank title shot. The rest of Rollins’ year felt like a waste. Despite turning face, Rollins has yet to get revenge on Triple H, with it being three months since his former mentor turned on him.
Rollins finally getting his revenge on Triple H at WrestleMania 33 is desperately needed before he can move forward as a legitimate top face. Fan support behind Rollins is stronger than Reigns and just about every other face on the Raw brand. Rollins has the chance to become the biggest star in WWE, with the veterans on part time schedules and fans rejecting the likes of Reigns. We will look back to Rollins defeating Triple H as a turning point in him becoming the biggest face in WWE.
1. Vince McMahon Retires
At 71 years old, Vince McMahon is still the person pulling the strings and making the decisions on what we watch unfold on WWE television. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are right behind him being groomed to replace him. We will finally see it happen in 2017. Rumors have circulated that Vince has struggled with his vision and missed a few shows through the year. The older age of McMahon is catching up to him.
Triple H and Stephanie will officially take over the company next year with full control of their vision going forward. Stephanie has played a major role behind the scenes in fighting for the women’s wrestling division making history. Triple H is the biggest supporter of new stars like Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Sami Zayn. They have shown enough to get the ball from Vince as he transitioned away from the stressful position. 2017 will be the year we finally see a new WWE.