The modern pro wrestling fan is more aware of the inner workings of the business than fans years ago. The more devoted of viewers are sometimes called “educated” wrestling fans because they often know how to predict match outcomes and they refuse to buy into what the company tries to sell them as a “good guy” or a “bad guy.” This is almost universally accepted as having become the status quo as a result of the internet, which is packed full of websites that report on wrestling news and rumors which may or may not have any drop of truth tied to them.
These “dirt sheets” are the method through which huge returns have frequently been spoiled and big storyline twists are sometimes given away before they happen. It has become much more difficult in the twenty-first century to swerve the viewers at home than it ever was before, although it does still happen from time to time. A prime example of this would be the Undertaker’s legendary undefeated streak being broken by Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX.
WWE and the wrestling world as a whole try to tell fans that most of the stuff they read online is complete fiction, yet time and time again this information is so often proven correct and that’s why viewers flock to it like moths to a flame. The WWE Universe is in a particularly interesting period of time when there are a plethora of rumors surrounding the business that could change the wrestling landscape if they are true. Here are fifteen of the current biggest WWE rumors that could actually come true in 2017.
15. Indies on the WWE Network
If you’ve followed WWE for any length of time you know the company’s stance on independent wrestling has not always been a positive one. Historically, professional wrestling was all about the big guys who could tell a story in the ring and any sort of athleticism was less than secondary to the performance. That’s understandable to some degree, but there is no denying the popularity of the highly acrobatic style that has been taking over the indie scene for many years now and WWE has finally begun to take heed of that.
A large number of wrestlers in WWE’s current main event scene made their names throughout the independent circuit. It would seem that in recent years Vince McMahon’s stubborn aversion to acknowledging independent wrestling as the phenomenon it is has begun to ease as rumors have swirled that he is considering the possibility of adding indie content to his precious WWE Network in 2017. This could be just the shot of adrenaline the expanded wrestling world needs to become competitive again.
14. Fewer Pay-Per-Views
When pay-per-view events were first introduced into professional wrestling decades ago it was something that was a rare occurrence – a very special treat for viewers where the absolute best in-ring action around could be found. WWE revolutionized the idea as the 1980s progressed and by the mid to late 1990s the Monday Night War saw WWE and WCW putting out at least twenty-four pay-per-view shows per year between the both of them. Ever since then WWE has held at least one pay-per-view a month and things seemingly got out of hand in 2016.
Upon the inception of the modern brand extension, WWE decided Raw and SmackDown Live would each have its own pay-per-view nearly every month, seeing to it that the number of annual big events presented by WWE has practically doubled. Unfortunately, the WWE Network subscriber count is said to be down and putting on all those extra shows proves costly. The company is reportedly considering greatly cutting back on pay-per-views in 2017.
13. Big Show’s Retirement
Paul Wight, better known to wrestling fans as the Big Show, is one of WWE’s longest-tenured in ring performers. After spending several years as a former World Heavyweight Champion in World Championship Wrestling, “The Giant” jumped ship and went to work for Vince McMahon, who gave him his “Big Show” ring name, in the late 1990s during the Monday Night War. While initially presented as an unstoppable monster, Big Show’s appeal has greatly faded over the past two decades and he’s no longer seen as a legitimate threat to the WWE roster due to the myriad of losses he’s suffered.
For years now fans who have grown tired of the Big Show’s act have chanted “please retire” at the behemoth despite his insistence on sticking around. He has reportedly announced his 2017 retirement, however, and while it remains to be seen whether it will actually happen it would seem this could truly be the end of the road for the “world’s largest athlete.”
12. Baron Corbin’s Push
The 2016 brand extension is only a few months old and has already proven to be an invaluable asset to the careers of many young professional wrestlers. Baron Corbin is one such wrestler who spent years in NXT and fans began to wonder if he would ever be called up to the main roster. It happened for him at WrestleMania 32 and once being drafted as a star exclusive to SmackDown Live he has managed to receive consistent screen time, cementing his spot on the undercard.
Nonetheless, few fans saw Baron Corbin making a big splash in the long run as his large frame and lack of athleticism in comparison to most of the younger roster made him seem like an outdated version of a WWE Superstar. If rumors are to be believed, though, it would seem WWE has plans to give the guy a major push and rumors are even swirling that he may see a big Royal Rumble match with none other than John Cena himself. Could 2017 be the year of the lone wolf?
11. Daniel Bryan’s Return
We’ve spoken already about how the independent wrestling scene has greatly influenced the modern WWE main event picture as nearly the entire wave of recent stars to compete for the WWE and Universal Championships have their roots on the indie circuit. There is no denying that Daniel Bryan is one of the most popular WWE Superstars of the last ten years and it may have been this popularity that helped change the perception of indie wrestlers in the eyes of Vince McMahon. Bryan’s connection with the crowd was so strong that even the WWE Chairman himself was forced to do a double take.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, a series of injuries forced Daniel Bryan to retire early from the ring at the height of his popularity. Bryan and his fans were devastated, to say the least, but his recent televised encounters with The Miz on SmackDown Live had prompted new rumors that Bryan may actually pull off a Shawn Michaels and be able to make a triumphant return to the ring. These rumors are highly unlikely to come to fruition, but it’s exciting enough to consider as a small possibility in 2017.
10. Chris Hero’s Return
Chris Hero has been a megastar on the independent wrestling circuit for over a decade now, competing for many of the biggest indie organizations in the world such as Chikara, Combat Zone Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, and Ring of Honor. The big man has had more classic matches than can be counted with many men who went on to be huge stars for WWE, so when Hero himself was signed to a WWE contract in 2012 and joined NXT, hardcore wrestling fans rejoiced. There were high hopes for Chris Hero, now known as Kassius Ohno, heading into the biggest wrestling company in the world.
That is until he was suddenly released from his contract the following year. Hero returned to the independent scene and continued to leave his mark on the wrestling world, but if rumors are to be believed he may be getting a second chance at mainstream glory as word on the web is that WWE is interested in signing Chris Hero to a new contract in 2017.
9. Adam Cole’s Debut
Another big indie star wrestling fans have wanted to see have a go at it in WWE for many years is Adam Cole. Cole has been wowing audiences for years in companies like Pro Wrestling Guerilla, and Ring of Honor, where he has been a World Champion on two occasions, having only recently lost to the title to Kyle O’Reilly. Cole is popular for his role in the villainous ROH stable known as The Kingdom alongside Matt Taven and current TNA Wrestling stars Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis.
Though Adam Cole has tried out for WWE in the past, a deal has never been worked out between the two parties. But with Cole having so recently dropped the ROH World Championship, rumblings that have been going for a while are rumbling even louder; could 2017 finally be the year Vince McMahon and WWE sign Adam Cole for a run in the biggest wrestling company in the world?
8. Sting’s Return
Sting isn’t just one of the most popular pro wrestlers of all time; he’s also one of the most physically and athletically gifted. Sting has had more classic battles than most of today’s biggest WWE Superstars have had matches, period. His rivalry with Ric Flair is one of the most highly revered feuds in the history of the sport and his face paint is one of the most recognizable symbols in all of wrestling. Despite his legacy, Sting has only ever wrestled two matches for WWE, both of which he lost.
It was only in recent years that WWE finally managed to convince the icon to sign a contract. He lost in his debut WWE match to Triple H at WrestleMania 31 and again to Seth Rollins later that year in a match where Sting would suffer a career-ending injury. Sting was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016 and during his acceptance speech he officially announced his retirement. However, in interviews Sting sure makes it sound like he still holds out hope to wrestle one more match and says that he feels physically capable of doing so.
7. Paige Leaves WWE
Paige is, without a doubt, one of the most naturally skilled wrestlers in WWE’s women’s division and that was doubly true when she first signed a contract with the company a few years ago when the “Divas” era was still in full swing. The match Paige had with Emma when Paige was crowned as the first NXT Women’s Champion is often cited as a pivotal moment in women’s wrestling as it showed viewers just how well the women can work when they’re given enough time to tell a story. Paige is one of the best female wrestlers in the world, but unfortunately, she hasn’t been able to really participate in the modern women’s wrestling revolution.
Following the 2016 brand extension which has helped many WWE Superstars get the television time they so richly deserve, Paige was suspended on two consecutive occasions following violations of the company’s wellness policy. Paige has since been on sour terms with her employer due to the drama surrounding her relationship with former WWE Superstar Alberto Del Rio and her going outside of WWE’s doctors for a neck surgery. Many fans expect Paige and WWE to sever ties in 2017.
6. John Cena Breaks Ric Flair’s Record
John Cena could be the most polarizing figure in all of pro-wrestling. The modern WWE fans have long rebelled against WWE’s insistence on forcing them to accept Cena as the top star in the company, something very similar to what is happening to Roman Reigns today. John Cena certainly has a monstrous following in the casual arena, but most adult WWE regulars have never been enchanted by the face of the PG era. Despite this, WWE has seen to it that Cena has slowly been building toward breaking the beloved Ric Flair’s record of sixteen World Championships for years, and fans have been dreading to see the day come.
Now with Raw and SmackDown Live having their own rosters and World Championships, John Cena will be more capable than ever of breaking Flair’s record without encroaching too heavily on the spotlight of younger stars. Cena’s only one reign away from tying Flair, so it would only take two runs with the title to reach this goal and 2017 seems to be the year it could happen, with rumors swirling that he will be thrust into the title picture at some point during the year.
5. WWE Purchases the TNA Library
For well over a decade, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling has been the only professional wrestling organization to even have a snowball’s chance in Hell of competing with WWE for ratings. Unfortunately for TNA, the opportunity slipped away again and again as fans showed they have high standards for a wrestling product. It would seem that the longer time moves on the more difficult it becomes for audiences to be willing to accept anything as competition to Vince McMahon, and with TNA having been on the verge of completely collapsing for a good while now it would seem that company’s time has indeed passed.
With recent talks of TNA being sold to the highest bidder, rumors have swirled that WWE has thrown its hat into the ring as a potential buyer. It seems WWE wouldn’t plan on keeping TNA around as a brand but is instead interested in the video library for adding to the WWE Network. Could we see this happen in 2017?
4. Undertaker’s Retirement
It is truly a toss-up whether it’s Ric Flair or the Undertaker who is the most respected man in the wrestling industry, but there is no doubt that the Undertaker is certainly the heart and soul of WWE. The man behind the character, Mark Calaway, has defied time again and again by continuously returning to the company annually for WrestleMania even years after his legendary streak was broken by Brock Lesnar. At this point in time, it’s something of a waiting game to see just when the Undertaker will finally retire and leave WrestleMania without its biggest selling point.
However, each year the Undertaker’s body seems to break down more and more, with the Dead Man being spotted earlier in 2016 on crutches. Between his fleeting ability to healthily wrestle a match and the fact that he apparently was telling people he was getting ready to call it quits after WrestleMania 32, 2017 seems like the prime time for the Phenom to go out in a blaze of glory.
3. NXT Going Live
Ever since WWE’s developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling, was rebranded several years back as NXT, the entire landscape in WWE has been shifting. NXT has a massive following on the WWE Network and there have been many critics claiming over the years that NXT is, in fact, a much better and more solid program than Raw or SmackDown. NXT, which is overseen by Triple H, has seen WWE’s main roster make such a transition that the majority of young WWE Superstars rose to fame on the independent scene and NXT is largely credited as seeing the “Divas” era retired for the uprising of women’s wrestling in WWE.
NXT only continues to grow in popularity year by year with many folks seeing the brand’s championships as more valuable than those on Raw and SmackDown. NXT has gradually progressed into a more high-quality product over the years and in 2017 the rumor mill suggests that the company may look into taking NXT’s typically taped weekly program on the WWE Network live.
2. Bullet Club Reunion
In 2016 hardcore wrestling fans were treated to something they thought would never be seen in a million years on WWE programming when AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows were all signed to contracts and debuted, albeit separately, on the main roster. Eventually, things got even more delicious when the three came together on screen to reform their famous stable known as the Bullet Club. Now known simply as “The Club” in WWE, they were only together for a brief time before being split up again in the WWE brand extension draft.
The stars may be getting ready to align even further in 2017, however, as word around the internet is that Vince McMahon wants AJ Styles brought to Monday Night Raw at some point in the year, which would likely seem him reunited with Anderson and Gallows. On top of that, an injured Finn Balor, also a former Bullet Club member, is set to return potentially around WrestleMania time. This could set the stage for an epic reforming of the Bullet Club and, although it could be a bit of a stretch, fans are already getting excited about it.
1. Undoing of the Women’s Division
2016 was a huge year for WWE in a lot of ways between the new brand extension and the debut and rise to megastar status of AJ Styles, but perhaps the biggest and most unbelievable story of the year was that the loathsome term “Diva” was finally retired and WWE’s female wrestlers started being referred to simply as “Superstars.” It wasn’t just a play on words that shook the wrestling world to its core; over the course of the year WWE introduced two Women’s Championships, one each for Raw and SmackDown Live, and Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks became frequent main event competitors on Monday Night Raw, even wrestling the company’s first ever female Hell in a Cell match.
While there is still work to be done to reach true gender equality in WWE, the strides made were explosive in 2016, but fans are now worried it will all fall by the wayside with the release of Managing Lead Writer Tom Casiello. Casiello was instrumental in getting television time for female Superstars and was apparently one of the biggest allies of the division. With Casiello gone, the WWE rumor mill is suggesting women’s wrestling may see a swift decline in 2017.