World Wrestling Entertainment had a shaky 2015. The company was in the news because television ratings for Raw plummeted during the National Football League regular season. Injuries impacted numerous mainstays of the WWE roster, a roster that was already lacking depth before the likes of Seth Rollins and Randy Orton were sidelined. The company also did itself few favors, repeatedly producing shows that were boring and even missable for those who could not be bothered to dedicate multiple hours to the product. One can only imagine how poorly things would have gone for the WWE if the company did not have the NXT brand carrying the ball throughout the year.
There are plenty of lazy WWE predictions one could make for 2016. One would not be worthy of receiving any praise for correctly predicting that The Undertaker will show up on WWE television leading up to WrestleMania. Far too often, fans and those who cover the WWE are overly concerned with being wrong when coming up with predictions for an upcoming year. Where is the fun in that? Some of the WWE predictions for 2016 that are included in this piece may seem, on paper, to be wild and out there, but every one of them could prove to be hits before January 2017 rolls around.
20. CM Punk Will Return
Let’s start off the list with some fun. We have all heard that CM Punk is done with the WWE and with pro wrestling in general, and Punk is, as of the posting of this piece, still prepping for his first ever Ultimate Fighting Championship bout. Say, for argument’s sake, that Punk’s UFC battle does not go as he planned. Why wouldn’t Triple H call up the “Straightedge Superstar” and make an offer to see where Punk’s head is at? Punk is a recognized star, he can work as a heel or babyface, and he could have entertaining feuds with multiple members of the NXT roster.
19. A.J. Styles Will Debut At Royal Rumble 2016
Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez of Figure Four Online/Wrestling Observer dropped a bombshell on the evening of January 4, 2016 when they reported that the WWE was raiding New Japan Pro Wrestling. One of the wrestlers coveted by the WWE, per Meltzer and Alvarez, was none other than former TNA World Champion A.J. Styles. Styles is a veteran of the business who does not need to be debuted on a taped edition of NXT. What better place for the “Phenomenal One” to make his WWE introduction than in front of a Royal Rumble crowd that will immediately recognize him and give him the welcome that he deserves?
18. The WWE Championship Will Change Hands On A Network-Only Show
We are not referring to a “special event” or pay-per-view that happens to be featured on the WWE Network. Instead, think of a card that takes place at Madison Square Garden that just so happens to be featured exclusively on the WWE Network. Having such a monumental event occur on a show that only airs on the Network would be an interesting way to promote that streaming service to fans who have never paid the $9.99 for it or who gave up on the WWE Network. Besides, the Network could use more live and exclusive programming that is not NXT-based in 2016.
17. Sami Zayn Will Carry NXT Through Summer
Not every talented wrestler working on NXT shows can be called up to the main roster at the same time. Finn Balor and Samoa Joe are obviously ready, and they, unlike Sami Zayn, have been healthy and around NXT for some time. Zayn returned from being sidelined in December 2015, and he is the heir to the top babyface throne that is currently occupied by Balor. There is no question that Zayn should eventually make his way onto the main roster so long as he does not experience any additional freak setbacks. That time should only come, however, after Zayn sits atop the main event scene of NXT for months.
16. Dean Ambrose Will Win the WWE Championship
Roman Reigns will likely go in one of two directions in 2016: Reigns will either become the top babyface in the company, or he will be turned heel and feud with the likes of John Cena. Either one of these could lead to a program with Dean Ambrose over the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Ambrose is arguably the most talented overall performer of the three former Shield members, and he could carry the championship as an adored babyface or as a ruthless heel. Either way, Ambrose should be given a chance to hold the company’s top title in 2016.
15. Bayley Will Turn Heel
One goal of NXT is obviously to entertain fans and make money for the WWE. Another, however, is to groom wrestlers to be ready to join the WWE main roster. As great as Bayley is at playing the role of the top babyface of NXT, it would not hurt her if she spent some time as a heel. Besides, the reaction of the NXT audience if/when Bayley made that switch would be amazing. Perhaps the best way to do this would be to turn Bayley heel before she has a feud with Asuka over the NXT Women’s Championship. This could make both women strong before they are called up to the main roster.
14. Brock Lesnar Will Get Injured
The injury bug infected the WWE in 2015, and it would seem as if it is only a matter of time before either Brock Lesnar or John Cena have to miss a significant amount of time because of an injury. We are going with Lesnar, if only because Cena already took some time away from the company last year. Lesnar is in his late 30s, and that he makes limited appearances for the company does not erase the reality that all it takes is one misstep for a performer to be downed for some time. Losing Lesnar would be a serious blow for the WWE.
13. Kevin Owens Will Be Squandered
It seemed as if the WWE was going to push then-NXT Champion Kevin Owens as the next top heel in the company after Owens defeated John Cena on his first night as a member of the main roster. That is, to date, the best that the Owens character has received since being called up from NXT. Owens will probably be involved in feuds over championships. He may even battle it out with a babyface over the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It is unfortunate, though, that Owens may not be handed the monster push that he deserves. Owens beating Brock Lesnar would make for one memorable moment.
12. The Heel Authority Figure Will Disappear
Perhaps this is more of a wish than a prediction. The heel authority figure has been part of WWE programming since the days when the Mr. McMahon character first emerged on the scene. That was nearly two decades ago. NXT does not need such a character feuding with babyfaces because the wrestlers are allowed to tell entertaining stories on their own. The same could occur for the main roster if those running the company realized that they are doing more harm than good being involved in on-air segments. Move on from this gimmick, WWE, and don’t be afraid to bury it once and for all.
11. Ronda Rousey Will Not Have a Match
Life and maybe career plans changed for Ronda Rousey when she was knocked out by Holly Holm in November 2015. Rousey, who was used for a WrestleMania segment in 2015, will now have to dedicate much of her time to attempting to reclaim the UFC Championship that she lost to Holm if she wants to have an opportunity to leave the sport as a champion. While it would not be a surprise to see Rousey inside of a WWE ring in 2016, one should not expect the “Rowdy” one to participate in a match this year; unless, of course, she loses to Holm once again.
10. Asuka Will Save the Divas Revolution
The concept of what was called the “Divas Revolution” sounded interesting to fans, but the way that it has been presented on WWE programming did zero favors to the female performers on the roster. One woman should be used to save the idea and carry the division for 2016, and it is the wrestler who is the best overall worker currently signed by the WWE. Asuka could get over with fans as did Brock Lesnar. Neither Asuka nor Lesnar will cut 20-minute promos during an edition of Raw, but neither has to because they are so great in the ring. Save the revolution, Asuka. We need you.
9. WWE Will Give Up On Bray Wyatt
What left is there for the Bray Wyatt character moving forward? The Wyatt Family were turned into a midcard act that was not good enough to hang with Kane and Undertaker. Bray is nothing more than just another guy on the WWE roster who does not mean much of anything to fans. Maybe the WWE will try again with Bray and relegate him back to NXT so that he can find a second life. If that does not happen, though, it seems reasonable that the WWE would give up on at least the character. Missing on Bray was an example of the WWE dropping the ball.
8. NXT Champion Will Win WWE Championship
NXT is the hottest thing that the WWE has going for it heading into 2016. The company is not shy about knowing this is true. While this prediction was admittedly taken from the official WWE website, it is one that makes plenty of sense if you think about it for any considerable amount of time. Whether it be Finn Balor or somebody else carrying the NXT Championship at another time, having that man win the “Money in the Bank” contract and then successfully cash in his right and hold both belts at the same time would be a way to potentially make a future Superstar.
7. Brock Lesnar Will Be Used to (Try) to Make a Star
Brock Lesnar is the biggest star currently signed by the WWE, a massive draw who brings a feel of legitimacy to a world that is often cartoon-esque in nature. As great as Lesnar has been for the WWE, the truth of the matter is that he is closer to being a former wrestler than to being the man who will carry the WWE banner for the next decade or so. 2016 is the right year for Lesnar to be used to make another star who defeats the former UFC Champion at a major show. Perhaps that star will be Roman Reigns or Finn Balor.
6. Blue Pants Will Win NXT Women’s Championship
One of the concerns fans understandably have about the future of NXT is that the brand will eventually lose its most talented performers to the WWE main roster. That has been the case for the NXT women’s division that no longer has Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Paige or Becky Lynch. Odds are Bayley will not be long for NXT in 2016. Asuka should already be on the main roster. NXT will eventually need a top babyface to feud for the women’s championship of that brand, and Blue Pants is the perfect choice. She is already beloved by NXT fans, and she would do well playing the role currently played by Bayley.
5. Undertaker Will Retire
It is the WWE prediction that has been made every year as of late, one that should finally come true in 2016. Undertaker is a legend of the industry and quite possibly the greatest overall performer in the history of the WWE when you consider his longevity and all that he has done with what could have been a comical and forgettable gimmick. There is now, however, not much more that Undertaker can give to the WWE, and his WrestleMania matches are largely meaningless because his famous streak is no longer intact. Thank you for everything, ‘Taker, and leave the memories alone.
4. We’ll Finally Get A “Balor Club”
Finn Balor is basically a toned down babyface version of the Prince Devitt character that he portrayed before signing with the WWE. The WWE has even gone so far as to have Balor Club merchandise and a Balor Club Titantron. It seems as if it is a matter of “when” and not “if” Balor turns heel while working in NXT and puts together his newest club. Balor could still play the “demon” role from time to time as a heel, one who would probably be over with the NXT audiences who have, in the past, cheered the likes of Kevin Owens. Putting together a stable for Balor would also allow the WWE to push more merchandise.
3. Chad Gable Will Win a WWE Singles Title
The team of Chad Gable and Jason Jordan have taken NXT by storm, and they are probably the most popular duo on that roster. Both are talented in the ring, but Gable seems to have more going for him as it pertains to being a complete WWE performer. Gable is undersized when compared to some on the main roster, so he may never win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. That does not mean, however, that Gable could not be inserted into a feud for the Intercontinental Championship or the United States Championship. The rise of Gable on the WWE roster should begin in 2016.
2. WWE Will Buy Ring of Honor
Yes, NXT currently serves as the developmental brand where wrestlers learn how to be “WWE Superstars.” NXT has also proven to be the WWE’s own version of an independent promotion that is allowed to exist separate from and better than what is provided on WWE shows such as Raw and SmackDown. Buying Ring of Honor would give the WWE yet another “territory” that would fall underneath the umbrella of the company, and it would give the company even more content to feature on the WWE Network. Subscriber numbers for the network would go up if the WWE went ahead with this purchase.
1. John Cena Will Break Ric Flair’s World Championship Record
Those of you who are not fond of the leader of the CeNation need to brace for this happening. In fact, it would probably be better for everybody involved if John Cena just notched the two championship reigns needed to break Ric Flair‘s record in 2016 so that it would be over and done, and then everybody could move on. WWE.com has already hinted at Cena matching Flair’s mark. There is no reason to believe that Cena will be walking away from the WWE for good anytime soon. The WWE needs to rip the bandage off and give Cena the honor that will be bestowed upon him. Cena’s time is now in 2016.